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  • Writer's pictureKathy Ozakovic

Foods to Decrease Inflammation and Promote Healing

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

"I combined our knowledge and focused on consuming these foods everyday: Blueberries, Linseed Sunflower Almond meal (LSA), Flaxseeds Hemp & Chia meal (FHC), Salmon, Avocadoes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, variety of vegetables, lean chicken and turkey"


So, a week and a half ago I was silly and rushed a deadlift... As a result, my lower back suffered and I’ve been on bed rest. First 3 days I actually couldn’t get out of bed without using the railing. Couldn’t dress myself without screeching like a baby goat and couldn’t sit on the coach. Sleep was painful and broken. When the chiropractor was checking my range of motion, I was scared to lean to any side.


I was experiencing Acute Inflammation due to the injury. This a normal defense mechanism where the immune system rushes to protect your body from any bacteria or viruses that may try to infect the area, and is also the first step in repairing tissue damage. My muscles were tight around the injury to prevent further damage because my L5 facet joints were pushed a bit too far (an image of the type of injury I sustained is below). So, my nerves were firing pain signals to prevent further injury. If the inflammation sticks around for more than 6 months it is known as chronic pain.



Ongoing inflammation may be a response to repetitive damage that does not heal (e.g. arthritis), but it can also occur in response to other triggers such as toxins, allergens, or oxidative stress, also causing tissue damage. Chronic inflammation has been associated with the development of many types of disease such as type 2 diabetes, fibromyalgia, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.


Day 4 after my injury I felt much better. Day 5 even better. 7 days after my injury I went to my chiropractor again and he was in awe. He said he honestly thought I’d be hobbling to the practice and couldn’t believe he saw me walking strong. The recovery that takes most people 3-4 weeks took me 1 week.


I put it down to:

1) Being well conditioned prior to injury (all the correctives @coachkarlmckenna gets me to do for my warm ups)

2) High Fat, Anti inflammatory diet

3) Resting and allowing recovery


When the injury occurred, frustrated and disappointed in myself I told @coachkarlmckenna and he advised me to do more high fat days to help my body recover. I combined our knowledge and focused on consuming these foods everyday: Blueberries, Linseed Sunflower Almond meal (LSA), Flaxseeds Hemp & Chia meal (FHC), Salmon, Avocadoes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, variety of vegetables, lean chicken and turkey.


Here’s why: Because I was not going to train for a bit, I wouldn’t need as many carbohydrates as I usually need (as a highly trained individual my maintenance is at 400g carbs daily). Going low carb (below 150g) would make room for all the healthy fats (+100g/day). Protein is always kept consistent. It’s a balancing act with the aim of leaning out for a summer photo shoot coming up.


The Types of Fat

I want to highlight: My foundation diet is already anti-inflammatory by avoiding trans fats in processed foods and saturated fats in animal products (fatty red meat and full-fat dairy) which are pro-inflammatory. The fats that I increased were mono and polyunsaturated fats. In particular polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).


CRP, C-reactive Protein

Carbohydrates (in particular refined carbohydrates) increase CRP, a marker of inflammation, and with an injury my CPR was already high! Research has shown consuming a 50-gram dose of fructose causes a spike in inflammatory markers like CRP just 30 minutes later. Furthermore, CRP will remain high for over two hours (1). To put this into perspective, a cup of berries delivers 8g fructose, a cup of cherries 12g fructose, 1 medium apple 10g fructose, 2Tbsp honey 20g fructose. So, it’s not the fruit I was worried about! I am still having my 2 serves of fruit/day.


Cortisol (Stress Hormone)

Cortisol levels are high with injury. Too much stress and elevated cortisol levels lead to poor tissue healing (2) as well as many other health issues including weight gain, insomnia, tissue breakdown, a suppressed immune system, tissue inflammation, and other hormones getting interfered with.


So, what are the benefits of going high fat (mono and polyunsaturated fats) during an acute injury?

