Symptoms of chronic inflammation  such as headaches, cough, or backache are often overlooked or taken for granted to be part of  the “normal aging process”.  Most of us just assume that because of our stressful lives these niggling aches and pains are just a part of life.  It never once occurs to many people that pain is the body’s way of crying out for help.  Pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong.  Because all of these symptoms and many more are a sign of chronic or silent inflammation it means that our cells have been under attack and inflamed for quite some time.

Once again, I feel it necessary to point out chronic inflammation leads to serious illness if left unchecked.  Cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s Type II Diabetes, asthma, IBS, Chron’s, vitamin and mineral malabsorption,  and every single autoimmune illness out there (including Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Scleroderma, Uriticaria, Polymositis, Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s Disease, Addison’s Disease…..need I go on?) are caused by silent chronic inflammation.  Chronic inflammation is a vicious cycle as well.  It is the culprit behind illnesses such as adrenal fatigue however the very nature of adrenal fatigue leads to more inflammation.  When I am treating a client for adrenal fatigue I must address the underlying cause – inflammation- to restore balance in the body.

Nutrition far exceeds modern medicine’s ability to treat and prevent chronic inflammation.  In fact, there is not one single medicine on the market today that effectively targets inflammation.  Doctors rarely discuss the role of nutrition in treating inflammation.  In fact, you would be hard pressed to find many doctors that treat inflammation at all.  Instead they choose to look at each illness as a separate entity which fails to recognize that ‘disease’ indicates the whole body is out of balance.  Nutrition, for instance, is the absolute best treatment for Type II Diabetes, however, it would also stand to reason that proper nutrition that would treat diabetes would do so by balancing blood sugar which would control insulin release, which would treat chronic inflammation which would treat or prevent any other underlying condition.  Because a healthy, mostly plant-based diet is the healthiest diet to treat diabetes, it would also correct not only inflammation but the delicate alkaline/acid balance in the body which keeps a myriad of biochemical reactions in the body in check and running smoothly.

Below are 10 foods that help calm inflammation allowing the body to heal, balance and restore itself to health and vitality.

Cherries and berries including blueberries, cranberries, goji and açai berries, are high in inflammation-busting phytonutrients.  Phyto-nutrients are also great pain relievers.  Acerola cherries, for example, are 10 times more effective than aspirin in relieving pain and inflammation.  Blueberries, nature’s most powerful fruit for aging gracefully,  are also excellent anti-inflammatory foods. They increase the amounts of compounds called heat-shock proteins that decrease as people age.  When heat-shock proteins are in short supply inflammation, pain and tissue damage is the result.

Pineapple and Payapaya  are rich in vitamin C and the enzymes  bromelain and papain respectively, which have been linked to decreased pain and swelling in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Bromelain also helps dilate bronchii in asthmatics and is fabulous as a home remedy for upper respiratory infections and bronchitis.

Walnuts are packed with Vitamin E and Omega 3 fatty acids. Due to the anti-nutrients present in all nuts and seeds make sure you prepare them properly before eating by soaking them in water overnight and then dehydrating by placing them in an oven at just below 100 degrees C (about 210F) for a day. Or if you have a dehydrator, you can drop the temperature down to 46 degrees C (about 115F) for a long, slow bake – keeping as much nutritional value as possible. Whichever way you do it, the process ‘activates’ the nuts by simulating what happens in nature when they’re germinating, so they move from being dormant to shedding their protective enzyme coating and getting into their growth phase, releasing all their goodness as they go.  A handful of walnuts a day is a great inflammation fighting way to boost fertility in women and sperm count in men!

Note:: Careful to buy them VERY fresh, store them in the freezer and eat them in moderation as they are high in PUFAs.

Broccoli is packed with vitamins, calcium and alkaline minerals such as sulforaphane which helps eliminate potentially carcinogenic compounds and scavenges for free radicals. Don’t all of my raw foodie readers gang up at once but this delicious vegetable releases some of it’s goiter centric qualities and increases the bio-availability of it’s trace minerals by cooking it well before eating it.  Other green vegetables that are fantastic are spinach, kale, and chard.  Make sure these are cooked well and served with a little healthy saturated fat like butter or ghee.

Celery contains more than more than 20 anti-inflammatory compounds in celery and celery seeds , including a substance called apigenin, which is powerful in its anti-inflammatory action.  Celery juice is a wonderfully alkalizing inflammation buster and is great on its own or as the backdrop for countless vegetable juice recipes and green smoothies.

Onions and Garlic contain plenty of quercetin, a potent antioxidant that helps fight inflammation. Garlic is also recommended during cold and illness, as it has amazing anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger: Ginger, which has been widely used in treating inflammation and pain, helps in reducing the pain-causing prostaglandin levels in the body. Indian researchers have noticed that patients suffering from muscular pain, when given 500 to 1000 milligrams of ginger per day, experienced vast improvement in both inflammation and pain.
Turmeric is an effective anti-inflammatory herb in dealing with acute inflammation, due to its therapeutic ingredient, curcumin. The curcumin present in turmeric helps by suppressing pain, in a manner similar to that of drugs like COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors.
Cold-pressed olive,  contains polyphenols and Omega 3 fatty acids that the body turns into inflammation-fighting soldiers. Note: the cold-pressed part is really important – heat renders the oil hydrogenated and harmful (inflammation causing) to the body therefore look for “cold pressed” on the label and never cook with these oils.
Grapes: Grapes contain the antioxidant resveratrol that fights inflammation and cancer. Drinking grape juice (think red wine)  can lower inflammation in people with stable coronary artery disease.  One word of caution.  The alcohol content in red wine can still cause an insulin spike so make sure you keep your consumption to one or two glasses and drink them while consuming protein.
Honorable mentions:
Salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel  and fresh tuna all are Omega-3 powerhouses.  In today’s environmental climate, however, they can also be mercury time bombs and now, as is the case of farm-raised salmon or “frankenfish”  (thanks Monsanto!), Omega-6, genetically engineered nightmares.  Make sure, if you eat fish, you eat wild line-caught, preferably sustainably sourced fish.
The caffeine in coffee and tea  may mitigate pain. Studies conducted at the University of Georgia have shown that caffeine (5 mg/kg body weight about two cups of coffee for a 120-lb female) taken after eccentric exercise decreased delayed onset muscle soreness.How, you ask? Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in our central nervous system. It may decrease pain levels by blocking adenosine reduced during inflammation. Caffeine taken with carbohydrates after exercise may also increase glycogen storage (though the most recent study on this used large amounts of caffeine).
{Be sure to check out the continuation of the series with Anti-Inflammatory Fountain of Youth}