Senior Health

6/14/2022 | By Robert H. Shmerling

Robert H. Shmerling, M.D., of Harvard Health Publishing, addresses the best ways to fight chronic inflammation – including healthy measures that make you feel better all around.

Question:

What are the best ways to fight chronic inflammation?

Answer:

Although inflammation serves a vital role in the body’s defense and repair systems, chronic inflammation can cause more harm than good.

The good news: there’s a lot you can do. And you may already be doing it. That’s because some of the most important ways to fight inflammation are measures you should be taking routinely.

Six of the most effective ways to fight chronic inflammation

1. Choose a healthy diet.

Individual foods have a rather small impact on body-wide inflammation, so no, eating more kale isn’t likely to help much. But making sure you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and legumes – sometimes called an anti-inflammatory diet – may reduce inflammation and lower risk for chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. Not only can these diets help inflammatory issues, but replacing foods that increase inflammation (such as sugary drinks and highly processed foods) benefits your body, too.

2. Exercise regularly.

Physical activity may help fight chronic inflammation in part, through regulation of the immune system. For example, exercise has anti-inflammatory effects on white blood cells and chemical messengers called cytokines.

3. Maintain a healthy weight.

neck inflammation photo by 9nongphoto Dreamstime. Harvard Health Publishing addresses 6 ways to fight chronic inflammation – inc.  anti-inflammatory measures that are healthy overall.

Because excess fat in cells stimulates body-wide inflammation, avoiding excess weight is an important way to prevent fat-related inflammation. Keeping your weight in check also reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, a condition that itself causes chronic inflammatory issues.

4. Manage stress.

Repeatedly triggered stress hormones contribute to inflammatory issues. Yoga, deep breathing, mindfulness practices, and other forms of relaxation can help calm your nervous system.

5. Do not smoke.

Toxins inhaled in cigarette smoke trigger inflammation in the airways, damage lung tissue, and increase the risk of lung cancer and other health problems.

6. To fight chronic inflammation, prevent related conditions, such as:

  • Infection. Take measures to avoid infections that may cause chronic inflammation. HIV, hepatitis C, and COVID-19 are examples. Practicing safer sex, not sharing needles, and getting routine vaccinations are examples of effective preventive measures.
  • Cancer. Get cancer screening on the schedule recommended by your doctors. For example, colonoscopy can detect and remove polyps that could later become cancerous.
  • Allergies. By avoiding triggers of asthma, eczema, or allergic reactions, you can reduce the inflammatory burden in your body.

Living an “anti-inflammatory life” isn’t always easy. But if you can do it, there’s an added bonus: measures considered to be anti-inflammatory are generally good for your health, with benefits that reach well beyond reducing inflammation.

© 2022 Harvard University. For terms of use, please see https://www.health.harvard.edu/terms-of-use. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Robert H. Shmerling