Category Archives: Diet And Nutrition

The Anti-inflammatory Diet – Foods that Heal

What is Inflammation?

anti-inflammatory foodsInflammation is a natural process with the biological purpose to initiate healing by increasing circulation. It is a complex process involving both the immune system and vascular system and the interplay of various chemical mediators. Increased circulation brings white blood cells and nourishment to the site of injury or infection so that invading pathogens are killed and damage may be repaired. Characteristic signs of inflammation include pain (dolor), heat (calor), swelling (tumor) and redness (rubor).

When Inflammation Goes Awry:

While some inflammation is beneficial and appropriate for healing, chronic or excessive inflammation, serving no purpose produces damage. Chronic inflammation has a bad reputation because it is implicated in various disease processes including (but not limited to)…

    • autoimmune diseases

    • arthritis

    • diabetes

    • Alzheimer’s disease

    • atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries that leads to heart attack and stroke)

    • ADD and ADHD

    • allergies & asthma

    • cancers

    • inflammatory bowel disease

Soft tissue swelling and chemical mediators involved in inflammation can also irritate nerve endings, contributing to pain.

What is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

It is a well-known fact that different foods are metabolized differently, some promoting inflammation and others reducing it. The purpose of the anti-inflammatory diet is to promote optimal health and healing by choosing foods that reduce inflammation. If one can successfully control excessive inflammation through natural means (like through diet), it reduces one’s dependance on anti-inflammatory medications that have unwanted and unhealthy side effects and don’t solve the underlying problem. While anti-inflammatory medications (such as NSAIDs) are a quick fix to ease symptoms, they ultimately weaken the immune system by damaging the gastrointestinal tract which plays an important role in immune system function (1).

Anti-inflammatory Diet Basics:

In general, eat an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, anti-inflammatory fats and nuts while limiting processed foods, meat protein, milk products, refined sugars, artificial colours/flavours/sweeteners and food sensitivities.


Eat and Enjoy:

Enjoy an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits in a variety of colours (preferably organic). Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre which give the body the essential building blocks for health. Examples include beans, squash, lintels, sweet potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, avocados, dark leafy greens… There are so many choices! As for fruits, pineapple and papaya are particularly good because they are high in bromelain, a powerful natural anti-inflammatory. Fruits and vegetables also make great, healthy snacks.

Avoid / Limit:

Avoid produce that is not grown organically. Toxic chemical residues from herbicides and pesticides can remain and when ingested are foreign irritants to the system. Many crops in North America are also genetically engineered and are put on the market without rigorous scientific study to determine safety for human consumption. Independent research is finally being done to show toxic effects of consuming genetically modified organisms (2). Foreign DNA is randomly inserted into the genome of a crop. Examples include herbicide resistant corn and soy which are resistant to the herbicide Roundup, made by Monsanto. Roughly 90% of all corn and soy sold in North America is genetically modified. Also be aware of derivatives of genetically modified ingredients (such as corn starch and corn syrup etc.). It has also been suggested that consuming GMOs is a contributing factor to the rise in allergies as our bodies are recognizing these food substances as foreign (3). By choosing items with the “certified organic” label, you avoid both GMOs and toxic herbicides/pesticides.

For some people, vegetables in the nightshade family may pose a concern. Examples of nightshade vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplant. Nightshades contain alkaloids which are thought to exacerbate inflammation and joint damage in certain susceptible individuals with arthritis (though research is conflicting). Thus, for some individuals, limiting or avoiding nightshade vegetables may be beneficial.


Eat and Enjoy:

Enjoy healthy, anti-inflammatory fats including olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, salmon and sardines. In humans, there are two essential fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3) and linoleic acid (an omega-6). These are “essential” because they are required for good health but the body does not synthesize them. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory. Omega-6 fats can be pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory (as it can be metabolized by two different pathways). Researchers suggest that keeping the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 between 2:1 and 4:1 is best for health. The modern diet tends to be high in omega-6 as it is abundantly available in cooking oils. Thus, including rich sources of omega-3 is important (such as fish, flax and walnuts especially).

Avoid / Limit:

Fats to limit or avoid include margarine, butter, shortening, hydrogenated oils, trans fats, saturated fats, and milk fat. Omega-6 fats are very high in corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil. Trans fats are linked with inflammatory diseases (4).


Eat and Enjoy:

In general, limit animal proteins because they tend to acidify the body and also promote inflammation. When selecting animal protein, enjoy fish, poultry (especially free-range and organically raised), lamb and omega-3 eggs.

