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Strengthen Your Diet With Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Leslie Brocchini, MDLeslie Brocchini, MD, believes that integrative medicine has the power to transform lives both before and after illness occurs. A fellow of the integrative medicine program at the University of Arizona in Tucson and a Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM), Dr. Brocchini routinely advises patients at her practice in Sonora, CA, to make the anti-inflammatory diet a central part of an integrative approach to health and wellness.

The anti-inflammatory diet incorporates more whole foods and less processed foods than the standard American diet, which is higher in red meat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, and lower in vitamins and minerals. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious illnesses including cancers, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases and heart disease,” Dr. Brocchini says. “The AI diet is an evidence-based way of eating to promote health and to prevent or reduce inflammation in the body.”

Fruits and vegetables, especially anti-oxidant rich blueberries and green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collards, are important anti-inflammatory foods, she says. Others include tomatoes, healthy fats like avocados and olive oil, and an appropriate amount of whole grains with plant-based proteins. For snacks, Dr. Brocchini recommends powerhouse foods like almonds and walnuts.

If you struggle with inflammatory issues, you should consider adopting an AI diet, she advises. “Inflammation on a cellular level could be affecting your current and future health status,” she adds. “Nourishing your body with foods that calm your immune system rather than trigger it can affect change. I recommend shopping at local farmers markets, and shopping only in the periphery of the grocery store to stay on track. Buying foods that do not have labels is a great start to transforming your current way of eating.”

And, if you are on an AI diet or are battling inflammation, what foods should you avoid? “Sugar, dairy products, corn oils, crackers, cookies, juices, and diet drinks should all be avoided,” Dr. Brocchini says.

If you are experiencing digestion issues or signs of inflammation that you think may be caused by your dietary choices, she recommends keeping a food journal. “Acute issues immediately after eating the food are easy to identify,” she points out. “It is the low-level ongoing chronic inflammation that is harder to detect.”

For patients who are uncertain about their particular inflammation triggers, she often recommends an elimination diet, one variation of which is 14-28 days of eliminating the most common offenders, such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, beef, sugar, pork, eggs, caffeine, and alcohol.

In general, the data shows that it takes 21-28 days of consistently good eating habits to change your immune system and lower inflammation, Dr. Brocchini says. After that, you can expect fewer headaches, a more balanced reproductive system, easier digestion, and improved health overall.

If you would like more information about integrative medicine board certification, contact the ABOIM. The ABOIM is a Member Board of the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS).