Inflammation is typically a good thing. It's the body's normal response to an infection or injury that helps start the healing process. There are two types of inflammatory responses, though. The acute response is short-lived and localized (such as from an insect bite or cut). As soon as the infection or injury is resolved, inflammation ceases, and everything goes back to normal.
However, there are also cases of chronic inflammation. This is a continuous, low-grade inflammatory state that can cause more severe problems and progressive damage. This damage can occur without the obvious symptoms of an acute inflammatory response (swelling, redness, etc).
Since HIV is a chronic infection, someone who is HIV-positive can be in a constant state of inflammation for many reasons. Persistent inflammation is a concern because it can slowly damage cells and vital organ systems in any part of the body. For this reason, it is linked to conditions such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, Crohn’s disease, and arthritis.
This is where good nutrition comes into the picture. Anti-inflammatory foods are a valuable tool for dampening persistent inflammation. The effect of an anti-inflammatory diet pattern is a gradual one, however. While it cannot cause an immediate lowering of inflammation, it can help tame the flame of inflammation over time.
Also, since a poor diet can promote inflammation, a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can prevent adding more "fuel to the fire" and contributing to the chronic inflammation already present. It can also simultaneously enhance and strengthen the immune system.
What are some anti-inflammatory foods to keep on hand?
Cold Water, Fatty Fish -
They contain two types of omega-3 - EPA and DHA - that suppress the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals and stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory chemicals. EPA and DHA can also be converted to resolvins, compounds that are involved in stopping pro-inflammatory processes.
To get 8 ounces of omega-3 rich fish per week, aim to eat fish about 2-3 times per week. Get creative with fish recipes, such as grilled fish tacos or use salmon patties or canned tuna in sandwiches instead of deli meat. Try grilling, roasting, baking, or broiling fish to keep it lean. Use dill, paprika, cumin, lemon or lime juice, or chili powder to make it flavorful without adding excess salt.
Be sure to cook fish safely to 145 °F, until it flakes with a fork.
Freshly Ground Flaxseeds -
The two keywords here, though, are "freshly" and "ground". As a whole seed, very little omega-3 fat can be absorbed because most of the seed will pass through the intestinal tract undigested. Grinding flaxseeds improves absorption of the essential fat.
Since whole flaxseed keeps longer, you can buy flaxseeds whole and grind them at home when needed. This helps keep the healthy fats from oxidizing and losing their potency.
You can add ground flaxseed to oatmeal, yogurt, soup, smoothies, baked foods, or pancake/waffle mixes. They'll add little taste but a nutritional boost to your sauces, meat mixtures, casseroles, stews, or chili recipes.
Other great ALA omega-3 rich sources include hemp, chia, or pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil -
Use olive oil at lower temperatures, such as for a vegetable saute. Or use it at room temperature in salads, dips, whole grain dishes, or veggies. Make sure to protect the oil's nutrients by storing it in a cool, dark place. A virgin oil will have more anti-inflammatory properties than refined olive oil.
Dark Green Leafy Veggies -
Many dark leafy green veggies, such as broccoli, kale, green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy, are also part of the cruciferous vegetable family. One thing that sets this vegetable family apart from others is their rich glucosinolate content. These compounds play an important role in the anti-inflammatory response.
Can you make 1-2 cups of your daily vegetable intake come from dark greens? Toss them into soups, stews, and stir fries. You can use them in a wrap, a salad, or an omelet.
Ginger contains certain functional ingredients, two of which are named gingerol and shogaol. These ingredients have been shown to inhibit two of the more potent inflammatory chemicals - prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
When using fresh ginger in your cooking, use half of it at the start of your cooking, and half at the end to give your dish a combination of mild and strong ginger flavor notes. Add ginger to your tea or lemonade, stir fries, or even in your oatmeal in powdered form.
Cherries and Berries -
Their rich vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) content also helps reduce tissue damage at sites of inflammation. Toss them into a spinach salad, a smoothie, or top your cereal with your favorite berries. Here's a creative idea: sneak them into a peanut-butter sandwich!
Garlic is such a versatile ingredient! Use garlic in any sautes, mix it into your favorite bean dip (such as hummus), sauces, or soups. Puree roasted garlic into your favorite mashed potato dish. Use it in any marinades you make for lean meats. Eat it raw in a bruschetta recipe with tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and oregano atop whole grain toast.
Curcumin is the main ingredient in turmeric that deserves all the praise for its anti-inflammatory actions. Like many of the previously mentioned foods, curcumin has been shown to inhibit chemicals and enzymes involved in the inflammatory response.
Use a dash of this earthy tasting spice in your favorite bean dip, soup or broth, smoothie, curry dish, roasted vegetable dish, or when marinading meats.
Studies have found that probiotics may be beneficial since HIV infection causes a breakdown of the GI barrier. HIV infection also tends to cause a change in the gut flora (a reduction of the more anti-inflammatory Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria population) and an increase in more pro-inflammatory bacteria.
Limit or Avoid Pro-inflammatory Foods -
Copyright 2019, Positive Health Publications, Inc.
This magazine is intended to enhance your relationship with your doctor - not replace it! Medical treatments and products should always be discussed with a licensed physician who has experience treating HIV and AIDS!