One of the things that I have found most beneficial for my MS is to maintain an anti-inflammatory diet. This is because I am lowering my intake of foods that might cause flare-ups such as wheat, dairy, or sugar. It isn’t easy to drop these delicious foods, but it’s doable because there are plenty of delicious recipes available all over the internet and passable alternatives for specific cravings.
Unfortunately, some of the recipes take time and prep and if you are low on energy, that can be discouraging. Making food ahead or finding shortcuts can help minimize food prep-stress.
In the news recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Looking at the two food pyramids for each diet there’s a lot of similarities between the two. So if you were ever considering doing the Mediterranean, or already on the Mediterranean, then you are maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet.
*I am linking to them to respect each site’s copyright.
Comparing the two, Dr. Weil breaks down the Mediterranean Diet in further detail, but each food category is in the same area of the pyramid; there are certain foods types you eat more of and others you eat less of and they overlap. While it may not be 100% the same, the overlaps are significant and the health benefits equitable.
The advantage to recognizing the similarity between the two is it can open up the doors for more recipe options with modifications. When starting new diets, it’s easy to get discouraged by recipe limitations. Having more options available can make the diet shift process smoother and more pleasant.
Benefits to your Health
The Mediterranean Diet pops up in the news quite frequently about how healthy it can be for the consumer. Some recent examples:
- Higher-bone density in post-menopausal women
- Anti-aging properties (note the author mentions the anti-inflammatory benefits)
- Great for heart health
- Scientific study about the anti-inflammatory effects of the Mediterranean diet
While I am not a dietitian, so I am basing this on my own conclusions, I believe that one of the reasons why the Mediterranean Diet is so healthy is because it is such a well-rounded diet. It allows a person to eat all food types provided they are in moderation, with little to no elimination of food groups.
You can eat sugar and red meat if you want, just make sure it’s not on a daily or weekly basis. Sometimes denying certain foods instead of eliminating them can be particularly discouraging.
For someone with an autoimmune disease, inflammation is a big concern because of the various types of flare-ups. Celiacs need to avoid gluten, Crohn’s need to avoid their trigger foods, and MS needs to avoid a variety of foods to help reduce flare-ups. I am oversimplifying each autoimmune’s food concerns for the sake of brevity, but the point is: certain foods can trigger an inflammatory response.
While I have eliminated sugar and dairy out of my diet and drastically reducing my gluten intake, I will not say that these types of foods need to be completely eliminated. If having the occasional sweet or type of cheese brings pleasure, then planning for it should allow for its consumption.
Not Just for Autoimmune Disease
Don’t have an autoimmune disease or concerns with inflammatory foods?
The anti-inflammatory/Mediterranean diet is great for anyone because of the reasons listed above. I believe if I was eating my current diet without an autoimmune disease I would see the same benefits I am currently seeing: clearer skin, more energy, and little-to-no recovery time after running a considerable distance.
Dr. Weil has a whole section of his site dedicated to the health benefits of eating anti-inflammatory. Want to lower stress? Reduce headaches? Manage diabetes? An anti-inflammatory diet might be a good option to start a journey towards wellness.
While it may not help 100% of the time, it might have some noticeable benefits and be worth trying for a few weeks. Strict adherence may be too difficult for the busy person, but incorporating it more and more into the diet might be a nice balance.
Looking for ways to expand your eating into the anti-inflammatory/Mediterranean diets? Here are some great resources for delicious and easy recipes:
Going out for food? Here are some tips to maintain your diet if you can’t break it for the day:
- Dietitian on a Diet – with entrée suggestions for different cuisines
- Dr. Hyman’s suggestions for how to prepare for restaurant foods and how to order once inside.
While anti-inflammatory or Mediterranean isn’t for everyone, there are some ways to incorporate its tenets into a day-to-day meal plan. I will never insist that one way of eating is absolutely necessary, but I will recommend giving these two diets a try if you are searching for something healthy and enjoyable.
What are some of your favorite foods and where do they rank on the pyramid? Have you tried the anti-inflammatory or Mediterranean diet for your autoimmune disease/health? What worked or didn’t work for you? Comment on your experiences below.
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