Life is dangerous. No matter how careful you are, pain is hovering in the wings, waiting for its moment. I can’t help with all the emotional pains, but lately, I’ve been looking for foods to help out with the physical ones. Anti-inflammatory foods have become my obsession, as I try to heal my own joint pains. Our innate inflammatory response is important to our survival, and is the first line of self defense when our bodies are injured or invaded by bacteria. But when inflammation becomes a chronic, ongoing condition, it stops being a positive thing, and aggravates many health conditions, often causing pain, and causing damage in itself.
Anti-inflammatory foods to the rescue
There are two types of inflammation. If you fall and bang up your knee, pain, redness, heat and swelling are part of your inflammatory response, and signal you to stop moving and let the body start emergency healing measures. That’s acute inflammation. Chronic inflammation is when the condition is ongoing, and the body fights a never-ending war. You might have a problem with an internal organ, which has no nerve endings to feel pain, or some other less visible part. An example is clogged arteries, in which cholesterol plaques create inflammation in the artery wall, and swelling is as detrimental to the flow of blood as the plaques are. (Click here to read more.) Chronic inflammation plays a role in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other health problem.
In my case, I’m looking to cool down the inflammation in my joints. I didn’t fall and bang up my knee. It turns out that using my knees to exercise and work hard for all these years has convinced them that they need to be on high alert. When the doctor told me I had “Early overuse arthritis,” I was appalled. At least he said “early,” to cushion the blow. Arthritis was a mystery to me, something I expected might creep up on me much, much later in life. But there it is. It turns out that arthritis is a blanket term for several kinds of chronic, painful inflammation. The kicker is that the inflammation damages the joint, instead of helping.
(Link to a Harvard Health Publication on Understanding Inflammation)
Anti-inflammatory foods are good for lots of things
So I started researching anti-inflammatory foods. I can’t go back and undo what’s been done inside my joints, and I actually need to keep moving to keep the joint healthy. So, I’m taking charge of what I can, and filling my plate with foods that promise to calm the swelling and pain. In the bargain, I might just be helping all sorts of other things in my body as well, from my circulation to my skin, so it’s a good way to go.
Food as medicine
So, in my searches, familiar foods like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and green tea come up. I’ve written lots of posts about turmeric, like this one with a recipe for Turmeric Carrot Tonic, this one with a golden turmeric sesame salad dressing, or this one with lots of info on on turmeric and a recipe for Dal.
Other foods that seem to help include pineapple, sour cherries, strawberries, oranges, blueberries, tomatoes, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, whole grains, and the healthy fats from olive oil and either fatty fish or nuts like walnuts. Sour cherries, in particular, have antioxidants that have been shown to help with inflammation, and arthritis pain specifically.
Avoiding meat, refined flour and sugar, fried foods, lard, soda and junk food in general is a good practice for fighting inflammation. Of course, I was already avoiding the inflammation diet, so all I can do is double down on the anti-inflammatory foods I eat.
If you follow me on instagram, I’m posting my anti-inflammatory smoothies!
This is an easy overnight oat soak with turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and berries. It’s an easy meal prep for a breakfast that starts the day off right. I like to work out in the morning, so I figure eating anti-inflammatory foods afterward is a good plan.
Even if you have healthy, happy joints, adding some anti-inflammatory foods to your day is a smart idea. This one is pretty tasty, too!
Golden Oats with Berries
- 2 cups non-dairy milk I used cashew-almond
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups thick rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons sour cherry juice concentrate
- fresh berries
- In a 2-3 cup storage tub, combine the milk, turmeric, ginger and black pepper. Whisk to mix well. Stir in the oats and cover the tub, refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.
- Stir the oats until they are creamy. Serve topped with berries and drizzled with cherry concentrate.