Inflammation is all over the news as the root cause of many diseases, but what does it really mean? Simply put, inflammation is the body's natural response to injury and foreign invaders. Ideally, the inflammatory response should be activated only as long as necessary to provide increased blood flow and immune cells for the body to heal or fight off infection. But, oftentimes, that's not the case. When the inflammatory system is not regulated properly, chronic inflammation may occur that has been shown to lead to serious health problems like arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, and even cardiovascular disease.
We hear a lot of hype about chronic inflammation and how to reduce it, but we rarely find information that explains how nutrients, spices, superfoods, and alternative supplements actually interact with the body to fight inflammation and restore health.
The 4-step inflammatory-recovery process
There are four main steps in the inflammatory and recovery process:
- The body detects an injury or invader.
- Pro-inflammatory messenger molecules alert the body to an injury, infection, or invader.
- Immune cells are transported to the site of inflammation (the source of the redness, swelling, and sometimes heat).
- The body repairs the injury or infection.
Each of these phases is an opportunity to slow or stop the inflammatory response and provide relief. If we analyze how superfoods work in the body to fight inflammation at each of these steps, we can ultimately combine ingredients for the most powerful result.
Some familiar anti-inflammatory and antioxidant superfoods are turmeric, bromelain, cinnamon, and tart cherry. Maybe a lesser known but potent natural medicinal substance that aids inflammation are cannabinoids, a natural occurring compound from hemp.
Here's how these five natural super supplements aid in the anti-inflammatory process and can complement one another for maximum healing.
Turmeric is a super spice with now widely known anti-inflammatory potency, particularly with gastrointestinal issues. In recent studies, turmeric, and the main active ingredient curcumin, have been shown to reduce inflammation by decreasing the pro-inflammatory messenger molecules that alert the body to trigger a response. So, turmeric lessens the continued activation of the inflammatory system and then allows for a quicker healing process.
Bromelain is a natural product from pineapple and has been shown to prevent the activation of immune cells that trigger the immune responses. The enzymes in bromelain have also been shown to break down specific pro-inflammatory messenger molecules, like histamines. Bromelain has been called nature's "Benadryl," and it's no wonder with its powerful ability to lessen the body's immune response at two points in the inflammatory process.
Cinnamon is another super spice with many healing properties, but it also contains compounds that reduce the levels of pro-inflammatory messenger molecules. Cinnamon specifically can reduce nitric oxide, a potent dilator of blood vessels; therefore, it relieves swelling and heat associated with inflammation. It's a great spice to keep on hand, not only because it's a delicious addition to all kinds of dishes but for an added wellness boost that's particularly helpful for an acute injury.
4. Tart Cherry
Tart cherries contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants in whole foods. One of the greatest benefits of tart cherry and antioxidants is the ability to bind to harmful free radical compounds and prevent the compounds from further damaging body tissues. Free radicals can be produced by daily stresses on the body, muscle exertion, injury, or as part of the immune response. Without prevention, free radicals can cause damage to good cells in the body and therefore induce inflammation.
Hemp seeds, milk, cereal, and protein powder have been rising in popularity as nutritionally dense superfoods, but cannabinoids, medicinal molecules produced by the hemp plant, are slowly becoming more well-known.
Cannabinoids have potent anti-inflammatory abilities. Studies have shown the cannabinoid compounds primarily reduce the amount of inflammatory messenger molecules released into the body. One example of this is how the cannabinoid compound cannabidiol reduces immune responses implicated in joint inflammation. Cannabidiol has also been known to increase the body's ability to end the inflammatory response, expediting the healing and recovery process.
It's the next super supplement to add to your wellness cabinet and have on hand.
Turmeric, bromelain, cinnamon, tart cherry, and cannabinoids are all effective individually and at different points of the inflammatory response, but when used in combination, these powerful ingredients have far more anti-inflammatory benefit than any one of them alone.
It is hard to believe that in a world with so many pharmaceutical options to treat inflammation, potent, multi-pronged anti-inflammatory solutions can be achieved simply by using our spice racks.