Keep It Cool: Everyday Habits To Help Calm Inflammation

Inflammation happens when white blood cells gather to protect the body from invaders. When it happens occasionally, inflammation can help the body, such as when you scrape your elbow. But chronic inflammation can develop into health problems, including arthritis, heart disease, and even cancer.

Fortunately, there are ways to lower chronic inflammation. Some methods are simple, such as brushing your teeth and eating more vegetables. Others are more specific–think drinking a particular juice and washing your face a certain amount of times. Interested? Here are some everyday habits that will soothe inflammation.

Exercise Moderately But Consistently

A man does a plank during a fitness class.
Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images
Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images

Depending on how you exercise, working out could either worsen or heal inflammation. If you go overboard, you could add extra inflammation. But if you work out moderately and consistently, it can lower your inflammation.

In 2017, a study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that people only need to exercise for 20 minutes a day to soothe inflammation. When you do so, immune cells activate and fight off inflammation markers. Of course, you can exercise more, but aim for at least 20 minutes a day.

Take Care Of Your Teeth

A close-up shows a boy brushing his teeth.
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If you don’t care for your teeth, you’ll have more than just cavities. The inflammation in your gums can affect your entire body. One study found that people with gum disease are 40% more likely to get other chronic illnesses.

The more bacteria in your body, the more antibodies work to attack it, which leads to inflammation. According to Pamela McClain, the American Academy of Periodontology president, this extra inflammation can lead to diabetes and osteoporosis. Oral hygiene is an easy fix to future ailments, so you might as well start on it now.

Drink More Cherry Juice

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Tom Enos/Cherry Marketing Institute via Getty Images

Researchers have discovered that cherry juice is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Yes, whole cherries can combat inflammation as well. But pure cherry juice is much more concentrated. Eight ounces of 100% tart cherry juice is equal to about 50 cherries. By themselves, single cherries won’t have as much of an impact.

In 2019, a study in Food & Function explored the juice’s effect on the body. Scientists found that it reduces inflammation from chronic diseases, including diabetes, obesity, and heart conditions. You can thank cherry’s polyphenols that destroy biomarkers of inflammation.

The Benefits Of A Hot Bath

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@thomasdes/Unsplash
@thomasdes/Unsplash

If you feel too sore or tired to exercise, try taking a hot bath. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that baths elicit the “inflammatory response.” This is when the body detects inflammation and works to combat it. Exercise can do this, but hot water can too.

Scientists believe that taking baths could aid some chronic illnesses such as diabetes. The hot water improves blood sugar, blood pressure, and the body’s metabolism. Plus, a relaxing bath can help you sleep better, which also soothes inflammation.

Too Many Negative Emotions Can Cause Inflammation

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RyanMcGuire/Pixabay
RyanMcGuire/Pixabay

While experiencing negative emotions is normal, prolonged negativity can result in inflammation. In 2019, scientists from Pennsylvania State University discovered that harsh emotions–such as intense anger, stress, and anxiety–could influence the immune system.

In short, participants who had negative emotions several times per day had more inflammation biomarkers in the blood. Strong emotions hinder the immune system. When the immune system isn’t as active, it can’t tackle inflammation. The result is more inflammation simply from sustained, negative moods. Learning to manage emotions can go a long way in terms of inflammation.

Too Little Sleep Can Harm Inflammation

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Keith Beaty/Toronto Star via Getty Images

People who struggle to get enough sleep might have higher inflammation. A meta-analysis published in Biological Psychiatry concluded that people with sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, are more prone to inflammatory diseases and early mortality.

If less sleep creates inflammation, then inflammation also makes it harder to sleep. In 2018, researchers from Northwestern University found that inflammation can cause circadian sleep disorders. In other words, excess inflammation can make it harder to sleep. This quickly becomes a vicious cycle where insomnia leads to more insomnia. If you work on a regular sleep schedule, you’ll be healthier all-around.

…As Can Too Much Sleep

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Philippe PACHE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Just as too little sleep can spark inflammation, so can too much sleep. When people rest for too long, the body produces more C-reactive proteins, which raises inflammation. In fact, research in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that people who oversleep have more inflammation markers than those who sleep too little.

Why does this happen? Well, people who sleep for too long often have a lower quality of sleep. They might wake up several times a night or have restless dreams. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a healthy range is between seven and nine hours per night.

