That’s a hot word today. But do you really know what it is? Most people can tell you that inflammation is what happens you get a cut or injury on the surface of your body. This is called acute inflammation. But we can also get chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation occurs from long-term exposure to toxins by way of our lungs, skin, and mouth (the food we eat and the liquids we drink).
When we are exposed to substances our body doesn’t like, it sets off an inflammatory response. Similar to what you see happening on the surface…the cut gets red and a scab forms. Imagine that something very similar is happening inside the body. Because I’m a nutritionist, I’m going to talk about how the foods we eat contribute to inflammation in the body, symptoms to look out for, and how adding in turmeric and ginger can help combat some of the effects.
How Food Affects Inflammation
Approximately 80% of our immune system lies within the small intestine. This is also the location of the body where we digest and absorb most of our food. When we eat foods our body doesn’t agree with, our body mounts an immune response to that food.
The response is actually fairly similar to what you see happen on the skin when it gets cut…the intestines begin to swell and we end up with inflamed intestines. Our small intestine is lined with tight junctions.
When those tight junctions are swollen, they become looser and allow for pathogens to exit the small intestine and enter the blood stream. Now we have foreign bodies free floating around. If this happens once or twice, that’s not a huge concern. But when this happens repetitively, we have too many pathogens and not enough good guys to take care of them.
Here are the most common foods that tend to cause or exacerbate inflammation in the body:
Refined carbohydrates (cookies, cakes, candies, white bread, etc)
Processed Meats (and all meats in some cases)
Dairy (this is a biggie)
Gluten (not for everyone)
Now, giving up these foods is obviously the first method of removing or reducing inflammation in the body. But that’s not what this blog is about. The background on the process though was important to the end game 🙂
Let’s get into identifying inflammation in the body.
Signs and Symptoms of Inflammation
Many people carry several symptoms or signs of chronic inflammation around with them daily and they don’t even know it. It’s become such a common thing we’ve just learned to live with the ailments. Or, we visit doctor after doctor and get prescribed endless pills or creams only to find the issue always returns.
Here’s a list, although not exhaustive. These are just the common ones that I see in my practice:
Joint inflammation or pain (not due to injury)
Skin concerns (eczema, dermatitis, etc)
Bloating (especially post meal bloating)
Loose stools or diarrhea more than a rare occasion
Increased anxiety or depression
Weight gain (spare tire)
If you have any of these, I’d take a good, hard look at your diet. Better yet, reach out to me 🙂
How to Use Turmeric and Ginger to Reduce Inflammation
Now, down to the good stuff. Like I said, diet would be the very first intervention that should take place when it comes to dealing with chronic inflammation. But, this blog isn’t about the diet, it’s about using ginger and turmeric to reduce inflammation.
Let’s talk ginger first. Ginger is great for aiding in digestion. Ginger helps spark saliva formation in the mouth…this is where most digestion begins. Ginger also promotes gastric emptying and healthy motility in the digestive tract. I love having a fresh ginger tea with lemon after a heavy meal…or just in the evening because it’s tasty, and I can.
Ginger has been shown to reduce LDL, triglycerides, and total cholesterol readings simply by reducing overall inflammation in the body (1). Additionally, ginger has been shown to be just as effective as standard steroid treatments and more effective than NSAIDs when utilizing it as an anti-inflammatory in joint pain (4).
Ginger is also great at reducing overall inflammation. Inflammation in the body can be measured through a serum marker called C-Reactive Protein (CRP). CRP isn’t a be all end all though. Someone with digestive inflammation won’t necessarily have a high CRP reading. However, for those that do have elevated CRP levels, ginger is great for helping to reduce this marker.
Now let’s talk turmeric. What does turmeric do?
Turmeric, like ginger, is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Turmeric acts to reduce the inflammatory response in the body when there is chronic inflammation (3). In addition, turmeric has been shown to reduce digestive inflammation related to a variety of digestive ailments (3).
Oxidative stress, which sets off the inflammatory response in the body, takes a toll on so many things. This is one factor in chronic inflammation. It’s been shown that turmeric can react on oxidative stress and act as an antioxidant, ultimately reducing the inflammatory response (2).
Fun Fact: curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that gives it the golden hue AND its anti-inflammatory properties. You need both a fat and black pepper to adequately absorb curcumin.
Here are my favorite recipes for ginger-lemon tea and ginger-turmeric latte. Let me know if you try these!
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
16-20 oz water
4 slices of lemon
Place the sliced ginger in the water and boil, covered, for 10 minutes.
Strain, pour, and add lemon slices.
½ inch piece of ginger
½ inch of turmeric (or ½ tsp of ground turmeric)
dash black pepper
8-10 oz of your favorite nut milk
½ tsp coconut oil
Pour the nut milk in a mug and microwave it for 60 seconds.
Pour the warm milk into a blender and add the remaining ingredients.
Blend well and serve!
So, tell me, do you think you have chronic inflammation? If so, what steps have you taken to help reduce it. Share with us in the comments below your favorite anti-inflammatory remedies from the kitchen.
As always, if you like what you read, please feel free to share with your friends!
Azimi, P., Ghiasvand, R., Feizi, A., Hariri, M., & Abbasi, B. (2014). Effects of Cinnamon, Cardamom, Saffron, and Ginger Consumption on Markers of Glycemic Control, Lipid Profile, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation in Type 2 Diabetes Patients. The Review of Diabetic Studies : RDS, 11(3), 258–266. http://doi.org/10.1900/RDS.2014.11.258
He, Yan; Yue, Yuan; Zheng, Xi; Zhang, Kun; Chen, Shaohua; Du, Zhiyun. (2015). Curcumin, Inflammation, and Chronic Diseases: How Are They Linked? Molecules 20, no. 5: 9183-9213.
McCann, M. J., Johnston, S., Reilly, K., Men, X., Burgess, E. J., Perry, N. B., & Roy, N. C. (2014). The Effect of Turmeric (Curcuma longa) Extract on the Functionality of the Solute Carrier Protein 22 A4 (SLC22A4) and Interleukin-10 (IL-10) Variants Associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Nutrients, 6(10), 4178–4190. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu6104178
Ribel-Madsen, S., Bartels, E. M., Stockmarr, A., Borgwardt, A., Cornett, C., Danneskiold-Samsøe, B., & Bliddal, H. (2012). A Synoviocyte Model for Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: Response to Ibuprofen, Betamethasone, and Ginger Extract—A Cross-Sectional In Vitro Study. Arthritis, 2012, 505842. http://doi.org/10.1155/2012/505842