A focus on inflammation, and how it related to our health, is one of the biggest trends in medical and nutritional research. Laboratory and clinical researchers, after detecting that internal and micro-inflammation is the result of an altered immune system and irritating components in the body, are constantly on the lookout to identify foods that can potentially reduce inflammation in order to make recommendations that will improve many people’s lives.
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When reviewing the research related to diet and inflammation, it is not difficult to see that plant foods, particularly plant-based diets, have a positive effect on reducing inflammation and, in turn, all of the health issues that are connected to it.
In this article, we review the causes of inflammation, and then review what research says regarding the relationship between diet and inflammation.
What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to foreign substances or physical trauma, like a bump or a fall. Additionally, autoimmune diseases and elements we consume in our diets trigger the body’s anti-inflammatory response, because it detects non-infectious components and reacts to them as if they were foreign invaders. This causes the body to damage its own tissues, and is often the cause of chronic pain.
Some foods are known to cause or worsen inflammation in the body, including refined sugar, fried foods and ultra-processed foods.
Other foods can help fight inflammation and thus help to reduce pain – namely plant foods. For this reason, plant-based diets, especially well-balanced vegan diets, may be key to managing inflammation and the uncomfortable secondary effects.
Describing the Vegan Diet
The vegan diet consists of only plant foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. No foods that come from animals are consumed, unlike the vegetarian diet that often includes dairy and egg products.
The key element that gives vegans an advantage is that they exclude potentially inflammatory foods, like dairy and red meats, from their meals completely. Additionally, eating more of one fruit every once in a while won’t have the same positive effect as a diet that is based on eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains over a significant amount of time.
What Does the Evidence Say?
There are hundreds of scientific articles that refer or allude to plants and plant components as promoters of health and inflammation reducers.
The reasons are many. One is that, when compared to omnivorous diets, the microbiota (gut bacteria) profile of people with vegan diets is significantly better. This improves the absorption and digestion of food. There also tends to be a smaller population of health-debilitating bacteria and an increased population of protective bacteria in vegans.
Taking a closer look, people who eat a vegan diet have been observed to have reduced C-reactive protein, a protein associated with inflammation. As a result, there is reduced systematic inflammation.
Some of the foods that have the greatest effects are: cruciferous vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds, due to their antioxidant vitamins and minerals and omega-3 fatty acid content.
Conclusion: Vegan Diet can Reduce Inflammation
A vegan diet will likely have a great effect on inflammation indicators, and will likely improve symptoms of inflammation, including chronic pain. It is important to consider making the change gradually, and consulting with a doctor before making any major dietary changes. There are significant differences in macronutrient composition of vegan diets as compared to omnivorous diets, so be sure to do your research and enlist the support of your doctor, and possibly a nutritionist.