5 Ways to Manage Chronic Inflammation with Food

5 Ways to Manage Chronic Inflammation with Food

Emily Alexander, FNTP Emily Alexander, FNTP
8 minute read

Inflammation is the body’s natural protective response when it experiences injury or illness. Although it is most often thought of as something bad, inflammation is an essential part of life. It shortens the body’s healing time and fights against infections that could turn deadly if left unattended. 

Types of Inflammation

There are two different types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is an immediate response that occurs when you experience an illness or injury. Its job is to address the site of injury in the short term (typically a few days) by signaling the immune system to release white blood cells, and then bring your body back to homeostasis (a stable equilibrium) as soon as possible. Examples of when you may have experienced acute inflammation include things like a scrape on your knee, a fever, acne, or a rash. Without inflammation, these injuries or illnesses could progress to be more harmful, which is why this natural body response is so important! Common signs of acute inflammation include redness, swelling, heat, and pain1

Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation is long-term, lasting from several weeks to years and causing more harm than good. In a healthy functioning body, the immune system is able to recognize when the injury or trigger has been addressed and that it is safe to return to homeostasis. However, when our toxic burden is too high or we are chronically exposed to multiple stressors, our immune response sticks around, leaving the body in a constant state of inflammation. This increases the risk for many chronic health conditions, mood fluctuations, and metabolic disease2. Common causes of chronic inflammation include intestinal permeability (leaky gut), exposure to chemicals or pollutants, untreated infections, autoimmune disorders, lack of sleep, poor dietary choices, and mold exposure.

How do you know if you’re experiencing chronic inflammation? Common symptoms include3:

  • Persistent infections or prolonged healing time

  • Brain fog

  • Fatigue

  • Cystic acne

  • Rashes

  • Unexplainable weight gain or weight loss

  • Mood changes, including depression and anxiety

  • Joint pain

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and gas

Thankfully, chronic inflammation does not need to be a lifelong experience, and there are many ways you can support and manage your body’s natural inflammatory response through whole, nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods.

Curated’s Top 5 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

1. Consume plenty of omega-3-rich fatty fish
knife slicing salmon on cutting board

Fatty fish (like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies) are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. The body cannot make these fats on its own, making it essential that we get enough of them through our diet. Research has demonstrated that regular consumption of omega 3s reduces the production of inflammation-producing molecules (like cytokines) and reduces overall levels of inflammation4. In particular, omega-3s are well known for their cognitive and mood-boosting benefits, making them a vital nutrient for addressing neurological-related inflammation symptoms, including brain fog, mood changes, and poor memory.

2. Give yourself permission to eat dark chocolate

Unlike commercially sold milk chocolate, dark chocolate is composed mainly of cacao and is rich in many important minerals and antioxidants. As you might know, antioxidants are nutrients that decrease oxidative stress in the body by fighting free radicals. If the amount of free radicals throughout the body becomes too high, the body experiences damage at the cellular and tissue levels, increasing systemic inflammation. In one study, researchers found that 8 weeks of daily consumption of 30 grams of dark chocolate (84% dark) significantly reduced inflammatory biomarkers in participants5

3. Enjoy berries of all kinds

Many different types of berries pack a large, anti-inflammatory punch. Berries contain an important antioxidant compound called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins (also a type of flavonoid) are the substances that give berries their rich red, purple and blue coloring. This compound is also involved in strengthening the immune system6, something we know is important for a healthy inflammatory response.

blueberries in a wooden bowl

Some of the best berries to enjoy:

  • Blueberries 

  • Strawberries

  • Pomegranates 

  • Raspberries

  • Blackberries

  • Dark cherries

  • Grapes

4. Switch to olive oil and coconut oil

One of the best and easiest changes you can make to your diet is to upgrade your cooking oils from highly processed oils like canola oil or vegetable oil (which increase inflammation significantly) to oils like olive oil or coconut oil.

