How Can An Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help?

In the short term, swelling as protection against injury or infection is a good thing. But when inflammation becomes chronic, the consequences to your health can be disastrous. From joint pain to heart disease, chronic inflammation has been linked to serious health problems. But there are ways to reduce the internal swelling. What you add to your diet — and what you cut back on — is a good place to start.

Consequences of Inflammation

Whenever your body recognizes the introduction of a foreign or potentially harmful agent, white blood cells are dispatched to surround the “intruder.” For short-term problems like a wound or seasonal cold, this action can be helpful. But if you keep introducing those harmful intruders like fatty foods and cigarette smoke to your system, the internal swelling response becomes chronic.

Chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of health issues. The buildup of plaque around the arteries, for example, may lead to stroke and heart attack. In addition, some people may develop or exacerbate conditions such as arthritis and other types of joint pain, along with Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. Cancer and a range of other chronic conditions may also stem from inflammation.

Because inflammation responses vary in intensity and location, predicting how it might affect you can be difficult. Doctors are also unsure whether inflammation directly causes chronic illness, or if it merely triggers stronger responses. One thing that is clear, however, is that measures to reduce inflammation can be the first step toward improving your health.

Adjusting Your Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet isn’t very different from those you’ve heard of before, such as low-fat and Meditterean eating plans. The key is moderation. You don’t have to give up everything you love, or force down foods you hate. But if you cut back on certain substances known to cause internal swelling, and add some inflammation-fighting ingredients that you actually like, it can make a big difference.

What to Cut

It’s not always clear why some foods set off an inflammation sequence in your body. Some lead to rapid weight gain, which stresses the heart and joints, while others simply set off a chemical reaction that results in swelling.

It’s thought that certain foods can release “messengers” that signal a protective response in your body. That’s not a bad thing if you rarely eat the food. But eating certain kinds of unhealthy foods are part of your lifestyle, then your body never stops releasing that protective inflammatory response. This can lead to chronic health problems.

Whatever the specific mechanism that makes certain foods trigger inflammation, these culptits are usually associated with inflammatory responses:

  • Processed foods. Your body tends to react to preservatives, dyes and other chemicals by producing an inflammatory response. Reduce your intake of hot dogs, chips, processed cookies and pastries, colas and artificially colored sodas, and sugary cereals.
  • Red meat and processed meat. Some people react more dramatically to red meat than others. But even without the potential inflammatory response, the fat and cholesterol in red and processed meat make it something that shouldn’t be eaten more than once or twice a week. Reduce your intake of burgers, steak, bacon, sausage, pork chops, ham and lamb.
  • Fried foods. Take out and family-style restaurants are notorious for fried food. But the convenience and budget-friendly fare comes at the cost of an inflammatory response. Resist the temptation to choose chicken nuggets, fried fish or cheese sticks for your meals. Trade in sides like french fries and onion rings for healthier choices like rice or veggies.
  • “White” foods. Refined carbs should be avoided in an anti-inflammatory diet. These include ingredients that are made with refined grains, in which the grains have been stripped of their nutrients and fiber. White breads, white potatoes, white rice and refined pasta, as well as sugary desserts made with white flour, should be avoided in favor of their whole-grained or more nutritious counterparts, such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread and sweet potatoes.
  • Harmful fats. The “bad” fats like margarine and shortening should be avoided on anti-inflammatory diets, especially when there are healthier alternatives.

What to Add

Anti-inflammatory foods don’t just offer alternatives to ingredients known to cause inflammatory responses. Many are believed to actually help reduce swelling. Just as an ice pack on a puffy ankle is helpful, certain foods offer a remedy to internal inflammation.

  • Omega-3 foods. Fatty fish, as well as certain nuts and seeds, contain the healthy fat known as Omega-3. These fatty acids work to control the response that triggers inflammation. Add more tuna, mackerel and salmon to your weekly meal plan. For snacks or salad toppings, include pecans, walnuts and ground flaxseed.
  • Colorful fruits and vegetables. Eating the “rainbow” of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables ensures that you’re getting a wide range of antioxidant protection. Include more dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale; orange/yellow produce such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash and oranges; red fruits and veggies such as tomatoes, beets and strawberries; and purple/blue selections like blueberries, eggplant and purple cabbage.
  • Other whole foods. In general, fiber-rich foods that haven’t had their nutrients processed are good for fighting internal inflammation. Along with adding vegetables and fruits, eat more whole grains, beans and lentils.
  • Healthy fats. Instead of inflammatory fats such as margarine, butter and salad dressing, opt for olive, flaxseed and walnut oils.
  • Spices and herbs. Studies have shown that green tea, along with spices such as turmeric, black pepper and ginger, have anti-swelling properties.

Consider Supplements

It’s not always possible to cram your weekly meal plan with all of the anti-inflammatory ingredients that you need. In some cases, supplements that contain helpful ingredients can add value to your anti-inflammatory diet.

Look for ones that contain ingredients noted above. Whether you prefer your supplements in gummy form, as with BeLive’s turmeric, ginger and black pepper supplements, or BioSchwartz’s turmeric and black pepper capsules, these additions to your anti-inflammatory diet may boost your efforts.

Always check with your doctor before adding supplements, especially if you are on other medications such as blood thinners.



These Supplements Could Be A Good Choice For Inflammation

If you have a cut and it gets red and inflamed for a short time before healing, this is an example of the body’s natural inflammation response. In the case of a healing cut, short-term inflammation is beneficial. But longer-term inflammation is associated with chronic illness, ranging from arthritis to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. 

