3 ways to reduce inflammation in the body

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on January 21, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


While inflammation is a necessary part of immune function, chronic inflammation can lead to serious health conditions that can contribute to long-term, ongoing problems. Reducing inflammation may help you manage pain and discomfort and improve your own health. Learn more about how to reduce inflammation in the body below.


You can easily check your body’s levels of hs-CRP, a key inflammation marker, from the comfort of home with the at-home inflammation test.


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Understanding inflammation

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to illness and injury. It helps the immune system repair damaged tissue while defending from any viruses, bacteria, and other invasive microbes. Without inflammation, a simple cut or wound would become severe, and any basic illness would become much more serious.

There are two types of inflammation—acute and chronic—which will be discussed in more detail below.

Acute inflammation

Acute inflammation is short-term inflammation. It happens when you scrape your knee, sprain an ankle, or come down with a cold. All of the effects of acute inflammation are localized to the area that has been injured or infected. Those effects most commonly comprise redness, swelling, heat, pain, and sometimes a little numbness.

These symptoms are all signs that your immune system is fighting off harmful microbes and/or beginning the healing process. The redness comes from blood vessels dilating to increase blood flow to the area, allowing for more oxygen-rich red blood cells. White blood cells swarm the area to heal the injury, causing the swelling. Pain comes as a result of prostaglandins creating blood clots, while the increased body warmth or fever acts as a deterrent for bacteria and viruses (many microbes succumb to high heat).

Chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation occurs over the long-term and affects the whole body as a persistent, low-level inflammation.

Where acute inflammation is caused by an injury or infection, chronic inflammation is caused by a perceived internal threat that often does not actually exist. This signals the immune system to snap into action and send white blood cells to an area of the body. With no damaged tissue to heal or harmful microbes to eliminate, the white blood cells can eventually start to attack healthy tissue and organs.

This can lead to autoimmune disease, which refers to diseases caused by your immune system mistakenly attacking the body. Chronic inflammation has also been linked to some severe health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and potentially some forms of cancer.

What causes chronic inflammation?

The causes of acute inflammation are fairly straightforward (essentially, any injury, illness, or infection), and acute inflammation will subside once the infection or injury has healed. (Related: Signs of inflammation in the body)

On the other hand, some potential causes of chronic inflammation include:

Allergies and sensitivities

Inflammation is a response to something that your body perceives as a threat. Sometimes that means a certain food, nutritional component, or substance that is in reality fairly harmless may be viewed as a threat by the immune system. This is the case for allergies and sensitivities, which are a reaction to a specific trigger that your immune system sees as dangerous. Recurrent exposure to the trigger can contribute to chronic inflammation.

Chemical exposure

Long-term exposure to certain chemical irritants can result in chronic inflammation. This usually happens in industrial work environments.

Autoinflammatory diseases

For some people, chronic inflammation can come from autoinflammatory diseases. These refer to a group of diseases that cause the immune system to malfunction. This may result from genetic mutations that interfere with the way that certain proteins in the body function.

How do you reduce inflammation in the body?

If you suspect you may be suffering from chronic inflammation, your first step should be to consult your healthcare provider. Chronic inflammation usually may mean that you have a more serious health condition. On top of talking to your healthcare provider, you can consider making some easy changes in your lifestyle to better manage and reduce your inflammation symptoms.

Eat the right foods

Studies on diet and its effects on chronic inflammation are ongoing, but there is an understanding that certain foods can promote or exacerbate inflammation. This includes:

  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Refined carbohydrates, including white bread and pastries
  • Fried foods
  • Trans fats
  • Red meat
  • Processed meats, like hot dogs, sausages, and deli meats
  • Omega-6 fatty acids, which are necessary but require more omega-3 fatty acids to balance out

While eating any single one of these foods will not instantly cause inflammatory issues, a diet that is high in these components can contribute to inflammation and cause other health issues. Limiting these foods with an anti-inflammatory diet may help keep inflammation low.

You can enhance these effects by switching to an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of foods that may reduce inflammation. A healthy diet high in anti-inflammatory foods tends to look like the Mediterranean Diet and should include:

  • Whole grains
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly leafy greens
  • Nuts
  • Fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, tuna)

Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider and/or nutritionist before making significant dietary changes.


To check for indicators of inflammation in your body, take the at-home inflammation test from Everlywell.


Exercise regularly

Regular exercise comes with many health benefits, helping you control your weight, build strong bones and muscles, and support your heart health. Research suggests that moderate exercise can act as an effective anti-inflammatory tool by supporting healthy immune function.

Guidelines generally suggest about 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week (this can be broken down into 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week). This can include anything from jogging to swimming to some strenuous gardening. Find an activity that works for you and is repeatable and enjoyable.

Reduce your stress

Constant, chronic stress can have some serious effects on your physical, mental, and emotional health. Stress causes the release of chemicals that can put some heavy burdens on your health, and that includes inflammation and the immune system.

Find some constructive ways to manage and reduce your everyday stress in order to reduce your inflammation level within the body. Exercise already goes a long way, but breathing exercises, yoga, and spending time with loved ones can help you build a healthy mind and balance out daily stressors.


Easily measure your levels of hs-CRP, a key marker of inflammation, from the convenience of home with the Everlywell at-home Vitamin D & Inflammation Test.


References

1. Understanding acute and chronic inflammation. Harvard Health Publishing. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

2. Food allergies and food intolerances. Harvard Health Publishing. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

3. Foods that fight inflammation. Harvard Health Publishing. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

4. 5 Foods That Can Cause Inflammation. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

5. Exercise … it Does a Body Good: 20 Minutes Can Act as Anti-Inflammatory. UC San Diego Health. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

6. Liu YZ, Wang YX, Jiang CL. Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017;11:316. Published 2017 Jun 20. Accessed January 21, 2021.

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