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What To Eat (And Not To Eat) When You Are Suffering From Inflammation!

What To Eat (And Not To Eat) When You Are Suffering From Inflammation!

Inflammation. You may hear that word and think of inflamed muscles or sprained ankles. Maybe you think of an anti-inflammatory capsule you always have on hand in your medicine cabinet. Or maybe you think of arthritis and problems you don’t yet have. But inflammation can happen to anyone.

Inflammation is not infection. In fact, inflammation is a good thing your body does in an attempt to protect itself. When something irritating or even dangerous affects a part of your body, there is a biological response to fight it. This is done through inflammation. [1] That swelling you’ve seen when you blow out your ankle or a knee may look scary (and sometimes really, really bad), but it’s actually the result of your body releasing white blood cells into your blood and other affected tissues. The sudden release of cells increases blood flow to the damaged area, thus causing some redness and warmth. [2]

What does inflammation feel like?

While it may seem counter-intuitive, inflammation can be a bit painful. Everyone experiences it differently, so for some it’s more of a discomfort, while others undergo stiffness and pulsating, pinching sensations. Inflammation causes this pain because the swelling can push against nerve endings telling your brain something hurts. In a bizarre fact, we’re pretty much in pain all day long (as far as our nerve endings are concerned), but our brain chooses to ignore those signals. However, inflammation is a unique pain that differs from what we feel 24/7. Therefore, we are more sensitive toward it.

Inflammation can be detrimental if occurring too often

Inflammation not only occurs when we do something like twist an ankle or wrist or land wrong on a knee or elbow, it can also occur if we are unhealthy.

In a recent study, researchers found that overweight men are at greater risk of inflammation than men of the same age who are more fit. This was largely due to unfit men having a higher white blood cell count than healthier men. For women, inflammation drops when they lose weight. A different study found that obese women who lost more than 5% of their body weight had lower levels of inflammation markers.

While inflammation can help a body heal, it has a time and place. That means if we are unhealthy and causing our bodies to become inflamed regularly, we can be at risk for several types of cancer and even heart disease.

Perhaps most shocking, if inflammation is occurring so often that it becomes a part of your every day life, it can lead to hyperactive healing that can damage tissues and even result in chronic inflammation. If inflammation becomes a chronic issue, your immune system begins to go into overdrive. Once this happens, inflammation can kill bad cells all the time, sure, but it can also begin to kill off the good, healthy cells. When this happens, inflammation can become a killer. In fact, medical experts trace it to 90% of all serious illnesses as well as autoimmune disorders and arthritis, diverticulitis and cystitis. [3]

Your food may be causing your inflammation!

While it can seem overwhelming to try to get all the vitamins, minerals, vegetables and water servings into our hectic daily lives, some of the things we snack on out of habit can actually be leading to inflammation and ultimately, diseases! Here are some things to avoid to protect yourself from unhealthy inflammation levels:

Dairy

    Here’s the thing, humans don’t need milk. Nature made milk for calves. Are you a baby cow? No. Calves need milk in order to gain weight quickly. Last I checked, most of us aren’t trying to gain weight, and even if we are, that milk we buy in stores usually doesn’t come straight from the udder.

    Now I know what you’re thinking: “But milk makes our bones strong! We do need it!”

    Wrong.

    Bone strength doesn’t come from milk or any other dairy product. In fact, we get that bone strength from plants! Dairy is highly inflammatory for most people, and drinking more processed milk (skim) actually makes the inflammation even worse. [4]

    Still not convinced? In 1994, a study showed that consuming dairy products, even at a young age, was associated with an increased risk of hip fracture later in life. [5]

    French Fries

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      I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but french fries are just plain bad for you. Well really, all fried foods are bad for you. While we all know they have a bad habit of making us gain weight (despite how incredibly yummy they can be!), if we cut out fried foods, we cut out inflammation. [6]

      One study found that feeding people a bag of potato chips (fried food) every day for a month highly increased inflammation and even their risk of cancer. [7]

      Doughnuts

        Okay, so clearly if we follow a diet full of anti-inflammatory foods, we’re probably going to lose weight. But why can’t doughnuts just be good for me?!

        Doughnuts are on the list of no-no’s because they contain refined flour and way more sugar than our body ever asked for. Oh, and while you’re at it, stop eating cookies cakes and…basically all sweet, delicious things. Ugh.

