The word inflammation is tossed around quite a bit. Everyone has it, but how do we deal with it?
First things first – not all inflammation is bad. Short-term inflammation, otherwise known as acute inflammation, is a natural response of your body’s immune system. It is the body’s response to outside threats like stress, infection, or toxic chemicals.
When the immune system senses that the body is threatened by one of these dangers, it activates proteins to protect cells and tissues. When our bodies are healthy, acute inflammation literally protects our body from further damage.
However, things get bad when inflammation becomes chronic – when the immune cells start to overreact, and start attacking our own body. This can be the result of systemic viruses or bacteria, an autoimmune disorder, sugary and fatty foods, or the way you handle stress (1).
Chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious ailments, like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, obesity and gastrointestinal disorders. The link between chronic inflammation and the increased risk of such diseases are well documented. As one study puts it, “A substantial body of evidence supports the conclusion that chronic inflammation can predispose an individual to cancer, as demonstrated by the association between chronic inflammatory bowel diseases and the increased risk of colon carcinoma (2).”
A large part of chronic inflammation comes from the foods we eat. “There are foods that exaggerate inflammation because they themselves are irritants,” says Julie Daniluk R.H.N, author of Meals That Heal Inflammation.
So not only do we need to start consuming more foods that reduce a chronic inflammatory response, but we want to reduce our consumption of foods that cause inflammation, too.
Foods That Cause Inflammation
Here are the ten worst offenders contributing to chronic inflammation in the body:
– Refined sugar
– Vegetable oil (corn, canola, soybean and safflower oil)
– Dairy products
– Wheat, rye and barley
– Fried foods
– Refined flour
– Red meat
– Processed corn
– Artificial chemicals and additives
– Trans fats
For a more comprehensive reasoning as to why these foods should be avoided, check out my article here.
Foods That Reduce Inflammation
Believe it or not, a lot of the foods that reduce inflammation in the body are plant-based. These foods are best consumed raw so that the body can utilize the enzymes and nutrients without them being altered by heat.
Besides their abilities to reduce inflammation, they also supply us with loads of essential vitamins and minerals to boost our immune health – no NSAID (Ibuprofen and Advil for example) can do that.
Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Chronic Pain
Here are ten anti-inflammatory foods you should be eating every day:
We’re all aware of the ability of turmeric to fight inflammation in the body. The active component of turmeric, called curcumin, is such a strong anti-inflammatory, that it has even matched the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs (3). It targets multiple steps in the inflammatory pathways that activate the pain response in different parts of the body.
Similar to turmeric, ginger is another great herb that can be used for anti-inflammatory purposes. One study found that consuming just a small amount of ginger each day is more effective at reducing pain symptoms and inflammation than painkillers given by general practitioners today (4).
3. Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens and swiss chard are full of nutrients that can help ward off symptoms of inflammation (5). They contain powerful antioxidants that help ward off cellular damage and tissue injury. If you’re too scared to eat these greens alone, stick them in a smoothie or juice accompanied with sweeter fruits like apples.
Blueberries have a very high antioxidant capacity – one that is higher than most fruit and vegetables. The phytonutrients in blueberries provide anti-inflammatory protection against many diseases like cancer and dementia. They help to mediate and modulate the balances in a few different pro-inflammatory cytokines (6).
Adding avocado to your salad, or any other meal is a plus when it comes to absorbing more nutrients from your meal. In fact, the addition of avocado can increase the absorption of carotenoids, a group of beneficial antioxidants, by 700-1700 percent. These carotenoids function as important antioxidants to fight inflammation, protect the body from free radical damage and strengthen the immune system (7).
Seaweeds like kelp, nori, wakame, dulse, arame, and kombu are excellent sources of an anti-inflammatory complex carbohydrate called fucoidan. Studies on this carbohydrate have found its ability to control liver and lung cancer and to promote collagen synthesis (8). When possible, opt for organic seaweed harvested from the Atlantic ocean – the Pacific ocean is highly contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima meltdown.
7. Shiitake mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms, along with other mushrooms like maitake and oyster, have huge benefits for the immune system (9). They’ve been studied so much that they’ve been found to help in the treatment of diseases (which are largely inflammation-based) like allergic asthma, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, inflammation, autoimmune joint inflammation, atherosclerosis, hyperglycaemia, thrombosis, HIV, listeriosis, tuberculosis and cancer.
8. Pineapple and Papaya
These two fruits contain two very specific enzymes known to combat inflammation. Pineapple is rich in the anti-inflammatory digestive enzyme, bromelain, while papaya is loaded with the digestive protein, papain. Both of these enzymes have demonstrated strong anti-inflammatory effects (10, 11).
This highly nutritious vegetable contains anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer phytonutrients like sulforaphane, which helps the body get rid of carcinogenic compounds (12). It also contains a chemical compound called 3,3’-diindolylmethane (DIM), which can actually stop the growth of certain cancer cells and help boost the immune system.
Research has shown that tart cherries help reduce the likelihood of experiencing a gout attack, a condition where recurrent episodes of inflammatory arthritis attack the big toe, the most commonly affected area. Cherries can also help reduce inflammatory markers and oxidative muscle damage that often follows a heavy bought of strenuous exercise (13).