Fats help with hormone regulation and therefore are important in pathways to reduce cortisol. Fat derived mediators help resolve inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory pathways! (3) In a study, supplementation with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in 50 dyslipidemic patients significantly decreased CRP levels (4). Fats help with mood regulation and helped me stay positive and look for silver linings in my injury (R&R time). Fats help satiety and control BGLs preventing cravings whilst activity was limited. My chosen sources of mono and polyunsaturated fats were: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salmon, Linseed Sunflower Almond meal, Flaxseed Hemp Chia Seed meal, Eggs, Avocados.



I also paid attention to:


Polyphenols

Several in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that polyphenols enhance antioxidant activity, inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines, and prevent free radical formation. (5). Sources: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Linseeds, Blueberries, Colourful Veggies.


Fibre

It’s easy to be skimpy on fibre when going high fat. However, for gut health and anti-inflammation fibre is still king! Several epidemiological studies suggest that high fibre intake leads to less inflammation, as indicated by lower plasma CRP levels. Clinical trials with fibre supplementation in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) resulted in increased anti-inflammatory marker levels in immune cells of patients with Crohn’s disease compared to placebo (6). That sounds pretty amazing to me. Going back to the whole ‘nutrition for gut health leads to overall wellness’ message I share regularly!


Supplements

As a highly trained individual under stress, I go through my vitamin and mineral stores quicker than the average Joe, so I usually take most of the supplements listed below but made sure I was very diligent and added Curcumin. I supplement with @metagenics_anz products:


Turmeric (Curcumin) – anti-inflammatory

Turmeric reduces inflammation at all stages, from reducing the release of inflammatory chemicals to ending the vicious cycle of chronic inflammation, making it an indispensable therapeutic product in any inflammatory or painful situation. It is important to note that not all turmeric supplements are created equal, so when looking for a quality supplement, consider BCM-95™ turmeric. BCM-95™ is a high strength, bioavailable, whole turmeric extract which has been extensively clinically trialled, providing the best anti-inflammatory bang for your buck.


Vitamin C - antioxidant

Oxidative stress leads to more inflammation. Enter vitamin C, an antioxidant meaning it reduces oxidative stress.


Magnesium

CalmX is a formula to help with stress and nervousness with Magnesium Bisglycinate. Magnesium is essential to support recovery and is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body! Magnesium Bisglycinate is a highly absorbed form of magnesium. When combined with other nutrients, such as taurine and glutamine, magnesium bisglycinate promotes fast relief of muscle spasms and pain.


Vitamin D

Research has shown an association between low Vitamin D levels and depression. Vitamin D plays a role in helping nerves carry messages between the brain and the body and is important to keep the immune system strong. With my acute injury, I wanted to make sure I was protecting my mind and body from low mood, helping my immune system and helping those nerves send messages - preventing me from further injury.


In Conclusion

What we eat matters during stress, illness and injury. Fueling yourself with E10 will not get you performing as well as premium. Personally, the high fat - low carb approach is not sustainable for me. It would not get me the long term results I am after - build muscle, get stronger, lift heavier than the boys. However, it is a strategy I’m using during my recovery to stay focused and allow my body to do its job - heal. Kind of like an oil change.





This blog post is not individualised dietary advice. Before you attempt a new nutrition regime you should consult your dietitian.


Did you find this blog helpful and informative? Tag & Share with your friends who would love it too! Sign up for my Free NuFit Wellness Newsletter to stay in the loop. Attend my FREE Wellness Workshops. I help clients Achieve & Maintain Wellness through Nutrition for Gut Health so that they can thrive in life. Nutrition & Wellness Specialist, Dietitian, Health Coach, Holistic Gut Health Expert - Kathy Ozakovic.



REFERENCES


(2) Guo, S. A., & DiPietro, L. A. (2010). Factors affecting wound healing. Journal of dental research, 89(3), 219-229.

(3) Serhan CN et al. Resolvins and protectins in inflammation-resolution. Chem Rev. 2011; 111(10):5922-5943.

(4) Giugliano D et al. The effects of diet on inflammation: emphasis on the metabolic syndrome. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006;48(4):677-685.

(5) Zhang H et al. Dietary polyphenols, oxidative stress and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Curr Opin Food Sci. 2016; 8:33-42.

(6) Shiu-Ming K. The interplay between fiber and the intestinal microbiome in the inflammatory response. Adv Nutr. 2013;4:16-28.


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