Inflammation, Food, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: What Patients Need to Know

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Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Inflammation

When it comes to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and hypermobility, muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be more susceptible to being damaged or injured from everyday activities. This can lead to people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome experiencing inflammation.

 

When soft tissues are injured, they create pro-inflammatory signals that tell the body to start the healing process. Inflammation is the body’s way of getting several different body processes to work together to heal and repair.

 

Is inflammation inherently bad then for people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome? No – not at all!

 

However, the healing process can be a little messy when it comes to inflammation. Free radicals are created which lead to oxidative stress, a scenario that can damage healthy cells in muscles, tendons, and organs. Luckily, our bodies evolved to make good use of certain compounds in the foods we eat to help combat the effects of too much inflammation.


 

 

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The connections between inflammation and chronic pain for people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Pain usually resolves after injured tissue heals. But, if inflammation continues past this point, inflammation itself can continue to damage tissue through oxidavtive stress which can, in turn, prolong pain.

 

The body relies on us consuming anti-inflammatory compounds to create the right balance – just enough inflammation to start the healing process, but not so much that even more damage occurs.

 

If there are not enough anti-inflammatory compounds around when your body needs them, inflammation can persist past the point of being helpful.

 

Anti-inflammatory compounds that may help people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome feel better

Antioxidants

Antioxidants grab onto free radicals created during inflammation. Antioxidants are present in foods that contain vitamins A, C, and E, selenium, and polyphenols.

 

EPA and DHA

These long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for balancing inflammation. Good sources of DHA and EPA are fatty fish. Algal oil supplements are a suitable substitution for vegetarians.

 

Short-Chain Fatty Acids

Short-chain fatty acids are created by gut bacteria after eating fiber-rich foods. Certain SCFAs like butyrate can inhibit pro-inflammatory signaling when needed.

 

Sliced apples, strawberries, and blueberries on a wooden cutting board

Do people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome need to take supplements to reduce inflammation?

 

The good news is that your body was designed to get anti-inflammatory compounds from food. No fancy supplements are necessary!

 

Antioxidants are found in all fruits, vegetables, nuts seeds, beans, eggs, whole grains, and some meats. The active form of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) is found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Sources of short-chain omega-3s (ALA) include flax, hemp, and chia seeds but these are likely not converted to the active, long-chain form in large enough amounts to safely be an exclusive source of omega-3s.

 

Fiber is found in all minimally processed plant-based foods like beans, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables.

 

What if someone can’t tolerate fiber or higher histamine fruits?

 

It’s very common for my patients with EDS and other medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or histamine intolerance to have limited diets. People with multiple dietary restrictions (for example: gluten, dairy, and higher histamine foods) should visit with a dietitian to make sure they are meeting their basic nutrition needs. A dietitian will be able to help them with this process and will be able to provide tailored advice on how to optimize their diet to include anti-inflammatory foods that they can successfully tolerate.

 

One of my favorite parts of working with patients with EDS and other chronic illnesses is finding creative ways to include anti-inflammatory foods while keeping symptoms like diarrhea and stomach pain in check. With the right guidance and a practitioner who listens closely to their patients, it is possible!

 

 

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