For years we’ve been hearing more and more evidence connecting chronic inflammation with a whole host of health woes, from heart disease and cancer to Crohn’s disease and psoriatic arthritis (PsA). That’s because it damages healthy cells and can lead to permanent DNA damage. The good news: There are lots of small steps you can take to combat chronic inflamation. Read on for seven ways to do just that.
1. Try an elimination diet
While diet isn’t always a factor in inflammation, it can be. To find out if this is the case for you and which foods may be the culprits, try an elimination-style diet, says Brooke Scheller, CNS, DCN-C, an adjunct professor of clinical nutrition at Drexel University. “Start by removing common triggers one at a time or all at once,” she says of dietary staples like dairy, gluten, wheat, sugar, and fried foods, which tend to be the most problematic. “Then track your symptoms over the course of three weeks before you slowly reintroduce these foods back into your diet and see which symptoms return.”
2. Find ways to de-stress
Stress may be an indicator of future disease. “In a review of years’ worth of research, a group of scientists in China, the U.S., Japan, and Brazil all provided evidence that stress induces or worsens depression, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer through inflammation,” Scheller says.
That’s why it’s so important to find ways to relax—whether it’s through meditation, turning off notifications on your phone, taking a warm bath, or even playing with a furry friend.
3. Stay active
Staying active is another great way to unwind, and it may also help combat chronic inflammation. Walking, running, cycling, and lifting weights can all help to decrease your body’s inflammation, says Piper Gibson, a doctor of natural medicine in Las Cruces, New Mexico. “If you’ve yet to begin exercising, start with a daily walk and go at your own pace,” she says. “Find a place in nature to take your walk and you’ll be in an even better head space which can help you destress even more.”
Yoga is another great option, and studies show it can decrease inflammation in the body. Aim to do your yoga practice two to three times a week for the ultimate benefits, suggests Huma Gruaz, a yoga therapist in Newport Beach, California.
4. Raid the spice cabinet
The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric (AKA curcumin) are believed to help treat inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis. Aim for 500 to 1,000 milligrams of it every day (FYI: There are 200 milligrams per one teaspoon of fresh turmeric). You can incorporate turmeric in tea or into smoothies, curries, or eggs—and when you can, pair it with black pepper. “Some evidence shows that turmeric is more readily available in the body when paired with black pepper,” Scheller explains
Ginger also offers a measurable anti-inflammatory effect, says Scheller. “Peel ginger and boil a few slices in water, heat it over the stove for up to 20 minutes, and then enjoy it as a tea for the most potent benefits,” she says.
5. Find out if you need a prescription
In some cases, medications such as NSAIDs and corticosteroids such as prednisone and cortisone may be needed to manage chronic inflammation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This class of medications works by decreasing inflammation that has been caused by an over-response of the immune system prompted by such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
6. Drink water
Staying hydrated is important for every single function in your body and, without sufficient water, you’ll experience a slowdown of cellular function and everything from tiredness to joint pain and headaches, says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RDN, a nutritionist and doctor of public health and nutritionist in San Diego. “Water and being sufficiently hydrated is very important in helping you to reduce pain symptoms and inflammation,” she adds. Your goal: Aim to drink about eight to 10 cups daily.
7. Maintain a healthy weight for you
Excess weight can cause undue stress on your joints and promote inflammation that is a major contributor to diseases like arthritis, “Excess fat cells mean excess pro-inflammatory chemicals and more inflammation all the time,” Bazilian says. “Working toward a healthy weight for your frame can be one of the best ways to reduce inflammation and minimize pain.
Most important: This doesn’t mean you have to be ‘thin’ as there are many shapes and sizes that are healthy and fit.” Your best bet: Speak with your doctor about a healthy weight for you.
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