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Anti-Inflammatory Foods {A Healthy Healing Vegetable Soup}

by Jeanette on January 27, 2011 · 33 Comments
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Anti-Inflammatory Vegetables Make a Healthy Healing Soup

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately, trying to figure out what is making my 8-year old sick, and how to heal his body. As I mentioned in an earlier post, he started suffering from severe abdominal pains several months ago, and it has been a frustrating, but eye-opening journey so far. I have learned so much, and I’m hoping to pass along any information that has worked for my son in case any of you experience something similar.

I’m not a doctor (although maybe I should have continued my pre-med studies in college!) nor am I trained in nutrition. However, I am a researcher (just ask my kids who say “you research everything to death!”), especially when it comes to food and nutrition. I know the internet can be a dangerous resource for information, but over the past month or so, I have found more and more evidence that my son’s condition is directly tied to the health of his gut. Although the gastroenterologist initially diagnosed him with acid reflux, and prescribed an antacid with no change in his diet (the nurse misread the preliminary allergy report), I am a believer that food can help heal and rebalance my son’s gut, along with some supplements.

When it comes to the gut, there seems to be a huge disparity between conventional medicine and naturopathic medicine. At a recent visit with the pediatrician, I mentioned “leaky gut syndrome” to our doctor to which I got a strange look in response. Although “leaky gut syndrome” may not be a recognized medical condition in conventional medicine, so far, what I’ve come across on this topic sounds very similar to my son’s condition. Theoretically, “leaky gut syndrome” is caused by inflammation of the intestinal lining. The digestive tract’s barrier becomes too permeable, allowing allergens, toxins, incompletely digested proteins and fats, not normally absorbed, to “leak” out of the intestines into the blood stream. This triggers an autoimmune reaction, which can lead to abdominal bloating, excessive gas and cramps, fatigue, food sensitivities, joint pain, skin rashes, and autoimmunity. These are all symptoms that my son has had.

Some factors that may contribute to inflammation include:

  • A low-fiber, high-sugar, processed, nutrient-poor, high-calorie diet which causes the wrong bacteria and yeast to grow in the gut
  • Undetected gluten intolerance, celiac disease or low grade food allergies to foods such as dairy, eggs or corn
  • Overuse of antibiotic medications
  • Overuse of medications like acid blockers (e.g., Prilosec, Nexium) and anti-inflammatory medicine (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • Food additives
  • Food allergies
  • Chronic low-grade infections, yeast overgrowth or parasites
  • Toxins such as mercury and mold
  • Stress

Here are some ways to keep your gut healthy or heal your gut:

  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
  • Avoid foods you’re allergic to
  • Eat plenty of whole, unprocessed foods high in fiber 
  • Take probiotics to rebuild friendly bacteria in the gut
  • Treat any infections or overgrowth of yeast, bacteria, or parasites
  • Take digestive enzymes and gut-healing nutrients 
  • Take extra omega 3 supplements
Note: This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. It is based on sources mentioned at the end of this post; you should consult a medical doctor and nutritionist for a complete examination to come up with a tailor-made plan specific to your medical condition.

I’ve found this information logical and sensible, and have implemented a number of the gut healing suggestions, with the help of a nutritionist. My son is avoiding foods he is allergic to, eating only whole, unprocessed foods, eating high fiber foods, taking potent probiotics and omega 3 supplements. In addition, I have been looking into anti-inflammatory foods that I can incorporate into his diet. Based on some research, here is what I found:

These are considered to be Inflammatory Foods:
  • Junk food, processed food, and fast food which tend to be low in fiber, high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, and nutrient poor 
  • High-fat meats (e.g., beef, lamb, pork)
  • Processed meats (e.g., lunch meat, hot dogs, sausages which contain nitrites that are inflammatory)
  • Foods high in saturated fat such as meats, dairy products and eggs (choose low-fat dairy products, chicken, fish)
  • Refined carbohydrates (e.g., white flour, pasta made with refined white wheat flour, white rice)
  • High sugar foods (e.g., soda, fruit juice blends, sugary cereals, candy, pastries)
  • And possibly, Nightshade plants (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant); may cause irritation in some people
These are considered to be Anti-Inflammatory Foods:
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in cold-water oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, black cod, herring, anchovies), walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Nuts, legumes, seeds
  • High fiber whole grains
  • Vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables)
  • Fruits (brightly colored fruits like berries that contain anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and antioxidants)

