The term ‘inflammation’ seems to be everywhere lately and rightfully earned. There’s a widespread call to reduce inflammation through diet and lifestyle practices, and we are here to tell you that this is for good reason!
So, how and why exactly is one to lower inflammation? Isn’t some level of inflammation necessary to help the body heal from injury, experience muscle adaptation, and defend itself from harmful outside offenders?
Yes, inflammation can be a good thing. It can be a lifesaving thing! In small amounts and primarily during acute periods, inflammation is a normal and necessary immune response to our ourselves and our outside environment. For example, if you sprain your ankle or catch a virus and your body doesn’t kick on the protective inflammatory pathways, we will have bigger issues than some pain, redness, and achiness.
However, the problem comes in when inflammation is more than necessary and chronic. Experiencing consistent, chronic, and especially widespread inflammation can wreak havoc on our muscles and joints, hormones, and so much more. At worst, chronic inflammation can lead to chronic fatigue and even an autoimmune condition.
So, in this post, we’re going to outline exactly how to reduce inflammation in the body. We’ll review what inflammation is, what causes inflammation in the body (including one you probably never thought of), and the 10 things we do ourselves and recommend to our clients to help reduce inflammation in the body fast.
Oh, and if you think you know the top tips to reduce inflammation, think twice! I know we have at least 3 things to help that you probably haven’t thought of.
What is Acute Inflammation?
Acute inflammation is a short-term process in response to tissue injury and usually appearing within minutes or hours. This type of inflammation is characterized by five cardinal signs: heat, redness, swelling, pain, and loss of function.
Acute inflammation can go as far as saving our life, so knocking inflammation in its entirety is not the goal. When inflammation becomes harmful is when it becomes chronic.
That said, there are many things you can do to improve your overall health, so in this post we will take you through how to reduce chronic inflammation in the body for whole-body health and maximal performance.
What is Chronic Inflammation?
Let’s first discuss what inflammation is in a chronic sense. Inflammation is regulated by T-Regulatory cells and is an intricate part of the human immune system.
Chronic inflammation can last for weeks, months, or years and is the root cause of most if all disease/disorder. Generally, the time period and effects of chronic inflammation vary from person to person and also depends on an individual’s root cause.
Genetics, stress, health history, and lifestyle factors will all influence a person’s health from an inflammation perspective.[2,3]
What Causes Inflammation in The Body?
Every living, breathing, human is exposed to inflammatory foods and outside environmental factors, though some people more than others. A variety of things can cause inflammation ranging from stress, to food, infections, you name it!
Our body is equipped to protect itself, but over time the body’s innate and adaptive immune systems become dysregulated, which contributes to chronic inflammation.
The Innate vs Adaptive Immune Systems and Their Role in Inflammation
Innate immunity refers to nonspecific defense mechanisms that come into play immediately or within hours of an antigen’s appearance in the body. This would prevent the spread of pathogens in the body such as parasites, viruses, and bacteria.
For example, when you eat mushrooms, this system recognizes the fungus as non-self but doesn’t see a major threat, and thus letting it scoot on by, unscathed
As more and more foreign invaders enter the body, antibodies are built up in response to an antigen such as the wheat in your bagel.
Adaptive immunity refers to antigen-specific immune response. This is where things get more complex. Once an antigen has been recognized by the body as a foreign invader, the adaptive immune system creates an army of immune cells specifically designed to attack that antigen.
Adaptive immunity creates “memories” that makes future responses against a specific antigen more efficient. AKA your digestive issues, headaches, skin issues, or fatigue after a night of wine and pasta.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
Infections may lay dormant in our body and when not properly treated, may cause our own immune system to become confused. This confusion may lead to our own body actually resisting its own natural defense system aka our immune system!
or were once presented acutely and went untreated, causing the tissue to start resisting the host defenses. The tissue may remain inflamed and build antibodies to other areas of the body without the apparent signs and symptoms until a later time.
That “later time” could be at any point, but typically triggered by a stressful time period or specific life event (Chaos at work, new infection i.e. COVID, difficulty with a kids or a spouse, etc.).
Researchers have discovered that psychological (mental/emotional/time or rush related) stress is correlated with a decrease in our cell-mediated immunity (aka there is a decrease in the cells our body produces to help fight for us), which likely explains why viral infections are more prevalent during periods of prolonged stress.
For example, Lyme disease often goes undiagnosed, causing the bacteria that causes the disease to spread and go into hiding in different parts of the body. Then, during times of stress or as life on the whole becomes more stressful, many develop various problems with the brain, nervous system, muscles and joints, heart, and more as the weakened immune system is unable to battle the underlying, undiagnosed, and pre-existing infection.
