The Proper Inflammation Diet and Treatment That’s Evidence-Based

inflammation dietWhat do most people do when they start to experience pain? As a society, we have relatively easy access to medications to numb our experience of pain.

Most people, when confronted with an aching back, or even a minor headache, reach for the aspirin, or worse, a prescription painkiller.

The statistics are shocking, with at least 116 millions Americans suffering from chronic pain and this number is growing (1).

It’s becoming obvious that conventional medicine is failing us, opioids and aspirin can only mask the symptoms. If we truly want to heal, we must get to the root of the issue.

What is causing so much chronic pain for hundred of millions of people every day? The answer is multi-faceted, as people experience pain for a multitude of reasons.

What we can analyze, is the bodies natural response to pain, inflammation, and how we can work to reduce it, instead of just cover it up.

My goal isn’t to tell sufferers of chronic pain to go off their prescriptions cold turkey. What I aim for is to elevate awareness of inflammation, what it is and how we can work toward relieving it.

When multiple strategies are put in place, there is hope for people suffering from chronic pain, diabetes, and even cancer, without addictive drugs.

The Inflammatory Response

The inflammatory response is similar to our bodies innate knowledge to elevate the core temperature when we are ill, or to switch to fight or flight mode when we may be in danger.

It’s a protection mechanism designed to signal to our brains that something is wrong (2). There are two inflammatory response pathways in the body, primary and secondary.

The primary inflammatory pathway is a symptomless response to normal daily activities. This is the function of repair and removal of toxins, it occurs without our knowledge when it is functioning well.

Young children for example may fall down and hurt themselves, but the pain won’t linger for nearly as long as it would for someone whose primary inflammation response is inhibited.

The secondary inflammatory pathway engages when the primary pathway is unable to do it’s job fully.

This is where we begin to experience pain and swelling as an adaptation in the tissues is necessary to prevent further damage. (3)

Imagine if you broke your leg, yet the secondary pathway didn’t kick in, you would feel no pain, you would continue walking around as if nothing was wrong aside from the visual bone being out of place.

The natural design of our secondary inflammatory pathway is perfect, yet we’ve stopped taking it as a sign and started taking it painkillers instead.

There’s a time and a place for anti-inflammatory drugs, but in the grand scheme of things they are over prescribed and taken advantage of (4).

We instead, need to better understand the bodies secondary response, how it effects chronic pain, and how it manifests in other, seemingly unrelated disorders.

When we can understand that this response is a signal to do something differently, only then can we promote real internal healing.

Access This Amazing “Fight Your Inflammation Guide”

Ailments Linked to Inflammation

I’m not going to go into detail about every single one of the illnesses with an inflammatory nature, there are far too many, nearly every illness is related to inflammation somewhere along the way.

Which begs the point, even if we can never control all the factors that cause disease, we can put a finger on certain ones and drastically improve the symptoms.

You may not be able to change your genetic structure, but you do have the power to tame inflammation with natural substances and lifestyle change!

Joint Pain/Arthritis

The most obvious of ailments associated with excess inflammation in the body is the aches and pains felt in our joints. These can manifest into the far worse experiences of arthritis and chronic pain.

Digestive Problems

There’s ample scientific evidence linking a lack of beneficial flora or gut bacteria to excess inflammation in the body (5).

For people suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Crohn’s disease, leaky gut syndrome, ulcerative colitis and even just poor digestion, inflammation has a part to play.

This time, the body is signalling something is wrong in the digestive tract. Often this can be brought on by a lack of probiotics which help to keep everything in balance (6).

Heart Problems

There’s a reason Doctors advise people at high-risk of heart attack to take a baby aspirin daily. Inflammation is the ultimate cause of heart disease, every single contributing factor to cardiovascular disease comes back around the core issue of inflammation (7).

CRP (C-reactive protein) is a marker indicating inflammation found in the blood. High levels of this protein in the blood is a strong indicator to the likelihood of someone at risk of cardiovascular disease.

This protein is also elevated in those with rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimers, lupus, cancer and other diseases linked to inflammation (8).

Skin Problems

Inflammatory skin conditions affect over 35 million Americans annually. Amongst them are psoriasis, eczema and rosacea (9). When chronic, people can experience irreparable tissue damage and the inflammatory response can be very uncomfortable.

These types of skin problems are often associated with genetics, but other factors such as diet, omega-3 consumption and gluten intolerance also have a role to play in figuring out their treatment.

