Fighting Inflammation From the Kitchen
By Dr. Bethany Tennant, ClubSport Oregon Nutritionist
Our bodies possess many wondrous abilities, and among them is the capacity to heal itself. When we suffer an injury or infection, our bodies will respond with inflammation, a cascade of proteins that work to bring blood flow to an area to speed up the healing process and repair cellular damage. You’re undoubtedly familiar with the signs of inflammation — swelling, redness, heat, and pain — from common ailments like a bumped elbow, scraped knee, or sore throat. However, if this process occurs over a long period of time in a dysregulated way, this now chronic inflammation can then cause pain or even tissue damage. Many chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes are now being linked to be at the root cause of chronic inflammation.
Oftentimes, people seek to treat pain with a Tylenol or ibuprofen, both of which are over the counter NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), but nutrition plays a huge role in body-wide, systemic inflammation. In fact, there are foods that can be considered medicinal in the way they help treat inflammation in the same way in which a Tylenol would, and without any negative side effects.
Two ways you can reduce inflammation through nutrition are by limiting or eliminating inflammatory foods, and by incorporating anti-inflammatory ones.
Some foods known to cause inflammation include sugar; saturated fats; trans fats; omega 6 fatty acids (corn, safflower, peanut oils); refined carbohydrates like white flour products; MSG (monosodium glutamate); gluten; casein; artificial sweeteners and additives; alcohol; and dairy.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are herbs that double up as both culinary and medicinal. Turmeric, ginger, garlic, and onions are some of the top anti-inflammatory herbs you can incorporate in your dishes to add a dose of flavor to your creations. Additional inflammation-fighting foods include green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, arugula, lettuce, mustard greens, bok choy, and swiss chard), pineapple, blueberries, salmon, chia seeds, flax seeds, and cherries.
A few easy and delicious ways you can incorporate these ingredients is by brewing hot tea or even golden milk (turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon in almond milk), whipping up a smoothie (greens and blueberries with flax seeds), or cooking up a meal of chicken curry or salmon and spinach.
One final tip: Be sure to read labels to know what products may contain triggers. By knowing the best anti-inflammatory foods as you roam the aisles of your grocery store, you’ll be empowered to both prevent and treat using cures from your kitchen!
Dr. Bethany Tennant is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, a certified Nutrition Specialist, and a sports massage therapist. Natural sports medicine is her specialty, and she focuses on prevention, performance, recovery, pain management, neurodegenerative conditions and injury rehabilitation.