Olive oil, a main component of the well-known anti-inflammatory Mediterranean Diet, is rich in antioxidants and important fatty acids. Oleic acid, the fatty acid that composes a majority of the fatty acids in olive oil, is associated with a reduction in inflammatory markers like C-Reactive Proteins (CRP), which suggests an overall decrease in inflammation7. For the best anti-inflammatory effects, olive oil should be cold-pressed and consumed raw or in low to medium heat cooking as it is sensitive to both heat and light.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat that is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Boasting both anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, coconut oil is thought to decrease inflammation by increasing antioxidant activity throughout the body8. Its antimicrobial properties can help reduce the severity of harmful infection-causing microbes, which would normally increase inflammation. For the best anti-inflammatory effects, coconut oil should be cold-pressed. It is also one of the best oils to bake and cook with as it is extremely stable against high heat.

5. Use spices like turmeric

turmeric powder on a spoon

You might recognize turmeric as the spice that gives curries their bright yellow color. This spice is rich in compounds called curcuminoids that have many medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin, one of these curcuminoids, is known as turmeric’s main active ingredient that helps fight inflammation throughout the body. Research has demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing inflammation in the joints of those diagnosed with arthritis, making it a positive addition to traditional arthritis treatment9. To consume more turmeric, try seasoning roasted vegetables, cooked rice, or dishes with fresh or dried turmeric. 

If you’re struggling with inflammation and feel you need more targeted support in addition to dietary changes, check out our Inflammatory Response Essential Curation. Curated in-house by our own practitioners with nutrients to support the body's natural inflammatory balance.

About the Author

Emily Alexander, M.Ed, FNTP—Emily is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner with Curated Wellness. She is passionate about supporting others in their journey to improve their relationship with food and their body through gentle nutrition, and is a firm believer that understanding the bio-individual components of nutrition is one of the best ways to do so. Emily completed her Master’s of education in health education and promotion with a concentration in eating disorders, and draws from both her educational background and life experience to help her clients improve their energy, understand their bodies, boost their athletic potential, and break down diet myths one at a time. Read more about Emily.

The information presented on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Statements within this site have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any specific condition or disease, nor is it medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical expertise. Readers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health conditions or concerns. One should always consult a qualified medical professional before engaging in any dietary and/or lifestyle change or new health program. Curated Wellness does not take responsibility for any health consequences of any person or persons following the information in this educational content. 


[1] Hannoodee S, Nasuruddin DN. Acute Inflammatory Response. [Updated 2020 Nov 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556083/

[2] Furman, D., Campisi, J., Verdin, E. et al. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med 25, 1822–1832 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-019-0675-0 

[3] Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2021 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/ 

[4] Frontiers | The Anti-Inflammatory Role of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Metabolites in Pre-Clinical Models of Psychiatric, Neurodegenerative, and Neurological Disorders | Psychiatry (frontiersin.org)

[5] Jafarirad, S., Ayoobi, N., Karandish, M., Jalali, M. T., Haghighizadeh, M. H., & Jahanshahi, A. (2018). Dark Chocolate Effect on Serum Adiponectin, Biochemical and Inflammatory Parameters in Diabetic Patients: A Randomized Clinical Trial. International journal of preventive medicine, 9, 86. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_339_17 

[6] Lila M. A. (2004). Anthocyanins and Human Health: An In Vitro Investigative Approach. Journal of biomedicine & biotechnology, 2004(5), 306–313. https://doi.org/10.1155/S111072430440401X 

[7] Yoneyama, S., Miura, K., Sasaki, S., Yoshita, K., Morikawa, Y., Ishizaki, M., Kido, T., Naruse, Y., & Nakagawa, H. (2007). Dietary intake of fatty acids and serum C-reactive protein in Japanese. Journal of epidemiology, 17(3), 86–92. https://doi.org/10.2188/jea.17.86 

[8] Arunima, S., & Rajamohan, T. (2013). Effect of virgin coconut oil enriched diet on the antioxidant status and paraoxonase 1 activity in ameliorating the oxidative stress in rats - a comparative study. Food & function, 4(9), 1402–1409. https://doi.org/10.1039/c3fo60085h 

[9] https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jmf.2016.3705 

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