Oh, that evil inflammation, it’s everywhere these days. Everyone writes about it, everyone has it and everyone wants to get rid of it.
We don’t really understand what it is and why we have it, but somebody told us it causes cancer, all kinds of other health problems that make us feel and look old, so we decided we hate inflammation’s guts.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is actually a completely normal response of the immune system to something harmful like injury, bacteria or viruses.
A mixture between destruction and healing.
The simple goal of inflammation is to 1. remove a pathogen and the tissue that was damaged because of the pathogen and 2. to start the healing process in the body. These two parts of inflammation go hand in hand and appear simultaneously.
Inflammation is there, so we can stay healthy and function normally. It’s something we need to stay alive.
No inflammation, no life.
Why is it bad then?
When inflammation is not completely resolved, then we have a little problem. That inflammation becomes chronic and it might do a little more destruction than it should. Thus it might cause damage to our own tissues. And that friends, is not what we ordered when we asked for a little protection by the immune system.
Higher levels of inflammation in the body are shown to be related to aging and to many kinds of diseases we get as we might get as we get older like: cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression and Alzheimer’s.
How do we get rid of excess inflammation?
We can do many things like reduce stress, get better sleep and chase butterflies in golden fields. But those things hardly depend just on us. The one thing we can do (that is almost completely under our control) is to eat healthier and to add more anti-inflammatory foods to our daily diet.
These here are 5 foods proven to be anti-inflammatory and to help with arthritis, to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.
I can’t really make a list of anti-inflammatory foods and not mention turmeric. That guy is everywhere these days and is a little more famous than Brad Pitt.
And how can you not?
Turmeric is thought to:
- prevent cancer
- heal arthritis
- increase detoxification
- improve wound healing
- make your skin glow.
It can protect your DNA from damages and even induce DNA repair (even if I stay awake for years researching I wouldn’t be able to do that). It also decreases mutations and tumor formation.
As for joint pain, curcumin (the star chemical in turmeric) was shown to improve stiffness, walking time and joint swelling in patients with arthritis after 2 weeks of supplementation.
I mean, I’d be charging a lot of money if I could do all that, but turmeric is not even expensive! Use it more often (if you don’t have allergy or intolerance of course)!
I wasn’t a big fan of turmeric my whole life, but now that I know about its magical powers, I put 1 tsp turmeric powder in almost every meal I make. It’s actually pretty good and it paints everything gold.
Ginger is another one of those miracle plants you can use to heal pretty much anything.
It is shown to inhibit enzymes that are involved in inflammation and thus might be useful in the prevention of cancer, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease.
Traditionally ginger has been used for more than 2000 years to fight diverse health problems like:
- joint pain
The star chemical in ginger is called gingerol (isn’t that cute?) and is shown to relax blood vessels, improve blood flow and relieve pain.
How I use ginger
I usually use fresh ginger in a drink I make every morning together with lemon juice and water. Other than that you might add it to soups, curries or drink ginger tea.
If I don’t sneak a little garlic love into a post, you can’t be sure that it’s my post. I love that garlic. It smells like something between heaven and hell.
Also, this garlic thing is a miracle. And I’m not the only one who’s in love with garlic. People have been using garlic for more than 5000 years to treat anything – from flatulence, worms, tumors, skin diseases to wounds. You name it, garlic can heal it.
Now these days there are many studies that confirm garlic is an exceptional food and can be helpful with a number of health problems. Let’s start counting.
Obviously garlic’s anti-inflammatory otherwise it wouldn’t be on the list. But garlic also has many other health benefits:
- anti-viral (for example influenza or herpes simplex),
As if that wasn’t enough
When I was younger (like before Facebook, so in the unthinkable 2003) I read in a few forums that people used garlic to make their hair grow.
How I found that forum? I was obsessed with natural remedies all my life. I was just looking for something to make my hair grow faster and then I stumbled upon all these stories of people making their hair grow by rubbing garlic oil on their head. These people didn’t have any hair before starting to use garlic oil and then their hair started growing, but it was white. Well white or not, seems like garlic makes your hair grow.
Of course this information is not from a study, but from an internet forum in 2003 where everyone can write whatever they want. Still, I do believe it.
As a matter of fact, I also found a few scientific reviews suggesting there might be something to garlic and hair growth due to its anti-microbial properties, but this is not proven. Yet. I still find it super fascinating and I think it would be worth a try if nothing else works.
How to use garlic
To get the health benefits of garlic ½ to 1 clove per day is enough and these here are some of my favorite recipes with garlic:
- Avocado Dill Dip
- Shrimps and calamari in tomato sauce
- Yogurt garlic sauce
- Roasted green peppers dip
- Spicy vegan cream cheese
4. Rose hip
I’m surprised nobody even mentions rose hip, when talking about anti-inflammatory foods. Why did you forget about those poor bushes?
Rose hips are a very rich source of vitamin C and contain a special anti-inflammatory galactolipid with a very complicated name, the short version of which is GOPO.
- Well these rose hips are shown to relieve pain in arthritis patients and to reduce the levels of C-reactive protein (protein related to inflammation) in healthy people and in people suffering from osteoarthritis. They might also help with back and knee pain. We might have to thank Mr. GOPO for that, because it helps build more collagen and thus cartilage (which is very low in arthritis).
- As if pain relief wasn't enough, one study surprised me even more, because it showed that a rose hip powder has anti-aging effect on your skin. You look 10 years younger after you take 1 tbsp of rose hip powder! Just kidding. But, really though - volunteers took rose hip powder daily for 8 weeks and the moisture and elasticity of their skin skyrocketed, while the wrinkles disappeared a little.
See also: 9 beauty benefits of vitamin C
How to use rose hips
The easiest way for me to add more rose hip power to my life is drinking more rose hip tea. If you decide you can also use rose hip powder in your smoothies or be a little more adventurous go on a trip to collect some fresh rose hips and make a soup like this one.
I also have a small bottle of rose hip oil. I read rose hip oil is really good for your hair and skin - it makes them look shiny (hair) and young (skin), but I haven't been using mine regularly to see any big difference. But now I know what to do in the winter months, when I'm bored.
This is one of my favorites. I love nettle. It’s super nutritious, anti-inflammatory, high-iron and high in carotenoids. It's very delicious and you have to have big balls, gloves or experience if you want to collect it fresh.
Nettle stings. And let me tell you: it hurts.
But those exact stings were used by a group of people for years to improve their arthritis complaints in one study. The guys would sting wherever they had pain with nettle and would hope to reduce that pain. They’d get a rash, but hey, worth a try. While to me this seems like a very masochistic daily routine, after 2 years of this practice 94% of the arthritis patients had less joint pain and some even considered themselves completely healed.
But nettle’s superpowers don’t end at anti-inflammatory and anti-anemic.
It has also been shown to be:
- a blood purifier
- and can also be used against eczema
Nettle is also used in shampoos to reduce dandruff and to improve hair growth. I mean, come on! We awe that plant some respect.
How to use nettle
Well, as I have already been stung a few times by nettle and didn’t really enjoy it, I’ll stick to drinking nettle tea to purify my blood and reduce my inflammation.
As I live in the city, the only time I get to eat delicious nettle soup is whenever I go visit my dad - he has a lot of fresh nettles in his garden. And he makes a simple, but super tasty soup with nettle, onions & bulgur or rice. Yum.my.
If you decide to use nettle in your meals (which by the way is almost always organic, as it can grow wherever, whenever like Shakira) and you don't collect it from your own garden: make sure to wash it well. Many dogs pee on it, and I’m sure you don’t want to eat nettle infused with dog pee. Other than that – enjoy it! It’s one of my favorite plants and we all definitely don’t get enough of it.
I made this a very short list of anti-inflammatory foods, but these five are some of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods. As you can see they’re neither expensive, nor are they really hard to find, so make sure to include them more often in your diet!
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