Anti-inflammatory medicine doesn’t have to come out of a bottle
Your patients have probably read a great deal about inflammation in the body, as well as how to fight it. Anti-inflammatory diets are certainly a hot topic today and there is any number of online sites offering products for sale that promise to help beat inflammation.
In fact, there are so many books, special drink mixes and proprietary supplements out there, that it can be somewhat overwhelming for your patients to decide by themselves which ones are actually worthwhile and which are just a waste of time.
The truth is that following an anti-inflammatory diet is much easier than most of those websites will lead your patients to believe. Fancy drink mixes or snack bars with an ingredient list that contains more chemicals than food items your patients will recognize are not going to help them fight inflammation. Instead, a focus on real, fresh, whole food, most of which your patients can find at their local market, should serve as the foundation of a good anti-inflammatory diet. Below are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods that you should be recommending to your patients as part of their diet.
If there is one anti-inflammatory food that your patients may already be eating on a regular basis, kale would be it. Kale has been a part of healthy diets for a number of years because it contains a wide range of antioxidants that protect the body against cellular damage that may lead to cancer.1
Specifically, as a member of the brassica family, kale has a type of sulfur-containing glucosinolate, isothiocyanates, which are effective against various types of cancer.1
Fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel, is another food that your patients probably also know is part of a healthy diet in terms of reducing cardiac disease and high cholesterol. However, the same omega-3 fatty acids that promote healthy hearts also reduce inflammation, the risk for certain cancers (such as colorectal cancer), high blood pressure, and neurological issues such as Alzheimer’s disease.2
Most guidelines recommend either eating fatty fish 2-3 times per week or taking a daily supplement.
Mushrooms, which are technically a fungi, have a wide range of properties, including those that are antiviral, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory.3,4 Their anti-inflammatory properties come from long-chain polysaccharides, otherwise known as beta-glucans. These beta-glucans not only help boost the immune system, but also contain an antioxidant, called ergothioneine, which also helps fight inflammation.
Some of the most exciting research in this area is how mushrooms can help fight diabetes, which is considered an inflammatory disease. Several studies have shown that mushrooms can reduce inflammatory processes related to diabetes via different pathways.3,4
Turmeric is the active ingredient in curry, a spice that is prevalent in Indian cooking. It has been used within Ayurvedic medicine for centuries for a wide range of health issues, but one of its main properties is as an anti-inflammatory.
Several studies have compared it to standard treatments, including one 2014 study that compared turmeric to ibuprofen for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee.5 Curcumin (an extract curcuminoid of turmeric) supplements were found to be as effective as ibuprofen, but with almost no side effects.
Next to kale, blueberries are probably the other most popular “super” food that your patients are already taking for health benefits. Blueberries are packed with anthocyanidin flavinoids that, in addition to providing the fruit with its deep indigo blue color, also have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
A 2016 study looked at the anti-inflammatory properties of a blueberry concentrate in a group of healthy adults.6 The researchers examined cognitive function and MRIs for all subjects during the 12-week study. At the end of the study, the subjects showed improvement in brain activity on their MRIs, as well as better cognitive function.6
It can be overwhelming for your patients to sort out the best anti-inflammatory diet to follow. Fortunately, with some common sense guidelines, you can get them on the path to a healthier diet that will help reduce the long-term effects of inflammation in the body.
- Harvard Women’s Health Watch Newsletter. Foods that fight inflammation. health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation. Published June 2014. Updated Nov.7, 2018. Accessed March 12, 2019.
- National Institutes of Health. Omega-3 fatty acids [Fact sheet]. ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/ Published March 2, 2018. Revised Nov. 21, 2018.
- Muszyńska B, Grzywacz-Kisielewska A, Kała K, Gdula-Argasińska J. Anti-inflammatory properties of edible mushrooms: A review. Food Chemistry. 2018 Mar 15;243:373-381.
- Feeney MJ, Miller AM, Roupas P. Mushrooms – biologically distinct and nutritionally unique: Exploring a “third food kingdom. Nutrition Today. 2014;49(6):301-307.
- Kuptniratsaikul V, Dajpratham P, Taechaarpornkul W, et al. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: A multicenter study. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2014;9:451-458.
- Bowtell JL, Aboo-Bakkar Z, Conway ME, et al. Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2017;42(7):773-779,