Can Dietary Changes Reduce Inflammation?

Can dietary changes reduce inflammation? I can’t help thinking about inflammation this morning. My left thumb is swollen and throbbing thanks to an ant that was eating the okra pod I reached in to harvest before I noticed it. (Yes, I have gloves and I know I should wear them.)

Inflammation is detrimental to health especially when it becomes chronic. What I’m experiencing at the moment is acute inflammation that should subside in a few days. But before I knew I should be gluten-free, I experienced chronic inflammation.

Research has shown chronic inflammation to be associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Not only is it a possible contributor to serious disease, chronic inflammation makes you feel bad.

For me, it developed slowly over a period of time. I knew I had inexplicable pain that kept me awake. More than likely, that was related to inflammation. It went away when I eliminated gluten from my diet. After a few weeks, I was acutely aware that I no longer felt “tight” in my skin. Once I realized how much lighter I felt, I never wanted to go backward.

But because my condition changed gradually over a period of years, I became desensitized to the overall changes in how I felt. I knew something was going on because I was weak and tired and I ached, but the acute symptom that kept me seeking answers was an itchy rash.

With chronic inflammation, your body is constantly responding as if it’s under attack. The immune system pumps out white blood cells and chemical messengers that are helpful for a time after an injury or illness like a virus, but if the process lingers, they become detrimental. Just typing that makes me feel tired. It seems obvious that constantly fighting itself would not result in optimum health.

Diet and exercise are key to managing chronic inflammation. For me, eliminating gluten was what it took to rid myself of chronic inflammation and eventually my itchy rash. Even now, after 17 years, it doesn’t take much accidental gluten ingestion to trigger another round of blistery itching. Maybe that’s a good thing. It certainly keeps me on the straight and narrow.

To reduce chronic inflammation, eliminating foods you recognize irritate your system is a good place to start. Anything that produces an allergic reaction, stomach discomfort, swelling, redness, or rash can go in the first round. Dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish may fall in this category.

Next up, consider limiting consumption of processed foods. The chemicals in soft drinks, deli meat, baked goods, and preformed meals may trigger an undesired response from your body.

Beyond that, it may be helpful to eliminate sugary, starchy foods like white bread, pancakes, doughnuts, and pasta. This will help prevent blood sugar spikes. Keeping the body even keel allows it to use available energy to repair itself.

You may want to increase other foods like cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, plums, red grapes, onions, turmeric, green tea, spinach, and Swiss chard. Kale is a great option if you like it. All of these foods are high in polyphenols which are antioxidants that reduce inflammation.

Exercise plays a part in preventing conditions associated with chronic inflammation and research has shown it can directly reduce inflammation as well. Of course, movement will be more pleasant as inflammation lessens. I am intensely reminded of this when I try to move my thumb.

A change in diet can result in reducing or even eliminating chronic inflammation. Sitting here with a reminder of how inflamed tissues feel, I am grateful that it only took eliminating certain foods to bring me relief. That makes the dietary changes worth it!

Is It Safe to Graze on These Snacks?

If you must be gluten-free to be healthy, you always have to ask: Is it safe to graze on this? In order to answer that question, I always start with the label. I recently purchased a Graze Dark Chocolate Cherry Tart snack. I was in a hurry, so I saved the label reading for later.
I liked the natural looking package and I absolutely LOVE dried cherries, almonds, and chocolate. These are ingredients that can easily be gluten free and that I often use when I prepare dessert. The only noted allergens on the label are soybeans and tree nuts. Buying this didn’t seem like too big a risk.

When I got home and had time to read the label, I saw that the chocolate buttons include something called “cocoa mass”. I didn’t know exactly what cocoa mass was, but I recognized that it needed to be further investigated. I visited the Graze website.

After visiting the site, I still don’t know what cocoa mass is, but I found this statement located next to the list of ingredients:
Graze is not suitable for people with allergies. All of our food is packed in the same place, so cross-contamination between any of our ingredients is possible. Our snacks may contain traces of gluten, eggs, peanuts, soya, milk, nuts, celery, mustard, fish and sesame.”

This statement appears next to the list of ingredients for each and every product on the website. It’s interesting to note that there’s not enough of some of these allergens to require a notation on the label, but there’s enough for the company to feel it necessary to note their possible presence in the product. I appreciate the fact that they’ve done so in a clear, visible manner.

Where does that leave you?

It’s always safest to err on the side of caution when you encounter an unknown ingredient. I also avoid products that say they are processed on the same equipment as wheat, rye, and barley or may contain trace amounts of these ingredients. If a label does not list any gluten containing ingredients, questionable items, or cross contamination possibilities, I trust that it’s okay to consume even though it may not be labeled gluten-free.
While I like the Graze story of 7 friends who quit their jobs to create better snacks, I cannot recommend these snacks to anyone who is gluten-free. On the other hand, if you’re not limited by the allergens, eat up!

Choose from mixes full of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, superfoods, veggies, and protein. The flavor combinations sound interesting and the packages are easy to carry. Graze has a subscription service, so you can have them delivered right to your door.

