Inflammation is a hot topic these days as more and more research is pointing to inflammation in the body as the root cause of many chronic conditions. Does anyone you know struggle with pain, obesity, allergies, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, or cancer? These are all conditions that have been linked to inflammation. And adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet can help reduce the risk of of these common chronic conditions.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. It is the body’s attempt at self-protection. When the body senses something harmful or irritating, there is an automatic response to try to remove it. The initial signs of inflammation in the body show that the body is attempting to heal itself.
The problem itself does not lie with inflammation itself. It is when this inflammatory response persists and becomes chronic that we begin to see problems. Continual exposure to stress, environmental pollutants and unhealthy foods all contribute to this growing problem of chronic inflammation.
Where does inflammation start?
Did you know that most inflammation in the body starts in the gut? Have you ever heard the term “leaky gut”? Leaky gut refers to the idea that the lining of your intestines is damaged by continual assault from medication, stress, and foods that your body is not able to properly digest. With our stressful lifestyles, environmental toxins, and food lacking in real nutrition, our gut lining is unable to completely regenerate and heal itself as the old lining naturally sheds off. This leaves tiny gaps in the lining, allowing proteins and other “foreign” particles to seep into our bodies, creating a host of ailments and diseases.
These foreign particles, toxins, and proteins trigger an immunological response in your body that manifests into inflammation. As these inflammatory triggers continue your immune system gets more and more overburdened, resulting in chronic disease. Does that make sense?
So what to do?
Treating the signs and symptoms of inflammation by taking ibuprofen, steroids, and other medications does not address the root of the problem. Masking inflammation and suppressing the immune response is only a temporary fix that only sweeps the problem under the rug.
What you put into your body on a daily basis will greatly affect the amount of inflammation in the body. The first step is to avoid foods that actually cause inflammation in the body. Here is a quick list of foods to avoid:
- all processed foods (including processed white flours and grains)
- hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oil
- vegetable oils like canola, soy, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, corn, etc. (highly processed and full of Omega-6 oils)
- refined sugar
The next step is to fill your plate with foods that actually fight inflammation. Anti-inflammatory foods that put out the fire that causes disease in your body.
Top 8 Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds, including six different COX-2-inhibitors (the COX-2 enzyme promotes pain, swelling and inflammation; inhibitors selectively block that enzyme.) In addition, curcumin, the main component in turmeric, lowers the levels of two other enzymes in the body that cause inflammation.
The University of British Columbia conducted a study that showed curcumin to be effective in inhibiting inflammation in arthritis.
Research has shown turmeric to be an effective anti-inflammatory in the treatment of conditions like arthritis, sports injuries, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, tendonitis and various autoimmune diseases.
And unlike aspirin or ibuprofen, turmeric’s curcumin reduces inflammation naturally, without damaging the liver or kidneys. Read more HERE about the health benefits of turmeric.
Turmeric can be consumed fresh from raw turmeric root or bought as a dried powder. THIS is the brand that I use.
Need some turmeric recipes? Check out Top 20 Uses for Turmeric.
Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. These substances are thought to explain why so many people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience marked reduction in pain and increased mobility with regular consumption of ginger. Ginger has been shown to suppress inflammatory compounds produced in the joints, cartilage, and by the immune system. Read more HERE about the benefits of ginger.
Tea made for grated fresh ginger is an easy way to add ginger to your diet. You can also use the dried ginger powder in your tea, baking, or cooking.
Need some ginger recipes? Check out Top 15 Healthy Ginger Recipes.
3. Healthy fats:
Anti-inflammatory fats include fats from healthy, pastured animals (grass fed beef, butter from grass-fed cows, eggs from pastured chickens), wild fish, molecularly-distilled fish oils, coconut oil, olive oil. All of these oils are low in Omega-6 oils. Read more HERE about how to balance your Omega-6 and Omega-3 ratio.
The idea is the increase your intake of Omega-3 oils, which decrease inflammation in the body. Animal foods are the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. I highly recommend eating grass fed beef and grass fed butter/ghee. Many commercial meats are raised on GMO feeds that include soy and corn making them inflammation-producing. Did you know that grass fed beef is higher in Omega-3 than fish?. (source) Meat from pastured animals contains the optimal balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 oils.
Buy eggs from pastured chickens as they are higher in Omega-3’s than commercial eggs.
Seafood is also an excellent source of Omega-3’s but I have a hard time recommending anything from the ocean these days because of extensive pollution of all of our waters.
If seafood or grass fed meat is not your thing, you can get a good quality extra virgin cod liver oil HERE. It is loaded with omega-3 fats along with vitamin A and D.
Berries are awesome! I highly recommend adding berries to your diet. They are delicious, low in sugar, and contain many anti-oxidant properties. Berries have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties – possibly because of anthocyanins, the powerful chemicals that gives them their rich color. So go ahead, indulge!
5. Cruciferous Vegetables:
Broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower are all loaded with antioxidants. These vegetables are anti-inflammatory foods that contain powerful cancer-fighting molecules . They are also good sources of Vitamin K, which regulates our inflammatory system response.
A good quality grass fed gelatin is very beneficial for the gut lining. It is highly recommended as a digestive aid, as it can sooth and help heal the digestive track. It naturally binds to water and helps food move through the digestive tract more easily. A healthy gut lining is essential for keeping inflammation down in the body. Read more about the health benefits of gelatin HERE.
A grass fed gelatin supplement can be taken daily. Regular gelatin can be used it hot liquids, soups, desserts, and gummy snacks. It forms a nice gel when it cools. And collagen peptide doesn’t gel and will dissolve in cold liquids. That is the one I use in cold drinks and smoothies. I highly recommend using the Vital Proteins gelatin as it is the best quality that I have found.
7. Sweet Potatoes:
Sweet potatoes are loaded with complex carbs, fiber, beta-carotene, manganese and vitamin B6 and C all working together to form potent antioxidants in the body that heal inflammation. Anthocyanin and other color-related pigments in sweet potato have been shown in studies to reduce inflammation in brain tissue and nerve tissue throughout the body.
Garlic has been found to have antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. It also has been found to be incredibly anti-inflammatory. It contains sulfur compounds that prevent inflammatory enzymes from activating. Garlic also has the ability to reduce the buildup of carcinogenic compounds that cause cancer. There is also research that points to garlic being beneficial in reducing the risk for obesity that appears to be inflammation-related.
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Did I miss any of your favorite anti-inflammatory foods?
Photo credit: depositphotos.com / Olya6105
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