New Lifesaving Foods: The Anti-Inflammation Diet
Your body creates inflammation as a quick way to heal everything from paper cuts to the flu. Essentially, the immune system increases blood circulation to the injured area, instigates infection-fighting heat, and sends white blood cells and other chemicals to ward off bacteria and mend damaged cells. When it's doing that job, inflammation is a good thing. The long-term harm happens when the body continuously produces low-grade inflammation; unfortunately, the odds are high that you don't even know the damage is being done. Even doctors can't always point to where chronic inflammation is located in the body, and what its specific causes are.
In general, though, inflammation may be triggered by conditions such as chronic back pain, ongoing infections like tuberculosis, viruses, bacteria, allergies, and even gum disease. Excess weight is also considered a major inflammation engine, because extra pounds don't just get stored in the body as lethargic blobs of flab. Body fat, especially in the gut, is active tissue. It produces hormones and secretes substances just like an organ, and some of these can trigger inflammation, says Barbara Nicklas, PhD, a professor of medicine at Wake Forest University Health Sciences in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In one study, dropping even a few pounds caused inflammation to nose-dive. (A blood test can reveal your body's current inflammation levels -- see "Are You at Risk?")
Even before it gets stored in your midsection, however, dietary fat in the foods you eat can affect inflammation. Certain types of fat promote this reaction, while others fight it. Although this relationship is just beginning to be understood, read on to identify the major culprits.
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