Inflammation in the body has a good and bad side to it. On the one hand, inflammation is necessary to help us fight infection, heal wounds, but if there is excessive inflammation it can also do the opposite and prevent healing.
Inflammation can be triggered by viruses, bacteria, yeast infections, and even something as harmless as grass pollen. Dysregulation of the immune system is a common problem and can be caused by genetics and diet.
Many people live with low-level chronic inflammation that puts them at risk of a heart attack and stroke. Poor dental health is one example where ongoing long-term inflammation or gum diseases can significantly raise the risk of a heart attack. It is believed that the bacteria cause the body to produce chemicals that raise inflammation which then causes damage to the arteries.
Our body has the ability to quell inflammation and calorie restriction itself is one way to dramatically reduce the level of chronic inflammation in humans.
In the study conducted at WUSTL researchers found that people who had been doing long-term calorie restriction had almost undetectable levels of inflammation as measured by C-Reactive Protein – which is a protein that is produced by our liver in the presence of inflammation in the body. CR is powerful, but the foods you eat is a big component of the diet’s effects.
Nature Provides Effective and Natural Anti Inflammatory Compounds
Take Aspirin, for example, it is derived from willow bark and is an effective anti-inflammatory that millions of people take for their aches and pains when they get a cold or the flu. It also acts as an anti-pyretic so it reduces body temperature when you have a fever.
There has been some research that suggests taking low dose aspirin might even protect against cancer and possibly extend health-span.
And then we could look at NSAIDs like Ibuprofen: these are selective COX-2 inhibitors and helps reduce inflammation. However, long-term use of these has been questioned because it may raise the risk of heart disease.
In my opinion, it is fine to use these type of medications when we really need them, but we should not completely rely on them. We should look at some of the natural remedies for inflammation that can help balance out the immune system.
Top anti-inflammatory foods to fight inflammation
There are many different foods that you can eat which have a powerful effect on the body at reducing inflammation and preventing disease.
I have chosen these specific foods not because they are some of my favorites, but because they have some good scientific evidence to back them up. I hope this gives you a good idea of the foods to include in your diet if you want to help reduce inflammation
Below are 8 different foods and drinks that will help fight inflammation in the body:
Pineapples are one of my favorite fruits and are great to have in smoothies. Pineapple’s help fights inflammation, reduce swelling, and speed up healing time because it has an enzyme called Bromelain. Multiple studies have shown that Bromelain speeds up wound healing and improves recovery time from exercise. If you don’t like Pineapple’s, you can take the enzyme Bromelain in supplement form. Taking it together with Quercetin (a powerful antioxidant) has a stronger anti-inflammatory effect.
Did you know the oldest women to ever live ate chocolate every day? Her name was Jeanne Calment and she was 122 years old when she died. She claimed that she ate roughly 2.2 lbs of chocolate per week!
So why is chocolate good for you? Well, dark chocolate is flavonol-rich and these compounds help reduce inflammation, relax the blood vessels and for some provide stress relief. Dark chocolate increases the expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines and blunting inflammatory mediators such as NF-kB IL-1B and IL-6.
The higher the epicatechin in the chocolate, the larger the effect. Dark chocolate also contains small amounts of Resveratrol which is thought to partially mimic some of the effects of calorie restriction. When choosing dark chocolate make sure you choose at least 70% or higher.
#3. Green tea
Wake up to a cup of Green Tea. This drink is very popular in Asia, but less so in the West. If there is one thing you should add to your life every day, it’s green tea. It contains many beneficial compounds like polyphenols, catechins, flavonoids. Green Tea also provides L-theanine which is relaxing.
Drinking up to 10 cups of green tea a day has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer by over 40% and reduce the risk of death overall. If you drink green tea, make sure you don’t add any milk. Casein can bind to the polyphenols and reduce the bioavailability of these beneficial compounds.
Read the difference between Sencha and Matcha green tea and which has the most health benefits.
Turmeric has been studied largely because it contains a powerful compound called Curcumin. Turmeric is very useful for chronic inflammatory conditions and helps reduce the need for anti-inflammatory pain medication.