Many overlook the role that toxins play in chronic inflammation, mainly because, well, what all constitutes a toxin?
There are of course the more obvious environmental toxins such as bleach or cigarette smoke, but toxins are also spread on your food, pumped into your personal care products, all over your home via cleaning products or chemicals put off from paints or building materials, and in your drinking water.
- Toxins bind to proteins that your body uses to send signals such as for hormones to be properly regulated and for various bodily processes to work properly. When these toxins bind to these proteins, then they’re unrecognizable to the body leading to a disruption in or hormones and other natural chemicals. Our innate immune system (the first line of defense by sending fighter cells to control a harmful substance or infection) may fight these guys off one or two times, but eventually, the adaptive immune system (the part of our immune system that learns to recognize foreign invaders to enable quick responses in the future i.e. this is how a flu shot works) steals the show, signaling for a massive and excessive inflammatory response.
- With chronic, ongoing exposure your immune system will start creating antibodies to these proteins that will start fighting your healthy cells.
- Over time, the T-cells (healthy cells our immune system produces to help us fight and stay healthy) struggle more and more to distinguish between foreign invaders and our own bodies. This leads to what is called “molecular mimicry” where the body mistakes our own healthy cells and tissues for infectious pathogens.
- Molecular mimicry is one mechanism of autoimmunity that may present from toxic exposure and chronic inflammation.
- Queue fatigue, joint achiness, headaches/migraines, and skin issues. These are all indicative of low-grade chronic inflammation.
3. Inflammatory Food and Nutrient Deficiencies
Our modern-day food culture relies heavily on processed foods. Not only are these foods packed with ingredients that increase inflammation, but they also disrupt the gut microbiome and have undeniably been linked to chronic inflammation and disease.[6,7]
4. Modern Day Farming
Modern-day agriculture involves:
Let’s be honest, how often are you thinking about the pesticides and herbicides sprayed on your cereal and strawberries?
There is enough evidence to support that maybe you should start if you aren’t. Lets just highlight a few things:
- Glyphosate permeates our modern-day crops and actually enhances the damaging effects of other chemical contaminants and toxins.
- Glyphosate’s effect on human health is still under investigation, though the World Health Organization has reported that glyphosate may be carcinogenic, so we’d argue this cannot be good for keeping inflammation at bay!
- Not to mention, a 2013 report shows that GMO wheat and glyphosate may exacerbate gluten-related disorders by impairing digestion, damaging the gut lining, increasing intestinal permeability, and contributing to imbalanced gut bacteria.
- Celiac disease is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria 
Is avoiding glyphosate completely unavoidable? Realistically, no. The negative impact of glyphosate on the body is with chronic, daily consumption that is subtle, slowly manifesting over time as cells are damaged and immunity is continuously triggered.
So, long term exposure may compromise the beautiful integrity of the intestinal lining, making for the onset of chronic inflammation and disease.
On another note, when gut integrity is compromised nutrient depletion can be the result.
A study was performed comparing crop quality in 1940 versus 1991, and the results were jaw-dropping. The research showed:
- Boiled broccoli has 75 percent less calcium
- Carrots have 75 percent less magnesium, 48 percent less calcium, 46 percent less iron, and 75 percent less copper.
- Potatoes have 30 percent less magnesium, 35 percent less calcium, 45 percent less iron, and 47 percent less copper.
- Scallions have 74 percent less calcium.
- Boiled spinach has 60 percent less iron and 96 percent less copper.
- Watercress has 93 percent less copper.
Based on current practices, nutritional deficiencies are even more significant than levels demonstrated in this research 30 years ago!
(Usual disclaimer: FWDfuel Sports Nutrition is a participant in the Emerson Wellevate Associates program as well as the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.)
How to Reduce Internal Inflammation In The Body
1. Increase Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Okay so it’s probably not rocket science that antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies are a must when trying to achieve optimal health, but why?
We are going to get a little nitty-gritty here talking about reducing inflammation at the cellular level. Hello chemistry 101!
Processed foods, refined carbohydrates, industrial seed oils, conventionally-raised animals, and even environmental toxins contain free radicals through their processing and as a byproduct of metabolizing these foods.
Antioxidants work to intercept these free radicals from damaging healthy cells and prevent illness and reduce inflammation.
Free radicals are highly reactive, unstable substances that attack the closest stable molecule, that being our healthy cells! These free radicals start a chain reaction cascade of damaging healthy cells over and over and over again, which drives chronic inflammation over time.
