Inflammation is a natural part of human health and healing. When you get a bruise or twist your ankle, for example, the injured area swells up with blood which protects the wound and promotes faster healing. Of course, too much inflammation or inflammation over a long period of time can be a bad thing. This is why athletes and people who suffer from internal digestive issues often seek out anti-inflammatory diets which can reduce the discomfort and inconvenience of constant inflammation.
From IBS to menstrual cramps, internal inflammation can be a long-term or occasional problem for most of today's population. And the modern diet isn't doing anything to help. The processed high-carb food eaten today is inflammatory by nature. Grains, sugars, and processed fats all promote inflammation in the gut and in healing injuries. Which is why there is so much interest in paleo and it's AIP evolution as an anti-inflammatory diet.
But the real question is:
"Is the paleo diet truly anti-inflammatory, or just healthier than the processed-food alternative?"
Paleo Cuts Out Most Inflammatory Foods
The paleo and Auto-immune Protocol (AIP) diets are reported to be anti-inflammatory and there are many internet claims along these lines. But as a savvy health-conscious adult, you know better than to buy unsupported hype. These days, every diet under the sun claims to be anti-inflammatory, whether or not it effectively is in practice.
So let's talk practice.
People who switch to paleo and AIP often experience a reduction in inflammation symptoms, but not necessarily because paleo was crafted specifically to reduce inflammation. Instead, paleo's anti-inflammatory reputation is almost a coincidence. Not because it was designed that way, but because it cuts out a lot of modern inflammation-causing foods.
We mentioned earlier that the modern processed-food diet leans toward causing inflammation rather than reducing it. Wheat and processed grains are inflammatory. Refined sugars and starches are inflammatory. Dairy, processed meats and non-organic fats are usually inflammatory. Too much alcohol can also cause inflammation. So you see where we're going. Many of the things you cut out when you start a paleo diet cause inflammation, so it's easy to see paleo as having a profound anti-inflammatory effect when you make the switch.
Paleo is Not Inherently Anti-Inflammatory
So can switching to paleo reduce your inflammation? Yes! But not for the reasons you think. As it turns out, paleo and even AIP are not specifically anti-inflammatory, but they do cut out tons of inflammation-agitators that cause inflammation or make inflammation-related conditions worse. To prove this, all you have to do is compare two lists.
Start by looking up foods that cause inflammation. Then compare that to the list of things cut out of the paleo diet. You'll see a nearly one-to-one matchup. However, cutting out inflammation agitators is not the same thing as an anti-inflammatory diet. There are some foods that very specifically reduce inflammation, even inflammation caused naturally by an injury or condition.
Comparing your list of anti-inflammatory foods, you won't actually find a special emphasis in the paleo diet. There are plenty of foods that are inflammation-neutral that don't cause or reduce inflammation at all. There are also several inflammation-causing foods that are on still the approved list like some nuts that are high in inflammation-causing Omega-6.
So is the paleo diet inherently anti-inflammatory? No.
But Paleo is Very Anti-Inflammatory Friendly
For all those seeking anti-inflammatory diets, don't give up on paleo or AIP just yet! While paleo isn't anti-inflammatory by nature, it's a heck of a lot closer than a non-paleo diet and is very easy to adapt to anti-inflammatory needs. You could say that paleo is extremely anti-inflammatory friendly because you only need a little tweaking to achieve your desired inflammation-reducing effects.
The vast majority of foods considered to be anti-inflammatory are on the OK paleo list and you'll find yourself eating more of them once the processed grains and refined sugars are cut out.
Anti-inflammatory foods include garlic, leafy greens, fatty fish, berries, and broccoli and carrots, oranges, along with some seeds and nuts. Sound familiar? Include tomatoes, avocadoes, mushrooms, peppers, and some seeds and nuts. In fact, simply eating healthy fresh foods focusing on veggies and natural non-processed meat is likely to get you into the anti-inflammatory ballpark.
For those of you looking to craft a diet focused entirely on anti-inflammation and avoiding inflammatory triggers, paleo is a fantastic place to start because you're already halfway there. Like anyone else hand-crafting their diet, you simply need to lean away from the few inflammatory triggers still inside the paleo list of foods and toward those foods that are more likely to reduce your inflammation symptoms. And with such a long list of healthy anti-inflammatory ingredients, that is surprisingly easy to do.
You Could Be Eating Anti-Inflammatory Paleo and Not Even Know It
In fact, many people who switch to paleo and enjoy the non-inflammatory benefits don't even realize that they have switched to a mostly anti-inflammatory diet. After all, if you love spinach and broccoli as your veggies of choice, you're eating anti-inflammatory. If you choose fish as your favorite non-processed protein, that's anti-inflammatory, too.
If you enjoy guac or use avocado instead of a processed spread, if you enjoy a handful of berries with breakfast, or if you just can't stop munching on chia seeds as your favorite paleo snack, you're eating a paleo anti-inflammatory diet.
There are many people who have naturally let paleo guide them to an anti-inflammatory lifestyle just because of favorite foods and foods that feel good to digest instead of bad to digest. And when you start with paleo, your options are more likely to take you to anti-inflammatory choices than the aisles of inflammatory processed food options on the paleo no-list.
So is the Paleo Diet Anti-Inflammatory? It Certainly Can Be!
The first and final question we're here to answer today is whether or not the paleo diet is an anti-inflammatory diet. Due to the intense focus on fresh vegetables, fish, and unprocessed meat, it certainly can be. Due to the cutting out of most inflammation-causing grains and processed foods, it definitely feels like it. But, if you were nuts for fatty nuts, you could still be eating paleo while only eating the few things on our menu that can cause inflammation or don't influence inflammation at all. Therefore, the paleo diet is not a 100% anti-inflammatory diet. It just mostly consists of foods that are anti-inflammatory or inflammation-neutral so it's pretty darn anti-inflammation friendly.
For more great insights on the paleo diet and how it can improve your life, contact us today!