My journey of managing inflammation began a couple years ago after a painful psoas-hip flexor injury. Unsure where to turn, I sought the help of a medical professional. His profound answer to end my suffering–muscle relaxers. I passed on his suggestion and left in search of my own answers to heal my injury naturally. In the western world, we like quick fixes. We prefer immediate solutions when confronted with problems. As we all know, quick fixes like prescription drugs cause negative, adverse effects on the body and mind and often lead to dependency. The truth is that we hold the ability to heal ourselves naturally. It’s more beneficial to begin the process of healing by examining the source of our issues. Diet is at the root of natural healing, considering that what we put into our bodies forms the basis of our physical, mental and emotional experience in life. (You truly are what you eat!)
Inflammation in the body is contributed to injury, disease and poor lifestyle. It is important to remember that inflammation initially occurs as a healing response. This is to defend the body from foreign bacteria and repair damaged tissue. However, excessive and uncomfortable inflammation can be reduced by making simple changes in our diets. The two antioxidant-amped foods described below have become some of my daily “medicine” for treating my current physical ailments and for preventing future health complications. (Say goodbye to the drugs in your medicine cabinet!) Along with a health-conscious lifestyle, they can help manage inflammation in the body and provide you with other powerful health benefits and nutrients.
The power of tart cherries begins with their abundance of an flavanoid known as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are PACKED with nutrient-rich antioxidants. Tart cherries were ranked 14th out of the 50 most antioxidant-rich foods (beating dark chocolate and red wine). Anthocyanins and other compounds found in tart cherries create anti-inflammatory properties in the body. These compounds relieve inflammation and pain in a similar way as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammation drugs) but without the harmful side effects. Studies have demonstrated that anthocyanins found in tart cherries can actually help to switch off genes that cause cancer and helps trigger apoptosis, which is programmed cell death that basically makes pre-cancer cells commit suicide. The anti-cancer properties of tart cherries can help prevent and slow the growth of cancer! Anthocyanins also provide powerful support the immune system. Tart cherries are high in potassium, which aids in muscle recovery, hydration, pH balance, maintaining blood pressure and a healthy nervous system. 1 cup of cherries is 10% of your daily potassium intake! High melatonin levels in tart cherries can also induce a naturally restful night sleep. The compounds found in tart cherries help to fight other health conditions associated with inflammation like Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease.
To receive all of these mind-blowing benefits, tart cherries are best consumed in the form of juice and capsules (or feel free to snack on fresh cherries). Just be sure they are tart cherries!
TurmericTurmeric has been sacred to traditional Indian cooking and Ayurvedic medicine for over 4,000 years. According to Vedic knowledge, turmeric is considered a sattvic herb, meaning it is spiritually pure and energetically balancing to the body and mind. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which gives the root its vibrant yellow color and extensive medicinal properties. Curcumin is a very strong antioxidant and promotes powerful anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Scientific research has shown that enzymes that a cause bodily inflammation, like cyclooxygenase and 5-lipooxygenase, may be prevented by turmeric consumption. Another study found that curcumin significantly decreased joint inflammation and can help manage and possibly prevent arthritis from forming in the joints. The compounds found in curcumin can also help prevent and treat inflammation-based health conditions such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Next time you notice swelling in the body, or if you’re simply looking to avoid chronic, low-level inflammation, try reaching for turmeric instead of ibuprofen or other NSAIDs!
Research has also suggested that it is better to ingest turmeric in the form of a highly concentrated extract or capsules with high levels of curcumin. This is because the curcumin content of turmeric roots are fairly low. It is also best to compliment turmeric with black pepper because curcumin can be difficult to absorb into the bloodstream. When taken with piperine (which is naturally found in black pepper), curcumin absorption is increased by 2,000%! It is also suitable to swallow a few whole peppercorns with turmeric to enhance curcumin absorption. It is a good idea to take these supplements with a meal since turmeric is fat-soluble, meaning the nutrients are dissolved better with fats. Large amounts of turmeric can have risks for people who have serious pre-existing medical conditions or are taking certain prescription medications, so talk with your physician before starting a turmeric regimen if you fall in this category!
Additional inflammation fighting tips: Using hot-cold therapies are another way to manage inflammation in the body. Heat is intended to relax the muscles and increase blood flow while ice is applied to reduce swelling and aid muscle recovery. Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is also key for anti-inflammation and overall vitality!
How do you naturally fight inflammation?
Photo: Dave Santonil; Ally Snead at Catalina Island