Many medical professionals who practice alternative and nutritional medicine believe eating or avoiding certain foods can help you reduce inflammation in your body, which may reduce arthritis pain.
We know that treating the chronic pain of arthritis is more complex than just choosing the right diet. However, according to the Arthritis Foundation, consuming foods associated with a Mediterranean diet may help.
Inflammation inside or outside the body indicates something is wrong. Science also has linked inflammation to the body’s autoimmune response. Using your diet as a means to decrease inflammation in your body may be one way to control some painful conditions.
However, the scientific community needs to conduct more studies to determine how much of a particular food needs to be consumed to achieve the desired results. While we wait for those studies, let’s take a look at a few foods that may have anti-inflammatory effects.
Adding a little spice to your life may help you reduce inflammation.
Spices have been used as a staple in folk medicine for centuries. Here are seven that gained popularity among holistic and alternative medicine practitioners for their ability to reduce inflammation. Before adding these spices to your diet, talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to avoid adverse reactions. Some spices can interfere or interact with medications.
Turmeric. This yellow, root spice contains curcumin. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, turmeric has been used as an anti-inflammatory for thousands of years in Chinese medicine.
Black Pepper. Piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper, works with turmeric to help the body use the curcumin. It also may have anti-inflammatory properties of its own.
Ginger. Another root spice that has been used for centuries. Sliced or ground ginger root has been used in teas, food and soft drinks to relieve inflammatory and digestive issues.
Cinnamon. A favorite on cereal and toast, cinnamon not only tastes great, but it also has a reputation as an anti-inflammatory that decreases swelling. Ceylon cinnamon is reported to have lower levels of coumarin, a substance known to cause liver damage.
Garlic. The chemical compounds contained in the cloves of this bulbous, pungent plant produce a variety of benefits for the human body. Garlic is known for its natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory effects.
Cayenne and chili peppers. The element that makes hot peppers hot is capsaicin. The anti-inflammatory properties of this natural component can be found in some commercial ointments.
Cloves. This dark, earthy spice has been used in folk medicine for years. Recently, scientists found clove oil reduced inflammation in mice. While the study shows promise, more research is needed.
Lower inflammation by balancing your omega-3s and -6s.
Another way to lower the inflammation in your body is by keeping your ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in check. These are the healthy fats your body needs to perform at the cellular level.
There are many articles about eating more omega-3 essential fatty acids like those found in salmon, fish oil, flax and chia seeds. But we don’t hear much about the amount of omega-6 fatty acids we eat.
That may be because most Americans eat too much of the omega-6 variety, already. The average American diet is loaded with them. Prepared foods, fast foods and vegetable oils, especially soybean oil, up the amount of omega-6 fatty acids the average person eats every day.
In moderation, omega-6 fatty acids provide a necessary purpose inside the body. But, too much of a good thing actually causes inflammation, uncontrolled cell growth and interferes with the body’s normal blood clotting function. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to keep these functions in balance.
In her medical article, The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids, A. P. Simopoulos stated a 2-3/1 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s suppressed inflammation in people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. When you consider the ratios in our typical western diet can be higher than 15/1, balancing the amount of fatty acids we consume may be a wise step toward health.
Adopt healthy eating habits to reduce inflammation
While more study is needed and there is no “magic” food, there are some healthy eating habits you can adopt to feel better and move better. As a bonus, a healthy diet may help you avoid inflammation. Here are a dozen dietary suggestions to keep in mind as you plan your meals in the future.
- Eat foods that are as close to their whole or fresh form as often as possible.
- Avoid prepared or processed foods.
- If you eat prepared or packaged foods, avoid foods that list more than five ingredients on the nutrition label.
- Eat cold-water, wild-caught fish such as salmon at least twice a week.
- Add flax or chia seeds to your salads, soups and main dishes.
- Try to include four or five green, orange, red or yellow fruits and vegetables in your diet each day.
- Snack on nuts and seeds.
- Swap your butter and corn oil for virgin olive oil.
- Include onion, garlic and cooked mushrooms in your diet every day.
- Reduce the number of beef and pork meals you eat each week.
- Limit salt.
- Limit the number of nightshade vegetables, such as eggplant, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes. Evidence suggests these vegetables may cause digestive problems and contribute to inflammation.
Your healthcare provider may have additional suggestions to help you relieve the pain and inflammation of arthritis.
Before you change your diet, talk to your healthcare provider to make sure the changes you are considering will benefit you and not complicate your condition further.