Healing often begins with the food on your plate.
When it comes to improving your health, fighting illness, and promoting a healthy gut microbiome, you often hear about decreasing inflammatory foods and increasing anti-inflammatory foods. But achieving an optimized diet for gut health and reducing inflammation is not about ticking off a list of tactics and taking a 'eat this, not that' approach. Rather, it's about sustained lifestyle choices over the course of a lifetime.
In this article, we'll define inflammation and even talk about why it can be a good thing. We'll highlight some foods that are legit anti-inflammatory superstars, and note the inflammatory food villains to avoid. Then we'll discuss our favorite pattern of eating here at Olive My Pickle: the Mediterranean diet approach, which is not a fad diet, quite the contrary.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a normal, natural process that occurs in the body. It is your body's way of protecting itself from infection or illness. In fact, inflammation can be vital for health and healing.
A response of your immune system
When your body encounters a virus, bacteria, toxic chemicals, or suffers from an injury, it activates your immune system. Your immune system then sends out inflammatory cells and cytokines (substances that stimulate more inflammatory cells).
These cells begin an inflammatory response to trap offending agents or heal injured tissues. The results can be pain, swelling, bruising, or redness.
For example, if you stub your toe or experience a fall, you'll experience redness, pain, heat, and swelling in that area - that's inflammation.
Inflammation also affects the body in ways you can't see.
Inflammation is crucial for the healing process in healthy adults but can have adverse effects when it becomes chronic.
The two types of inflammation
Acute inflammation is the response to sudden body changes, such as cutting a finger.
To heal the cut, your body sends inflammatory cells to the injury to begin the healing process. Acute inflammation occurs for a short time, resolving itself in 2 weeks or less.
This type of inflammation is a natural process and a sign that your body is functioning as it should.
Symptoms of acute inflammation
Redness at the site of an injury
Pain or tenderness
Chronic inflammatory diseases
Chronic (long-term) inflammation is the harmful type of inflammation you want to avoid.
Chronic inflammation occurs when your body continues sending inflammatory cells when there is no outside danger.
Chronic inflammation occurs inside the body without noticeable symptoms.
This type of inflammation can lead to diseases, weakened immunity, gut imbalances, and chronic inflammation disorders. This is why decreasing inflammation is important.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation
Depression, anxiety, and chronic stress
Digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, and inflammatory bowel disease
Poor immune function
Chronic inflammatory diseases
Symptoms can vary depending on the condition. For example, in some autoimmune conditions, your immune system affects your skin, leading to rashes. In others, it attacks specific glands, joints, or systems.
In leaky gut syndrome, a chronic inflammatory response occurs in the digestive tract.
Common symptoms of leaky gut include
The gut is lined by a wall, similar to a net with small holes. These holes act as a filter, enabling the passage of certain substances while keeping bigger, harmful substances from entering the body.
When someone has a leaky gut, it means the gut lining is damaged and can't function as it should. As a result, the smaller holes become larger and allow harmful substances like gluten, bacteria, and undigested food particles to enter your system and cause damage to your health.
Chronic inflammation is a substantial contributing factor to a leaky gut.
A leaky gut also leads to inflammation in other areas of the body. Decreasing inflammation and improving the gut microbiome is essential for maintaining the health of the gut, healing gut imbalances, and improving overall health.
What Causes Chronic Inflammation?
Varying diet and lifestyle factors can contribute to chronic inflammation in the body.
Stress can play a crucial role in causing excess inflammation.
Obesity has been shown to contribute to chronic inflammation.
Sugar causes inflammation.
Inactivity or lack of exercise has been linked to inflammation.
5 Foods That Fight Inflammation
We're all looking for ways to reduce inflammation and feel our best. Eating foods that are anti-inflammatory and nutrient-dense is one of the best things you can do to support a healthy gut microbiome and strong immune system.
Here are five of the best foods to help keep your gut healthy and fight inflammation. Add them to your diet and feel the difference!
Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are high fiber foods rich in vitamins, and minerals. In addition to their many health properties, berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
Snacking on berries or adding berries to your morning smoothie is a great way to fight inflammation and improve your gut health.
Fermentation is a process in which bacteria and yeast break down sugars. The fermentation process creates lactic acid bacteria, which act as a preserving agent to the vegetables, and creates a delicious taste.
The health benefits of fermented foods
In 2021, researchers at Stanford Prevention Research Center found that eating a diet rich in fermented foods can also boost the number and diversity of beneficial bacteria in your gut microbiome, decrease inflammatory markers and improve immune responses.
While we're on the subject of fermented foods and inflammation, eating fermented foods can also improve microbiome diversity and provide beneficial bacteria to the gut, which helps to lower inflammation. Ideal foods and drinks such as fermented tea like kombucha tea, fermented vegetables like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, or other fermented vegetables may reduce inflammation.
Incorporating naturally fermented foods into your diet is important for the health of your gut. If you've tried our products here at Olive My Pickle products, you know just how delicious eating fermented foods can be.
Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that you can find in any grocery store. Studies show that curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, may reduce inflammation in the body.
Turmeric is common in Indian cuisines, such as curry, but can be incorporated into many dishes. It's also great to add to your smoothies or make a golden milk latte.
Olive My Pickle's Turmeric & Spice LiveBrine, is a powerful probiotic elixir. LiveBrine is the pickle juice that's resulted from our lactic acid bacteria fermentation process. It's has the highest concentration of probiotic bacteria of any of our fermented food products. Many in our customer community enjoy a shot in the morning to start their day.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collards are high fiber foods packed with nutrients that fight inflammation. However, research has found that different greens offer different anti-inflammatory properties, so it's important to eat a wide variety of greens.
