In today’s fast-paced world, it can be hard to eat a balanced diet. Between not having enough time to cook healthy meals, the convenience of takeaway, and heavily processed food items taking center stage on grocery store shelves, maintaining a well-balanced diet can be a difficult thing to accomplish. However, it is possible to continue living virtually the same lifestyle while also getting all the whole foods your body needs to keep it running at its best.
For those who have been diagnosed with chronic disease, a well-balanced diet is that much more important. In fact, eating properly while dealing with chronic health issues is an essential part of managing the disease and the often debilitating symptoms it causes. A well-balanced diet consists of essential vitamins and nutrients, wholegrains, and dairy or dairy alternatives. Getting at least five servings of fruit and vegetables, along with high-fiber foods and foods that provide enough protein and carbohydrates, is what it takes to eat well and feel better.
How does nutrition affect chronic disease?
That old saying, “You are what you eat”, became a cliché for a reason. It’s true: what you put into your body is directly responsible for how it functions on a daily basis. In the case of chronic disease, the saying holds even more weight, because nutrition can be one of the most basic ways to combat further complications from the disease. When someone with a chronic illness isn’t following a healthy diet, it can lead to further inflammation, obesity, lack of energy, and the worsening of immune function.
Because of this, having a chronic disease in conjunction with a poor diet can lead to other ailments that could be avoided. Certain foods can also assist in repairing or increasing the body’s immune response, which in turn could help the symptoms of a chronic illness go into remission or become more easily dealt with.
Why is nutrition essential for treating chronic disease?
As mentioned above, good nutrition is important for the overall function of the body. When it comes to certain chronic illnesses, symptoms can be worsened or even directly triggered by giving the body too much of what it doesn’t need and too little of what it does. For example, if someone is suffering from a chronic illness that causes widespread inflammation and their diet is heavy in foods that lead to inflammation such as sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods, this will make their symptoms and illness worse.
When diet isn’t in check, battling or improving a chronic illness is next to impossible. The treatment of most chronic illnesses will require medication to manage the specific ailment or the symptoms it causes, but having a well-balanced diet is the boost the medication needs to encourage better overall function of the body as a whole.
How does a healthy diet reduce the risk of chronic disease?
Some chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, could be prevented through healthy living. According to the World Health Organization, a number close to 80% of all chronic diseases that fall under the aforementioned categories could be prevented. In taking control of your diet, you can give your body a fighting chance to get back to well and away from symptoms of your chronic ailments.
In some cases, certain chronic diseases can even be reversed, or the symptoms lessened to almost nonexistent levels, when a well-balanced diet is introduced and stuck with. When treating chronic diseases, eating properly plays a pivotal role in whether or not the treatment will be effective or not, because often the treatment alone isn’t enough if a person continues to consume foods that exacerbate their symptoms.
How diet affects your immune system
The immune system is the body’s first line of defense against viruses, bacteria, and any other harmful invaders that would otherwise wreak havoc on the body and its systems. When a diet is full of things that don’t contribute to the overall healthy function of the body, it can cause the immune system to malfunction, which in turn leads to further symptoms of chronic disease and a less apt defense system against new illnesses.
When the body has too much of a bad thing – sugar, for example – it can actually lead to immune cells becoming dormant, lowering their ability to attack bacteria and virus cells effectively. This suppression of immune function can be a contributing factor in developing or worsening chronic disease in those who are not eating healthily.
Essential vitamins and minerals and where to find them
The best way to increase immune function in those who suffer from chronic illness is by introducing essential vitamins and minerals through diet. The most essential include vitamin C, B, D, and E; folic acid; iron; selenium; and zinc. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, but is also found in high amounts in red bell peppers and spinach. Vitamin B can be best ingested through wholegrains such as brown rice and millet; red meat; milk and cheese; and dark leafy greens, including spinach and broccoli. Vitamin D is a bit easier to get, as it comes naturally from the sun’s rays, but it can also be found in fish, beef liver, and egg yolks. High amounts of Vitamin E can be found in nuts such as almonds, seeds such as sunflower seeds, and vegetable oils.
As for minerals, folic acid comes in high amounts in leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits, while iron is generally easier to consume through organ meats, shellfish, red meat, and turkey. When it comes to getting a good amount of selenium, eating seafood and white meat is the best bet. Finally, when you need to up your zinc intake, eating beef, egg yolks, and dark chocolate will help you get to the recommended amount.
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