About the Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Rheumatologic conditions.
In my rheumatology practice, many patients ask me if I recommend a specific diet. The response is tailored to each individual, as each diet can achieve different outcome. In general, I recommend trying and eat as much whole food (unprocessed) food as possible. And while I may recommend a different diet depending on what my patients are seeing me for, I find that the anti-inflammatory (or Mediterranean) diet is not only great to prevent or help with inflammatory conditions, it is also delicious. The anti-inflammatory diet is indeed consistently associated with less chronic diseases and longevity. It is also very easy to follow and very tasty. Let’s take a deeper look.
What is the anti-inflammatory diet?
The anti-inflammatory diet is a type of eating plan that aims to reduce chronic inflammation in the body. An anti-inflammatory diet involves consuming foods that have anti-inflammatory properties while avoiding or limiting foods that are pro-inflammatory.
Some foods that are typically included in an anti-inflammatory diet are:
• Fruits and vegetables: These are high in antioxidants and other nutrients that can help reduce inflammation.
• Whole grains: These are high in fiber and can help regulate blood sugar levels, which can reduce inflammation.
• Healthy fats: Foods like fatty fish, nuts, and seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
• Spices and herbs: Many spices and herbs, such as turmeric and ginger, have anti-inflammatory properties.
On the other hand, some foods that are typically avoided in an anti-inflammatory diet include:
• Processed and refined foods: These are often high in sugar and unhealthy fats, and can increase inflammation in the body.
• Red meat: Consuming too much red meat has been linked to increased inflammation in the body.
• Fried and fast foods: These are often high in unhealthy fats and can also increase inflammation in the body.
What are the benefits of the anti-inflammatory diet in patients with rheumatologic conditions?
There are multiple benefits in following an anti-inflammatory diet for patients with chronic inflammatory rheumatologic conditions.
1. Reduced inflammation: An anti-inflammatory diet can help to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including in the joints. This can lead to a reduction in pain, stiffness, and swelling in individuals with rheumatologic disorders.
2. Improved joint function: By reducing inflammation and swelling in the joints, an anti-inflammatory diet may improve joint function and mobility in patients with rheumatologic disorders.
3. Better overall health: An anti-inflammatory diet is rich in nutrients and antioxidants, which can support overall health and wellbeing. This can be particularly important for individuals with rheumatologic disorders, who may be at higher risk for other chronic health conditions.
4. Lowered disease activity: Some studies have suggested that an anti-inflammatory diet may help to reduce disease activity in certain rheumatologic disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
5. Potential reduction in medication use: While an anti-inflammatory diet is not a substitute for medication, it may help to reduce the need for certain medications or lower their doses in some cases.
While more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet for patients with rheumatologic disorders, these studies suggest that it may be a promising approach to reducing inflammation, improving disease activity, and enhancing overall health in these individuals. It's important to note that an anti-inflammatory diet should be used in conjunction with other medical treatments prescribed by a healthcare professional and should not be used as a substitute for medication.
Is there a particular diet endorsed by the American College of Rheumatology?
The American College of Rheumatology (ACR), which is the largest organization of rheumatologists, do not have specific dietary recommendations for patients with rheumatologic disorders. They do however recommend that individuals with rheumatologic disorders consume a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. They also recommend limiting the consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks, and saturated and trans fats. All these recommendations can be met when following an anti-inflammatory diet.
If you want to learn more about diet and anti-inflammatory properties, two of my favorite books are:
- How not to die, by Michael Greger, MD and
- Fast food, Good food, by Andrew Weil, M.D.
Stuffed peppers with lentils and tofu:
I you want to get an idea of what food you can be expecting when following an anti-inflammatory diet, here is one of my favorite recipes which is rich in anti-inflammatory ingredients and nutrients and is
Ingredients (for 4):
• 4 large bell peppers
• 1 cup green lentils (I buy mine already steamed at my local grocery store)
• 1 block firm tofu, crumbled
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced (if you like garlic)
• 1 tsp. ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp. turmeric
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. black pepper
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut off the tops of the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes. Place the peppers in a baking dish.
2. Rinse the lentils and place them in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover the lentils by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. You can also buy lentils that are pre-cooked!
3. While the lentils are cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the crumbled tofu, cumin, turmeric, salt, and black pepper to the skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the tofu is lightly browned and coated in the spices.
5. Drain the lentils and add them to the skillet with the tofu mixture. Stir to combine.
6. Add the vegetable broth to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced and the mixture is thickened.
7. Spoon the lentil and tofu mixture into the prepared peppers, filling each one to the top.
8. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until the peppers are tender and the filling is hot.
9. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.
This recipe is rich in anti-inflammatory ingredients like lentils, tofu, vegetables, and spices, and can be a delicious and nutritious addition to an anti-inflammatory diet.
And you, what are you going to eat today?
Isabelle Amigues, MD
CEO and Founder of UnabridgedMD