Chronic inflammation, a condition in which the body experiences a prolonged period of inflammation for years or even a lifetime, is a serious health concern that can contribute to a number of diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and psoriasis. Unfortunately, scientists don’t yet have a complete understanding of chronic inflammation or exactly what causes it.
But one thing that has been indicated in study after study is that inflammation can be tied to several lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and sleep. That means that it is possible to take concrete actions that will help you reduce inflammation, improving your health and how you feel on a day-to-day basis, and potentially reducing your risk of developing further diseases down the line.
In this article, we’ll explore six things you can do on a daily basis that will help reduce chronic inflammation.
Psychological stress, like the kind we get from difficult personal struggles or a demanding workload, is actually tied to inflammation. Certain kinds of particularly intense stressors are known to over-activate the immune system, which can lead to excessive inflammation. This means that taking steps to manage and even reduce your stress can potentially help reduce inflammation.
There are two ways to approach stress reduction. One is to identify what larger factors in your life may be causing you major stress and seeking to change or eliminate them. This might mean quitting an exacting job, asking for more help with the kids, leaving an abusive relationship, or beginning therapy.
Another approach, which can be done in tandem with the first, is to practice stress reduction strategies like meditation, yoga, drinking less caffeine, practicing mindfulness, journaling, trying aromatherapy, and more.
You probably already know that dehydration is bad for all of your body’s systems, but what you may not have heard is that one of the ways that it can impact your health is by causing inflammation. When you don’t drink enough water, your body may experience hyperosmolarity, a condition in which the blood has a high concentration of substances like salt and glucose. Hyperosmolar stress can make your body release pro-inflammatory cytokines, leading to inflammation.
The good news is that drinking more water is a fairly easy habit to implement into your day-to-day life. If it doesn’t come easily to you, there are several ways to encourage yourself to hydrate including setting drinking goals, keeping a water bottle on your desk, or setting timers to take hourly water breaks.
Just one of the many ways in which exercise is good for your body is its ability to release catecholamine, a neurotransmitter that has an anti-inflammatory effect. In fact, one study shows that just 20 minutes of moderate exercise can be enough to create this positive benefit and reduce inflammation. A good goal to set, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week.
In addition to aerobic exercise, strength training can also help reduce inflammation by increasing the production of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10.
Take Omega 3s
Mostly found in foods like fish and other seafood, nuts, seeds, and plant oils, omega-3s have a number of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing triglycerides, in addition to reducing inflammation. While it may be challenging to get enough omega-3s from solely your diet, especially if you are a plant-based eater, omega-3 supplements have been shown to dampen harmful inflammatory responses.
If you already take any vitamins or supplements on a daily basis, adding an omega-3 supplement shouldn’t be too challenging of a habit to start.
Diet has been shown to be a fairly influential factor in chronic inflammation, and one of the foods that most affects inflammation is refined sugar, which increases inflammation in several ways, including by:
- Combining with protein or fat to release harmful compounds called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs), which lead to inflammation
- Allowing bacteria and other inflammatory particles to more easily enter the blood
- Causing bad (LDL) cholesterol to rise, leading to inflammation
- Causing weight gain, which can lead to insulin resistance and inflammation
While it may be a bit of a bummer to cut sugar out of your diet, it can be an important and effective intervention in reducing inflammation, making it well worth considering replacing your daily after-lunch cookie with an apple.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep affects you in more ways than just making you feel crummy in the short term. It also can cause long-term health issues, specifically in that insufficient sleep or disturbed sleep can lead to inflammation.
By making an effort to get more, better sleep in your day-to-day life, not only will you be reducing your inflammation directly, but you’ll also be reducing your stress, yet another influencing factor in inflammation. Call it killing two inflammatory birds with one stone, if you will.
Read More: The Stages of Intermittent Fasting
In addition to being able to improve your mood, increase your energy, and sharpen your focus, intermittent fasting has also been shown to be able to reduce inflammation by lowering levels of proinflammatory cytokines. While “fasting” may be a scary word, it’s actually much more doable than many people think, with the most beginner-friendly style of intermittent fasting involving fasting for only four to six of your waking hours, which is pretty much the equivalent of skipping one meal.
If you’re struggling with intermittent fasting, consider the cravings-blocker Citravarin, which has also been shown to decrease inflammation.
Keep it Spicy
Adding spices to your meals can do more than just improve their flavor; it can also improve your health. It’s been shown that herbs and spices such as garlic, turmeric, rosemary, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, and fenugreek can reduce inflammation. In fact, studies have even shown that countries that consume higher levels of spices, like India, for example, show lower rates of cancer. So go ahead and get adventurous with that spice cabinet of yours.
- Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases
- The role of hyperosmotic stress in inflammation and disease
- Inflammation and exercise: Inhibition of monocytic intracellular TNF production by acute exercise via β2-adrenergic activation
- Effects of resistance training on the inflammatory response
- Understanding how omega-3 dampens inflammatory reactions
- How Sugar Causes Inflammation—and What You Can Do About It
- Sleep Loss and Inflammation
- Intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects
- Chronic diseases, inflammation, and spices: how are they linked?