The term ‘inflammation’ literally means ‘on fire’, and this term is very descriptive. Acute inflammation, such as occurs in a broken bone, is characterized by redness, swelling and heat. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to a something that has caused irritation or damage, and after the causative factor has been ‘burnt out’ then the healing process can begin.
You may not realise that low-grade and/or chronic inflammation can be just as much of a problem, and one that is not always recognised or addressed. Many common conditions such as autoimmune diseases, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even depression have a chronic inflammatory aspect, and poor diet, lifestyle and stress can exacerbate inflammation. In addition, inflammatory conditions may be have multiple underlying contributing factors.
Most people don’t think twice about popping an aspirin or ibuprofen tablet when inflammation strikes, however these class of drugs (called ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs’ or NSAIDs) can have a range of undesirable side-effects, in particular they are not at all kind to the gastrointestinal tract.
The good news is that by including beneficial naturally anti-inflammatory foods and in the diet, limiting the intake of pro-inflammatory foods and making use of specific natural remedies, relief from pain and inflammatory conditions may be obtained.
Anti-Inflammatory Food Suggestions:
- Fresh vegetables, of many colours – include lots of leafy greens, reds, yellows, orange and blue/purple coloured vegetables daily. These are rich in antioxidants and nutrients, that help reduce the inflammatory response.
- Include the anti-inflammatory spices ginger and chilli in your diet, preferably fresh.
- Turmeric is well-known for its anti-inflammatory effect – include turmeric-based curries in your diet, and/or a high-quality turmeric supplement. You can find a recipe to make your own homemade turmeric supplement here.
- Fish oils have been extensively studied and have been shown to exhibit an anti-inflammatory effect. If you don’t eat fish regularly, consider taking a fish oil supplement, however make certain it is a high-quality ultra-purified version.
Pro-Inflammatory Foods (Limit or Avoid):
- High-glycaemic index (GI) foods such as sugars, white flour products, and cereals. These foods are pro-inflammatory. Instead, base the majority of your daily food around quality protein, vegetables, nuts/seeds and fruit.
- Hydrogenated oils such as margarine and foods that contain these - such as commercially prepared cakes, biscuits, muffins and pastries.
- Artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.
- Alcohol and caffeine intake – if you consume these, make sure you keep to a moderate level.
Living An Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle:
- Maintain a healthy weight, or lose a little weight if you need to. Obesity is a contributing factor in the development of many inflammatory conditions, and is a state of low-grade inflammation in itself.
- Get some regular exercise. Physical activity is anti-inflammatory, and also helps maintain a healthy weight and stress levels. If pain is limiting your activity, try for gentle stretching, water-based activities or yoga.
As many inflammatory conditions can have many contributing factors that you may not be aware of, so always see a qualified naturopath who can prescribe a targeted and appropriate treatment plan for your individual requirements.