25 Healthy Ways to Fight Inflammation
Inflammation is a buzzword that we hear over and over (and over!) again. And there’s a good reason for it: inflammation can cause a host of different symptoms, including joint pain, headaches, and skin rashes, and contributes to dozens of ailments, ranging from depression to heart disease.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is actually a perfectly normal bodily response, designed to kick into gear when we are exposed to germs or an injury. For example, healthy inflammation looks like mucus production when you’re sick, which helps you expel whatever virus or bacteria you’ve come into contact with. It can also look like swelling, redness, and pain when you twist an ankle, which is a result of healing blood cells rushing to the area to help.
Inflammation only becomes detrimental when it becomes chronic or spins out of control. And unfortunately, factors like poor sleep, chronic stress, an imbalanced diet, and sedentary lifestyle can trigger our inflammatory response to jump into gear for no good reason, which can sabotage our health and well-being.
Read next: Trying to Reduce Inflammation? 4 Foods to Avoid (and What to Eat Instead)
So, what can we do to keep chronic inflammation at bay? Luckily, there are a ton of anti-inflammatory practices you can do throughout the day to help your body keep your inflammation level in a healthy place. Here are 25 ways to fight inflammation today:
1. Do some yoga
Yoga is a tried and true method for decreasing stress, which is a cause of inflammation.
2. Take time out to eat your meals
Our ability to digest food and absorb nutrients is key for fending off inflammation. And according to May Zhu, RD, founder of Nutrition Happens, when we eat in a hurry or on the go, we’re more likely to experience abdominal pain or GI discomfort.
“Try setting aside a specific time to sit down and eat without distractions,” she says. “Take a deep breath before eating and see if you notice a difference,” she says.
3. Start your day with a green smoothie
Starting your day with a healthy green smoothie can fuel your body and help fight inflammation by providing it with phytonutrients and fiber, which are found in leafy greens like kale and spinach.
Read next: 5 Tips for Making (and Ordering) Low-Sugar Smoothies
4. Add collagen to your smoothie
If you want to support your body’s healthy response to inflammation, try adding collagen powder to your coffee or smoothie in the morning. Taking collagen has been shown not only to promote healthy collagen production, but emerging science suggests it also supports a healthy inflammation response.
5. Get chilly
“Cold exposure via an ice bath or cryotherapy is great for fighting inflammation,” says Mary Spirito, health coach and founder of Ritual and Routine. How? Extreme cold fends off inflammation because it changes the way blood and other fluids flow through your body by causing your blood vessels to restrict and then open back up. When they do, they can flush inflammation-causing metabolic waste out of the body more efficiently. If ice baths and cryotherapy sound a little too extreme, you can also try a cold shower, which will provide a lot of the same benefits!
6. Try the 4-7-8 breath
The 4-7-8 breath is incredibly simple (but also incredibly effective!) way to decrease stress and calm anxiety. All you have to do is inhale for four seconds, hold your inhale for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Done!
Read next: 10 Small Ways to Change a Bad Mood Fast
7. Replace refined sugar
Refined sugar means anything with white table sugar, including cookies, cereals, and other sweets. According to nutritionist Rashi Chowdhary, “Refined table sugar has no essential nutrients and contributes to insulin resistance, cravings, inflammation, ageing, and bad gut bacteria. So what should you eat instead? Fruit is one of the best sources of natural sugar and Chowdhary also recommends raw, unrefined honey and manuka honey, which have lots of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
If you’re wondering what the heck “turning inward” means, you’re not alone. It basically means doing an internal check-in with your emotions and brain. One of the best ways to do this is meditation, but if you’re traditional meditation seems too time-consuming, consider trying shower meditation.
9. Mind your gut health
“Always consider the impact something might have on your gut microbiome before you do it,” says Marvin Singh, M.D., integrative medicine physician and gastroenterologist. “This includes the foods you eat, how much sleep you get, how you react to things, how much time you give yourself for self-care, how well you avoid toxins in products you use and in your environment, and how much time you give to laughing and enjoying life with friends and family.”
10. Cut down on sugar
“When cortisol levels surge, they start to imbalance your insulin production. And when insulin starts rising, that causes inflammation,” says Bindiya Gandhi, M.D., integrative and functional medicine doctor. If you want to prevent this snowball effect from occurring, you can tackle it from both directions by working to decrease stress while also cutting down on sugar, which helps keep your insulin production healthy and balanced.
11. Eat chia seeds for breakfast
Chia seeds are full of beneficial fiber and also minerals, protein, and healthy fats — Basically, they’re an inflammation-fighting superfood. If you’re not just how to use chia seeds in the kitchen, try this Simple Chia Seed Pudding for breakfast, or opt for Moody’s decadent-feeling Strawberries and Cream Chia Pudding.
