When most people think of inflammation, they think of a swollen ankle or knee after a sprain or other injury. But inflammation is far more serious. In fact, it can be said that inflammation is the root of all disease. You may not even see the inflammation, but you can bet it is there, especially if you don’t eat properly or exercise regularly. That’s because inflammation is actually the body’s natural response to stress—be it dietary, physical, environmental and/or even emotional.
And once your body starts to become inflamed, it puts you at risk for everything from weight gain, migraines, allergies and colds and flus to more serious illnesses such as gout, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and the dreaded ‘C’ word—cancer.
Even the healthiest among us will have some type of inflammation—if you live in today’s fast-paced, toxin-filled world, you have inflammation. The real question is what do you plan to do about it?
Where Does Inflammation Start?
Would you be surprised to learn that most inflammation actually begins in your gut?
People tend to overlook their digestive system as a source of disease, but it makes sense when you consider that our guts are home to about 70 percent of our immune system and where 80 percent or more of our immunoglobulin A (IgA) cells (immune cells) live. (1)
It makes even more sense when you consider our guts are much larger than you might think. In fact, our guts are made of an intricate semi-permeable lining that would cover two tennis courts if stretched out flat!
Where inflammation comes in is when the permeability of this organ starts to fluctuate depending on various chemicals and conditions. For instance, that all-nighter you pulled with your friends can actually cause your thyroid hormones to become irregular or sitting in traffic for two hours after a long day’s work can raise your cortisol levels, both of which can make your intestinal lining more permeable.
This, in turn, allows things like toxins and viruses or bacteria, even undigested food, to enter you bloodstream through the larger holes in this lining. This condition, known as leaky gut syndrome (LGS), is key to inflammation and where things can start going downhill—fast. (2)
Repeated damage to your intestinal lining from LGS, ultimately destroys the vital microvilli (tiny “projections” that exist in, on, and around the cells in your intestine and help with absorption and secretion.) (3)
When damaged the microvilli are unable to process and utilize the necessary nutrients and enzymes for digestion, which means your digestion eventually becomes impaired.
When this happens, your body essentially sends out an alarm and initiates an attack on the foreign bodies, such as the undigested food particles or viruses, yeast, etc., that are leaking out of your gut.
And as part of this response, it becomes inflamed, causing allergic reactions and ultimately other symptoms (diseases).
The 2 Types of Inflammation
Inflammation can be of two types—acute and chronic. Injury is a good example of acute inflammation. When you hurt yourself, your body produces chemicals that lead to swelling, thereby attracting white blood cells to help with the healing process and prevent further damage from spreading throughout your body.
If the injury does not heal, or you are constantly subjected to further injury, it can eventually become chronic or ongoing. And this continuous inflammation starts to affect your organs, nerves, tissues, joints and muscles, essentially every part of your body.
Since our bodies are continually being bombarded by toxins in almost everything, including the foods we eat, the air we breathe and even the daily products we use, eventually your immune system becomes overloaded and disease sets in.
Common Inflammation Triggers
More and more, research is linking food to disease. We know that certain foods are definitely not healthy, while others shown to promote healing.
But there are also some foods—mainly the majority of those that make up the standard American diet—that can be considered “inflammatory foods.”
Today, there are food additives in pretty much anything that isn’t organic. And now, we are starting to realize that even some foods that would otherwise seem “natural” can also be triggers.
These inflammatory triggers include such things as refined sugar, chemical additives, GMOs, artificial dyes and anything processed. All of these essentially trigger inflammation in your gut and can lead to devastating health issues.
The Biggest Cause of Inflammation
Food and chemicals are not the only triggers.
Stress is one of the biggest causes of inflammation.
Probably one of the reasons we don’t always link stress to disease is that it takes time for it to wreak havoc on our bodies. But anyone who has been under long-term stress will tell you that is can be deadly.
Eventually, your body starts give out and break down. But now that you know this, you can limit the damage by recognizing the 14 most common signs of inflammation before they get out of hand.
14 Warning Signs of Inflammation
- Chronic fatigue
- Food cravings
- Binge eating
- Unexplainable weight gain (not associated with eating more)
- Water retention
- Diarrhea or constipation
- High blood pressure
- Joint pain
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
How To Treat Inflammation Naturally
Diet is the most important thing to look at when addressing inflammation. Before the onslaught of drugs to treat everything imaginable, food was considered medicine.
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” These are words to live by, literally.
The only caveat is that the food must be fresh, unprocessed and as natural as possible. The type of food you eat also determines the types of microbes that will grow and live in your gut.
Good microbes are essential for proper digestion and absorption of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients in your food. Processed foods are the main cause of inflammation, so you will need to start by eliminating all of these from your diet.
Refined sugar and wheat are also big contributors. And if you have food sensitivities, which is highly likely if you have inflammation, foods such as gluten, and cow’s milk can trigger further inflammation. (4)
A diet based on fresh, mostly raw vegetables, salads, good sources of protein, such as eggs, seafood, organic or grass-fed meat and poultry, as well as healthy fats that include omega-3 fats, fresh fruit and plenty of nuts and seeds (again raw is better) and plenty of probiotics, is what is going to heal inflammation for good. As a good rule of thumb, try to avoid any food that comes pre-packaged.
There are also many foods that have been shown to be especially good for fighting inflammation. Choosing as many of these as possible will help to speed the healing process.
Proven Anti-inflammatory Diet
According to Dr. Weil, founder of the Weil Foundation, and natural health guru, the following is the best anti-inflammatory diet. It also includes the servings you should eat when trying to both heal and prevent inflammation. (5) Should you have a sensitivity to wheat or dairy, however, you can omit these foods and opt for a suitable alternative.
