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Eat to Beat Inflammation

Jacqueline L’Heureux, PharmD


May 1st, 2015

Omega 3's

Have you ever wondered if there was a natural way to decrease inflammation? If so, here is some great information on food and diet that can help.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is often a response to bodily injury and is usually associated with symptoms of pain, heat, swelling, and redness at the affected area. Inflammation is a natural process in your body that that is necessary for healing; however excessive inflammation can lead to a loss of function in the affected tissue, thus contributing to some disease states. Many diseases are associated with inflammation:

  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Tendonitis
  • Gastritis
  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Cancer
  • Obesity

Many people are interested in managing these inflammatory disease states naturally and often turn to lifestyle and dietary options. We are seeing more information arising about anti-inflammatory diets. Some foods are known to be pro-inflammatory, which means consumption of these foods or their components may lead to an inflammatory state in the body. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology analyzed studies and found that diets containing trans-fatty acids, refined starches, and high sugar content have been found to be pro-inflammatory. In contrast, there are foods that may reduce inflammation or contain anti-inflammatory properties. It is believed that a diet low in anti-inflammatory foods may also lead to a pro-inflammatory state in the body. The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and UW Integrative Medicine Department of Family Medicine have great information on anti-inflammatory diets. Below are some examples of pro- and anti-inflammatory food options suggested from UW Integrative Medicine.

Pro-inflammatory Anti-inflammatory
Margarine Olive and coconut oil
Vegetable oils* Walnuts
Whole milk Salmon
Cheese Tuna
White bread Flax oil
Pasta Whole grains
Soda pop Vegetables
Sweet treats Fruit (berries, cherries, apples, and pears)

*partially hydrogenated

In addition to eating more of the anti-inflammatory food options, omega-3 fatty acids are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that Alaskan Natives consume large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and have significantly lower amount of inflammatory diseases that arise from inflammatory states in the body. Omega-6 fatty acids are also necessary in our diet, but have a pro-inflammatory effect. Omega-6 fatty acids are abundant in processed cooking oils, such as peanut oil, whereas omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in fish and a few other options. Most Americans have a diet that is richer in omega-6 vs. omega-3 fatty acids. Focusing on creating a balance between these nutrients may help reduce inflammation in the body. Eating more green vegetables, such as brussel sprouts, kale, and spinach, and fatty fishes helps to increase the amount of omega-3s in the diet. Cooking food in olive oil or coconut oil can increase the intake of omega-3s and add great taste to your food as well!

Working towards a diet with less pro-inflammatory foods and more anti-inflammatory foods may help decrease inflammation in the body. It is important to discuss with your physician any significant diet changes before making them to ensure that it is the right choice for you.


Jacqueline L’Heureux, PharmD

For more information, visit:

Giugliano D, Ceriello A, and Esposito K. The effects of diet on inflammation: emphasis on the metabolic syndrome. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Aug 15;48(4):677-85.


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