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What should I avoid if I want to reduce inflammation?

By Kat Osorio

Inflammation is an inevitable part of being human, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When our bodies are sick or injured, a little bit of inflammation is what we need to heal and repair. It’s when inflammation gets out of check and becomes chronic that we need to take a closer look at our lifestyles for factors that are known to cause inflammation. 

  1. Processed foods: Foods that come in a box or bagcontain additives, fillers, and artificial substances that can cause increased levels of inflammation in the body, such as colorings, flavorings, and preservatives. Foods that come from the earth and are relatively unaltered contain the life-giving nutrients that out bodies need to maintain essential processes and keep inflammation at bay. 
  1. Alcohol: Alcohol not only causes intestinal inflammation, it also makes it harder for your body to regulate that inflammation. It impairs gut function, making it more difficult for you to adequately digest and absorb nutrients, and liver function, reducing your detoxification capacities. If you’re hankering for a cocktail, choose a virgin option instead like a mock-tail, herbal tea, or smoothie.
  1. Smoking: Smoking causes increased levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein and white blood cell count, which are associated with a higher risk for future cardiovascular events. It causes inflammation of the lungs and airways, impairing proper function. Alternatives to smoking include exercising or spending time outside, doing a hobby, or calling a friend.
  1. Poor sleep: Proper sleep is necessary for the body to recuperate and restore overnight, which is why inadequate sleep can promote high levels of inflammation. Practicing good sleep hygiene by avoiding electronics and stressful media before bed, sleeping in a cool, dark room, and avoiding caffeine in the latter part of the day, are the makings for a restful night’s sleep.
  1. Sedentary lifestyle: Making sure you get in some movement every day is crucial to maintaining lower levels of inflammation. Depending on the day, this may manifest as working out, taking hikes, or simply making an effort to take the stairs and stand rather than sit. Physical activity is also a great stress reliever, which has a secondhand effect on reducing inflammation.

If you experience any particularly inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, or even allergies, try addressing these factors. You might be surprised by the results!

References:

Liu, Y. Z., Wang, Y. X., & Jiang, C. L. (2017). Inflammation: the common pathway of stress-related diseases. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience11, 316. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00316

Smoking and inflammation. (2005). PLoS Medicine2(6), e198. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0020198

Wang, H. J., Zakhari, S., & Jung, M. K. (2010). Alcohol, inflammation, and gut-liver-brain interactions in tissue damage and disease development. World Journal of Gastroenterology16(11), 1304–1313. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v16.i11.1304