And the list goes on…

Chronic Pain
Mental Disorders/Depression
Gall bladder Disease
Kidney failure
Autoimmune Disorders

What Causes Chronic Inflammation

The research clearly demonstrates that inflammation begins in the gut (10). You can have a seemingly unrelated ailment which manifests in complete isolation from the gut, but it still originated there.

Our guts are highly sensitive and semi-permeable, if you’ve ever grieved deeply or even just had a bad argument, odds are you aren’t in the mood to eat anything.

That’s because we’re not meant to digest and assimilate food when we are in an anxious state. But because many people live in a state of chronic stress, and obviously still need to eat, this leads to increased gut permeability, over time this can cause leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky gut syndrome occurs due to damaged microvilli of our gut lining not being able to do their job effectively. Undigested food, bacteria and viruses and able to pass through the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream.

This initiates an auto-immune response and manifests as allergies, poor digestion/absorption and eventually can turn in to all of the ailments listed above.

Other Causes of Inflammation

Poor gut health/lack of probiotics/overuse of anti-biotics
Chronic stress
Poor sleep
Bad food choices ex.trans fats, refined sugar and carbohydrates, fast food etc.(11)
Sedentary lifestyle (12)
Overtraining (there is such thing as too much exercise)
Low dietary omega-3 fatty acids
High omega-6 fatty acids
Mineral and vitamin deficiencies
Exposure to environmental toxins
Overweight (visceral fat)

Side Effects of Painkillers

Every time we numb the pain caused by the secondary inflammatory response, we shut off the bodies ability to repair and detoxify. Masking the symptoms is never going to give you your life back and you can do better.

Reducing inflammation through lifestyle changes and healing the gut are the first steps when it comes to the root of the problem. We all know painkillers have a time and place, but they also have horrendous effects on the body which increase with time (13).

How Chronic Inflammation Affects Every Aspect of Our Life

flameIf you need more convincing as to why reducing inflammation is SO important to living a healthy happy life, read on. Living in chronic pain is a burden that no one should have to bear, its one thing to suffer for a short period of time, but when the pain never goes away it’s like everything else in life falls to the wayside.

The amount of hard work that we infuse in our lives, only to end up with debilitating pain, that can’t be the only option and it’s not. You can reduce inflammation naturally and experience reduced pain levels, it won’t be instantaneous but its worth it in the end.

Inflammation and Exercise

The relationship between exercise and inflammation is an interesting one. While exercise causes inflammation to a certain extent, it is mostly of the primary pathway and doesn’t involve a long term inflammatory response.

To the contrary, most studies indicate that a consistent exercise program actually reduces inflammation over time along with a host of other benefits (14). Adults who exercise regularly have lower cytokine count in their blood (15). It’s interesting to note that the effects of exercise lowering inflammation occur over a the course of a few months.

When you only exercise intermittently or once in awhile, it can actually increase inflammation (16). All the more reason to have a consistent movement program, it doesn’t matter what type of exercise you choose to do, just get moving!

Yoga To Decrease Inflammation

Yoga is a gentle and stress relieving activity which can help reduce inflammation in 2 ways. In the physical sense, yoga is technically an exercise and thus long term can help lower inflammation.

Mentally it can help lower cortisol levels which are associated with higher cytokine counts in the blood (17).

The deep breathing practices inherent in yoga also provide a distraction from chronic pain and enable the practitioner increased blood oxygen levels as well as better circulation.

How to Reduce Excess Inflammation Naturally

There’s been a lot of research into reducing inflammation with certain natural medicines and supplements.

Combined with a healthy lifestyle, exercise and assuring an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, you can drastically reduce inflammation and its manifested ailments in the body.

Anti-inflammatory Foods

inflammationfoodsDr. Weil is a well known advocate of eating a diet of anti-inflammatory foods, he even designed a specific anti-inflammatory food pyramid (18) highlighting the best foods for reducing inflammation.

While this is a good guide, I would take it one step further and avoid gluten as well, gluten has an inflammatory reaction in most people and is completely unnecessary for achieving optimal health and vibrance.

I would also not consume soy as most of it is GMO and it contains harmful estrogen mimickers.

An abundance of vegetables and fruits is the core of the anti-inflammatory diet. These foods, rich in nutrients are essential and the more you can consume of them, the better.

Other excellent food choices for reducing inflammation include wild salmon, antioxidant rich dark chocolate, red wine, mushrooms, avocado, walnuts, apple cider vinegar, flax and chia seeds to name a few.

