The danger of chronic inflammation is a frequent, recurring theme in the health world today.
Though inflammation is a normal function of your immune system—it's a defense mechanism that your body activates when it senses it's under attack—it can easily reach abnormally high levels.
Many people suffer from chronic, out-of-control inflammation throughout their whole body as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. If you don't eat right, don't exercise, or get too little sleep, it’s quite likely that your inflammation is off the charts.
Unchecked, chronic inflammation is devastating. It can contribute to obesity, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even dementia.
The best approach to dealing with chronic inflammation is to temper it before it begins. You can do so by eating plenty of leafy greens, avoiding processed food, limiting your refined-sugar intake, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. The beverages you consume also play a role in controlling your inflammation levels. Here are a few you should seek out, along with a few to steer clear of.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, purified water is the best thing you can drink. It hydrates, refreshes, flushes out toxins in the body, and can help soothe inflammation. To boost the anti-inflammatory properties of your glass of water, consider adding some ginger.
Black or Green Tea
The health benefits of tea have been recognized for centuries, and tea is actually one of the most widely consumed beverages on earth, second only to water. Iced or hot, it’s refreshing, hydrating, and a great source of health-promoting compounds.
Black and green are arguably the best at fighting inflammation since they're packed with antioxidants. Certain research has found the antioxidants in green tea, called catechins, to be more powerful than vitamins C and E. Black tea's antioxidants, called theaflavins, also defend against inflammation.
Always brew fresh, organic, fair-trade, loose-leaf tea. Bottled options barely qualify as tea and are often packed with sugar.
Tart Cherry Juice
To be clear, I'm talking about tart cherries. Sweet cherries don’t have the same anti-inflammatory power, and they’re higher in sugars that could actually fuel inflammation.
Tart cherries, on the other hand, are a popular folk remedy for osteoarthritis and gout, and modern science suggests they may be just as effective at providing relief from inflammation as NSAIDs, without the harmful side effects. The fruit gets its inflammation-fighting power from its anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants found in richly colored red and purple fruits such as grapes, red onions, and blueberries.
Juice is an easy way to add tart cherries to your diet—16 ounces provides about the same nutritional benefit as 60 cherries.
Pro tip: Try adding a shot of beet juice to your tart cherry juice. Beets, which have so many positive attributes that they’re really teetering into the superfood category, happen to be full of anti-inflammatory betalains.
Every couple of months, the mainstream media reports a new study that has found a glass of wine every day will help you live to be 100. These reports are misleading at best, and the sobering reality is that alcohol consumption has a negative effect on your health.
Drinking damages the pancreas and messes with the body’s distribution of insulin. This can result in pancreatitis—swelling and inflammation of the pancreas. When your liver metabolizes alcohol, the process generates toxins that cause inflammation. Chronic heavy drinking can damage the liver and lead to inflammatory diseases like alcoholic hepatitis.
Few beverages contain more sugar, usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, than soda. When you consume sugary soft drinks, the cells in your body identify the sugar as toxic and release cytokines (messenger proteins that allow communication between cells) that tell other cells they’re under attack. Increased cytokines result in a strong inflammatory response.
And diet soda isn’t an acceptable alternative. In fact, artificial sweeteners may even be worse, for they can harm the beneficial bacteria in the gut, affect metabolism, encourage obesity, and contribute to diabetes.
Bottled juices and smoothies can also contain far too much refined sugar, so be sure to read their labels carefully before you indulge.