Food that can reduce inflammation

Inflammation happens to everyone, it is part of our body's natural response to damaged tissues and also plays a role in the immune system response. With modern day advances we are now able to see just how much inflammation you're likely to feel from a strenuous bout of activity through the analysis of your genes.

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At DNAFit we look at four genetic inflammatory markers - IL6, IL6R, CRP and TNF. Variations in these genes give us a clue if you are predisposed to suffer significantly increased levels or slightly increased levels of inflammation.

Knowing your predisposition of this biological phenomenon can make big difference Inflammation happens to everyone, it is part of our body’s natural response to damaged tissues and also plays a role in the immune system response. With modern day advances we are now able to see just how much inflammation you’re likely to feel from a strenuous bout of activity through the analysis of your genes.s to your training and even more so to your recovery strategies which necessitate your training schedule and ultimately your goals.

Acute inflammation is important for healing; however excessive inflammation can result in prolonged feelings of soreness, tenderness, swelling, and also in a loss of function (reduces ROM or range of motion) and could even result in allergies and chronic diseases. There are various strategies that can be used to help decrease acute and chronic inflammation, but for the purpose of today's blog we will be looking at foods that can assist in the role of decreasing inflammation in our body:

Omega - 3

Known as an essential fatty acid because it is both crucial to our bodies function, and cannot be produced by the body, we therefore need to get them from food sources. Omega- 3’s are also a type of unsaturated fat. There are quite a few healthy benefits that can be provided through the correct intake of omega-3’s in our diet; they help reduce rheumatoid arthritis, lower fats in our blood and they also provide our bodies with an anti-inflammatory effect. They have been seen to reduce inflammation and help promote recovery following bouts of resistance training.

Foods that contain omega-3: Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, cod, tuna; nuts and seeds like walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds

Tip: Grind in omega-3 rich nuts or seeds with your post-workout shake.

Vitamin D

This fat-soluble vitamin is important as it helps to regulate anti-inflammatory cells as well as muscle growth. It has been well known for many years that vitamin D is important for bone health as it helps with the absorption of calcium. Low vitamin D levels are associated with a few diseases including arthritis (joint inflammation).

A study conducted in 2012 examined specific mechanisms by which vitamin D might act on our inflammatory and immune pathways. The researchers isolated human white blood cells by incubating these cells with assorted levels of vitamin D, they then exposed these white blood cells to LPS (lipopolysaccharide). This molecule is associated with bacterial cell walls that are known to promote inflammatory responses. The results showed that cells which were incubated with no vitamin D produced high levels of cytokines IL-6 and TNF-alpha, which are major markers in the inflammatory response. The same result was also seen in white blood cells incubated by a solution containing 15 ng/ml of vitamin D. Cells that were incubated in 30 ng/ml and above of vitamin D showed significantly decreased response to the LPS. Incubation in 50 ng/ml of vitamin D resulted in the highest levels of inflammatory inhibition.

Vitamin D food sources include oily fish, fortified breakfast cereals, milk and mushrooms.

If you’re one of those people who enjoy being out in the sun and don’t tend to get sunburnt easily, then this is another method of obtaining great amounts of vitamin D. If you live in a climate that doesn't usually offer a lot of sunlight, then a vitamin D supplement might be your best bet.

Tip: Instead of mixing your post-workout protein shake with water, try using milk instead. It will also provide you with great amount of casein protein that can assist with muscle repair and ultimately your gains.


These are found in various fruits and vegetables, and they play an important role in removing harmful compounds from our body known as free radicals. Vitamins A, C and E, bioflavonoids, polyphenols and glutathione are some good examples of antioxidants. Many berries like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and other cherries contain great antioxidant compounds that have been shown to help reduce inflammation as well as chronic disease risk and their effects has been seen to help promote recovery from exercise.

Tip: Have a handful of assorted berries as a daily snack choice. Alternatively, you can also (yes, you guessed it) grind it into your post or even pre-workout shake.


This is a yellow-like substance which can be found in some Asian meals, such as curry, and is the most active component in the yellow spice turmeric. It has been seen to reduce soreness and inflammation after exercise. Research suggests that Curcumin has the ability, at molecular level, to target several steps in the inflammation pathway. Curcumin blocks a molecule (NF-kB) that travels into the nuclei of cells and turns on genes related to inflammation.

Tip: Add turmeric to your carbohydrates. If you are going to eat rice or perhaps you are carbo-loading for an event, adding the turmeric spice can be a great option to combat stiffness and soreness.


These are chemicals produced by plants that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Foods that are rich in phytochemicals range from various berries, vegetables that are green, red, or orange in colour (such as sweet peppers), peanuts, and whole grain products.

Tip: Include colourful fruits and vegetables in your diet, whether this be at breakfast, lunch or dinner that’s up to you. The way you can achieve this is to include a “colourful” salad as a side to your main course.

Beetroot Juice

Along with its suggested effect of dilating blood vessels to allow for more oxygen transportation towards working muscles, it has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect. Beet’s contain a micronutrient called betaine which has anti-inflammatory properties as it has been associated with reduced levels of IL6, TNFa and CRP.

Tip: Drink a glass (250-300mL) 2 hours before an endurance activity to get the best benefits from it


It is not a secret that there is a relationship between strenuous, harder bouts of training or exercise and increased levels of inflammation, and it shouldn’t be a secret that a good diet can help relieve inflammation and therefore allow you to do more high intensity activity in a week as recovery becomes quicker. As previously stated, our genes play a role in the regulation of inflammation. At DNAFit, we look at four genes that impact the inflammatory response:

IL-6 - Stimulates the immune response to training and is involved in the inflammatory repair process.

TNF - Is shown to regulate our immune cells which is able to induce fever, inhibit tumor growth, and is part of the inflammation process.

CRP - This is an acute phase protein which rises in response to inflammation. It is stimulated by the IL-6 and is often used as a marker for inflammation in blood tests. 

IL6-R - The IL6R gene specifically encodes this IL6R subunit, which in-turn influences IL6 cytokine action.


Variation within the genes mentioned above can predispose a person to lower levels of inflammation after a strenuous bout of activity, leading to quicker recovery times. Some genotypes are associated with increased levels of inflammation after exercise, and as such would require a longer rest period between bouts of activity. Understanding your genes and their indications could be a vital part in the approach to decrease inflammation. Adopting a balance between correct strategies like workout, rest, active recovery sessions and modalities as well as nutrition should provide you with the optimal approach to recover.

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