By Julie Vargo, Editorial Contributor
When it comes to fighting inflammation, nutrients like Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins A and C need to make room for a newcomer. Dietary fiber, a crucial component for chronic disease prevention and overall wellness, is gaining recognition for its anti-inflammatory benefits, too.
Inflammation signals the body’s immune system to repair damaged tissue or fight invading viruses and bacteria. If inflammation becomes chronic, however, it can contribute to a variety of illnesses like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, depression and autoimmune disorders.
How It Works
Upping fiber consumption helps combat inflammation by modifying the pH and the permeability of the gut. “Fiber supports good bowel function, gut health and immunity,” says Lauren Popeck, a dietitian at Orlando Health. “It also helps control blood sugar, blood pressure and lipid level. And, a fiber-rich diet can help reduce inflammation by lowering body weight.”
As with many diseases, eating to lower inflammatory conditions is the same as eating right for an overall healthy body. “To maximize your ability to lower inflammation, consume at least five servings daily of fruits and vegetables,” says Popeck, who also recommends cutting out excess sugar and carbs, and reducing body fat.
What to Choose
Upping your intake of special plant fibers called prebiotics will help improve digestion and reduce inflammation. Good sources of these include oats, onions, soybeans, green vegetables, legumes, garlic, bananas and Jerusalem artichokes.
Don’t depend on fiber supplements to work as well as a diet of fiber-rich foods, especially if you’re overweight. While thinner Americans saw a 40 percent reduction in markers for inflammation when using supplements, they didn’t provide much improvement for overweight and obese patients, according to research from the Arthritis Foundation.