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You might think of inflammation when you have the flu and feel terrible, sprain your ankle and experience swelling, or develop joint pain from arthritis, sports or repetitive movements.
These are obvious signs and symptoms for some types of inflammation. But did you know you might have inflammation in your body that you don’t readily notice?
When your body’s immune system identifies a problem, inflammation is a natural response that helps support the healing process.
Chronic disease and inflammation
When inflammation persists, research shows it can lead to chronic health conditions like:
- Irritable bowel disease
- Certain types of cancer
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Brain disorders
Take a look at the list, and most of these chronic diseases are among the leading causes of death in the United States. And the picture of health isn’t any better in Australia, where inflammation can be traced back to many of the same health conditions in the U.S.
When you put inflammation into perspective this way, it’s a reminder that preventing and controlling chronic inflammation is important to protect your health.
The purpose of inflammation
If you skin your knee, twist your ankle, or bump your head, the obvious signs for inflammation will be pain, redness, swelling, heat sensitivity, and sometimes even loss of mobility. This kind of inflammation helps your body heal.
But chronic inflammation caused by infections, viruses, and autoimmune disorders doesn’t serve a purpose, and can damage your health over a period of months and years. And if it’s inflammation inside your body, there’s a good chance you won’t really have any symptoms.
5 lifestyle habits to control inflammation
If you have a headache, wound, or joint pain, inflammation may be to blame. And the typical way most people treat this type of inflammation is over-the-counter medicine or homeopathic remedies like taking a hot bath, using a heating pad, or drinking herbal tea.
These treatment options typically help reduce pain, while the body naturally heals itself.
But it’s not enough to treat the kind of inflammation that can lead to chronic disease. There isn’t a pill, shot or surgery to treat chronic inflammation, but simple lifestyle changes can help prevent and control inflammation.
These 5 lifestyle habits can help, and their easy to remember as SPEED
Get more sleep
In the United States the average adult sleeps less than 7 hours a night. But the ideal is 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Research shows lack of sleep raises the risk for inflammation and chronic diseases. While adequate sleep helps regulate hormone levels, reduce inflammation, and improve overall health.
Need to get a better night’s sleep? Go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends. Keep your room dark and cool, and shut off electronics at least an hour before bed.
Here’s another major risk factor for inflammation…stress. Too much stress can interfere with the body’s immune system and cause a long list of health problems. If you’re stressed out, talking to a friend or therapist can help. Your doctor may prescribe medication, and even massage therapy and acupuncture can be used to control stress.
Control environmental factors
You probably don’t think about what’s in the water you drink, containers and products you use, or air you breathe most of the time. But exposure to chemicals, pollutants, and toxins can contribute to inflammation. To reduce your risk, eat more organic food, use containers that are BPA-Free, and pay attention to air quality alerts in your area before you go outside.
Be more active
Research shows regular exercise can help fight low-levels of inflammation. Strength training, in particular, can help fight inflammation through muscle repair and growth. Inflammation linked to chronic disease frequently develops when a person is overweight or obese. Being active can help control weight and prevent inflammation. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day.
Eat a healthy diet
If you eat more than you should, and don’t get enough exercise, it’s a recipe for weight gain and inflammation. But poor eating habits can also take a toll on your health and contribute to inflammation. For best health, your diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and adequate protein. If you’re finding it hard to eat healthy all the time, consider a dietary supplement to help you get the nutrients you need.
Healthy lifestyle habits make a difference.
If you want to reduce inflammation or prevent it, these healthy lifestyle habits can help. It might take a little time to develop new habits, but little changes to your sleep habits, stress, environment, exercise habits, and diet can make a difference.
- Hunter, P. (2012). The inflammation theory of disease. EMBO Reports. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). National Center for Health Statistics: Leading causes of death. From: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm
- Australia Bureau of Statistics. (2016). Causes of death in Australia, 2016. From: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2016~Main%20Features~Australia’s%20leading%20causes%20of%20death,%202016~3
- Simpson, N., et al. (2007). Sleep and inflammation. Nutrition Reviews. From: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2007.tb00371.x/full
- Strausbaugh, H.J., et al. (1999). Repeated, but not acute, stress suppresses inflammatory plasma extravasation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. From: http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/10588756
- Ferguson, K.K., et al. (2011). Exploration of oxidative stress and inflammatory markers in relations to urinary phthalate metabolites: NHANES 1999-2006. Environmental Science & Technology. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22085025.