        One 2004 study showed people who ate too many refined carbs (like doughnuts) not only increased their risk of inflammation, but they were also at an increased risk of obesity and even diabetes. [8]

        Bacon

          Put down the maple-bacon glazed doughnuts. Bacon is also horrible for you (for a few reasons, but let’s focus on inflammation). Saturated fat, when heavily processed, contributes to inflammation. This goes for hot dogs and bologna, too.

          Along with increased inflammation, a study conducted by Columbia University found direct correlation between eating processed and cured meat such as bacon and developing chronic pulmonary disease. [9]

          (Too much) Alcohol

            A glass of wine a day has been shown to be beneficial, but too much of a good thing can lead to chronic inflammation. The process of breaking down alcohol creates toxic by-products in our bodies which can damage liver cells, promote inflammation and weaken our immune system. The term ‘Drink responsibly’ has never felt so appropriate. [10]

            Studies have shown that drinking to the point of drunkenness can cause your body to have trouble producing cytokines (the things that ward off infections by causing healthy inflammation). Without these, your body develops a reduced ability to fight off infections. [11]

            The right diet can lead to anti-inflammatory benefits

            While it may seem easy enough to grab a bottle of anti-inflammatory capsules, there are plenty of foods which offer anti-inflammatory benefits naturally.

            1. Tomatoes

              While you can’t have a BLT (remember, we are cutting out that bacon!), you can have tomatoes! [12]

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              Tomatoes are a nightshade vegetable rich in lycopene which helps reduce inflammation in the lungs and body. Cooked tomatoes are even better for you, so tomato sauce can count as a healthy addition to your diet. A 2013 Iranian study found that tomato juice was beneficial for reducing systematic inflammation. So drink up, but not too much. A serving of tomatoes is 1 cup chopped or sliced. [13]

              Try This:

              Healthy Tomato Cucumber Avocado Salad

              This salad is filled to the brim with healthy, anti-inflammatory goodness. And it only takes 10 minutes to make! Enjoy.

              2. Ginger and Turmeric

                Various studies have shown that these spices hold anti-inflammatory properties. Add a pinch of either (about 500 mg) to your daily smoothie for part of a healthy diet. Turmeric helps the body to turn off NF-kappy B, a compound that triggers inflammation. Ginger can cut inflammation in the gut when taken as a supplement.

                Try This:

                Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Ginger Tea

                This tea can help relieve pain and inflammation while also aiding joint pain and arthritis.

                3. Kale

                  Kale is rich in anti-inflammatory goodness, as well as anti-cancer nutrients. It also works as an anti-inflammatory. Snack on one cup of chopped kale for a healthy, anti-inflammatory break. Research has shown that kale contains nearly 50 different types of flavonoids which boast anti-inflammatory effects. [14]

                  Kale and other leafy veggies boast Vitamin K, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.

                  Try this:

                  Sauteed Kale

                  Not only is this dish excellent for you, it’s also delicious. Enjoy it as a side or eat a bowl full!

                  4. Celery

                    Studies have proven celery is great because it contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Celery seeds also have impressive health benefits including lowering inflammation and fighting infection.

                    Celery also has Vitamins K, A, C and Potassium. Just one and a half stalks provide all the goodness you need in a day.

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                    Try This:

                    Braised Celery

                    Vegetarian, gluten-free and paleo, this braised celery is good for you on so many levels.

                    5. Blueberries

                      Studies have shown consuming more blueberries slowed cognitive decline and actually improved memory and motor function. Blueberries are full of antioxidants which protect the body and reduce inflammation.

                      Blueberries also have Vitamins K and C as well as Manganese. Aim for 1/2 a cup to reap the benefits.

                      Try This:

                      Blueberry Banana “Ice Cream”

                      Eating well doesn’t have to be boring. This two ingredient “ice cream” is so good for you, but it tastes so sweet!

                      6. Salmon

                        Salmon has fatty acids that are quintessential to a healthy lifestyle. They also boast omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation. Salmon is basically a health powerhouse, as it also contains Vitamins B12, D, B3, B6, Selenium, Protein and Phosphorous. Enjoy 2 to 3 ounces for all the health benefits.

