Perhaps you’ve heard the term ‘anti-inflammatory diet’ over recent years and wondered what all the hype is about. I’m here to tell you that it’s not some trendy diet trend about anti-inflammatory foods or crazy fad (or really even a diet at all!), rather a holistic way to naturally support your body and just about any chronic illness you may be experiencing. And it’s likely easier than you think!
I can confidently say that transitioning to an anti-inflammatory diet has been the No. 1 thing that’s not only completely changed my life, but has reversed my chronic health conditions of leaky gut, IBS (I wrote about both in “how a food writer healed her digestion woes,” hypothyroidism, PCOS (hormonal imbalance) and insulin resistance.
How the Anti-Inflammatory Diet Changed My Life
For several years before my diagnoses, I struggled with chronic constipation, unexplained nausea, fatigue, irregular periods, acne, PMS, weight gain and irregular blood sugar.
All symptoms that I learned were caused, at least in part, by inflammation, the root cause of so many diseases.
Today, I’ve never felt better in my entire life; I have regular digestion, balanced hormones, energy throughout the day, mental clarity and clear skin. In fact, I even got pregnant on my first try (a big deal for someone with hormonal imbalance)!
Even more amazing: within one week of treating my digestive disorders naturally, I noticed a nearly 100 percent improvement. After one month, I felt like my digestion was totally back on track and doing what it was supposed to do. I couldn’t believe how fast it worked, especially considering how many years I suffered!
It may be cliché, but nothing is more true: food is medicine.
Whether you’re suffering from a disease, are experiencing any of the inflammation symptoms I did or maybe you just generally feel like you’re not living your best life, I can almost guarantee that adopting an anti-inflammatory diet will support your health and get you feeling better (and fast!).
Wondering if you’re inflamed? Take this quiz to determine whether you’re experiencing inflammation or if you’re at risk for inflammatory diseases.
Let’s start at the beginning.
What Is Inflammation?
Simply put, inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself against harm. For example, acute inflammation happens when you cut your finger. There’s visible redness, swelling and pain. This is a healthy and much needed response in the body during a time of crisis, but then it goes away.
However, chronic inflammation doesn’t go away. Due to all kinds of stressors — toxins from our food supply, cigarette smoke, chemicals in our cleaning and beauty products, extra body fat, chronic stress, recurring infections and over-reactive immune systems, to name a few — your body stays in a ongoing state of inflammation.
As a result, our cells start attacking our body and cause a host of diseases and debilitating conditions, including but not limited to: rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, digestive disorders (from IBD and IBS to ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), asthma, ulcers, hay fever, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even cancer.
Even if you don’t have one of these serious diseases, you could still be experiencing chronic inflammation (that, in turn, could potentially lead to a more serious disease down the road) if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Digestive problems like gas, diarrhea, bloating or constipation
- Skin problems like eczema or psoriasis, or generally red/blotchy skin
- Brain fog, depression or anxiety
- High blood glucose levels
- Excess fat around your abdomen
While that all may sound scary, the great news is there is so much you can do to reverse these conditions and reduce inflammation. The biggest game changer? Your diet!
What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
Health starts with food.
Think of it like this: the food we eat can either be inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. When we eat inflammatory foods, our body’s immune response flares up, creating acute inflammation. When we continue to eat that way, it never gets “turned off.”
But when we eat anti-inflammatory foods, we reduce the inflammation in our body, and thus reduce any symptoms caused by inflammation and, ultimately, our risk for chronic disease. YES!
Here’s a list of the best anti-inflammatory foods to eat more of:
- Organic fruits and veggies (tip: drink one green smoothie every day for an easy, delicious way to get 2–4 servings of fruit/veggies in!)
- Whole grains
- Fermented foods rich in probiotics
- Bone broth to heal the gut and boost immunity
- Beans and legumes
- Healthy fats (like salmon, avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds)
- Spices and herbs
Here’s a list of the worst inflammatory foods to reduce or avoid altogether:
- Refined, processed and fast food
- Vegetable and canola oils
- Factory-farmed animal products (aim for grass-fed, pasture-raised and/or organic options)
- Conventional dairy (again, aim for organic, grass-fed and/or raw)
- Alcohol and caffeine
While it may sound like a lot at first, it’s important to relax and remember to follow the 80-20 rule. You don’t have to completely cut out entire food groups to reduce inflammation in your body.
Instead, it’s about eating more of the good (real, whole food) and simply less of the bad (processed, refined junk). Follow an anti-inflammatory diet 80 percent of the time, and give yourself permission to indulge in other foods 20 percent of the time. This isn’t about deprivation or sacrifice —it’s about finding a sustainable way to help you feel better and reduce health risks while still enjoying your life.
Kate Kordsmeier is a food journalist turned real fo