10 Things to Do to Combat Inflammation


Article by Dr. Layla Sade

Photography by Layla Sade

While you can't always see or feel it, chronic inflammation may be slowly harming your body. Left unchecked, it can even contribute to chronic diseases and premature aging. But there are actions you can take to decrease this damage.

1. Tend to Dental Health

Ignoring your oral hygiene can increase inflammation in the body and potentially play a part in initiating serious systemic conditions. Poor oral health is associated with chronic disease such as Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. Brushing your teeth, flossing daily and reducing your sugar intake can help reduce systemic inflammation that started in the mouth.

2. Spice It Up

Sprinkling spices in your food is a simple yet effective way to keep inflammation at bay. Many spices contain powerful compounds that can interact with chemical pathways in the body associated with inflammation. Some of the most well-researched spices are turmeric, ginger and cinnamon.

And a little pinch goes a long way. Amounts as little as ¼ teaspoon can be enough to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits. You can add turmeric and ginger to rice dishes, cinnamon to oats and tea and make smoothies with all three for a nutrient-powerhouse treat.

3. Sip Ginger Tea

Ginger is one of the inflammation reducers along with (antioxidant-rich) wild blueberries and green herbs. Plus, ginger is also a great digestive aid.

4. Fill Up on Fermented Foods

A growing amount of research has demonstrated a link between our gut microbiome (aka the trillions of microorganisms contained in our GI tract) and inflammatory responses. So, to prevent inflammation, make sure your gut is in good shape. One of the core components of a healthy gut is live beneficial bacteria called probiotics that can naturally be found in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, kombucha and kefir.

5. Prioritize Prebiotics

Prebiotics — a type of fiber that acts as food for probiotics — may also play a role in reducing inflammation.

The good news: You're likely including prebiotics in your diet already if you're focusing on high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables.

For an especially powerful punch of prebiotics, pick produce like garlic, leeks, onion, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas and sweet potatoes.

6. Feast on Fatty Fish

Fatty fish are full of omega-3 fats, and research shows that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in reducing the production of inflammatory substances called cytokines.

Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines are all stellar sources of omega-3s. But you can also opt to take a fish oil supplement. If you go this route, choose one that contains both eicosapentaenoic acid​ and docosahexaenoic acid​.

7. Sprinkle in Seeds

Even if you're not a fan of fish, you can still get your omega-3s from plant-based foods like chia and flax seeds. Both flax and chia seeds are extremely versatile and can be added to almost anything.

8. Favor Foods With Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients are active compounds in plant-based foods shown to reduce inflammation. In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, these nutrients also have antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-aging and neuroprotective effects, among other health-related benefits, according to a September 2014 review in the ​Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine​.

The easiest way to get your fill of phytonutrients is to eat a variety of deeply colored fruits and veggies. Indeed, people who ate fruits and vegetables exhibited lower levels of inflammatory markers in their blood than those who ate fewer plants, per a January 2012 study in ​Nutrients​. The goal is to get at least two servings of fruit and at least three servings of vegetables a day.

9. Schedule in Stress-Reducing Habits

Stress can be a potential prompt for inflammation in the body. That's because it triggers the immune system and endocrine pathways to increase cytokine production, which has been linked to chronic disease. But adopting healthy, stress-relieving habits can help hinder this inflammatory response. Lifestyle can play a large role in how the body can heal itself. Food can do a lot, but adding in yoga, meditation and walking is a really important way to help the body decrease stress naturally. In fact, a June 2015 study published in the ​Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research​ found that regularly practicing yoga can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokine levels.

10. Limit Refined Oils

Refined oils — such as vegetable, canola, soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower and cottonseed oil — contain high amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Omega-6 fats are beneficial for your body in moderation, but some research shows that they can be pro-inflammatory when you eat too much. For example, a September 2018 paper in ​Open Heart​ found that the omega-6 polyunsaturated fat linoleic acid is linked to oxidative stress, chronic low-grade inflammation and atherosclerosis.

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