Since my son is only 8 years old, I really want to keep the number of supplements to a minimum, so as much as possible, I would like to include as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible in his daily diet that will help heal his gut. I’ve been experimenting with new ingredients/products, and trying new recipes, some successful, some not. It’s been a time consuming, but worthwhile adventure so far. Since eliminating almost all the foods that he is allergic to (15+) almost three weeks ago, I am happy to report that his pain level has reduced from an 8.75 out of 10 to a 5.5 (my son is very precise). Although he still experiences chronic pain, and occasional bouts of sharp abdominal pain, he is up and about and attending school much more regularly (thanks goodness!).

I am still debating whether to bring my son to a medical doctor or naturopathic doctor, or both, to see where their paths might cross. Meanwhile, I am trying to prepare healthy, and what I hope are healing, anti-flammatory foods for him.

It’s been challenging coming up with three meals a day, due to the numerous food allergies, but we have found a few foods that seem to satisfy both my son’s taste buds and meet his allergy needs, as well as provide good nutrition. I’ve tried to ensure that throughout the day, the foods he eats are anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense, non-allergenic, whole, and contain enzymes (e.g., zinc, bromelain) and amino acids (e.g., cysteine and glutamine) that are healing for the gut.

His typical day consists of Creamy Amaranth Porridge for breakfast (I have been experimenting with other grains, but so far, Amaranth Porridge is his favorite), soup (full of vegetables, legumes and gluten-free grains) for lunch, a gluten-free muffin/scone (I’ll be posting about this soon), vegetarian refried beans on a corn tortilla, or hummus with rice crackers for snack, and a variety of allergy-free foods for dinner (too many to list here, so I’ll have to include this in a future post).

This week, I made a healthy and healing soup, chock full of anti-inflammatory vegetables, that contains vitamins, minerals and amino acids for healing the gut, and despite the fact that it was not the prettiest soup (it is a very green soup!), it was absolutely delicious and passed my 8-year old’s taste test with flying colors (we both had a few bowlfuls). For some people, green smoothies work great, but for others, greens are best eaten in soups. My son definitely prefers greens in soups compared to greens in smoothies. Either way, I was just happy he enjoyed a nutrient dense, healthy, and hopefully healing meal.  Do you have any healthy, healing foods you eat?

A Healthy, Healing Vegetable Soup

Due to my son’s allergies, I did not add any tomatoes, but tomatoes would be a great addition as it would add umami and color. You can put your favorite vegetables in this soup, just try to use a bright rainbow of colorful vegetables, including some leafy green and cruciferous vegetables. The pesto is definitely a flavor enhancer plus basil is high in carotenoids (My pesto was simply basil, garlic and olive oil due to dairy allergies). Even if you don’t have any gut issues or food allergies, this is a super healthy and delicious soup!

Don’t Let The Green Color Throw You – It’s The Basil Pesto That Turns The Soup Green – It’s Delicious!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup French green lentils
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 strip kombu
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups kale, finely chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice
basil pesto, for serving

Heat oil in a large stockpot.  Add carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and red bell pepper. Saute until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add cabbage and cook another 5 minutes. 

Make Sure You Include A Rainbow Of Colorful Vegetables

Add lentils, oregano, kombu and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to lower, and simmer for 45 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir in kale, parsley and cooked brown rice. Cook an additional 8-10 minutes. Stir a teaspoon of pesto into each bowl just before serving.

Serves 8.

