8 Surprising Ways to Get Rid of Inflammation
Inflammation in the body, when it becomes chronic, is linked to pretty much every serious disease process known to man. When you have high inflammatory markers, you’re at a greater risk for developing these diseases over time. So, we need to keep chronic inflammation at bay if we want to naturally prevent diabetes, obesity, arthritis, digestive issues, heart disease, and cancer. The good news is, there’s a number of surprisingly simple and natural ways to get rid of inflammation. And we’re going to take a look at all of them!
Cook with turmeric
Turmeric is a popular spice that hails from India. Indian cooking uses this healing spice in a number of creative ways, and lucky for us, this simple root has potent healing properties. It’s been shown to be the most powerful anti-inflammatory spice on the planet. Why? It comes down to something in turmeric known as curcumin. In fact, you can buy curcumin supplements at health food stores nowadays. Curcumin is the anti-inflammatory ingredient that lowers inflammation without harmful side effects. Many people take this supplement to prevent issues of inflammation like osteoarthritis. In fact, a study published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, suggests those taking curcumin supplements on a regular basis may experience less pain and inflammation associated with this sometimes debilitating joint disease, a.k.a. osteoarthritis. Add the yellowish-orangish spice to soups, to salad dressings, to soups, to teas, to stir frys, to curries, and any number of other dishes. Or drink golden milk, a blend of turmeric, honey, and milk. It’s even said to help you sleep at night. And proper sleep is essential for getting rid of inflammation.
Immerse yourself in nature
Nature is all around us, and its healing benefits are so vast. Immersing yourself in the splendors of nature every day does so much for your body and mind. It also helps us decrease inflammation levels in the body. It reduces stress, and gets us out of our neurotic thinking mind. I love going for long walks and bike rides. Breathing in fresh air and being totally surrounded by animals and plant life while exercising feels so good. If you can work outside, as opposed to being stuck in an office all day, do it. If you can exercise outside as opposed to spending time in the gym, do that too. Spend as much time as possible in parks, on nature trails, near rivers, lakes, and oceans. Hike through forests and walk along the beach. Breathe deeply and feel the inflammation melt away.
Take a hot bath
Did you know that the simple act of taking a nice, hot bath actually helps decrease inflammation in the body? It’s true. They’re so relaxing, and they always make things right again after something’s gone wrong. When we surround ourselves with warm water, just like our fetal development in our mother’s womb, we trigger some deeply healing effects. And we decrease our stress levels dramatically. As we know, chronic stress and chronic inflammation are like two peas in a pod. But get rid of one, and you’ll get rid of the other. Hot baths also work to increase the flow of blood, another health benefit. So, when in doubt, draw yourself a hot bath. Add natural aromatherapeutic bath salts, or simply a few drops of essential oils. Use this simple pleasure to envelop yourself in self-care and get rid of inflammation in the process.
Get your zzzz’s
Are you sleep deprived? If so, you might have higher inflammation markers than your well-rested peers. Chronic sleep deprivation is known to cause chronic inflammation. And many scientific studies prove it. A study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine explains how chronic loss of sleep activates the cells that lead to inflammation. These are known as inflammatory blood cells, and we want to keep them at bay as much as we possibly can. We all deserve regular good nights of sleep. And there are many ways to ensure we get it. But, that’s for another article. Don’t feel guilty by giving yourself the solid sleep you need. Your health depends on it.
To have a body that’s free of inflammatory markers, you’ll want to make sure you have a really effective exercise regimen. It’s been scientifically proven that regular exercise decreases inflammation in the body, and keeps it at bay. And the cool thing is, you don’t have to spend hours at the gym. Even 15-20 minutes of an effective workout helps decrease inflammation in the body. A study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, backs up this claim. The primary way exercise reduces chronic inflammation has to do with stress. The main stress hormone (cortisol) increases inflammation. And exercise decreases cortisol. Thus, exercise decreases inflammation. It’s that simple. So, get your groove on and move daily. Listen to your favorite tunes if it helps you work up a sweat. I like to do 20 minutes of high intensity interval training a couple days a week to get in a brief but effective sweat-inducing workout. This form of exercise is an excellent way to upgrade your workouts, while decreasing inflammation in the process.
A little stress and anxiety is normal. Women experience more stress and anxiety due to hormonal shifts. Both men and women experience anxiety when doing something out of their comfort zone. For example, I was a performance artist for years, mainly in the theater and dance. No matter how many times I acted on stage or danced in front of an audience I got really, really nervous. Some stress is natural. But, chronic stress is not. And, we’re no doubt living in stressful times. The nervous system manages how much stress we have. When the nervous system works overtime, and stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol run wild, an imbalance occurs, and chronic inflammation takes over.
