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Home » Resources » Health » Strategies to Reduce Inflammation and Feel Better

Strategies to Reduce Inflammation and Feel Better


Acute inflammation is the immune system’s appropriate response to sudden trauma, injury, or bacteria. To begin healing, your body sends inflammatory cells to the site of the injury. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, means that your body continues sending inflammatory cells, even when there is no foreign substance to fight. This overactive immune response—when antibodies mistakenly attack body tissues—can lead to the development of autoimmune diseases.

Here, too much of a good thing applies to inflammation. White blood cells may end up attacking nearby healthy tissues and organs. From the body’s perspective, it’s under consistent attack, so the immune system keeps fighting indefinitely. Research has shown that chronic inflammation is associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

The problem is that chronic inflammation is often invisible; there are no obvious physical signs. The only sure way to detect chronic inflammation is to be evaluated by your doctor. He or she will perform a physical exam and probably check your blood. A blood test measures a protein produced by the liver, C-reactive protein (CRP), which rises in response to inflammation. A CRP level between one and three milligrams per liter of blood often signals a low, yet chronic, level of inflammation. The erythrocyte rate is another blood test for inflammation and is used for people with inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

A common treatment for inflammation includes a combination of pharmacological options and physical therapy. Your physician may recommend a simple regimen of over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). But for more complex conditions, a doctor may use steroids to decrease inflammation and to reduce the activity of the immune system. Steroids are often injected directly into joints to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or other inflammatory diseases. Steroids can also be injected into inflamed bursae (bursitis), or around inflamed tendons (tendinitis) near the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, hand, or wrist.

Prevent, Improve, and Reduce Inflammation with Lifestyle and Diet Regimens  

Simple alterations in diet and lifestyle can make a difference in keeping such chronic inflammation at bay. People with a family history of health problems, such as heart disease or colon cancer, should talk to their physicians about lifestyle changes that support preventing disease by reducing inflammation.

Sleep Is Not Overrated—When you don’t get the sleep you need, your body may kick inflammation up a notch. Your goal should be seven to nine hours every night. Aim for both quality and quantity.

Exercise: Short Stints Go a Long Way—It takes as little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk with your dog or a friend, to head off an inflammatory response in your body. Health guidelines call for 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five days a week. If you currently don’t work out at all, 20 minutes is a great place to start. 

Eat More Greens—Stock up on salad fixings. Greens such as collards, broccoli, kale, and spinach have antioxidants and other compounds that can help reduce inflammation and keep day-to-day cell damage to a minimum.

Drink Green Tea—Green tea is packed with compounds known as polyphenols that fight off free radicals, which can promote inflammation in your body. You don’t have to kick your coffee habit altogether. Consider swapping out one cup a week for the green stuff.

Try Fasting—Research shows intermittent fasting may be more than just a fad. Eating only during a fixed window of time each day can have anti-inflammatory effects. There are many ways to follow this eating plan. A common method involves only eating between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.

Manage Stress—Chronic stress contributes to inflammation. Walk out your stress or use meditation, yoga, Pilates, or biofeedback.

Easy on the Alcohol—A glass of wine with dinner will not do much harm. But too much alcohol can raise toxin levels in your body. This turns on inflammation, which can damage tissues and organs. If you drink at all, do so in moderation. According to the CDC, it’s no more than one drink a day for women and two for men.

If You Smoke, Quit—Smoking comes with a laundry list of harmful effects. Higher levels of inflammation is one of them. Decide to quit and pick a day to do it. You don’t have to go it alone, though. Your doctor can come up with a plan so you can kick the habit for good.

The Mediterranean Diet Is No Fad—Research shows that people who follow a Mediterranean diet have lower levels of inflammation in their bodies. Eat more fruits and vegetables and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the best sources of omega-3s are cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines.

Avoid White Foods—White bread, rice, and pasta, as well as foods made with white sugar and flour increase inflammation. Build meals around lean proteins and whole foods high in fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, including brown rice and whole wheat bread. Check the labels and make sure that “whole wheat” or another whole grain is the first ingredient.

Limit Unhealthy Fats—Eliminate trans fats, such as margarine, corn oil, deep-fried foods, and most processed foods. Also limit red meat, butter, and processed and refined sugars and carbs.

Load Up on Healthy Options—Olive oil, tomatoes, tofu, walnuts, flax seeds and soybeans, and leafy greens like spinach and kale. Snack on grapes and celery. Spice up food with garlic, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric.

Berries are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins. These compounds have anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce the risk of disease. Certain vitamins (A, C, and D) and supplements (zinc) may reduce inflammation and enhance repair. Your health care provider may prescribe a fish oil supplement or a combination of vitamins.

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