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Nutrition Stop

Food:  A Powerful Drug Against Inflammation

Researchers from the University of Buffalo published a report in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showing that people who ate an Egg McMuffin and hash browns for breakfast had high levels of inflammatory markers in their blood for three to four hours after the meal.  "Eating that 900 calorie, high-fat meal temporarily floods the blood-stream with inflammatory components, overwhelming the body's natural inflammation-fighting mechanism,"  says Ahmad Aljada, the lead author on the study.  "People who experience repeated, short-lived bouts of inflammation resulting from many such unhealthy meals can end up with blood vessels in a chronic state of inflammation," Aljada says.  In a recent study, the UB researchers found that a breakfast with the same number of calories, but comprised of fruits and fiber, doesn't promote inflammation.


Diet, not drugs


Another author of the UB study, Chris Challem, believes that common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can actually make matters worse.  Aspirin accelerates the breakdown of joint cartilage, while other NSAIDs cause the level of glucosamine to drop, even when people supplement with glucosamine.  "If you're taking NSAIDs a few times a day, you don't have a chance for your blood levels of glucosamine to rebound.  What people are doing for short-term pain relief is accelerating the disease process."  Teaching people to conquer pain with diet rather than drugs is one of the natural food industry's goals.  While it's great to avoid foods that promote inflammation, it's better yet to eat foods that fight that process.


Challem lists the following foods as anti-inflammatory favorites:


  • Olive oil


  • Cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and tuna


  • Fresh vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers


  • Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens, and mustard greens


  • Nuts and seeds


  • Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi, and other fruits low in sugar


Fishing for health


In addition to diet, the researchers recommend taking high doses of fish oil, citing studies that show the degree of disability from multiple sclerosis, bipolar disease, and dementia can be diminished with fish oil.  They added fish oil helps the body burn fat faster.  Challem would add natural vitamin E and Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) to the list as well.  Studies support vitamin E's ability to reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis as well as levels of C-reactive protein, he says, and GLA is a powerful anti-inflammatory.  Challem stresses that the anti-inflammatory approach to wellness takes a lifetime commitment - not the easy fix Americans often seek.