Skip to content

21 Healthy Ways to Fight Inflammation

March 15, 2024

Inflammation is one of those health buzzwords that we hear over and over (and over!) again. And there’s a good reason for it: It can cause or contribute to a host of problems ranging from joint pain, headaches, and skin rashes, to major illnesses like depression and heart disease.

Related: Sign up to receive delicious recipes, expert advice, and shopping tips in your inbox!

What is Inflammation?

The thing is, inflammation isn’t always a problem. It’s a perfectly normal bodily response, designed to kick into gear when we’re exposed to germs or an injury. For example, if you’ve ever twisted your ankle, you probably noticed some swelling, redness, and pain. That’s a result of healing blood cells rushing to the area to help — and that’s healthy inflammation. After a while, if you’ve rested (or otherwise treated the injury), the inflammation dies down, and so does the swelling and pain.

Inflammation becomes detrimental when it doesn’t go away, and becomes chronic. Factors like poor sleep, chronic stress, an imbalanced diet, and a sedentary lifestyle can trigger our inflammatory response to jump into gear for no good reason and stay there, which can sabotage our health and well-being. Chronic inflammation is associated with serious ailments including autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.

So, what can we do to keep chronic inflammation at bay? Luckily, there’s a lot, and many steps you can take are simple to incorporate into your daily life.

1. Do some yoga

Yoga is a tried and true method for decreasing stress, which is a cause of inflammation. Even just a few minutes of yoga daily can make a difference.

2. Eat slower

Digesting food and absorbing nutrients are key for fending off inflammation. And according to dietitian May Zhu, when we eat in a hurry or on the go, we’re more likely to experience abdominal pain or GI discomfort. In fact, research shows that there may be a link between fast eating and erosive gastritis, inflammation of the soft lining of the stomach that can lead to ulcers.

“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.”

3. Break out the air fryer

Research has linked fried foods with inflammation — but sometimes we just crave that crunch. You can make your favorite crisp foods in a healthier way by air frying them. No air fryer? Use your oven’s or toaster oven’s convection setting.

4. Sprinkle in some collagen

If you want to support your body’s healthy response to inflammation, try adding collagen powder to your coffee or smoothie in the morning. You can also bake with it, or add it to pancake or waffle batter. Research shows that taking collagen can help promote our own healthy collagen production, and it also supports a healthy inflammation response.

5. Chill out

“Cold exposure via an ice bath or cryotherapy is great for fighting inflammation,” says health coach Mary Spirito. How? Research indicates that cold plunges may help reduce the amount of damage that happens to muscles after they’re challenged, as in a tough workout, and less damage leads to less inflammation. If ice baths and cryotherapy sound a little too extreme, try a cold shower, which will provide some of the same benefits.

6. Take a deep breath

Science is coming around to what yoga and meditation practitioners have known for centuries: Deep breathing can improve your health. Studies show that employing deep breathing techniques can reduce inflammation caused by stress. The 4-7-8 breath is one such deep breathing technique, a simple but effective way to decrease stress and calm anxiety. All you have to do is inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Box breathing is another simple technique that’s just as effective.

7. Replace refined sugar

You probably don’t need us to remind you that refined sugar is harmful. “Refined table sugar has no essential nutrients and contributes to insulin resistance, cravings, inflammation, aging, and bad gut bacteria,” says nutritionist Rashi Chowdhary. When you want something sweet, grab some fruit instead. For cooking and baking, Chowdhary recommends using raw, unrefined honey.

8. Meditate

Like yoga, meditation is an ancient practice that’s gained a lot of buzz and popularity in recent years. Though it can seem intimidating, there are now many resources to help you get started, including simple-to-use apps like Calm, Headspace, and Ten Percent Happier. If you’ve tried it in the past and think you “failed” because you couldn’t clear your mind, good news: You’re actually not supposed to clear your mind. The best part: Meditation is proven to be effective for managing stress and soothing inflammation, and even just a few minutes a day can make a big difference. One simple way to start is with shower meditation.

9. Mind your gut health

Poor gut health is linked to a number of health problems, including inflammation. “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. Incorporate chia seeds

Chia seeds are full of beneficial fiber and also minerals, protein, and healthy fats. Eating fiber helps keep your gut microbiome in good shape, which means less inflammation. Plus, a nutrient-rich diet also supports a healthy gut. There are lots of delicious and easy ways to add chia seeds to your diet, from pudding to energy bites, jam, and more.

