Common Habits That Cause Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation occurs when white blood cells protect the body ailments. Occasional inflammation is healthy; however, chronic inflammation can contribute to chronic diseases, according to a 2021 study. And everyday habits–such as sitting for hours or venting about your schedule–can increase inflammation. Although you might not expect it, these everyday habits are bad for your health.

Not Paying Attention To Trans Fats

Trans fats are the most dangerous type of fat. In 2002, researchers concluded that trans fats create inflammation markers.

A nutrition label lists trans fats.
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Scott Olson/Getty Images

According to research in PLoS ONE, trans fats lower nitric oxide production in cells. When your cells are harmed, your body prompts inflammation to get rid of it. Over time, this might result in chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Check a product’s ingredients for trans fats.

Venting About Your Busy Schedule

Did you know that complaining about a busy schedule can be as stressful as doing it? Health and fitness coach Sarah Honey-Lawson says that recounting your schedule can trigger your body’s stress response.

A woman holds her hand up to a man's face to get him to stop talking.
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“By…telling everyone about your long to-do list, you are triggering a stress response from the body that will increase levels of cortisol, adrenaline, and cause inflammation,” she told Bustle.

Lighting Certain Scented Candles

Some scented products, including candles and air fresheners, release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These negatively interact with other chemicals in the air, and some are carcinogens, according to the American Lung Association.

A person holds a lit scented candle.
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Rebecca Peterson-Hall/Unsplash

A study in Environmental Health confirmed that some VOCs can cause inflammation in the airways. Look for non-toxic candles with organic ingredients.

Not Wearing Sunscreen Daily

The American Academy of Dermatology advises people to put on sunscreen every day. If you don’t, you won’t just get burned; you will get more inflammation.

A young woman rubs sunscreen onto her shoulder.
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Clara Margais/picture alliance via Getty Images

“Exposure to UV light causes inflammation,” dermatologist Ellen Marmur told Vogue. In the morning, apply sunscreen or a moisturizer with SPF. While outside, replenish sunscreen every few hours.

Sitting For Hours On End

Many people sit for long periods during work. However, this isn’t healthy. In 2014, researchers found that a sedentary lifestyle creates inflammation markers that might lead to type 2 diabetes.

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According to CNN, researchers recommend standing every 20 to 30 minutes. Get some water, stretch, or walk a lap around the office to reduce inflammation.

“Catching Up” On Sleep Every Weekend

Many people sleep sparingly during the week and then catch up on rest over the weekend. Family physician Jaclyn Tolentino says that this can cause “low-grade inflammation.”

A woman is asleep in her crumpled sheets.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 2008, researchers discovered that losing sleep–even for one night–can cause inflammation. You are better off establishing a consistent sleep schedule than mixing it up every day.

Drinking Soda (Even Diet Soda) Regularly

Every can of soda can increase inflammation. During a 2011 study, researchers noticed that soda spikes CRP (c-reactive protein) levels, which is a marker of inflammation.

A woman drinks from a coca cola bottle.
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Even diet sodas can increase inflammation, according to Consumer Reports. Sodas raise cholesterol, which is an inflammatory response. An occasional soda is fine, but do not drink them regularly.

Browsing On Your Phone In Bed

Quality sleep is key to managing inflammation. Phones and laptops emit blue light, which messes with the body’s natural sleep cycle.

A man scrolls through his iPhone while lying in bed in the dark.
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According to the National Sleep Foundation, blue light causes people to lose sleep. As you get less sleep, you’ll receive more inflammation forms in your body. Even long sleep can prompt inflammation if it is restless.

Eating A Lot Of Condiments

Many condiments, such as ketchup, sriracha, barbecue sauce, and teriyaki sauce, contain a high amount of sugar. Sugar increases inflammation markers, says a 2018 study in Nutrients.

Bags of condiments are offered at a restaurant.
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Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you want more flavor, use spices instead. In 2020, research from Penn State concluded that adding spices to any meal can lower inflammation.