Sources and Resouces:

What is Leaky Gut, Andrew Weil, MD
Is Your Digestive System Making You Sick?, Mark Hyman, MD
Do You Have Leaky Gut Syndrome?, Leo Galland, M.D.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome, Everyday Health
Anti-Inflammatory Diet, Andrew Weil, MD
Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid, Andrew Weil, MD
Controlling Inflammation with Anti-inflammatory Foods, About.com
How to Repair the Gut Epithelium, eHow.com
The Benefits of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet, CBS News
List of Foods To Reduce Inflammation In The Body, LIVESTRONG.COM

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  1. Have you considered eosinophilic esophagitis or eosinophilic gastritis in regard to your son's health problems? It can only be diagnosed by a gastroscopy where samples of tissue are taken and the eosinophils are counted in the tissue. Something to think about, or to research.

  2. Thank you for the suggestions. I will definitely look into it and ask the doctor.

  3. RunningtotheAisle says:

    My best friend suffers from stomach/intestine issues. She has been going to the doctor for years now and just recently started with a naturopathic doctor. It has been a rough journey for her, only very recently has she started to see some results with a new recent health plan. But even then it has had its hicups. She has struggled with the aid of Doctors as they aren't fully aware or able to help her with these issue. I hope you are able to come to a solution for your son.
    I will sharing this post with her.

  4. Sorry to hear about your friend. It can be very frustrating when traditional medicine doesn't work. Naturopathic medicine can be confusing as well, but so far, I have found the biggest improvements going this route. I have found the naturopathic nutritionists who are familiar with gut issues to be the most helpful so far. I would be more than happy to share our experience with your friend. Just send me an email.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have had my share of family health complications as well and I am firm believer of food as healer. Best of luck on your journey to get best possible help/cure/solutions for your DS.
    As a side note, in the pic above of the soup cooking in the pot, the pot looks like it has some cracked surface. If its a nonstick coating thats cracking, it can be extremely hazardous to the health. Just wanted to get it to your attention :)

  6. Jeanette says:

    Yes, I do believe that food is so important to our well-being and can be definitely heal our bodies (as well as cause illnesses if we aren't careful about what we put into our bodies). The pot in the picture is actually stainless steel, just needs a good scrub! You're right though, nonstick coatings that have any cracks are very dangerous. I've thrown those all out.

  7. Health and wellness says:

    That looks so wonderful, good and new and comfortable. Definitely healthy!

  8. Michelle says:

    Just came across this post from adventuresofaglutenfreemom.com and I have to say the soup looks great! My son has been suffering from a burning sensation in his abdomin. He is gluten free (celiac) but he also has type 1 diabetes and some other things. I suspect leaky gut to be a major issue for him just based on his autoimmune issues. Does your son's pain resemble burning? Just curious. My son found that he was constipated, although we didn't realize it without an xray. He was going regularly. Getting it all out helped a ton in the burning department but he still has some chronic burning that never goes away. I have just started researching the leaky gut and appreciate your experience.

  9. Jeanette says:

    Hi Michelle, so sorry to hear your son is experiencing such chronic pain. I know as a mother it is so hard to watch. When my son was experiencing severe abdominal pain, he felt his stomach was bloated and someone was punching him in the stomach. We also found through an xray that my son was extremely constipated. We did an extensive IgG and IgE allergy test and have eliminated all the foods that showed up positive. In addition, my son takes supplements (omega-3, a strong probiotic, vitamin D because he tested low for this, and a multivitamin due to his limited diet, and L-glutamine, all recommended by our nutritionist). Although my son still has chronic abdominal discomfort, it has greatly improved since eliminating the foods that he tested allergic to. I've been told it can take up to a year to heal the gut.

