Whether you see it splashed across the covers of health magazines or hear about it in your morning fitness class, inflammation is one of the most talked-about topics in the health and wellness space. But with all the information available, figuring out how it applies to you can be overwhelming.
There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic—also known as the good kind and the bad kind. Acute inflammation, the good kind, refers to the body’s natural ability to fight infection or bacteria. When you scrape your knee, your immune system reacts by sending white blood cells to the area, enabling your body to heal itself.
Chronic inflammation, the bad kind, occurs when your immune system is triggered for the wrong reasons, like long-term exposure to irritants, environmental toxins, chemicals, pesticides, and certain foods. Other common causes of inflammation can include a diet high in inflammatory foods and an imbalance of gut bacteria.
In cases of chronic inflammation, your immune system is constantly sending out inflammatory white blood cells because it thinks it’s fighting offenders, essentially putting your body in an ongoing state of emergency. These white blood cells can infiltrate healthy organs and start to cause a slew of issues: plaque buildup in blood vessels that can result in heart disease, weight gain, and obesity; insulin resistance that eventually leads to diabetes; and joint pain and swelling that spur arthritis. Symptoms such as tissue and joint pain, arthritis, puffiness, fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, and digestive disorders can all be signs of chronic inflammation. Fortunately, there are ways to fight it.
Improving your diet to include more whole foods, switching to organic produce when possible, minimizing your exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals, and improving your gut health can all safeguard against inflammation. Note that environmental toxins such as phthalates, parabens, PFAs, PFCs, and chlorine may be present in everyday items like cosmetics, fragrances, plastics, nonstick products, and drinking water, so do a clean-out and replace those products with nontoxic alternatives.
You can also take steps to support gut health, fight inflammation, and boost immunity by taking vitamin D, fish oil, and a probiotic supplement with at least nine different bacterial strains and a CFU of 20 to 50 billion, and swapping out over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for turmeric.
Top Inflammatory Foods
- Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, often found in processed foods and high-fructose corn syrup
- Artificial trans fats, often found in vegetable and seed oils like grapeseed, canola, and corn, as well as margarine, and shortening
- Refined carbohydrates, often found in refined flour, bread, crackers, pasta, cakes, cookies, and sweets
- Processed meats like red meat, sausage, bacon, and cold cuts, as well as cheese, mayonnaise, and fried foods, all of which contain toxic AGEs
- Omega-3-rich foods: wild-caught fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel), seeds (flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin), and nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds)
- Antioxidant-rich foods: dark leafy greens (spinach, kale), broccoli, carrots, avocados, bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and pomegranate seeds
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory spices: parsley and the combination of turmeric and ginger, which decreases inflammation, relieves chronic pain, reduces nausea, and boosts immunity
- Healthy fats: avocados, olives, raw nuts and seeds, and high-quality oils, especially avocado, extra-virgin olive, and walnut
Salad Ingredients (serves 3-4)
2-3 cups baby kale
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup parsley
1/2 cup raw broccoli, finely chopped
1 avocado, thinly sliced
Crispy Salmon Ingredients
2 lbs. wild salmon (cut into 4-8 oz. fillets, skin on)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Ginger-Turmeric Dressing Ingredients
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. honey
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. grated turmeric (3-inch finger of turmeric)
1 tbsp. grated ginger (1-inch chunk)
2/3 cup olive oil
Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a cast-iron skillet on medium to high heat. While your pan is heating up, dry salmon by patting with a paper towel. Salt the fillets generously, then add to the skillet, flesh side down. Sear for 5-6 minutes without moving the fillets. Flip (they should release easily without sticking) and transfer directly to your oven on broil. Broil for 5 minutes, then transfer to a plate and carefully remove the skins. Arrange salad bed, beginning with baby kale and finely chopped broccoli, then top with crispy salmon fillets. Garnish with sliced avocado, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and parsley. For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and pour over salad.
Anti-Inflammatory Ginger-Turmeric Smoothie
1/2 cup frozen mango
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 tbsp. ginger (1-inch cube)
1 tbsp. turmeric (3-inch finger)
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tbsp. hemp seeds
1 tbsp. ground flax seeds
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until thick and creamy.