Inflammation gets a bad rap, but it has its benefits. Inflammation is the body’s defense against a problem and way of letting us know that something is not right. As the body tries to heal itself; inflammation occurs.
Thanks inflammation! The redness or swelling that occurs after a scrape or a stub is known as acute inflammation, meaning it’s short term. The other type of inflammation known as chronic inflammation, or persistent low grade inflammation, is a ‘wear and tear’ type of inflammation. It is the root of most if not all diseases. It is manifested in the body as acne, eczema, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, and asthma just to name a few.
Things that contribute to inflammation are lifestyle or environmental factors such as excess weight, a diet low in nutrients, lack of exercise, stress, smoking, pollution, toxic beauty products, poor oral health, and heavy alcohol consumption.
The good news is since much of chronic inflammation is due to personal lifestyle choices there are things you can do about it! Here are some tips to reduce and eliminate inflammation in the body and get to feeling good again.
1. Drink lots of pure water infused with fresh lemon: Staying well hydrated is a huge part of fighting off inflammation. Drinking plenty of pure water every day is essential, and adding fresh squeezed lemon greatly increases the anti-inflammatory effects. Learn 20 Reasons to Drink Lemon Water here.
2. Eat clean, minimally processed or whole foods: Simply put, eat foods that you could find in nature! That’s the kind of foods our body thrives on and knows how to digest!
3. Cut out processed and artificial foods: Skip the processed crackers, chips, candy, most breads, flours, and cereals, most of which have added salt or sugar which feed inflammation. Choose whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and organic meats instead.
4. Reduce stress: Constant emotional or physical stress can raise cortisol levels in the body which can lead to inflammation. Find a way to bring more peace into your life that works for you. Some things to try include reducing screen time, meditation, yoga, going for a walk, singing your heart out, dancing in your living room, or spending more time with friends and family.
5. Get better quality sleep: Studies have concluded that lack of sleep can lead to inflammatory diseases so do your best to get some high quality zzz’s. Some things that can help you slip into sweet slumber include avoiding electronics an hour or two before bed, sleeping in total darkness, using a white noise machine if you live near a busy street, and avoiding caffeine after noon.
6. Eat healthy fats and oils: Consuming a little healthy fat in the form of avocado, tahini, avocado oil, and olive oil can help reduce inflammation. The unsaturated fats in these foods have unique anti-inflammatory benefits. They also contain the antioxidant vitamin E to further soothe the body. Here’s the truth about fat and why we need it to lose weight.
7. Get your Omega 3’s: Omega-3’s are a type of fatty acid that have excellent anti-inflammatory effects on the body and may help improve brain function. When looking for more healthy fats to consume, search out omega 3 rich foods when you can. Some whole food sources include flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, dark leafy greens, cauliflower, salmon, and sardines.
8. Eat more berries: Antioxidant rich foods can neutralize free radicals in the body. Free radicals damage our cells and lead to disease and aging. But, antioxidant rich berries have been found to fight this systemic inflammation significantly better than many other fruits and veggies.
9. Eat more leafy greens: For the same reason above, incorporating more leafy greens in your diet can reduce inflammation. All whole plant foods have anti-inflammatory effects, but greens have been found to be one of the best at fighting inflammation. Throw some spinach in your smoothie or steam up some kale or collard greens at your next meal!
10. Replace refined sugar with healthy sweeteners: As already mentioned, the need to reduce or eliminate processed foods cannot be overemphasized. Refined sugar like white cane sugar, corn syrup and artificial sweeteners are at the top of this list. Luckily, your sweet tooth does not have to be deprived! There are many healthy sweetener alternatives that you can learn more about here.
11. Avoid nitrate rich processed meats: Hot dogs, pepperoni, bacon, and deli meats that contain nitrates should be minimized or void in a Clean diet. They all contain extra salt and many are preserved with sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrate has been shown to damage blood vessels and with that damage comes inflammation so it’s best to stay away. Look for organic grass-fed meats and wild caught fish, protein from whole foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. When you do want to make a recipe like this Pizza Baked Chicken, find an organic nitrate-free options at your local grocer or butcher.
12. Switch up your salt consumption: Excess white salt in the diet can lead to hypertension, weight gain, and inflammation. Try pink Himalayan salt or grey sea salt instead! Darker colors in your salt indicate the mineral density – a white, processed salt has been stripped of its minerals and therefore has negative consequences for your health.
13. Focus on whole grains: I mean the whole intact grain. Whole grain flours won’t do here as those are a processed food and processed foods in general lead to inflammation. But, whole grains have been shown to cool inflammation by reducing C-reactive protein in the body. CRP levels rise with inflammation and are used as a marker for chronic inflammation. So, if you have a choice between toast or oatmeal, go with the unprocessed oatmeal! These Strawberry Cheesecake Overnight Oats are an amazing way to start the day.
14. Find exercise that works well for your body: Some people do well with more aggressive and aerobic exercise, but others need to focus more on exercise that calms their nervous system and balances their hormones. The wrong kind of exercise for your body or health condition can actually cause damage, and may actually cause weight gain instead of weight loss.
15. Start Dry Brushing: Find a dry skin brush like this: Our skin plays a major role in detoxing our body. Dry brushing your skin can reduce inflammation by moving the lymphatic fluid in our bodies, increasing circulation, and opening up our bodies detox pathways. A side-effect is smoother skin and we all want that!
16. Consume Spirulina: Spirulina is a type of microalgae that is loaded with antioxidants and amino acids which assist in combating inflammation and is great for active people as it has been shown to enhance endurance. Try adding spirulina to your next post-workout smoothie!
17. Use essential oils to calm mind and body: As we mentioned earlier, reducing stress can reduce inflammation. Aromatherapy with calming essential oils can help reduce anxiety. Some great essential oils to diffuse in your home and bedroom to promote tranquility include lavender, rose, frankincense, and vetiver.
18. Consume Turmeric: You may have heard of the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric. This golden root contains a compound known as curcumin, which has unique anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric can be added to food, but a great and tasty way to get your turmeric is through a hormone-balancing drink called “golden milk,” that you can make at home.
19. Sweat it out in the sauna: Spending time in a sauna can help reduce inflammation in many ways. It improves circulation in the body which can stimulate blood flow, improve muscle recovery, and help calm the mind. If you are new to using saunas, start with just a few minutes at a time, slowly working your way up to 15-20 minute sessions.
20. Get massages and/or acupuncture treatments: Much like saunas, massages and acupuncture can increase blood flow in the body which in turn leads to less pain and less inflammation. Acupuncture can be a great option for people with rheumatoid arthritis and both practices can promote a calm mind.
21. Eat Cilantro: Cilantro is a great anti-inflammatory herb. A research study showed that just 20 sprigs of cilantro a day helped decrease inflammatory markers in people with osteoarthritis. That’s one powerful plant! Add cilantro to recipes anywhere you can to reap its benefits. Try this Taco Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing!
22. Eat garlic: Garlic contains a potent antioxidant called quercetin that is know to fight inflammation in the body. The sulfur compounds in garlic also stimulate the immune system to fight disease. When consuming garlic, smashing it first and letting it rest for a couple of minutes will help activate the anti-inflammatory compounds so you can reap the most benefits.
23. Eat ginger: Ginger can be a great food to add to your diet especially if you are suffering through inflammatory digestive issues such as ulcerative colitis and IBS. Try sipping on some ginger tea before or after meals, grating some into a smoothie, or add some in to your warm lemon water throughout the day.
24. Eat probiotic-rich foods: Probiotics in our body play an important role in keeping our immune system strong and inflammation at bay. Two of the most popular probiotics, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, have been shown to help combat intestinal infections, reduce gas and bloating, and improve blood flow in the body. Be sure to include probiotic rich foods in your daily diet. Unsweetened organic grass-fed yogurt and kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and raw apple cider vinegar are great options.
25. Do left nostril breathing: Try this next time you are going through something stressful. Close your right nostril and breath in and out of your left nostril for a minute or two. This practice has been shown to focus the mind and calm the nervous system which can reduce inflammation.
26. Eat foods with inulin fiber/prebiotics: Prebiotics act as a food for the probiotics living in our body. They have been found to promote the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Fiber in general acts as a prebiotic so eating more fruits and veggies is a great start. Inulin fiber is especially excellent and is found in foods such as garlic, onions, jicama, and asparagus. This spicy stir-fried cabbage side dish is just one example of Clean Eating recipes loaded with fiber.
27. Eat/drink apple cider vinegar: Raw apple cider vinegar is rich in nutrients including vitamin c which helps reduce inflammation and stress. Apple cider vinegar can play an important role in keeping blood sugar levels in check and digestion on point, too. Try adding a tablespoon into a small amount of water before a meal to reap its benefits.
28. Get out in nature: Spending more time outdoors has been shown to improve mental health and reduce stress and inflammation. Whether it’s the fresh air, the lack of electronics, or the movement you get when you walk outside-it all plays an important role in keeping your body healthy.
29. Drink green tea and other beneficial teas: Green teas are loaded with polyphenols which are plant derived compounds that play a big role in fighting inflammation. Other great teas that have a soothing effect on the body are peppermint, licorice, and dandelion teas. Try switching your coffee out for a green or herbal tea once in awhile and your body will thank you.
30. Eat at home more often than you eat out: Eating out can be a fun treat, and there are ways to still eat clean while eating out. But by cooking and eating at home more often, you are more likely to eat the best and purest foods and avoid things that could create inflammation in the body.