Food Reason Amount
|Fruits (raspberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, oranges, plums, blackberries, blueberries, pink or red grapefruit, cherries, etc.)||Fruits are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Look for in-season, fresh fruit in a variety of colors.||3-4 servings per day (1 medium-sized fruit, ½ cup chopped or ¼ cup dried)|
|Vegetables (raw or slightly cooked dark leafy greens like spinach, collard greens and chard, as well as cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower carrots, beets, onions, peas, squashes and any sea vegetables like dulce and kelp.||Like fruit, vegetables are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Look for in-season, fresh vegetables in a variety of colors.||A minimum of 4-5 servings of vegetables a day (2 cups salad greens or ½ cup cooked, raw or juiced.|
|Whole and cracked grains (brown, basmati, and wild rice, buckwheat, groats, quinoa, barley, kamut and steel-cut oats.||Whole grains (those that are whole/intact or in large pieces and do not use whole wheat or flour). These types of grains digest more slowly avoiding blood sugar spikes that are known to promote inflammation||3.5 servings per day one serving is equal to ½ cooked grains)|
|Pasta al-dente (Organic pasta or rice noodles, bean thread noodles, buckwheat noodles such as Japanese udon and soba noodles)||Al-dente (still slightly hard, not soggy) pasta has a lower glycemic index than fully cooked pasta so it will not spike blood sugar levels.||2-3 servings per week (one serving is equal to ½ cup cooked pasta)|
|Beans and Legumes (Anasazi, Adzuki, and black beans as well as chick peas, black-eyed peas and lentils)||Beans are a good source of folic acid, magnesium, potassium and soluble fiber. Eat them well-cooked or pureed like hummus. They are a low-glycemic food.||1-2 servings per day (one serving is equal to ½ cup cooked beans or legumes)|
|Healthy Fats (coconut oil for and cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil for cooking as well as walnut and hazelnut oils in dressings and sesame oil for stir-fry. Raw nuts like walnuts, avocados, and seeds such as flax and hemp. Cold water fish, omega-3 enhanced eggs)||Healthy fats include those rich in monounsaturated or omega-3 fats. Olive oil is a good source of polyphenols and antioxidants which have anti-inflammatory properties. (6)||5-7 servings per day (one serving is equal to 1 teaspoon of oil, 2 walnuts or 1 tbsp. of flaxseed or 1 ounce of avocado.|
|Fish and Seafood (Wild Alaskan salmon, herring, sardines and black cod||Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids that have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. You can also take a molecularly distilled supplement that contains both EPA and DHA in 2-3 gram dosage||2-6 servings per week (4 ounces of fish or seafood is equal to one serving)|
|Mushrooms (Shitake, enokidake, maitake, oyster andwild mushrooms when available)||Mushrooms contain compounds that enhance immune function. NOTE: never eat mushrooms raw and limit intake of commercial mushrooms such as button mushrooms||Unlimited|
|Other Sources of Protein (Organic cheese and yogurt, eggs, grass-fed lean meats, poultry)||Try to reduce your intake of animal foods. Choose omega-3 enriched eggs from birds fed flax seeds or organic eggs. For chicken, choose cage-free organic. Use dairy products sparingly and choose natural cheeses such as Swiss, Jarlsberg, and Parmesan)||1-2 servings per week (1 ounce of cheese, 8-ounces of dairy, 1 egg, 3 ounces meat is equal to one serving)|
|Herbs and Spices (Turmeric, curry, ginger and garlic, chili peppers, cinnamon, basil, rosemary and thyme.||Spices have many healing properties. Turmeric and ginger, especially, are wonderful anti-inflammatory agents.||Unlimited|
|Tea (White, green and oolong teas)||Tea is high in catechins, which are potent antioxidants that reduce inflammation.||2-4 cups daily|
|Healthy Sweets (unsweetened dried fruit, dark chocolate, fruit sorbet)||Dark chocolate provides polyphenols with antioxidant properties. Choose dark chocolate with a minimum 70 percent pure cocoa and have an ounce a few times a week. Fruit sorbet is a better option than other frozen desserts.||Sparingly|
|Probiotics and Fermented Foods (Kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, unsweetened yogurt, tempeh, Kimchi, miso, pickles, buttermilk, natto)||Probiotics are live microorganisms that can restore your gut health and reduce inflammation. (7) When drinking kombucha, start slowly and only use store-made, raw versions to limit bacterial contamination (up to 8 ounces) (8) Some people have experienced side effects so speak to a nutritionist if you have concerns.||¼ – ½ cup of fermented veggies, eaten with 1-3 meals per day, can have a dramatically beneficial impact on your health. (9)|
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid Completely:
- Processed foods
- Certain dairy (see above list)
- Processed meats
- Refined sugars
- Trans fats
Drink plenty of filtered water as water helps flush toxins out of your body and keeps you hydrated. Try to reduce, if not eliminate all stressors in your life as much as possible. Make sure to get regular exercise and try things like meditation, aromatherapy, massage, and soothing music to relax your mind and body. And above all else, get enough sleep!
Anti-inflammatory Turmeric Smoothie
• ½ cup frozen pineapple or mango
• 1 banana
• 1 cup coconut milk
• 1 teaspoon chia seeds
• ½ teaspoon ginger
• ½ teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
• 1 teaspoon maca root powder (optional)
Place all the ingredient in a blender and mix well until smooth. Drink immediately!
Apple and Kale Anti-Inflammatory Juice
• 2 Green Apples
• 2 Kale leaves
• 2 Leaves Collard Greens
• 2 Knuckles of turmeric
• 1 Knuckle of Ginger
• ¼ Hemp Seed Oil
• 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
Mix the turmeric, ginger, kale, and collard greens in a juicer. Pour the juice in a glass and add apple cider vinegar and hemp seed oil. Stir well, and enjoy!