Inflammation. We’ve all dealt with it in some form or another, whether it’s a stiff joint, a fever, or an infected wound. But for some people, inflammation causes much more serious damage. Diseases like arthritis wreak havoc with the joints, causing enormous amounts of pain and suffering. When infections get out of control, inflammation can spread throughout the body, causing additional health complications.
Often, the standard treatment for inflammation is pharmaceuticals, but as well all know, these sometimes cause more harm than good. Even simple drugs like Ibuprofen can destroy the stomach.
Fortunately, there are a number of natural remedies that can significantly reduce the amount of inflammation in the body.
In this post, we’ve broken down all the who, what, and why of inflammation.
Question: What Exactly Is Inflammation?
First, let’s make something very clear: inflammation is totally normal. In fact, in many circumstances it is a good, natural defense mechanism of your body.
Inflammation is often triggered by your immune system in response to some sort of outside intrusion or in response to damaged tissue in your body. Think of inflammation and your immune system like first responders to an emergency. When something goes wrong, your immune system quickly gets to work trying to keep damage under control and address the problem.
For example, if a bacteria invades your body, your immune system will unleash a variety of attacks against it, such as white blood cells, to protect you. When tissue is damaged, your immune system gets to work repairing the breaks. These are all good things.
Inflammation is caused by something called cytokines, and these chemicals signal your immune system that help is needed in healing and treating your body. When your body senses inflammation, blood is rushed to the site and antibodies are deployed to prevent infection. Inflammation is part of the healing process and is absolutely necessary. You need inflammation to ensure that your body is protected from and healed of infection.
Without an immune system and inflammation, you would be in serious trouble. In fact, something like AIDS can massively weaken your immune system, making you much more vulnerable to infections.
Problems with inflammation occur when your body overreacts to harm or threat. Additionally, there are times when the body becomes inflamed even though there is no threat present. When this happens, areas become tender, red, and swollen even if there are no problems. Overall, you body isn’t great at regulating inflammation, and problems result when it gets out of control.
The Anti-Inflammation Diet
If you’re dealing with an excessive amount of inflammation, there are certain dietary strategies you can follow to adapt to the problem.
#1 - Up Your Fiber to At Least 25 Grams Per Day.
Phytonutrients, which are found in fruits, vegetables, other whole foods reduce inflammation in the body. You can get a full supply of these phytonutrients by eating a fiber rich diet, including lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Great sources of fiber include barley, oatmeal, okra, eggplant, onions, bananas, and blueberries.
Ideally you should try to get at least 25 grams of fiber per day.
#2 - Get At Least 9 Servings Of Fruits and Vegetables Every Day
Given their high anti-inflammatory properties, you should seek to consume at least 9 servings of fruits and veggies every day.
A single serving consists of ½ cup of cooked fruits of vegetables, or one cup of raw leafy vegetables.
If you want to increase the effectiveness of your fruits and vegetables, add anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like turmeric and ginger.
#3 - Get 4 Servings of Crucifers and Alliums Every Week
Alliums, like garlic, scallions, onions, and leeks, as well as crucifers like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts all contain significant amounts of antioxidants, which are helpful in minimizing inflammation.
#4 - Cut Saturated Fat To Only 10% of Daily Calories
If you average 2,000 calories per day, you should aim for approximately 20 grams of saturated fat. This minimizes your rise of heart disease and inflammation of the heart. Eat red meat once per week and marinate that meat in herbs, spices, and unsweetened fruit juice to cut down on the toxic compounds that form when cooking.
#5 - Eat Lots of Foods That Are Rich In Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Foods like walnuts, flax meal, navy beans, and kidney beans are all rich in omega-3 fats. Cold-water fish like salmon, oysters, herring, and anchovies are also outstanding sources of the acids. Additionally, supplements like fish oil provide large doses of omega-3.
Research has shown that the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, and cancer can be reduced by omega-3 fatty acids. These conditions are often associated with high inflammation.
#6 - Use Healthy Oils When Cooking
Your body needs fat in order to function properly, but only choose fats that provide you with additional benefits. Virgin and extra-virgin olive oil, as well as expeller pressed canola oil are full of anti-inflammatory properties. Sunflower and safflower oil are also smart choices for oils.
#7 - Stay Away From Refined Sugars
Things that contain sodium or high-fructose corn syrup are notorious for causing inflammation in the body. They also raise uric acid level, increase blood pressure, increase the risk of liver disease, and more.
#8 - Stay Far Away From Trans Fats
When you eat trans fats, you’ll have increased levels of C-reactive proteins, which is almost always an indicator of inflammation throughout the body.
Stay away from anything that has hydrogenated-anything in it, like crackers, cookies, vegetable oils, and some margarines. Hydrogenated is the code word for trans fats.
Specific Anti-Inflammation Foods
We’ve listed groups of foods above that can help minimize inflammation, but sometimes you need even more specifics. Here are 10 foods that can help significantly cut down on the amount of inflammation you experience.
Food #1: Blueberries
Nutrition facts: Blueberries contain high amount of flavonoids and anthocyanins, which help turn off inflammatory and anti-immune genes. They’re also packed with vitamin C, resveratrol, and pterostilbene, all of which are known to help minimize inflammation.
Food #2: Raw Oats
Nutrition facts: Raw oats create healthy stomach bacteria, which then creates fatty acids that promote fat oxidation (butyrate). Increased butyrate decreases inflammation, as well as reducing insulin resistance.
Food #3: Ginger
Nutrition Facts: Ginger contains anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-disease compounds called gingerols, all of which block inflammation-producing genes. To get the highest amounts of gingerol, use fresh ginger.
Food #4: Green Tea
Nutrition facts: Green tea contains catechins, which are antioxidants found in tea leaves. EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), the strongest out of all the catechins, can only be found in green tea. When high amounts of EGCG and polyphenol (both in green tea) come together, it results in strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Food #5: Dark Chocolate
Nutrition facts: The microbes in your stomach actually ferment chocolate into anti-inflammatory compounds that are both heart-healthy and reduce inflammation. To increase the amount of fermentation, consider adding several apples slices. The apples speed up the probiotic fermentation.
Food #6: Red Peppers
Nutrition facts: Peppers in general are incredibly anti-inflammatory, but red peppers are the most powerful out of them all. They contain vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin, and luteolin, all of which reduce inflammation in various capacities.
Food #7: Turmeric
Nutrition facts: Turmeric is known for both its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It shuts down production of two inflammatory enzymes, and can help prevent heart disease, liver disease, and joint inflammation.
Food #8: Beets
Nutrition facts: Beets contain phytochemicals, such as ascorbic acid, carotenoids, and flavonoids, all of which reduce inflammation. They also contain betalain pigments, which can function as an effective anti-inflammatory. If you're looking for a great beet supplement check out VitaMonk's OptiBeet, which is a beetroot powder extract with l-citrulline.
Food: Chia seeds
Nutrition facts: Chia seeds are a superfood that are very effective for reducing inflammation. They reduce spikes in blood sugar, which in turn causes an overproduction of inflammatory free radicals called reactive oxygen species (ROS).
Inflammation, while a normal and healthy process, can cause huge amounts of discomfort when it occurs at excessive levels. Thankfully, you don’t necessarily need to resort to pharmaceutical treatments to reduce the overall levels in your body.
By making careful adjustments to your diet and monitoring your food intake, you can leverage the power of food for your good.
Hippocrates famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
We wholeheartedly agree.