Inflammation lies at the root of many chronic conditions and diseases, including pain, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disease, Alzheimer’s and other dementias. While each of these conditions is complicated and multifaceted, warranting an individualized approach, we can often make major improvements in our health by adopting an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. This reduces the risk of developing disease and can help manage pre-existing conditions.
Every piece of food you put into your mouth has the potential to amp up or reduce inflammation in your body. While the diet gurus debate diets ranging from paleo to vegan to Weston A. Price, you can take a wide-angle approach. Balance your meals with produce (half your plate), protein, and a little bit of whole-food carbs at every meal.
Increase These Foods To Fight Inflammation:
Vegetables of all kinds; some fruit (especially berries); wild, coldwater fatty fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel); nuts and seeds (especially sprouted); healthy fats (avocados, olive oil); cooked mushrooms; carbohydrates primarily from root vegetables and winter squash; adequate hydration. In moderation: green or white tea, red wine, dark chocolate.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods in Moderation:
Beans and legumes (high-fiber complex carbs with protein); whole, gluten-free grains; nightshade family vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant); eggs. And, in moderation, only if they agree with you: wild or pasture-raised animal products and dairy, gluten-containing whole grains.
Limit or Avoid These Foods to Reduce Inflammation
Excessive animal products, factory-farmed animal products, processed/packaged food, high-glycemic food, white flour (not only wheat but also most gluten-free flours and starches), sugar, grilled food (especially meats and carbs), artificial anything, anything you’re allergic or sensitive to.
Decrease Inflammation with Exercise, Mind-Body Balance & Sleep
Daily movement and exercise has profound anti-inflammatory effects. Mind-body balance through stress reduction, meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or t’ai chi is also helpful. Don’t drink excessively or smoke. Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep nightly.
Anti-inflammatory substances often work better together than they do as single-shot “miracle pills.” As antioxidants, having a mix helps them refresh one another and target oxidative stress in different areas of the body. Antioxidants also help turn on your body’s own antioxidant systems and promote a decrease of inflammation.
In one study of 367 people with knee osteoarthritis, 1,500 mg of turmeric extract daily for four weeks worked as well as 1,200 mg of ibuprofen with fewer gastrointestinal side effects.
Turmeric and its constituent curcumin inhibit inflammation via several pathways. Most attention has been given to the compound curcumin in turmeric, but other, noncurcumin constituents in turmeric also show anti-inflammatory benefits.
Various supplements and extracts exist on the market. Follow label directions or take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon or more of the dried powder per day in food, smoothies, or heated milk. The powder blends well with fellow anti-inflammatory herbs: ginger, cinnamon, and a pinch of black pepper to increase bioavailability.
All forms of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) offer anti-inflammatory properties, but green and white tea tend to be the most antioxidant rich. Both the whole tea and the compound epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) offer anti-inflammatory activity that targets cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disease. For even better inflammation and stress support as well as a flavor boost, consider combining green tea with holy basil (Ocimum sanctum, syn. O. tenuiflorum), also known as tulsi. Aim for 16 to 32 ounces of tea daily; decaf offers some benefits. Although green tea extracts show great promise in studies, a handful of reports link them (but not the tea beverage) to liver toxicity.
In general, fruit juice can promote inflammation because it contains so much sugar, even if it’s made with 100 percent juice. However, several antioxidant-rich juices offer less sugar and more anti-inflammatory punch. These include tart cherry juice, blueberry juice, pomegranate juice, and aronia berry juice. Tart cherry juice reduces exertion-induced inflammation and pain post-exercise and improves sleep. Pomegranate offers benefits in rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, prostate and breast cancer prevention, and exercise-induced pain. Consider aronia or blueberry juice for blood pressure reduction, vein health, and urinary tract infection prevention.
Check the back ingredients label to ensure no filler juices like apple, pear, or grape have been added: Even all-natural brands can have misleading front labels. Aim for 8 ounces morning and night, 1 ounce of juice concentrate, or an equivalent pill form.
“Anti-inflammatory Action of Green Tea” by T. Ohishi et al., Bentham Science, 9/8/16
“Black Chokeberry Juice (Aronia melanocarpa) Reduces Incidences of Urinary Tract Infection…” by M. Handeland et al., 6/14; “Consumption of Chokeberry (Aronia mitschurinii) Products Modestly Lowered Blood Pressure and Reduced Low-Grade Inflammation in Patients with Mildly Elevated Blood Pressure” by B.M. Loo et al., Nutr Res, 11/16
Body into Balance by Maria Noël Groves ($24.95, Storey Publishing 2016)
“Curcumin, Inflammation, and Chronic Disease: How Are They Linked?” by H. Yan et al., Molecules, 2015
“Curcumin-Free Turmeric Exhibits Anti-inflammatory and Anticancer Activities…” by B.B. Aggarwal et al., Mol Nutr Food Res, 9/13
“Effect of Green Tea Supplements on Liver Enzyme Elevation…” by Z. Yu et al., Cancer Prev Res (Phila), 10/17
“Effect of Tart Cherry Juice (Prunus cerasus) on Melatonin Levels and Enhanced Sleep Quality” by G. Howatson et al., 12/12; “Pomegranate Extract Alleviates Disease Activity and Some Blood Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients” by M. Ghavipour et al., Eur J Clin Nutr, 1/17
“Efficacy and Safety of Curcuma domestica Extracts Compared with Ibuprofen in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis…” by V. Kuptniratsaikul et al., Clin Interv Aging, 2014
“Influence of Tart Cherry Juice on Indices of Recovery Following Marathon Running” by G. Howatson, Scand J Med Sci Sports, 12/10
Contributor: Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG)