Experiencing chronic inflammation is akin to a fire that rages inside your body and can eventually lead to developing numerous diseases and various health issues. In this article, we present to you a list of healthy foods which will help you combat the presence of inflammation in a natural way. The greater the level of inflammation, the greater the chances of increased weight gain, developing obesity and overall poor health.
Additionally, most people are not aware that inflammation keeps increasing silently, all the while compromising their overall health, body composition and sense of well-being. If you find a way to decrease inflammation levels by choosing better foods and exercising regularly, you will improve the functioning of your memory and overall brain health shed the excess weight around the midsection and stop the development of some chronic diseases.
How would you know if you had increased inflammation? If you’re overweight, bordering on obese, have an extra tire around your stomach or your diet mostly consists of carbs, you can bet that you have high levels of inflammation. If you experience such digestive issues as gas, heartburn, bloatedness, IBS, autoimmune conditions or leaky gut, then inflammation levels will skyrocket. If you happen to take pain meds such as ibuprofen, you drastically increase the risk of developing chronic degeneration.
And what’s even scarier, you can have none of these symptoms, yet inflammation will be present below the surface without you even noticing. When you start searching for the main reasons of your inflammation like eating refined carbs, taking certain meds or overall digestive issues, you’ll be well on your way of improving energy levels, the functioning of your brain, healing joint issues and maintaining a healthy body weight.
So, what exactly is inflammation ?
Inflammation is an essential response of your body to external trauma, sustained injury or bacterial or viral infection. It represents the most basic immune system response that puts the body into defensive mode to ward off threats. The most common symptoms of an inflammatory reaction are redness, increased temperature, swelling, and pain, which are the most basic effort of the body to cure the infection or repair the injury. The main problem arises when acute inflammation turns into chronic. You keep on gaining weight or can’t get rid of the stomach fat, the digestive issues, like bloating, gasses, constipation and specific food allergies never go away, or you can’t get off the various pain meds you’re taking.
Cytokines are the main compounds released by your body to combat inflammation. After sustaining injury or getting an infection, the inflammation response is immediately triggered and 3 main pro-inflammatory cytokines are released: interleukin 1(IL-1), interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF). Your food choices, physical activity levels as we all the ability to handle stressful situation have the potential to fight off these pro-inflammatory compounds.
The correlation between elevated inflammation and chronic disease risk
In the US, the number of people experiencing chronic diseases is going up every year with the top 5 being: cardiovascular diseases (60 million), various allergies (50 million), autoimmune conditions (25 million), diabetes type 1 and 2 (15 million) and various types of cancer (10 million). Numerous studies have shown the ever-growing relation between chronically elevated blood sugar levels, inflammation and the rapid development of degenerative chronic conditions. Regardless of whether you’re suffering from high blood pressure, cancer, build up of plaque in your arteries or diabetes, all of these have their symptoms lessened when inflammation is reduced.
The top 3 foods that cause inflammation
1. Simple high glycemic index carbs or too many carbs
High blood sugar levels is one of the main reasons behind systemic and chronic inflammation that can create chaos in your body systems. If you are very physically active and have a good amount of lean muscle mass, the carbs you consume will tend to be transferred to the muscles in the form of glycogen. If you’re not active, carry too much excess fat and not a lot of muscle, consuming too many carbs will lead to them being stored as fat in your liver or elsewhere on the body. Inflammation is the most common symptom in the majority of overweight people. The accumulated fat around your internal organs inside the abdomen cavity is called visceral fat, also known as white adipose tissue or WAT.
The tissue itself is a major cause of inflammation. The conclusion is that the more weight you have, the greater the inflammation levels. The chronic inflammation caused by gaining weight leads to oxidative damage to tissues and cells, which leads to an inflammatory reaction. The bigger the weight gain, the greater the oxidative damage, and the greater inflammation in your body. It’s a vicious downward cycle which can make losing that undesirable fat very difficult.
2. You consume too much gluten
Gluten is a particularly troublesome compound because it has the potential to put your intestines under great stress. Studies have shown the foods that contain gluten interfere with the functioning of a specific protein in your gut known as zonulin, which wreaks havoc on the intestines. Zonulin basically has the role of a gatekeeper of the intestines in charge of regulating the intestinal permeability by keeping the intestinal cells packed tightly.
The protein called gliadin which is found in gluten interferes with zonulin’s function, which leads to increased hyper-permeability, a condition known as leaky gut. This, in the end, triggers an inflammatory reaction in the body. What’s interesting is that this intestinal damage happened in all demographic groups, not just celiac patients. Plus, if you’re obese, this drastically reduces zonulin function and leads to inflammation and leaky gut.
