Has this ever happened to you? You’re getting ready for a meeting, but you feel off. The belly roll you can’t seem to lose is bulging over your slacks. You feel achy, puffy, and foggy. It’s hard to stay focused and upbeat when you feel so miserable. You don’t HAVE to keep feeling this way! An anti-inflammatory diet can help you lose stubborn fat, feel alert, and prevent serious disease.
You might think it’s normal to feel bloated or have gas and other digestive problems. Maybe skin issues are popping up, like eczema. Or maybe losing weight is a lot harder than it used to be.
It’s easy to rationalize these symptoms as part of “getting older” or random bodily changes. But there could be another cause. It’s a cause that you can actually do something about. You might be inflamed.
“Inflammation” and “anti-inflammatory diet” are major buzzwords lately — for good reason. More and more scientific research is uncovering strong links between chronic inflammation and serious disease. (1) It also affects the quality of your life every day.
What is inflammation? How do you know if you’re inflamed? Why is an anti-inflammatory diet so important? In this post, I’ll answer these questions and give you links to top anti-inflammatory foods, spices, and recipes.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation in the body is a physiological response to viruses, pathogens, dust particles, or other “foreign organisms.” (2) When you catch the flu, you’re temporarily inflamed.
Inflammation on a small scale is functioning as it should, like when you get a paper cut. That hot, red area around the cut is inflammation. It’s a good thing in this case. When your body is hurt or sick, your immune system rushes to the scene and works to heal.
The problem is when we experience inflammation throughout the whole body for an extended period of time.
Unlike a sudden onset of the flu, chronic inflammation can sneak up on you. This is because it doesn’t happen all at once.
It comes on so slowly that you don’t even notice it. Have you ever heard the analogy of “boiling a frog”? It’s an old parable about circumstances changing so gradually that you don’t realize it until it’s too late.
The story is, if you put a frog into boiling water, it will react and jump away from the danger. But if you put a frog in cool water and gradually turn up the heat, the frog doesn’t notice until the heat overwhelms it.
That’s how chronic inflammation can be in your body. It turns up slowly over time and eventually does damage.
Get recipes for flavorful, easy anti-inflammatory meals and snacks here:
How do you know if you’re inflamed?
Feeling like your face is bloated or that you’re tired all the time might be normal to you now. These are signs of chronic inflammation. It’s more than just annoying, it’s damaging to your body.
Here are some common symptoms of widespread inflammation:
- Extra weight around your belly
- Extra weight that doesn’t go away “no matter what”
- Digestive problems like gas, constipation, bloating, diarrhea
- Feeling tired all day (even with enough sleep)
- Skin problems like red blotchy skin, eczema, or psoriasis
- Feeling puffy in the face, dark circles under the eyes
- Achy joints
- Brain fog, anxiety and depression (3)
What causes inflammation?
Most convenience foods are highly inflammatory. Food with lots of refined sugar or grains (breakfast cereal or pastries) or partially hydrogenated oils (deep fried food and fast food) overwhelm the body. This triggers inflammation.
Eating inflammatory foods causes constant irritation that pushes your immune system into overdrive. If you don’t know the symptoms of inflammation, you might not recognize that your body is sounding its alarm bells.
Ditch your bloating and feel lighter with the 21 best anti-inflammatory foods
You do not have to keep experiencing these overwhelming symptoms that make you feel fat, unhealthy, and uncomfortable. You don’t have to live this way!
The two main contributors to chronic inflammation are genes and the environment. (4) Some people are more prone to inflammation than others. But everyone experiences inflammation at one time or another.
While we can’t do anything about our genetic makeup, we can control our environment to some extent. One of the biggest environmental triggers for inflammation, or to counteract inflammation, is what we eat. You can control inflammation (no matter what your genes are) and feel stronger, more toned, and more lively.
Why is an anti-inflammatory diet so important?
An anti-inflammatory diet is the single most important way to undo inflammation for health, longevity, weight-loss, and disease prevention. It’s important that eating in an anti-inflammatory way becomes your new lifestyle, not a temporary diet.
Get ideas for how to mix and match the most anti-inflammatory spices and foods in this cheat sheet!
When you change eating and lifestyle habits, it’s amazing how much better you’ll feel!
