Updated: Sep 16, 2022
Below I would like to give an overview what I have learnt from various books and some dietary changes that you can consider if you are suffering from chronic inflammation.
In 2016 when I was diagnosed with Lyme disease and as a result developed joint pains in my hips and knees I really wanted to understand what causes inflammation in the body and what I can do to help to reduce the inflammation. I gave up gluten in January 2017 and after couple of weeks the pain in my joints faded. To further help my body, I also gave up sugar in February 2017, and in 2019 to make sure I support the fast recovery from my brain surgery, I also gave up milk products, apart from an occasional consumption of cheese (made from goat, sheep milk) or parmesan cheese. I feel giving up those food groups has truly helped me in my recovery.
I also used to get sick on a yearly basis during December and in spring catching colds and last year even Influenza A, but my immune system has clearly benefitted from those dietary changes as the seasonal colds have become less rare after spring 2019.
What is inflammation?
It's part of your body's built-in immune response- it's body's natural defence against viruses, bacteria, damaged cells when injured etc. Inflammation, when acute, aims to remove foreign and harmful invaders and to heal the body. Without inflammation your wounds would become septic and infections could become deadly. Acute inflammation typically occurs as a result of an injury to the external body or skin. On the skin the signs and symptoms of an acute inflammation are pain, swelling, redness, heat, immobility.
Acute inflammation can be a result of some of the below conditions, illnesses or situations:
physical trauma to the body
sore throat because of cold or flu
infected ingrown nail
While acute inflammation generally disappears in a few days, then chronic inflammation can last for months or years. Some signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation include joint pain, rash on the skin, fatigue, mouth sores etc. And some of the chronic inflammatory diseases include:
systemic lupus erythematosus
In this article I also cover how inflammation affects your different body parts.
What triggers chronic inflammation in the body?
There can be several causes for chronic inflammation- food allergies, poor diet, stress, an inactive lifestyle, your gut health, excess weight, bad habits such as smoking, drinking etc.
Foods that cause inflammation in the body
There are some foods or food ingredients that are pro- inflammatory for the body.
Sugar and artificial sweeteners
Sugar is known to feed bad bacteria in the gut. And not only sugar, but also artificial sweeteners can really have a negative effect on the body.
Your body does not know what to do with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. It sees sweeteners as foreign invaders and attacks them, which then causes an inflammatory response in the body.
People with a gluten intolerance may find that they have increased inflammation levels when they consume foods with gluten. People who have celiac disease, should definitely avoid gluten.
Lactose and casein
Some people who are struggling with arthritis can find improvements in their symptoms when avoiding foods with lactose and casein. If you can tolerate dairy, it's advisable to consume raw cultured dairy products.
Trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils
Trans fats are found in fast foods, processed snack foods, cookies, donuts. If you want to lower inflammation level in the body, you should try and avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil.
High Omega-6 oils and products
Omega 6 fatty acids are important for the body in moderation, but consuming too much of them triggers your body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in corn, vegetable, safflower, sunflower, soy, peanut oils, but also in salad dressings sold in stores and mayonnaise.
It's found in fast foods, soy sauce, salad dressings, prepared soups, deli meats. It not only causes inflammation in the body, but also affects negatively your liver.
Refined carbohydrates and white flour products
Cereals, breads, rolls, and crackers very often consist mainly of refined carbohydrates which are lacking in important nutrients and are also high-glycemic index foods, can trigger inflammation in the body.
Alcohol has a high burden on your liver and therefore can affect many parts of your body. To reduce your inflammation, consume it really in moderation or give up completely.
How can you test for inflammation in the body?
You can have simple blood-tests done to measure inflammation level in your body- by measuring C-reactive protein (CRP) and homocysteine. CRP should be below 0.5 mg/L.
Homocysteine is an inflammatory amino acid linked to heart disease and dementia- it's commonly elevated in people with autoimmune problems. An optimal range is below 7Umol/L. There are also other tests that you can run, like checking your ferritin levels (optimal ranges for men 33-236 ng/mL, for premenopausal women 10-122 ng/mL); checking your white blood cell count; checking your gut health; checking you methylation.
What are the best natural remedies for inflammation?
First and foremost it is important to avoid the above pro-inflammatory foods in your diet. But it's also important to consume lots of anti-inflammatory foods as they also help to reduce the damage caused by inflammation.
Below is a basic list of foods and beverages to consume on a regular basis:
Vegetables and fruits in as many colours as possible- variety is key here.
Healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil, avocados, flaxseeds, hemp seeds)
Protein (organic where possible- chicken, beef, eggs). Read my post about foods highest in protein.
Beans and Legumes- black beans, adzuki beans, lentils, chickpeas
Herbs and Spices- such as turmeric, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, basil, garlic, ginger
Tea- an excellent anti-inflammatory beverage (green, oolong, white tea, matcha tea)
Quercetin is a natural pigment present in many vegetables and fruits such as blueberries, kale, apples, red onion and also in green tea. It's known to modulate inflammation and inhibit inflammatory enzymes.
Resveratrol from grapes
Some of the supplements to add to your diet when fighting inflammation, reduce swelling in the body are turmeric, omega-3 fatty acids, bromelain (naturally found in pineapple), willow bark.
Other important things things you can do on a regular basis to reduce inflammation in the body are exercise, meditation and of course lowering stress levels and getting adequate amount of sleep every night.