Can you name your skin's #1 enemy? Nope, it's not the sun (although that's a VERY close second). It's inflammation.
I'm not talking about the rash you get when your skin comes in contact with something that irritates it. That kind of inflammation heals quickly and doesn't hurt your skin. I'm talking about something sneakier and deadlier: chronic inflammation.
What's Chronic Inflammation?
Inflammation is your body's response to injury. When you cut yourself, for example, your skin gets all red and swollen. That signals your immune system to start the healing process. In a few days, everything's back to normal. That's cool. The problem starts when inflammation overdoes its job. Your body believes that whatever's bothering it is still hanging around so it keeps the inflammation process going, simmering quietly in the background. This happens, for example, when you're under stress or eat a lot of unhealthy, pro-inflammatory foods. In our modern society, who isn't guilty of those things?
This kind of inflammation is sneaky because you can't see it happening. It's often left unchecked, free to cause all kinds of damage, including acne, wrinkles, sagging, rosacea and eczema. Not to mention, it increases your risk of getting horrible diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's. Guess what causes it? UV rays. Irritating skincare products. Alcohol. Smoking. Harsh weather. Pollution. Stress. A diet rich in sugar and processed foods. All the usual suspects, basically.
How Do You Treat Inflammation?
The best way is through your diet. Adding a few anti-inflammatory delicacies to your meals can treat those nasty breakouts, prevent wrinkles and give you the clear skin you crave. Here are our favorite anti-inflammatory foods:
- Tart cherries
Did you know that tart cherries have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any foods? That's according to a 2012 study published by the Oregon Health & Science University. That's wonderful news because these little round red balls taste delicious!
When out of season, or if not available in your area, you can often find frozen cherries at your grocery, canned cherries, or look for tart cherry juice. Tart cherries (fresh or frozen) make a great afternoon snack, or add them to your berry smoothie in the morning. Yummy!
- Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is chock full of antioxidants that reduce the free radicals that cause inflammation. According to a study done in India, its anti-inflammatory properties are so powerful, it's able to heal arthritis better than medication! This oil is heat-stable so it's perfect for sauteing vegetables for a double anti-inflammatory boost, or try a spoonful of it on your morning toast in place of butter.
- Walnuts (Raw are Best)
Walnuts are rich in omega-3, which are famous for reducing inflammation. They help you prevent wrinkles, avoid breakouts, boost brain function and even lower cholesterol. We like to keep a packet of raw walnuts in our bags to munch on throughout the day. It's a delicious snack that curbs hunger and keeps you healthy and younger-looking. By the way, walnut oil is just as good against inflammation.
Salmon is another good source of good old omega-3. The more you eat, the younger you'll look and the healthier you'll feel. But, not all salmon is bred equal. To reap its anti-aging benefits, you need to chow down on wild-caught salmon. Some stores even carry wild-caught canned salmon, which makes a great tuna substitute. While you're at it, why not add a drizzle of walnut oil?
This super spice contains plenty of curcumin, one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory substances out there. Research shows that it greatly helps patients manage rheumatoid arthritis. But it also plays a big role in treating redness and preventing fine lines and sagging.
Just a quick look at turmeric supplement reviews on Amazon.com will yield thousands of raving 5-Star comments about how tumeric has helped them with chronic pain of all kinds, even better than ibuprofen in some cases. If you can't find enough food during the week to use turmeric on, then try taking a daily capsule. This is my personal preferred method, for the ease of it, and it ensures I get my daily dose.
Blueberries always top any list of the healthiest foods out there. That's because these tiny blue balls are chockfull of antioxidants, including quercetin. Quercetin is great for your skin because it fights free radicals, inflammation and even cancer. Why not add some to your yogurt for breakfast tomorrow morning? By the way, the frozen kind works just as well.
Talking about yogurt, that works wonders at lowering inflammation, too. That's thanks to probiotics, those little organisms that feed the good bacteria in your gut. They don't just improve your digestion but benefit your overall health, they boost your immune system, and are great for your skin, too.
The latest research indicates they even help treat psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Fruity yogurt is not the only type of yogurt you are stuck with, by the way. Thanks to the wide availability of authentic Greek yogurt in most stores now, you can use plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream on all your favorite spicy dishes or atop stews or chili, or use it to dilute the amount of fatty mayonnaise you use in your chicken salad and salad dressings. To supercharge your breakfast, top your yogurt with blueberries or cherries and walnuts, and wash it down with kombucha or green tea.
- Green Leafy Vegetables
Come on, you knew this was coming! These are medicines for pretty much everything.
What makes them so good? They have plenty of antioxidants that restore cellular health, fight free radicals, soothe inflammation and help you prevent pretty much every illness under the sun. So, fill your plate with kale, broccoli, spinach and lettuce.
Want to try something new? Did you know you can eat the tops/greens of radishes, which are actually twice as high in nutrients as the bulb? I just found this out the other day, actually, so I tried it. They taste nothing like radishes, but they were surprisingly delicious and I could eat them alone, or easily add them to any salad. But if you really struggle to stomach greens, no problem, why not just blend them into a smoothie? I promise, you will not taste spinach in a smoothie.
Onions may not smell the best but they do wonders for your skin. And they don't just soothe inflammation but also the pain that often goes along with it. Plus, they have plenty of antioxidants to bust those wrinkle-causing free radicals. Some cultures swear by onions to keep colds and flu away, which is aways a welcomed thing!
I've heard some people like to drink a shot of fresh onion juice (uh, I'm not that brave). Adding a few slices to a salad will do the trick though, and sliced fresh onions are also really delicious as a garnish on most savory meat dishes.
Chronic inflammation is a pain. But with just a few little tweaks to your diet, taming it can be easier than you know.