fighting inflammation with food
Inflammation. It is a hot topic today in the realm of health and wellness. What is it? Who does it effect? And why does it occur? These are all questions every human being should be asking if they wish to live a healthier and happier lifestyle.
To keep it short and sweet, all of us have dealt with inflammation in some shape or form. Whether it is aches and pains, allergies, autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease, or respiratory issues, they all involve an immune response and cause chronic inflammation.
With new technology and advancement in drugs and medicine, there is a lot of information about how to stop or reduce the symptoms that cause inflammation. But what about preventing it? How can someone build a lifestyle around anti-inflammation?
Short answer: FOOD.
As many have said before, and many will continue to say, “We are what we eat.” If we eat processed foods and those lacking nutrients, we risk health issues down the line. However, if we shift our focus to nutrient dense, energy packed sources of fuel, our lives can drastically be improved.
It can be tricky because of all the misinformation out there around what are the “right” foods to eat. I want to make it clear that every person is different, and what is healthy and right for one person may not be the same for everyone else. Regardless, there are many foods, ingredients, and supplements that can be utilized to help prevent and reduce inflammation, as well as foods that can be minimized or eliminated to lower the chances of chronic inflammation.
So, if you are seeking to reduce or prevent future inflammation checkout the list below and find what works best for you.
Foods to Minimize or Avoid
White Refined Sugar – Diabetes, obesity, tooth issues, mental/mood swings, and harsh cravings are all linked to white sugar. Instead, try to alternate this with dates, honey, and natural sources of sugar such as fruit.
Dairy – We all know some people who are highly allergic to dairy. However, many more struggle with it in mild forms because of the lack of the lactase enzyme that’s required to break down milk during digestion. This will cause unexpected bloating, cramps, and gas which is the bodies signal that inflammation is occurring. Be careful with all dairy, and for those who like supplements, keep an eye out for issues with whey and casein.
Gluten – For anyone that has Celiacs disease, we all know gluten is a strict NO in terms of our daily food intake. There has been controversy around gluten and what it does or does not do, so I will not speak to whether you should avoid it or not. Although, the fact remains that if you choose to ditch gluten it will involve cutting out or modifying highly processed “junk” foods such as pizza, bread, and desserts, which all have ingredients that cause inflammation.
Legumes – Another controversial group. Legumes are not easily broken down in the digestive tract and often cause gas, bloating, and cramps. This may trigger the body to have an overgrowth of bacteria and chronic inflammation. For anyone with an autoimmune disease, it is best to steer clear of legumes, but for everyone else, testing for a tolerance level is most likely the best route.
Nightshades – These are 50/50 as the nightshade family has beneficial properties as well. The phytochemical solanine found in this food group has been found to cause inflammation and discomfort in people, especially those with arthritis. If you are looking to start an anti-inflammatory diet these are definitely something to test for yourself.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Introduce
Fish - Great for omega-3 fatty acids, these five have the most: salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies. Fish contain omega-3s, are high in protein, and have anti-inflammatory properties. When your body metabolizes the omega-3s, it breaks them down into two compounds, resolvins and protectins, which result in the anti-inflammatory effects.
Nuts and Seeds – the plant version of high in omega-3s nuts and seeds (chia, hemp seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, etc.) which are packed with protein and fiber as well. These are great for an on the go anti-inflammatory snack!
Berries – They contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which are compounds with anti-inflammatory properties and also may boost your immunity and reduce the risk of heart disease. This is another great snack for anyone who is on the go.
Avocados – A superfood that has tons of beneficial properties. Avocados protect against inflammation, provide fuel with heart-healthy mono-saturated fats, and have been shown to reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer.
Dark Leafy Greens – Like berries, they contain a high concentration of antioxidants which reduce the effects of inflammation in the body.
There are other types of anti-inflammatory foods, but this is a good start on the journey towards providing your body with nutrient dense, high energy forms of fuel.
Anti-Inflammatory Spices and Herbs
My recommended favorites
Ginger – Ginger contains gingerol which is the main compound in ginger that helps with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. I recommend having ginger tea with meals to aid in digestion and reduce nausea/upset stomachs.
Turmeric – Another strong antioxidant, I have found that turmeric goes great in meat/veggie stir-fries and soup. For anyone with celiac disease, turmeric supplements have also been a big aid in reducing my stomach pain.
Cinnamon – Great on sweet potatoes, in teas/coffees, and fruit/protein smoothies. One of my favorite ways to use cinnamon is in a coconut milk chai latte. It is a good source of healthy fat coupled with the anti-inflammatory properties from the cinnamon.
Rosemary – Perfect for baked potato/sweet potato wedges, baked chicken, and various soups/stews. I’m obsessed with sweet potato fries, so I highly recommend pouring a bit of olive oil on the fries and adding a dash of rosemary before baking.
Inflammation causes disease and a lot of the foods/supplements we ingest can cause inflammation without us realizing it. Many people, unfortunately, find this out the hard way. Remember that everyone is different and we all react differently to the various foods we eat. So if you think you may be having inflammation issues it is highly recommended that you research what ingredients you are consuming on a daily basis and test different foods to see what causes your particular inflammation.
For more autoimmune tips, follow CJ on Instagram: @thriveonlife