Everything you’re doing in your life right now either optimizes or interferes with your performance and productivity.

I’m sure you know interventions like physical therapy can improve a physical condition, but you may not have considered how your diet can reduce pain and inflammation in your body and support your healing immune response.

While pharmaceuticals like ibuprofen may be necessary in certain circumstances for certain people, you can incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet to aid in pain relief, reduce reliance on medication, and prevent damage to your stomach lining.

Even if you’re pain-free, inflammation in your body increases your risk of heart disease, some cancers and Alzheimer’s disease.

Try incorporating these 10 natural foods in your diet today:

1. Turmeric: Research shows the Indian spice (active substance: curcumin) frequently used in curries suppresses pain and inflammation through a similar mechanism as drugs like COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors without the harmful side effects. There are many studies that support curcumin’s effectiveness at reducing swelling, stiffness and pain, and improving function in those with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Sprinkle turmeric liberally into vegetable and rice dishes and soups (Note: Not for bile duct dysfunction, gallstones or pregnant women without consulting your doctor.) Turmeric can take up to two months for full benefits to develop.

2. Tart cherries: Meraleedharan Nair, PhD, professor of natural products and chemistry at Michigan State University found tart cherry extract ten times more effective than aspirin at relieving inflammation. More research is needed to prove the effect of the compound anthocyanin in tart cherry and juice form, but there’s no harm in regularly adding cherries to your diet.

3. Oily fish & Omega 3 fatty acids: An imbalance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids can cause inflammation. Bake or boil fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines to increase Omega-3 levels in the body.

I eat a vegetarian diet, but I make one exception for a high quality cod liver oil. Vegetarians and vegans can also get Omega 3s by eating seaweed and taking DHA supplements. (Consult your healthcare provider before beginning supplementation.) Check out this resource for more on vegan-friendly Omega-3s. http://jacknorrisrd.com/omega-3s-in-vegetarian-diets/

4. Olive Oil: Oleocanthal, a compound in high quality olive oil, prevents the production of pro-inflammatory COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes– the same way NSAIDs work by dampening pain sensitivity. Stronger flavored oils from Tuscany or that use olives of that variety contain higher levels of oleocanthal.

A study conducted by the director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia suggests 3-½ Tbsp. of olive oil is equal to a 200-mg tablet of ibuprofen. This amounts to more than 400 calories, so be sure to eliminate other fats in your diet, such as butter.

5. Nuts and seeds: Freshly ground flax seeds, unground chia seeds and hemp seeds are high in omega-3s, as are almonds and walnuts. Nuts and seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet. Sprinkle them into oatmeal, eat a handful as a snack, or ground them into a smoothie.

6. Ginger: “Ginger extract has a statistically significant effect on reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee,” researchers in Arthritis and Rheumatism write. In their study of 247 people with osteoarthritis of the knee, those taking ginger extract for six weeks had 31 percent less knee pain after walking 50 feet and took less pain medication.

Added bonus: Ginger alleviates stomach problems and nausea. As with turmeric, it can take up to two months to reap the full benefits of ginger, so use it daily now.

7. Dark leafy greens: Spinach, kale, collard greens, dandelion greens and broccoli contain high amounts of alkaline minerals like calcium and magnesium that help balance your body’s PH level to alleviate inflammation.

Yay for greens! Hide them in your food, if you must, but incorporate them into more than one meal a day.

8. Pineapple: Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which helps reduce swelling and inflammation in the body, making it great for inflammatory bowel conditions, arthritis, strains and sprains and other sports injuries. Bromelain has other cardiovascular benefits, too. It stops blood clotting as aspirin does.

Eat it raw, and juice or blend the core, which contains the most bromelain.

9. Berries: Fresh or frozen organic berries are packed with antioxidant compounds like proanthocyanidins and ellagic acid, which fight cell damage and inflammation. Go for variety, as these compounds vary per berry.

10. Garlic: Garlic’s stinky aroma is caused by its most active ingredient, allicin, which minimizes oxidation, inflammation and other cell-destroying processes that underlie every major chronic disease. Garlic is one of the world’s most potent natural medicines. The medical database of the National Institutes of Health contains more than 3,200 studies on the therapeutic power of garlic.

You can diminish the odor by pairing it with red wine, parsley, roasted fennel, anise, or cardamom seeds. Wash your hands after with lemon juice, a stainless steel spoon, or baking soda.

Of course, drink plenty of filtered water or coconut water to flush away toxins and stay hydrated!

Note: This post is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare provider.

Resource List
Cod Liver Oil: Green Pasture, www.greenpasture.org
Tart Cherry Concentrate: Michelle’s Miracle Joint Formula, www.michellesmiracle.com
Healing Spices: How to use 50 everyday and exotic spices to boost health and beat disease, http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Spices-Everyday-Exotic-Disease/dp/1402776632

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