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Illinois doctor: Diet changes may help farmers lower inflammation


LINKÖPING — With an increased risk of suffering from medical inflammation issues such as arthritis, it is important to find out what farmers can do to make a difference.

First, it is important to understand that inflammation simply means a localized physical condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot and often painful, especially as a reaction to injury or infection.

The 2016 Biomarkers of Systemic Inflammation in Farmers With Musculoskeletal Disorders; A Plasma Proteomic Study researchers from Sweden stated in their report abstract that “farmers have an increased risk for musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) such as osteoarthritis of the hip, low back pain and neck and upper limb complaints.”

One way to reduce inflammation is through food intake. It seems certain foods really can make the body feel better. In 2014 Sueson Vess, chef, author and educator, offered a series on healthy eating and anti-inflammatory foods at the Moore County Farmers’ Market in North Carolina.

In her presentation, Vess said, “I show people how to eat healthier. Experts agree that an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce heart disease risk, keep existing cardiac problems in check, reduce blood triglycerides and blood pressure, aid digestion, sleep and soothe tender and stiff arthritic joints as we age.”

In Springfield, Ill., Dr. C. Leslie Smith is heading up a new program at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine as the director of Culinary Medicine and director of Integrative Medicine. She has taken on this new challenge and a whole new field is opening up for students and patients alike.

“Culinary Medicine is a new field in biomedicine that combines nutrition with culinary arts and shows how food functions in the body at a biochemical level and a systems level,” she explained. “I want to teach students how to talk to their patients about the kinds of foods that can be prescribed to counteract various problems in the body.”

An example she provided is when arthritic joints feel hot, the doctor can recommend cooling foods – and when the joints feel cool, recommend foods to warm them. “These are foods you can find at the grocery store. They are just more tools in the tool box of a clinician to use for medical therapy.”

She wants doctors to be aware of the herbal and botanical nutraceutical therapies available, along with medicinal yoga and other therapies.

For those suffering from, say, arthritis, changing oils in the kitchen can make a difference. Smith said. “Cooking oil (sunflower, corn, soybean, cottonseed oils) is high in omega 6 fatty acids, which generates a lot of inflammation. Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. Olive, flax and coconut oil are higher in omega 3 and, as such, help fight inflammation – these oils are better choices.”

Olive oil can’t be used at high heat so the other oils are better choices for that kind of cooking. “Regular butter is good, but can turn brown, so it is better to use ghee or clarified butter. The milk solids have been removed, so this is a healthy form of fat and it will tolerate high heat,” Smith said.

It may sound obvious, but she also advised, “Don’t deep-fry, as it saturates your food with unnecessary fats.”

Other foods that are listed as anti-inflammatory include leafy green vegetables, fish, nuts, tomatoes, garlic and onions, berries, whole grains, low-fat dairy and beets.

Farmers making a few changes at the store and in their diet may find improved benefits in their long-term health. To learn more, talk with your physician or explore the SIU School of Medicine website at