Inflammation. This word buzzes around wellness and health circles in all corners of the globe. It has been discussed ad nauseum and vast amounts of research have been devoted to cracking the code of the mechanisms and prevention of this phenomena. Let’s get this point made right away, Inflammation alone is NOT a bad thing!
Remember when cholesterol was the bad guy? “Avoid it at all costs, it clogs arteries and leads to heart disease,” as touted by the talking heads on TV. Remember when fat, in general, was the scapegoat for all things disease and sickness? We know now with great clarity that fat and cholesterol are our allies! Our bodies function optimally with the proper proportion of these life enhancing and life supporting substances. What brings about detriment is the overkill of these biological marvels. Too much water causes deleterious effects on the human body, including death. Still, we must consume water, and we must have cholesterol and fat to live. Respectively, we require inflammation. I know, I know, an explanation is in order.
What happens if we injure soft tissue, or connective tissue? We get bumps and bruises, right? There is a reason for this. The body has adapted to embrace acute inflammation. It answers to damage and injury by flooding the region with all sorts of substances meant to elicit a healing response. The mission is much like a “bubble boy” situation. A warm pillow enshrouds the area protecting it from further damage. Like all things, that inflammatory pillow is temporary. Or at least its supposed to be.
Moderation is the key. When inflammation becomes chronic, or when the inflammatory response is continuously triggered, that is when problems arise and cumulative damage occurs. Going back to the “bubble boy” scenario, constant coddling creates confusion. Alliteration, I’m a big fan. Anyways, take the intestinal tract in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). If specific cells and layers of the large intestine are inflamed for a long period, nothing bad leaves the area, and nothing good enters the area. It’s like a perpetual quarantine zone without any medicine able to get in!
Now let me give you the juice, the goods, the sweet stuff. What I’m referring to are the Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods. The big hitters that actively prevent, inhibit, and repair dysregulated inflammation.
Cinnamon, this delicious culinary herb that is great in sweet and savory dishes alike, naturally contains sodium benzoate which actively inhibits pro-inflammatory immune agents and inflammation increasing enzymatic processes. Clove, another culinary herb found everywhere, contains a great many potent antioxidants (scavenging free radicals that catabolize, or break down, important bodily structures). This herb also has significant metal chelating properties. That means heavy metal detox! Onions, truly a prolific food and herb. Quercetin is featured prominently in this plant ally against inflammation. This down-regulates fatty inflammation pathways and also reduces the effects of vascular inflammation. Mushrooms contain valuable water-soluble beta-glucans researched for years as powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Beyond that, beta-glucans are also powerful immunopotentiators – that means they boost the immune system when it is deficient and calm the immune system when it is overactive.
Here is the single most important element that you need to know about these 10 powerful anti-inflammatory foods … To draw out their power, cook them! Or extract them, or prepare them in a tea!
The study that revealed these as the 10 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods tested 115 food samples. From common culinary herbs and spices, to grocery store staple fruits and vegetables, even to marine algae. The list above contains the superior inflammation fighting foods. The researchers found that prepared versions of these foods were best for therapeutic results. So, does that mean run to the store and get only extracts of these foods. Not at all!
What it does mean is that there is magic in cooking. With that, long ago when our ancestors were making “teas” and “soups” in ancient China by throwing in dried barks (e.g. cinnamon), tubers (e.g. potatoes), leaves (e.g. tea), and fruits peels (e.g. lime zest), they were on to something very delicious, very nutritious, and very serious to human health!
Tasty but Toxic
What about foods that have the opposite effect? Meaning, the foods that cause inflammation! You know, the ones that if consumed in great amounts and over a longer period will actually cause more harm than help. (Sigh) This may sting a bit …
Pasteurized, homogenized, fortified. These are words to avoid, if possible, with dairy. There is hope though! Cultured dairy (kefir, cheese, yogurt) from raw and organic sources have been shown to have prebiotic, probiotic, and anti-inflammatory properties. The issue is proper sourcing! Even if its organic, pasteurized dairy equals pro-inflammation. Seek the best sources, local farmers are great, and know that raw sheep and goat milks are superior to cow’s milk for human consumption.
The buzz is on and gluten is linked to numerous health hazards and disease states. What to do? Look for gluten-free grains like quinoa, oats, millet, and amaranth. Our food science has vastly improved and there are delicious gluten-free grain options available for pastries, pies, pancakes and more. Even packaged gluten-free flour mixes are available in Non-GMO and Organic versions. Still desire that gluten texture? Try soaking your grains! The activation from water or brine soaking will change the composition of the grains to make them friendlier to gut flora and your body. Go one step further by fermenting your grains!
The over processing of sugars, like the over processing of grains, destroys a lot of the good stuff and promotes a lot of the bad stuff. With our society’s desire for sweet foods, white sugar was born. Do not hesitate on this – refined sugar is a killer! We all know this by now, so what’s the alternative. Pure forms of sweetening like honey, black-strap molasses, turbinado sugar, and stevia are allies to the body, not adversaries. Again, moderation!
I get it! The list above includes those sweet, delicious morsels of food found all over industrialized countries. So-called ‘first-world foods.’ Well, they lead to first-class diseases … when overly implemented into one’s eating habits. What I am NOT saying is that you ought to completely avoid these food stuffs. It is my goal to make you more aware of the implications of keeping these food elements as staples, or principals, in your diet. Knowledge is power. And know that this list above contains potent pro-inflammatory foods.
Just for you! The mulberry tree is the giver of numerous medicines, and food. A particular part of the mulberry tree, known as Sang Shen, in Chinese Herbal Medicine is a powerhouse anti-inflammatory herb! It contains mulberroside and oxyreservatrol which both act to inhibit specific pro-inflammatory pathways, scavenge free radicals, and attenuate ‘fatty’ and ‘sugary’ inflammatory agents. Reservatrol, found also in red wines, is a well-researched antioxidant extraordinaire.
Also, turmeric. Yeah, I did not forget that one. The research on this herbal ally is prolific. Still, the herbs on our Top 10 list do not include it. Well, turmeric is best when combined with black pepper (Note: Turmeric and Black Pepper are both Chinese Herbs) and also when fermented. The ancient herbalists of China and India have long used turmeric for thousands of years to heal. In Chinese Herbalism, we even have multiple forms of Curcuma, referring to curcumin, the notable medicinal component in turmeric. Oh, the science of Chinese Medicine is DEEP!
A Winning Team
As practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), our physicians at Lakewood Ranch Acupuncture and Wellness have been highly trained in herbal medicine and have access to premium sources. By that I mean practitioner-only, medical-grade, high-quality, top-shelf products. Guess what cinnamon and clove are? Yes, tasty spices. But also powerful herbs within the Chinese pharmacopeia! “Okay, so what? I can get those at any grocery store,” you may say. True, however, the ancient wisdomkeepers knew millennia ago that herbs by themselves are like pieces on a chessboard. You need a whole team for winning success! A team has the power the lift each other up, enhance the strength of each member, and compensate for each other’s weaknesses. With the right coach (Read: Practitioner), the team’s chance, and likelihood, of great achievement is optimized. That is how herbs, and supplements, work when guided by expert hands!
The team at Lakewood Ranch Acupuncture and Wellness is dedicated to supporting your health and healing journey. Set up an appointment now and get started on your Anti-Inflammation Herbal and Nutritional program today! If you’re already a patient here, ask your practitioner on how to best incorporate these foods into your diet.
If you are looking for more options, Dr. Andrew Weil, the famous shaggy bearded holistic health guru has created an Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid. There have been some amazing discoveries since he crafted this easy to follow guide, yet the information he presents is solid.
Photo Credit: True Food Kitchen
Give us a call at Lakewood Ranch Acupuncture and Wellness to design an Anti-Inflammation Diet and Lifestyle for you. Located in beautiful Sarasota, FL consider us for a vacation treatment or as your local team of doctors! If you have any questions regarding your current condition or for more options in your healing journey, please contact us now. Your optimal health is our mission!
- Chung, Ko et al. In-vitro and in-vivo anti-inflammatory effect of oxyresveratrol from Morus alba L. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Dec 2003.
- Gunawardena, D. et al. Determination of anti-inflammatory activities of standardised preparations of plant- and mushroom-based foods. European Journal of Nutrition. May 2013.
- Olendzki, B et al. An anti-inflammatory diet as treatment for inflammatory bowel disease: A case series report. Nutrition Journal. Jan 2014.
- Weil, Andrew. “Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.” https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/anti-inflammatory-diet-pyramid/dr-weils-anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid/