Inflammation is a major contributing factor to well over 100 diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, colitis, dermatitis, fibromyalgia, irritable syndrome, and Parkinson’s to name a few.
Inflammation is the end result of long-term oxidative stress, or oxidation. Causes of oxidation include emotional stress, improper nutrition, or environmental pollutants. In most cases oxidation is due to a combination of all three factors.
Food is a major contributing factor that often puts unnecessary oxidative stress on our bodies. Sugar is usually the number one dietary factor in oxidation as it creates and excess supply of glucose in the body. When we eat sugar in any form (carbohydrates like potatoes, bread, cakes, and biscuits; alcoholic beverages, sugar in drinks, sauces, tinned food etc.) it is converted to glucose, and it is glucose that fuels the oxidative process in our bodies. Oxidative stress results in the formation of undesirable free radicals, which then cause damage to our bodies at the cellular level. Free radicals cause diseases by damaging our cellular DNA, resulting in cellular mutations, formation of cancer cells, and/or speeding up the aging process.
Anti-oxidants are substances that inhibit oxidation. Anti-oxidants are one of the first lines of defense that the body employs to keep free radicals in check and prevent them from causing a domino effect of damage on other cells.
Four Spices That Pack a Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Punch
Herbs and cooking spices contain a wide variety of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, and help maximize the nutrient density of your meals. Every time you flavor your meals with herbs or spices you are literally “upgrading” your food without adding a single calorie.
In fact, on a per gram fresh weight basis, herbs rank even higher in antioxidant activity than fruits and vegetables, which are known to be high in antioxidants. Many studies have also shown that most spices tend to have unique medicinal qualities.
Four spices were found to be significantly effective at quelling the inflammatory response:
While among the most potent (ounce for ounce) herbs and spices are certainly not the only anti-inflammatory ingredients available. A number of foods are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties as well, and making sure you’re eating a wide variety of them on a regular basis can go a long way toward preventing chronic illness.
Top Seven Anti-Inflammatory Foods
- Animal-based omega-3 fat: Animal-based omega-3 fats—found in fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon and fish- or krill oil—help fight inflammation throughout your body. It’s particularly important for brain health.
- Leafy greens: Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens and Swiss chard contain powerful antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamin C—all of which help protect against cellular damage.
- Blueberries: Blueberries rate very high in antioxidant capacity compared to other fruits and vegetables. They are also lower in sugar than many other fruits.
- Tea: Matcha tea is the most nutrient-rich green tea and comes in the form of a stone-ground unfermented powder. The best Matcha comes from Japan and has up to 17 times the antioxidants of wild blueberries, and seven times more than dark chocolate. Tulsi is another tea loaded with anti-inflammatory antioxidants and other micronutrients that support immune function and heart health.
- Fermented vegetables and traditionally cultured foods: Optimizing your gut flora is important for a well-functioning immune system, and helps ward off chronic inflammation. In fact, the majority of inflammatory diseases start in your gut, as the result of an imbalanced microbiome. Fermented foods such as kefir, natto, kimchee, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, olives, and other fermented vegetables, will help ‘reseed’ your gut with beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods can also help your body rid itself of harmful toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides that promote inflammation.
- Shiitake mushrooms: Shiitake mushrooms contain strong compounds with the natural ability to discourage inflammation and inhibit oxidative stress. They also contain a number of unique nutrients that many do not get enough of in their diet.
- Garlic: Garlic has been treasured for its medicinal properties for centuries. It’s also one of the most heavily researched plant foods around. Over 170 studies show it benefitting more than 150 different conditions. Garlic exerts its benefits on multiple levels, offering anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties.
The old saying goes, “Waiting to go to the acupuncturist once you are ill is like waiting to begin digging the well once you are thirsty”… Good health is the true wealth in our lifetime. Be proactive, and schedule an acupuncture appointment for yourself at least once a month!
As always, I wish you and your loved ones peace, prosperity, health, and happiness. I look forward to seeing you in clinic soon.
Joe Recsnik L.Ac. DCCM