Inflammation is like a trip to the dentist—sometimes painful, but occasionally necessary for good health. But if you had to spend every day in the dentist’s chair, you’d start to break down. So it is with our body and inflammation, a natural function of the immune system that, if it becomes chronic, can have deadly consequences. But there’s one surefire way to reduce inflammation, experts say. Read on to find out more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.
What Is Inflammation?
Basically, inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to injury or infection. For example: When you cut your finger, the area swells as the immune system sends white blood cells to the area; they release protective substances so healing can begin. Once that’s complete, the inflammation subsides. But some lifestyle choices cause inflammation within the body that doesn’t go away. And that can lead to serious health problems.
How Is Inflammation Harmful?
Over time, chronic inflammation can cause widespread bodily damage. According to Harvard Medical School, it’s believed that chronic inflammation can lead to:
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
“Over time, chronic inflammation can trigger your immune system to attack healthy tissue and organs in your body. When left untreated, prolonged chronic inflammation can increase your risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis,” reports El Camino Health.
What Causes Inflammation?
Obesity. Excess body fat seems to release substances throughout the body that cause inflammation.
Diet. Eating foods that contain added sugar, refined grains, saturated fat, trans fats, and omega-6 fatty acids can stoke inflammation.
Smoking and Alcohol. Toxins in tobacco and alcohol can cause widespread inflammation throughout the body.
Stress and Poor Sleep. Chronic stress seems to cause an inflammatory response in the body, which can damage the heart and immune system. People who have irregular sleep schedules are more likely to have inflammation than people with regular sleep patterns.
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The #1 Way to Reduce Inflammation, Says Science
Experts say that a number of lifestyle changes can reduce inflammation, but one stands above the rest.
The most effective method of reducing inflammation is weight loss, wrote authors from the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic in a 2020 paper on chronic inflammation. “For example, in patients with psoriatic arthritis which is chronic inflammatory arthritis, weight loss alone has been shown to be independently associated with clinically significant improvement in disease activity and inflammation,” they said.
According to a 2018 review of studies, losing weight can reduce the amount of inflammation in your body, and reducing your daily calories has an anti-inflammatory effect, no matter what diet you follow.
The Best Ways to Lose Weight (and Inflammation)
The best way to lose weight is to achieve a calorie deficit by eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise. A good diet for weight loss—and reducing inflammation—will focus on fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, fiber, nuts and omega-3 fatty acids (which are found in fatty fish like salmon). It will avoid processed foods, added sugar, saturated and trans fats, and simple carbs (all of which can worsen inflammation). Ask your doctor about what eating plan is best for you. As for exercise, the American Heart Association and American Cancer Association recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a combination of the two), every week. Examples of moderate-intensity exercise include brisk walking, leisurely biking, dancing or gardening, while vigorous exercise includes running, swimming or fast cycling. And to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.