4 Golden Rules for Fighting Inflammation
By Emily Laurence
Keeping chronic inflammation far, far away is pretty much everyone's top wellness goal. While low-levels of short-term inflammation can actually benefit the body and protect it from infection, prolonged inflammation can lead to a whole slew of health problems, ranging from the frustrating (acne!) to the more serious (like chronic disease and autoimmune disorders).
Inflammation is complex, and chronic inflammation can be caused (or exacerbated) by a variety of factors, from diet to stress levels and other lifestyle factors. So what can the average person do about it? Functional medicine expert and The Inflammation Spectrum author Will Cole, DC and physician and How Not To Die author Michael Greger, MD, share their best inflammation-fighting tips that they wish everyone would follow.
1. Try an anti-inflammatory diet
While you may have to make some dietary tweaks depending on what does and doesn't work for your body, Dr. Greger says following an anti-inflammatory diet (limit potentially inflammatory ingredients like wheat, dairy, and sugar)is a great place to start if you have no idea how to eat. You can also fill up primarily on leafy greens, healthy fats, and produce high in antioxidants, and avoiding processed foods.
2. Fill up on fiber
There's a reason why people are so amped about fiber this year. Research has found that fiber can promote the growth of good gut bacteria, which can support the immune system (and thus help longevity and fight against inflammation). That's why leafy greens are so vital to an anti-inflammatory diet, Dr. Greger says—they're full of fiber. He says legumes are another fiber-rich source that works to lower inflammation. One scientific study found that eating legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, peas, and beans on a regular basis was linked to lower levels of inflammation in the body.
3. Incorporate anti-inflammatory spices into your meals
Dr. Greger says certain spices have been found to be especially effective in lowering inflammation. You can probably guess the biggie: turmeric. The curcumin in turmeric has been linked to improving inflammatory conditions ranging from arthritis and metabolic syndrome to even anxiety. Pair it with black pepper, which increases curcumin's bioavailability by 2,000 percent. Besides turmeric, Dr. Greger says garlic and ginger both rank high on the anti-inflammatory index. Make them staples in your anti-inflammatory diet.
4. Have a healthy stress management plan
Inflammation isn't just caused by food. "Stress is junk food for the soul," Dr. Cole says. Indeed, chronic stress is also associated with inflammation and other poor health outcomes. "Eating all these amazing foods that help lower inflammation can help regulate antioxidant pathways, but what's your relationship with other people? What's your relationship with your body, food, and the world around you? Because those things are also instructing an inflammatory cascade," Dr. Cole says. "So try to find balance in your life." Obviously, it's not easy to just be "less stressed"—the key is to have a variety of healthy coping mechanisms, from exercise to meditation, to help you better manage your stress.