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Fighting Inflammation with Food

Feb 24, 2015 09:17PM ● By Michelle Eberwein

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one in three adults and more than 300,000 children in this country suffer from some form of inflammation, which can contribute to illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, lupus, diabetes, fibromyalgia, gout and multiple sclerosis. Foods high in sugar and saturated fat can set off inflammation by causing overactivity of the immune system. We must learn to navigate food labels and research inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods in an attempt to feel better. Or, we might employ a health coach with a primary goal of helping us.

Some people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia are able to put their conditions into remission with food, but in many cases, people do not realize that what they eat is contributing to their illness. Sugar, carbohydrates, soda pop, candy, vegetable oil, processed foods and saturated fats all cause inflammation. The answer is to eat whole, natural foods exclusively, which becomes in essence, an anti-inflammatory diet. Here are some of the top foods proven to reduce inflammation.

Berries have high anti-inflammatory properties due to their antocyanins, a compound that gives them their color. Strawberries have shown to lower C-reactive protein in the bloodstream. Cherries reduce inflammation in arthritic patients, blueberries reduce intestinal inflammation and raspberries decrease inflammation in the colon, breast and esophagus.

Pineapple contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called bromelain that reduces joint swelling and inflammation. Studies at the University of Maryland Medical Center show that these properties are also helpful in reducing swelling and pain in musculoskeletal injuries. Always look for a pineapple that feels heavy, with no bruising or soft spots.

Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) contains healthy monounsaturated fats and a natural compound called oleocanthal which reduces inflammation. This compound blocks the same inflammatory pathways as ibuprofen and aspirin, reducing pain symptoms. Research by the Arthritis Foundation shows that three-and-a-half tablespoons of EVOO equals 200 milligrams of ibuprofen.

Spices sometimes have great anti-inflammatory effects, specifically curry powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, turmeric, basil, parsley and rosemary. Studies indicate that spices help in decreasing inflammation and are a great way to add anti-inflammatory properties to any meal. When we add spices to our cooking, we are keeping inflammation at bay. Only a sprinkle is needed to get the full effect.

Tomatoes help reduce inflammation due to high levels of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Cooked tomatoes contain even more lycopene than raw, so tomato sauce is ideal, but watch out for added sugar in jarred sauces. It is always best to make our own and add in spices for a great anti-inflammatory meal.

Garlic is one anti-inflammatory food that the U.S. National Institutes of Health agree has the ability to battle inflammation. Many times, garlic supplements are prescribed as a way to help with chronic inflammation, but an easier way is to simply start using more in our cooking. To prepare garlic for best absorption, slice or mince it. Just soften it up to release its flavor without burning it. Use extra virgin olive oil for an added anti-inflammatory bonus.

Nuts are also a good source of inflammation-fighting, healthy fats. Almonds are rich in fiber, calcium and vitamin E. Walnuts have high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a powerful antioxidant. All nuts are packed with antioxidants that help the body suppress inflammation and repair the damage it causes.

Here are some things to avoid:

Aspartame and MSG are two common food additives that trigger an immediate inflammatory response in the body. MSG causes liver inflammation, inflames blood vessels, destroys red blood cells and is connected to Type 2 diabetes. Noted physician Dr. Russel Blaylock notes that aspartame turns into formaldehyde in the body, which causes neurological issues.

Trans fats are suspected to be damaging in terms of inflammation by increasing “bad” cholesterol to foster obesity and resistance to insulin. Avoid fried foods, fast foods and commercial bakery items.

Simple and refined carbs such as breads, crackers, white flour, white rice and sugar set up a state of inflammation in the body.

Those that suffer from inflammation can make small changes in their diet with these foods to feel better.


Michelle Eberwein is a Certified Health and Nutrition Coach and owner of Inner Hope and Wellness, at INSIDE Holistic and Cultural Arts Center, in McHenry. A Foods that Fight Inflammation class will be held at 7 p.m., Mar. 12, and 10 a.m., Mar. 14. Contact her at 224-622-7991, [email protected] or InnerHopeAndWellness.com and MyOnlineHealthCoach.com.