Last Modified: February 2, 2013
A primary cause of chronic illness for many people is systemic inflammation, and particularly the kind that goes unaddressed or even mostly unnoticed until it eventually progresses into a full-blown chronic disease. High blood pressure, bacterial and viral infections, arthritis, acid reflux, premature aging, heart disease, cancer, and many other common health conditions are often associated with, or even the product of, systemic inflammation, which means the only real way to counteract them is to correct and eliminate this inflammation at its core.
And the best way to do this is through implementing comprehensive lifestyle and dietary changes rather than taking pharmaceutical drugs, the latter of which can cause unintended harm in the form of damaging side effects. If chronic, low-grade inflammation is affecting your own health, the following foods and herbs can help reduce and even eliminate it naturally without the need for drugs:
1) Fermented foods and beverages. Eating more foods and drinking more beverages that are rich in probiotic bacteria — that is, bacteria that promote a healthy, disease-fighting ecosystem inside your digestive tract — is one of the most effective ways to naturally fight inflammation. Since probiotics are vital for the body to effectively break down foods and make them more bioavailable and digestible, they can also help ease the digestive burden brought about by the modern food supply, which is largely responsible for creating inflammation inside the body.
Your options include foods like traditional fermented vegetables — kimchi and sauerkraut are two of the most popular — traditional miso soup, raw milk kefir or yogurt, tempeh, and homemade pickles. Popular probiotic beverages include kombucha tea, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (ACV), and water kefir.
2) Omega-3 fatty acids. Often referred to as natural “lubrication” for the systems of your body, Omega-3 fatty acids like the kinds found in wild fatty fish, hemp and chia seeds, walnuts, and pastured eggs and meats are powerful inflammation-fighters. Studies have shown that Omega-3s reduce oxidative stress throughout the body and minimize inflammation in the brain, cardiovascular system, and elsewhere, reducing your risk of developing other serious diseases.
High-quality fish oils like Green Pasture and Carlson, as well as hemp oil, chia oil, spirulina, pumpkin seed oil and walnut oil are all excellent sources of Omega-3s. Each of these foods will help offset the overload of Omega-6 fatty acids that pervade the Standard American Diet (SAD). These foods are also all-around nutritional powerhouses that help promote an internal habitat that is unfavorable for inflammation and disease.
3) Tart cherries. One of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods in existence, tart cherries have been shown to provide powerful relief for people who suffer from arthritis, gout, joint pain, and other inflammatory conditions. Tart cherries are so powerful, in fact, that researchers from Oregon Health & Science University recently declared them to have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.”
Since they are not widely available in fresh form — virtually all cherries sold at the supermarket are sweet cherries rather than tart cherries — the best way to obtain tart cherries is to purchase them in powder, capsule, or juice form. Drinking just a few ounces of tart cherry juice every day can significantly improve inflammatory markers in just a few weeks.
4) Saturated fat. This recommendation may come as a surprise to some readers, but the truth of the matter is that Americans consume far too many Omega-6 fatty acids, which are a major cause of systemic inflammation. And who can really blame them considering the fact that the medical system actually promotes the intake of Omega-6-rich vegetables oils and other inflammatory foods as if they were healthy?
Low-fat diets are another cause of both inflammation and chronic disease, as the body needs regular intake of healthy fats to keep the circulatory system in good health and maintain healthy blood flow. Consuming more healthy saturated fats in the form of coconut oil, pastured meats and butter, and natural lard can not only help ease inflammation, but also strengthen your bones, improve lung and brain function, and modulate nervous system function.
5) Nopal cactus fruit. Uniquely rich in powerful bioflavonoid nutrients known as betalains, nopal cactus fruit is another must-have anti-inflammatory food that is both delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet. Members of the quercetin family, betalains have been shown to help neutralize the free radicals responsible for triggering inflammation, as well as provide lasting protection against oxidative damage.
A 2012 study published in the journal Alcohol found that nopal cactus fruit extract helped protect cells in rats from inflammatory damage. And an earlier study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that nopal cactus fruit imparts similar anti-inflammatory benefits in humans.