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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 15, 2008

Flame Thrower: Top 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation

By Worker Bee
84 Comments

Puffy, bloated, swollen. Sound attractive? Sounds like inflammation.

On the most basic level, inflammation is the way in which the body reacts to a disturbance, be it infection, irritation or other injury. More specifically, however, the inflammatory response – which in addition to swelling can also include redness, warmth and pain – occurs when blood, antibodies and other immune system components rush to the scene of the crime to attempt to repair the damage.

In most areas of the body, the pain associated with inflammation informs you of the damage, the swelling limits injury site mobility and prevents further irritation and the increased heat, redness and occasional itching are all signs that the immune system is doing its job! However, if this inflammation goes undetected – or is ignored – it can build up in the body, causing damage to other surrounding tissues and organs. In cases where inflammation is not adequately controlled, symptoms of chronic inflammation can occur, manifesting as arthritis, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, hair loss and dozens of other ailments and conditions.

Lucky for us, small tweaks to our diet and lifestyle can help dramatically reduce inflammation. Here are 10 all-natural tips that can help us sidestep the inflammation landmine:

1. Color me happy
Chalk another one up for the health benefits of fruits and vegetables! Although many varieties have anti-inflammatory properties, green leafy vegetables, green and vibrantly-hued vegetables, and berries deliver the heftiest doses of inflammation-busting phytochemicals and antioxidants. However, watch out for vegetables from the nightshade family of plants – which include potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants – which have a chemical alkaloid called solanine that may trigger pain in some people and thus synthesize the symptoms of inflammation.

2. Hey, Fatty (acids)
For years, dieting gurus recommended cutting out fat from the diet. The upshot? People got bigger and also got sicker. The reasoning? Turns out fatty acids – and particularly Omega-3 essential fatty acids – contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Up your acid ante by adding cold water oily fish (such as salmon, tuna and halibut) or nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, ground flaxseed, grapeseed and pumpkin and sesame seeds. Still not convinced you can add these in? Try an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (the best omega 3 supplements in our humble opinion) – just look for brands that contain wild fish oil and low levels of mercury (a real bonus for pregnant women looking to avoid mercury!)

3. Spice up your life
Think herbs and spices are only good for adding a little flavor to your food. Turns out many of them also contain high levels of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds that can reduce inflammation and dull pain. One spice frequently touted for its anti-inflammatory properties is capsaicin, which is a naturally occuring ingredient in chilli peppers, as well as rosemary, which has rosmarinic acid and ginger which has vanillin and zingerone. Other good sources include basil, bay leaves, cumin, coriander, dill, fennel, garlic, hyssop, oregano, pepper, sage, and thyme as well as goji, graviola, green tea extract, spirulina and willowbark, which contains salicylic acid, one of the active ingredients in aspirin.

4. Sugar free
Bread, pastry, pasta…really, just sugar in general. In addition to helping pack on the pounds, simple carbohydrates also rev up inflammation by causing surges in blood sugar that promote a chemical reaction in cells called glycosylation, or the browning effect. To avoid such surges, stick to complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index such as apples, asparagus, beans, broccoli, blackberries, blueberries, cabbage, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, green beans, leafy greens, pears, raspberries, spinach and strawberries.

5. Food fodder
Another food source you need to steer clear of? Any item that may cause an inflammatory response. For some people, this might mean wheat, eggs, gluten, dairy, soy, or some forms of nuts. To determine whether you have a sensitivity to a particular food, try eliminating it for at least two weeks and see if symptoms such as lethargy, headaches or bloating subside. Arduous? Yes. Worthwhile? Certainly, if it means living a healthier – and longer – life. Of course, you know our stance on grains, so any reduction in grain products has benefits beyond the anti-inflammatory proerties.

6. Vitamin virtue
While adding a multivitamin can help stave off inflammation, the key here is to find a high-quality supplement (another unbiased product placement ;)) with the types of nutrients you need. Specifically, you need to look out for brands that contain higher doses of folic acid and B vitamins in particular, which have been associated with lowering inflammation as well as vitamins C, D and full-spectrum vitamin E. Next, add a broad base of antioxidants like Alpha Lipoic Acid, Resveratrol, Grapeseed Extract and NAC.

7. Probiotic power
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but turns out that’s also the same route to reduced inflammation! In the gut, beneficial bacteria is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but antibiotic use, stress, and poor diet can all upset this delicate balance, resulting in an infiltration of undesirable bacteria that can lead to inflammation. Keep the good guys employed – and the bad guys out of business – by adding acidophilus, bifidus and other probiotics into your diet for a few weeks, either through live active culture yogurts or with supplements.

