Inflammation: Is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

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Celiac.com 09/12/2020 – In order to understand how inflammation impacts those of us with celiac disease, we must first understand what role it plays in the body’s defense system. In many cases, inflammation is a good thing. It’s a non-specific, protective response by the immune system against infectious agents, toxic irritants, abrasions, tissue injury, and even extreme temperatures. It’s our natural and desirable attempt to protect, repair, and maintain healthy tissue — both inside and outside the body. 

I’m sure you’ve experienced a nasty burn or cut on your finger and have watched the body’s response to the injury. Within seconds various internal “first responders” are called upon and the characteristic signs of inflammation quickly appear — redness, pain, heat, and swelling. Depending on the severity of the injury and where it occurs, inflammation can also cause a loss of function. Because inflammation is a general and non-specific protective mechanism, the response is similar whether the damage is caused by invading cooties or a misdirected hammer. These symptoms are part of the healing process and under normal conditions are indications that the immune system is doing its job. 

When is inflammation a bad thing?


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When the response is misdirected, never shuts off, targets healthy tissue, or results in chronic and ongoing inflammation. Rather than playing a protective role, an overly active immune response can result in tissue injury and disease. Celiac is a genetically predisposed autoimmune disease triggered by the ingestion of gluten and is an example of how immune-mediated inflammation can cause damage, in this case to the small intestine. Left untreated, it can cause nutrient malabsorption, systemic inflammation, and a cascade of associated autoimmune conditions. We don’t want that. 

So, what can be done to put the fire out and enhance overall health? Make anti-inflammatory foods part of a sound nutrition plan and whether you have celiac disease or not, you and your family will benefit.

Here are 10 anti-inflammatory tips to get you started:

  1. Eliminate or minimize processed and “junk” foods and avoid products that contain trans-fats, partially hydrogenated fats, or high-fructose corn syrup.
  2. Choose healthy fats such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, walnuts, pecans, almond butter, and flax seeds.  
  3. Skip the soda pop. Have water or green tea instead. If you choose to drink alcohol, an occasional glass of red wine has been shown to be beneficial to overall health. 
  4. Choose a wide variety of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables—organic if possible and strive for 9 servings per day, 5 servings of vegetables and 3 to 4 servings of fruit.
  5. Eat healthy non-gluten grains like teff, quinoa, amaranth, and brown rice. Add legumes (beans, peas, lentils) to your diet, as they are a rich source of high-quality plant protein. 
  6. Choose nuts, seeds, raisins, and dates for snacks or an occasional small serving of dark chocolate when you need a “sweet fix.” 
  7. Season foods with health-enhancing herbs and spices like garlic, capsicum (chili), turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and cilantro.  
  8. Eat cold-water fish such as wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, or anchovies. These choices are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation. 
  9. Grass-fed bison, lean meats, skinless chicken, and eggs are good protein choices. 
  10. Think positive, reduce stress, get adequate sleep, and exercise regularly. I know, easier said than done, but well worth it in the long run! 

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