The inflammatory response is a defense mechanism that our bodies use to respond to threats, such as microbes or viruses. Inflammation shows up in different ways, including pain, redness, and swelling. Usually, the body is able to recover in a few days, but inflammation can also become chronic. In the case of chronic inflammation, the immune system struggles to distinguish between real and perceived threats.
Chronic inflammation has been linked to many deadly modern diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, depression, aggressive behavior, and even cancer. Instead of fighting chronic inflammation with pharmaceutical drugs, which can damage our organs over the long term, we can focus on preventative measures to reduce the risk of developing serious health problems.
Nutrition and Inflammation
One of the ways to fight inflammation is with an anti-inflammatory diet rich in amino acids. Amino acids are a central component of nutrition—they make up proteins, which are needed in most biological processes in our bodies. There are different types of amino acids; some can be made by the body (nonessential amino-acids), others come through the food we eat (essential amino acids). Amino acids play a crucial role in fighting inflammation.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are ideal to treat inflammation because they help lower the risk of chronic diseases. Cold-water fish and beans are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and they are also excellent sources of amino acids for inflammation. A diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids and protein lowers the risk of chronic diseases and enhances muscle growth and strength.
Anti-Inflammatory Essential Amino Acids
The branch-chained amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are found in dairy, meat, and eggs, and they promote muscle growth and strength. They also reduce recovery times following intense workouts and alleviate muscle fatigue and damage, in part due to their anti-inflammatory properties. BCAAs can help reduce inflammation in patients suffering from liver disease—they promote ammonia detoxification, correct the imbalance of amino acids in the blood, and stimulate protein synthesis. The beneficial effect of BCAAs on protein synthesis requires adequate amounts of all the other essential amino acids.
Anti-Inflammatory Nonessential Amino Acids
Glutamine is not classified as an essential amino acid, but people who have gastrointestinal disorders or undertake intensive athletic training are often deficient in this amino acid, making it a conditionally essential amino acid in certain circumstances. Glutamine is used within the intestines, kidneys, and by the immune system—it has important antioxidant properties and can help reduce inflammation.
Studies conducted on rodents and pigs show that glutamine can help heal inflammatory bowel disease because this amino acid increases intestinal-friendly microbiota and decreases bacteria. Other amino acids that hold promise for inflammatory bowel disease include arginine, cysteine, methionine, threonine, glycine, histidine, and glutamate. Most animal proteins contain glutamine, and it can also be found in beans, spinach, cabbage, and parsley.
Glycine is a nonessential amino acid that can help people suffering from conditions like ulcers, arthritis, diabetes, kidney and heart failure, neurobehavioral disorders, chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, and even certain cancers. Glycine influences inflammatory cells by suppressing the formation of pro-inflammatory substances such as inflammatory cytokines and free radicals. This amino acid protects against shock caused by hemorrhage and prevents ischemia and injury to a variety of tissues and organs including the liver, kidney, heart, intestine, and skeletal muscle.
It’s easy to incorporate more glycine into your diet. Animal proteins, including meat, dairy, and fish, contain glycine and all the nine essential amino acids that your body needs to thrive. Bone broth, for example, contains glycine and other amino acids, and it also has natural collagen, which releases important amino acids and other substances that are often missing from the typical Western diet. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can find glycine in plant-based sources like beans, spinach, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and pumpkin; plus fruits like banana and kiwi.
Nutrition is the first line of defense against chronic inflammation and modern (and preventable!) illnesses. Eating a diet rich in amino acids—all the essential aminos, including the BCAAs—and nonessential aminos like glutamine and glycine, helps to reduce inflammation, decrease harmful bacteria, and prevent injuries. To ensure you’re providing your body with the amino acids for inflammation it needs, consider supplementing with a complete essential amino acid formula designed to optimize muscle protein synthesis and subdue inflammation throughout the body.