So, we need to learn how to manage stress in a healthy way. We need to do whatever it takes to relieve stress and live a relatively peaceful life. If this means moving to a beach, do it! If it means exercising a lot, do that, too! I love to meditate each morning, take long bicycle rides, go swimming when I can, and enjoy being outdoors as often as possible. I also inhale marjoram essential oil at night (a potent sedative) and enjoy a couple glasses of red wine with dinner. Talking on the phone with friends and family while taking long walks is also one of my go-to stress relieving techniques. There’s so much you can do to banish chronic stress. Find what works for you and do it daily!
Reduce inflammation with food
You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet. In fact, we've talked about it here at Applied Science Nutrition. A nutrient-rich diet, one that’s bursting with antioxidants from whole foods, is the diet that’s going to naturally help reduce inflammation in the body. Here’s a list of the most potent anti-inflammatory foods in the world:
Animal foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3’s help decrease chronic inflammation and prevent chronic diseases. You’ll want to make sure you’re eating plenty of them, integrating these foods into your diet each day: wild-caught salmon, canned sardines, canned anchovies, herring (fresh or canned), and mackerel (fresh or canned).
Plant-based foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
It’s always a good idea to mix up your sources of these fatty acids by eating both animal foods and plant foods. And if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, all you need to do is make sure you get plenty of the following foods into your diet: Brussels sprouts, chia seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, seaweeds, algae oil, kidney beans, and edamame.
Extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, avocados, and olives are the healthiest fats you can eat. Plus, they’re really, really tasty. They also happen to have anti-inflammatory properties. So, dress your salads with olive oil and vinegar, snack on olives as an appetizer, make homemade guacamole with ripe avocados, and saute onions and garlic in coconut oil as a base for many dishes.
Nuts have many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties. Almonds and almond butter are great snacks. I love to make a trail mix with almonds, pumpkin seeds, raisins and dark chocolate bits. In fact, dark chocolate also has anti-inflammatory powers. Let’s eat to that!
Your mom always told you to eat your veggies! And, she knew best. Vegetables of all colors are anti-inflammatory in nature. It’s always best to eat the rainbow of colors. Think red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, green chili peppers, dark, leafy greens, light green cruciferous veggies, and on and on.
If you’re going to enjoy sipping a hot (or cold) tea, go green. Green tea has so many proven health benefits that it’s really hard to go wrong drinking 2-3 cups a day. Get the organic version when you can, and enjoy this simple drink for its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Many of the spices in your spice cabinet have anti-inflammatory, healing properties. The best ones to cook with are ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, fenugreek, black pepper, cloves, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Get creative with these spices and mix and match. You might be surprised what you come up with. For example, cinnamon’s an excellent addition to sauteed greens. Who knew?
Yes, red wine really is good for you. In moderation of course, as any kind of alcohol in excess can damage the liver. Red wine with your dinner is the way to go. A couple glasses with a meal has anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s great for heart health and even lifts your spirits. If you can purchase organic wine, do it. But, any red wine will do, really.
Avoid inflammatory foods and toxins
Just as anti-inflammatory foods do us good, inflammatory foods do us harm. You’ll want to avoid the following foods, which contribute to chronic inflammation, especially when eaten often:
- Refined sugars
- Processed and packaged foods like chips and crackers
- Refined, simple carbs like white breads and white pasta
- Trans-fats, or foods like hydrogenated vegetable oils
- Sodas and sugary, carbonated beverages
- Processed meats like lunch meat, bologna, hot dogs and sausages
- Prepackaged sweets like cakes, cookies, and candy
- Alcohol in excess
- High fructose corn syrup
I view yoga as the absolute best form of movement because it’s innately intelligent. It targets not just the physical body, but also the mental and emotional one. The ancient yogis were so smart when they developed this life-giving practice. Not a day goes by when I don’t practice some form of yoga, whether that means physical movement in the form of asana, or deep breathing in the form of pranayama, or some form of meditation. And now we know that the practice of this ancient healing art form even helps us decrease inflammation. Studies like this one, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, explain how yoga can actually reduce inflammatory markers. If yoga’s not your thing, you may wish to give tai chi a try. It’s been proven to be highly beneficial in reducing stress, which also means reducing inflammation.
As you can see, there are all sorts of wonderful ways to get rid of inflammation. I hope you try all of them, and integrate them into your daily routine. You’ll lead a much happier, healthier life when you do!