Not Managing Stress

Occasional stress is normal; it is your body’s way of getting stuff done. But unmanaged chronic stress spawns consistent, unhealthy inflammation.

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In 2019, a study in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that stress, inflammation, and depression are all closely related. If you work on quelling stress, you might spare your body from inflammatory diseases in the future.

Ignoring Oral Health

Cardiologists are concerned about patient’s oral health. According to Harvard Health Publishing, research has connected gum disease to coronary heart disease.

Water pours onto a toothbrush filled with toothpaste.
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Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

If you do not brush and floss daily, inflammation can form in your mouth, says the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. This inflammation might even descend into your heart.

Eating Processed Foods

Processed foods sell because they are quick and convenient. However, they are flavored with salt, preservatives, and sugar, all of which contribute to inflammation.

Packages of processed foods are served on a plane.
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In July 2021, researchers determined that processed foods alter gut bacteria. This imbalance causes inflammation, and over time, it raises the risk of inflammatory bowel disease. Avoid processed foods when you can.

Exercising Too Vigorously

Exercising is healthy, but overdoing it can trigger inflammation. According to the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, over-exercising creates stress that causes low-grade inflammation.

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Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Doctors recommend that people get 150 minutes of exercise per week. If you do more than that, or if you feel sluggish and depressed after a workout, you’re probably overdoing it.

Eating White Bread

Eating white bread, pasta, and rice can increase inflammation. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a study found that white bread raises inflammatory markers.

A white bread sandwich is in a ziplocked bag.
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Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

These processed grains are high in sugar, which spikes your blood sugar. In turn, this triggers inflammation as your body tries to cope with the excess sugar. Switch to whole grains.

Consuming Energy Drinks

While energy drinks can wake you up, they are not equivalent to coffee. They tend to have more high fructose corn syrup and way more caffeine.

Monster energy drinks stand on a table next to Coca-Cola.
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David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Holistic health coach Connie Rogers explains that caffeine is an “endocrine disruptor,” which mimics your own hormones. Too much can trigger a stress response and spread inflammation throughout the body.

Passing Up Egg Yolks

Egg whites technically have less fat, but they also contain fewer vitamins. All of an egg’s nutrients exist in the yolk, and these can combat inflammation.

Chefs crack eggs open to make a big omelet.
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JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images

In particular, vitamin D can soothe inflammation. According to the Journal of Inflammation Research, vitamin D regulates the immune system and protects the body from inflammatory damage.

Not Quitting

Smoking is one of the worst habits for inflammation. According to a 2005 study in PLoS ONE, tobacco damages the heart and respiratory systems. This damage triggers inflammation.

A man blows smoke from a cigarette.
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Abid Katib/Getty Images

If someone smokes consistently, they likely have chronic inflammation. The same goes for chewing tobacco and vaping, all of which increase your risk of chronic diseases.

Eating Too Many Sweets

Sugar is the worst ingredient for inflammation. Harvard Health Publishing explains that sugar increases blood sugar, which kickstarts the immune response and prompts inflammation.

Candy is seen in a vending machine.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Processed sugars can even harm the muscles and spark joint inflammation, according to Cary Orthopedics. Avoiding sugar is not just about dessert; you should also watch out for added sugars in processed foods and artificial flavors.

Drinking Too Much

Experts agree that moderate drinking can fit into a healthy lifestyle. However, too much can spread inflammation throughout the body.

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According to a 2021 study, alcohol inflames the intestines. It also lowers your body’s ability to combat inflammation. The American Heart Association advises women to stick to one drink per day and men to only have two.

Not Managing Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for health. In Nutrition Research Reviews, a 2008 study linked obesity with chronic inflammation. People who are overweight will have less inflammation if they lose weight.

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alan KO/Unsplash

According to researchers from the University of Oslo, excess weight kickstarts the immune response. With the immune system constantly running, chronic inflammation is inevitable.