Inflammation and diabetes

Nov 28,2011
By Angie Frederic, RD, LC, CDE, and Tiffany Wadlow, RN, CDE

Inflammation can be acute or chronic. Acute inflammation is the body’s natural protection from potentially harmful injuries or substances. Burns, physical injury and infections can activate acute inflammation.

The symptoms are: fever, temporary redness, swelling, pain, or warmth to the affected area. If you sprain your ankle, it will probably swell up and hurt for a few days; this is the inflammation process at work. Acute inflammation is good and a sign that your immune system is working properly.

Chronic inflammation is when your immune system is continuously releasing inflammatory chemicals and is sometimes called “silent” inflammation. This is an abnormal process. Typically there is no pain with chronic or silent inflammation hence the word “silent.” Some of the causes are: chronic stress, abdominal obesity and poor food choices. Since silent inflammation is painless it can be damaging to your body without you knowing it or feeling sick. Heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, damage to nerves (neuropathy), obesity and cancer are diseases that can be affected by chronic inflammation.

There is a theory that silent inflammation starts in the fat tissue and moves to other organs, one of which is the pancreas. In pre-diabetes, insulin resistance causes the pancreas to release increased amounts of insulin. The increased amount of insulin is one of the mechanisms that contribute to silent inflammation. You can decrease chronic or silent inflammation by regularly exercising, eating a healthy diet and reducing stress. Including a healthy diet is important to managing diabetes and fighting inflammation. Here are some tips to help keep your diet balanced and healthy. 
  1. Fruits and vegetables should be included every day. It is recommended to include at least five servings per day. A good way to ensure you are getting your recommended servings is to aim for at least two cups of fruit (fresh, frozen or natural canned) and three cups of vegetables (fresh, frozen or low-sodium canned) every day. 
  2. Include whole grains such as whole-wheat breads, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa and oats. Look for whole grain as the first ingredient on the food label.
  3. Add three servings dried beans/ legumes, lentils and/or split peas weekly. Add to soups, salads or as a side dish. 
  4. Two to three servings per week of fatty fish are recommended to provide the essential Omega-3 fats. The best sources of fatty fish are salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and herring. 
  5. Go a little nuts! One ounce of raw or dry roasted nuts added to your diet five days per week has been found to provide healthy oils that fight inflammation. Enjoy variety and add to salads, cooked vegetables or stir fry. They can also be enjoyed by themselves as a snack.