A must-know guide to fight inflammation
By Dr. Georgene Collins

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The average adult makes roughly 200 food choices each day, and food plays a vital role in health and nutrition. Ignoring the value of proper nutrition can harm good health. Poor nutrition can lead to excess weight and obesity. While the obesity epidemic raises cause for concern, many are unaware of the depth of seriousness of excess weight. Further, many individuals suffer every day with some form of inflammation, yet few may realize the direct link between excess weight, nutrition and inflammation.

Specifically, excess weight and poor nutrition cause inflammation, which sets the body up for a destructive process. This natural defense leads to chronic inflammatory diseases including osteoarthritis, heart disease and diabetes. A survival mechanism, inflammation occurs in reaction to stress to the body. Injury, pollutants and cellular functions are common examples of stress that trigger inflammation.

In the short run, inflammation is harmless and represents good health. In the long run, inflammation leads to chronic diseases. Normal inflammation leads to cellular destruction and removal of debris important to healing. This process is known as oxidative stress. While oxidative stress in an acute reaction is healthy, long-term exposure results in further inflammation and eventually chronic diseases.

The leading causes of chronic oxidative stress are excess weight and improper nutrition. By far excess weight is the greatest cause or aggravator of all disease. Many believe immobility causes inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. However, review of weight and nutrition are recommended as the first line of defense to combat the risk of inflammatory diseases.

Healthy weight-loss goals and strategies are the first steps in reducing the risk of chronic inflammation due to oxidative stress. In addition, anti-inflammatory foods rich with antioxidants reduce the effects of oxidative stress. These foods include nutrients high in carotenoids, selenium, and vitamins A, C and E.

Besides lessening the effects of inflammation, antioxidant foods support healthy weight. Plant foods in their most natural state — fruits, vegetables and nuts — and certain fish contain nutrient-dense antioxidants, which are recommended for healthy weight. The more colorful the plant food, the richer the antioxidant property. For example, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, kale, spinach and tomatoes are excellent sources of carotenoids. Carotenoids are known to reduce mortality from chronic disease and maintain health.

Other sources of antioxidants include citrus for vitamin C and nuts for selenium and vitamin E. Oily fish, such as salmon, are high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids have excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. While many prefer antioxidant supplements over food, current recommendations refer the final decision to a medical practitioner. Research shows antioxidant supplements have little or an opposite effect on the body.

A time-tested fact remains, good nutrition and lifestyle habits that support an ideal weight are the best strategies to combat the risks and complications of diseases caused by chronic inflammation.

Dr. Georgene Collins, Ph.D., RN, CPHQ, is a registered nurse and women's weight loss mentor. Collins, once obese, has maintained her 145-pound weight loss since 2005. Collins maintains certification in nutrition, weight management and wellness through the American Fitness Professionals and Associates. You can learn more about weight loss and weight management at www.DrGeorgeneCollins.com.