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Anti Inflammatory Foods - Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation

Updated on September 2, 2013


Recently, I’ve been experimenting with anti inflammatory foods to help with my inflammation. I never really paid a lot of attention to the association between diet and inflammation before, but since I’ve been having so much pain and swelling in my right knee, I’ve been taking note of which foods help reduce the chronic inflammation and which foods make it worse. At times, my bad knee swells to the size of a basketball – seriously. I also have foraminal stenosis, and any extra inflammation along my spine will cause me a lot of pain and other symptoms. The nerve damage in my hands also gets worse, of course, when inflamed. I’ve often wondered why the pain in my hands, neck, shoulders, lower back, and bad knee comes and goes, and I’ve even asked my doctor about it. She said anything that increases the swelling is going to produce more pain, more numbness, and more tingling. She mentioned overuse and physical strain, but sometimes the symptoms are worse even when I haven’t been physically active, so activity can’t be the only answer. I’m totally convinced that there are anti inflammatory foods that can help reduce inflammation, along with foods that cause inflammation and make it worse.

Learn more about anti inflammatory foods.
Learn more about anti inflammatory foods. | Source
The knee is a common site for pain and swelling.
The knee is a common site for pain and swelling. | Source

What is Inflammation

Let’s begin this section with a question: What is inflammation? Although it can be painful, inflammation is part of the body’s defense mechanism. It can be caused by viral infection, bacterial infection, parasites, alcohol, irritants, foreign bodies, stress, and injuries. When the body is “attacked,” blood vessels dilate, bringing extra blood and fluids to the site. Included with this flow of fluids are defender cells to help in the healing process.

Sometimes the body gets confused and reacts negatively to healthy tissue, incorrectly identifying it as a harmful irritant. When this happens, the condition is referred to as an autoimmune disease. Examples of autoimmune diseases and disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, allergies, Type 1 Diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis. Some health care professionals also believe that fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder.

Inflammation can be both good and bad, and it can be painful. The pain might be caused by the pressure the extra fluid is placing on nearby tissues, or by the chemicals released in the process that affect nerve endings. Obviously, in the case of autoimmune diseases, the body’s response mechanism is “out of whack” and has a negative effect on tissues. There’s also a difference in acute inflammation and chronic inflammation. I’ll discuss that in more detail in the two sections below.

What Is Inflammation:

Acute Inflammation

Acute inflammation usually begins very quickly after harmful bacteria or parasites enter the body or after an injury occurs. Changes take place in cells that are already present, and the area is flooded with helpful defender cells that fight off harmful elements. In most cases, acute inflammation lasts for only days or weeks. It has a specific job to do, and that job is either done, and the area heals, or an abscess forms. When the body can’t heal injuries properly, fibrosis occurs, and scars form. If the acute inflammation persists, it can turn into chronic inflammation.

The five signs of acute inflammation on the skin or surface are pain; redness, caused by increased blood; immobility; swelling, caused by extra fluid; and heat, due to increased blood flow.

Acute Inflammation:

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is usually caused by foreign bodies, certain pathogens, or a viral infection. As I’ve already mentioned, inflammation can also be caused by autoimmune actions, resulting in chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation develops more slowly than acute inflammation, but it lasts longer. With this type of inflammation, the presence of helpful cells changes gradually, and destruction occurs. Macrophages, cells that digest pathogens, are present in large numbers. The macrophages begin to release toxins that can destroy the body’s own tissues. Macrophages can also help cancer cells grow and tumors progress.

To put it in simple terms, with chronic inflammation, the body doesn’t know when to turn off the immune system. The constant supply of immune cells affects otherwise healthy tissues and causes cell mutations that sometimes lead to cancer or other unhealthy conditions. Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, depression, and cardiovascular disease are all linked to chronic inflammation.

Chronic Inflammation:

Natural Anti Inflammatory

What is a natural anti inflammatory? A natural anti inflammatory is a substance that reduces inflammation without drugs. Well, actually, all natural anti inflammatories aren’t “substances.” For example, mild to moderate exercise can reduce inflammation. The stress hormone cortisol is also linked to inflammation, so reducing stress can reduce inflammation.

Of course, there are plenty of anti inflammatory agents in the drug category. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, Celebrex, and corticosteroids, including Flonase, Nasonex, hydrocortisone, and prednisone. Unfortunately, like most drugs, anti inflammatory medications can have some nasty side effects. Before paying a visit to your pharmacy, try using natural anti inflammatory aides, instead. You can start easily by incorporating more anti inflammatory foods into your diet, and by avoiding or at least decreasing the amount of foods that cause inflammation. In addition to following an anti inflammatory diet, you might also want to try dietary supplements. Before taking any anti inflammatory supplements, check with your physician first. Some might interfere with your medications.