Eat More Fruits And Vegetables In General

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MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images

It’s not just children who need to eat their fruits and veggies at dinner. Consuming more produce can drastically lower inflammation. In 2010, a study by the American Dietetic Association discovered that eating fruits and vegetables reduces markers of oxidative stress in the body.

Thank the antioxidants in vegetables and fruits. These soothe stress in the body and combat inflammation. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend eating at least five or more servings of produce per day. If you want an easier technique, add one fruit and vegetable to every meal.

Buy More Red, Blue, And Purple Foods

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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Have you ever wondered why some fruits and vegetables are red, blue, or purple? The reason is that these foods contain anthocyanins. According to registered dietitian Katherine Brooking, anthocyanins do more than just color the food. They also have a variety of health benefits.

A 2018 study in Biomed Research International concluded that anthocyanins are great at tackling inflammation. They can help to combat heart disease, obesity, and brain illnesses. If you want to reduce inflammation, eat more colored fruits and vegetables. Blueberries, purple potatoes, rhubarb, pomegranates, and beetroot all contain anthocyanins.

When In Doubt, Get A Massage

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Austrian Archives/Imagno/Getty Images

Believe it or not, getting a massage may decrease inflammation in the body. A study in the journal Science Translational Medicine says that massages can “rub out” inflammation. They do so by slowing the production of two inflammatory cytokines.

Massages can also reduce pain by improving blood flow, relieving tension, and stretching out muscles. Another study from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggests that massage increases white blood cells, white target inflammatory markers. That’s not to say that a single massage will cure you of inflammation, but it could help.

Wash Your Face Twice A Day

A woman washes her face in a sink.
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Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Did you know that acne, skin allergies, and lesions are evidence of inflammation? Keeping your face clean can reduce inflammation in your skin. Research in Pediatric Dermatology determined that washing your face twice daily is the best way to ward off inflammation.

However, pay attention to the type of cleanser that you use. According to a 2014 study, harsh cleansers can increase dryness and irritability. Buy a gentle cleanser, especially if you have sensitive skin. Don’t exfoliate every day; aim to exfoliate once every couple of days.

Do Your Best To Reduce Stress

A man presses his fingers against his forehead.
Erich Auerbach/Getty Images
Erich Auerbach/Getty Images

Stress isn’t just mental; it can also impact your body. Research in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that people with chronic stress have a larger amount of interleukin-6 in their bodies. Interleukin-6 is a biomarker that creates inflammation.

Over time, stress can create enough inflammation to worsen chronic diseases. Dr. Alka Gupta of the Brain and Spine Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine says that managing stress can reduce inflammation. “When we teach people how to reduce stress…we see decreases in some of these inflammatory side effects,” she told Everyday Health.

Develop A Meditation Routine

A woman meditates in front of the setting sun.
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EyesWideOpen/Getty Images

Practicing meditation can benefit the body physically. Scientists from Carnegie Mellon University discovered that meditation and mindfulness practices could reduce inflammation. Participants only needed a three-day relaxation retreat to teach them how to meditate consistently.

Meditation works by connecting areas of the brain that usually have weak links. According to the researchers, those who practice mindfulness had a lower amount of Interleukin-6, an inflammation biomarker. The Institute for Functional Medicine says that mindfulness can improve symptoms of arthritis, stress, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. Try it and see how you feel!

Stretch!

A woman practices yoga in a studio.
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Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

If you don’t already stretch often, you may want to start. Stretching is a form of exercise that some physical therapists, such as Dr. David Nolan, recommend you practice daily. According to a 2017 study, people who stretch regularly have a lower number of inflammatory biomarkers.

One of the most popular stretching methods is yoga. Research in Psychosomatic Medicine found that people who practice yoga have lower levels of interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein. These proteins can create inflammation in the body. Stretching for a few minutes daily can reduce inflammation over time.

Drink A Hot Cup Of Green Tea

A teapot sits next to a cup of green tea.
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John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images

Green tea is a potent anti-inflammatory. According to a 2016 Japanese study, green tea can combat inflammation through catechins. Catechins are a type of flavonoid that reduce oxidative stress in the body.