If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it’s not safe to graze on these snacks, but you don’t have to miss out on enjoying dried cherries, almonds and chocolate!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Need Pain Relief? Try These 5 Steps.

painWhen you need pain relief, reach for the origin and you may not need a pill. A visiting friend recently asked me for some ibuprofen. I looked in the medicine closet and I didn’t even have acetaminophen. A lack of ibuprofen didn’t surprise me. Every time I take it, my cheeks immediately turn red and start itching so I don’t buy it, but even I was surprised that there was NO pain reliever on the shelf.

Of course, I’ve long recognized that taking a lengthy round of pregelatinized starch causes my stomach to hurt so I have a bit of aversion to pills that contain it. I guess at some point I forgot to restock.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have pain. I lift weights which means I often suffer muscle soreness. I grind my teeth which leads to jaw pain. I get occasional headaches. And, in spite of a gluten-free lifestyle and eating at regular intervals, I have significant stomach pain periodically.

I’m not a stoic or a masochist. I just prefer to determine the origin of my pain and follow its process before I reach for a pill bottle. For me, this works so much of the time that I rarely need further intervention. I like that because all pharmaceuticals come with risks and side effects. Why ingest them unless I have exhausted other options?

What process do I follow to eliminate pain?

1. Observation
Over time, I have observed the factors in my life that are frequent contributors to pain. For instance, my headaches are usually caused by dehydration, hunger, or lack of caffeine. Sometimes too many sweets in the evening make me feel hung over.

2. Process of Elimination
Using my long-term observations, I review and eliminate possible culprits until I find the most likely source of pain. If I’ve had plenty of coffee, I eliminate lack of caffeine. If I haven’t taken a long break, added reps, or increased weight to a lift, I eliminate my workout as the cause of knee pain.

3. Address the Remaining Possible Cause(s)
I start with the most likely culprit. If I address that and the pain begins to diminish, I’m done. If that doesn’t work, I move on to the next possible cause. If I carried heavy boxes up the stairs in heels, I do some knee stretches and wear comfortable flats or walking shoes to address my knee pain. If it’s severe, I may limit my time standing for a day or two.

For stomach pain, an easy to digest diet for a day or two can sometimes do the trick. Yogurt, frozen yogurt, bananas, honeydew, watermelon, pears, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and chicken are easy for me to tolerate. If that doesn’t work, I sometimes revert to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for awhile.

4. Get to Work
If I’m absorbed in a mind-engaging activity, my pain eases. A computer problem, a recipe test, or even yoga changes my focus and helps me experience pain differently.

5. Use a Natural Pain Reliever
In the event that stretching, hydrating, fashion, or diet changes don’t work, I try cherries or cherry juice. Studies have shown that tart cherries can effectively relieve pain and inflammation.

If none of these work and the pain is unbearable, I make a trip to the store and get acetaminophen. I just don’t make the trip until I’ve tried this process.

I realize the pain I have described here is not the pervasive, chronic pain some of you suffer. I am not saying no one should seek medical or pharmaceutical pain treatment, but I am an advocate of ascertaining the origin of pain and/or any underlying conditions prior to beginning a pain treatment plan.

I know what it feels like to ache so much you cannot sleep, hurt so much you can’t lift your arm, and to have to fight to pay attention to anything beyond your abdominal pain. I was lucky enough to discover that my chronic pain could be eliminated by removing gluten from my diet. Going from constant pain, weakness, and fatigue to the minor pain I now experience is the thing that keeps me from ever wanting to eat gluten again!
If you suffer from occasional pain, try this process. If you suffer from significant chronic pain, I wish you medical care that seeks to determine and treat the origin of your pain. I also wish you relief, comfort, and peace.

Cherries pack a huge healthy punch in a tiny, delicious package!

Life may not be just a bowl of cherries, but don’t forget to put some on your plate!


I love it when the grocery store is filled with fresh cherries. My favorite ones are the Bing variety. I also like the variegated Rainier cherries, but given the choice, I always pick Bing. Luckily, I pick them often.

Sweet or tart, cherries are filled with good things like vitamin C and potassium. They also contain boron – a mineral that is used for building strong bones, treating osteoarthritis, as an aid for building muscles and increasing testosterone levels, and for improving thinking skills.

And the goodness doesn’t stop there. Those delicious little morsels contain melatonin – a free-radical scavenger and wide-spectrum antioxidant that is sometimes beneficial to those with autism. Some studies indicate that melatonin may act as an anti-aging agent (perhaps because of its phytoestrogen properties), it increases REM sleep time, and it may help some women stave off type 2 diabetes. Whew! That’s quite a healthy punch to pack in a such a tiny package.

But wait, there’s more…I know, I feel like one of those cheesy infomercials, but there really IS more. According to research from Michigan State University, tart red cherries have an anti-inflammatory benefit that can relieve pain more effectively than aspirin. Lead researcher Muraleedharan G. Nair, Ph.D., Professor at Michigan State University College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, notes about this cherry effect, “It is as good as ibuprofen and some of the nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs.” This is great news for those of us who have pain, but cannot tolerate the effects of ibuprofen.

Another study from University of California at Davis found that regular consumption of cherries for 28 days produced a decrease in biochemical signs of inflammation in the blood including the marker that indicates increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

After years of feeling absolutely miserable due to inflammation, I always feel grateful to learn about simple dietary changes that can relieve discomfort and lessen my risk for heart disease and arthritis. Without even realizing it, I’ve been choosing an incredibly healthy food just because I love the way it tastes. That’s some serendipity I can get behind. How ’bout you?



Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”