There’s a burning topic (pun intended) of conversation these days, if you follow any health trends or new diets.
The topic is, of course, inflammation. Especially in the last few years, the symptoms and complications from inflammation have been discussed extensively, and recent medical research has brought the condition into more of a public discussion.
And the reason is pretty clear — we all experience inflammation, as it’s our body’s response to fighting off infection or disease.
It’s why your ankle might swell up when you sprain it, or when your throat feels sore and irritated when you’re sick. Inflammation is often characterized by redness, swelling, pain or discomfort, and some immobility.
Inflammation can fall into two categories – acute or chronic.
Acute inflammation might be triggered by something like a sprained ankle. Inflammation is the body’s reaction to harm or injury. Plasma and white blood cells are delivered to the damaged tissues (through your blood) to start the process of healing.
Prolonged, or chronic, inflammation “leads to a progressive shift in the type of cells present at the site of inflammation.”
Chronic inflammation is typically a symptom associated with autoimmune diseases, allergies, and conditions like osteoarthritis.
“Whether acute or chronic,” explains Dr. Scott Walker, family physician, “inflammation is the body’s natural response to a problem, so it makes us aware of issues that we might not otherwise acknowledge.”
There are long-term side effects, however, with chronic inflammation, and recent studies have even found links between inflammation and our emotional health.
“Immune components, such as proinflammatory cytokines and brain-reactive antibodies, can induce changes in neurotransmitter and neuroendocrine function related to psychiatric disorders,” reports the study. In other words, conditions that trigger inflammation (like lupus or other auto-immune diseases) are also known to induce symptoms associated with mood disorders.
So how do we prevent inflammation?
As always, start with your diet. What we nourish ourselves with plays a key role in how our body responds to injury or infection.
“Anti-inflammatory food components, such as omega-3, protect the body against the possible damage caused by inflammation,” explains nutritionist Ximena Jimenez.
Try adding some of the following foods to your menu!
- Fish — A great source of omega-3, specifically in salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- Avocados — Who doesn’t love guacamole? “Avocados have great anti-inflammatory properties,” says nutritionist Laura Flores. Avocados contain antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and polyhydroxolated fatty alcohols, all of which reduce inflammation.
- Healthy cooking oils — Olive oils contain omega-3 fatty acids.
- Cruciferous veggies — Broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and other green, leafy vegetables get the name “cruciferous” because of the shape of their leaf patterns. They contain a pretty extensive list of nutrients and vitamins, including the compound sulferophane, which helps to block enzymes that trigger inflammation in the tissues.
- Nuts and seeds — Walnuts are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, as are a number of different types of seeds (like chia, pumpkin, and hemp seeds).
- Watermelon — When it’s in season, watermelon is perfect for cooling the effects of inflammation. Watermelon contains lycopene, “a cellular inhibitor for various inflammatory processes.” The summer melon also contains choline, which has been found to keep chronic inflammation down.
- Herbs and spices — Don’t forget to spice things up, either! Ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, cloves and nutmeg all have compounds that slow the process of inflammation — and they’ll add flavor to your next dinner recipe.
Skin Care for Inflammation
You’ll often find natural skin and beauty products with ingredients like oatmeal and honey as soothing agents for red, irritated skin.
Oatmeal, for instance, has widely been used to help ease severe skin conditions, or for those unfortunate enough to encounter poison ivy. Colloidal oatmeal is found in a number of different lotions — but you can make your own at home if you have some breakfast oats in the pantry!
Here’s a great DIY video we found:
“Its many functional properties make colloidal oatmeal a cleanser, moisturizer, buffer, as well as a soothing and protective anti-inflammatory agent,” reports a 2007 medical study.
What natural remedies have you employed to help with inflammation? Feel free to comment below!