Think about drinking a cup of Turmeric tea before bed. You could add it to green tea, put in some honey and lemon to make it taste better. You can also add turmeric to foods of course. Read the lessons learned from clinical trials using Curcumin.
Turmeric is useful in helping in blocking inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis according to many clinical trials conducted in humans. Read more about the benefits of turmeric on arthritis.
#5. Olive oil
Olive oil is a staple of the traditional Mediterranean diet. It can be used with so many foods and dishes and as long as you bought a decent quality extra virgin olive oil, you’ll get the health benefits from it.
Olive Oil contains a compound called Oleic Acid and has similar anti-inflammatory and pain reduces properties as Ibuprofen but to a lesser degree.
A BBC article reported that 50 grams of Extra Virgin Olive Oil would be equivalent to 1/10th the dose of ibuprofen.
And did you know, Jeanne Calment, the lady who lived to 122, also used to consume lots of Olive Oil!
Walnuts can be a great snack by itself or combined with other things. Walnuts contain a good amount of omega 3 fatty acids and that helps fight inflammation in the body.
Walnuts also contain something called Melatonin, which is a potent antioxidant that is produced by humans naturally and helps us sleep. It also has many other functions in the body related to neural and immune function.
#7. Red Apples
Red Apples generally have the highest amount of Quercetin, but it depends on the variety. Quercetin is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Quercetin has been found to be beneficial in preventing the flu, colds and bacterial infections. It may also be useful in helping people who suffer from allergies.
Another benefit of eating apples is that they contain a unique fiber called Pectin. It’s found primarily in the skin of apples and is thought to help with many digestive complaints and even help lower cholesterol.
Eat lots of berries! They have a smaller effect on blood sugar compared to other fruits, so you can eat more liberally. In fact, adding blueberries to smoothies and other high sugar foods can blunt the rise in blood sugar.
High blood sugar is one of the things which can cause inflammation and lead to increased risk of infections. Berries contain many polyphenols and anthocyanins which help reduce inflammation in the body and promote health.
Inflammation Has A Role in Aging
Inflammation in the body can slowly cause the body to fail. It starts small, and the effects over time become larger when it reaches a critical threshold. The role of inflammation in aging is significant.
Obesity, junk food, smoking, pollution, chronic infections, stress and so many other things all increase the level of inflammation in our body. The inflammation doesn’t have to be obvious either.
It can be chronic low-grade inflammation that you would not feel or know about, but it’s there and can be slowly damaging your body and mind.
The best foods to fight inflammation are fruits and vegetables with dark pigments – deep purples, reds, and orange. Natural and healthy foods are full of vibrant colors, these are from some of the beneficial compounds found within them.
In contrast, processed food often looks dull and not so vibrant.
To give you an idea of what foods to avoid that contribute to inflammation, here’s a list.
Foods and Ingredients That Cause Inflammation That You Should Limit
- Vegetable oils – trans fats, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and palm oil.
- Fried foods – Advanced glycation end products (AGE’s) are a major factor in inflammation and aging.
- Refined Sugar – Sugar increases the body’s inflammation and suppresses our immune system making us more likely to get sick. Stick to natural plant-based foods and avoid sugary drinks.
- White Flour – Choose whole grains over white flour based products. Spikes in insulin and blood sugar contribute to inflammation and aging
- Saturated Fats – Although not all saturated fats are equally as harmful, you are best limiting intake of saturated fats as they have been shown to increase systemic inflammation in the body
- Processed Meats – Meats that are cooked at high temperatures create AGE’s. Processed meat has also been linked to common bowel cancers.
If you follow some of these steps, you will be able to reduce the damage inflammation is doing in your body. Try to make some of the foods that I mentioned as a staple of your diet. Rotate the foods you eat so you’re not eating the same thing every day.
Experiment with different combinations of foods and see what works best for you.
Remember it’s always best to prevent disease than wait until you have it. Small but consistent changes can change your life. Be mindful of what you eat, and be well!