Are you inflamed – achy, sniffly and tired?

Find out how to spring into action with my six anti-inflammatory secrets

Are you often achy, sniffling, coughing or just tired all the time? If so, watch out. Pollen may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, tipping you into hay fever. But whether or not you get hay fever, inflammation underlies most diseases and food intolerances, slows you down and takes the edge off life, leaving you feeling like you’re fighting an uphill battle. I’d like to show you how to anti-inflame yourself by giving you Polyphenol Power and an Antioxidant Edge!

Before doing so I need you to understand why inflammation triggers so many of the health problems we want to avoid.

When you injure yourself, pick up an infection or are exposed to something you’re intolerant to, the most common being pollen, wheat or dairy, your body tries to protect you by triggering inflammation. This happens because your cells start producing inflammatory cytokines with strange names (TNF, IL1, IL6 and others) and other inflammatory chemicals such as histamine and C-reactive protein (CRP). These gee up your immune system, trigger hot flushes and fever and put your gut-associated immune system on red alert.

If your immune system gets stuck in this ‘emergency mode’, you can develop an auto-immune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, underactive thyroid (Hashimoto’s), SLE and even multiple sclerosis. Also, if your fat cells are chocabloc full, your immune system can see them as the enemy and attack.

All this inflammation produces flu-like symptoms, body and joint aches and constant tiredness. Yes, the symptoms of flu are produced by your body, not by the virus. Of course, if you’re allergic to pollen, or eat a food you’re intolerant to, that can be the last straw, tipping you into inflammation. All those symptoms of hayfever – blocked nose, headache, itchy eyes, body aches – are just inflammation.

Calm down and take back control

You can, however, switch off this constant state of inflammation. That’s what painkiller drugs such as ibuprofen are designed to do. But they have their side-effects in gut damage so you have to be careful.

There’s a better way. I call it the two step.

1. Stop doing the things that cause inflammation.

2. Start eating and drinking the things that switch off inflammation naturally.

The things that cause inflammation are:

• exposure to allergens and food intolerances;

• too much alcohol, which damages the gut and taxes the liver, which plays a critical role in inflammation;

• airborne pollution including smoking;

• excess weight;

• misalignment and pressure on joints.

As hay fever season is approaching, it’s worth pointing out that the three most common intolerances are grass pollen, wheat and milk. I have a theory, unproven but which many people have reported effective, that these three which are all connected to grass, may have something in common and if you avoid wheat and milk when the pollen count is high, you may not reach the tipping point for symptoms. Also, increase my six favourite anti-inflammatories, especially quercitin from red onions.

My six top anti-inflammatory secrets

Olive oil

Good quality olive oil, rich in polyphenols, has so many benefits. Olives provide oleocanthals, which are potent anti-inflammatory painkillers. They give good olive oil that peppery ‘bite’ at the back of the throat and have been shown to lower inflammatory markers (IL-1, IL-6, TNFα) and raise NO (nitric oxide) in a recent study.

But there’s another hero ingredient in good quality olive oil – a polyphenol called hydroxytyrosol. This is an extremely potent antioxidant which, among other things, protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, thus also lowering it, according to a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition. It is damaged LDL cholesterol that leads to heart disease. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) allows any olive oil with at least 5mg of hydroxytyrosol per 20g of olive oil to claim that it protects blood lipids from oxidative stress.

These polyphenols have been shown to improve heart function, brain function, digestive health, bone health and reduce cancer risk.

The problem is getting a high quality olive oil, which needs to be cold-pressed and organic. The highest recorded, according to a study at the University of Athens of over 2500 samples from around the world, measured using the NMR method, is a type of olive called Olympia (also known as Ladolia or Palaiokastritsa), grown in a mountainous valley in the Peloponnese in Greece.

It is called ‘Drop of Life’ olive oil and contains over 1900mg/kg of polyphenols, which is eight times higher than the level needed to make health claims and ten times higher than average olive oils. Don’t use this exceptional oil for frying – it is something to add to food after cooking, drizzling on vegetables, salads, rice or adding to soups.

Action: Have a teaspoon, drizzled on salad and foods after cooking. Aim for a teaspoon a day. It is exclusively available in the UK from


Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric activates genes that help to dampen down inflammation and reduce oxidative stress. It helps reduce pain in arthritis, detoxify alcohol and protect the brain. A study last month also reported improvement in depression giving curcumin extract versus placebo over 8 weeks.  Countries, such as India, where the turmeric content of the diet is high, have much lower risk of several ‘inflammatory’ diseases, including Alzheimer’s whose incidence is a quarter of that of the US. Curcumin is also good for your skin.

The big problem with curcumin is that it has low bio-availability but, as my recent report How to get the full benefit from turmeric explained, new ‘colloidal’ curcumin compounds have upped its bioavailability in the order of 100 times, making curcumin extracts such as Theracurmin really potent anti-inflammatories.

What to do: Eat turmeric regularly. I use it liberally in soups, curries, stir-fries and kedgeree. You can also add it into smoothies. I also take a Theracurmin capsule daily.