As I mentioned earlier, inflammation doesn’t just make you feel out of it, achy, and tired. Medical research is finding that chronic inflammation is undeniably connected to disease. Some conditions tied to chronic inflammation are arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and digestive disorders. (1) It’s also connected to neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune disease, where the immune system becomes overactive and attacks the body. (2,5)
Changing what you put into your body is the best way to address the root of the problem. An anti-inflammatory diet can relieve symptoms of disease caused by inflammation. Better yet, “we could even see them disappear.” (1)
Choosing an anti-inflammatory diet is the best way to ensure a long life full of energy. I go over 21 of the absolute best foods and habits to reduce inflammation in this post.
What Exactly Is an Anti-inflammatory Diet?
There are some general principles to follow for a vibrant, anti-inflammatory life. It all starts with food. There are certain foods that calm inflammation and some that trigger it.
As a general overview, the best foods for anti-inflammation are whole (ideally organic) foods and spices. (1,6)
These anti-inflammatory foods and spices tend to have these things in common:
- Antioxidants – Protect your cells from free radicals, which cause and worsen inflammation (2)
- Minerals – Support the immune system and fight free radicals (7)
- Essential fatty acids – Modulate (calm) the immune system (8)
Herbs and spices are packed with antioxidants, minerals and TONS of other health benefits. They help with lowering inflammation, reducing the risks of diseases like cancer and autoimmune disease, and they make healthy food taste amazing!
Here are some of the best spices for anti-inflammation.
Contains a compound called curcumin that is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory substances available. Doctors even recommend curcumin to people with arthritis to relieve swollen, stiff joints. Turmeric has large amounts of antioxidants, burns and blocks fat, and even helps boost your mood! Read more about how turmeric benefits weight loss here.
Is a classic digestif. Even Confucius ate it every day to help his digestion. Some of the many ginger tea benefits are fat loss and better digestion. It also has high amounts of antioxidants, anti-fungal properties and eases your body from inflammation. Read more about how ginger helps with weight-loss and morning sickness. Get easy hacks for buying, prepping and storing ginger here.
Obliterates fat cells in its fiery flavor. Capsaicin is the main compound in cayenne, which literally torches away fat cells in your body (see capsaicin for weight loss). Cayenne also contains Vitamins A and E, both of which are highly antioxidant. They reduce inflammation and rejuvenate your skin by fighting free radicals that contribute to aging.
Is not only a nice sweet replacement for sugar, it’s full of antioxidants and highly anti-inflammatory. It supports healthy blood sugar levels, a healthy heart, the nervous system and boosts weight loss. Read more about the health benefits of cinnamon (here) and which kind is the healthiest to buy. Cinnamon can also be combined with honey for even more health advantages. Get a honey and cinnamon facial mask for glowing skin + a Fire Tea recipe here.
Diets low in sugar and high in quality fats and proteins, like the Paleo diet, are also highly anti-inflammatory. Get a one-week Paleo diet plan with low-inflammatory recipes here.
Read these posts for more recipes and hacks for an anti-inflammatory lifestyle:
This Spice Yourself Skinny Cheat Sheet will give you a head start on spice and food combinations!
“Going on a diet” isn’t enough. Deciding to change your relationship with food and choose to eat anti-inflammatory has to be a lifestyle change. But don’t let that scare you! It’s a change your body is going to love and flourish in. It will transform your body. You’ll be healthy, full of energy and have healthy skin from head to toe.
You’ll have a wide variety of tastes and textures to try. Take joy in these amazing real foods! Have fun exploring the different combinations and spices you can try. This will become your new normal. You won’t even have to think about it and you’ll have a healthy sustainable lifestyle that makes you feel and look your best.
Move Your Body to Reduce Inflammation
Establishing a regular exercise routine is key to calming chronic inflammation throughout the body (bonus points for choosing workouts that burn belly fat). (3) It doesn’t have to be a long, rigorous workout. In fact, gentle to moderate exercise for just 20 minutes reduces inflammation significantly. (9)
Another important part of anti-inflammation is to practice stress-management. Some of the best ways to do this are through simple meditation, deep breathing, and taking a few moments out of each day to calm your nervous system. A bubble bath counts!
Try these soothing teas and spices to calm you down and boost your anti-inflammatory power
If your body is on the alert because of high stress levels, it’s hard for the nervous system to signal that everything is ok. This keeps your body inflamed. While you can’t stop or avoid all stress in life, you can control how you react and deal with it.
Enjoying these nourishing anti-inflammatory foods, getting a little exercise and enough sleep, and taking care of yourself will help you live a long, healthy life in a strong body.
Discover new anti-inflammatory flavor bombs in this Spice Yourself Skinny Cheat Sheet!
Did any of these inflammation symptoms sound familiar? What inflammation are you dealing with? What foods and stress management practices are you using now or do you plan to start?