Everyone knows it: red spots, pain, exhaustion – whether acute with a sore throat or long-lasting and subliminal, for example in a joint. “Inflammatory processes play a role in an incredible number of diseases – from narrowing of the arteries to diabetes to rheumatism,” says nutritionist Matthias Riedl. Almost all of the around 80 known autoimmune diseases, adds internist Jörn Klasen, also lead to chronic inflammation.
Sweets, wheat, and meat promote inflammation
Diet and lifestyle are key influencing factors. “People with a predisposition to inflammatory diseases in the ‘genetic rucksack’ are particularly at risk,” says rheumatologist Anne Fleck. However, certain foods really fuel flare-ups: “Sweets, wheat products and excessive meat consumption – especially pork, which contains a particularly large number of pro-inflammatory substances,” says Anne Fleck, listing the “main culprits”. In her experience, another fundamental problem is the lack of anti-inflammatory drugs in our diet.
Belly fat fuels inflammation in the body
A widespread problem nowadays is also low-grade inflammation, which begins insidiously and can hardly be detected in laboratory tests, says Fleck: “Ultimately, they lead to diseases of the cardiovascular system and metabolism.” Overweight people in particular are often affected because the body’s own abdominal fat produces pro-inflammatory hormones. “Therefore, anything that increases the waist circumference should be avoided,” advises Matthias Riedl. Conversely, weight reduction helps to stop the inflammatory processes in the body.
Which foods are anti-inflammatory?
The right diet can do a lot to reduce inflammation – for example in arthrosis or rheumatism. Anne Fleck recommends three handfuls of vegetables a day – cooked and raw or as a salad – plus one or two handfuls of low-sugar fruit. Because in vegetables, berries, nuts, and fruit there are thousands of secondary plant substances, many of which have hardly been researched. What is clear, however, is that they have an overall anti-inflammatory effect. Jörn Klasen particularly emphasizes broccoli, spinach, and purslane.
Spices are also medicinal due to their essential oils and pungent substances: turmeric, for example, a component of curries, has proven to be highly effective against arthrosis, as are ginger and chili. Omega-3 fatty acids in vegetable oils and cold-water fish also have an anti-inflammatory effect – especially in rheumatic diseases.