Some research even suggests that people can soothe arthritis symptoms with green tea. In 2016, scientists discovered that green tea can tackle inflammation in the joints. The tea is not a cure for any inflammation, but it can help. Drinking a cup of green tea daily might help. If you don’t want extra caffeine, opt for a non-caffeinated green tea.

Another Reason To Stay Hydrated

A man picks up a water bottle from an ice tub.
Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Staying hydrated can improve your health in several ways. For one, it can lower inflammation in the body. According to a 2012 study in Medical Gas Research, drinking water can lower oxidative stress. Water flushes out toxins in the body and acts as an antioxidant.

Other studies determined that hydrogen-rich water helps inflammation more. In July 2020, researchers discovered that hydrogen-enriched water increases antioxidants in the body. Those antioxidants fight off inflammation in the body. Whether your water has extra hydrogen or not, drinking more can improve your body’s inflammatory response.

Get More Vitamin D

Three eggs are behind vitamin D supplements.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you want to inhibit inflammation, get more vitamin D. People with low vitamin D levels are more likely to have adverse health effects. According to a 2012 study, vitamin D tells the body to combat inflammation. The body then releases proteins that heal any inflamed organs.

However, low levels of vitamin D do not trigger this response. Adults require around 400 IUDs of the vitamin every day. You can receive some from the sun, but you’re better off getting it from food. Eggs, mushrooms, dairy, and oily fish such as tuna supply plenty of vitamin D.

Go Nuts!

A variety of nuts lie in a pile.
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English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images

A simple and delicious way to reduce inflammation is to eat more nuts. In 2016, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition had participants eat just one ounce of nuts daily. That’s equal to 24 almonds, 18 cashews, or 35 peanuts. People who ate nuts had far fewer inflammatory biomarkers than those who didn’t.

Nuts contain alpha-linolenic acid. This is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that combats inflammation, says registered dietitian Marisa Moore. Nuts also supply many nutrients, such as vitamin E, magnesium, and vitamin B6. Eat a handful of nuts to improve your health.

Watch Out For Added Sugars

A person takes a teaspoon of sugar from a large pile.
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Luis Ascui/Getty Images

Preservatives in packaged foods can sneak more sugar into your diet. If you eat too much sugar, you could get more inflammation. In 2018, a systematic review examined over 60 studies on sugar. The scientists connected sugar intake with chronic inflammation.

Sugary drinks are perhaps the worst culprit. A study in Nutrition Research concluded that sweetened drinks greatly increase inflammatory biomarkers in the body. When the liver digests sugar, it produces free fatty acids. In turn, these can trigger inflammation. Try to lower your sugar intake by checking the ingredients before buying something new.

Sprinkle More Turmeric Into Your Meals

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Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Turmeric is an orange spice often found in curry. But you can use it in many other meals for its taste and anti-inflammatory effects. In 2003, scientists analyzed several studies on turmeric. All studies noticed a strong anti-inflammatory effect in both human and animal tests.

Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects come from the chemical curcumin, which also creates an orange color. Research in the journal Foods suggests that curcumin can benefits many inflammatory diseases from arthritis to metabolic syndrome. Add some turmeric to soups, stir-fries, meats, and vegetables.

Increase Your Fiber Intake

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Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Fiber does more than regulate your bowels. Scientists have found that eating fiber can assuage inflammation as well. In May 2020, research in Nutrition Review concluded that fiber can reduce inflammation in the gut.

Fiber aids the body by populating the gut with healthy bacteria. These bacteria help the immune system fight off inflammation. Researchers from the University of South Australia believe that a high-fiber diet could lead to a low-fiber body. It can even alleviate inflammation from cancer radiation. Receive more fiber from whole grains, beans, lentils, vegetables, and fruit.

If You Want An Extra Boost, Take Supplements

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Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you need a nutrient boost, you can try taking supplements that reduce inflammation. An analysis in Surgical Neurology International studied many anti-inflammatory supplements, including curcumin, capsaicin, frankincense, and omega-3 fatty acids. All had varying effects on inflammation.

Before you begin taking daily supplements, talk to your doctor. Some supplements might conflict with medications, and there’s a chance that you already receive these vitamins in your diet. Nutritionists agree that eating whole foods is better than taking supplements because the body can absorb food vitamins more effectively.

Work To Achieve A Healthy Weight

A woman steps onto a scale to weigh herself.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Obesity and inflammation go hand in hand. Weight gain causes a specific type of inflammation called metainflammation. According to a 2018 study, people who achieve a healthy weight have far less inflammation than those who are overweight or obese.

