Variety of fresh fruit such as blueberries which may help reduce inflammation

Foods that reduce inflammation

Written on November 23, 2022 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Inflammation is your body responding to something that can be harmful to you [1,2]. Inflammation is your way of protecting yourself from injury or infection. However, inflammation can also damage the healthy parts of your body in the process.

During inflammation and the onset of initial injury or infection, your body will signal to specific cells in the blood and tissues, such as macrophages, lymphocytes, and neutrophils [3,4]. These cells will release molecules (cytokines, growth factors, enzymes) and launch an inflammatory response. The response will involve these various inflammatory compounds to try to eliminate the cause of the injury or infection. In the process, the inflammatory compounds can harm other parts of your body.

There are two main types of inflammation, acute and chronic [1,2]. Acute inflammation is temporary and short-term, while chronic inflammation may last for months and even years. Chronic inflammation has been associated with conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease [1-4].

What causes inflammation?

There are various causes of inflammation [1,2]. Common causes are [2]:

  • Contact with germs like bacteria, viruses, or mold/yeast
  • Injuries to the skin such as scrapes, bee stings, or a splinter in your finger
  • Exposure to chemicals or radiation
  • Different medical conditions may also cause acute inflammation and usually have a name with an “-itis” ending [1,3]. These include cystitis, bronchitis, otitis media, and dermatitis.

Acute may persist into a chronic inflammation if [4]:

  • The agent or irritant causing the inflammation is not eliminated.
  • The immune system does not recognize healthy parts of your body (autoimmune disorder).
  • The cells in the inflammation process are defective and do not work correctly.
  • There are repeated episodes of acute inflammation.
  • The initial inflammation causes stress in the body that leads to the production of increased harmful molecules.

Signs and symptoms of inflammation

Five significant symptoms are associated with acute inflammation [2]:

  • Redness
  • Heat
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Loss of function

Common signs and symptoms that may develop in chronic inflammation are [4]:

  • Body, muscle, or joint pain
  • Fatigue and sleeplessness
  • Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders
  • Constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Frequent infections

Ways to reduce and manage inflammation

Reducing inflammation is a good thing for your body [5]. It can mean that the inflammation causes are eliminated, and your body can heal. It can also mean that in cases of chronic inflammation where the cause may not be eradicated, reducing the inflammation may assist with decreasing some of the symptoms and allow for a better quality of life.

There are treatment options available for inflammation [5]. For acute inflammation, some wound care, ice, and rest might be all that is needed. Over-the-counter medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen), can be used in chronic inflammation. If needed, your healthcare provider can prescribe more specific medications to manage the chronic disease or steroid injections to help decrease the inflammation.

One way to treat and manage chronic inflammation is through dietary and lifestyle changes [4,6]. It’s best to avoid foods or things that can exacerbate or be pro-inflammatory. Some foods that can increase inflammation are foods high in trans fats, like fried foods, and baked and processed goods (french fries, chips, cake, cookies, and donuts). Foods containing saturated fats can increase inflammation and include red meats, such as beef and pork, and dairy products (cheese, milk, cream, and butter). Limit omega-6 fatty acids in corn, soybean, and sunflower oil since these can also increase inflammation.

Dietary intake of different food options containing various vitamins and nutrition can reduce inflammation and keep you healthy [4,6,7]. Some foods work by increasing antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compounds to protect your body against inflammation. Different types of food reduce the molecules involved in the inflammation process, and some foods have been associated with lowering the risk of chronic diseases.

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to contribute to helping prevent chronic diseases, specifically coronary heart disease and diabetes [7]. The Mediterranean diet consists of monosaturated fats (olive oil) and higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish. Below is a list of foods that reduce inflammation [4,6,7].

Types of food that reduce inflammation

Here are some examples of foods that reduce inflammation:

  • Fruits and vegetables: blueberries, cherries, apples, oranges, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, beets, avocados, broccoli, and cauliflower
  • Dietary fiber, whole grains: oats, brown rice, popcorn
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts
  • Green and black tea
  • Fish (omega-3 fatty acids): salmon
  • Olive oil
  • Dried beans: legumes, mung beans
  • Herbs and spices: turmeric, ginger, paprika, rosemary, sage, cumin, cloves
  • Dark chocolates (70% cocoa)
  • Probiotic foods: yogurt, kombucha
  • Coffee

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  1. Inflammation. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Published April 28, 2021. Accessed November 21, 2022. URL
  2. What is an inflammation? - - NCBI bookshelf. Published November 23, 2010. Accessed November 21, 2022. URL
  3. Furman D, Campisi J, Verdin E, Carrera-Bastos P, Targ S, Franceschi C, Ferrucci L, Gilroy DW, Fasano A, Miller GW, Miller AH, Mantovani A, Weyand CM, Barzilai N, Goronzy JJ, Rando TA, Effros RB, Lucia A, Kleinstreuer N, Slavich GM. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med. 2019 Dec;25(12):1822-1832.
  4. Chronic inflammation - statpearls - NCBI bookshelf. Published August 22, 2022. Accessed November 21, 2022. URL
  5. Eating to reduce inflammation - veterans affairs. Accessed November 21, 2022. URL
  6. Inflammation: What is it, causes, symptoms & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed November 21, 2022. URL
  7. Willett WC. The Mediterranean diet: science and practice. Public Health Nutr. 2006 Feb;9(1A):105-10.
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