Inflammation, which is part of the body’s inherent immune system, is a completely normal process. When inflammation is acute and serves as the body’s natural defense against damaged cells, viruses, bacteria, and injury, it’s not dangerous. On the contrary, in these circumstances, inflammation helps the body remove invaders and begin healing. However, when inflammation is long-standing or chronic, it can cause a range of health issues, from pain to trouble sleeping.
Fortunately, a few key lifestyle changes go a long way in helping to ease chronic inflammation. Here’s how to spot when you’re dealing with unchecked inflammation—and what you can do to address it.
Do You Have Chronic Inflammation?
In normal cases of acute inflammation (like an injury), the inflammation process begins and ends within a few days. Here’s how it works:
- Chemicals from white blood cells are released into the bloodstream or body tissue
- These chemicals trigger increased blood flow to the injured or infected area of the body
- That increased blood flow leads to warmth in the area while fluid leakage from affected tissues leads to swelling
- Nerve stimulation causes temporary pain
Through this process, inflammation serves as a natural way to protect body cells and tissues and leads to their repair, though it can cause temporary pain, redness, swelling, and immobility in doing so.
Chronic inflammation, however, is another story and can be dangerous to your health. Chronic inflammation can last for months or years because the cause is never eliminated.
Though this unchecked inflammation can be difficult to identify, some of its most common warning signs include fatigue, joint pain, rashes, and chest pain. It can also contribute to swelling, loss of muscle function, mood changes, and trouble sleeping.
4 Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Ease Chronic Inflammation
If you suspect you’re dealing with chronic inflammation, rest assured that your daily habits can make a significant impact on your body’s ability to regain balance.
1. Get Your Diet Right
To keep inflammation at bay, the first thing you’ll have to do is make some necessary dietary changes. Specifically, you’ll want to eliminate inflammatory foods and eat more nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory foods in their place.
- High-sugar foods and drinks
- Snacks and processed foods that contain trans fats (including baked goods, breakfast products, chips, and crackers)
- Refined carbohydrates and white flour products
- Foods high in omega-6 oils, including safflower, peanut, and vegetable oils
- Common allergens, including gluten and dairy
- MSG-containing fast foods and salad dressings
- Artificial sweeteners
Eat these instead:
- Fresh vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, celery, leafy greens, onions, peas, squashes, and carrots
- Fresh fruits, especially berries, apples, cherries, plums, and pears
- Herbs and spices, including cinnamon, ginger, parsley, and turmeric,
- Healthy fats, such as avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds
- Organic protein, including eggs, grass-fed beef, and poultry
- Beans and legumes, such as black beans, chickpeas, and lentils
- Tea, such as green and oolong
2. Consume More Turmeric, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Probiotics
What do an orange-hued root, the fats found in fish like salmon, and the good bacteria fermented foods are loaded with have in common? They’ve each been shown to support a healthy response to inflammation in the body and can thus play helpful roles in reestablishing balance.
Turmeric, for example, contains a powerful antioxidant called curcumin, that’s been the focus of many a research study. Probiotics, meanwhile, have been shown to help reduce inflammatory cytokines, which are small proteins that control immune system cell activity.
Read More: How To Pickle And Ferment Your Own Foods
Incorporate these powerhouses into your diet by eating more sustainably-caught fatty fish, such as salmon or sardines, adding turmeric to soups, stews, and curries, and regularly incorporating fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and tempeh.
3. Move Your Body Daily
Engaging in daily physical activity will help to decrease inflammatory responses and protect you from chronic conditions that are linked to low-grade inflammation, such as asthma. Research indicates that exercise reduces cytokine production and triggers muscle tissue to generate anti-inflammatory proteins.
If you’re new to exercising daily, start slow with walking (go uphill if you can), yoga, gentle aerobics, swimming, or biking. The point is to move your body daily and get your blood flowing.
4. Reduce Stress And Rest More
Research shows that inflammation plays a role in stress-related health concerns such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and changes in mood. Since inflammation and stress are related, incorporating stress-relieving practices—such as meditation, downtime, spiritual practices, and time outdoors—into your day is important in combating chronic inflammatory responses.
It’s also critical that you getting enough rest every day, which means logging at least seven hours of sleep. Try to stick to a P.M. routine that includes at least one hour in the evening to wind down without the use of blue light-emitting electronics.
When To See A Doctor
In the case of acute inflammation, pain, redness, and swelling you might experience should dissipate within a week. If you’re experiencing signs of inflammation for a month or longer, you may have a chronic condition that’s caused by an unknown factor, such as dietary triggers, stress, an inflammatory disease, or certain medications.
If you’ve tried to reduce inflammation naturally with these lifestyle changes and aren’t noticing any improvement, it’s time to see a healthcare professional who can conduct a physical exam and analyze blood test results to pinpoint the cause.
Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C., C.N.S., is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, author, and member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. Dr. Axe operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites, sharing healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, and information on essential oils and natural supplements. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world and has served as a physician for many professional athletes.