What is inflammation?
Inflammation is our body’s natural response to injury and infection. The immune system triggers inflammation to send blood to an affected area, i.e., a cut, burn, or tear, to protect and heal it.
In many cases, inflammation is a good thing. For example, when it’s healing a bruise or battling a virus. This inflammation is called acute inflammation and it’s short-lived, typically lasting only a few days.
However, chronic inflammation is longer lasting and the type of inflammation that you want to reduce – quickly. Chronic inflammation persists and can lead to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and autoimmune disorders, among others. In fact, chronic inflammation is lurking behind almost every disease Americans face today—even cancer.
So, what are we doing that’s causing widespread chronic inflammation and how do we get it in check?
What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation is caused by tissue damage, which can be a result of injury, infection, exposure to toxins, or other types of trauma. If the immune system isn’t functioning properly, or the cause isn’t addressed, inflammation can persist and become chronic.
Exposure to toxins is one of the largest threats to Americans facing chronic inflammation as it can be a product of one’s environment and go unnoticed. Another threat is the lifestyle choices that affect the immune system’s response to inflammation. While you may not be able to control your environment, you can make lifestyle choices that support the healthy function of your immune system and help reduce inflammation in the body.
Signs of Inflammation in the Body
While the signs of inflammation in the body are noticeable for acute inflammation such as swelling after a sprain or a fever when fighting a virus, the signs of chronic inflammation are more difficult to spot. These could include digestive issues, joint paint, raised glucose levels, high cholesterol or low good cholesterol, or weight gain. If chronic inflammation persists, signs could include the serious health conditions we mentioned above.
To diagnose inflammation in the body, you can visit your doctor. They will likely run a blood test for C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and measure homocysteine levels to evaluate chronic inflammation.
How To Get Rid of Inflammation
Learning how to reduce inflammation in the body fast will be different for everyone. For some, it will take longer. However, there are ways to support your immune system that anyone can do to help speed up the process.
Make time to exercise
Daily exercise is one healthy habit that can help reduce inflammation. While it may seem counterintuitive, the right kind of exercise can help reduce stress and suppress the production of monocytic cytokines.
Find something that you love to do and do it often, whether that’s yoga, cycling, or walking with friends.
Cope with stress
Stress can worsen inflammation and make it harder to get rid of. While stress may feel like a given in your life, it doesn’t have to be. Find daily practices that help you cope with stress such as going for a walk or run, meditating, or practicing yoga.
When you’re feeling stressed, hit pause and return to the activity that works for you. Consider therapy as well as it can help pinpoint the source of your stress and provide additional coping mechanisms.
Many of the things on this list can go hand in hand. For instance, when you exercise and make efforts to reduce stress, you will often sleep better. And getting better sleep can help reduce inflammation in the body. This is because sleep is the driving force behind our immune systems, which control our inflammatory response. Without adequate sleep, it may be near impossible to reduce chronic inflammation.
Like sleep, water is integral to the body’s proper function. Drinking water helps flush toxins and irritants from the body, which could be causing inflammation.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
According to numerous studies, polyphenols, which are antioxidants found in plants, have anti-inflammatory properties that are crucial to fight chronic inflammation. The good news is polyphenol-containing foods are everywhere, from fruits and vegetables to nuts and seeds, and even wine.
A colorful diet of whole foods is the best way to ensure you’re eating anti-inflammatory foods and getting a variety of nutrients that can help support your immune system. These foods include broccoli, apples, blueberries, onions, lemons, pistachios, almonds, cabbage, and blackberries, to name a few.
Another way to incorporate anti-inflammatory properties into your diet is through herbs and spices. Use them to doctor up your recipes and reap the benefits of added nutrients.
Take supplements to reduce inflammation in the body
Dietary supplements can help us get nutrients we need that we can’t easily or affordably get through food. To reduce inflammation in the body, the following supplements can be helpful:
Supplements can interact with different bodies in unique ways, so it’s important to discuss these options with your doctor before you take them.
Stay away from foods that cause inflammation
Reducing inflammation by way of your diet requires both adding in anti-inflammatory foods and eliminating inflammatory foods. When you load up on veggies, rich sources of omega-3s, and fruits, you should naturally eat less of other, more inflammatory foods. Regardless, it’s important to try and stay away from the following:
- Foods with added sugar
- Processed foods, particularly those with added sugar, dyes, and preservatives
- Refined carbohydrates
- Processed meats such as hot dogs
- Vegetable oils (like those used in fast food)
- Hydrogenated oils
- Artificial sweeteners
- Sweetened or artificially sweetened beverages
Does sugar cause inflammation?
Consuming too much sugar can lead to chronic inflammation. Unfortunately “too much” is already a part of the standard American diet. Consuming high levels of sugar can lead to inflammation, yes, but the consequences are even greater than that. A high intake of added sugar is directly correlated to a higher risk for heart disease and obesity.
While it can be tough to quench a sweet tooth when attempting to eliminate sugar, there are ways to indulge in a sweet treat from time to time. Dark chocolate, for instance, can have half the sugar of milk chocolate and is rich in antioxidants.
Does alcohol cause inflammation?
“All things in moderation” certainly applies to alcohol, especially if you’re trying to reduce inflammation in the body. Interestingly, alcohol can have both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects. One or two glasses of wine, for instance, can actually reduce inflammation as wine is an abundant source of antioxidants. However, more than two drinks can have the opposite effect, causing inflammation.
Does coffee cause inflammation?
Coffee is one of the richest dietary sources of antioxidants available, and as such, it has anti-inflammatory properties. However, the relationship between coffee and inflammation is complex; in some cases, the caffeine in coffee can lead to inflammation, depending on how someone metabolizes it. Caffeine, in particular, can cause inflammation when it stimulates a stress response. If coffee tends to make you jittery or anxious on a regular basis, it’s best to limit your consumption.
Does dairy cause inflammation?
No, dairy doesn’t cause inflammation in people who aren’t allergic to milk. This may be surprising to some, but studies show dairy has anti-inflammatory effects on the body, with the exception of cases in people with a dairy allergy.
Does gluten cause inflammation?
Gluten can cause inflammation in the body for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance which can lead to side effects that range from discomfort to life-threatening. Studies also show that those without a diagnosed gluten intolerance can experience inflammation in the gut after consuming gluten.
Reduce Inflammation Fast
Chronic inflammation isn’t only a buzzword; it can have serious consequences on long-term health. To reduce inflammation fast, limit your intake of sugar and processed foods. Perhaps, more importantly, though, pursue exercise, stress-reducing behaviors, a good night’s sleep, and a diet full of colorful, anti-inflammatory foods. These practices can help fight chronic disease, treat headaches, reduce anxiety, raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol, and reduce inflammation fast.
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