Gluten and Inflammation

A recent study showed gluten promotes inflammation, even in healthy, allergy free individuals (19). While it would be wise to remove gluten from the diet altogether when trying to reduce inflammation, it shouldn’t be replaced with common gluten free breads and treats.

These foods are filled with preservatives and other strange ingredients.

Instead, opt for healthy homemade gluten free breads such as those made with coconut flour (20). Better yet, replace your morning toast with a nourishing high protein breakfast of steamed sweet potato, vegetables and eggs or a superfood high protein smoothie.

It may take some getting used to, but if you go this route your inflammation will subside and the change will be worth it.

The Right Fats to Fight Inflammation

I mentioned above that an imbalance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids can add to inflammation. Our modern diets are very high in omega-6 fatty acids, commonly found in canola, soy, sunflower and olive oil and grains.

The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 consumption is about 2:1. Anthropological research shows that our ancestors consumed a ratio closer to 1:1 (21) and they were completely free of the inflammatory diseases we see in abundance today.

Modern ratios suggest most people are at a 10:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 and some schools estimate it could be as drastic as 25:1 (22), but what are the implications?

Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, and omega-6 can be as well, yet when they are present in such high levels they are pro-inflammatory and put you at higher risk of degenerative disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids are so crucial to our health in a number of other ways but most people just aren’t getting enough of them.

Taking a high quality fish oil supplement and eating plenty of wild fish are your best options for getting highly bioavailable omega-3’s. Vegans might want to opt for flax, chia and hemp seed oils to supply their daily quota.

Juicing and Smoothies

Raw fresh juices and smoothies have endless benefits, where else can you get such an abundance of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants. By nature these are all important components of reducing inflammation and initiating deep healing.

Studies have found that particularly cherry juice (23) and mangosteen juice (24) hold promising effects on reducing inflammation.  Adding fresh ginger, garlic and turmeric to your juices will up the ante and add even more anti-inflammatory compounds.

Raw green juices and smoothies are great source for dark leafy greens rich in magnesium and other minerals correlated with reduced inflammation. (25) Vitamin C is another nutrient correlated with reduced inflammation (26).

Anti-inflammatory Herbs and Supplements

Most common culinary herbs and spices are anti-inflammatory, and they make your food delicious! Consume basil, oregano, mint, sage, bay, garlic, rosemary, thyme, cayenne,cinnamon and mustard to your hearts content.

Particularly good at reducing inflammation is the renowned turmeric root, study after study show the amazing benefits of this bright yellow root. (27)

Green tea extract has been utilized to reduce inflammation (28) and in one study along with resveratrol and the results were promising (29).

Krill oil, an omega-3 supplement derived from tiny krill, reduces chronic inflammation and alleviated arthritis (30).

Elimination Diet

The elimination diet is the ultimate strategy to weed out any potential underlying food allergies which could be contributing to the inflammatory response.

Developed by Dr.Crook in 1987 it is implemented by removing the most common allergenic foods from the diet for 21 days and then slowly added back in one by one within 3-5 days of one another.

This time frame gives you a chance to witness your bodies inflammatory response to certain foods, ex. you break out in eczema when you eat dairy. Many more people are developing food allergies and they can also appear as we start to age. To learn more about the elimination diet, check this out. (31)


In conjunction with an elimination diet, actively trying to cleanse toxins out of the body is another potential therapy for relieving inflammation. Our bodies could be having an inflammatory response to foreign toxins we’ve been storing in our tissues.

Incorporate some of the cleansing techniques from this article, particularly infrared sauna therapy for reducing inflammation (32).

Common Substitutions

Eat This Not That
Coconut oil, grass fed ghee or butter Margerine
Coconut flour, almond flour Wheat flour
Avocado oil, olive oil Vegetable oil, canola oil
Almond butter Peanut butter
Zuchinni pasta Wheat pasta
Kale chips Potato chips
Almond or coconut milk Dairy
Collard greens Tortilla
Honey or maple syrup Sugar


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About the author

Chantelle Zakariasen

Chantelle is passionate about food and natural medicine. Her blog, is all about exploring and celebrating the goodness of food through wholesome paleo recipes that maximize nourishment and supporting her local food system. She sees healthy eating as a gateway into the body and spirit as well as an opportunity to take a proactive approach to holistic wellness. Chantelle has studied in the fields of nutrition, herbalism, yoga and cooking. She is a passionate mama working at trying to create a better world for the next generation. Follow her antics as she cooks up a storm, and writes about her experiences. You can follow her adventures on Facebook Twitter,Bloglovin' and Pinterest. Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Root and Sprouts or its staff.