Inflammation is the body’s normal physiological response to injury. Inflammation is caused by inflammatory factors such as diet and lifestyle and Inflammatory triggers including trauma, toxins, infection, allergens, hyperglycemia, inability to breakdown amino acids, and oxidative stress (causing free radicals). Inflammation puts pressure on nerves resulting in pain.
What you put in your body is the most critical factor in controlling pain and inflammation. Here are 10 of the best foods to eat to reduce inflammation.
- Salmon. Coldwater fish, including salmon, contains anti-inflammatory fats called omega-3s. Wild salmon contains more of these healthy fats than farmed salmon. Herring, sardines, and tuna also contain omega-3s.
- Grass-fed beef and other animal foods. As opposed to traditional, grain-fed livestock, meat that comes from animals fed grass also contains anti-inflammatory omega-3s.
- Olive oil. Olive oil is a great source of oleic acid, an anti-inflammatory oil. According to the October 2007 Journal of the American College of Nutrition, those who consume more oleic acid have better insulin function and lower blood sugar.
- Salads. Dark-green lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and other salad veggies are rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants.
- Cruciferous vegetables. These include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale, and are loaded with antioxidants. They also produce sulfur that the body needs to make its own high-powered antioxidants, such as glutathione.
- Cherries. A study in the April 2006 Journal of Nutrition showed that eating cherries daily can significantly reduce inflammation. Cherries are also packed with antioxidants and relatively low on the glycemic index.
- Blueberries. This berry is full of natural compounds that reduce inflammation.
- Turmeric. This spice contains a powerful, natural inflammatory compound, according to a report in the August 2007 Biochemical Pharmacology. To use: Buy powdered curry spice (which contains turmeric and other spices) and use it as a seasoning when cooking.
- Garlic. Garlic is believed to have some anti-inflammatory and glucose-regulating benefits and helps your body fight infections.
- Herbal tea. Many herbal teas contain natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Suggestion: Drink a cup a day — or brew it like sun tea, refrigerate, and serve.
Foods to Avoid
Just as there are foods that reduce inflammation, there are foods that increase it.
Processed Sugars and High-glycemic Starches- According to an article in the March 2002 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, processed sugars and other high-glycemic starches increase inflammation. The glycemic index ranks carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels.
Artificial Food Additives or Preservatives are substances added to food to preserve flavor or enhance its taste and appearance. They are often found in processed foods. They include ingredients such as MSG.
Shelf life – if it has a shelf-life of more than 2 weeks, it probably contains preservatives and should be avoided.
Label-reading – if it has more than 5 ingredients, it is probably a highly processed food. If you can’t easily discern what the ingredients are, it is likely a preservative.
Examples of common foods/additives to avoid:
Sugar – Avoid as much as possible all foods containing added sugar (e.g. cakes, candies, ice cream, sodas, certain cereals, Jell-O, ketchup, barbecue sauce, etc.).
Use sugar that is natural to food such as sugar found in fruits. Raw, unfiltered honey, unsulfured black strap molasses, pure maple syrup, rice syrup and date sugar may be used as sweeteners, but should be used in moderation. However, some people need to avoid these completely as well. Stevia is acceptable as a sweetener.
Alcohol – Avoid all alcoholic beverages including liquor, beer and wine. Try naturally sparkling spring water with a twist of lemon or lime as your social drink.
Caffeine - Avoid coffee, tea, cola and chocolate as much as possible. It is advisable to also avoid decaffeinated coffee such as Sanka or Brim, as chemicals are used in the decaffeination process. If coffee is used, it should be organic, as most coffee is high in pesticides. Herb teas are not only acceptable substitutes, but often therapeutic.
White Flour Products – Avoid white bread, white pasta products and also white rice. Whole grain flour products and brown rice may be used instead. However, some people who have problems with gluten sensitivity may need to avoid whole grains containing gluten (wheat, oats, rye, barley and possibly others).
Hydrogenated Fats – Avoid hydrogenated fats — oils which have been made hard by the addition of hydrogen atoms (e.g., margarine, Crisco, processed mayonnaise, and processed peanut butter) — as they contain trans fatty acids. Old-fashioned nut butter that is not hydrogenated may be used. Saturated fats (e.g., butter, animal fats) are okay in moderation. Unsaturated cold pressed vegetable oils (e.g., safflower, sesame, canola, sunflower, virgin olive oil) may be used.
Chemicals added to food – Labels must be read. In some cases, labels do not reflect the chemicals in the food. Avoid artificial preservatives (e.g., BHA, BHT, MSG, nitrites, nitrates, sodium benzoate, etc.) commonly found in bread, crackers, and cereals. All processed, cured meats such as bologna, salami, frankfurters, corned beef and pastrami, should be avoided because of the addition of chemicals. Avoid artificial coloring as commonly found in frankfurters, soda, certain candy, maraschino cherries, juice drinks, etc. Avoid artificial flavoring commonly found in certain ice creams, frozen pies and candy. Avoid artificial sweeteners: aspartame (Nutrasweet), saccharine (Sweet ‘n Low), and sucralose (Splenda). All diet sodas, any diabetic foods, and other processed low calorie foods should be avoided. Stevia may be used as a sweetener.
Bromine & Bromide – Avoid commercial baked goods and other sources of bromide and bromine.
Herbs for Joint Pain
Devil’s Claw Root
Traditionally used to offer slow but sure relief of joint pain caused by both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and it has also been shown to relieve muscle pain and enhance mobility for people with either arthritis or muscle injuries
Also known as, curcumin, reduces inflammation in the body. Add ¼ teaspoon per day to your diet. After a few weeks you can increase to ½ teaspoon per day. Sprinkle it on scrambled eggs, add it to soups and stir fry, or mix it into sauces such as pasta sauce, or salad dressings.
White willow bark
The bark contains salicin, which has been used to relieve pain for centuries and is an active ingredient used in the commercial drug aspirin; however, aspirin has been chemically synthesized. In its pure, natural form, white willow bark is known as the “herbal aspirin.” Whether the pain is chronic or acute, in the lower back, joints, head, or teeth, white willow bark is effective herbal pain medicine. White willow bark can also relieve pain associated with various types of arthritis, and can reduce inflammation and fever.
If you want relatively quick relief to muscle and joint pain, magnesium is the first supplement to try. Magnesium is necessary for numerous body functions. It is used to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, regulate heart rhythm, and support the immune system. Magnesium also regulates blood sugar levels and blood pressure. For many people, a normal diet may not be enough for optimum magnesium levels so it’s wise to take a supplement. Also, medications such as diuretics and antibiotics may result in magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium is used in analgesics before surgery to help the patient’s muscles relax. Take it right before going to bed, and it will help you have a good night’s sleep. In the morning you’ll awake with relaxed muscles. The only negative to magnesium is diarrhea can occur if you take more than the recommended dosage. This is a temporary effect, however, and will cease when you reduce the dosage. Magnesium is available in tablets, liquid, or powder. It is basically tasteless, so if you’re averse to pills, the liquid or power can be mixed into smoothies or tea.
Found throughout the body as a component of connective tissue. Its main function is to cushion and lubricate. HA helps to support healthy skin, eyesight and joint function. Joints deficient of HA don’t move well and become stiff. Those taking the supplement report relatively quick relief to joint pain; however, it’s main benefit will be felt over time as it aids strengthening of connective and joint tissue.