On a simple level, inflammation is a way the body attempts to repair damage, irritation or infection. In addition to swelling around the area, it can cause redness, pain and warmth. You know how your ankle swells up if you accidently twist it? Yeap, inflammation!
But in this case, the swelling and limited mobility are good things; a sign that your immune system is doing its job. However, if not kept in check and ignored, inflammation can wreak all kinds of havoc in the body manifesting as chronic pain, arthritis, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and many other ailments. It goes without saying that we want to work to reduce inflammation. There are some medications you can take to reduce it, however we’d like to introduce five natural ways to reduce inflammation - ways that if incorporated into your life will not only keep you healthier but will infuse you with more energy and vitality!
Eat your greens. And reds, and yellows.
It goes without saying that vegetables and berries should already be staples in your diet. Two to three servings a day should be the minimum. However, instead of sticking to just the greens, make sure that you have a spectrum of colourful vegetables and berries every day. Yes, this includes red, yellow and orange peppers, many colours and varieties of berries, green leafy vegetables, garlic and onions, and more. These not only have anti-inflammatory properties but many also come with a hefty dose of antioxidants. A word of warning though, nightshades - tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants - can trigger pain in some people because they have a chemical alkaloid called solanine in them which synthesises the symptoms of inflammation. So be wary of eating these plants.
Don’t be afraid of your fats
Aah fat. Or rather fatty acids. Such a lot of misinformation flying around about this essential food. Fatty acids, particularly Omega-3 essential fatty acid, contain some pretty powerful anti-inflammatory properties that you don’t want to be missing out on. Get this by adding oily fish such as salmon, halibut and tuna to your diet. Or alternatively, add some nuts and seeds like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, grapeseed, flaxseed and sesame seeds to your diet. If you feel you are not getting enough of your Omega-3 through just food, then add to your diet with an Omega-3 supplement that contains wild fish oil and low levels of mercury!
Eat your curry!
Malaysia is the best place to get your fill of spices. We add spices to almost all our foods. And guess what? All that spice that tickles your nose while cooking is also filled with high levels of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds that reduce inflammation. Some examples of spices that you probably already use while cooking are cumin, coriander, fennel, garlic, oregano, pepper, rosemary, chilli peppers, basil, bay leaves, thyme, sage, ginger and dill. Chili peppers are especially touted for its anti-inflammatory properties because it contains a naturally occurring ingredient called capsaicin. So don’t shy away from your daily dose of chilli!
Say ‘no’ to sugar
Sugar is fast becoming the new ‘fat’, and not for naught. There has been countless research on the effects of sugar on the body. And sugar isn’t just your chocolate bar, fizzy drinks and dessert; it also includes bread, pasta and pastries. All these simple carbohydrates rev up inflammation by causing blood sugar surges that promote a chemical reaction called glycosylation. In order to reduce inflammation you want to avoid these surges by sticking to more complex carbohydrates with low glycemic index such as apples, broccoli, black and blueberries, beans, cabbage, leafy greens, spinach, citrus fruits, strawberries and asparagus.
Watch what you eat
I suppose this might seem like a blanket statement, but some foods are known to cause an inflammatory response. This might means foods like wheat, gluten, eggs, dairy, soy or nuts for some people. It’s good to do a sensitivity test on these foods to determine which one might be causing the inflammatory reaction in you. If you suspect you’re sensitive to one (or more) of these foods, try eliminating it out of your diet for two weeks and see if symptoms like lethargy, headaches and/or bloating go away. It might be a pain to do it for each food item but it’s worth it!
Hopefully these five simple, natural ways to eliminate inflammation will go a long way in keeping you healthy!