The Top Eleven Anti-Inflammatory Foods and a Diet Plan from Dr. Andrew Weil
Inflammation, as a bodily process, is not entirely a bad thing. It is actually the body’s attempt at self-protection – to remove harmful compounds such as damaged cells, irritants or pathogens and then set in motion the healing process. However, when inflammation is chronic (long-term), it can lead to several disease states, including some cancers, atherosclerosis, autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis or lupus and arthritis. Some foods have nutritional properties to overcome inflammation, due to antioxidants and other beneficial compounds.
Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. The first stage of inflammation is often called irritation, which is then followed by suppuration, and then granulation – ultimately ridding the body of the concerning invader and returning it to a healthy state. Acute inflammation, such as from an infected cut, cold or flu, or dermatitis, starts rapidly and quickly becomes severe. The five signs of acute inflammation are pain, redness, immobility, swelling, and heat. Chronic inflammation, lasting several months or even years, result from the failure of the body to eliminate whatever is causing the problem.
Anti-inflammatory medications are often used to reduce inflammation. However, medicines are not always needed. A change in diet to include more anti-inflammatory foods can be a natural way to manage some symptoms of chronic inflammation.
Blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries and strawberries are among the fruits with the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, which prevent and repair the stress that comes from oxidation. Wild blueberries, for example, contain over 13,000 total antioxidants, in just one cup –about 10 times the USDA’s recommendation in one serving.
Anthocyanins are plant pigments that give berries their rich and deep red, purple and blue colors and, in lab studies, have exerted the potential to prevent such diseases as cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders and inflammation from arthritis and gout. Berries and other antioxidant rich foods also have the ability to enhance the brain’s ability to generate a heat-shock protein known as HSP70 which protects the nervous system from stress.
Another interesting recent study found that even the inability to completely breakdown and digest berries can be beneficial. Blueberry fiber, for example, is not entirely digested and remains for a period of time in the large intestine, protecting the lining from inflammatory-causing substances which are then transported out of the body where they cannot do harm.
Capsaicin is the ingredient within cayenne pepper with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. This compound within chili peppers protects the body with nuclear transcription factor (NTF)-activation blockers. The nuclei of human cells contain NTFs, two of which are important targets when it comes to the prevention of chronic inflammation that can lead to cancer and premature aging. NTFs are activated by pro-inflammatory free radicals, however capsaicin can block that action, turning down inflammation.
Cayenne pepper may especially be beneficial in relieving arthritis and back pain.
Celery, Celery Seeds
Celery contains an antioxidant known as apigenin which has been found to stop certain types of cancer cells from multiplying and growing. Some types of tumors grow because of inflammation, and the flavonoids in celery are protective by blocking this process. (Note: In addition to celery, apigenin is most prevalent in parsley, artichoke, and basil. It is also found in apples, oranges, nuts and other plant foods.)
Celery is also rich in another anti-inflammatory compound – luteolin. This nutrient has been studied for treating multiple sclerosis that this linked to inflammation leading to degeneration of nerve fibers. Luteolin may also help the brain recover after stroke.
Tart cherries, in particular are known as powerful anti-inflammatory foods. Tart cherry extract has been found to be ten times more effective than aspirin! Researchers from Oregon Health and Science University have found that tart cherries may be especially beneficial for those with inflammatory osteoarthritis, helping patients to manage their pain more effectively.
However, both sweet and sour cherries contain anthocyanins which may help inhibit COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes involved in the creation of pain sensation – thus acting as a pain reliever. But nutrition experts warn against the consumption of maraschino cherries. Many of the cherry pigments that were present in the fresh fruit have been removed during processing, and replaced with red food dye, thus stripping the cherry of its beneficial healthy compounds.