                        Try This:

                        Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa

                        Wow, wow, wow. This recipe has so many health benefits!! This is a delicious dinner you don’t have to feel guilty about.

                        7. Coconut Oil

                          Coconut oil is basically a miracle in a jar. You can put this stuff on your body, in your hair and of course in your system. The lipids found in coconut oil are filled with anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, a study in India showed the high levels of antioxidants in coconut oil were more effective at healing arthritis and other inflammatory problems than leading medicines. While coconut oil is super good for you, it’s pure fat. So only enjoy about a teaspoon a day.

                          Try This:

                          Coconut Oil Smoothie

                          This smoothie has dairy-free milk, coconut oil, and good-for-you fruits. Drink up!

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                          8. Walnuts

                            These little guys may not look like much, but they are filled with beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. They are also full of omega-3’s (about 113% of your daily value!) and manganese. Munch on 1/4 cup (about one ounce) of walnuts at a time.

                            Try This:

                            Raw Walnut Brownies

                            These brownies substitute all that bad-for-you refined sugar and flour with dates and cacao powder. Gluten-free, vegan, paleo and delicious!

                            9. Beets

                              Beets. You either love them or you hate them. But beets are the color they are because of the antioxidant betalain. This antioxidant is known to be a fantastic anti-inflammatory. They also have Folate, Manganese, Potassium and Magnesium. Enjoy one cup at a time.

                              Try This:

                              Beet, Carrot and Apple Salad

                              This is a bowl full of health , and you’ll actually look forward to eating it! The sweet carrots and apples balance out the earthy beets.

                              10. Bok Choy

                                Bok Choy has Vitamin K, A and C. Plus, studies have shown there are over 70 antioxidant types in this green veggie! A serving size of one cup only has about 20 calories, too!

                                Try This:

                                Sauteed Ginger Bok Choy

                                Yep, this recipe has ginger and bok choy! Talk about a healthy dish! Though it does call for soy sauce, opt for a low sodium option to avoid inflammation from the salt.

                                Pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you!

                                So now that you know some foods to avoid, as well as foods to integrate into your diet, try to pay attention to the changes in your body. You’ll notice less inflammation, but you may even notice better, more steady energy, a happier gut and even weight loss! Have any more anti-inflammatory foods you swear by? We’d love to hear about them.

                                Featured photo credit: Pexels via pixabay.com

                                Reference

                                More by this author

                                Heather Poole

                                Technical writer

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                                How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

                                How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

                                Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

                                Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

                                I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

                                You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

                                Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

                                When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

                                I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

                                Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

                                Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

                                Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

                                1. The Inner Critic

                                This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

                                • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
                                • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
                                • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
                                • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

                                He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

                                Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

                                2. The Worrier

                                This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

                                He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

                                Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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                                3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

                                He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

                                He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

                                He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

                                4. The Sleep Depriver

                                This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

                                His motivation can be:

                                • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
                                • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
                                • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
                                • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

                                How can you control these squatters?

                                How to Master Your Mind

                                You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

                                Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

                                There are two ways to control your thoughts:

                                • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
                                • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

                                This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

                                The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

                                Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

                                For the Inner Critic

                                When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

                                You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

                                For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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                                You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

                                “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

                                If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

                                • He riles up the Worrier.
                                • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
                                • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
                                • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
                                • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

                                Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

                                Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

                                For the Worrier

                                Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

                                Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

                                You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

                                • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
                                • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
                                • Muscles tense

                                Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

                                If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

                                Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

                                “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

                                Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

                                If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

                                Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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                                Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

                                For example:

                                If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

                                “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

                                Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

                                “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

                                Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

                                For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

                                Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

                                The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

                                • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
                                • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
                                • Muscles tension

                                I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

                                Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

                                Breathe in through your nose:

                                • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
                                • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
                                • Focus on your belly rising.

                                Breathe out through your nose:

                                • Feel your lungs emptying.
                                • Focus on your belly falling.
                                • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

                                Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

                                Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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                                One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

                                Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

                                For the Sleep Depriver

                                (He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

                                I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

                                Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

                                1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
                                2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

                                When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

                                From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

                                For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

                                If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

                                You can also use this technique any time you want to:

                                • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
                                • Shut down your thinking.
                                • Calm your feelings.
                                • Simply focus on the present moment. 

                                Becoming the Master of Your Mind

                                Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

                                You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

                                Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

                                Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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