Avoid / Limit:

Limit beef, pork, shellfish and factory farmed eggs. In general, grass-fed is superior to grain-fed. Avoid charred foods, smoked foods and cold cuts. Cold cuts contain nitrates and nitrites which promote cancer. Barbequed foods contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) which also promote cancer.


Eat and Enjoy:

Enjoy dairy substitutes in moderation (such as almond milk).

Avoid / Limit:

Avoid or limit dairy products in general. This includes milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream. As we age, we lose the enzyme that digests dairy, resulting in lactose intolerance and inflammation. The milk protein, casein, is also acidifying which (despite what many people are brought up thinking) robs the bones of calcium.


Eat and Enjoy:

Enjoy whole grains as opposed to refined grains. Refined grains are grains in which the germ and bran have been removed. This means there is loss of fiber, minerals and vitamins. In other words, the good stuff is removed in exchange for a longer shelf life. Some good examples of healthy grains include (organic) whole wheat/oats/bulgar/coucous, quinoa and whole oats (like steel-cut oats).

Whole grains are also a rich source of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates (as opposed to simple sugars) will prevent spikes in your blood sugar level. Sugar promotes inflammation.

Avoid / Limit:

Avoid or limit refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pastries, sweet things and pastas.


Eat and Enjoy:

Enjoy nuts and nut butters such as almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax.

Avoid / Limit:

Avoid any specific nut allergies.


Eat and Enjoy:

Enjoy plenty of pure, filtered water (avoiding chlorine, fluoride and other contaminants which are irritants that promote inflammation). Other great choices are lemon water and herbal teas.

Avoid / Limit:

Avoid sugary sodas, fruit juice (with sugar added) and milk.


Eat and Enjoy:

Many spices reduce inflammation. Some great examples are turmeric, oregano, rosemary, ginger, garlic and cinnamon. Bioflavenoids and polyphenols reduce inflammation and fight free radicals. Cayenne pepper is also anti-inflammatory, as it contains capsicum. Capsicum is often used in pain-relief creams.


Eat and Enjoy:

Enjoy stevia, molasses, maple syrup or honey as better alternatives for refined sugar.

Avoid / Limit:

Avoid refined sugar, fructose and especially high fructose corn syrup which promote inflammation. Avoid artificial sweeteners.


Eat and Enjoy:

Enjoy fermented foods such as kimchi, miso soup and sauerkraut. Fermented foods are probiotic and help to rebuild the immune system by supporting healthy microflora in the gut and to reduce inflammation. Fermented foods also tend to be easy to digest and are also factories for B vitamins.

Avoid / Limit:

In general, eliminate processed foods, artificial colours, artificial flavours and preservatives. Also avoid foods that you have a known sensitivity or allergy to as this promotes inflammation. Low grade sensitivities are easy to miss, so if you’re unsure, have a food allergy test. Some of the most common problem foods include wheat (gluten), corn, soy, milk and nuts.

Everything we need for health, can be found in nature. We just need to choose well. If you need help and ideas of what to eat, there are plenty of anti-inflammatory diet recipe books available.

What Else Can You Do to Reduce Inflammation?

  • Chiropractic care boosts immune system and reduces inflammation!

  • Reduce exposure to environmental toxins (such as smoke)

  • Reduce stress (5)

  • Certain types of exercise reduce inflammation – specifically, long term, gradually progressive training, avoiding over-exertion (6)

  1. Singh G & Triadafilopoulos G. (1999). Epidemiology of NSAID induced gastrointestinal complications. The Journal of Rheumatology, Supplement; 56:18-24.

  2. Seralini, GE, Clair E & Mesnage R et al. (Sept. 2012). Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology.

  3. S. J. Khan, S. Muafia, Z. Nasreen and A.M. Salariya. (2012). Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Food Security or Threat to Food Safety. Pakistan Journal of Science; 64(2):85-91.

  4. Lopez- Garcia, E, Schulze, M & Meigs, J et al. (2005). Consumption of Trans Fatty Acids Is Related to Plasma Biomarkers of Inflammation and Endothelial Dysfunction. Nutritional Epidemiology; 135:562-566.

  5. Cohena, S, Janicki-Deertsa, D & Doyleb, W et al. (2012) Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. Psychological and Cognitive Sciences.

  6. Ploeger HE, Takken T, de Greef MH, Timmons BW (2009). The effects of acute and chronic exercise on inflammatory markers in children and adults with a chronic inflammatory disease: a systematic review. Exerc Immunol Rev. 2009;15:6-41.

