The anti-inflammatory diet – not so new
The anti-inflammatory diet has been popping up in the media lately but is it really something new? It’s based on two diets that are not just old but ancient, the Mediterranean diet and the Asian diet. Both contain foods that lower inflammation and are devoid of those that promote it. Perhaps the term Mediterrasian is more inviting and less intimidating than anti-inflammatory.
Inflammation is the mainstay of the body’s defense mechanism, ranging from the pain, swelling and redness that we experience from a splinter lodged in a fingertip to the cough, fever and miserable feeling of a bout of the flu. These reactions are relatively brief, unlike the years-long gnawing damage that leads to heart attack, stroke and numerous other conditions.
The true Mediterranean diet and the traditional Asian diet are nothing like what is found on the menus of your local pizza parlor or Chinese restaurant. Both diets are plant-based, which means plenty of fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 fats, all of which lower inflammation. They lack processed foods that are heavy on the sugar, starch and saturated fat that contribute to obesity. Fat deposits don’t just take up unsightly space, they produce inflammatory chemicals that contribute heavily to cardiovascular disease and to cancer, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Both food styles include very little red meat; there is no beef industry in greater Asia or the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. There’s not much of a dairy industry either; most Asians are unable to digest the sugar (lactose) in milk and the Mediterranean climate doesn’t allow milk or its products to maintain freshness. If you think that cheese is the exception that’s correct but it serves as a garnish, not a primary ingredient.
Instead of saturated fat the Mediterranean diet relies on olive oil for almost all of its fat calories. The Asian diet is naturally low in fat but what there is comes mainly from fish, an excellent source of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 variety.
What this hybrid diet lacks is one of its biggest advantages. There is no refined grain (white rice is the exception), no trans fat and no artificial colors or chemical preservatives.
The benefits of the Mediterrasian lifestyle are not entirely due to food. Until fairly recently labor-saving devices were not available to most people and almost every tool and vehicle required muscle power. That not only made obesity less likely it reduced the risk of osteoporosis.
Is it pain or just soreness? When you work a muscle hard, especially if it’s the first time, you know how sore it feels the next day and possibly for several days. That is normal and it is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). You can avoid it if you begin an exercise program – or a new type of exercise – with very low weight. I recommend that you go through a routine with no weight at all in your hands for at least two weeks to open up existing blood vessels and grow new ones. Walkers and runners should start with low speeds and short distances. That won’t completely eliminate DOMS but it sure will help.
Pain is different. It sometimes comes on suddenly during or after an exercise, and it’s usually asymmetric – involving only one side of the body, e.g., one shoulder.
Do not try to “work through” DOMS or pain. In the former it’s just not worth the discomfort and in the latter you are likely to make the injury worse.