12. Prioritize good sleep
If you want healthy inflammation levels, good sleep is an absolute must. Not to stress you out, but just one night of poor sleep can disrupt your gut health, your energy levels, and your stress response. To prioritize sleep, turn off all your electronic devices at least 30 minutes before you plan to shut off the lights. You’ll know you’ve gotten a great night of sleep when you wake up feeling like you can take on the day, your mind is sharp, and you don’t need to rely on caffeine or sugar to make it through the 3 p.m. slump.
Why Your Sleep is Off: 10 Real Life Ways to Fix It
13. Set boundaries
Lack of sleep is a surefire way to set off inflammation. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can trigger inflammatory mediators in the body, called cytokines. Luckily, one of the best ways to safeguard sleep is to set boundaries with technology. You can do this by turning off unnecessary notifications and setting time limits on certain apps. Instead, reserve at least an hour of “wind down” time where you read, journal, or take a bath.
14. Make fish for dinner
Fish is chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are famous for their anti-inflammatory properties — and salmon is especially high in these heart-healthy fats.
Recipe: 5 easy ways to make salmon for dinner.
15. Do a gentle workout
HIIT workouts and long runs are amazing, but if you do them too often or for too long, they can actually backfire and cause inflammation in the body. If you’ve been hitting the gym hard and feel like you never quite recover from your workouts, you may want to try a low-impact activity like pilates, swimming, or a long walk, and see how your body feels tomorrow. If you’ve overdone it, opting for a gentler form of exercise can actually benefit your fitness goals.
Do it from home: 8 Awesome Streaming Workouts to Sweat to at Home
16. Take a probiotic
Inflammation response is triggered by our immune system, which in turn is reliant on gut health. “The gut microbiome is the majority shareholder in the immune system,” Dr. Singh says. “By protecting your gut health, you can influence the composition of your gut microbiome and its impact on how inflammation is modulated.”
17. Try foam rolling
Most of us aren’t getting a massage on a regular basis, but you can get a lot of the same benefits — like muscle relaxation, stress relief, and pain relief — from foam rolling at home for 5 or 10 minutes. The best part? A foam roller is insanely cheap and easy to use. Plus, it’s not exactly time consuming: you can hit every part of your body in about ten minutes.
18. Take it easy on the alcohol
Alcohol is famous for causing unnecessary inflammation in the body. If you want to decrease your inflammatory burden on the body today, try swapping a glass of wine or beer for a nonalcoholic beverage, like this Ginger-Beet Mocktail.
19. Try turmeric
When it comes to supporting healthy inflammation, there’s perhaps nothing more powerful than turmeric, a source of curcumin which has been shown in multiple studies to be a therapeutic agent for issues as wide-ranging as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. While turmeric is fantastic in food, taking it in a supplement form is the best way to get all the milligrams you need daily for a better immune response.
More on turmeric: What Turmeric Really Does For Inflammation
20. Take an Epsom salt bath
Magnesium plays an important role in the nervous system and immune system, so it only makes sense that a magnesium sulfate bath would be a good way to decrease inflammation (and it’s been proven in studies, too). If you struggle to fit in a bath at night, try taking one in the morning. (Trust us!)
More on magnesium: Magnesium And What It Really Does For Your Total Health
21. Get out into nature
Spending time in nature is one of the simplest things you can do to support health inflammation levels. In fact, a study showed that exposure to green space reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. So take a few minutes to take a walk through the neighborhood — ideally to a green place with some trees.
Get outside! Why Taking a Walk in the Woods Improves Your Gut Health
22. Try arnica
You’ve probably crossed paths with arnica before: it’s usually sold as a pain relief cream, but it can also be taken internally for inflammation. Arnica is also known as Mountain tobacco, Leopard’s bane, or Wolf’s bane, and is a flower that has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries. While we’d love to see more studies on it, there’s definitely some early evidence to suggest that it has anti-inflammatory properties (and we always keep a tube in our bathroom cabinet).
23. Say no to processed foods
Processed foods, especially those that have inflammatory oils (like corn, safflower, sunflower, soy, and vegetable oil) in them are known for exasperating inflammation due to their high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Instead, opt for these healthy oils, which — thanks to their high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids — actually work to decrease inflammation instead of create it.
Give yourself a break: 5 Ways to Turn Things Around When You’re Having the Worst Eating Day Ever
24. Try CBD
CBD, one of the main therapeutic compounds found in the hemp plant, is quickly gaining fame for its anti-inflammatory properties and luckily, you have a ton of products to choose from. All you have to do is narrow it down depending on your lifestyle and your health goals.
Read more: 10 Ways to Try CBD
Laughing with friends, at a comedy special, or while playing with your pet or kid is a great way to signal to the body that it doesn’t need to be stressed or inflamed. Today, try to carve out some time to play and have a laugh — your body will thank you.
Good food brings people together. So do good emails.