By reducing chronic inflammation — also known as low-grade or systemic inflammation — you may be able to boost your defense against several major diseases. In addition to fine-tuning your diet and overall self-care, you can reduce chronic inflammation with the help of certain natural substances and alternative therapies.
Why You Need to Reduce Inflammation
Unlike acute inflammation (in which the immune system responds to infection or injury by activating inflammatory chemicals that combat foreign substances), chronic inflammation isn't beneficial for the body. Often resulting from lifestyle factors like stress and poor diet, chronic inflammation occurs when the immune system continually releases those inflammatory chemicals -- even when there are no foreign invaders to fight off.
By working to reduce chronic inflammation, you may be able to protect against a number of conditions shown to be inflammation-related, including:
How to Reduce Inflammation Naturally
Here's a look at several science-backed approaches to reducing inflammation naturally:
Maintaining a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (naturally available in foods like fish oil and flaxseed oil) and low in omega-6 fatty acids (found in foods like red meat and dairy products) may help lower inflammation and guard against diseases like breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and asthma, according to a research review published in 2002.
Shown to thwart the production of pro-inflammatory substances, omega-3 fatty acids are also available in supplement form.
Learn more about how to use supplements safely.
Preliminary research suggests that some herbs may help reduce inflammation. In an animal study published in 2007, for instance, scientists discovered that curcumin (a compound found in the curry spice turmeric) can overpower pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines. And in test-tube research published in 2005, investigators found ginger may reduce inflammation more effectively than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin).
In fresh or dried form, both turmeric and ginger can be used in cooking. If you're considering the use of any type of herbal supplement in your efforts to reduce inflammation, make sure you consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.
People who regularly practice yoga may have reduced levels of interleukin-6 (a marker of inflammation), according to a 2010 study of 50 women. Analyzing blood samples from the participants, researchers observed that those who practiced yoga had 41 percent lower levels of interleukin-6 than those who didn't practice yoga.
More Ways to Reduce Inflammation
Making healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle should be your first step in reducing inflammation. The following approaches may have an inflammation-fighting effect:
- managing your stress (possibly with the help of mind-body practices like meditation and tai chi)
- avoiding smoking
- limiting your alcohol intake
- exercising regularly
- getting sufficient sleep
Following a diet that focuses on anti-inflammatory foods is also considered essential to reducing inflammation.
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