Most of us have jammed a finger, scraped a knee, or sprained our ankle, and have shout obscenities at the top of our lungs in result! Many of us feel we are in a constant state of inflammation due to the workouts we “kill” ourselves with. Alas, the accompanying swelling, redness and pain are sure signs that inflammation is taking place. Inflammation is part of the body’s response to nearly any type of physical injury. It’s one of the ways that the body protects itself, and begins its repair process.
Is Inflammation Affecting Your Health?
Inflammation is not always as obvious as the more common examples cited above state. “Systemic inflammation” can silently involve every cell in your body and, over time, negatively affect your health and abilities. Conditions such as allergies, joint pain, and premature aging fall into this classification. But wait, if you can’t see inflammation, how do you determine if it’s affecting you?
A routine blood test can help determine levels of certain chemicals in your blood which are known to increase with increased levels of inflammation. C-reactive protein (CRP) is one of the chemical markers associated with systemic inflammation. Clinical standards indicate a CRP level of less than 5 milligrams per liter of blood is considered normal. “Normal” may not be optimal, though. Many medical researchers believe that even slight elevations of CRP are tied to increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and many other diseases.
Controlling Inflammation with Diet
Your body creates both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory chemicals, called “prostaglandins” from nutrients in the food that you eat. Imbalances in your diet can lead to the creation of excessive amounts of inflammatory prostaglandins, which fuel your body’s inflammatory response. Foods rich in saturated fat and per se, arachadonic acid, classify in this category. Conversely, the consumption of certain nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids; and antioxidants, containg monounsaturated fat, DHA and folate, allows your body to produce more anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, which it uses to reduce inflammation.
Modern nutrition experts, such as Barry Sears and Andrew Weil, have written many books about the diet’s link to inflammation and have promoted the positive effects of an antiinflammatory diet. Until now, however, the recommendations regarding anti-inflammation diets have been limited to a relatively small group of foods. That limitation has been lifted with the introduction of the IF (Inflammation Factor) Rating™.
The IF Rating™ System
So what does this all mean for you junk food junkies? Beware! The IF Rating (Inflammation Factor) Rating™ considers the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects of more than 20 nutrients and establishes ratings for most foods in its database. Monica Reingal, nutritional researcher, is noted with the development, creation and savvy of the IF Rating™ System. In 2006, Monica authored the book “The Inflammation Free Diet Plan”. The book provides simple guidelines for using her system to plan your diet, and includes IF Ratings for 1,500 common foods. I recommends this book to anyone considering using the advice of the IF Rating™ system. You can also learn more by visiting www.inflammationfactor.com
Interpretting the Numbers
Basically speaking, a negative IF Rating™ means that the food is considered to be inflammatory (i.e. increases inflammation), and a positive IF Rating™ indicates that the food is considered to be anti-inflammatory (i.e. reduces inflammation). There is no upper or lower limit for the IF Ratings, so you’ll see a wide range of values reported. IF Ratings are also dependent on serving size, so you’ll see the IF Rating™ value change if you change the serving size. Sometimes more just isn’t any better!
Note: If you’d like to have your CRP measured, consult your physician, who can order a simple blood test. Alternatively, you can schedule your own testing with the help of organizations such as the Life Extension Foundation. The typical cost is about $60.