Diets claiming to ward off aging are highly popular, yet the nutrition scene is waist high in confusing, sometimes conflicting information.
The good news is I have sorted through it for you and the front runner with the most scientific evidence to support anti-aging is the Anti-Inflammatory diet.
Not a “Hollywood” diet, the anti-inflammatory diet is more of an approach to living. It prevents aging by preventing inflammatory processes in the body that cause chronic disease. But how do you know if you have too much inflammation in your body?
You could benefit from an anti-inflammatory lifestyle if you:
- Have heart disease
- Are overweight (being overweight means you have excessive adipose (fat) tissue. Adipose tissue has been proven to harbor inflammatory chemicals which cause inflammation)
- Have arthritis (osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis)
- Are sedentary (being inactive is now one of the greatest predictors of chronic disease because resting chemical levels which cause pro-inflammatory responses in the body are higher)
- Suffer from allergies (seasonal or food)
- Have difficulty losing weight
- Have diabetes or at risk
- Have respiratory or breathing problems
- See the full list of conditions caused by inflammation
It doesn’t take long to see that everyone can benefit from this method. The nutrition portion is similar to a typical Mediterranean diet. The main benefits of adopting an anti-inflammatory diet/lifestyle are:
- Decrease your risk for heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and certain cancers
- Lose weight
- Improve lung health
- Decrease allergies
- Stabilize blood sugar
Dr. Andrew Weil, Harvard trained MD says, It is becoming increasingly clear that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious illnesses – including heart disease, many cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Getting on the Anti-Inflammatory Train
There are a few stops to be made on the road to healing yourself. I recommend you make changes incrementally and slowly. In other words, get on the train and make a single change at each stop – rather than trying to make them all at once.
- 1st Stop: Change Your diet. To reap the full benefits you will have to add anti-inflammatory foods AND get rid of foods that are inflammatory agents. However:
- If you have a tough time with change, start by ADDING anti-inflammatory foods to your diet.
- If you are ready for change, the quickest way to see results is to ELIMINATE foods known to cause inflammation in the body.
- 2nd Stop: Exercise. Regularly. There is enormous evidence supporting the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise. In fact, not exercising is one of the single greatest factors which causes the inflammatory process to begin. In other words, you don’t suffer from inflammation randomly – it is caused in large part from living being inactive. Just 30 minutes daily has been proven effective for weight loss and anti-inflammatory effects.
- 3rd stop: Green Your Environment. Exposure to environmental toxins, such as second hand smoke and other pollution like household chemical cleaners or living in larger cities, can also contribute to chronic inflammation in the body – causing you to age prematurely. Leaving your shoes at the front door (instituting a “no shoes in the house” policy), which my family started doing in 2004, is a great way to instantly reduce your exposure and green your house.
I personally started following an anti-inflammatory diet, in the Ayurvedic tradition, in 2004. There were immediate seismic changes in my health. My seasonal allergies vanished, I lost 20 pounds, I had more energy, and my osteoarthritis symptoms vanished along with my nagging chronic tendonitis and other problems. However the biggest life change was welcoming my son Michael – and ridding my body of the life long low-grade inflammatory state it had been in – played a role in his arrival. Science was just starting to connect the dots, at that time, between inflammation and infertility. Now, there is overwhelming evidence supporting the many health benefits of the anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
It’s Easy. There are no gimmicks, supplements, drugs, or expensive “programs” you need to be successful at following the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. All you need are organic whole foods, 30 minutes of daily exercise, and a positive attitude.
- The Inflammation Cure – the first book I bought about the diet, written by a North Carolina MD, PhD
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Anti-Inflammation Diet – I have not read this book, but it is written by Harvard MD Christopher Cannon
Websites & Shopping
- Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tips
- Anti-Inflammatory Herbs & Spices – I cook with these on a daily basis, and especially go to them when I have fallen off the proverbial anti-inflammatory diet wagon – such as at Christmas or a birthday.
- VitaCost.com – Living on a remote island can make it hard to find whole foods, so I shop online to find gluten free (kid friendly!) products such as pizza crust, pancake, and even birthday cake mixes. (Yes, I make gluten free birthday cakes for my kids. They love them and it tastes great, especially the chocolate.) The best part – $5 flat rate shipping.
- Items to shop for: Search for Organic, Gluten Free, or Wheat Free products. Stay away from “gluten-free or organic junk food” (readily available, highly processed foods that claim to be healthy just because they are organic or gluten or wheat free). Stick with whole foods.
- Pederson 2006. The Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Exercise…
- Peterson and Pederson 2006. The Role of IL-6 in Mediating the Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Exercise…
- Pederson and Saltin 2006. Evidence for Prescribing Exercise as Therapy for Chronic Disease…
Photo Credit: The photograph originally appeared in this article on Turmeric – which is also a spice my husband and I use frequently in our kitchen for its anti-inflammatory powers.