Low grade or chronic inflammation can present a number of issues from slow wound healing to types of autoimmune disorders and from chronic fatigue to achy joints and limbs. It is something that can make us feel unwell all the time, making it difficult to enjoy life. In fact, premature aging or any type of long-term degenerative disease can also be rooted in an inflammatory condition. As a naturopathic physician, I find one of the best ways to manage inflammation and in turn reduce these symptoms and conditions is to focus on eating a healthy diet. Here I look at the foods you can eat to reduce inflammation in the body.
What Is Inflammation?
When our bodies are under stress, inflammation occurs as part of our immune system responses. Stresses causing inflammation include infections and injuries. When we experience various stresses on the body, our immune systems release proteins and antibodies and also increase blood flow as part of the healing process which causes inflammation. (1)
While our bodies try to heal, the inflammation is intended to last for a short time. When we don’t heal properly or at a good pace, we continue to experience that inflammatory response. It switches gears and makes it more difficult for our immune systems to work effectively. As a result, we experience damage to healthy tissue. So, while our immune system is designed to protect us and help us heal, it can actually cause damage which presents as chronic inflammatory diseases. (1)
Foods to Reduce Inflammation: Fermented Foods
I’m starting here, because fermented foods offer many benefits to fight inflammation. A recent study found that those who enjoyed more fermented foods saw less activation of four types of immune cells involved in chronic inflammation. As well, the levels of 19 inflammatory proteins dropped. This was possibly related to positive effects on both the immune system and the gut microbiome. (1)
What are Fermented Foods?
So, what are fermented foods you can include in your diet? Some examples include: (1)
- Fermented cottage cheese
- Vegetable brine drinks
- Kombucha tea
All of these foods help increase your microbial diversity. In fact, because vinegar plays an important role in fermentation, you can even take a shot of pure, organic apple cider vinegar every day. If you have stomach issues you might want to avoid it, as it is very acidic and can cause stomach upset. However, I highly recommend you try it and see if you can tolerate it because you might find it works well for you.
What Is Microbial Diversity?
Our bodies have microbiomes that consist of billions of bacteria, organisms, fungi and other organisms that help keep us healthy. Microbial diversity is required to ensure we have the right mix and balance of these organisms for proper function. (2)
Foods to Reduce Inflammation: Steamed Broccoli
Steamed broccoli sounds boring right? But it’s rich in vitamin C, while providing powerful properties to reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. It contains something called kaempferol, that has shown anti-inflammatory capacity in animal and test-tube studies. (3)
Foods to Reduce Inflammation: Soaked Walnuts
Walnuts are a delicious snack that becomes more potent to fight inflammation when soaked overnight. Why soak them? The soaking actually helps break out the properties that are particularly healing. They’re rich in omegas, and anti-inflammatory properties. You can strain them and keep them nearby for the perfect snacking food throughout the day.
Foods to Reduce Inflammation: Hemp Oil
Hemp oil can be consumed on a daily basis. It contains the right amount of omega three, six, and nine, as well as Gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). It can help combat inflammatory conditions in the body such as rheumatoid arthritis. It’s also good for the digestive system, to relieve symptoms like IBS, which is often a huge factor if you suffer from systemic inflammation. You can add a few drops to water or sprinkle it on salads. (4)
What is Systemic Inflammation?
Systemic inflammation results when your immune system is in constant defense mode. This happens due to a number of possible factors including stress, infection, or chronic diseases. These factors trigger the proinflammatory state I mentioned above, when your body remains in inflammatory response. (5)
Foods to Reduce Inflammation: Pineapple
Personally, I love fresh pineapple chunks and fresh pineapple juice as a snack or refreshing drink. This is a wonderful fruit to add to your diet when you want to help reduce inflammation, swelling and edema in the joints as well as gout. Pineapple juice contains bromelain, an enzyme that triggers your body’s pain fighting abilities. It also helps reduce swelling which is why it is a great choice when recovering from sports injuries or if you have osteoarthritis. (6)
Foods to Reduce Inflammation: Tart Cherry Juice
Speaking of gout, if you suffer from painful gout, tart cherry juice is another option. It not only reduces any type of joint related inflammation, but also helps support a healthy digestive system.
What is Gout?
Gout is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis that tends to target a single joint, most commonly the big toe. It is a condition that also tends to come and go, with patients experiencing flare ups often triggered by certain foods or alcohol. (7)
Foods to Reduce Inflammation: Ginger, Onions and Garlic
If you want to add more flavor to foods, including the boring steamed broccoli I mentioned above, nothing is more flavorful or more effective as a healthy ingredient than the holy trinity of ginger, onions and garlic. You can use them separately, but together they can take simple things like steamed veggies to a whole new level. It can be added to anything including quinoa and other healthy, natural grains like millet and flaxseed.
The Power of Ginger
If you’re not so keen on the strong taste of onion and/or garlic, ginger is one of the most powerful ways to reduce inflammation in your body. It’s very versatile and can be used in all kinds of recipes, including a refreshing ginger tea. Ginger can also be added to green tea, or you can come up with your own blends such as adding fresh lemon or lime, or a bit of honey.
Even if you don’t care for the taste, ginger can be used strictly as a natural remedy. It’s ideal for a bath to soak achy hands and feet. You can also apply warm compresses soaked in ginger water to your achy joints or neck.
So much of what you eat can play a role in assorted symptoms of inflammation. Systemic inflammation will register in your body as symptoms of pain, metabolic imbalances, sluggish immune system and other symptoms highlighted below.
I highly recommend adding these foods and drinks to your diet to help reduce or even eliminate inflammation. If you stick to eating foods to fight inflammation you can reverse the effects and start feeling better. You can also click here to learn more about personalized nutrition programs for improved health.
I am sharing with you my inflammation reduction protocol that I recommend to patients who are looking for ways to reduce symptoms of inflammation as well as address the root cause of systemic inflammation.
By changing both your diet and daily habits coupled with the best anti-inflammatory supplementation, you can reduce the pain, heaviness and discomfort you feel.