3 Top Foods That Reduce Inflammation
1. Olive Oil
Olive oil as part of an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory foods. This oil is composed of a monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid, which has been reported to mitigate inflammatory pathways during acute and chronic inflammation.
Cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil is one of the least processed vegetable oils and therefore one of the best options for reducing inflammation. Not adding inflammation like other vegetable oils on the shelf!
Olive oil contains polyphenols and tocopherols which are antioxidants that act to protect the oil from oxidation. This is unlike the dressings, sauces, and other processed foods containing rancid vegetable oils that are often viewed as “health foods”.
Oils such as canola, corn, and soybean are highly inflammatory oils due to the lipid peroxidation they undergo with high heat processing.
Best Ways to Use Olive Oil on The Daily
- Toss your salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a nutritious and satisfying option. Most dressing and sauces sold on the shelf contain sugar and soybean/canola oil. Check your labels next time you’re in the grocery store!
- Prep your chicken or steak in rich olive oil marinade for 30 minutes before cooking
- Saute your cruciferous veggies with olive oil on low heat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder for a savory addition to your lunch or dinner!
While all nuts and seeds are packed with anti-inflammatory nutrients, walnuts are placed first for their nutrient profiles. Walnuts exceed the omega 3 fatty acid content of every other nut, and their vitamin E levels blow its competing nuts out of the water!
Antioxidants such as vitamin E actively protect cells against free radicals, which as we stated above, are unstable atoms that wreak havoc on healthy tissue in the body.
Still not convinced that you should shovel a handful of walnuts daily?
Walnuts and other nuts can help to improve the good bacteria in your gut and support immunological support. The impact of the gut microbiome cannot be overstated, and consuming nutrient-rich sources like walnuts daily may support inflammation reduction over time.
Best Ways to Use Walnuts on The Daily
- Toss a handful into your smoothie for a nutrient-dense, healthy fat that will leave you satiated and energized!
- Sprinkle on your morning oatmeal for a blood sugar balancing addition to your breakfast
- Spread walnut butter on a rice cake and top with banana for a midday snack
3. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Everybody’s favorite! Okay maybe not quite yet…but they should be! (Trust us, when they’re paired properly with other foods or cooked properly they’re incredibly delicious!)
This family includes but is not limited to:
- Swiss chard
- Bok choy
- Turnip greens
- Mustard greens
Green vegetables contain an abundance of nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, folate, sulforaphane, and carotenoids, which are powerful antioxidants known to fight a host of inflammation-driven diseases.
Before you know it you’ll be knocking inflammation and hey you might even start craving these beauties!
Best Ways to Use Dark Greens on The Daily
- Simply salted kale chips (click link for recipe and scroll to #3)
- Chop finely and add to your favorite salads or pasta sauces
- Saute with garlic, salt, onion, and pepper for a side to your main meal
The sky’s the limit when it comes to the dozens of anti-inflammatory foods out there, so if one of these 3 do not suit you, check out these 10 strongest antiinflammatory foods on earth and The 6 Best Anti Inflammatory Breakfast Foods to find the few that tickle your taste buds the best!
2. Balance Blood Sugar
People with diabetes aren’t the only ones who need to lower their blood sugar levels! Low-grade chronic inflammation can be driven by a number of things, one most commonly being blood sugar dysregulation.
The American Diabetes Association says 1 in 3 American adults has prediabetes, primarily caused by insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, where the body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin, prevents glucose from entering the cells and causes insulin to build up in the blood.
Insulin resistance may lead to a number of unfavorable symptoms including:
- Weight gain
- Inability to lose weight
- Hormone imbalance
- Mental, physical, and emotional stress
- Fertility issues
So what’s the story behind sugar and chronic systemic inflammation?!
It comes down to the repeated exposure of sugar (carbohydrates) into the bloodstream. When cells are constantly exposed to hidden sources of sugar, the body continuously secretes insulin to bring that blood sugar down.
While insulin is a necessary and life-saving hormone, it drives chronic inflammation when chronically elevated in the bloodstream for hours and days on end.
Now, you’re probably thinking about sugar in the context of pastries, ice cream, and candy. Yes, these are the obvious culprits, but sugar is found in so many other “health food” products, and many times disguised by fancy ingredient names.
Check your salad dressings, soups, and trail mixes for cane sugar or other ingredients with the suffix “ose” for many hidden sugar sources. Companies want to make the most amount of money, so the more palatable (tasty) the food is, the more you’ll buy.
For example, your “organic, non-GMO” vanilla yogurt is often loaded with as much or more sugar than you would find in a cup of ice cream.
