Inflammation is a natural process that protects the body in cases of injury or infection. Unfortunately, inflammation can become a problem if it is chronic. As well as common conditions like arthritis, chronic inflammation in the body is now known to cause a plethora of other issues. These range from GI tract problems such as irritable bowel syndrome to insulin resistance and diabetes. Heart and lung problems can be caused or exacerbated by inflammation. Chronic and sustained inflammation is even associated with mental illness.
What causes inflammation?
There are many causes of inflammation. If you’ve ever sprained a joint, you will know firsthand that injury can cause inflammation. If you’ve ever suffered from an infected cut or had a head cold with a stuffed-up nose, you’ll also know that pathogens can cause inflammation too. In each of these cases, the body’s immune system is going into overdrive to kill invading pathogens and repair damaged tissues.
Sometimes inflammation can occur in response to other stimuli. Take the example of autoimmune conditions such as hayfever or arthritis. In the case of hayfever, the body produces the same sort of reaction you might see in a common cold. Instead of attacking a virus, though, it’s attacking proteins associated with pollen grains. In arthritis, the immune system has made an even more severe error — it has mistaken the body’s tissues for pathogens and begun to attack them.
In chronic inflammation, diet and other lifestyle choices may be factors. You can reduce chronic inflammation by eating different foods and making other changes to your lifestyle.
If you want to beat inflammation, you can start by cutting down inflammatory foods. Refined carbohydrates are associated with higher levels of inflammation, so trade sugary drinks, candy, and pastries for healthier options. Foods high in trans fats, such as margarine and many processed foods, may also be inflammatory. You should reduce the amount of red meat you consume, especially processed meats like hot dogs.
Anti-inflammatory foods include foods high in antioxidants, such as fresh fruits, leafy greens, and certain root vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. High fiber foods can also reduce inflammation, keeping your blood sugar level, and supporting a healthy gut microbiome.
Some foods have a more direct anti-inflammatory effect. If you’re wondering how to reduce inflammation in the body fast, add anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like ginger and turmeric to your meals. Probiotic foods like kefir, certain yogurts, and fermented foods can also help lower inflammation.
Many of us don’t get enough physical exercise. A moderate amount of activity may be enough to reduce levels of inflammation throughout the body. This can be something as simple as taking a 20-minute walk every day. If you find it challenging to engage in physical exercise — for example, due to arthritis — look for programs that are geared towards people with physical limitations. Seated exercise may be helpful for you. Swimming and water aerobics might be another possibility.
Stress is known to be a cause of inflammation. It may seem difficult to reduce stress unless you’re in a position to change jobs or relocate. If major changes like these aren’t possible, there are plenty of ways to bring down your stress levels; relaxation exercises, meditation, and disciplines like yoga can all help reduce stress.
Other changes you can make include reducing the amount of alcohol you consume and giving up smoking. You should also try to get around eight hours of sleep per night, as a lack of quality sleep is associated with higher levels of inflammation. In general, a more healthy, active lifestyle can translate into lower levels of inflammation throughout your body.
Before changing your diet or making other dramatic lifestyle changes, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or another medical professional. They can give you advice on how to reduce inflammation and improve your overall health. It’s especially important to get medical advice if you’ve recently begun to experience new symptoms, or if existing symptoms have become worse.
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