Updated: Dec 1, 2021
It’s morning, and the second you sit up, you’re greeted with stiffness and pain in your joints. This isn’t just a side effect of getting older. This stiffness, pain or swelling in your joints may be signs of inflammation.
Inflammation occurs when chemicals from your white blood cells enter your blood or tissues--it’s part of your body’s natural defenses to remove toxic cells, pathogens, stimuli or other irritants, and repair damaged tissue. This, in turn, raises the blood flow to the area of injury or infection. It can cause redness and warmth. Some of the chemicals cause fluid to leak into your tissues, resulting in swelling. This protective process may trigger nerves and cause pain.
Normal inflammation is good for your body and a part of the natural healing process.
For example, if you jam your finger or stub your toe and it turns red at the joint,
swells, and is tender for a few days that’s good! It’s the healing process at work.
Acute versus Chronic inflammation
Inflammation can be acute, meaning it goes away within a few hours or day.
However, Chronic inflammation (inflammation that does not go
away) is caused by systemic conditions in your body and contributes to a whole host of chronic and terminal diseases from cancer to Alzheimer's.
Fighting disease with food choices has been a fundamental choice in taking control of
An anti-inflammatory diet may serve as a complementary therapy for many conditions that become worse with chronic inflammation, such as:
inflammatory bowel disease
We are constantly bombarded with the value of anti-inflammatory properties of food
and beverages. Red wine is often overly celebrated as having anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s important to know that it also triggers histamine release in your body. Once released, histamines turn on the body’s natural defense mechanisms so they can do everything they can to alleviate the perceived allergen. They then increase blood flow to start the repair work and healing process. As we discussed earlier, that actually results in inflammation!
It’s better to stick to fish, green leafy vegetables, the ‘colorful’ vegetables, and beans as part of your anti-inflammatory diet.
Let’s get specific. What do you need to eat, and how much? Shifting to an anti-inflammatory diet can be challenging if you are not used to eating these quantities of fruits and vegetables. You might start with half the stated number of servings for the first month or two.
Once you develop a routine of incorporating these vegetables into your diet, it will be
much easier to increase your number of servings.
Fruits fresh or frozen: 3 to 4 servings per day
Vegetables raw or cooked: 4 to 5 servings per day
What are the anti-inflammatory properties of these foods that our body is benefiting from?
Vitamin K is the vitamin found in green leafy vegetables, and some kinds of fruit, fish, liver, meat, eggs. In a one-year study published in the Cardiovascular Diabetology journal, metabolic risk markers for inflammation were reduced by 30 percent when following a diet with vitamin K intake increased to at least 70 micrograms per day.
Whole grains, research published in the Journal of Nutrition has shown that women,
in particular, will see positive anti-inflammatory effects by consuming a diet high in
whole grains, a lowering of high-sensitivity c-reactive proteins will help prevent
antioxidant depletion in the body.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and supplements derived from fish, krill, algae,
and flaxseed. Scientists remain unsure how much omega-3 fatty acid a person needs
to consume to see important anti-inflammatory benefits. But we do know it’s important to balance Omega 3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. An omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in your body that is too high may contribute to excess inflammation in the body, potentially raising the risk of various diseases.
The primary source of vitamin D is sunlight. Vitamin D through sun exposure is great -- but the reality of New England in the fall and winter, when our region is tilted away from the sun, absorbing vitamin D from the sun is obstructed. And in the summer, we have to be careful about skin cancer, and wear sun protection.
Vitamin D is known to aid in the control of inflammation. Vitamin D has long been known to contribute to bone health by promoting the absorption of calcium.
In recent years, much attention has been paid to its possible immune and
inflammatory benefits. Low vitamin D levels have been associated with several
diseases including asthma, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.
Spices and herbs
Spices play a role in the anti-inflammatory food landscape as well. Turmeric, the spice
often found in Indian foods, has increased in popularity based upon its recognition in
the anti-inflammatory arsenal together with curry powder, ginger, garlic, chili
peppers, basil, cinnamon, rosemary, and thyme.
While we’re on the topic of Turmeric, check out my blog post on it. Curcumin is poorly absorbed by your body. But Meriva provides sustained release properties so the substance is better absorbed and more usable in the body. Some of the best brands are Thorne or Pure Encapsulations.
Want to incorporate some of these supplements into your routine? Check out what’s available in my dispensary:
Daniels, J., Mulligan, C., Mccance, D., Woodside, J. V., Patterson, C., Young, I. S., &
Mceneny, J. (2014). A randomized controlled trial of increasing fruit and vegetable
intake and how this influences the carotenoid concentration and activities of PON-1
and LCAT in HDL from subjects with type 2 diabetes. Cardiovascular
Diabetology,13(1), 16. doi:10.1186/1475-2840-13-16
Sommer, C. (2011). Faculty of 1000 evaluation for Fatty acids from fish: the anti-
inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. F1000 - Post-publication
peer review of the biomedical literature. doi:10.3410/f.13284956.14644054
Agrawal, D., & Yin, K. (2014). Vitamin D and inflammatory diseases. Journal of
Inflammation Research,69. doi:10.2147/jir.s63898
Calder, P. C. (2008). Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammatory processes, and
inflammatory bowel diseases. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research,52(8), 885-897.