Fighting Inflammation with Food, By Mike Dougherty, DC

Inflammation is a big catch word in popular culture and media, but what does it really mean and what can it entail? We know that acute injury, inflammatory arthritic conditions, and even chronic disease have an inflammatory component. Now, the most common ways to address this is usually with the use of over the counter NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Generally, for acute condition the use of NSAIDS can aid in helping control the inflammatory process. But, what about chronic pain or recurring conditions? Taking a dietary approach may be your best option in fighting chronic and painful injuries. Chronic inflammation refers to a biochemical state in the body. A proper anti-inflammatory diet can aid in decreasing systemic inflammatory conditions. The core of an anti-inflammatory diet includes fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and oils, as well as lean proteins ideally from grass-fed or free-range sources. After a nutrition regimen is implemented, smart supplementation is generally a good follow up. Some core products with support in the scientific literature includes fish oil, most commonly known for their omega 3 content, and vitamin D3, the bioactive form of what is converted from normal sun exposure. Seeking advice from a healthcare practitioner is recommended before starting supplementation; however, the food part is never too early to begin. Let’s look at the causes of chronic inflammation.

There are 3 factors considered in systemic inflammation. First, there is a reduced ability for the power house of the cells, the mitochondria, to produce energy. The reduced ability to create energy, known as ATP, leaves generalized feelings of malaise and fatigue. Sugar, flour, and refined oils lead to poor mitochondrial function. This is followed by the accumulation of free radicals, which impair and injure cells. One of the biggest contributors to the production of free radicals is excessive sugar, fat, and flour. This creates an oxidative stressor on the body with the sudden influx of improper nutrients found in most commercial and processed food. Disease is, in part, caused by the accumulation of excessive free radicals over time. The combination of these first two factors leads our cells to start producing more inflammatory chemicals. Poor food and lifestyle choices lead to an increase in the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals and precursors that occur in the body. When we eat refined foods, sugar, flour, unhealthy fats, and grains, we are essentially giving the body the building blocks of inflammation causing chemicals. Here is just one example: These foods contain an abundant amount of omega six fatty acids. Omega six converts to Arachidonic acid (AA) which produces a chemical called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). PGE2 is a chemical directly responsible for pain and inflammation. Interestingly enough, medication like aspirin, Tylenol, Celebrex, ibuprofen, Advil, Alleve, and other anti-inflammatory drugs target and inhibit PGE2. The take home message of all this is if you get relief from these drugs, you are eating too much inflammatory foods.

Here are some common inflammatory foods:

All Grains and Grain Products: Including white bread, whole wheat bread, pasta, cereal, pretzels, crackers and any other product made with grains or flours from grains. This also includes most desserts and packaged foods. 

For more information or to schedule a nutritional consultation, please call us at 609-588-8600 or email We are centrally located in Lawrenceville, NJ, right off Rt 1 and about 1.5 miles from the Quaker Bridge Mall. We serve the Mercer County area including Princeton, West Windsor, East Windsor and Hamilton.

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