Inflammation is one of those core health issues we love to talk about. Like acidity, inflammation is a health issue that underlies so many others – once you learn about this one factor and it’s connection to your health, it feels revelatory! Nutritionist JJ Virgin has her finger to the pulse of this crucial health issue. In her book, The Virgin Diet, she lays out the big picture of just how inflammation effects our on-going health and the simple changes we can make – especially to our diets – to remedy this. Read her list and find ways to make adjustments for your health!

Inflammation comes in two flavors, if you will. Acute inflammation is when you stub your toe. The resulting flare-up actually benefits long-term healing. Chronic inflammation, though less dramatic, over time leads to damage and disorder in the body. Acute inflammation hurts, but chronic inflammation kills. In fact, it’s connected with nearly every disease on the planet, from obesity to diabetes to heart disease.

What causes inflammation? The abundance of omega-6 fatty acids in our diet: vegetable oils, grain-fed meats, and wheat bread are full of them. Food intolerances can also create inflammation. And so can sugar. The best way to fight inflammation is to pull highly reactive foods (I discuss the top 7 in The Virgin Diet; ironically, some of them are deemed “healthy”) and eat plenty of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, walnuts, chia and flax seeds are all healthy sources of omega 3s. I also recommend supplementing with a high-quality professional fish oil, especially if you’re not eating wild-caught fish three or four times a week.

10 Ways to Avoid Inflammation

Cut it out:

Remove food intolerances. Top offenders include gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, peanuts, sugar, artificial sweeteners and corn.

Go fish:

Eat wild-caught fish 3 to 4 times a week.


Delete meat:

Eat less grain-fed meat and try pasture-raised, grass-fed meats instead.

Go green:

Incorporate copious leafy and cruciferous green veggies into your regular diet. Eat a salad at every meal, drink green juices and find fun new recipes for cauliflower and broccoli!

Sow seeds:

Throw flax or chia seeds into your protein shakes, smoothies, even juice. Flax seeds can be sprinkled on to almost anything you eat, from yogurt to salad.

Can the cane:

Avoid sugar whenever possible. Know its many disguises! And find alternatives that don’t cause an inflammatory response.

Rest easy:

It might seem tough, but get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. A good night’s rest is crucial for vital health.

Go nuts:

Snack on raw organic walnuts – they’re delicious, filling and so good for you. Add them to salads instead of croutons for satisfying crunch!

Sweat right:

If you work out, make sure you’re recovering with the right nutrients and rest. Take the break days you need, keep in life in balance and allow your body to recover properly.

Oil foil:

Dump the vegetable oils – even the “healthy” ones – for virgin olive oil, red palm oil, and coconut oil.

From our friends


  1. Oh sure, just eliminate gluten, dairy and sugar. It’s so easy! Does anyone else have a hard time eliminating all of these things on a daily basis? I’m not a vegetarian but I don’t eat a ton of meat and fish so this basically leaves me eating salads or plain vegetables all day. It’s just not realistic.

    Cathi | 03.19.2014 | Reply
    • Cathi, it can be tough! But once you realize that lowering gluten still means other grains and nuts, lowering dairy still means almond and coconut milk etc and lowering sugar can still mean using the sugar alternatives we list in articles here on the chalkboard, we think you’ll find TONS of fun stuff to eat! We’ll keep featuring recipes and products we love to help make eliminating these things easier for you and all of us!

      The Chalkboard | 03.19.2014 | Reply
  2. To Cathi, I think that if anything, this shows that you are doing something healthy for yourself already. Just keep it up 😉 it is hard, yes, no question, but if you choose one item at a time either to take it out of your diet or to buy it organic, then one hardly feels the impact in the packet book. But you are already doing something good for you, and that alone is really what matters 🙂 just do what you can. Sorry if I sound too cheerful…lol…it is just my opinion. Have a good one!!

    Charlie MonteCristo | 03.19.2014 | Reply
  3. Another thought for Cathi: veggies don’t have to be plain… some of the most scrumptious dishes and casseroles are busting full of savory vegetables. Make extra on the weekend and you have lunches for weekdays.

    Also, one can reduce (but not eliminate) inflammatory foods. Unless you have a serious intolerance to a food, you can still eat some, but look for substitutes like the suggestions made above. Any reduction in inflamation-promoting foods is a good thing. It’s like anything else: just do what you can. : )

    Thanks for another worthy article, Chalkboard!

    Kajsa | 03.20.2014 | Reply
  4. I cut out gluten and sugar and most dairy about a year and 5 months ago and let me tell you – it was one of the best decisions, if not the best, that I’ve ever made. The beginning was challenging but now it’s just the way I live. I’m not perfect, once in a blue moon I’ll have a treat with honey, but for me it’s not about being perfect. It’s about being happy and living this way makes me happy. There are tons of resources/books/recipes and over time you find what works for you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try cutting it out of 1 meal and see how you feel and then build from there. Be content with where you are in the process each and every day and remember that you can do anything you want. There’s no 1 size fits all approach so customize for what works for you.

    Mackenzi | 03.24.2014 | Reply
  5. Questions: How do you cut out gluten, sugar and most dairy? Does these mean no cheese, no Greek yogurt, no pizza 🙂 ? I love salmon, salad and veggies naturally – so that I can do although it is expensive. However, I usually enjoy my fish/salmon with a nice glass of wine However, I assume this change means no more wine – since it has sugar. Any wine alternatives? Does coffee affect inflammation? Mackenzi I am impressed and motivated by your post but wondering how to incorporate this change into my life. I have noticed cutting out cheese, wine, sugar, processed is great for my weight; not necessarily mentally however 🙂

    Anastasia | 03.29.2014 | Reply

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