Inflammation is a key part of your body’s immune response. It’s an indication that your body is trying to protect itself from harmful agents, such as bacteria, viruses and toxins. Without inflammation, wounds would fester and simple infections would become deadly. Acute inflammation, which occurs in response to tissue injury, is a type of inflammation that resolves in weeks.
But in some cases, inflammation lasts longer than necessary. This type of inflammation, known as chronic inflammation, has been associated with serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. Chronic inflammation is damaging to healthy cells, tissues and organs.
Thankfully, healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, can help reduce chronic inflammation and lower your risk of developing diseases associated with inflammation.
- Eat fruits and vegetables – Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients and plant compounds like vitamin C and flavonoids that fight chronic inflammation and protect cells from damage. Experts recommend eating five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day to maintain good health.
- Eat meals on time – According to experts, obese individuals tend to have chronic inflammation and above-average appetites. The relationship between chronic inflammation and appetite isn’t well understood, but eating on time and avoiding snacking may help prevent inflammation by stabilizing your blood sugar levels. If you do get hungry between meals, opt for healthy snacks like raw fruits, vegetables, nuts or whole-wheat pastries.
- Get enough sleep – Experts advise getting between seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Routinely lacking sleep can trigger inflammation, even in healthy individuals. Moreover, long-term sleep deprivation can raise your risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
- Exercise – According to a 2012 study published in Aging and Disease, regular exercise helps reduce fat mass and adipose tissue inflammation, which is known to contribute to systemic inflammation.
- Incorporate spices into your diet – Pungent spices like turmeric and ginger can help reduce chronic inflammation because of the bioactive compounds in them. Turmeric contains curcumin, while ginger contains gingerols. These compounds are well-known for their anti-inflammatory effects.
- Limit your alcohol consumption – Excessive alcohol consumption can trigger inflammation. Reduce your alcohol consumption or avoid alcoholic drinks altogether if possible.
- Drink green tea – Green tea is an excellent source of polyphenols, which help reduce inflammation by neutralizing free radicals. Consider swapping your coffee for green tea.
- Eat fermented foods – It’s thought that an unhealthy gut may cause or worsen chronic inflammation. To improve gut health, add more fermented foods to your diet. Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and kombucha are full of probiotics. These microorganisms can restore healthy gut flora.
- Fast – Consider doing an occasional fast. Fasting helps fight chronic inflammation by attenuating the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines. There are many ways to go about fasting, but one of the easiest to do is a 12-hour fast, which only entails avoiding food and water after 8 p.m.
- Avoid foods that contain gluten – Some people may be allergic or have an intolerance to dairy products or gluten. These foods can worsen existing inflammation. You may want to consider avoiding these foods for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference. The idea is to give your body time to calm down before slowly adding dairy and gluten-containing foods back to your diet to see if they trigger any reaction.
- Manage stress – No matter how healthy your diet is, chronic inflammation won’t subside if you are always stressed. It helps to learn how to manage stress. For instance, you can try working on your hobbies, taking a short walk or meditating.
- Stop eating processed foods – The preservatives, artificial sweeteners, dyes and other additives in processed foods have the potential to trigger or worsen existing inflammation. Avoid processed foods like candies, sodas and salted chips. Always read product labels and opt for organic products. (Related: Packaged food and beverages in the U.S. are ultra-processed and ultra unhealthy.