Mary Schneider is training to compete in the 2020 Olympic Trials for the marathon, and she is putting her body to the test in the process. Long runs, speed work, hills…all of this intense exercise leads to inflammation, the body’s natural response to exercise-induced physical stress. To fight inflammation and get back to training, athletes focus on recovery, taking periods of rest to allow the body to heal, and in the healing process, adapt and get stronger. Many athletes also take Ibuprofen to deal with the on-going aches and pains caused by an inflammatory response. While Mary admits that she was one of these athletes, she has since discovered the secret to reducing inflammation with food alone. Her secret recipe: ginger, turmeric, and black pepper.
Ginger is not just for adding a kick to your meals or a garnish with plant-based sushi. This root has powerful pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory properties. In a 2010 study conducted by the Department of Kinesiology at Georgia College and State University, researchers found that regular, daily consumption of ginger significantly reduced muscle pain post-workout, as well as the pain experienced by osteoarthritis patients (1). Many researchers have attributed ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties to its ability to suppress COX-2, which is an enzyme that speeds up the production of chemical messengers (prostaglandins) that promote inflammation (2). Over-the-counter medications used to combat inflammation (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories or NSAIDs) also suppress COX-2. However, unlike NSAIDs, ginger is safe to consume on a daily basis. NSAIDs have been shown to cause side effects such as gastrointestinal pain, bleeding, and even organ damage over time (3). This being said, ginger is not a magic pill; it takes time to fully experience its anti-inflammatory effects. Mary recommends incorporating ginger—along with turmeric and black pepper—into one’s diet on a daily basis to truly benefit from its natural healing properties.
Like ginger, turmeric is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse that takes effect over time. It has been studied and shown to reduce inflammation in those suffering from chronic diseases, which are a result of excess inflammation in the body (4). Turmeric’s benefits are attributed to curcumin, one of the root’s active compounds (5). However, the curcumin in turmeric has a very low bioavailability, meaning our bodies cannot absorb it well. To address this, researchers have found that consuming black pepper in combination with turmeric greatly increases curcumin’s bioavailability—up to 2000% (6). Just a pinch of pepper is needed to stimulate this benefit.
Your New Anti-Inflammatory Routine
As mentioned above, this trio of ginger, turmeric, and black pepper won’t reduce inflammation in an instant; they take time to work their magic. Mary established a routine of consuming these three spices daily, and she has not taken Ibuprofen or any other NSAIDs after a workout in years. She suggests incorporating these three key ingredients into a daily smoothie—no need to chew on a root of ginger or swallow a pinch of pepper every day!
Find Mary’s go-to anti-inflammatory post-workout smoothie recipe here.
1. J Pain. 2010 Sep;11(9):894-903. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.12.013. Epub 2010 Apr 24.
2. Fitoterapia. 2011 Jan;82(1):38-43. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.09.004. Epub 2010 Sep 15.
3. Phys Sportsmed. 2010 Apr;38(1):132-8. doi: 10.3810/psm.2010.04.1770.
4. Biofactors. 2013 Jan-Feb;39(1):69-77. doi: 10.1002/biof.1066. Epub 2012 Dec 22.
5. Mol Pharm. 2007 Nov-Dec;4(6):807-18. Epub 2007 Nov 14.
6. Planta Med. 1998 May;64(4):353-6.