11. Prioritize good sleep

If you want healthy inflammation levels, good sleep is an absolute must. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can trigger inflammatory mediators in the body, called cytokines. Not to stress you out, but even just one night of poor sleep can disrupt your gut health, your energy levels, and your stress response. To optimize sleep, turn off all your electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed, make your bedroom dark and cool, and try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day (yup, even on weekends).

12. Make fish for dinner

Fish is chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are famous for their anti-inflammatory properties. Salmon is especially high in these heart-healthy fats, but you can also get them in mackerel, tuna, and sardines, as well as walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds.

13. Exercise… but not too much

HIIT workouts and long runs are amazing and can lead to lower inflammation — but if you do them too often or for too long, they can actually backfire and cause you to be more inflamed. If you’ve been hitting the gym hard and feel like you never quite recover from your workouts, you may want to try a lower-impact activity like pilates, swimming, or a long walk. Also, if you like those harder workouts, make sure you allow yourself enough rest in-between to manage inflammation.

14. Brush your teeth

We brush our teeth to keep germs at bay in the mouth and fight off gum disease — and it turns out that doing so can protect the whole body. Your mouth leads to both your digestive and respiratory organs, so diseases in the mouth can travel to other critical parts of the body. Also, chronic periodontal disease, affecting the tissues around your teeth, is associated with an inflammatory response throughout the body. So, along with easy dental checkups and a sparkling smile, keep your mouth healthy to fight inflammation.

15. Foam roll

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, pain relief, reduced muscle inflammation — from foam rolling at home for 5 or 10 minutes. The best part? A foam roller is cheap and easy to use. Take 10 minutes while you’re watching your favorite show and get rolling.

16. Ease up on alcohol

Alcohol can cause inflammation in a couple of ways: For one, drinking itself can lead to intestinal inflammation. Plus, drinking alcohol, even in amounts considered “moderate,” also blunts sleep quality, which in turn can trigger inflammation. Cutting back can make a real difference; try swapping a glass of wine or a beer for a nonalcoholic beverage, like this Ginger-Beet Mocktail.

17. Try turmeric

Turmeric is well-known for its inflammation-fighting ability. The spice is a source of curcumin, which studies indicate has a therapeutic effect on arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and other inflammation-related ailments. While turmeric is fantastic in food, it’s also available in supplement form in larger doses. Ask your healthcare provider if it’s a good idea to add a turmeric supplement to your regimen.

Related: What Turmeric Really Does For Inflammation

18. Go outside

Spending time in nature is one of the simplest things you can do to support healthy inflammation levels. Being outside supports several markers of health that can reduce inflammation: It boosts gut health, encourages movement, reduces stress, and more. So take a break and walk through your neighborhood or to a park — you’ll feel better, and improve your health.

19. Avoid processed foods

You likely already know that ultra-processed foods, like packaged chips, candy, and soda, are not great for you. In fact, a recent review of research linked them to 32 harmful health effects, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, asthma, and more. The review pointed to changes in the gut microbiome and increased inflammation from ultra-processed foods as the mechanisms causing the poor outcomes. Stick to a diet rich in whole foods, as close to the way nature made them, as much as possible to keep inflammation at bay.

20. Try CBD

CBD, one of the main therapeutic compounds found in the hemp plant, is known for its anti-inflammatory effects. These days, you have a ton of products to choose from. With drinks, tinctures, skincare products, and more to choose from, there’s sure to be a CBD product that fits your budget and lifestyle.

21. Laugh

That old saw “laughter is the best medicine” just might be true. Research shows that laughing — with friends, at a comedy special, or while playing with your pet or kid — relieves stress and reduces inflammation. So go ahead, watch the movie you heard was so funny, grab coffee with that friend who cracks you up — you deserve some fun, and it can boost your health, too.

Read next: Trying to Reduce Inflammation? 4 Foods to Avoid (and What to Eat Instead)

Good food
people together.
So do
good emails.

What our editors love right now

Good food brings people together.
So do good emails.

  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden