Inflammation is our body’s natural way to react and heal physical injury or fight infection, however if the causes of inflammation persist long enough it can result in chronic inflammation. Latest research suggests that continual inflammation is the cause of many common chronic disorders such as Alzheimer’s, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even depression.
Unfortunately conventional anti-inflammatory medications including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are linked to many negative effects and therefore looking into holistic anti-inflammatory solutions may bring some release without the unfavourable effects.
Here are a few powerful science-backed dietary ingredients proven to help fight inflammation in the body:
Curcumin – has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which has been extensively studied in its use to treat many chronic diseases1. Curcumin is quite difficult to absorb by the body. Curcumin is fat soluble and our digestive system predominantly consists of water which doesn’t allow curcumin to be fully absorbed and thus is eliminated by the gall bladder2. Consuming curcumin with a good source of fat (avocado, coconut, fish) may increase its bioavailability.
Ginger – has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, anti-cancer and pain-relieving properties3. Studies suggest that ginger significantly reduces inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein) and helps reduce oxidative stress. Ginger is also associated with the reduction of stiffness and joint pain in patients with osteoarthritis (especially of the knee)4.
Vitamin C & Citrus bioflavonoids – vitamin c is a powerful antioxidant which protects against oxidative stress and inflammatory conditions. Regularly eating a variety of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C can lower the chance of cardiac related inflammation (heart disease) and gout5. Vitamin C deficiency can be supported with dietary supplementation of vitamin C and by eating a diet rich in vitamin C.
There are various foods that are rich in vitamin C, including:
• Berries such as blackcurrants, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cranberries.
• Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, limes and lemons.
• Cantaloupe melon and watermelon.
• Kiwi fruit
• Vegetables such as spinach, green and red peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli,
• Brussels sprouts and potatoes.
Citrus bioflavonoids are used to improve blood flow and reduce swelling in the body. These substances accompany vitamin C and act as antioxidants6.
Rosemary – rosmarinic acid, a natural polyphenolic antioxidant found in rosemary, has been found to have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant functions. Apart from rosemary, other traditional herbs like Sage, peppermint, oregano, thyme also contain significant levels of rosmarinic acid. Fresh rosemary leaves are a good source of antioxidant vitamin C; containing about 22 mg per 100 g, about 37% of our RDA. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body protect from scurvy; develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity) and help to neutralise harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
It’s herbal oil is also being used externally as a rubefacient to soothe painful ailments in gout, rheumatism, and neuralgic conditions. Evidence suggests that rosemary oil may help to lower tissue inflammation and reduce joint inflammation alleviating symptoms of pain, swelling and stiffness7.
Vitamin D – studies suggest that 1 in 5 people is vitamin D8. The government now recommends that everyone should take a daily supplement of vitamin D from October to March/April when we can’t produce enough of it. Researchers have discovers specific signalling movements though which vitD inhibits inflammation. Low levels of vitD have been linked to autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s, hypothyroidism multiple sclerosis, IBD, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson disease. The studies also suggest that vitD deficiency could be associated with the pathogenesis of diverticulitis9/10. Supplementing vitD can also be a good way to ensure we receive a sufficient amount of it.
Great food sources of vitD are oily fish such as: salmon or mackerel and fortified foods i.e. milk or dairy products11.
Omega-3 (especially EPA and DHA)- typical Western diets often result in an unbalanced inflammatory response. They are high in omega 6 fats (meat, dairy & vegetable oils) and low in omega 3 fats (nuts, seeds & oily fish)12. Diets rich in grains and low in oily fish can lead to inflammation and chronic diseases identified by inflammation and pain.
A study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation Research found that a specific formula of omega-3 fish oil reduced inflammation by increasing the concentration of molecule “mediators” which regulate certain components in the blood.
Researchers discovered omega-3 supplementation increased levels of anti-inflammatory molecules for approximately 24 hours. More research is required to understand the impact it has in reducing cardiovascular disease however they do activate macrophages (specialised cells which destroy bacteria and eliminate dead cells). Macrophages reduce stickiness in platelets, potentially decreasing the formation of blood clots. They have also have been shown to play a role in tissue regeneration13. Daily supplementation with a high quality omega 3 fish oil may help to reduce inflammation while supporting a healthy balance.