Effects of chronic inflammation

The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care says that in addition to short-term inflammation that can result from injuries, allergic reactions, and sensitivities, chronic inflammation can result in immune-related disease. Common chronic inflammatory diseases include rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease. 

According to Dr. Varinthrej Pitis, Internal Medicine specialist at Scripps Clinic in Carmel Valley, “When you don’t eat healthy, don’t get enough exercise, or have too much stress, the body responds by triggering inflammation.” You might not have any obvious symptoms of chronic inflammation, or the signs could be subtle. 

Reducing inflammation risk

Nutrition can be just as important as supplements and medication, according to Dr. Pitis. Good nutritional choices include getting enough fresh fruits and vegetables each day and reducing the amount of refined sugar you eat. Basic anti-inflammatory fruits include grapes and blueberries. Other foods and ingredients that have anti-inflammatory properties include:

  • Salmon and tuna
  • Tofu
  • Walnuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Olives
  • Ginger
  • Rosemary
  • Turmeric

As long as you’re eating anti-inflammatory foods, it can also help to cut back on foods that promote inflammation. Known inflammatory foods include:

  • Red meat
  • Trans fats (margarine, fried foods)
  • Process foods (which can include many preservatives and other inflammatory ingredients)
  • White flour
  • White rice
  • Refined sugar
  • High-fructose corn syrup

This list shows why a fast-food hamburger could contribute to inflammation because most of its ingredients are on the “inflammation” list. 

Other ways to reduce inflammation

Getting enough exercise helps to prevent inflammation. The National Institutes of Health recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise each week. Adding weight and strength training can boost your exercise benefit.

If you are not at the weight you’d like to be, losing weight isn’t just a general health recommendation. It can also help to decrease inflammation. Managing stress is important as well. Yoga, meditation, biofeedback, and guided imagery can also help to reduce stress. 

Supplements can also help to fight inflammation. Some of them reduce some types of inflammation better than others, so when choosing an anti-inflammatory supplement, your individual health needs should come first.

Supplements that can reduce inflammation

Studies have revealed the benefits of different supplements for different types of inflammation. Some supplements can fight more than one type of inflammation at a time as well. Here are some natural supplements that are made from plants and foods and the types of inflammation they can potentially fight:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon and cod. They’ve been shown to benefit vascular inflammation (found in cardiovascular disease) and degenerative disc disease.
  • Bioperine: Made from black pepper, bioperine has been studied for similar anti-inflammatory effects as the ingredient in red pepper which is anti-inflammatory: curcumin.
  • Curcumin: Curcumin is an active ingredient in the bright yellow spice, turmeric. Studies on the effectiveness of curcumin showed it could reduce inflammation from metabolic conditions. Conditions it may benefit include insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and hyperlipidemia.
  • Ginger: Ginger root contains compounds called Gingerol and Zingerone, which have been associated with reduced inflammation in people with a variety of health concerns. Studies have shown that ginger supplements, combined with healthy habits, reduced inflammation in people with kidney damage, ulcerative colitis, breast cancer, and diabetes.
  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e): SAM-e is made naturally in the body, and it influences epigenetic changes. Epigenetic changes are changes in the body’s genes related to stress or external factors like pollution and tobacco smoking. SAM-e has been shown to improve conditions as varied as osteoarthritis (OA), fibromyalgia, depression and liver conditions.
  • Zinc: The mineral zinc helps to boost the immune system, and it has also been shown through several studies to reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress triggers inflammation and is associated with cancer.
  • Green tea: Green tea contains caffeine, but also a lot of other beneficial compounds that could reduce inflammation. Researchers have discovered that green tea can reduce inflammatory symptoms of arthritis and also slow cartilage loss.
  • Capsaicin: Hot peppers get their heat from capsaicin. It can relieve nerve and muscle pain, and a number of pain-revealing rubs as well as capsaicin capsule supplements are available.

Considering anti-inflammatory supplements

The type of supplement you choose to fight inflammation should be influenced by your individual needs. Some supplements have studies that show benefits on specific conditions, while others seem to have more general anti-inflammatory effects. When you’re considering taking anti-inflammatory supplements, remember that making lifestyle changes to improve your overall health play a role as well.

Evaluating supplements that could reduce inflammation

Gummy or capsule? Some people prefer gummies for a variety of reasons, including not being able to swallow capsules effectively, especially if they’re very large. Others can take capsules and prefer them. If you’re choosing a supplement to reduce inflammation, you’ll want to think about your dietary preferences, and whether the supplements contain natural or organic ingredients. Finally, be aware of added sugar or preservatives, because these ingredients promote inflammation.

If you’re interested in taking curcumin and ginger to reduce inflammation, BeLive’s turmeric, ginger & black pepper gummies have an appealing tropical flavor and contain no additives or preservatives. They are gluten-free and also won’t stick together if the bottle gets warm thanks to a nutritional sand coating. BeLive’s gummies are “vegan friendly” as well.

If you want to take capsules, BioSchwartz offers a capsule with refined and standardized curcuminoids, the ingredients from turmeric that have anti-inflammatory properties. BioSchwartz premium ultra pure turmeric and curcumin, along with bioperine (black pepper) capsules are also natural, vegan, and have no fillers or binders. Nature’s Nutrition makes an anti-inflammatory supplement that includes turmeric curcumin and bioperine (black pepper extract) which is non-GMO and vegan.

Other anti-inflammatory supplements can affect pain, anxiety, and sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is another way to reduce inflammation. GummiMi’s hemp gummies contain hemp extract along with Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamins B and E.

Adding ginger to turmeric and black pepper can also increase anti-inflammatory benefits. Vimerson Health’s anti-inflammation capsules include turmeric, bioperine (black pepper extract), and ginger extract.