The Inflammation Factor?

Patient Expert

If you are a regular reader of my Shareposts then you know that I have spent a lot of time figuring out what I can and can't eat to keep my Ulcerative Colitis symptoms at bay. That said, what I can eat and what a nutritionist would tell me is "healthy" for me to eat tend to be on different levels. Yes, I know that the food pyramid tells me to eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies each day. But if I did that I'd never get out of the bathroom and would tear up my poor colon beyond repair. But, I have gotten to the point where I can eat a small spinach and mushroom salad nearly every evening with dinner (this after years of not even being able to look at a leafy green without running to the loo), and eating a moderately sized serving of asparagus, broccoli, or green zucchini with my dinners no longer sets my gut on edge. An occasional bell pepper (cooked through) doesn't seem to kill me, but does leave me feeling slightly bloated. As for fruit, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, avocado (in moderate amounts), and fresh, peeled peaches and pears are all tolerated in moderate amounts.

I could write pages about what I'm supposed to eat vs. what I can successfully eat, but I won't bore you with it. I guess the reason I'm bringing all of this up is that I've been hearing from quite a few fellow IBDers about a new way of gauging the foods we should be eating called the Inflammation Factor. A friend sent me a link to a web site called, Nutrition Data - - where you can type in a particular food, like "wild salmon" and find out its IF - Inflammation Factor. But first, you have to pick out what kind of wild salmon - Atlantic? Coho? Cooked with dry heat? Cooked with moist heat? Raw? I chose, Atlantic wild salmon, cooked, dry heat and found out it has an IF of 895 - meaning it is supposedly strongly anti-inflammatory. If, however, you choose Atlantic farmed salmon, cooked, dry heat it tells me the IF is -386, meaning it is supposedly strongly inflammatory.

From what I can tell from the research I've done on this, the Inflammatory Factor rating system was devised by Monica Reinagal, a nutritional researcher and the author of the book, The Inflammation Free Diet Plan, which gives details on how to plan your diet while using her IF rating system for 1,500 foods.

I've not read Ms. Reinagal's book nor have I embarked on eating a diet according to each foods inflammatory factors. I have, however, spent a few hours on the nutrition data web site looking up many of the foods I know I can eat successfully as well as foods I know cause my gut issue. Again, I won't list all of the foods I looked up but will give you an idea of what I found out.

Just a few of the foods I know cause my gut issues include: grapes (red and green), raw apples, quinoa, oatmeal, and brown rice. If you look up these foods on nutrition data's web site you find that they all have negative IF ratings, meaning they are inflammatory foods - interesting.

A few of the foods I know I can eat that don't cause me any gut issues include: baked russet potato, raw spinach, dry roasted almonds, avocado, banana, shrimp, blueberry, and raspberry. Interestingly, the potato, banana, and blueberries all have negative IF ratings - inflammatory, while the other foods I listed have positive IF ratings - anti-inflammatory. Again, interesting, but I've not been able to find any long term evidence or studies using the IF rating system and showing that eating foods with a positive IF rating decrease the incidence of illnesses attributed to inflammation like IBD, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, or Multiple Sclerosis.

I'm not saying that this means it isn't worth eating foods with an anti-inflammatory factor. It just means that other than reading that Ms. Reinagel spent years studying systemic inflammation and compiling data from hundreds of research studies to come up with her IF system, I'm just not able to really know with certainty that changing my diet to her proposed anti-inflammatory diet will really help me and my UC in the long run. From what I've read the IF rating of each food in the Inflammation Free Diet Plan is based on an analysis of that foods total fat, type of fat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, glycemic index, and the amount of anti-inflammatory compounds found in the food.

This may be a diet worth trying. But for me personally, I think I'll leave my diet pretty much how it is. I've spent the past 10 years fine tuning the diet I know I can eat and remain healthy. What I can eat is already quite limited and I can't see taking blueberries or bananas out of my diet just because they have a negative IF rating according to Ms. Reinagel's system. But, that said, I may try eating wild salmon instead of farmed salmon, and won't feel so guilty for not being able to eat brown rice.

Elizabeth Roberts is the author of Living with IBD & IBS: A Personal Journey of Success.