8. Work it out
When it comes to inflammation, exercise serves as somewhat of a double-edged sword. On one hand, a heavy workout session can cause acute inflammation, yet overall it actually reduces the risk of future chronic inflammation. As with most things, moderation is key, so embark on a fitness routine that includes moderate-intensity activities that raise your heart rate to approximately 70% of maximum heart rate, an occasional session of short anaerobic bursts and two or three weight-training workouts a week. You’ll look good, too.

9. Environmentally safe
Smog, pollution, dust, mold, even our four-legged friends…all of these can spur inflammation. While it would be impossible to eliminate them, there are things that you can do to dampen their impact. Stepping up your cleaning schedule, for example, can reduce the amount of dust and mold spores in your home environment, while you can reduce the effects of smog and pollution by exercising away from busy roads and working out outside when roads are less packed.

10. Sleep it off
Having a few restless nights not only makes you feel crappy – and crabby! – but can also exacerbate any underlying symptoms of inflammation. To ensure adequate sleep, experts recommend snoozing for between six and 12 hours nightly, with sleep requirements varying based on age, activity level, overall health and other factors.

So there you have it, 10 ways to reduce inflammation with nary a drug in site!

mamabrarian Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Foods That Fight Inflammation

Health Benefits of Peppers (10 Peppers You Need to Try)

Does Stress Turn Your Hair Grey?

Sponsor note:
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84 Comments on "Flame Thrower: Top 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation"

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Mike OD
8 years 8 months ago

Good list, but I would also add a very important thing, eat GRASS fed beef…not grain fed. Also avoid any kind of grain fed eggs, chicken, meats, etc. They are overloaded with AA an omega 6 fatty acid which is PRO inflammatory. Most people’s ratio of Omega 6s to 3s(anti-inflammatory) are like 25:1 when they should be less than 3:1.

The biggest culprit nowadays seems to be the FARMED salmon, which is depleted of omega 3s and full of AA Omega 6. Not good.

That and also eat nuts in moderation as most have a higher Omega 6/3 ratio.

sarena
8 years 8 months ago

Ok so my eating is basically clean–Paleo, if, no nightshades etc. As to the farmed salmon which I tend to avoid like a plague. What would you do when wild isn’t available seasonally? Would you occas have a piece of “organic farmed” or avoid fish altogether?

antioxidants
8 years 8 months ago

Yeah color is important because it’s laden with antioxidants to quench free radicals in swollen tissues.

Craig T. Nelson
Craig T. Nelson
8 years 8 months ago

I used to live by LAX airport and the air there was terrible, now that I have moved I can tell a major difference in the air quality. Does anyone live by the air port?

Brody
Brody
8 years 8 months ago

Craig,
I live by the airport. I honestly hadn’t noticed a huge difference in the air near the airport compared to the air near downtown (downtown’s worse!) but, the noise pollution is just wretched! Then again, the landlord warned me.

charlotte
8 years 8 months ago
I’m so confused: first you guys say flaxseed is useless but now you list it as a beneficial food? Also, I too have a question on farmed vs. wild salmon. At my local wal-mart (um, yes I just admitted to shopping at Wal-Mart *blush*), they sell “Wild Alaskan Salmon” for about 3$ a pound -not on sale either. This is crazy cheap and when I look at the ingredients list it says “Wild Caught Salmon, high in Omega 3’s, healthy” No joke!! There is only 2.5g of fat per 4 oz serving though (my old kind of salmon was closer… Read more »
Lisa
Lisa
4 years 10 months ago

There are about five types of wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest. The Walmart frozen salmon are most likely Chum, also known as ‘dog salmon’ or Keta. They’re considered the least desirable for dinner, as they tend to be mushy and have a mild flavor; their flesh is more whitish, too. They have lower fat content than other varieties (King, Sockeye), and thus are popular for smoking. Very cheap, though!

Joe Matasic
Joe Matasic
8 years 8 months ago
Charlotte: I haven’t checked Wal-Mart but both Sam’s and Costco here in Tampa, sell wild frozen Alaskan Salmon for about $10-$12 for a 2.25 pound box. I think 6 fillets. They have the skin on and are already seasoned in some sort of marinade. I figure its a good backup. I’ll have to check the box again but I know it said “wild.” I wonder if its some loophole in the labeling reqs, like “organic” or “whole” have. I’ll have to check and see if it says wild caught anywhere. Its good though. Better than have quick backup options. All:… Read more »
Lemur
Lemur
8 years 8 months ago
Amen to #10, sleeping it off definitely works. I’m a big sleeper, nine hours being an average amount, though I will go for more if I have the time and desire. Days that I don’t have to get up early for something I just sleep until I wake up, it’s really lovely. Days that I DO have to get up much earlier than I’d like to I find my skin is in far worse condition than when I just wake up whenever. It’s like it needs the whole 9+ hours to really recover & restore itself. I realize how weird… Read more »
Aaron
8 years 8 months ago
Great question about flaxseed, Charlotte. To clear up any confusion let’s take a look at was has been said. Mark said in a recent post: “Go for wild, fatty fish like wild salmon and sardines. Likewise, look for omega 3 supplements that are purified. One last note: flax seed and flax oil are sometimes touted as a vegetarian alternative, but flax and other plant sources (with the exception of certain algaes—more on this later), don’t contain DHA, and not enough of their ALA is converted to DHA to make it an acceptable alternative to fish or fish oil.” And then… Read more »
scott815
8 years 8 months ago

