The Mediterranean diet is celebrated for its anti-inflammatory properties, offering a delicious and healthful way to combat inflammation in the body.These nutrient-rich foods are not only flavorful but also help reduce inflammation, a key factor in many chronic diseases.

Inflammation is a natural and essential immune response that your body uses to defend itself from infections and heal injured cells and tissues. It produces specific biochemicals that can destroy invaders like bacteria and viruses, increase blood flow to areas that need it, and clean up debris. It can be a good thing. But sometimes it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Understanding and managing inflammation is crucial for maintaining optimal health and preventing chronic disease. Before we discuss the Mediterranean diet & anti inflammatory lifestyle strategies to reduce inflammation, let’s break down the difference between acute and chronic inflammation.

.

Types of Inflammation

Acute Inflammation

There are two kinds of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is short-lived. It’s like a flaming fire that produces the painful, red, hot, swollen symptoms described above. When inflammation is acute it’s usually at high levels in a small, localized area in response to an infection or damage to the body. It’s necessary for proper healing and injury repair.

When your cells detect an infection or damage, they send out warning signals to call over your immune system to help. Your immune system sends over many types of white blood cells to help fight off invading germs such as bacteria, virus and other pathogens and clean up damage so you can heal.

Symptoms of acute inflammation may need short-term treatment such as pain relievers or cold compresses. More serious symptoms like fever, severe pain, or shortness of breath may need medical attention. In general, acute inflammation goes away after the damage is healed, often within days or even hours. Acute inflammation is the “good” kind of inflammation because it does an essential job and then quiets itself down.

A thermometer to measure fever as a symptom of acute inflammation.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is different. It’s more of the slow-burning and smoldering type of fire. This type of inflammation can exist throughout your whole body at lower levels. This means that the symptoms aren’t localized to one specific area that needs it. Instead, they can appear gradually, and can last much longer—months or even years. This is the “bad” kind of inflammation. Chronic inflammation can also result in impaired immunity.

Chronic inflammation is often invisible without immediate or serious symptoms, but over the long-term it’s been linked to many chronic diseases such as

  • Acne, eczema, and psoriasis
  • Allergies and asthma
  • Autoimmune diseases like arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Lung diseases (emphysema)
  • Mental illnesses (anxiety, depression)
  • Metabolic diseases (type 2 diabetes)
  • Neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s)

How does chronic inflammation begin? It may start acutely—from an infection or injury—and then instead of shutting off, it becomes persistent. Chronic low-grade inflammation can also occur with exposure to various toxin sources around you such a heavy metal, pesticides, herbicides, smoke, gas, fumes, BPA and much more or radiation, consuming an unhealthy diet or too much alcohol, not being very physically active, feeling stressed or socially isolated, and having excess weight.

Now that we see that inflammation underlies so many of our medical conditions, here’s what to do to put out those slow-burning, smoldering fires.

Mediterranean Diet: Anti Inflammatory Tips & Strategies

Studies show that reducing inflammation can reduce the risk of several of these conditions, including heart disease and cancer. There are medications used to help lower inflammation to treat some of these diseases such as corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and biologics. However, there are also several lifestyle changes—including a healthy diet—that can be very helpful to prevent and scale down inflammation to reduce its many damaging effects on the body.

“For chronic low-grade inflammation not caused by a defined illness, lifestyle changes are the mainstay of both prevention and treatment,” says Harvard Health. The good news is that anti-inflammatory foods help you stay healthy and reduce your risk of many diseases. In fact, it’s estimated that 60 percent of chronic diseases could be prevented with a healthy diet. Here’s how.

1) Mediterranean Diet Anti-Inflammatory Foods

    • Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains (brown rice, oats, bran), variety of nuts and seeds, fish, poultry, legumes (beans, lentils), and healthy oils (olive oil)
    • Pay particular attention to foods high in antioxidant polyphenols, including colorful plants such as berries, cherries, plums, red grapes, avocados, onions, carrots, beets, turmeric, green tea, and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
    • Omega-3 fats can help to reduce pain and clear up inflammation and are found in salmon, trout, mackerel, soy, walnuts, and flax
    • High fiber foods (whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes) encourage friendly gut microbes to help reduce inflammation
    • Avoid charring foods when cooking at high temperatures
    • Limit inflammatory foods such as red and processed meats (lunch meats, hot dogs, hamburgers), fried foods (fries), unhealthy fats (shortening, lard, trans fats), sugary foods and drinks (sodas, candy, sports drinks), refined carbohydrates (white bread, cookies, pie), and ultra-processed foods (microwaveable dinners, dehydrated soups)

A plate of anti inflammatory Mediterranean foods such as fruits and vegetables.

2) Be Physically Active 

    • Regular exercise reduces inflammation over the long-term, so try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (brisk walking) per week; about 20-30 minutes per day
    • To this add two or more strength training sessions (using weights or resistance bands) each week

3) Get Enough Restful Sleep

    • Disrupted sleep has recently been linked to increased inflammation and atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque in the vessels that’s linked with heart disease), so aim for 7-9 hours of restful sleep every night to help the body heal and repair
    • Tips for better sleep: try to maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule every day, get exposure to natural daylight earlier in the day, avoid caffeine later in the day, cut out screens an hour before bedtime, and create a relaxing nighttime routine

A cat sleeping to portray strategies for an anti inflammatory lifestyle.

4) Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol

    • Quitting smoking can help reduce inflammation and several other health concerns by reducing exposure to toxins that are directly linked to inflammation
    • Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks per day

5) Manage Your Stress

    • Engage in relaxing stress-reducing activities such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi

6) Be Social

7) See Your Doctor or Dentist

    • Get your cholesterol and blood lipids tested because high amounts of “bad” LDL cholesterol is linked to inflammation and negatively affects your vessels
    • You can request a blood test to measure levels of CRP (C-reactive protein) which is a marker of inflammation (this test is also used to check your risk of developing heart disease)
    • If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, this may be a sign of gum inflammation (gingivitis), so ramp up your oral hygiene and see your dentist

Enjoy a 5-day FREE trial of my anti-inflammatory meal plan. You will receive an anti-inflammatory menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with exact recipes to follow and a shopping list. Click the link below to sign-up.

sign-up-free-trial-anit-inflammatory-diet
 


 

.
~ Final Thoughts on the Mediterranean Diet & Anti Inflammatory Strategies~

Chronic, long-term, low-level inflammation is linked with many health issues. The first approach to preventing and improving this is through food and lifestyle changes such as following the Mediterranean diet. Start by focusing on adding colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and healthy fish to your diet. Then layer in lifestyle upgrades like physical activity, restful sleep, and stress management.

These changes can be integrated into your day-to-day practices. First try adding one additional fruit or vegetable to your day. Then, several times a day at each snack or meal. Take baby steps and try to incorporate one new healthy habit.

If you’d like a plan designed to help you enjoy more of these anti-inflammatory foods, consult a registered dietitian/nutritionist who can provide personalized research-based nutrition advice for your health, lifestyle, and goals. I can help. Below is my link to book a 15 min complimentary phone call to chat more.

Want help reducing inflammation while getting healthier?
Let’s talk!

food-sensitivity-testing-arizona

 

More Blog Posts You Might Like

If you enjoyed this blog post on Mediterranean Diet and Anti Inflammatory strategies for health, then you’ll love these articles on the blog: