Some of the best healing remedies to overcome inflammation also taste fabulous (I can’t say that about any prescription medications). Plus, foods won’t cause the nasty side effects common to most pain medications.
Anti-Inflammatory Agent: Kelp such as kombu contains fucoidan, a type of complex carbohydrate that is anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-oxidative.
A few studies on fucoidan in recent years have found promising results in using the brown algae extract to control liver and lung cancer and to promote collagen synthesis. The high fiber content of kelp also helps to induce fullness, slow fat absorption and promote weight loss. But whenever possible, get only organic kelps harvested from unpolluted sea.
Sidekicks: Need another good reason to re-visit your favorite Japanese restaurants? Besides kombu, wakame and arame are also good sources of fucoidan. A marine vegetable native to the Tongan Islands called limu moui is also a fucoidan powerhouse.
Arch-Enemy: Seaweed snack. Go easy on seaweed snacks as they can be heavily salted and coated with a thick layer of vegetable oil. Check the ingredients list before buying.
2. Cayenne Pepper: Ironically, cayenne pepper turns DOWN the heat on inflammation due to its powerful anti-inflammatory compound capsaicin.
3. Celery and
4. Celery Seeds: James Duke, Ph.D., author of The Green Pharmacy, found more than 20 anti-inflammatory compounds in celery and celery seeds in his research, including a substance called apigenin, which is powerful in its anti-inflammatory action. Add celery seeds to soups, stews or as a salt substitute in many recipes.
5. Cherries: While many people opt for aspirin as their first course of action when they feel pain, Muraleedharan Nair, PhD, professor of natural products and chemistry at Michigan State University, found that tart cherry extract is ten times more effective than aspirin at relieving inflammation.
6. Dark Green Veggies: Veggies like kale and spinach contain high amounts of alkaline minerals like calcium and magnesium. Both minerals help balance body chemistry to alleviate inflammation.
7. Fish: According to Dr. Alfred D. Steinberg, an arthritis expert at the National Institute of Health, fish oil acts directly on the immune system by suppressing 40 to 55 percent of the release of cytokines – compounds known to destroy joints and cause inflammation.
8. Flax seeds and Flax Oil: Flax seeds are high in natural oils that convert into hormone-like substances in the body to reduce inflammatory substances. Add ground flax seeds to smoothies, atop pancakes or French toast, and many other foods. Do not heat.
Clinical studies suggest that flaxseed oil and other omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful in treating a variety of conditions.
People who follow a Mediterranean diet tend to have an increased HDL, or “good” cholesterol level. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fish and healthy fats, such as olive oil, and has a healthy balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Whole grains, root and green vegetables, daily portions of fruit, fish and poultry, olive and canola oils, and ALA (from flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and walnuts) are also part of the Mediterranean diet. Red meat and saturated fats are not part of the diet.
However, whether taking flaxseed or flaxseed oil as a supplement can help lower cholesterol is up for debate. Some small studies show it has beneficial effects on cholesterol levels, but at least one double blind study found no evidence that it lowered cholesterol.
Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts or legumes, and ALA rich foods may substantially reduce the recurrence of heart disease. One of the best ways to help prevent and treat heart disease is to eat a diet that is low in saturated and trans fat and rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed and fish). Evidence suggests that people who eat an ALA rich diet are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack. ALA may reduce heart disease risks through a variety of ways, including making platelets less “sticky,” reducing inflammation, promoting blood vessel health, and reducing risk of arrhythmia (irregular heart beat).
Several human studies also suggest that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids (including ALA) may lower blood pressure.
However, it’s not clear whether taking flaxseed oil as a supplement would have the same effect on heart health.
Preliminary evidence that suggests taking 1 – 2 g of flaxseed per day can improve the symptoms of dry eye in people with Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks glands in the body that produce moisture, like salivary and tear glands.
Studies suggest that flaxseed oil may help prevent the growth of breast tumors. In one Canadian Study, researchers discovered that flaxseed oil prevented breast tumor growth, likely through ALA content. Patients with breast cancer should not take any nutritional supplement without their doctor’s approval.
Flaxseed oil comes from the seed of the flax plant. It contains 50 – 60% omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). That is more than is contained in fish oil, but the body is not very efficient at converting ALA into the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils. So ALA from flaxseed may not have the same benefit as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish oil.
9. Ginger: Dr. Krishna C. Srivastava at Odense University in Denmark found that ginger was superior to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Tylenol or Advil at alleviating inflammation.
11. Blueberry: Blueberries are also excellent anti-inflammatory foods. They increase the amounts of compounds called heat-shock proteins that decrease as people age. When heat-shock proteins are in short supply inflammation, pain and tissue damage is the result.
Anti-Inflammatory Agent: An antioxidant powerhouse, blueberry is high in phytonutrients that confer anti-inflammatory protection against many diseases such as cancer and dementia.
Sidekicks: Blackberries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries. These berries are comparable alternatives to blueberries and are equally high in antioxidants. So start feasting on one type of berries each week.
Arch-Enemy: Berries with pesticides. Insects and fungi love berries as much as we do. So berries are often sprayed with pesticides to ward off diseases and pests. To make matter worse, it is hard to wash away pesticides from berries due to their size. So it is safer to opt for organic or wild crafted version as much as possible.
12. Blackberries, and
13. Strawberries: In Dr. Muraleedharan Nair’s later research she discovered that these berries have similar anti-inflammatory effects as cherries.
14. Turmeric: Research shows that the Indian spice frequently used in curries suppresses pain and inflammation through a similar mechanism as drugs like COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors (without the harmful side effects) :
Anti-Inflammatory Agent: This Asian spice commonly found in pre-mixed curry powder contains a powerful, non-toxic compound called curcumin. Studies found that turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects are on a par with potent drugs such as hydrocortisone and Motrin, but yet having none of their side effects.
Sidekicks: Ginger. This relative of turmeric is also highly prized around the world for its anti-inflammatory benefits, and are used to expel cold and relieve motion sickness and vomiting.
Arch-Enemy: Sugar. It can hardly be called a spice, but the widespread use of sugar rivals that of any spice and has led to a host of illnesses linked to this additive condiment. A diet high in sugar is decidedly inflammation-promoting and should be controlled.
15. Walnuts: Like flax seeds, raw, unsalted walnuts contain plentiful amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids that decrease pain and inflammation.
Anti-Inflammatory Agent: The flavonoids in green tea are potent natural anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown in numerous studies to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Sidekicks: Water. What can be more cleansing for the body than zero contamination water?
Arch-Enemy: Processed cow’s milk. Non-organic milk carries antibiotics and growth hormone residues that can irritate immune system when they are consumed long-term. Many people, especially those in the East, also cannot digest milk properly, causing distress to the digestive tract.
See : Health Benefits of Green Tea
17. Sweet Potato:
Anti-Inflammatory Agent: Sweet potato is often overshadowed by other exotic vegetables and fruits. But it is also a good source of complex carbohydrate, beta-carotene, manganese, vitamin B6 and C as well as dietary fiber. Working in concert, these nutrients are powerful antioxidants that help to heal inflammation in the body.
Sidekicks: Spinach. This dark green leafy vegetable is such a rich source of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative flavonoids and carotenoids that it is almost impossible to believe. But it is true. And here is only a partial list: Vitamin A, B2, B6, C, E, K, calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and tryptophan. But be sure to buy organic ones whenever possible as it is also among the foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found.
Arch-Enemies: Processed potatoes. Although potato is a good source of vitamin C and other minerals, potato chips and french fries aren’t. Commercially processed potatoes are usually prepared in overheated polyunsaturated or hydrogenated oils, and are loaded with high amounts of sugar and salt, increasing the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes for anyone who munches on them.
18. Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
Anti-Inflammatory Agent: Virgin olive oil is Mediterranean’s secret to longevity. Its rich supply of polyphenols protects the heart and blood vessels from inflammation. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil are also turned into anti-inflammatory agents by the body that can lower occurrences of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Sidekicks: Avocado oil. Also known as alligator pear, avocado produces oil that has a fat composition similar to olive oil, containing high heart-beneficial monounsaturated fats. But it has an even higher smoke point than olive oil, making it the ideal oil for cooking.
Arch-Enemy: Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. This commercial oil contains trans-fatty acids that lowers the ‘good’ cholesterol and raises the ‘bad’ ones — a shortcut to contracting cardiovascular disease.
19. Shiitake Mushroom:
Anti-Inflammatory Agent: Enjoyed by the Chinese and the Japanese since ancient times, shiitake mushroom is revered for its immune-boosting properties and its mild smoky taste.
Sidekicks: Maitake, enoki, oyster mushrooms. There is no better way to fight cancer and enhance your health than to feast on a plate of stir-fried medicinal mushrooms. Yummy!
Arch-Enemy: Deep-fried mushrooms and vegetables. Throwing fresh mushrooms and vegetables into a big pot of boiling oil will not only soak up lots of cancer-causing compounds from the overheated oil, their healing powers will also be greatly diminished by the high temperature.
Anti-Inflammatory Agent: Coined by Christopher Columbus as the ‘fruit of the angels’, papaya contains papain, a protein-digesting enzyme. Together with other nutrients such as vitamin C and E, papain helps to reduce inflammation, and improves digestion and healing from burns.
Sidekicks: Pineapple. A tropical fruit worthy of mention, pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that aids in the healing of indigestion, sports injury, trauma and other kinds of swelling. Extracts of bromelain have also proven to be as effective as some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and are used in a number of natural anti-inflammatory supplements for arthritis.
Arch-Enemy: Preservative-laden fruits. Dried fruits can contain high levels of chemicals such as sulphur dioxide, a preservative which has been linked to increased respiratory disease. Eat fresh fruits whenever possible, but if you must opt for the dried form, make sure it is preservative-free.
Note: If you have allergic to the foods listed here, you must of course avoid them, no matter how nutrient-packed they may be. Consuming food that you are sensitive to will only cause more — not reduce — inflammation.
Adapted from Arthritis-Proof: The Drug-Free Way to Beat Pain and Inflammation by Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.
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