Many people believe that inflammation causes a variety of ailments and diseases, and this is true, at least to some degree. But inflammation is also a natural, healthy response to cellular damage, and the response of a healthy immune system to a perceived threat.Chronic Inflammation, however, is a symptom of something negative happening in the body, and it forces us to investigate and discover the root cause of our discomfort.
When inflammation happens it acts as an alarm to the body, telling it to bring in disease fighting cells and extra nutrition to heal the damage on the area. When any part of the body is inflamed, it is either damaged and healing or damaged and deteriorating.
In this case, damage is cause by cell trauma. External force or internal trauma is caused either by toxicity of some kind and/or a lack of nutrition, which leads to cells malfunctioning.
So when our intestinal tract is inflamed, we are not absorbing nutrients, putting us into starvation mode which in turn results in elevated levels of cortisol, which can cause a myriad of different illnesses.
- Ongoing, irritating pain in the body (like the joints or muscles)
- Allergies or asthma (especially when they keep getting worse)
- High blood pressure or blood sugar problems
- Ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (constipation or diarrhea)
- Constant fatigue or lethargy
- Skin problems or red, bloodshot eyes
- Cold-water fish: These are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Jimenez recommended salmon, herring, tuna and mackerel and advised consuming two or three servings (about 12 ounces or 340 grams) per week.
- Avocados: “Avocados have great anti-inflammatory properties,” said Laura Flores, a San Diego-based nutritionist. They contain “phytosterols, carotenoid antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and polyhydroxolated fatty alcohols” — compounds that can help reduce inflammation. A 2013 study in the journal Food & Function found that people who ate a hamburger with avocado had lower CRP levels four hours after eating than those who did not.
- Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprout, kale and cauliflower and other green leafy veggies contain sulforaphane, which is associated with blocking enzymes that are linked to joint deterioration and, consequently, chronic inflammation, according to Victoria Jarzabkowski, a nutritionist with the Fitness Institute of Texas at the University of Texas at Austin. Sulforaphane also may be able to prevent or reverse damage to blood vessel linings caused by chronic blood sugar problems and inflammation.
- Watermelon: Watermelon contains lycopene, a cellular inhibitor for various inflammatory processes. It also works as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals. Additionally, watermelon contains choline, which helps keep chronic inflammation down, according to a 2006 article published in Shock medical journal.
- Walnuts and other nuts: Jimenez said that these are another great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Onions: Their anti-inflammatory properties have made them a popular home remedy for asthma for centuries. Onions are a good source of quercetin, which inhibits histamines known to cause inflammation, according Jimenez.
- Berries: According to a review in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, polyphenol compounds, particularly anthocyanins, which produce dark red pigments, moderate inflammation.
- Whole grains: Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and bulgur wheat have been associated with decreased CRP levels, according to studies in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research and in the Journal of Nutrition. Another study in the Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate fewer whole grains actually had higher inflammation markers. The fiber in whole grains can help mediate inflammatory processes by helping with weight loss and feeding beneficial gut bacteria associated with lower levels of inflammation, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
- Certain spices: The University of Wisconsin lists ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, cloves and nutmeg as possessing anti-inflammatory compounds that inhibit the biochemical process of inflammation.
- Raisins: Berries are bright, shiny, and famously chock-full of free radical–fighting antioxidants, but as you stock up on the blue-and-red beauties, keep in mind that their wrinkly relative, the raisin, can also keep inflammation in check. “Snacking on raisins, and other fruit in general, tends to reduce a marker of inflammation known as TNF-alpha,” says Jim Painter, PhD, RD, a professor at Eastern Illinois University.
- Soy: Beans in general are great sources of anti-inflammatory botanical compounds known as phytonutrients, but soy has been singled out by researchers for its ability to reduce the inflammation marker C-reactive protein, says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, author of The SuperfoodsRx Diet. This is great news for your heart—high levels of C-reactive protein have been linked to coronary artery disease. Another bean benefit: the protein-rich, satisfying legumes are good candidates to displace pro-inflammatory meat in meals. (But make sure your soy is organic, non-GMO.)
- Salmon: Salmon may be pricier than most four-legged meat options, but it’s a notoriously good source of omega-3 fatty acids. It also bests plant-based sources of the nutrient, which your body can’t process as well. But you don’t need to make it the main event at every meal. In fact, all you really need to do is aim to minimize your ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. “Just a fifth of a teaspoon of fish oil to a teaspoon of omega-3 fatty acids a day is the amount you need to bring your fat consumption into balance,” Painter says.
- Ginger: This spicy root has gained a following for its nausea-calming powers, but it has another trick up its sleeve—inflammation crushing. Studies have linked the root to lowered post-exercise inflammation and a drop in joint pain caused by the chronic inflammatory conditions osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While researchers haven’t pinpointed its anti-inflammatory effects to a single component, it’s likely one of the culprits is the plant’s active compound gingerol, Bazilian says.
- Sweet Potato: Nutrient-packed sweet potatoes are great news for your heart, skin, and immune heath, but bad news for inflammation markers. “Foods high in the vitamins C and E and the carotenoids, alpha- and beta-carotene, like sweet potatoes, are anti-inflammatory,” Rosenbloom says. And they’re not the only orange food you should load up on; pumpkins, cantaloupe, apricots, and carrots are also good sources of carotenoids and vitamins.
- Cherries: One fruit that stands out from the pack is the tart cherry. Like berries, the fleshy fruit abounds in anthocyanins (a type of phytonutrient), but it also delivers a uniquely powerful dose of anti-inflammatory compounds. “Tart cherries contain higher levels of both anthocyanins 1 and 2,” Bazilian explains. If that sounds a little technical, just think of it this way—you’re getting a double whammy of inflammation-fighting ingredients.
- Kale: Along with fellow cruciferous vegetables arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and wasabi, kale is rich in sulfur, which forces your liver to put it through two detox cycles, instead of one. That may sound like a pain, but it’s actually beneficial: The second run-through stimulates your body to churn out more phase II enzymes, which break down toxins in the same way your digestive enzymes break down food. “Phase II enzymes help clean your body out by reducing the toxic load,” says Painter.
- Walnuts: You’d be hard-pressed to find a nut without anti-inflammatory benefits, but walnuts have managed to earn the spotlight in this category. “Walnuts have the highest concentration of plant-based omega-3s, more than 10 antioxidant phytonutrients, and polyphenols that also play a role in reducing inflammation,” Bazilian says.
- Tea: You can even battle inflammation between meals by sipping on green, white, and black teas, Rosenbloom says. They’re steeped in free radical-fighting catechins, a polyphenolic compound found in the leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant. The more antioxidants you’re taking in, the better. “It’s best to adopt a diet rich in foods that are anti-inflammatory instead of concentrating on one or two superfoods,” she says.
To help you even further, I took recipes from Prevention.com that help to soothe inflammation and have included them below. Enjoy!