Inflammation is your body’s natural defence mechanism. However, when it occurs for a prolonged period of time, it might start attacking your tissues and organs. It can turn into a chronic inflammation that can sometimes last for days, months or even years. Moreover, untreated inflammation can lead to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
That being said, there are many ways to reduce it, either by changing your diet and incorporating healthy fats such as Omega-3s, improving your lifestyle or using anti inflammatory supplements.
In this article, we will cover what you can do to reduce inflammation.
What is inflammation?
As mentioned, inflammation is a natural response which allows your body to protect itself from being harmed. There are two types of inflammation: chronic and acute. The majority of people are more familiar with the latter.
Acute inflammation happens when a part of your body is injured, for example, when you hit your arm on a hard surface. Your body’s immune system sends white blood cells to protect and surround the area, creating swelling and redness. It works the same with an infection or when you catch the flu. So as you can see in this case, inflammation is good, and without it, minor injuries or infections could be much worse.
However, when inflammation starts to get stronger and lasts for a long period of time, while the immune system keeps sending white blood cells to the area, then it turns into chronic inflammation. If this happens, white blood cells can start attacking healthy tissues and nearby organs. For example, if a person is overweight and has a lot of visceral fat, the body can consider it a threat and start to attack it. Therefore, the longer a person is overweight, the longer inflammation will remain.
What causes inflammation?
One of the major factors which causes inflammation is a poor lifestyle.
People consuming highly processed foods containing trans fat have been shown to cause inflammation and damage the cells that line the arteries.
Moreover, diets that include products filled with high amounts of sugar are usually responsible for diabetes and obesity, leading to inflammation.
Some researchers also believe that consuming refined carbohydrates such as white pasta and bread can cause obesity, inflammation and insulin resistance.
There are also a lot of lifestyle factors which can cause inflammation, such as:
- Drinking alcohol
- Smoking cigarettes
- Exercising too much or exercising too little
- Chronic stress
Common symptoms of inflammation
As we mentioned before, there are two types of inflammation acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation can cause:
- Tenderness or pain
Chronic inflammation causes:
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Skin rash
There are also some conditions which might be associated with inflammation, such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
How to reduce inflammation?
As you are probably aware, not every inflammation needs special treatment. For example, it’s best to rest and ice the area if was caused by a minor injury.
However, if you have chronic inflammation, you might want to take a different approach.
One of the easiest ways to reduce chronic inflammation is to make dietary changes. Start by eating less inflammatory foods and introducing anti-inflammatory ones instead. Focus on eating whole and nutritious foods that contain antioxidants and stay away from highly processed meals.
A diet which has a lot of antioxidants has a chance to reduce levels of free radicals. Those molecules are responsible for your metabolism; however, they tend to cause inflammation if not controlled.
One of the best anti-inflammatory diets is the Mediterranean diet, which is filled with healthy carbs, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. It has also been shown to reduce various inflammatory markers.
Foods which you should avoid are:
- Trans fat
- Sugary drinks
- Refined carbs
- Highly processed foods
If you are struggling with thinking of foods which can reduce inflammation, we made a list of our favourites that are also backed by scientific research.
- High-fat fruits: Olives and avocados
- Vegetables: Leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage
- Healthy fats: Olive oil and avocado oil
- Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, sardines
- Green tea
There are also a couple of lifestyle changes you can make to battle chronic inflammation.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for maintaining good energy levels throughout the day. When your body doesn’t get at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep, the inflammation can get worse.
Another good habit which has a chance to battle inflammation is exercise. If you are currently sedentary, try to go for a 20-minute walk to minimize inflammation. Lastly, if you are a smoker, then you might consider stopping. Smoking causes many health problems; one of the most common ones is chronic inflammation. If you decide to quit, it’s best to reach out for professional help to make the process much easier.
As we mentioned above, you can make plenty of lifestyle and dietary changes to help fight off chronic inflammation. However, in some cases reaching out for additional support with supplements can have positive outcomes.
We’ve made a list of our favourite supplements that can combat inflammation:
- Curcumin – Curcumin is found in a spice called turmeric. It may help decrease inflammation in heart disease and inflammatory bowel disease, among other conditions.
- Ginger – A root commonly used in Asian cuisine, has been used as a medicine for ages. Gingerol and zingerone, two components of ginger, can help reduce inflammation related to conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
- Omega-3 fish oil – One of the most popular supplements, fish oil, has Omega-3 fatty acids, which can decrease various inflammations. Both EPA and DHA have been shown to promote gut health and reduce cytokine levels.
- Bromelain – It is an enzyme found in foods such as pineapple. Bromelain has similar anti-inflammatory properties as nonsteroidal drugs but without side effects.
- Green tea extract – Green tea is well known for its medical properties. It’s rich in compounds such as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) that have a range of health benefits. A study conducted by researchers has shown that overweight people who were taking green tea extract for 8 weeks have significantly reduced their inflammation levels.
Chronic inflammation is a disease that can turn into something worse if left untreated. More often than not, lifestyle and diet are the main drivers of inflammation. In order to reduce it, you should choose anti-inflammatory foods, improve your lifestyle and consider using supplements.