8 Healthy Eats that Reduce Inflammation

A golden milk tea with tumeric to fight inflammation.

The Intel on Neck & Back Inflammation

An increasingly prevalent condition, inflammation affects millions of Americans every day. Usually, when we hear the word inflammation, our brains tend to check the negative box. However, inflammation occurs as a very natural—and beneficial—reaction of your body’s immune system to pathogens or injury. And, when acute or transient in nature, inflammation can actually serve several advantageous purposes.

But, what is acute inflammation?

Acute inflammation occurs when you cut your finger chopping veggies or fall and bump your knee. Your body reacts by sending white blood cells and fluids to the injured area to fight off the infection. Simultaneously, your platelets work to clot bleeding, allowing your body the opportunity to heal itself. However, this healing process can—and often, does—result in localized redness or temporary swelling. In fact, the same response can occur when your body attempts to fight the flu. The elevated body temperatures, aches, and pains we associate with the flu are often the product of acute inflammation.

And, while this all may sound hunky-dory (minus the fevers part), inflammation doesn’t always present itself in this form. Unfortunately, inflammation can also wreak destructive, painful, and long-lasting results. When this occurs, acute inflammation has transformed into chronic (or caustic) inflammation.

Caustic, Chronic Neck & Back Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is another story altogether. Chronic inflammation can result from a variety of reasons and occur anywhere in the body. Resulting from an inadequate diet, free radicals, and stress on the body, chronic inflammation often occurs in the circulatory system, the gastrointestinal tract, and the joints. Furthermore, chronic inflammation can lead to digestive problems like diarrhea, gas, and pain. Likewise, circulatory inflammation can lead to blocked arteries, heart attacks, and strokes. Chronic inflammation can cause painful osteoarthritis to worsen and joints to ache with the slightest of movements. Even worse, many medical professionals believe that chronic inflammation can lead to spinal cancer and/or rheumatoid arthritis.

Inflammation can cause serious problems, to say the least. And, since chemicals and free radicals in the body contribute to inflammation, many people wish to find more natural ways to combat these factors. For instance, researchers have linked opioid medications to addiction. Steroid injections can provide only temporary relief. And, many people view surgery as an extreme and expensive option. Given these realities, the search for more conservative options for relief has gained steam. And, many individuals are turning toward diet and lifestyle to deliver a solution. Put quite simply: The substances that we put in our body can provide a stepping off point in the fight against inflammation.

The Diet & Lifestyle Connection

It’s no surprise that the things we consume can affect how feel. And, when it comes to inflammation: Diet and lifestyle can be especially pertinent. For example, substances such as refined sugar, carbohydrates, trans fats, and processed meats can turbo charge your body’s inflammatory response. Likewise, our bodies tend to react negatively to undesirable chemicals, pesticides, and preservatives that we detect in our food.

Although many of us acknowledge the importance of diet, actually applying these principles to our lives can prove more difficult.

Specifically, which foods can you eat to help with your inflammation? And, how do these healthy eats actually make a difference? (Nothing but unadulterated science here!) Listed below are 8 healthy eats that you can use to combat your inflammation and improve your quality of life.

tomatoes are an excellent anti-inflammatory food

Neck & Back Inflammation-Relieving Foods

The following foods are known to relieve neck & back tenderness:

  1. Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain Vitamin C, potassium, and the powerhouse antioxidant, Lycopene. Lycopene is what makes tomatoes red. (Anyone who has tried to clean tomato sauce stains out of a plastic container can attest to this pigment’s enduring strength.) Lycopene helps the body fight off infection and guard against inflammation-inducing toxins.
  2. Leafy Greens: Leafy Greens such as kale, spinach, and collards are loaded with Vitamin A, D, K, and E. Furthermore, leafy greens contain omega-3’s, another anti-inflammatory miracle worker.
  3. Fatty Fish: Chock-full of omega-3, fatty acids, coldwater fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines combat high cholesterol and inflammation. Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to reduce inflammation by stopping the transmission of inflammation-generating enzymes.
  4. Nuts: Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, contain magnesium, l-arginine, vitamin E, and the anti-inflammatory protein adiponectin.
  5. Fermented Foods: Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles, and fermented beverages like kombucha, reduce inflammation by introducing probiotics into the body. If the idea of eating these things grosses you out, you can purchase over-the-counter probiotics from your local pharmacy.

Neck & Back Inflammation-Relieving Oils & Beverages

The following beverages, oils, and spices also contain anti-inflammatory properties:

  1. Olive Oil: Like fatty fish, olive oil contains a compound that inhibits the transmission of inflammation-producing enzymes. Called oleocanthal, this factor mimics the effects of anti-inflammatory NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen.
  2. Turmeric: Tumeric is a spice that has been used in Chinese and Indian medicine for millennia. And, the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric have withstood the tests of time. Tumeric has been found to help with an inflamed digestive tract and irritated joints. You can take a supplement or buy some turmeric powder and make a Golden Milk.
  3. Green Tea: Green Tea is chock-full of polyphenols—compounds that help boost our immune system and develop those inflammation-fighting t-cells. They even make green tea supplements if you do not like the taste… although drinking the tea itself will deliver the best results. Bored with green tea? Try adding some lemon, honey, or fresh herbs like lavender to liven up your tea.

For more information on inflammation and the foods that combat it, contact your local nutritionist or spine surgeon. If you are a little more adventurous, practitioners of Chinese medicine and Ayurveda often offer diet consultations as well.

At New York City Spine Surgery, our standard for excellent care means treating you as a whole person, and not just another spine disorder on a chart.

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