Inflammation today has become a distinct attack on your smiling body. Considered by many medical experts as the silent epidemic in our modern health and wellbeing and yet this seemingly fiery chemical reaction is part of our immune response, without inflammation, we can’t heal. Normal inflammation is positive is helping us deal with certain assaults of the body, however one of the main health issues today is inflammation out of balance, where it can damage the body, with conditions such as both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, appendicitis, bursitis, in fact anything ending in “itis”.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina inform us that even the illnesses without an “itis” at the end, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, certain cancers, even Alzheimer’s disease, may be triggered in part by inflammation. Today we know that it’s very apparent that inflammation plays a role much more than we thought with respect to certain maladies. We are hearing more of autoimmune diseases where the body seems to turn on itself.
Foods that are sugar rich and high in saturated fat can elevate inflammation leading to an hyperactive immune system, possible leading to joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the blood vessels.
I have listed here some foods that have anti-inflammatory functions, balancing the immune system. These foods can reduce heart disease risk, keep existing cardiac problems in check, reduce blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and soothe tender and stiff arthritic joints.
Add these items to your plate today.
Fish such as mackerel, tuna and sardines, salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to reduce inflammation. However, to get maximum benefits, you need to eat fish regularly, more than once a week, and it should be cooked in healthy ways. Researchers from the University of Hawaii, found that men who ate baked or boiled fish (as opposed to fried, dried, or salted) cut their risk of heart disease by 23% compared to those who ate the least. If some of your gang don’t like fish, then consider fish-oil supplements. They can cut inflammation, although a 2013 study found that if a diet is too high in omega-6 fatty acids (found in processed foods and vegetable oil), fish-oil supplements may reduce hyperactive inflammation.
Whole grains are rich in fibre which can reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood and they usually have less added sugar. People who consume a diet consisting mostly of grains as whole grains, as opposed to refined, white bread, cereal, rice, and pasta can help keep harmful inflammation at bay. When choosing wholegrain products, be aware that not all products labelled “whole grain” are as healthy as their refined equivalent. Be sure to look at the label and make sure that the first ingredient is a whole grain as the first ingredient with no added sugars.
Dark leafy greens
According to some studies, Vitamin E may play a key role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines and one of the best sources of vitamin E is dark leafy greens, such as spinach, broccoli, kale, and collard greens. Dark greens and cruciferous vegetables also tend to have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, and disease fighting phyto-chemicals, than their lighter-coloured veggies.
Nuts are another source of inflammation-fighting healthy fats, particularly almonds, which are high in fibre, calcium, and vitamin E. Walnuts have high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat. All nuts are loaded with antioxidants which can help your body fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation. Nuts (along with fish, leafy greens, and whole grains) are a big part of the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce inflammation in as little as six weeks.
Soy products are rich in isoflavones, estrogen-like compounds and according to several studies these may help lower CRP and inflammation levels in women and a 2007 animal study published in the Journal of Inflammation found that isoflavones also helped reduce Avoid heavily-processed soy whenever possible, which may not include the same benefits and the negative effects of inflammation on bone and heart health in mice.
is usually paired with additives and preservatives. Instead, aim to get more soy milk, tofu, and edamame (boiled soybeans) into your regular diet.
Milk products are sometimes considered a trigger food for inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, because some people have allergies or intolerances to casein, the protein found in dairy. But for people who can tolerate it, low-fat and non-fat milk are an important source of nutrients. Yogurt can also contain probiotics, which can reduce gut inflammation.
“Foods with calcium and vitamin D, such as yogurt and skim milk, are good for everyone,” says Karen H. Costenbader, MD, associate professor of medicine and rheumatoid arthritis doctor at Harvard Medical School. In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, she says, “it is important to get enough calcium and vitamin D for bone strength, and possibly reduction of cancer and other health risks.”
“Colourful vegetables are part of a healthier diet in general,” says Dr. Costenbader. “As opposed to white potatoes or corn, colourful peppers, tomatoes, squash, and leafy vegetables have high quantities of antioxidant vitamins and lower levels of starch.” Bell peppers are available in a variety of colours, while hot peppers (like chilli and cayenne) are rich in capsaicin, a chemical that’s used in topical creams that reduce pain and inflammation.
Be aware that peppers are nightshade vegetables which some doctors and patients believe can exacerbate inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis. “What helps one person may be harmful to another,” says Dr. Zashin. “You just need to pay attention to your diet and your symptoms, and stick with what works for you.”
Tomatoes another nightshade vegetable may also help reduce inflammation in some people. (Of course, Dr. Zashin’s advice about what works for you, individually, applies here, as well.) Juicy red tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which has been shown to reduce inflammation in the lungs and throughout the body. Cooked tomatoes contain even more lycopene than raw ones, so tomato sauce works, too and a 2012 Iranian study found that tomato juice consumption was also beneficial.
Beets or Beetroot
The brilliantly red coloured beetroot is a tell tale of its concentration of antioxidants. Beets (and beetroot juice) have been shown to reduce inflammation, as well as protect against cancer and heart disease, thanks to their hearty helping of fibre, vitamin C and plant pigments called betalains.
Ginger is a common Asian and Indian cooking spice, in many studies have demonstrated their anti inflammatory properties. Dr. Costenbader says, “While the evidence in terms of RA inflammation is not very strong, they are vegetables and part of a healthy, vegetable rich diet,”
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Turmeric is another common used spice and the ingredient that gives curry its yellow colour, works in the body by helping to turn off a NF-kappa B, a protein that regulates the immune system and triggers the process of inflammation, researchers say. Its relative ginger, meanwhile, has been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestines when taken in supplement form.
These immunity-boosting foods have not only a traditional history of properties but modern scientific research has also shown them to have anti inflammatory benefits. In studies, garlic has been revealed to act similarly to NSAID pain medications (like ibuprofen), shutting off the pathways that lead to inflammation.
Onions contain similar anti inflammatory chemicals to garlic, including the phytonutrient quercetin and the compound allicin, which breaks down to produce free radical-fighting sulfenic acid.
“Anything that fits into a heart-healthy diet is probably also good for inflammation—and that includes healthy, plant-based fats like olive oil,” says Dr. Zashin, author of Natural Arthritis. A Spanish study in 2010, found that the Mediterranean diet’s myriad health benefits may be largely due to its liberal use of olive oil, especially the extra-virgin kind. The compound oleocanthal, which gives olive oil its taste, has been shown to have a similar effect as NSAID painkillers in the body.
All fruits can help fight inflammation, because they’re low in fat and calories and high in antioxidants. But berries, especially, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties—possibly because of anthocyanins, the powerful chemicals that gives them their rich colour. Studies have shown, for example, that red raspberry extract helped prevent animals from developing arthritis; that blueberries can help protect against intestinal inflammation and ulcerative colitis; and that women who eat more strawberries have lower levels of CRP in their blood.
Oregon Health & Science University researchers in a 2012 presentation, suggested that cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.” Researchers have found that cherry juice can reduce the inflammation in lab experiments by up to 50%; in humans, meanwhile, it’s been shown to help athletes improve their performance and reduce their use of anti-inflammatory pain meds. Experts recommend eating 1.5 cups of cherries, or drinking 1 cup of tart cherry juice, a day to see similar benefits. And yep, they’ve got to be tart—sweet cherries just don’t seem to have the same effects.
Food is Medicine Too!
James O’Sullivan from Galway is a credible and engaging speaker, a people friendly practitioner and lecturer of Integrated Medicine, serving his patients, his students and the public with the positive benefits of both Conventional Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is a respected author and has appeared on many public media. #jamushur
This article is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.