Pieces of Chocolate on a White Background

Functional Foods and Inflammation

What are functional foods and how can they help reduce pain? Functional foods are not clearly defined as the qualities they posses and their role in health are constantly evolving. In general a Functional Food is a food that you consume for its bioactive components for health related purposes. These bioactive components are best consumed raw as heat alters the properties of food and may in some cases make the bioactive components, well, less active.

What is Inflammation? Our job as Physical Therapists and Wellness Providers is to help you feel better and move pain free as quickly as possible. When you have an injury your body becomes inflamed at the injury site. Inflammation is a natural immune response designed to promote blood flow to injured areas in an effort to heal the injury site. Imagine you fall and bump your head (injury site). The response of your body is for that area to swell, become warm and hurt (a result of blood flow to the area). This is called the inflammatory response; Pain is a result of this response and as you heal pain should be reduced.

Chronic Low Grade Inflammation is a well-known phenomenon where excessive production of inflammatory stimuli in the human body leads to chronic disease such as atherosclerosis, neurological diseases, diabetes, cancer and/or chronic pain. Chronic Low Grade inflammation and in some cases, chronic pain, presents as a common complex defense response where no acute injury exists[i]. In other words, there is no specific injury site or event that caused an injury, instead the inflammation is chronic and not as obvious or painful as a bump on the head.  Although exercise is shown to have an acute impact on the production of our bodies natural anti-inflammatory (IL-6), there is strong evidence that phytochemicals or dietary bioactive compounds from functional foods are considered to have beneficial outcomes against chronic inflammation.[ii]

Recently, an increasingly positive trend has been observed in the consumption of, and interest in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory products obtained from natural foods, or dietary bioactive components for health-related purposes [iii] [iv] [v]. Those foods include:

Epicatechin found most abundantly in raw chocolate

Curcumin found in turmeric and other traditional herbal powders

Tea Catechins found in green tea

Astaxanthin found in Salmon

Lutein found in eggs and leafy green vegetables

Consuming these foods may help reduce the inflammatory response, especially as a result of Chronic Low Grade Inflammation. However, all pain regardless of its cause will hurt less as inflammation is reduced. So try adding some of these foods to your diet if you are experiencing pain. Eating functional foods that are anti-inflammatory is a great way to help you feel better and move pain free!

Looking for more help dealing with chronic inflammation? Contact us at our offices located in Frederick, Maryland.



[i] Ungefroren H, Sebens S, Seidi D, Lehnert H, Hass R,: Interaction of tumor cells with the micro environment. Cell Commun Signal 2011, 9:18

[ii] Gu Y, Lambert JD: Modulation of metabolic syndrome-related inflammation by cocoa. Mol Nutr Food Res 2013, 57:948-961

[iii] Gonzalez-Vallinas M, Gonzales-Castejon M, Rodriguez-Casado A, Ramirez de Molina A: Dietary hytochemicals in cancer prevention and therapy: a complementary approach with promising perspectives. Nutr Rev 2013, 71:585-599

[iv] Rossi M, Amaretti A, Leonardi A, Raimondi S, Simone M, Quartieri A: Potential impact of probiotic consumption on the bioactivity of dietary phytochemicals. J Agric Food Chemistry 2013, 61:9551-9558

[v] Singh BN, Singh HB, Naqvi AH, Singh BR: Dietary phytochemicals after epigenetic events and signaling pathways for inhibition of metastasis in cascade: phytoblockers of metastasis cascade. Cancer Metastasis Rev 2014, 33:41-85