Anti-Inflammatory Eating

A few weeks back, I started contemplating an anti-inflammatory diet to attempt to help quell my neck pain. Research has shown (and I’ll cite sources if I decide to revisit this topic later) that a diet rich in antioxidants and low in sugar and saturated fats can reduce inflammation. I figured it was worth a shot.

The only thing is, I’m not willing to completely cut foods out of my life, just for the sake of following a particular diet. If I find that I feel like ass when I eat a particular thing, I’ll be inclined to avoid it — double-decker oatmeal cookies come to mind — but it’s a process of identifying consequences, and determining that the consequence of feeling high and a little queasy is not worth the few minutes’ worth of delicious cookie. If I can positively associate certain foods with increased neck or back or knee pain, then sure, I’ll probably stay away from them. But my brain is a funny place. Like most people, I do best if I learn for myself — sometimes the hard way.

At first blush, the anti-inflammatory diet looked like paleo looked like Atkins to me. I know there are differences, and the proponents of each of these would probably flog me if they saw me putting them all under a single low-carb/high-protein umbrella, but there are similarities on the surface. Once I dug a little deeper, though, I realized that I’m already mostly eating an anti-inflammatory diet, with a few exceptions. There is a moderate amount of added sugar in my diet, and I eat (and drink) low-fat and nonfat dairy, both of which are no-no’s for anti-inflammatory. But being on Weight Watchers means I’m already including healthy fats in my diet, like olive oil; I’m steering clear of red meat and other fatty foods; I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains; and I’m lightly to moderately active, working out over lunch at least twice a week.

I took a stab at adding some known anti-inflammatory foods to my diet. I started taking my vitamins in the morning with a small glass of tart cherry juice. Being on WW, though, fruit juice costs me more Points than I’d like. The general rule is “Don’t drink your Points” (or your calories, if you’re not on WW), and using up three or four of my 28 daily Points on a glass of juice isn’t working out for me.

I also tried having sardines in the house to snack on — they’re full of healthy oils! They’re also stinky, and the very first day we had them in the house, my three-year-old son tried to open one of the sardine cans and dripped stinky fish oil on our rug. After that, I was disinclined to even open any more sardines — the stink was so pervasive, I was afraid of making the kitchen (and the house) smell like sardines just so I could have a healthy snack.

In the end, my new Primary Care Provider prescribed an oral anti-inflammatory for me, and that did wonders for my pain level. Do I want to be on NSAIDs long-term? Absolutely not. Do I think that changing my diet could have brought me the level of relief that the medication did? Right now, I’m doubtful. Perhaps after I get in with my new physical therapist, and my disc bulge gets under control so I can get off the Naproxen, I’ll focus on keeping sugars and saturated fat out of my diet even more than I already do.

But I don’t see me making any sweeping changes to the predominantly healthy diet I already eat.

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