Now, if it’s your birthday or another very special celebration don’t worry, enjoy the cake and ice cream!
The real issues arise when sugar is consumed day in and day out. Removing daily exposure to sugar is one simple, yet monumental change that will aid in knocking systemic inflammation and all it’s unfavorable effects!
A few ways to balance blood sugar naturally that does not involve cutting out carbohydrates entirely include:
- Eating a protein source at every meal and snack (especially in the morning) can help slow digestion, prevent post-meal blood sugar spikes, and increase feelings of fullness.
- Choosing high fiber, low-glycemic carbohydrates such as cruciferous veggies, brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, beans, and fruit with the skin. You may love your prized penne pasta, but how about some anti-inflammatory purple potato gnocchi to do the trick?
- Consume balanced meals every 3-4 hours versus only 1-2 large meals every day to allow for sustained energy. Smaller intakes of carbohydrates will also keep insulin levels at healthy levels.
3. Improve Sleep Hygiene
Arguably the most valued aspect of health is the thing that goes neglected before all else is sleep. Loss of sleep, even for a few short hours each night, can keep the body from recovering and repairing tissue overnight.
How Can Sleep Improve Recovery and Lower Inflammation?
Sleep is one of the most influential yet undermined tools for enhancing sports performance. Athletes typically experience more stress than the average person, therefore their need for good quantity and quality of sleep are exceptionally important.
- Immune system: During sleep, the immune system releases cytokines, vital proteins that are needed to fight infection, inflammation, and stress.
- Autophagy: The body’s natural recycling and cleansing of cells, a process that is needed to eliminate toxins, as well as to grow and repair tissue following intense training.
Not only can eating inflammatory food cause poor sleep quality, compromising sleep time with other activities like late-night TV watching, but phone scrolling through social media, or late night drinking can also conversely drive poor eating habits.
Improve Sleep Quality to Reduce Inflammation in the Body by:
- Reducing blue light exposure (Try using blue light reducing glasses an hour before bed if you need to look at screens. We use the super-cool looking UVEX Skyper glasses)
- Limiting coffee intake to 1-2 cups per day and not consuming after 12 pm
- Start a bedtime routine such as reading a book, meditating, and stretching 30-60 minutes before bedtime
- Eating adequate calories throughout the day
- Especially omega 3 rich fats
- Reduce late-night eating
- New research indicates that eating a diet full of processed and refined foods can immediately drive metabolic conditions.
4. Smart Supplementation
There tend to be two camps when it comes to supplementation. Either “supplements are worthless, you pee them out” or “taking these 15 supplements will cure your cancer”. Neither is true.
While you cannot out-supplement a poor diet and lifestyle, a diet rich in antioxidants and some additional supplementation (a supplement should be just that- a supplement) can be effective for reducing inflammation in the body. Also as we explained earlier, our modern-day agriculture does not contain the levels of nutrients that it once did, so supplementation is often needed to prevent deficiencies.
Here are 2 supplements to reduce inflammation supported by the research.
1. High-Dose Turmeric
This medicinal herb is one of the best anti-inflammatory supplements. It contains a biologically active compound called curcumin, which actively reduces inflammation in muscles and joints.
Check out our article on the top turmeric supplements for inflammation to see the turmeric supplement we use and recommend for our clients as well as a few surprising details on why this herb is so magical.
2. Professional Grade Fish Oil
The ability of omega 3 rich fish oil to fight inflammation is incredibly impressive. So if you’re not a fatty fish eater at least 2x per week, incorporating a fish oil supplement can help squash inflammation when taken alongside an anti-inflammatory diet.
We personally use and recommend two brands of fish oil: Nordic Naturals and Metagenics. Both of these screen for heavy metals such as mercury, have 3rd party testing to verify their quality, and won’t give you fishy burps. You may buy Nordic Natural Fish Pro Omega (try the “Mini” Omega if you have a hard time swelling large pills. This is the one Kylene uses) and Metagenics Omegagenics 1000 (this is the one Michael uses) off Amazon. However, we purchase all our supplements through Wellevate because they directly distribute each brand and supplement sold.
Sometimes off Amazon, since they’re sold by various sellers/distributors, you never know what you may be getting. We’ve personally received expired and questionable products at times when ordering from Amazon. Also, the prices on Wellevate tend to be much better on Amazon. If you use this link to create your account on Wellevate, you’ll receive the same discount we receive and free shipping on order over $49.
