by Dr. Bill Rawls
Eating the right foods (and avoiding the wrong ones) can be one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to help reduce chronic inflammation and keep it in check. Dr. Bill Rawls shares some simple dietary guidelines that make following an anti-inflammatory diet easy. Read more about Dr. Rawls’ natural journey to recovering from chronic Lyme disease here.
Question: What is the best anti-inflammatory diet?
Hello, I’m Dr. Bill Rawls. What is the best anti-inflammatory diet?
The foods we eat really make a difference in our body, because everything we eat affects all of our cells and all of the molecules in our body. So when we’re eating, what we’re doing is nourishing our cells. We don’t think about it that way, but it’s really, really important.
What our cells need are specific nutrients: amino acids, minerals, certain vitamins, carbohydrates and fat for fuel, and all the raw materials that the cells need to make things. So that is the purpose of eating, and the purpose of your GI (gastrointestinal) tract is to extract out the things that your cells do need from all the junk that your cells don’t need. So eating is really important.
It’s really kind of crazy that if you look at all the things that people eat, everybody’s cells need basically the same thing. It’s amazing how our bodies can use different foods. But you can certainly influence your health with what you eat.
It’s well-defined that a high-meat, processed-food, high-grain diet is very inflammatory. It’s affecting many things in the body that promote inflammation. One of the ways that it does it is it affects chemical messengers in the immune system that drive the inflammatory process, so you heighten it or it’s pro-inflammatory. So that’s a lot of what it’s doing. Chemical messengers.
We hear about omega-3s, but a pro-inflammatory diet is very, very high in omega-6s. And omega-6s are another type of fatty acid that are used to make chemical messengers that drive inflammation. Omega-3s do the opposite.
For an anti-inflammatory diet, you want a diet that opposes inflammation, that balances the chemical messengers in the body — and that is vegetables. The key, I think, to a healthy diet is a high vegetable diet.
I encourage people to eat more vegetables than anything else; they should make up half of what you eat. If you’re doing that, and that alone, you’re already decreasing inflammation in your body. So that’s really, really important.
Lower carbohydrate is really important too, because beyond inflammation, carbohydrates do something called glycation. Glycation is when carbohydrates like glucose stick to proteins in the body and basically gum them up.
That accentuates or aggravates the inflammatory process. If all of your proteins in your body — which are basically all the working parts of your body — are gummed up with glucose stuck to them, then they don’t work as well and that aggravates inflammation.
So an anti-inflammatory diet should be:
- Lower in carbohydrates, but high in vegetables.
- Omega-3s — good protein sources like fish that are high in omega-3s are really important.
- Poultry tends to be less inflammatory than meat from large animals like cows and pigs.
- Lower portions of meat in your diet, and I think it’s reasonable to eat meat, just not in high quantities.
- Berries — lots of fruit and berries.
- Of all the grains out there, rice is probably the most well-tolerated and the least inflammatory.
So all of those things together — if the highest proportion of your diet is vegetables, and then you’re getting fish and other good sources of omega-3s and healthy protein source (nuts can be a really good portion of a healthy diet), and anti-inflammatory oils like avocado oil, avocado, and olive oil — all of these things promote an anti-inflammatory or a normal state of healing in your body that helps your body to work better.