Anti inflammatory foods include green tea.
Anti inflammatory foods include green tea. | Source
Apple peel is a natural anti inflammatory.
Apple peel is a natural anti inflammatory. | Source

Anti Inflammatory Foods

Supposedly, the following are anti inflammatory foods that will decrease the amount of inflammation in your body. To be more specific, I’m talking about targeting chronic inflammation. To be honest, I haven’t experimented with all these foods. I have noticed that when I consume more of some of these suggestions, I have less inflammation. But whether the decreased symptoms are due to my consuming more of these foods or from consuming fewer foods that cause inflammation, I’m not sure.





Wild-Caught Shellfish


Tart Cherries

Sour Cherry Juice

Apple Peel
















Winter Squash

Sweet Potatoes

Chili Peppers

Dried Beans

Shitake Mushrooms

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Walnut Oil

Flax Oil

Grape Seed Oil

Low Fat Yogurt

Skim Milk

Dark Chocolate

Lean Chicken

Eggs from Free-Range Hens

Beef From Free-Range, Grass-Fed Cattle



Brazil Nuts



Sesame Seeds

Ground Flaxseed

Chia Seeds

Soy Nuts



Soy Milk

Foods that cause inflammation include breads made with refined white flour.
Foods that cause inflammation include breads made with refined white flour. | Source

Foods That Cause Inflammation

Yes, readers, there are foods that cause inflammation! I can really tell a big difference in my pain and swelling when I avoid sugar and breads made with white flour. Practically any simple carbohydrate food will make my inflammation worse, including white potatoes and regular pasta. Try doing without these foods for a few days to see if you notice a difference in the way you feel. I often follow a low carb diet, and it works pretty well with an anti inflammatory diet.

Saturated fats

Trans fats


Burnt or Charred Foods

Processed Foods

Food Additives

Foods Cooked at High Temperatures


Refined White Flour

White Rice

Fried Foods


Whole Milk

2% Milk


Anti Inflammatory Herbs can be a regular addition to a healthy diet.
Anti Inflammatory Herbs can be a regular addition to a healthy diet. | Source

Anti Inflammatory Herbs

There are anti inflammatory herbs, too, along with some spices. Instead of listing herbs and spices separately, I’m listing them together. Most of these can be used as tasty ingredients in a wide variety of dishes, so using them could be a good start in eating an anti inflammatory diet.

Ginger Root

Ground Ginger


Curry powder


Holy Basil




Celery Seed


Take flax oil supplements or use ground flaxseed in baked goods.
Take flax oil supplements or use ground flaxseed in baked goods. | Source

Anti Inflammatory Supplements

Some of the anti inflammatory supplements included in this section are actually herbs, but they’re not typical culinary herbs used by most Americans, so I’ve put them in this category. The following anti inflammatory supplements might be available in capsules, tablets, liquids, or as teas.

Omega-3 Supplements

Flaxseed Oil Capsules



Vitamin C

Vitamin E


Alpha Lipoic Acid

Saw Palmetto



St. John’s Wort

Vitamin D

Indian Frankincense (boswellia)




Devil’s Claw

Cat’s Claw

Slippery Elm


White Willow Bark Extract


Maritime Pine Bark

An anti inflammatory diet should include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
An anti inflammatory diet should include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. | Source

Anti Inflammatory Diet

If you have inflammation, following an anti inflammatory diet could be beneficial. According to the research I’ve done, not every anti inflammatory works the same for everyone. I guess each body is a little different, not to mention individual food allergies. Obviously, for example, even though walnuts might reduce inflammation in most people, it certainly wouldn’t have a desirable effect for someone with a walnut allergy. Try incorporating new anti inflammatory foods into your diet gradually. If you’re concerned about food allergies, add the new foods one at a time to see how you tolerate each one. I definitely suggest cutting down on foods that cause inflammation, however, as an important part of an anti inflammatory diet. These “bad” foods seem to be pretty negatively consistent for just about everyone. By paying close attention to what you eat, by getting regular exercise, and by relieving stress, you can hopefully get your inflammation under control.


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    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Dee! Maybe it doesn't work for everyone, but it helps with my inflammation. Following this diet doesn't eliminate my inflammation entirely, however.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is great information. Love the insert of You Tube videos to help explain. Sadly, I must be the challenge. Over the past 7 years I have eliminated most of the foods mentioned plus others to see about food sensitivities, but still have a major problem with inflammation.

      Supplements don't fit into the budget and I don't use the pharma meds.

      All that said, I am putting this info in my files and will link it for many who need a detailed file on how and what to do for inflammation

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      ConservativeLady, that's great! I think there are a lot of people who don't realize how much diet affects the way we feel.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Francesca, you're very welcome!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Deb, peace and blessings back to you!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      pstraubie, I hope you're right about LOTS of angels! lol

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Mike, that's true, but my doc says whole wheat isn't as bad for inflammation as refined white flour is. Good to see you again!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Mac, I've run out of turmeric capsules and need to buy some more. Thanks for the reminder!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Maria, great to see you!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Anamika, that's the hard part, right? lol

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Audrey, thanks for sharing!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Many thanks, Prasetio!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Rebecca. How are things in the Great Frozen North? lol

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Donna, maybe so! Sometimes my body craves buttermilk biscuits, but I try not to listen. lol

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      That's interesting, Hendrika. I don't drink much red wine, though. Thanks for the tip!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Soulfully, I like green tea, too - the Lipton sugar-free citrus flavored. Thanks for reading!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Buddy.