High-fat foods such as fries, soda, and potato chips are also called “inflammatory foods.” They produce more acid in the body, which results in more inflammation. According to Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, losing weight can lower the number of inflammation biomarkers in the body. But you only need to drop weight if you are overweight or obese.

Try Taking Probiotics

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Getty Images

Probiotics are bacteria and yeasts that improve your gut health. Consuming probiotics through food or supplements can alleviate inflammation. According to a 2009 study, probiotics can enhance the immune system. This promotes the “inflammation response,” where the body combats inflammation.

Another study in Nutrients determined that probiotics lower inflammation in the gut. Researchers believe that it can even relieve symptoms of chronic inflammatory disease. You can receive food from foods such as yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, and kombucha. If you need an extra boost, some supplements provide probiotics as well.

Another Reason To Quit

An empty ash tray sits on a table with X's marked with tape.
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Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

Substance abuse can greatly impact a person’s inflammation levels. Scientists have long known that tobacco increases inflammation. In 2005, research in PLoS Medicine found that smoke can create inflammation in the lungs, heart, and blood.

In 2016, scientists discovered why this happens. According to them, nicotine triggers a type of white blood cell called a neutrophil. This blood cell releases molecules that later cause inflammation. This pales in comparison to the more dangerous illnesses caused by substance abuse, including cancer. There’s another reason to quit if you haven’t tried already.

Shorten Your Happy Hour

An empty wine bottle and glass sit in a dark room.
Tom Kelley/Getty Images
Tom Kelley/Getty Images

Excessive drinking can ruin the body’s inflammation levels. Research in the World Journal of Gastroenterology determined that drinking only increases inflammation. Plus, it inhibits the body’s ability to combat inflammation. It’s a double-edged sword.

On the flip-side, moderate consumption might be able to lower inflammation. In 2016, a study in Age and Aging found that moderate drinking can reduce inflammation slightly. For reference, moderate consumption is one glass a day for women and two for men. Do not use large glasses; limit it to a single serving.

If You Need A Different Workout, Try HIIT

In a boxing class, three women practice a HIIT workout.
John Phillips/Getty Images for KOBOX
John Phillips/Getty Images for KOBOX

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, where a person exercises intensely in short spurts. If you do it correctly, HIIT can aid chronic inflammation. During a 2018 study, participants who did HIIT for ten weeks had significantly lower inflammation than those who didn’t.

HIIT can relieve inflammation in both the muscles and brain, specifically the hippocampus, where a person’s emotions come from. On the downside, you don’t want to go overboard. Naturopathic physician Kellyann Petrucci says that practicing HIIT three times per week is enough to reduce inflammation.

Incorporate More Fish Into Your Diet

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Certain types of fish are perfect for an anti-inflammatory diet. Choose a fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, omega-3s absorb molecules that would otherwise cause inflammation.

Another study in Food & Nutrition Research determined that fish combat cytokines. These cytokines would otherwise make inflammation if left unattended. For fish high in omega-3s, eat more tuna, sardines, and salmon. Oily fish are your best bet, and they are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods you can eat!

Eat Healthy Fats Instead Of Harmful Fats

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John Fredricks/NurPhoto via Getty Images

While unhealthy trans fats can trigger inflammation, healthy fats prevent it. Research in the journal Circulation determined that healthy fats–such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats–can reduce inflammation. They destroy pro-inflammatory chemicals in the blood, including C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6.

Healthy fats come from olive oil, nuts, avocados, fish, and chia seeds. Eating more of these lower inflammation over time. In 2016, researchers suggested that these fats can even lower inflammation from obesity and diabetes. However, remember that unhealthy fats will do the opposite.

Try Intermittent Fasting

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John Keeble/Getty Images
John Keeble/Getty Images

Intermittent fasting is a technique that makes food off-limits for a certain amount of time per day. For example, you might eat during an eight-hour span and avoid food for 16 hours at night. Although intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, research has found that it can reduce inflammation.

According to a 2019 study, fasting lowers the amount of pro-inflammation cells called monocytes. Over time, monocytes can create inflammation in the blood. Plus, fasting can multiply healthy bacteria in the gut. In turn, this will feed the immune system to fight off inflammation.