  10. jadedlu says:

    Hi, just reading your post about your son. Here is something you could try. I am on several anti inflammatory drugs for RA, as well as a number of other drugs, but I find if I take a little bottle of 'Bio-K plus, I feel so much better. It's a little pricey, but your son would only need a half bottle a day. I like the vanilla flavor, it's not too bad, just be sure to give it a good shake. Truly this stuff has been a lifesaver to me. I buy it in the fridge of my grocery store, in the health foods section. It's a rice based drink so no dairy. It is a super source of bacterial cultures. Sorry to go on, but it really has helped me. I find it very soothing to my 'innards', for lack of a better word. It's worth a try and not too nasty tasting. Good luck with your son. Lu

  11. Jeanette says:

    Hi Lu, thank you so much for passing along this information. I've never heard of Bio-K plus, but it sounds like fermented rice with probiotics. I'll have to look into it. Thanks again!

  12. jadedlu says:

    You are most welcome. Kudos to you on working so hard to help your son and your family. Lu

  13. sorry to be the pesimist though i think it wrong to play doctor i urge you not to make any sort of dignosis on your own some people like to do research and decide there a expert on health and the body obviously more often then not they are wrong. your child make be suffering for an allergic reaction to the soup your giving him for all you really know ,in the mean time i suggest simply keep following it up with a specialist and nutritionist and maybe they will consider other things like perhaps a biopsy and other various diognosis and “real” treatment thanks for listening

    • Thanks for your comment. I am not suggesting that anyone should self-diagnose. In fact, we saw many specialists including medical doctors, and nutritionists. We also had multiple blood tests done as well as an endoscopy, so what I chose to do for my child was specific to his situation based on the results we received from numerous specialists. Sometimes you will never find the complete answer, so I chose an elimination diet, eliminating all foods that showed up in all the tests that were done for 6 months, with supplements that were advised by various nutritionists. The soup in this post is simply an example of something I came up with that included anti-inflammatory foods that my son was not allergic to based on all the blood tests that were done. Obviously, everyone is different and has to do what they are comfortable with. I am pleased to tell you that my son is symptom free today for the most part.

  14. also id just like to add my daughter is suffering from constant diareea weve seen specialist and nutritionist and still have no idea whats going on but im sure one day the doctors will figre it all out maybe with our help but never just us 3 alone

    • We were in a similar place and it was very frustrating. I hope your doctors/nutritionists come up with a plan for your daughter. It took us months of trial and error, but once we took my son off of medication and put him on a strict elimination diet, his system healed. It did take about 6 months before we saw results, but today he is healthy.

  15. I highly recommend Jordan Rubin’s book, “The Maker’s Diet”, and another of his books, “Physician, Heal Thyself”. I found them to be extremely helpful with several health issues, including inflammation. He offers hope to those who have been the gamut of medical professionals and found no relief. He himself suffered from Chron’s Disease and leaky gut, and was near dying from such debilitating health. Today he is healthy and helping others achieve this goal! There are also resources available online, just google him or the books.
    Hope this helps someone!

  16. My child is also suffering from leaky gut, we have been healing her for the past year. She has a rare skin condition that we have been told from several dermo’s that is incurable. Through diet, supplements, oils and herbs we have been curing her of both conditions, our childs progress is remarkable! One of the most important issues to address with leaky gut is inflammation. My child takes a large spoon full of flaxseed oil once a day. This will help with inflammation. She also takes 3 probiotics a day to put back good flora in her gut, I recommend Dr. Ohira or Bio K. Diet is also a very important aspect of healing the gut. We eat very few carbs and almost all soups and veggies along with 8 specific types of fuit that are low in sugar. I think it would help your child a great deal if you decrease his carb intake. You also need to stop eating all dairy products and eat mainly organic produce. We have also taken most meat out of our diet. Wednesday evenings are the only nights we eat meat. This meat is always organic. Leaky gut is a very serious condition that can eventually lead to many other serious illnesses as it did in our childs case. For best results I would suggest you speak to a natropath, that is what we did. Good luck in your journey.

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience and all this great information!

    • This diet your family is eating sounds like it would be helpful to me as I also have suffered from an unhealthy colon for a long time due to my poor diet. Can you please list the 8 low sugar fruits and be more specific about the types of soups and vegetables you eat throughout the week. I greatly appreciate your assistance!