    • Conservative Lady profile image


      8 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

      I have recently started eating "anti inflammatory" foods as the mainstay of my diet - I have lost 20 pounds and I feel so much better. Great list you have provided here.

    • soulfully profile image


      8 years ago

      That's quite an impressive list of anti-inflammatory foods. I spend a lot of time exercising at home, and my knuckles get quite inflamed whenever I use a punch-bag. Along with using ice to help, your list of foods will also come in quite handy.

      I started drinking green tea after hearing that Buddhist monks use it along with deep breathing exercises to refine their physical strength. However, There are a lot on your list of foods I don't currently use that I think will give me extra benefits, such as extra energy, as well as to bring down inflammation. Thanks again!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Learning a ton from these neat aretilcs.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      random, it's always a pleasure to see you here!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      MsDora, I'm glad you got some useful information from this hub!

    • Francesca27 profile image


      8 years ago from Hub Page

      I really needed this information. thank you so much.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Many thanks, Doc!

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      Elder DeBorrah K Ogans 

      8 years ago

      Habee, Marvelous informative article on anti inflammatory foods. Lots of helpful suggestions to improve your health naturally through a healthier diet.

      Thank you for sharing, Peace & Blessings! Voted UP!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      8 years ago from North Central Florida

      I am bookmarking these for my use and to pass on to my family. I knew about some of these but your list is quite comprehensive and offers a lot of variety.

      Thanks for sharing. Angels are on the way ps

    • MikeNV profile image


      8 years ago from Henderson, NV

      PS: It doesn't matter if its white flour or whole wheat flour, both will cause inflammation. Dr. Davis "Wheat Belly" is an interesting read. Nearly all the grains we consume in the USA are Genetically Modified, and nearly all the World's Wheat. Gluten inflames joints. And it's also almost impossible to go out to dinner at any restaurant and avoid consuming gluten.

    • MikeNV profile image


      8 years ago from Henderson, NV

      Hi how are you? I see you are still chugging away article after article. The hard part about a diet to counter the effects of inflammation isn't finding anti-inflammatory foods, it's ELIMINATING COMPLETELY foods that cause inflammation What you will also find is food additives - coloring, flavoring, etc. are big culprits in inflammation. So eating packaged prepared foods will set you back as the ingredients are often hidden or buried deep in labels. Take Care.

    • macteacher profile image

      Wendy Golden 

      8 years ago from New York

      This is a great resource. Some of the foods and supplements I already use. ..but now I'm going to try some of the others. I can say that the best anti inflammatory spice I've used is Turmeric. I have bad carpal tunnel in my right hand, and since taking three turmeric capsules a day - the pain is gone. Thanks for such a helpful resource. Voted up. :-)

    • Maria Cecilia profile image

      Maria Cecilia 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      This is great I am beginning to feel some inflammatory that you mentioned.... I will try the fresh fruit and vegetables...

    • Anamika S profile image

      Anamika S Jain 

      8 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

      Awesome list of anti inflammatory foods. I will keep this in mind the next time I crave for something I should not be eating. Voted up!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      8 years ago from California

      This is a great hub to come back to again and again! Passing it along!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub and I learn many things from you, Habee. I love your list and I can easily find them around me. Thanks for writing and sharing with us. Voted up and shared :-)


    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 

      8 years ago from Canada

      great hub, and two things which surprised me: kale was anti-inflammatory and white rice was. Pretty awesome list. I'll be back to re-read =)

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      8 years ago from Central North Carolina

      I bookmarked this Hub. It is good to have a list handy. I am really trying to limit my refined carbs and I have literally craved strawberries all spring. Maybe my body has been trying to tell me something:o)

    • Hendrika profile image


      8 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      I agree that food can help inflammation or make it worse. Usually red wine is one of those that makes it worse. So, when we were on holiday and I drank a little red wine more than usual. To my amazement it turned out not to be the wine but the other food like lots of carrots, peanut butter, whole grain bread etc.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      8 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I was not expecting such a comprehensive resource! You have covered so many important aspects of this topic. Thanks!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      8 years ago from The Caribbean

      What a great hub! This has personal meaning and benefit for me. I'm bookmarking, voting up and useful. Thanks a million!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      GREAT information here, Holle. There is so much to study and ponder. Thank you for your research. I have bookmarked this hub and voted up, of course.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Good point, peach. Thanks for dropping by!

    • peachpurple profile image


      8 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      useful hub. There are so many anti-inflam food to choose from. You know the patient is always choosy when he is hurt. With your hub, I bet the patient would feel better with such a wide range of choices. Voted useful


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