(a) to excite to excessive or uncontrollable action or feeling
(b) to make more heated or violent
(c) to set on fire
(d) to cause to redden or grow hot (1)
Inflammation. It’s a hot word these days (sorry, I couldn’t help it). Seems like everyone’s got it. And indeed, it is the sign of an immune system working hard. Here’s the formal definition:
a local response to cellular injury that is marked by capillary dilatation, leukocytic infiltration, redness, heat, and pain and that serves as a mechanism initiating the elimination of noxious agents and of damaged tissue (2)
Inflammation in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. It’s an appropriate response to damage in the body. The trouble happens when there’s chronic inflammation (what is causing this ongoing damage?) and when the body isn’t able to anti-inflame, or to bring that inflammation down.
Any conversation about natural ways to reduce inflammation needs to address these two aspects: How do we remove the things that are causing inflammation to begin with? And how do we make sure our bodies have what they need to anti-inflame? Here are nine things to get you started.
1) Eat more and better fats.
Move over inflammatory vegetables oils (sunflower, safflower, corn, soy, cottonseed, canola…) and bring on the real, anti-inflammatory fats: extra virgin olive oil, fats from healthy, pastured animals (butter from grass-fed cows, eggs from pastured chickens), wild fish, avocados. And trans fats? Don’t even get me started. They are extremely inflammatory and should be banished from your kitchen. Eating trans fats is kind of like running a cheese grater through your veins.
For a great source of anti-inflammatory fats, check out Radiant Life here.
2) Eliminate processed and packaged foods from your diet.
Let’s face it, all that processing not only denatures food and renders it a nutritionally vacant shadow of its former self, it can actually make something that was once nourishing, toxic. There are countless ingredients in processed foods that are inflammatory: from the many forms of sugar (see my next point) and rancid oils (see point #1), to food additives such as aspartame and MSG, to refined grains. All of this is inflammatory. No bueno.
3) Cut the sweet stuff.
Sugar is highly inflammatory – in ALL its forms. An occasional treat once in a while is fine, but it will aggravate any inflammatory condition you have. If you want help with this one, check out our Sugar Control Detox.
4) Eat more berries.
Since you’re cutting the sweet stuff, this will be your candy: berries. You’d have to live under a rock to avoid all the press berries – in particular blueberries – get. But I’m no elitest – all berries are great, and I say just enjoy whatever’s in season!
5) Eat oily fish.
When I say “oily fish” I’m talking about fish such as wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, and herring. These fish are packed full of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory. Try not to overcook these fish, though. Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely delicate, and once rancid, they become pro-inflammatory. It’s actually best to eat them raw (hello sushi) or just seared in some nice butter (the stability of the saturated fats in butter protects the delicate fatty acids in the fish – it’s not just for taste that these two go together!)
6) Eat wild or grass-fed / pastured animal foods.
If you’re an omnivore, then make sure you source foods that come from healthy, pastured animals. Meat and fat from animals fed diets high in corn and soy (= all animals from large commercial ventures, including organic!) are pro-inflammatory. To the contrary, meat from pastured animals contains the optimal balance of anti-inflammatory fatty acids – in a ratio closer to that of wild fish. (Find a grass-fed farmer here.)
7) Eat more seaweed.
Bet you didn’t know that seaweed is extremely anti-inflammatory. As a bonus, seaweed is an incredible source of all sorts of trace minerals vitally important to our health. There are lots of great reasons to eat more of it. A personal favorite of mine is arame, which I use in this salad. Yum!! Wakame and kombu are other great options.
8) Add anti-inflammatory spices to your cooking.
Turmeric, ginger, and garlic in particular. Curry anyone?
9) Eat (or drink) your veggies
I’m talking in particular about cruciferous veggies (think: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale), but all veggies are important. Loaded with anti-oxidants, veggies of all types are helpful in reducing oxidation and thus the inflammation that accompanies it. If you’re looking to superdose, I recommend either a green juice or using them in smoothies – you can get many more veggies (and thus their anti-oxidants) in that way.
If all of this looks like code for “eat real food”, then you’ve got it! You can forget everything above if you just eat naked: real, whole, nutrient-dense foods, prepared properly and consumed mindfully.
Want to read more about inflammation? Check out these great articles:
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