Inflammation is associated with so many life-altering conditions and diseases—from heart disease to obesity, diabetes, and many autoimmune diseases. And yet every day millions of Americans make choices that unwittingly promote chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is the result of an immune system imbalance. If we can redress that, we can help cut the risk for the aforementioned long-term health problems and help ease many of the near-term low-grade ills—like skin disorders, joint pains, digestive problems, migraines, anxiety and mood swings—that many people experience as a result of inflammation.
One of the most common contributors to inflammation is what we in the wellness community call “leaky gut syndrome,” triggered by alcohol, food sensitivities (for example, gluten), certain medications (like NSAIDs), low-grade gut infections (yeast, bacteria and parasites) and even chronic stress. These can cause damage to the lining of gut or the tight links between the cell wall, letting proteins and bits of bacteria into the bloodstream, setting off an inflammatory response throughout the body.
As grim as inflammation may be, there is some good news: you have the power to stop it, and in so doing, help protect yourself from a litany of health problems for years to come.
Here’s my preventive prescription: 14 start-them-today fixes to help you fight inflammation, and win:
1. Eliminate all processed foods.
If it comes in a box or a bag, or has more than two or three ingredients in the label, it’s a processed, made-in-the-lab “Franken-food” which will deliver little, if any, nutritional benefit. It’ll also most likely be loaded with gluten, sugar, trans fats and other irritants that can trigger an immune response and chronic inflammation.
2. Fill up on fresh, real food.
Eating fresh, local or organic produce is one of the easiest, healthiest things you can do to curb chronic inflammation. The more variety the better—you’ll feed the good bacteria that keep the gut lining strong, preventing leaks and inflammation.
3. Eat the inflammation coolers.
In addition to fresh produce, focus on other foods that help cool inflammation instead of processed foods, which have the opposite effect. Among my flame-taming favorites: wild salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and extra virgin olive oil.
4. Go heavy on spices.
Not only do spices add more flavor to your food, they also deliver an anti-inflammatory boost as well, so apply liberally and enjoy. Topping the spicy list of inflammation coolers: turmeric, ginger, rosemary and basil.
5. Nourish your gut with bone broth.
Bone broth is full of gelatin and collagen, which can sooth the intestinal tract and helps heal leaky gut. The gelatin and collagen also support your joints and bones, and reduces inflammation throughout your body. Bone broth is also easy to incorporate into your diet as a base for soups and stews.
6. Break up with Advil, Motrin, and alcohol.
If you’re someone who pops a few ibuprophen every day to manage aches and pains, or knocks back a few glasses of wine a night, you’re also throwing off the delicate bacterial balance in your gut, undermining the integrity of your gut wall.
The less over-the-counter “anti-inflammatory” meds or alcohol you consume, the better.
7. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics.
If your doc offers them, and it’s not a critical situation, you’re probably better off just saying no. Antibiotics kill bacteria, both good and bad, and like over-the-counter meds, they wind up disrupting your bacterial balance. That can contribute to leaky gut and chronic inflammation.
8. Focus on your oral health.
We all know that regular brushing and flossing is great for the health of your mouth—but the benefits go far beyond the obvious. Good dental hygiene also keeps the mouth’s bad bacteria from sneaking into the bloodstream and triggering inflammation.
9. Drop excess pounds.
Need another reason to lose a few? Fat cells fuel inflammation. Turns out, they secrete a type of hormone which contributes to inflammation, so keeping weight in check is a big way to keep it at bay.
10. Exercise more—but don’t overdo it.
Regular exercise is great, but pushing yourself to the limit with long, hard gym sessions is not. In fact, overtraining could actually promote chronic inflammation—so it may be time to rethink your approach.
To find the right balance, particularly as you get older, work with a qualified personal trainer, and trade those long gym marathons for shorter interval training sessions.
11. Soothe your mind and body with inflammation-taming meditation.
Relentless stress weakens your immune system and promotes inflammation. So fight back by giving your mind and body regular meditation breaks—even just a few minutes of meditation first thing in the morning can help.
12. Sleep off the inflammation.
When you cut corners to the point where you’re sleeping less than six hours a night, you’re putting your body in the inflammation danger zone. Give yourself seven to eight hours a night of quality sleep, so that your body has the time it needs to restore, refresh and repair. Coming up short night after night can promote oxidative stress which leads to chronic inflammation.
13. Try an inflammation-cooling detox.
I find that a great way to quickly put the breaks on inflammation is by doing a detox, which helps eliminate toxins, irritants and allergens, for a period of 14 days.
14. Maximize your anti-inflammatory powers with supplements.
Another way to support your body’s anti-inflammatory powers is with supplements. My favorite inflammation fighters include vitamin D3, Omega 3 fish oils, the powerful antioxidant inflammation-tamer curcumin, and well as the anti-inflammatory blends I created for my practice. I also recommend green powdered drinks to fortify the gut and body with powerful phytonutrients.