Dark chocolate

The Cacao in dark chocolate provides highly absorbable polyphenols with antioxidant properties, called flavanols. Working through a general anti-inflammatory effect, these have been shown to reduce heart disease risk in a number of ways – relaxing arteries, preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, increasing HDL cholesterol and thus lowering high blood pressure. They also protect the brain and are associated with improving cognitive performance. A group of compounds called procyanidins in cacao have recently been shown in a study to be ‘most effective for preventing loss of gut barrier function and inflammation, which are critical steps in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.’

Of course, the downside of eating chocolate is the amount of sugar, even in so-called healthier organic brands. I explored this in my report The shocking truth about chocolate. As a consequence, I teamed up with Chocolatier Cheryl Ellis to create a super cacao-rich chocolate with cherries, almond and chia, which tastes delicious but has only 4% of calories as sugar, most of which is from cherries.

Action: Eat half a bar of GLTY chocolate (Half a bar is only 2 GLs) a day, or a quarter and top up a drink with a teaspoon of sugar-free cacao. You can buy GLTY chocolate exclusively from


Blueberries and montmorency cherries (the type that are highest in antioxidants) are both rich in bioavailable polyphenols and antioxidants and thus potent anti-inflammatory foods. A study last year added a placebo or blueberry powder to volunteers’ breakfast and reported a decrease in inflammatory markers (IL-1, IL-6). Other studies have shown reductions in blood pressure, improved insulin resistance and lower glucose levels. Montmorency cherries also provide small quantities of melatonin which raises blood levels significantly, reports a study in the European Journal of Nutrition and are associated with improved sleep. Researchers from Louisiana State University have found that drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks helped increase sleep time by nearly 90 minutes among older adults with insomnia. This is actually better than the results with any sleeping pill.

Action: Have a shot of either CherryActive or BlueberryActive a day. If you have difficulty sleeping CherryActive is also available in concentrated capsules.

Omega-3 fish oils

So many studies have shown that eating oily fish and/or supplementing omega-3 fish oils reduces all inflammatory markers (CRP, IL-1, IL-6, TNFα) with all sorts of benefits ranging from reducing pain in arthritis to reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. For example, a recent study tested the effects of giving 1800mg a day of Omega-3 EPA to people with both impaired glucose metabolism (pre-diabetic) and cardiovascular disease. Blood fats (triglycerides) and sugars came down and insulin sensitivity improved. We also know that omega-3 fats protect the brain, reduce risk for Alzheimer’s disease (especially together with B vitamins) and act as an anti-depressant.

While the general advice is to eat a couple of servings of oily fish a week I don’t think this is enough. Last month BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor programme tested the effects of giving either two servings of oily fish or the same amount of omega-3 fish oil or, as the ‘placebo’ group, white fish with a placebo oil capsule, on blood levels of omega-3. Both the supplement and the fish raised blood levels, but neither raised them to an optimal level.

For optimum health you need to be thinking in terms of achieving 2 grams of omega-3 fats a day. That’s what Commander Joe Hibbeln, one of the world’s leading experts on omega-3 and disease risk, concludes: “the majority of the populations (98-99%) are protected from…increased risk of chronic illnesses [with an intake of] 2g a day of omega-3”.

A 100g serving of salmon provides about this amount. If you supplement essential omegas on a daily basis, as I do, that gives about 700mg a day, or almost 5g a week. You can also top this up with chia or flax seeds, which provide ALA, a small amount of which is converted into EPA.

Action: Supplement 700mg of omega-3 fish oil a day (that’s what you get in two strips from my Packs, or two Essential Omegas). Also eat three servings of oily fish, and a dessertspoon of chia seeds every other day.

Red onions and quercetin

Quercetin is another bioflavonoid and is a potent antioxidant that promotes a healthy inflammatory response. Animal studies also show that quercetin regulates histamine production. One study found that of all the flavonoids, quercetin was the most effective at inhibiting histamine, which is what causes the symptoms of hay fever. Another study last year showed a reduction in inflammatory markers and improvement in airway inflammation.

The best food sources of quercetin are red onions, apples and berries, but you’ll be hard pushed to eat more than 20mg a day. So supplementing therapeutic amounts is a good idea if you’re prone to allergies. Take 250mg three times a day if your symptoms are severe, then drop down to 250mg once a day as a maintenance dose. The best results are achieved by supplementing 250mg twice a day, with some bromelain (a digestive enzyme from pineapple) and vitamin C.

Action: Eat a red onion every day and consider supplementing 250 to 500mg of quercetin, ideally in a combo formula with bromelain and vitamin C such as Allex.

Case Study

Sonia is a case in point. She was constantly congested and blowing her nose, with itchy, puffy eyes and a raw throat. She was tired all the time, and said she felt like she had a constant cold. Although she was on antihistamines, they barely took the edge off her symptoms.

A food intolerance test revealed she was reacting against dairy products and eggs. She avoided these, increased anti-inflammatory foods and took the supplements recommended here. After 10 days, almost all of Sonia’s symptoms were gone. Since then, she hasn’t had to take a single antihistamine. At the end of four weeks she told me,

“After a diet of healthy fresh fruit, vegetables, and oily fish, I’ve noticed a huge difference in energy levels. Not only have I conquered my hayfever, it has been a very easy diet to follow. I wish I had known all this 10 years ago!”

Now, one year later, she remains symptom-free and is no longer allergic to eggs. Milk, however, is still a problem. She avoids it completely and takes the supplements during hayfever season.

You can buy all of the supplements and foods mentioned from