You’ve likely heard about inflammation if you’re focused on maintaining good physical and mental health. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to damage or injury that needs to be healed. For instance, when you get a bruise, your body responds with acute inflammation at the site of the injury until it is healed. However, when the body mistakenly thinks there is damage that needs to be repaired, chronic inflammation can develop. Chronic inflammation is linked to various diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders, and more. Fortunately, you can decrease inflammation by modifying your lifestyle. This article briefs which parts of the body are affected by chronic inflammation, recommends what foods you should and shouldn’t eat and lifestyle habits that help reduce inflammation.
Various parts of the body affected by inflammation
- Joints: Chronic inflammation may make your joints stiff, leading to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
- Heart: Chronic inflammation may increase plaque buildup and contribute to arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), heart failure, and coronary heart disease.
- Lungs: Chronic lung inflammation may cause pulmonary fibrosis, asthma, and COPD.
- Digestive system: Inflammation can damage the digestive tract and may contribute to Inflammatory bowel disease and leaky gut syndrome.
- Brain: Chronic inflammation can cause degenerative brain conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- Liver: Chronic inflammation can scar the liver, leading to liver cirrhosis.
- Pancreas: Chronic inflammation can damage the pancreas, contributing to pancreatitis and diabetes.
Furthermore, chronic inflammation aggravates psoriasis and eczema. Also, it may lead to sleep disorders and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. It can also cause weight gain, leading to obesity, which can lead to many lifestyle disorders.
So, as you can see, inflammation can harm several parts of the body and stall various bodily functions. Hence, to maintain a healthy body and mind, you need to control inflammation. Controlling your diet is one of the first steps towards managing inflammation. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the next crucial action.
Foods that can reduce inflammation
✓ Specific spices
Looks can deceive, and that’s true with kitchen spices. They look tiny, and they are used in tiny amounts. But the benefits are unbelievable.
Some spices do an awesome job of reducing inflammation. So, if your inflammation markers are high, do include the following spices every day. They are not a do-it-all medicine but have a significant positive impact.
- Turmeric: Several studies show that the active compound curcumin in turmeric reduces inflammation. Consume a pinch of turmeric daily. Add to your food directly or use it in cooking. Take turmeric along with pepper powder because the body absorbs curcumin better when taken along with pepper.
- Ginger: Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds, including gingerols and shogaols. You may consume ginger juice extracted from a thumb-long fresh ginger. You may also drink ginger tea made by boiling shredded ginger in water.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon also contains anti-inflammatory properties and works well in diabetes and heart diseases. Add a pinch of cinnamon powder to your tea soup or curry.
- Garlic: Garlic has anti-inflammatory plant compounds that may inhibit pro-inflammatory proteins linked to chronic inflammation. You can use the chopped garlic in raw form or cooking.
Pro Tip:While using garlic, peel the clove, chop it, and allow it to interact with air. This allows the compound allicin to form, which possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
- Black pepper: Called the King of spices, black pepper is also effective in reducing inflammation and relieving pain.
Pro Tip: Aim to include all of these spices at different times of the day so that the effects will be additive and provide substantial relief.
Avocados are touted for healthy fats, but do you know they also possess anti-inflammatory properties? Along with vitamin E and carotenoids, avocados can reduce inflammation when taken regularly.
Ayurveda hails this as a superfood with incredible medicinal properties. Emblicanin and the polyphenols, including gallic acid, ellagic acid, corilagin, and quercetin in amla, have unarguable anti-inflammatory effects on the body.
Eat one raw amla a day. Or you may grind an amla with yogurt and drink it as amla buttermilk. Amlas can also be cooked and consumed.
✓ Leafy greens
Leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and collard greens, are high in antioxidants and reduce inflammation anywhere in the body. Moringa leaves also possess excellent anti-inflammatory effects, and having a bowl of moringa soup along with a pinch of turmeric and black pepper powder can provide relief in joint pain and other inflammation-related pain.
