Fight Inflammation with a Paleo Diet

Fight Inflammation with a Paleo Diet

Most athletes are well aware of a fun little word called “inflammation”.1 Tough workouts are a common cause of inflammation. Acute inflammation (the only kind most people are aware of) is actually beneficial.2, 3 But – and this is a big BUT – chronic inflammation is a killer. Literally.4, 5, 6 The difference here is important, and very misunderstood. One of the biggest health benefits of consuming a Paleo diet comes from its anti-inflammatory nature.7, 8, 9 By fixing the Standard American Diet (SAD) ratio of high omega-6 to low omega-3, nearly everyone sees improvements.10, 11 But before we proceed further, let’s specify and define acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.

Fight Inflammation with a Paleo Diet

Imai, Yumi, Anca D. Dobrian, Margaret A. Morris, and Jerry L. Nadler. “Islet Inflammation: A Unifying Target for Diabetes Treatment?” Science Direct. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, July 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.

Fight Inflammation with a Paleo Diet

Heneka, Michael T., Markus P. Kummer, and Eicke Latz. “Innate Immune Activation in Neurodegenerative Disease.” Immunology Reviews. Nature, 25 June 2014. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.

Acute inflammation is what occurs when you get a bruise, cut, experience stress, or go through a hard workout.12 I used to practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and CrossFit on a near-daily basis, and I became very familiar with inflammation! However, this is the good kind of inflammation, remember. Without acute inflammation, you would never heal. Think about that for a minute. Chronic inflammation, by contrast, is problematic for two reasons. One, it is much less noticeable. You likely won’t have a bruise, cut, or any obvious symptoms. And two, it is the cause behind most serious diseases – whether it be cancer, heart disease or other conditions.13, 14, 15

With regard to diet, inflammation also plays a bigger role than most are aware of. Take acne, for example. This is an inflammatory condition. Some have even surmised that inflammation plays a role in acne at a subclinical level.16 This is one of the many reasons why dairy should be avoided when consuming a Paleo Diet. Perhaps surprisingly to some, coconut oil has been shown to have components which help protect against acne.17 The lauric acid found in coconut oil has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and would therefore also be beneficial after a tough workout.18 Win-win.

Vegetables are another key component of an anti-inflammatory diet, and unsurprisingly, a healthy Paleo diet is largely comprised of vegetables!19, 20 So what should athletes be eating? Coconut oil, protein and vegetables! Of course you’ll also want some anti-inflammatory fats, like the omega-3 fatty acids found in wild-caught seafood.21 From strictly a scientific perspective, it is quite clear athletes should stick to a diet based upon these foods to provide you with the best results.

Fight Inflammation with a Paleo Diet

Dantzer, Robert et al. “From Inflammation to Sickness and Depression: When the Immune System Subjugates the Brain.” Nature reviews. Neuroscience 9.1 (2008): 46–56. PMC. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.

Another aspect of inflammation which many are unaware of is that it can occur (and often does occur) in your brain!22 If the brain’s barrier is opened, your glial cells will likely be activated.23 These are the cells that deal with immunity. Once activated, an inflammatory response in your brain occurs.24 This is not good. To add to the fun, your brain now has trouble communicating with your gut, creating more issues, specifically serotonin biosynthesis problems.25 And, the delicate HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis will now likely be off-balance, as well.26

So, what is the best way to avoid inflammation, of all kinds (except beneficial, acute inflammation)? Quite simply: eat a Paleo diet. By avoiding gluten (a huge instigator of inflammation throughout the body and brain) you will be doing yourself a huge favor.27, 28 And when we replace problematic proteins like gluten, with nutrient-dense foods rich in protein, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, we procure better health for ourselves.29 Your mom was right: eat your vegetables for better health and less inflammation.30 Stay the course with a Paleo Diet and optimal health sans inflammation is within reach.



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[15] Gomes de lima KV, Maio R. Nutritional status, systemic inflammation and prognosis of patients with gastrointestinal cancer. Nutr Hosp. 2012;27(3):707-14.

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[17] Huang WC, Tsai TH, Chuang LT, Li YY, Zouboulis CC, Tsai PJ. Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of capric acid against Propionibacterium acnes: a comparative study with lauric acid. J Dermatol Sci. 2014;73(3):232-40.

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[19] Watzl B. Anti-inflammatory effects of plant-based foods and of their constituents. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2008;78(6):293-8.

[20] Galland L. Diet and inflammation. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010;25(6):634-40.

[21] Wall R, Ross RP, Fitzgerald GF, Stanton C. Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(5):280-9.

[22] Dantzer R, O’connor JC, Freund GG, Johnson RW, Kelley KW. From inflammation to sickness and depression: when the immune system subjugates the brain. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008;9(1):46-56.

[23] Prat A, Biernacki K, Wosik K, Antel JP. Glial cell influence on the human blood-brain barrier. Glia. 2001;36(2):145-55.

[24] Skaper SD, Facci L, Giusti P. Mast cells, glia and neuroinflammation: partners in crime?. Immunology. 2014;141(3):314-27.

[25] Spiller R. Serotonin, inflammation, and IBS: fitting the jigsaw together?. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2007;45 Suppl 2:S115-9.

[26] Morand EF, Leech M. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis regulation of inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. Immunol Cell Biol. 2001;79(4):395-9.

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[30] Holt EM, Steffen LM, Moran A, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and its relation to markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109(3):414-21.

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“2” Comments

  1. Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation.

  2. So if the blood brain barrier is opened from say an anti histamine, although the anti histamine is inhibiting the effects of the H1 receptor, is there a inflammatory response in the brain? Immediately or on rebound?

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