There are many anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) on the market, available as 'over the counter' (OTC), or via a medical prescription. All are designed to ease your pain and other symptoms associated with inflammation. However, like most medications, they can have some serious side effects, especially in the form of stomach lining irritation and allergic reactions.
As a Physiotherapist and Health Coach, a large portion of my are already taking either painkillers or NSAIDS before they walk through my door, either OTC or prescription. I also have a significant number of clients who say to me 'I can't take anti-inflammatories because they upset my stomach' or 'I don't take any medications, they are not good for you'. But its my next question that often baffles my clients, 'So what natural anti-inflammatories have you tried or are taking?' I just get blank stares and awkward silences. I'm always surprised at the number of people that seem proud of themselves for deciding to not take conventional medication, but have absolutely no idea what foods or natural products could help them instead.
So this is where I try to start to educate my clients. Anti-inflammatory foods are something that I talk about every day at work, which is why I decided to write this blog. I hope to educate more than just the people who step into my office every day!
Now, I'm not a massive supporter of taking pills or medications either, but we will leave that for another separate post. I do, however agree that taking low dose NSAIDS for short periods of time can have great benefits (yes a few times a year I do myself take a low dose NSAID to ease inflammation and pain), but I'm always there to educate my clients further on other possible options to try, which are less harmful to the body.
I do not recommend that people stop taking medication that has been prescribed by a doctor, thats outside of my scope of practice, but I do recommend that people on long term NSAIDS speak regularly with their GP/MD (did you know I'm bilingual, I speak American and English!) regarding the dose and frequency of dose. Pain changes and often it reduces after starting a prescribed medication. Too often people do not go back and ask these questions and just stick with the initial dose and frequency for years! Don't forget your GP/MD probably has thousands of patients on their caseload and cannot keep up with everybody's health needs. Take responsibility of your own health and don't be afraid to ask appropriate questions. Anyway I digress, lets get back to natural anti-inflammatory foods.
Nature has provided us with many natural anti-inflammatories that are easily accessible to us in the grocery stores or food markets. If just we educate ourselves to know which items they are. Here is a list of my 'Top Ten natural anti-inflammatory foods' and a few ides of how to use them or integrate them into your diet (I dislike the word 'diet' as it has so many negative connotations, however in the dictionary is it described as such, 'Diet is the sum of all food consumed by a person or organism', no references to loosing weight or cutting calories).
I add this to as much as I can when I'm cooking, stews, stir-fry's, lasagne, frittata, smoothies, curry etc. Its one of the best natural anti-inflammatories you can use. Buy fresh if you can or use organic turmeric powder. Get experimenting!
Obviously this has to be my favourite! The fresh root is great for using in smoothies or juices, flu shots and for making fresh ginger tea! Great with a bit of turmeric root thrown in too!
Full of anti-oxidants and have been shown to reduce inflammation, protect against cancer and heart disease. Eat raw or cooked, they are a great addition to salads, smoothies or with your Sunday roast dinner!
This is great for tooth ache! Stick a clove in the side of your mouth next to affected tooth and let it numb the pain away. (Don't forget to get it checked out by the dentist though). Otherwise great for adding flavour to a white sauce/ cheese sauce or pudding dishes such as rice pudding or just rice dishes in general!
Great to add to hot water with lemon and honey, desserts, homemade granola and savoury dishes. My favourite use is when making homemade apple cider in the slow cooker - just add a stick with some apple juice, cloves, star anise and nutmeg and slow cook for 3hrs.
6. DARK LEAFY GREENS
These contain vitamin E which has been shown to play a role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. Spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli and bok choy are are great for adding to smoothies, juices, soups and stews. The darker the better!
Otherwise known as seaweed, packed full of nutrients and iodine which helps maintain a healthy thyroid. Try and get it raw but cooked is still beneficial. High in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Add to salads soups, stews and smoothies. Experiment with the different types and enjoy!
8. OILY FISH
Such as salmon, mackerel, tuna (buy line caught if possible, to save the dolphins that get caught in tuna fishing nets) and sardines, are all high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation. If your not a fish fan, try adding some good quality fish oil supplements to your diet.
9. GREEN TEA
Well obviously make a nice tea with it! There are so many types of green tea to try. Add some lemon or fresh mint leaves for added health benefits.
10. GARLIC AND ONIONS
Garlic has been shown to work similarly to NSAIDS by shutting off the pathways that lead to inflammation. Just avoid breathing on people afterwards... Fresh garlic and onions are always better than the powdered versions!
Now this list is by no means the only natural anti-inflammatory foods out there, its just some of the most powerful and easily accessible ones for you to go out and try. And lets see if we call all take a few less pills and look after our bodies in a more natural way. I am in no way telling people to stop their medications, these foods can be consumed along side prescribed medication but I would advise to check to see if there are any contraindications with regards to any current medication that you are taking. Speak to a pharmacist or doctor if you are concerned. Also I always find its best to take the foods in their natural form rather than in a pill as a powder but thats just my preference. Adding the powdered substances to smoothies and shakes is a great way of getting the food in your diet with very little effort!
Enjoy getting to know your anti-inflammatory foods!