The only difference really is that we can’t provide direct links for each product on Wellevate. Just type the supplement name in the search box and select the quantity you want. If you would like to learn more about why we use Wellevate and how to create an account so you can use it yourself, check out the video below or read our post on Wellevate and the Top Supplement Brands in the World which breaks down what sets the top brands apart from others and includes a free guide on the top 5 supplements we use and recommend to clients to maintain optimal health.
Plant sources of omega 3’s such as avocado, nut & seeds, and olive oil are terrific to consume on a daily; however, our body cannot synthesize sufficient essential omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA), so it is crucial for us to get this through diet and supplementation.
Omega 3s can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines.
The need for supplementation should always be evaluated on a person by person basis, but if choosing to do so, ensure you’re purchasing from a quality company with third-party testing for purity.
5. Remove or Significantly Reduce Inflammatory Foods
There is no quick fix to health, especially when the body has endured months and years of inflammatory foods and environmental exposures. However, one’s diet can have the most influential impact.
It is understandable that one does not adopt an inflammatory diet overnight. It can take time and experience to slowly transition to sustainably-raised meat, less packaged foods, and minimal sugar.
However, if you truly want to know how to reduce inflammation in the body fast, the sooner you can remove or significantly reduce conventionally raised animal products, vegetable oils, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, the quicker the benefits will come.
Conventionally-raised Animal Products
The vegetable oil debacle is typically the shocker for most people.
Many educators, experts, media publications, and organizations, such as the American Heart Association, in the last few decades, have made statements advising people to swap their saturated fats with primarily polyunsaturated fats.
You can find your best polyunsaturated fats in avocados, nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans), chia/flax seeds, and cold-pressed oils, but so are many refined vegetable and seed oils.
These oils include:
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Soybean oil
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
You’ll find these oils in:
- Salad dressings
- Nut butters (a product with simply nuts and maybe sea salt is what you’re going for!)
Go grab the first packaged food that you see from your pantry and check the food label. The odds that the ingredient list contains one of these oils is pretty likely!
How are Vegetable Oils Causing Inflammation?
Saturated fats are stable fats. They are completely packed or “saturated” with hydrogen atoms leaving no room for double bonds (we’ll explain them in a sec). This is why these fats are good for cooking because their stability allows them to hold up well with heat and not turn into something harmful.
Back to the double bonds…
Double bonds are highly reactive…
The more double bonds, the more reactive, and the less stable. These things are IMPORTANT when considering human health! It’s not all about calories!
Polyunsaturated fats have the most double bonds, meaning they are the most reactive of the fats. These highly unstable substances are damaged easily and become rancid when exposed to heat, light, or air. This process is called lipid peroxidation, where they oxidize, become rancid, and produce free radicals upon consumption. Yuck!
This puts us in a very pro-inflammatory state, which as we know is the root of many, if not all diseases! The recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is 4:1 or less. However, the Western diet has a ratio of about 15:1.
These refined vegetable and seed oils are highly processed, allowing high amounts of air, light, and heat causing oxidation of the fats. Chemical solvents are typically used, then the oils are bottled in plastic and shipped to the store, where they stay for who knows how long…
THEN they are cooked with and heated in your most prized dishes.
The result = damaged fats. Not anti-inflammatory fats.
6. Practice Mindfulness and/or Meditation
Just like inflammation, occasional stress is likely and even helpful at times. However, our modern society has completely normalized the amount of day to day stress we endure.
But the problem when it comes to inflammation is that our lifestyle and diet will either feed or fight the problem.
Chronic stress can disrupt the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA) AKA our body’s natural hormones all working properly in response to stress. Too much stress = too much cortisol = chronic inflammation.
One of the most effective ways to down-regulate the HPA axis and thus reduce cortisol is with mindfulness and meditation.
Mindfulness and meditation have been shown to:
- Lessen perceived stress
- Downregulate central inflammatory pathways
- Improve immune regulation.[23,24,25]
Every person will respond a bit differently to these inflammation-reducing tips, so listening to your body will clue you in on whether you’re on the right track.
How to reduce inflammation in the body comes down to making various lifestyle changes such as decreasing inflammatory foods, increasing antioxidants, incorporating mediation, and improving sleep hygiene. If things still feel off despite making a few changes, you may want to consider reading about how an elimination diet will benefit you, check out our youtube video about an elimination diet for inflammation, or explore the benefits of anti-inflammatory supplements. Fatigue, constant stress, anxiety, and chronic inflammation can and will improve when the root cause is addressed!
Oh, and one more thing! Here is a bonus video for those who stayed until the end. Enjoy 🙂
How to Reduce Inflammation in the Body – 10 Top Tips is written by Abby Vichill for www.fwdfuel.com