3. Taking too many painkillers
Over-the-counter meds for treating pain, anti-inflammatory non-steroidal drugs such as ibuprofen, are the most commonly used drugs to treat pain. If you carry excess weight or are sedentary most of the day, you have a greater chance of suffering from chronic muscle and joint pain. Even though these meds can provide a short-term solution, they can be very harmful to the digestive system in the long-term. Studies have shown that the continuous use of painkillers such as ibuprofen can cause a significant damage to the gut lining and increase the chances of a leaky gut.
Understandably, when your gut experiences damage, inflammation is your body’s first reaction to injury, which means you basically worsen the long-term chronic inflammation. Some other chronic inflammation causes include chronic infections, a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids (found in vegetable oils), elevated stress, nutrient deficiencies or being exposed to environmental toxins.
The top 10 foods that combat inflammation
Finding the main causes of inflammation is the first step towards decreasing it and increasing the consumption of healthy anti-inflammatory foods in the second step. Incorporate these 10 powerful foods in your diet, eat them regularly and protect the body from the harmful effects of inflammation.
1. Cold-water fish that are high in fat
The long-chained omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA help with reducing inflammation by stimulating the release of anti-inflammatory compounds known as prostaglandins, which are akin to hormones and help decrease inflammation levels. Cold-water fish that have high amounts of fat such as salmon, anchovies, mackerel, herring, sardines and black cod should be eaten as often as possible. A typical serving of 4 oz. has around 600-700mg of DHA and EPA.
2. Wild game and grass-fed meats
It’s been parroted for years that red meat should be avoided, yet when cows are fed in a natural environment, eating grass from a non-contaminated soil, it’s simply amazing how much the quality of fats in the meat and the meat itself improve. Grass-fed cows and wild game meats contain greater amounts of long-chained omega-3 fats DHA and EPA in comparison to meat coming from farms that employ standard industrial practices. Incorporate these meats dense with nutrients into your diet to combat chronic inflammation.
3. Turmeric root
This plant has been a staple food of Indian cuisine and has a specific substance known as curcumin which has significant anti-inflammatory properties. It has the potential to inhibit the COX-2 enzyme, the same as ibuprofen, decrease inflammation and accelerate the healing of injuries. Even though it’s not as powerful as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, this herb doesn’t cause any nasty side effects like ulcers, kidney or liver damage or leaky gut like NSAIDs do.
The same as curcumin, ginger has potent anti-inflammatory properties against the COX-2 enzyme. Studies have shown that ginger consumption has the potential to decrease the markers of inflammation after just seven days. If you like making juices, just add some ginger into them, sprinkle it over meals or salads or put it into your favorite tea to improve your body’s anti-inflammatory protection.
5. Leafy greens
Leafy greens have a high content of antioxidants such as vitamin A, C, and E which protect the body against oxidative damage which happens when you experience chronic inflammation. The most common ones you should eat on a daily basis are spinach, kale, radish greens, arugula, mustard greens, chard, salad greens and many others.
6. Hot peppers
The hot taste of peppers is caused by its active component called capsaicin and it can also act as powerful combatants against inflammation. Capsaicin combats inflammation through the brain by interacting with a specific receptor inside to increase the brain-derived neuropeptide factor (BDNF) which reduces inflammation and elevates your mood. Sprinkle cayenne on your meals or in smoothies and whenever you feel like it add some hot peppers to your meal to make the most out of the pepper’s anti-inflammatory properties. You should always be careful not to put too much because it can cause great discomfort to your intestines. Eat them in moderation.
Blueberries are a perfect addition to your breakfast, they give a great taste to your smoothie and you can even eat them as a snack throughout the day. But, little do people know that it has a high content of antioxidants and can combat inflammation. The dark-colored variety has quercetin, which is a powerful antioxidant which protects the body from oxidative damage caused by increased inflammation levels, whether from being overweight or some kind of a trauma. Additionally, the compounds called polyphenols found in blueberries trigger the specific genetic pathways which combat the inflammation caused by the COX-2 enzyme.
Beets are a root vegetable which is packed with various nutrients, like the antioxidant betalain. They are also a rich source of dietary nitrates which increase arginine levels and stimulate improved flow to speed up recovery and healing.
Nothing beats eating a cold and sweet pineapple on a hot summer’s day to satisfy your sweet cravings and quench your thirst. Pineapple contains bromelain which improves joint health, decreases swelling, healing time, bruising and the level of pain after sustaining an injury or after surgery. If you decide on supplementing with bromelain to improve joint health, make sure that you consume it on an empty stomach. If you take it with your stomach full, it will aid your digestion, not combat inflammation.
It’s been said many times, but it bears repeating: broccoli is a superfood! It’s rich in antioxidants, potent phytonutrient glucosinolates and contains compounds known as bioflavonoids such as kaempferol which combat inflammation by cooling the body and inhibiting the effects of oxidative stress and weight gain. Make it a staple in your diet to get the most of its benefits.