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In Part I of this article, you learned about the surprising link between fatigue and inflammation. Now, we will explore in greater detail some of the causes of chronic inflammation as well as some of these natural fatigue-beating, anti-inflammatory therapies. The good news is that chronic inflammation is not only easy to test for, it is most effectively treated using natural and lifestyle therapies involving nutrition, stress reduction techniques, exercise, lifestyle changes, and supplements. No drugs or surgeries are typically needed.
Switching away from a pro-inflammatory diet to a more anti-inflammatory diet is one powerful way to naturally lower inflammation and CRP levels, and thus improve your fatigue. The quality of the carbohydrates you consume in your diet is crucially important for controlling inflammation. A diet rich in slowly-digested carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, most vegetables, and other high-fiber foods, significantly reduces markers of inflammation. This type of diet is called a low-glycemic load diet. The “glycemic load” describes the overall effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar taking into account both how many and what type of carbohydrates are consumed. Generally, a low glycemic load diet is one that is very low in foods made with sugars, white flour, white rice, and white potatoes.
Switching to a low glycemic load diet can significantly improve your fatigue, in part because it helps lower inflammation. Researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Prevention Program in Seattle wanted to know whether diets that keep blood sugar levels more stable, independent of weight loss, lower inflammation and improve the health profile of healthy adults, some of whom were overweight but otherwise healthy.
They compared two 28-day diets identical in everything (calories, total carbs, total fat, total protein) except the quality of the carbs. One diet contained carbs which quickly enter the bloodstream and cause quick spikes in blood sugar (high-glycemic load), while the other diet contained carbs which slowly enter the bloodstream and keep blood sugar low and steady (low-glycemic load).
Among the overweight participants, the low-glycemic load diet significantly reduced inflammation and increased the fat-burning hormone known as adiponectin. The Fred Hutchinson investigators concluded that carbohydrate quality, independent of calories, is important—diets emphasizing foods which don’t spike blood sugar decrease inflammation and increase fat-burning hormone profiles of overweight and obese individuals.
In addition to balancing your blood sugar, another way you can alter your diet to decrease fatigue and inflammation is by eating more anti-inflammatory foods. Eating foods that decrease inflammation rather than provoke it can have profound effects on your energy levels, while at the same time decreasing your risk of a host of chronic diseases.
In general, eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and fish is the sure way to lower your inflammation through diet. In addition to vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help with inflammation and boost energy, plant foods contain phytochemicals, also known as phytonutrients, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, and other polyphenols, which have tremendous anti-inflammatory activity. Many of the most anti-inflammatory phytochemicals are brightly pigmented and thus give plant foods their rich colors.
The greater the variety of fruits and vegetables, the better, including dark green, red, orange, yellow, blue, and purple fruits and vegetables. Some studies suggest that for reducing inflammation, variety is more important than quantity, but you should aim for nine or more servings of vegetables and fruits every day. The nutrition researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute of Micronutrient Research for Optimum Health at Oregon State University recommend that you eat four servings (roughly 2 cups total) of fruit and five servings (roughly 2½ cups total) of vegetables daily but don’t include potatoes in your tally.
While all plant foods contain anti-inflammatory nutrients, certain foods have undergone extensive research and can be emphasized because of their extraordinary powers. Specific examples of anti-inflammatory include berries; wild salmon; green leafy vegetables; cruciferous vegetables like broccoli; spices like ginger, garlic, and turmeric; green tea; dark chocolate; and red wine.
So, just by increasing anti-inflammatory foods and switching to a lower glycemic load diet, you can significantly decrease your body’s levels of chronic inflammation and decrease your fatigue. At the same time, by decreasing your inflammation levels, you will be lowering your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, dementia, and other inflammatory diseases. You will even feel more satiated and may even lose weight. It’s win-win!
Have you followed a low glycemic load or anti-inflammatory diet? Perhaps you’ve changed your diet and seen a difference in your energy levels. If so, tell us your experience in the Comments sections below. By doing so, you can inspire others who are thinking about beginning this new diet plan.
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