If you are living with any kind of pain, then you are living with inflammation. This article discusses inflammation and offers some insights into natural anti-inflammatories that can help ease inflammation and pain, without the side effects of medications.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s natural acute response generated by the immune system to help fight off infection from outside invaders such as viruses or bacteria. Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting it from toxins, pathogens, and injury. The origin of all pain is inflammation.
Whilst inflammation is an important and natural response, the challenge to our well-being is when inflammation becomes chronic. This is often attributed to poor dietary and lifestyle choices. Chronic inflammation occurs when this inflammatory response lingers, leaving your body in a constant state of alert as if to fight an ongoing battle. Over time, chronic inflammation can lead to long-term damage to the body’s organs and tissues. This can lead to chronic disease. Chronic inflammation is also called the “silent killer”. It can impact the quality of our lives and lead to serious health conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and auto-immune disorders such as fibromyalgia.
It is important, even critical, that we manage inflammation in our bodies for our long-term well-being.
Common symptoms of chronic inflammation include:
fatigue and exhaustion
gastro-intestinal issues such as constipation, bloating, and diarrhea
anxiety or depression
unexplained weight loss
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and last for several months or years.
Foods to Avoid
Firstly, when we consider food as medicine, we can also argue that certain foods can be harmful to our bodies. Some dietary choices can worsen inflammation. For example:
Refined sugars and high-glycaemic carbohydrates. These include refined starches, sugars, and most packaged foods i.e, many breakfast cereals, ice cream, lollies, and sweets
Gluten, white flour breads & pastas
Processed meats such as cold cuts (salami, ham, prosciutto) and sausages
Trans-Fats and saturated fats are found in many commercially processed foods, packaged baked foods (meat pies & sausage rolls, muffins), and deep-fried foods
Processed foods with little to no nutritional value
Excessive alcohol consumption
In many cases, dairy foods can exacerbate inflammation.
A Natural Response to Inflammation
Natural medicine and healthy lifestyle and dietary choices can go a long way to reducing and managing inflammation in the body. Eating nutrient-dense and whole foods (foods in their most natural state & as unprocessed as possible) is one of the most important ways to reduce inflammation naturally.
These foods help to reduce inflammation
Fresh vegetables – Use the rainbow technique. Nature has given us a variety of vegetables of a variety of different colors that are rich in phytonutrients. Make sure you include an abundance of dark leafy greens – kale, spinach, rocket salad – are important.
Whole pieces of fruit – this is preferable to juicing as you miss out on fiber with juices. Berries and cherries, and especially blueberries, are full of vitamins and antioxidants called flavonoids that help fight inflammation.
Oily fish – such as tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, and mackerel
Whole grains – brown rice, oats, millet, barley, amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa. These and other unrefined grains tend to be high in fiber, which can help reduce inflammation
Healthy fats – extra virgin olive oil is still the best option, but avocado and hemp oil are excellent sources of quality omega-3.
Nuts/seeds – such as walnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, chia, hemp
Legumes/beans – especially chickpeas, lentils, black beans, black-eyed peas, red kidney beans
Herbs & spices – turmeric, ginger, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, cinnamon. Add these liberally to your cooking
Turmeric – There are now countless research studies that acknowledge the anti-inflammatory properties of medicinal herbs such as Turmeric., which helps inhibit the chemicals that can contribute to pain and inflammation. When combined with other herbs such as ginger and garlic, Turmeric is known to improve blood flow and reduce pain and acute inflammation.
Omega-3 – Found in quality fish oils, both EPA & DHA can support long-term anti-inflammatory treatment and support tissue repair in the body
Magnesium – As a natural muscle relaxant, magnesium is known to reduce spasms and muscular tension
Shifting to a diet that supports your body in reducing inflammation can go a long way to helping you manage pain naturally.
Whilst we advocate for food as medicine, we also understand that some medications are essential. We would never encourage anyone to stop medications without talking to their doctor first.
If you are taking a number of medications and would like to consider herbal medicine, it is important to talk to an experienced Naturopath & Nutritionist. Keri Hogarth, our naturopath, can help you through the often confusing maze of understanding the link between nutrition, herbal medicine, and pharmaceutical medicines to ensure that you start a safe and natural approach to reducing your inflammation.