Aim to eat a serving of greens with each meal - blend them in your smoothies, add them to cooked veggies, or enjoy a tasty salad. A diet rich in leafy greens can decrease inflammation and offer a variety of health benefits.
Tea contains antioxidants called catechins, which are known to reduce inflammation. Green tea contains EGCG, the most powerful type of catechin. Consuming green tea has been shown to reduce inflammation-driven conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer's, and certain cancers.
Green tea offers less caffeine than coffee but can provide your body with more natural, sustained energy. It's a great coffee replacement that's much easier on the digestive tract!
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
Sugar or high-fructose corn syrup - candy, chocolate, soda, juice, desserts, and some cereals
Artificial trans fat - baked goods, processed foods, fried foods, meat, and dairy products
Refined carbohydrates - white bread, white flour, white rice, pastries, pasta, soda, processed snacks, and some cereals
Processed meat - sausage, bacon, lunch meat, and beef jerky
Alcohol - more than two standard drinks per day
By eating a diverse palette, incorporating fiber-rich fermented foods, and a simple change in diet, you'll be helping your body fight chronic inflammation, and improve your gut health!
The Mediterranean Diet: An Anti-Inflammatory pattern of eating
Eating for gut health and for low inflammation isn't achieved through a list of tactics and 'eat this and not that' approach. Rather, it is a lifestyle. The pattern of eating that has a long history of scientific study and is shown to be anti-inflammatory? Yes, it's the Mediterranean diet.
Definition and history of the Mediterranean diet
We've all heard about the Mediterranean diet, or as we like to say here at OMP, the Mediterranean style of eating (because the word 'diet' just isn't quite right.) Known for positive attributes such as being plant-forward, rich in good, healthy fats and being highly palatable (a.k.a. DELICIOUS), the Mediterranean diet is also the #1 most studied of all eating styles, with multiple decades of long term, clinical research backing its soundness as a strategy for lifelong health.
What are the characteristics of the Mediterranean style of eating?
At its core is mostly unprocessed foods like whole grains (bulgar, farro, millet, barley or couscous), lentils and beans (chickpeas and other legumes) and nuts.
It embraces fruits and vegetables, high fiber foods, as the mainstay of the meal.
The Mediterranean diet looks at meat as more of a garnish than the main course. It places less emphasis on red meats than does the standard American diet. At OMP we condone 100% grass fed meat and eating nose to tail (to include nutrient-dense organ meats).
A low emphasis on sugar, and where there is sugar it's typically from fruits and natural raw honey.
Seafood in moderate amounts like healthy Omega 3 rich fatty fish like sustainable salmon and sardines, and zinc-rich oysters.
Egg strong: eggs are aptly referred to as 'nature's multivitamin' and are one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet (right up there with beef liver.)
Healthy fats! Such as extra virgin olive oil, fat-rich foods like avocado and olives. At Olive My Pickle, we also endorse grass fed butter and MCT coconut oil as great fats to eat plenty of.
Fermented foods have a strong place on any Mediterranean table. And not just fermented foods like pickles, and sauerkraut either. There is a strong tradition of fermented dairy, such as milk kefirs as well, including goat milk kefir. Your gut microbiome LOVES the Mediterranean diet, because it's a fiber-rich diet with a high variety of probiotic strains found in different fermented foods.
What are some of the top health attributes of the Mediterranean style of eating?
It is nutrient-dense.
It is highly antioxidant
It is an incredibly fiber-rich diet
It's research-backed to be great for brain health. Several studies have linked the diet to lower levels of depression and lower levels of mild cognitive impairment (MCI.)
People that follow the Mediterranean diet also tend to live longer and even age better. A recent meta-analysis of four studies determined that those that ate this way were less frail.
Long term studies show that those that eat Mediterranean style have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
It is known to be the #1 most anti-inflammatory diet.
How is the Mediterranean diet so good for inflammation?
There are several dietary protocols that are considered "AI" diets (anti inflammatory diets), but the Mediterranean style of eating is the one that is the most research-backed. The landmark Nurses' Health Study is just one of several studies that found people who follow a Mediterranean style of eating have lower levels of the inflammatory markers C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 in their blood compounds compared with those who don't.
You don't have to perfectly follow the Mediterranean diet either to see improvements in inflammation. It's about being mostly consistent, the majority of the time. Because the Mediterranean diet is so colorful, so rich in flavor and so delicious, it's easy and appealing to do.
The best part?
Eating foods that support a healthy gut microbiome is just one aspect. The Mediterranean approach to living is about so much more than just food. It's is an integrated style of life—yes, a lifestyle! While the foundation of it is delicious healthy food, that's just one part of it.
Other aspects are the emphasis on social connection, time spent with other humans you love, being involved with family and community, walking and daily physical activity, time spent outdoors, laughter and healthy, positive recreation. Good stuff that makes a long life also a happy life.
Ready to start eating fermented foods and kick inflammation to the curb?
At Olive My Pickle, we make caring for your gut simple. We know real fermented foods can be hard to find, which is why we deliver tasty, fermented foods right to your door. We offer many fermented foods such as pickles, kraut, kimchi, olives, fermented vegetables, and vegetable brine drinks to help decrease inflammation and improve overall microbial diversity.
Visit our shop to explore our unique fermented foods and start optimizing your gut health today!
How do I eat fermented foods for my gut health?
Our quick guide has the answers. Get 20+ meal ideas, tips, hacks and snacks for your best gut ever.