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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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