Whether your inflammation causes you pain, gut or skin issues, it all occurs for the same reason. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to foreign bacteria, viruses, and infection. When your body senses a threat, it will trigger the release of chemicals and white blood cells and with some conditions, the immune system’s response is inflammatory even when there is no threat. For those suffering from autoimmune diseases, the result damages internal tissues, causes high blood pressure, painfully swollen and stiff joints, and encourages the growth of irregular cells (cancer cells).
Inflammation as a bodily function is awesome when the body is injured or ill. In a healthy body, inflammation is the normal and effective response that encourages healing. The lymphatic system activates the immune system’s army of white blood cells to the area of concern. However, when inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s have been linked to chronic inflammation. For diseases that aren’t autoimmune like Asthma (creates inflamed airways) inflammation is still a symptom of your body’s attempt to heal itself.
Thankfully today many doctors are figuring out that the cure to inflammation is not in the pill bottles they are influenced to prescribe, but instead found in our food choices. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of food or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Inflammation can be painful and uncomfortable, the best way to fight inflammation is by creating a diet that contains a variety of antioxidants.
Below are the top antioxidant-rich foods that are the best at fighting inflammation. These foods actually increase the beneficial bacteria in your gut and turn off any inflammatory genes that are causing you issues. I also want to note that small changes are typically more sustainable and easier for the body to adapt to, so I encourage you to add in more of these foods one day at a time and have fun with it. Experiment and discover the right foods to reduce your symptoms. Consistently eating the wrong food could accelerate the inflammatory and disease processes.
- Leafy greens are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols (protective compounds found in plants). Greens, such as spinach, kale, and collards are extremely high in the antioxidants vitamin A and C, as well as vitamin K, which can additionally protect your brain against oxidative stress caused by free radical damage.
- Fruits and vegetables such as beets (fight to repair the cell damage caused by inflammation), tomatoes, apples, pineapple and berries (particularly blue) are rich in antioxidants that restore cellular health, as well as anti-inflammatory flavonoids. The tops in this category are: Celery (whole/seed) which have impressive health benefits, as they help to lower inflammation and to fight bacterial infections. And, broccoli which is high in potassium, magnesium, and is an antioxidant powerhouse of key vitamins, flavonoids, and carotenoids.
- Spices and Herbs are continually documented and valued for their anti-inflammatory effects, my favorites being turmeric and ginger. Turmeric because of its compounds like curcumin, which proves to be a crucial anti-inflammatory. Curcumin is among the most potent anti-inflammatory agents in the world. A recent study out of Japan discovered that curcumin “significantly reduced” inflammatory markers. Ginger is another immune booster that helps reduce inflammation caused by overactive immune responses. In ayurveda ginger is praised for its ability to boost the immune system even before it was recorded in history. It is believed that ginger and other spices like cayenne which warm the body, can help break down the accumulation of toxins in your organs and fat tissues. It’s also known to cleanse the lymphatic system.
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts contain healthy oils that contains phytonutrients which helps protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes. Avocado, coconut, olives and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines also contain healthy oils associated with anti-inflammatory reduction. However, beware of where you source fish, some sources may be contaminated with GMO, Artificial enhancers and mercury.
- Seeds contain fatty acids as well, and when found in nature are more balanced than the fats found in the SAD (Standard American Diet). Chia seeds benefits offer both omega-3 and omega-6 (which should be consumed together). Chia seeds reverse inflammation, regulate cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Additionally, flaxseeds provide antioxidant for anti-aging, hormone balance, cellular health and support the growth of probiotics in the gut. Both these seeds are extremely beneficial to consume for your health.
The standard American diets (SAD diet) contains more inflammatory food then most other diets. Some inflammatory foods to avoid include; simple, refined sugars and carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats that are commonly found in processed foods. Unhealthy fats cause inflammation and increase risk factors for many conditions. Whole foods should replace the refined foods found in your home today, as truly whole foods are important sources of nutrition. Sourcing sugars from natural fruits/veg and your grains from sprouts/fermented sourdough allows the nutrients to be broken down and more bioavailable.
I am confident that an active life fueled by fresh, whole and anti-inflammatory foods will eliminate toxic build up and can have positive effects on your physical and emotional health. By crowding out inflammatory foods with anti-inflammatory foods, not only will your symptoms be relieved, but may even set you on the path toward being your healthy best. Antioxidant foods, as well as, essential minerals and healthy fatty acids, assist our healing. A diet high in vegetables, fruits, sprouted seeds and even wild meat (if meat helps your thrive) can regulate the immune system and impact the way inflammation affects our bodies and life. By adding in the anti-inflammatory foods that fight inflammation and restore our health at a cellular level, your body can begin to repair itself and once you find foods that heal your body and satisfy your palate, you can remove the inflammation-causing offenders without feeling deprived.
An added herbology hack is to mix coconut oil with turmeric which can reduce inflammation internally and externally. Herbs and oils that work together to form anti-inflammatory partnerships are still studied today. One study in India, discovered that the high levels of antioxidants present in coconut oil reduced inflammation and healed arthritis more effectively than leading medications. Coconut oil is also a heat-stable oil, making it one of the best for preparing all those anti-inflammatory vegetables. Look for words like cold-pressed and virgin when your purchasing your oils.
If you found this article helpful check out the author Ashley Michaud, Master Healer, Integrative Health Coach and Founder of Elemental Growth. She is passionate about sharing nature’s messages with the world and in addition to her Certification as Integrative Health Coach and Master Healer, she has significant practice in the areas of nutrition, life coaching, and alternative medicine. You can learn more about Ashley by visiting her website www.elementalgrowth.org or get social by following her on instagram @naturallyashley108 where she shares healthy tips and inspiration daily.