Nice article. Eating the right foods are always a great way to improve your health. There are also all natural Antioxidants that also do a good job or resupplying your body with it needs and helps fight free radicals.

trackback
8 years 8 months ago

[…] Link-o-rama 10 natural ways to reduce inflammation […]

Brian A
Brian A
8 years 8 months ago
I’m a little late to this party… I have read convincing articles that flaxseed IS an acceptable substitute for fish oil when taken in greater amounts. I’m not a scientist, and I don’t keep a well-documented trail of references for my beliefs, but upon reading said articles, I switched from fish oil to flaxseed and continue to experience the same inflammation-reducing benefits I’m sure someone will step up shortly with some ‘zinger’ to ‘prove’ me wrong, but you’re going to also have to reproduce my sore joints to do so convincingly. Mark, I’m surprised that your son won’t capitulate to… Read more »
trackback

[…] let’s get to the genuine issue of maintaining heart health. Maintaining heart health is about keeping inflammation at bay. As we say here at MDA, that means an anti-inflammatory diet (with exercise), and primal nutrition […]

Monica Reinagel
8 years 7 months ago
For a vegetarian alternative to fish oil, there are now EPA/DHA supplements derived from algae (which is where the fish get it in the first place). These would be superior to flax, which as noted is inefficiently converted to the longer chain fatty acids (EPA/DHA). Still, whole flax is a good source of fiber and lignans and I would think that the ALA it contains would still help balance the ratio of O-3 to O-6 fats in the diet. As far as wild vs. farmed salmon: According to USDA data, both contain comparable amounts of Omega-3 fats BUT the farmed… Read more »
Lauren
Lauren
6 years 8 months ago

I’m curious about why turmeric and curcumin supplements were not included on the spice list. It is my impression that curcumin is one of the best anti-inflammatory compounds around, and readily available in inexpensive turmeric. I just drink about a teaspoon a day (more if inflammatory symptoms are evident) in water. Cook with it as well, of course. Really good with egg scrambles, fritatas, etc!

doctorkira
doctorkira
3 years 10 months ago

yes to turmeric–especially the fresh whole root–incredibly efficient at reducing even severe inflammation–I have put myself, and suggested to several others with arthritis, on a dose of 1/2″ piece of root daily and the difference in arthritic joints, including small joints like knuckles is noticeable in an hour or so.

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[…] Flame Thrower: 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation […]

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[…] Flame Thrower: 10 Ways to Reduce Inflammation […]

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[…] we just don’t see it as a “secret” prescription. A low-carb, high omega-3 fatty acid diet can minimize inflammation and maximize skin health. As for general aging, inflammation plays a major role in that as well. […]

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[…] Read the full article here. […]

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[…] and “Paleo”? The definitive guide to Primal eating. Smart Fuel: Olives. Naturally reduce inflammation. Or….Maybe we’re wrong about the whole thing. Federal land in the U.S. 7 comments […]

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[…] Stave off inflammation […]

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7 years 5 months ago

[…] – Try ibuprofen or a chemical equivalent. Better yet try these 10 natural ways to reduce inflammation. They might reduce the pain, but – like with massage – your strength will still be […]

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[…] Flame Thrower: Top 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation […]

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[…] little Omega 3, and that unhealthy ratio tends to keep many of us in a constant state of systemic inflammation. Since Omega 3 oils are found in fewer and fewer modern foods (fish being one of the few, but fresh […]

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[…] – Try ibuprofen or a chemical equivalent. Better yet try these 10 natural ways to reduce inflammation. They might reduce the pain, but – like with massage – your strength will still be […]

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[…] pretty damn essential. Thanks to Coenzyme “Q10,” (CoQ10), mitochondria produce energy and fight free radicals. Unfortunately for statin-users, CoQ10 travels along the same pathway as some types of cholesterol. […]

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[…] Flame Thrower: Top 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation […]

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[…] Top 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation […]