✓ Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are another buzz among anti-inflammatory foods that help reduce inflammation. Studies show that eating vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, turnips, and cauliflower can lower chronic inflammation and can aid in relieving symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, cancer, etc.
✓ Nuts and seeds
Most nuts and seeds are high in healthy fats and certain anti-inflammatory agents, contributing to lowering cholesterol and inflammation markers.
Snacking on nuts and seeds and sparingly using the seeds in your porridge, soups, or curry greatly reduce inflammation in the body.
Walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, flax seeds, and chia seeds are all great options for your daily diet.
Foods to avoid
Including all the good foods may not always be feasible, and that is alright. However, avoiding bad foods is crucial if you are serious about reducing inflammation. The following are the food groups you must avoid to the maximum possible extent to manage inflammation-induced diseases.
✘ Cut down sugar
The most notorious problem-creator of this century is refined sugar. It sneaks its way into several tasty foods, including baked products, cookies, chocolates, sweetened drinks, etc. Sugar consumption is one of the main reasons for chronic inflammation. So avoid all sugary foods.
✘ No unhealthy fats
Fat sits at the top of the food pyramid, which means we all need it, but in small amounts. Some nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, and E, are absorbed by the body only when taken with some amount of fats. However, eating unhealthy fats can be detrimental to health, especially when consistently taken in large amounts. Mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats, whereas saturated fats are not so healthy. The other type of fats, transfats, are totally unhealthy.
People aiming to reduce inflammation must include healthy fats like olive oil and avocadoes and limit saturated fats like ghee and coconut. And they must avoid transfats found in processed foods at all costs.
✘ Limit dairy
Inflammation occurs in people with lactose intolerance when they consume dairy products. Some people are born lactose intolerant and can never take dairy. Some people have mild lactose intolerance, which may increase in intensity with age and may have symptoms like irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal bloating, etc. And some may develop lactose intolerance suddenly. Such people must avoid or limit dairy products, including milk and cheese. Generally, yogurt is tolerated by these people.
Five habits that can help lower chronic inflammation
1. Increase fibre consumption
A healthy gut is crucial for your overall physical and mental health. And many studies suggest that fibre-rich foods are good for your gut. They act as prebiotics, helping your gut microbiome to flourish. The good bacteria in the gut release substances that can reduce inflammation body-wide.
So include dietary fibre, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds in every meal. Just fruits and veggies won’t be enough fibre. Be sure to include whole grains for enough roughage to pass through your gut.
2. Try intermittent fasting
Fasting for 12-14 hours lowers inflammation markers and flushes out toxins from the body. A simple way to implement this is to have an early dinner before 8 p.m. and then break your fast by 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. the next day.
3. Practise low-impact exercises and avoid high-impact exercises
Low-impact exercises like walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and yoga lower inflammation markers. Regular exercise is vital to manage inflammation-triggered diseases. However, you must avoid high-impact activities as they aggravate inflammation further.
4. Have a good sleep routine
Several studies link poor sleep to increased inflammation in the body. So, having a regular sleep routine is important to lower inflammation. Going to bed at the same time daily, having a 1-hour no-gadget time before sleep, and practising relaxation techniques are a few ways to improve sleep.
5. Mindfulness meditation
Meditation and practising mindfulness not only reduce stress levels but the inflammation markers as well. Some studies also found that meditation curbs the release of cytokines usually associated with inflammation.
The bottom line
Lifestyle diseases are becoming a major cause of death in people worldwide. And inflammation contributes significantly to causing many lifestyle disorders, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, etc.
While a qualified doctor must treat chronic inflammation-triggered diseases, you can make certain lifestyle modifications to lower inflammation levels.
Some of them include diet modifications, low-impact exercises, meditation, adequate sleep, and intermittent fasting. These changes, along with eating the right foods and avoiding the bad foods, remarkably help in reducing inflammation.