  17. Hi- Just offering some friendly suggestions based on some of my own reading. In my family, we have recently begun the practice of using coconut oil for heating and keeping the olive oil for very low heat needs or for salads, etc. This is based on reading we found about smoke point of oils, free radical formation, etc. Good luck with your son’s health. I am considering experimenting with making my own sauerkraut. You may find that useful as well. Good luck!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experiences Glenn – appreciate it. I have made my own kimchi and fermented pickles, but not sauerkraut. And I do love using coconut oil – yes, need to be mindful of overheating oil – thanks for the reminder.

  18. Hi Jeanette, I was searching for healthy soup recipes and came across your site. I am sorry your son has not been well but glad you are taking steps to help heal his body with food from God’s garden and appreciate you sharing information that has helped.
    I have Fibromyalgia and am allergic to so many preservatives out there. The longer the shelf life the more preservatives a product contains. I have become an Ingredient Detective to save my life.
    I altered your recipe slightly but want to let you know it is amazing! I have been sick the past few days with whatever bug is going around and was not about to get antibiotics. I am striving towards healing my body with healing foods. Personally, I prefer the holistic approach.
    Lifting prayers for your son’s healing.
    To better health,
    “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” Hippocrates

  19. I am glad to see that your son is healing. I went through a similar, and also very frustrating process for my daughter. We found that the elimination diet cleared up her symptoms, but being only six it was so tough to be strict. To help with the process we found a local Chiropractor that uses a technique called NAET and we have seen AWESOME results! Along with seeing a cranial-sacrial therapist she is in excellent health and can now enjoy an occasional piece of “regular” birthday cake without the stomach ache or escezma outbreak. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Thanks for sharing your story Lisa. It’s always so nice to hear from others who have gone through something similar. The traditional doctors almost made me feel like I was crazy. Alternative medicine definitely has its place and I do believe that healing the gut is an area where this comes into play. So glad to hear your daughter is doing so well now.

  20. Hayley Woodgate says:

    Hi I am 21 and I feel sick a year ago I had very bad diarrhea and abdominal pain when i ate it was so severe I would lose consciousness and I was constantly being took into hospital and released without answers. I later received a scope where they saw I had chronic inflamation of the stomach and a leaky gut however I have tried absolutely everything antibiotics/herbal medication and I still am in pain on a daily basis. I can eat very little and I have gone down to 6st which is two stone lighter that what I originally was. I am aware your body needs to heal itself but mine just seems to be refusing to and I have been on a natural diet for a long time now, I really sympathise for your son and I hope he does not have to go throw what I continue to battle every day.

    • Hayley, so sorry to hear about your health. Just wondering if you tried an elimination diet which is essentially removing all the foods your body is reacting to for a period of time. I put my son on an elimination diet for about 6 months and removed 20 foods from his diet. Then, reintroduced them one by one.

  21. darlene bailey says:

    I have the same stomack problems please email some recipes

    • Darlene, so sorry to hear you are having trouble with your stomach. Have you seen a doctor or naturopathic nutritionist? They may run some tests to see if you have any food allergies/intolerances/sensitivities. Once you know what you can and cannot eat, I can help guide you with recipes. Best wishes.

  22. Have you read Julie Daniluk’s book, Meals that Heal Inflammation? I think it would resonate with you and perhaps give you some more ideas for meals to add. This has been a HUGE help to me and has helped to address food allergies/sensitivities I had that I was unaware of. I am convinced that most of what we suffer from can be healed and/or prevented by what we put into our bodies. Check it out. She also has a website that you can go to as well. Juliedaniluk.com

  23. In my research I’ve discovered that Garlic is really bad for anyone with an Autoimmune disease or issue …….these problems that we are seeing with food allergies, ADD, ADHD, Hyperactivity…all of it is a direct result of VACCINES ~ do more research. NO GARLIC….people with autoimmune have their immune system in overdrive already ~ they do not need any boost to it!

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