This post is the first installment in the natural health and wellness blog post series I will be writing weekly for the Summit Chiropractic blog.
Reducing Inflammation in the Body Through Diet
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is one of our body’s critical defense mechanisms; it’s our body’s way of telling us that something needs attention. There are two types of inflammation, primary and chronic. Primary inflammation is constantly working to detoxify, repair, and naturally protects our bodies each and every day, there is no pain or symptoms associated with this type of inflammation.
But chronic inflammation on the other hand, is a whole different story. This is the type of inflammation that brings out the symptoms of local redness, heat, swelling and pain. Inflammation can eventually lead to serious illness; including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and many types of cancer.
Most people deal with inflammation by popping over-the-counter Ibuprofen or a prescription anti-inflammatory drug. The problem with these medications is that they simply mask the symptoms of inflammation, while still allowing you to live an inflammatory lifestyle and not addressing the root cause.
If you are reading this blog, chances are good that you’re already familiar with some of the natural ways to reduce inflammation; such as chiropractic care. But there are other ways to naturally reduce inflammation in the body beginning with the foods you eat.
Diet and lifestyle play a huge role in inflammation. Processed food, sugar, hydrogenated and trans fats, stress, malnutrition, obesity and excessive exercise all contribute to chronic inflammation. There are certain foods to include in your diet and certain foods to avoid if you want to reduce inflammation in the body.
Foods to include
A diet abundant in a variety of fresh, whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, is the best way to combat inflammation, but these particular foods and supplements are inflammation-fighting superstars.
Berries, especially blueberries, are incredibly rich in nutrients that function as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in the body. Fresh or frozen berries are a great addition to cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, salads, or just eaten by themselves.
Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale are all members of the cruciferous vegetable family and are all anti-inflammatory powerhouses. These veggies contain many anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer phytonutrients, such as chlorophyll and sulfur-based compounds.
Avocados are packed with a bounty of anti-inflammatory nutrients; such as phytosterols, carotenoid antioxidants, vitamins C and E, minerals such as manganese, selenium and zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. Avocados’ rich and creamy texture makes them the perfect substitute for high-fat cheese on salads or sandwiches.
Walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA. ALA is converted to omega-3 fatty acids in the body, which have been shown to calm inflammation.
Chia, Flax and Hemp Seeds
This trifecta of super seeds are all very high in omega-3 fatty acids (“the good fats”), which act as anti-inflammatory compounds in the body. You can sprinkle a tablespoon of any of these seeds on cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, salads, soups, or blend them into smoothies.
Ginger and Turmeric
Studies have shown that ginger contains pharmacological properties of anti-inflammatory drugs as well as antioxidant properties.
Turmeric, often referred to as “the golden spice,” contains the active ingredient curcumin, which has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Add either of these spices to your soups, stir fries, teas, dressings, smoothies or juices, or take them in supplement form.
Staying hydrated throughout the day is crucial to combating inflammation. I find that keeping a reusable water bottle with you and refilling it throughout the day is the easiest way to make sure you are drinking enough. If you are constantly drinking water, you will naturally crowd-out more inflammatory beverages, such a pop and dairy-based drinks.
Foods to avoid
These processed, unhealthy foods should always be avoided or only enjoyed occasionally in moderation, but should definitely be avoided if you are suffering from chronic inflammation.
White flour and sugar (think bread and processed snack foods)
High fructose corn syrup
Saturated fat (found in butter, high-fat dairy products, unskinned chicken and fatty meats)
Margarine and vegetable shortening
Natalie Gray is currently on her way to becoming a certified health coach at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is passionate about health and wellness.
If you have any further questions about these naturally reducing inflammation through diet or want more tips about how to make these anti-inflammatory foods apart of your lifestyle, contact Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to check out Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid