5 Ways To Manage Inflammation Naturally

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is your body’s immune response to an irritant, such as infections, injuries, and toxins, in an attempt to heal itself (1). 

There are two types of inflammation: Acute and Chronic. 

Acute inflammation is what occurs when you scrape your knee or cut your finger. The damage of cells signals your immune system to dispatch an army of antibodies and proteins to surround and protect the area, creating visible redness and swelling. The whole process usually lasts for a few hours or days (2). This is a healthy response and is essential for keeping us healthy.

Having a healthy immune system is important for creating an appropriate inflammatory response. The right amount of inflammation aids healing and helps to protect the area.

Chronic inflammation, however, is what happens when the inflammatory process goes on for too long or if the inflammatory response occurs in places where it is not needed (3). 

As a result, the white blood cells swarm but have nothing to do (because there is no wound), and they may eventually start attacking internal organs or other healthy tissues and cells. Thus, contributing to the development of many chronic diseases (4, 5, 6, 7). 

Chronic Inflammation and disease development 

For example, chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease and stroke. It’s thought that the prolonged presence of inflammatory cells in blood vessels contribute to the buildup of plaque, which is then mistaken as a foreign object within the body by the immune system (8). 

So, the body will try to wall off the plaque from the blood flowing inside of the arteries. 

In cases where the plaque becomes unstable and ruptures, it forms a clot that blocks blood flow to the brain or heart–triggering a stroke or heart attack. 

Other chronic conditions caused by inflammation also include (9):

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases

Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation

Here are some of the symptoms of chronic inflammation (typically more subtle than acute inflammation’s) (10):

  • Fatigue
  • Poor digestion
  • Bloating
  • Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Unintended weight gain or loss
  • Mood disorders

As we mentioned earlier, not all inflammation is bad. Acute inflammation is needed for healing but anything that causes low-grade chronic inflammation should be avoided.

We've compiled a list of 5 natural ways to help avoid chronic inflammation.

#1 – Avoid inflammatory foods

You can work to reduce inflammation in your cells and tissues by cutting down on the food groups that are known to trigger it:

  • Sugar – According to a 2015 review published in the Journal of Endocrinology, excess sugar consumption can increase your body’s levels of pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines (4). The excess fructose supplied by sugar has also been consistently linked to increased inflammatory markers in both mice and humans (5, 6, 7, 8). Perhaps more worryingly, fructose is also known to cause inflammation within the endothelial cells that line your blood vessels, which is a risk factor for heart disease (9). 
  • Processed dairy – Processed dairy products are rich in saturated fats that may worsen already-present inflammation by increasing the absorption of inflammatory molecules called lipopolysaccharides (10). Moreover, individuals with a milk allergy or who are sensitive to dairy can experience a direct inflammatory response from the immune system when consuming dairy-based foods (11). Avoiding or opting for unhomogonised dairy is a better as the fats are in their natural state and your body can process them more easily.
  • Processed vegetable oils – Processed oils (e.g. seed oils) are typically high in omega-6 fatty acids, but low in omega-3s. This imbalance in omega-6s (pro-inflammatory) to omega-3s (anti-inflammatory) has been hypothesised to promote inflammation in the body. Supporting this theory is a 2016 study, which found that rats fed a diet with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1 had much higher levels of inflammatory markers than those fed diets with ratios of 1:1 or 5:1 (12). 
  • Gluten – Because gluten activates zonulin, a protein that regulates the tight junctions of the small intestine, increased intestinal permeability is often observed in individuals sensitive to gluten. This, in turn, causes the immune system to respond with inflammation as it mistakenly believes that these larger particles passing through the intestine are harmful (13, 14, 15, 16).

#2 – Get 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep 

Studies have shown, over and over again, that a lack of sleep raises levels of inflammation in the body (17). 

Interestingly, it appears that just one night of insufficient sleep is enough to activate pro-inflammatory processes in the body (18). 

A 2008 study, for example, found that a single night of disrupted sleep resulted in significantly higher levels of NF-kB–a protein complex that acts as a powerful pro-inflammatory signal (19). 

Thus, adequate sleep nightly is crucial to avoid low-grade, systemic inflammation. For most adults, that’s between 7 to 9 hours a night (20).

If you have trouble falling asleep or clocking that amount of sleep nightly, though, limiting your blue light exposure (from computer screens and digital devices) can help. That’s because research has shown that exposure to blue light in the evening can suppress melatonin–the key sleep hormone–by more than 50% (21, 22).

So, to prevent tossing and turning in bed, avoid any exposure to blue light 30 to 60 minutes before turning in. That means no computers, tablets, or mobile phones. Ideally, you’ll also want your evening environment to be dimly lit so your body can start naturally producing melatonin. 

#3 – Stay physically active 

It’s well known that regular physical activity has many health benefits, including weight control, strengthening of the cardiovascular system, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases (23). 

And if you needed one more reason to get active, here it is.

Just 20 minutes of moderate exercise daily can stimulate the immune system, producing an anti-inflammatory cellular response (24). 

More specifically, the immunological responses include the production of many proteins, one of which is Interleukin 6 (IL-6), which, in turn, exerts several anti-inflammatory effects, including suppressing the signalling effects of a pro-inflammatory protein called interleukin 1 beta (25).

Now, consistency is key when it comes to exercise–so, you must find something you actually enjoy doing! If you can’t stand jogging and you have to spend 10 minutes hyping yourself up for the activity, then don’t jog.

Instead, try cycling, swimming, aerobics, or even following along a workout on YouTube. 

The options are truly endless, so experiment and find something that you enjoy so you can reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise. 

#4 – Eat a Diet Rich in Antioxidants

Dietary antioxidants help remove free radicals (compounds that lead to cell damage and inflammation) in the body (25, 26).

Free radicals are unstable molecules that are missing an electron. They are a natural by product of our metabolism and when balanced with the right amount of antioxidants they don't cause us any harm. The problem occurs when we don't have the right amount of antioxidants to neutralise them. Levels of free radicals in our body can be increased by things like stress, environmental toxins and even a lack of sleep.

An imbalance of free radicals are bad for our healthy because they are missing an electron so they steal one from one of our cells. This makes the cell become unstable and causes it to steal an electron from another cell nearby, setting off a cascade of events known as oxidative stress which leads to premature ageing and ultimately inflammation.

Antioxidants are helpful molecules found in plants that have an extra electron to donate, thus neutralising the free radical and preventing damage.

Making sure your diet contains a wide range of antioxidant-rich foods such as Herbs, berries, cacao, nuts, and leafy greens is a great way to fight inflammation at a cellular level.

#5 – Keep Stress at Bay

A 2016 study found that subjects who meditated regularly had a less-pronounced inflammatory response in their bodies (27). Regular practice of yoga, which is known to reduce stress levels, has also been shown to decrease inflammation (28). 

Stress means different things for all of us so it's important to find a coping mechanism that works for you. For some spending time with friends and family either in person or even over the phone can make a big difference in how they respond to stress.

Thanks to modern research scientists now have a lot clearer idea of what is happening in the brain when we are stressed and the different strategies available to cope. Spending 20 minutes immersed in nature without any distraction from social media has been proven to significantly reduce cortisol levels.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is your body’s immune response to an irritant, such as infections, injuries, and toxins, in an attempt to heal itself (1). 

There are two types of inflammation: Acute and Chronic. 

Acute inflammation is what occurs when you scrape your knee or cut your finger. The damage of cells signals your immune system to dispatch an army of antibodies and proteins to surround and protect the area, creating visible redness and swelling. The whole process usually lasts for a few hours or days (2). This is a healthy response and is essential for keeping us healthy.

Having a healthy immune system is important for creating an appropriate inflammatory response. The right amount of inflammation aids healing and helps to protect the area.

Chronic inflammation, however, is what happens when the inflammatory process goes on for too long or if the inflammatory response occurs in places where it is not needed (3). 

As a result, the white blood cells swarm but have nothing to do (because there is no wound), and they may eventually start attacking internal organs or other healthy tissues and cells. Thus, contributing to the development of many chronic diseases (4, 5, 6, 7). 

Chronic Inflammation and disease development 

For example, chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease and stroke. It’s thought that the prolonged presence of inflammatory cells in blood vessels contribute to the buildup of plaque, which is then mistaken as a foreign object within the body by the immune system (8). 

So, the body will try to wall off the plaque from the blood flowing inside of the arteries. 

In cases where the plaque becomes unstable and ruptures, it forms a clot that blocks blood flow to the brain or heart–triggering a stroke or heart attack. 

Other chronic conditions caused by inflammation also include (9):

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases

Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation

Here are some of the symptoms of chronic inflammation (typically more subtle than acute inflammation’s) (10):

  • Fatigue
  • Poor digestion
  • Bloating
  • Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Unintended weight gain or loss
  • Mood disorders

As we mentioned earlier, not all inflammation is bad. Acute inflammation is needed for healing but anything that causes low-grade chronic inflammation should be avoided.

We’ve compiled a list of 5 natural ways to help avoid chronic inflammation.

#1 – Avoid inflammatory foods

You can work to reduce inflammation in your cells and tissues by cutting down on the food groups that are known to trigger it:

  • Sugar – According to a 2015 review published in the Journal of Endocrinology, excess sugar consumption can increase your body’s levels of pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines (4). The excess fructose supplied by sugar has also been consistently linked to increased inflammatory markers in both mice and humans (5, 6, 7, 8). Perhaps more worryingly, fructose is also known to cause inflammation within the endothelial cells that line your blood vessels, which is a risk factor for heart disease (9). 
  • Processed dairy – Processed dairy products are rich in saturated fats that may worsen already-present inflammation by increasing the absorption of inflammatory molecules called lipopolysaccharides (10). Moreover, individuals with a milk allergy or who are sensitive to dairy can experience a direct inflammatory response from the immune system when consuming dairy-based foods (11). Avoiding or opting for unhomogonised dairy is a better as the fats are in their natural state and your body can process them more easily.
  • Processed vegetable oils – Processed oils (e.g. seed oils) are typically high in omega-6 fatty acids, but low in omega-3s. This imbalance in omega-6s (pro-inflammatory) to omega-3s (anti-inflammatory) has been hypothesised to promote inflammation in the body. Supporting this theory is a 2016 study, which found that rats fed a diet with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1 had much higher levels of inflammatory markers than those fed diets with ratios of 1:1 or 5:1 (12). 
  • Gluten – Because gluten activates zonulin, a protein that regulates the tight junctions of the small intestine, increased intestinal permeability is often observed in individuals sensitive to gluten. This, in turn, causes the immune system to respond with inflammation as it mistakenly believes that these larger particles passing through the intestine are harmful (13, 14, 15, 16).

#2 – Get 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep 

Studies have shown, over and over again, that a lack of sleep raises levels of inflammation in the body (17). 

Interestingly, it appears that just one night of insufficient sleep is enough to activate pro-inflammatory processes in the body (18). 

A 2008 study, for example, found that a single night of disrupted sleep resulted in significantly higher levels of NF-kB–a protein complex that acts as a powerful pro-inflammatory signal (19). 

Thus, adequate sleep nightly is crucial to avoid low-grade, systemic inflammation. For most adults, that’s between 7 to 9 hours a night (20).

If you have trouble falling asleep or clocking that amount of sleep nightly, though, limiting your blue light exposure (from computer screens and digital devices) can help. That’s because research has shown that exposure to blue light in the evening can suppress melatonin–the key sleep hormone–by more than 50% (21, 22).

So, to prevent tossing and turning in bed, avoid any exposure to blue light 30 to 60 minutes before turning in. That means no computers, tablets, or mobile phones. Ideally, you’ll also want your evening environment to be dimly lit so your body can start naturally producing melatonin. 

#3 – Stay physically active 

It’s well known that regular physical activity has many health benefits, including weight control, strengthening of the cardiovascular system, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases (23). 

And if you needed one more reason to get active, here it is.

Just 20 minutes of moderate exercise daily can stimulate the immune system, producing an anti-inflammatory cellular response (24). 

More specifically, the immunological responses include the production of many proteins, one of which is Interleukin 6 (IL-6), which, in turn, exerts several anti-inflammatory effects, including suppressing the signalling effects of a pro-inflammatory protein called interleukin 1 beta (25).

Now, consistency is key when it comes to exercise–so, you must find something you actually enjoy doing! If you can’t stand jogging and you have to spend 10 minutes hyping yourself up for the activity, then don’t jog.

Instead, try cycling, swimming, aerobics, or even following along a workout on YouTube. 

The options are truly endless, so experiment and find something that you enjoy so you can reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise. 

#4 – Eat a Diet Rich in Antioxidants

Dietary antioxidants help remove free radicals (compounds that lead to cell damage and inflammation) in the body (25, 26).

Free radicals are unstable molecules that are missing an electron. They are a natural by product of our metabolism and when balanced with the right amount of antioxidants they don’t cause us any harm. The problem occurs when we don’t have the right amount of antioxidants to neutralise them. Levels of free radicals in our body can be increased by things like stress, environmental toxins and even a lack of sleep.

An imbalance of free radicals are bad for our healthy because they are missing an electron so they steal one from one of our cells. This makes the cell become unstable and causes it to steal an electron from another cell nearby, setting off a cascade of events known as oxidative stress which leads to premature ageing and ultimately inflammation.

Antioxidants are helpful molecules found in plants that have an extra electron to donate, thus neutralising the free radical and preventing damage.

Making sure your diet contains a wide range of antioxidant-rich foods such as Herbs, berries, cacao, nuts, and leafy greens is a great way to fight inflammation at a cellular level.

#5 – Keep Stress at Bay

A 2016 study found that subjects who meditated regularly had a less-pronounced inflammatory response in their bodies (27). Regular practice of yoga, which is known to reduce stress levels, has also been shown to decrease inflammation (28). 

Stress means different things for all of us so it’s important to find a coping mechanism that works for you. For some spending time with friends and family either in person or even over the phone can make a big difference in how they respond to stress.

Thanks to modern research scientists now have a lot clearer idea of what is happening in the brain when we are stressed and the different strategies available to cope. Spending 20 minutes immersed in nature without any distraction from social media has been proven to significantly reduce cortisol levels.