Lauren
Lauren
6 years 8 months ago
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[…] swollen, or fatigued? Maybe you have a sensitivity to dairy and you don’t even know it.  Here is an article that gives you 10 simple natural ways to rid your body of […]

Marty
6 years 6 months ago
A little concerned about this study of Folic Acid effects. Any suggestions Mark? March 10 (Bloomberg) — Men who take a daily folic acid supplement have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer, renewing skepticism about the value of supplements in the fight against cancer, a University of Southern California study found. The men who took 1 milligram of folic acid each day, more than twice the amount that most multivitamins contain, had 2.6 times the risk of developing prostate cancer than those given a placebo, according to research published online today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.… Read more »
angela V.
1 year 8 months ago

Everyone should be taking methyl-folate, 60% (maybe more) of the population has one of two gene mutations (c677t or A1298c) that don’t allow us to breakdown (regular folic acid). That goes for b12 also, everyone should be taking methyl b12 and b6 in the form of P5P.

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[…] And, sure, there’s always the extraordinarycardiovascular benefit, cancer deterrent, anti-inflammatory impact, and age reversal effect. If that isn’t enough congratulations for your fitness endeavors, […]

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6 years 16 days ago

[…] perhaps we should think about more natural ways to reduce inflammation. Check out this article from Marks Daily Apple for some ideas. Are there any of you out there that take a fish oil […]

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[…] Lucky for us, small tweaks to our diet and lifestyle can help dramatically reduce inflammation. Here are 10 all-natural tips that can help us sidestep the inflammation landmine: Read more […]

BK Lawson
BK Lawson
5 years 8 months ago

Beans? I thought those were classed as inflammatory and off limits?

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[…] Flame Thrower: Top 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation – MDA […]

Melissa Fritcher
5 years 5 months ago
I also find fasting to help with inflammation. Like with blood sugar spikes, if I wait it out w/o food, my body releases sooner than if it was trying to also deal with new food influx. I had an allergy thing happen the 1st of the year and it caused a blood sugar spike into the 200’s. I waited it out. By mid afternoon, my BG was 79 again. Then I ate. Had I eaten when my blood sugar was still that elevated, it only would have gone higher. I’ve seen ‘bloating’ or inflammation go the same way. I did… Read more »
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[…] Lucky for us, small tweaks to our diet and lifestyle can help dramatically reduce inflammation. Here are 10 all-natural tips that can help us sidestep the inflammation landmine: Read more […]

secret agent girl
secret agent girl
5 years 2 months ago

Readers should be aware that, in general, optimal health (and mortality) for *most* people consists of sleep periods of about 7 hours.

As with all things biological, YMMV. I encourage anyone interested to look into credible sources of information on this topic.

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[…] last year and a half or so.  Two big pros for me.  One, it keeps inflammation in check (read here and here) and really, who wants to look bloated?  Two, while I don’t think its the same […]

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[…] inflammation. Here are 10 all-natural tips that can help us sidestep the inflammation landmine: Read more Tags: […]

Lisaloo
Lisaloo
4 years 11 months ago

Don’t forget, Drink lots of WATER. Best thing in the world to bring down inflammation. Probably number 1, for me.

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[…] Reducing Inflammation at Mark’s Daily Apple; […]

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[…] at the site of an injury or illness don’t manifest by accident or for kicks. That’s inflammation, and it’s essential to our very existence in a world of […]

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[…] Top 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation […]

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4 years 6 months ago

[…] Chalk another one up for the health benefits of fruits and vegetables! Although many varieties have anti-inflammatory properties, green leafy vegetables, green and vibrantly-hued vegetables, and berries deliver the heftiest doses of inflammation-busting phytochemicals and antioxidants. Flame Thrower: Top 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation | Mark's Daily Apple […]

Lisa Bowman
Lisa Bowman
4 years 4 months ago

Mark, you’re a great wealth of information. Please don’t ever recommend Folic Acid! Folic Acid is the synthetic form of the B vitamin Folate. Folic Acid does not naturally occur in foods and is associated with cancer due to all the government mandates of enriching processed foods. Health care practitioners commonly interchange Folic Acid with Folate and it is a gross error.

FatHappyandCaffeinated
FatHappyandCaffeinated
4 years 3 months ago

Inflammation sounds like one of the problems I was having. Especially the aches and pains. It also explains why I’m having so much less of it since getting rid of grains and sugars.

fallingman
fallingman
3 years 10 months ago

Forgive me if someone’s already mention this, but you can reduce inflammation markedly by doing a couple of things beyond those on the list.

Take enteric coated proteolytic enzymes on an empty stomach. Wobenzym is the gold standard, but there are somewhat cheaper knock offs that work.

And take 5-Loxin, which will inhibit 5 liopoxygenase. See lef.org.

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