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Inflammation is a natural process that helps your body heal and defend itself from harm. Unfortunately, it can sometimes run wild and become chronic.

Chronic inflammation can last for a long time—weeks, months or years—and may lead to various health problems. On the bright side, there are many things you can do to reduce inflammation and improve your overall health.

There are many things you can do to reduce inflammation and improve your overall health.
There are many things you can do to reduce inflammation and improve your overall health.

 

This article outlines a detailed plan for an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is your body’s way to protect itself from infection, illness or injury.

As part of the inflammatory response, your body increases production of white blood cells, immune cells and substances called cytokines that help fight infection.

Classic signs of acute (short-term) inflammation include redness, pain, heat and swelling.

On the other hand, chronic (long-term) inflammation is often silent and occurs inside the body without any noticeable symptoms.

This type of inflammation can drive conditions like diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease and cancer (1, 2, 3, 4).

Chronic inflammation can also happen when people are obese or under stress (5, 6).

When doctors look for inflammation, they test for a few markers in the blood, including C-reactive protein (CRP), homocysteine, TNF alpha and IL-6.

Bottom Line: Inflammation is a protective mechanism that allows your body to defend itself against infection, illness or injury. It can also occur on a chronic basis, which can lead to various diseases.

An Unhealthy Lifestyle Can Drive Inflammation

Certain lifestyle factors can promote inflammation, especially when they occur on a regular basis.

Consuming high amounts of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup is particularly bad. It can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity (7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

Consuming refined carbs, such as white bread, can also contribute to inflammation, insulin resistance and obesity (12, 13).

Eating processed and packaged foods that contain trans fats has also been shown to promote inflammation and damage the endothelial cells that line your arteries (14, 15,16, 17, 18, 19, 20).

Vegetable oils used in many kinds of processed foods are another culprit. Consuming them regularly results in an imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which leads to inflammation (21, 22, 23).

Excessive intake of alcohol and processed meat can also have inflammatory effects on the body (24, 25, 26).

An inactive lifestyle that includes a lot of sitting is a major non-dietary factor that can also promote inflammation (27, 28).

Bottom Line: Eating unhealthy foods, drinking alcohol or sugary beverages and getting little physical activity all drive inflammation.

How to Reduce Inflammation With Your Diet

If you want to reduce inflammation, eat less inflammatory foods and more anti-inflammatory foods.

Base your diet on whole, nutrient-dense foods that contain antioxidants and avoid processed products.

Antioxidants work by reducing levels of free radicals. These reactive molecules are created as a natural part of your metabolism, but can lead to inflammation when they’re not held in check.

Your anti-inflammatory diet should provide a healthy balance of protein, carbs and fat at each meal. Make sure you also meet your body’s needs for vitamins, minerals, fiber and water.

One diet considered anti-inflammatory is the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers such as CRP and IL-6 (29, 30, 31).

A low-carb diet also reduces inflammation, particularly for people who are obese or have metabolic syndrome (32, 33, 34).

Vegetarian diets have also been shown to help reduce inflammation (35).

Bottom Line: Choose a balanced diet that cuts out processed products and boosts your intake of whole, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods.

Foods to Avoid

Some foods are notorious for promoting inflammation.

Consider minimizing or cutting these out completely:

  • Refined carbs: White bread, white pasta, etc.
  • Desserts: Cookies, candy, cake and ice cream
  • Processed snack foods: Crackers, chips and pretzels
  • Certain oils: Processed seed- and vegetable oils like soybean and corn oil
  • Trans fats: Foods with “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients list
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption

Bottom Line: Avoid or minimize sugary foods and beverages, excessive alcohol and foods high in refined carbs and unhealthy fats.

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