Dr. Elisabeth Miron

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Water Kefir – A Delicious Probiotic Elixir

Water Kefir grains AuroraIf you are looking for a fun, easy, delicious and inexpensive way to add fresh, home-cultured probiotics to your diet, water kefir may be just for you. Water kefir grains, also known as tibicos, are a culture of healthy bacteria and yeasts held together in the gelatinous polysaccharide matrix which they produce in a symbiotic relationship. The kefir “grains” ferment in sugar water to produce a fizzy, probiotic beverage which can be flavoured in a multitude of delicious and creative ways. The taste resembles that of kombucha tea – mildly sweet and mildly sour, with some nose-tickling effervescence.

I probably don’t need to write an entire essay about the health benefits of cultured foods / probiotics because it has already been overdone all over the internet. However, I will include a few point-form notes about cultured foods in general…

Health benefits of homemade cultured foods:

  • an excellent source of fresh probiotics or “good bacteria”

  • helps to balance the gut flora (the gut plays a huge role in immune system function)

  • boost immunity and therefore overall health and healing

  • easier to digest because they have been partially broken down by healthy bacteria and yeasts

  • improve digestion and reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome

  • fermentation naturally preserves foods

  • healthy skin

  • source of vitamins and minerals

  • making your own means that you can control the ingredients (you can use organic ingredients, avoid fillers, preservatives, artificial flavours and artificial colours)

More about water kefir:

Water kefir is one of many possible options for a homemade probiotic. Other fermented foods include, yogurt, milk kefir, kombucha tea, kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, miso and many others. Water kefir is a great probiotic alternative for those who are allergic or sensitive to dairy. Water kefir is also a great way to ween oneself off soda pop. Water kefir can also be used as a starter culture for homemade fermented vegetables.

Sounds great, Dr. Liz! How do I get started?”

First, you need to find a source of water kefir grains. Once you have grains, you can produce your own water kefir indefinitely. The grains will multiply which means that you can share them with family and friends. There are several websites that sell dehydrated grains. Or you can do what I did and find a local source of fresh, live grains on kijiji.

You will need:

  • some quart sized mason jars with plastic lids

  • a fine mesh sieve

  • jars for bottling

  • a funnel


  • 1/4 cup organic cane sugar

  • 3-4 cups water (chlorine and fluoride free)

  • water kefir grains

  • your choice of flavouring option (such as chopped fruit, chopped fresh ginger, hibiscus, lemon etc)


  1. Add 1/4 cup organic cane sugar to bottom of sterile mason jar

  2. Add ~1/2 cup boiling water and swoosh it around until the sugar dissolves

  3. Fill the mason jar most of the way up with the remaining cold water (leaving space for the grains)

  4. Check to make sure the temperature is not too hot or too cold. It should be approximately room temperature. If not, let it sit on the counter for a few minutes.

  5. Add the water kefir grains.

  6. Set the lid on the mason jar lightly so that fermentation can take place in the presence of oxygen. Alternatively, you can secure a coffee filter or cloth on the top of the mason jar with an elastic band. Make sure there is no access to fruit flies or other insects that like sugar!

  7. Allow the gains to ferment in the sugar water for 24-48 hours out of direct sunlight.Water Kefir Jar

  8. When it is ready (determined by taste), use the sieve to filter the grains out while pouring the fermented liquid into bottles.filter water kefir grains

  1. The grains are ready to ferment a new batch (repeat steps 1 through 8).

  2. Add your choice of flavour to the bottles then secure the lid on tightly for a “second fermentation.” In this example, I used some goji berries, rose buds and hibiscus. This is where you can be creative. You could also use chopped organic fruit, a lemon wedge, chopped fresh ginger or dried fruit.flavourign water kefir

  1. Allow the kefir to ferment for another 24-48 hours with the flavouring added. The second fermentation is when the kefir gets fizzy.

  2. Chill before serving and enjoy!

So there you have it – easy, fun, healthy and delicious! Cheers! :)

Now for just a few words of caution… If it looks weird, smells weird, tastes weird – when in doubt, throw it out and start from scratch again. Mould or bugs? Throw it out! Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding – there is a small amount of alcohol produced during the second fermentation (sources suggest between 1 – 3%). Avoid if you are diabetic – while the culture consumes a lot of the sugar, there is still some left in the end product. Those with other health problems should consult their primary care provider.

Dr. Elisabeth Miron