Inflammation is linked to a multitude of chronic health conditions like heart disease and COPD, but absence of disease doesn’t mean you’re not suffering from inflammation. In fact, inflammation can trigger a variety of symptoms and conditions such as fatigue, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, allergies, recurring infections, and more. If you’re experiencing these or other symptoms and suspect chronic inflammation, you don’t have to learn to live with your symptoms.
Here are 5 simple steps to help you reduce inflammation in your body and combat your symptoms:
- Identify allergens and sensitivities.
- Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet.
- Focus on gut health.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Eliminate toxins and chemicals from your home.
If you’re ready to eliminate your unpleasant symptoms by getting at what causes of inflammation in your body and reducing those triggers, here’s how to get started with each step.
Step 1: Identify Allergies and Sensitivities
Allergies and sensitivities naturally evoke an inflammatory response as the body attempts to remove foreign substances it perceives as a threat, so it makes sense to eliminate allergies and sensitivities to reduce inflammation – but it’s easier said than done. You may not even be aware of the various things you might be sensitive to, especially if they don’t cause a full-blown allergic response. Having an allergy test can help to identify allergies and even some sensitivities, and an elimination diet can also be helpful in pinpointing specific issues.
Step 2: Adopt an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
According to Health.com, foods high in sugar (particularly refined sugar) and saturated fat can fuel inflammation in the body. Scott Zashin, MD, a clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, tells Health.com that a diet high in sugar and saturated fat can lead to inflammatory overdrive, ultimately contributing to health issues such as joint pain, blood vessel damage, and fatigue.
It’s not just about eliminating inflammatory-promoting foods from your diet but also adding foods that can help fight inflammation, such as:
- Fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, or fish oil supplements if you’re not a fan of seafood
- Whole grains instead of refined grains – make sure whole grains are the first listed ingredient and that there are no added sugars
- Dark, leafy greens rich in vitamin E, which can help to protect the body from inflammation-causing cytokines (think spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens)
- Nuts such as almonds and walnuts, packed with inflammation-fighting vitamins, antioxidants, omega-3 fats, and other beneficial nutrients
- Low-fat dairy for calcium and vitamin D
- Colorful vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, and squash, packed with essential vitamins and nutrients
While this isn’t a complete list of foods that can help ward off inflammation, it’s a good starting point. Check out Dr. Andrew Weil’s articles on the anti-inflammatory diet and pyramid for more information on adopting an anti-inflammatory diet.
Step 3: Focus on Gut Health
Your GI tract, or your gut, is home to a sizeable portion of your body’s immune system. While researchers at Johns Hopkins and other leading institutions are still trying to determine precisely how the immune system and gut bacteria interact – and how this interaction changes in various disease processes – there’s a clear connection between gut health and immunity.
Because inflammation is an immune response, paying attention to gut health is one of the most effective ways to maintain the ideal balance, fueling your body’s immune system in order to fight disease without creating an over-reaction that leads to inflammation throughout the body. In addition to the other crucial steps for reducing inflammation in the body, taking probiotic supplements is a natural way to support immune health and digestive balance.
Step 4: Get Adequate Sleep
Believe it or not, it’s not always something that you’re exposed to or have ingested that contributes to inflammation in the body. A lack of sleep is one of the biggest contributors to inflammation. Medical Daily reports on a meta-analysis published in Biological Psychiatry which found that a chronic lack of sleep can contribute to a variety of chronic health conditions and even mental health issues ranging from arthritis to periodontis and cancer.
Editor Dr. John Krystal explains that both too much sleep and not enough has been linked to inflammation, which in turn can lead to depression as well as medical problems. “Getting less than, or more than, 7-8 hours of sleep per night has been shown to result in increased levels of inflammatory markers in the blood, like C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6),” Medical Daily explains. “These markers have been linked to chronic diseases like heart problems, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes, suggesting that poor sleep is a behavioral risk factor for inflammation, in line with high fat diets or sedentary lifestyles.”
The solution? Aim for the sweet spot of 7 to 8 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep each night as often as possible. If you’re finding it difficult to get enough sleep, you might consider making some lifestyle changes or modifications to your routine for better health, both today and in the future.
Step 5: Eliminate Toxins and Chemicals from Your Home
Environmental toxins and irritants are seemingly everywhere you turn, and if you’re like most people, your home isn’t exactly a safe haven free of potential pollutants. Reliance on chemicals and commercial cleaning solutions makes us feel like our homes are clean, but use of these products can also introduce irritants into the home environment.
While you can’t always avoid exposure to pollutants in your local community or the town in which you work (after all, you have to get to the office somehow), you can take steps to minimize the amount of potential toxins and irritants in the home. Keep dust under control with regular dusting, and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to filter allergens and dust mites from the air. Filter your tap water and choose glass bottles and containers over plastic – and when you do need plastic, make sure it’s BPA-free. Choose environmentally-friendly or “green” cleaning products that don’t contain ammonia or chlorine, or better yet, turn to all-natural cleaning solutions.
When in doubt, natural, organic, and eco-friendly options are generally better for your health and don’t contain harmful chemicals or irritants, but not all natural products are created equal. Learn how to read labels to identify the best products for your health.
These steps are crucial for reducing inflammation in the body, but they’re not a once-and-done deal. The key to lifelong health and well-being is to consciously pursue a healthy lifestyle and continuously opt for healthy choices such as anti-inflammatory foods and eliminating refined sugars and saturated fats from your diet, taking steps to promote a healthy home environment free of pollutants and potentially toxic irritants, regularly getting ample, quality sleep, and taking steps to promote a healthy gut for optimal immune functioning.