Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is not something that you want to take lightly as it can cause serious long-term damage if it’s not taken care of. Chronic inflammation can be localized, as well as systemic. Some examples of localized inflammation are arthritis in a specific joint, cirrhosis of the liver and inflammatory bowel disease.
Systemic inflammation can be seen in autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and in some cardiovascular diseases.
There are tons of prescription and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications on the market. Unfortunately, these types of medications come with a wide range of side-effects and are generally not recommended for long term use. Fortunately there are natural ways to reduce inflammation in your body.
1. Boswellia Serrata
This is one of my favorites and the most popular supplement I sell in the office. Extracts of Boswellia serrata have been clinically studied for osteoarthritis and joint function with the research showing a improvement of both pain and function compared to a placebo. Boswellia supplements have shown positive results in some chronic inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, bronchial asthma, osteoarthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Boswellia is often included in Joint Supplements such as Glucosamine. I recommend two products for overall joint health in my office, both of which include Boswellia extract. They are Standard Process Glucosamine Synergy and Life Matters Motion. Although it is a natural anti-inflammatory, it can interact with medications you are currently taking so consult with your medical provider first.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The primary pathway of inflammation is built primarily from Omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to note that acute inflammation is beneficial to the body. Without it, wounds and infections would never heal. After the temporary inflammation takes care of the problem, your body releases molecules to shut off inflammation before it gets out of control. That is where Omega-3s come in. Having enough Omega-3s in your body helps the body combat and resolve acute inflammation before it becomes uncontrolled chronic inflammation.
Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and it is recommended to eat them 2-3x/week. Don’t like fish that much? Don’t worry, taking a high quality supplement is a good alternative. Look for the DHA and EPA values in the Fish Oil as their combined value should be at least 500mg daily. Need another reason to add Omega-3s to your diet? A recent study showed Omega-3s can help prevent heart disease in healthy people and reduce the risk of heart attack in people with existing heart disease.
3. Dark Leafy Greens
Vitamin E is a sort of superhero against inflammation. Studies have suggested that vitamin E plays a key role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. The best source of Vitamin E is in dark green veggies, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens. As a added bonus, dark leafy veggies are high in iron and calcium. So take your mom’s advice and eat your broccoli.
It seems like turmeric is everywhere these days, and that is a good thing. Turmeric is an herb that has been used for medicinal reasons for thousands of years. Curcumin is the active ingredient in Turmeric and arguably the most powerful aspect of curcumin is its ability to control inflammation. The best way to addTurmeric to your life is adding it to your food. You can blend it up in a smoothie, stir into soups or curries, or sprinkle on your veggies.
Your local grocery store should sell turmeric root in the produce section that you can grate yourself or you can find it dried in the spice aisle. Look for high quality, organic turmeric to ensure it was not grown with conventional pesticides.
5. Decreasing Omega-6 Fatty Acids
I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, didn’t she just say to eat more Omega-3 Fatty Acids? Why should I decrease the Omega-6 Fatty Acids?” I know, it can be confusing. For optimal health you need both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. The problem is most of us get too many Omega-6 and too little Omega-3. And too many Omega-6 fatty acids can cause a blocking of the anti-inflammatory action of the Omega-3 fatty acids. Ideally, we are looking for a 1:1 ratio of Omega 3:Omega 6 in our diet. (Most Americans diet consists of 1: 30 ratio, Eek!) Confused? Don’t worry, I am about to simplify it.
Eat Less Omega 6 Fatty Acids which include: processed vegetable oils like canola, corn, soy and peanut oil, eggs, some salad dressings, margarine, potato chips and cereals.
Eat More Omega 3 Fatty Acids: See #2 above.
6. Tart Cherries
Another one of my favorites on the list. A 2012 research article, Oregon Health & suggested that tart cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.” Tart cherry juice has used for years been help athletes improve their performance and reduce their use of anti-inflammatory pain meds. Serving size is 1.5 cups of tart cherries or 1 cup of tart cherry juice. The keyword here is Tart Cherries, so sweet cherries and cherry pie don’t work. Sorry.
7. Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking plenty of water is one of the those tips that makes it on every healthy living list. Want to lose weight? Drink plenty of water. Want healthier looking skin? Drink plenty of water. It is just that important and the benefits of staying hydrated are endless. Reducing inflammation is no exception. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day and limit caffeine consumption which can cause dehydration. Tired of the same boring water? Infuse your water with fruits or herbs. My favorites are lemon/mint and cucumber/basil. Want to decrease inflammation? Drink plenty of water.
8. Limit Refined Carbohydrates
I know, you were hoping I would tell you pizza will help you decrease inflammation. Sorry to be a bearer of bad news, but refined carbs like processed flours, fast foods, cakes, cookies, pastries and breads will spike insulin levels in your body. Spiked insulin levels can create a “pro-inflammation” environment in your body. Don’t worry cauliflower crust pizza can be a delicious alternative.