You’ve probably read that chronic inflammation is the common root of virtually all diseases, and you’ve likely purchased your fair share of turmeric supplements and fish oil capsules. But you still have signs of inflammation, you know there’s so much more you can do to reduce inflammation in your brain and body, and you really want to get serious about preserving your health and warding off disease. And while it cannot be treated with a single approach, functional medicine offers a wide range of treatment options. Here are some of them!
How do you relieve inflammation?
Here are 12 things you can do right now to heal from chronic inflammation and keep it in check for a lifetime. These 12 things are totally in your control, so you have every reason to celebrate this fact, seize the opportunity to transform your health, and feel amazingly empowered and hopeful.
1. Cut Out (hidden) Sugars
Next to stress, sugar is perhaps the most powerful cause of inflammation. Most of my patients understand that cookies and donuts are no good, and they have no problem eliminating these obvious sweets from their diet. It’s often the hidden sugars that are more challenging to reduce: the morning cereals and oatmeal, breads and tortillas, pizzas, burritos, pastas, noodles, bagels, and ‘bao’ (all you Asians know what’s up).
These processed carbohydrates are a staple in our American diets as well as in our beloved cultural cuisines, so it can be nothing short of life-altering to prune them from the diet. But I believe ancestral wisdom and science should trump cultural dietary norms for the sake of health, longevity, and soundness of mind – literally. What do I mean? All these processed carbs increase inflammation, which also damages brain function and contributes to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
2. Take Deep Breaths
Breathing deeply stimulates the vagus nerve, which plays a major role in relaxation, digestion, and inflammation. Stimulating this nerve by slow, intentional breathing (as well as singing and deep humming) has been shown to release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which not only relaxes the body but acts as a major brake on inflammation. Activation of the vagus nerve through deep breathing has also been shown to lower a pro-inflammatory cytokine called TNF (Tissue Necrosis Factor) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and alleviates inflammation-related health disorders like depression and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
3. Eat a Rainbow
Brightly pigmented plant foods contain an abundance of phytonutrients, which are simply nutrients found in plants. These phytonutrients have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so they protect your cells from damage, reduce inflammation, and boost your immune defenses. You can take a deep dive into each phytonutrient category and learn what they do, such as resveratrol found in dark purple grape skins helps reduce cardiovascular inflammation, and the bright orange curcumin from turmeric inhibits the pro-inflammatory NF-kB pathway. Or… you can just eat a rainbow everyday and know that you’ve got your phytonutrients covered.
4. Do Yoga
The verdict came in decades ago – yoga benefits health in countless ways. It relaxes your mind and body, increases flexibility and resiliency, boosts immune function, and of course, reduces inflammation. Studies reveal that men and women who practice yoga for an hour daily have remarkably lower levels of the pro-inflammatory markers TNF-a and IL-6. I have been practicing yoga regularly for over 20 years; it is an integral part of my stress management, fitness, and anti-aging life practices. If you want to reduce stress and tension, stay fit and flexible, and reduce inflammation, do yoga!
5. Get Quality Sleep
Loss of quality sleep leads to a body-wide increase in the concentration of inflammatory mediators that contribute to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. People with insomnia and sleep apnea show higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers like prostaglandin and pro-inflammatory cytokines, and consequently experienced higher levels of pain. People who consistently get 7-8 hours of quality sleep have lower levels of these inflammatory markers and report significantly lower levels of pain. So buy those blue light blocking glasses (I purchased four of these sleep-improving amber glasses for myself and each of my family members), detach from your phone and laptop by 6pm, and train your brain to shut off by practicing meditation.
6. Start Meditating
Aahhh… meditation. So simple, so alluring… but so hard to do! That’s what many people think: that it’s just about impossible to sit still and think of nothing for a painfully long time. But the truth is, you can benefit from meditating just 15-20 minutes a day. And you are actually allowed to think thoughts! You just need to find the right meditation style and stick with it. I have found great success with Emily Fletcher’s Ziva Meditation Technique. Meditation has a plethora of benefits like yoga does, including decreasing stress, improving memory and focus, and reducing inflammation by lowering the pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. It also helps you to be less reactive and anxious, less brain-foggy, and more energetic. Win, win, win.
7. Go hiking
Being out in nature is healing. Most everyone can attest to this, but it’s certainly not just anecdotal. Over 140 studies involving more than 290 million people showed that spending time in natural green spaces (open, undeveloped land with green vegetation) is associated with diverse and significant health benefits characterized by a reduction in inflammation. Being out in nature reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, improves sleep, and significantly reduces salivary cortisol – a physiological marker of stress and inflammation.
8. Choose healthy fats
Certain fats like corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and other vegetable oils are considered “bad” because they increase inflammation. Cooked at high heat, like when deep-frying or barbecuing, these oils become even more damaging. Instead of these common oils, choose good fats that don’t increase inflammation such as olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and nut butters, and omega-3 fatty acids from wild-caught fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel. Robust research confirms that supplementing with high-potency omega-3 fatty acids effectively reduces inflammation and the pain associated with arthritis.
9. Do HIIT exercises
Exercise can temporarily increase inflammation, but in the long-term helps reduce chronic inflammation. One of the best forms of exercise to lose weight and reduce inflammation is HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training. Studies show that 30-minutes of HIIT elicits a reduction in the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6, along with a reduction in C-reactive protein, a major marker of systemic inflammation. I do about 25 minutes of HIIT 3 times a week in addition to yoga (and seasonal hiking, biking, and swimming) to stay fit, energetic, and mentally sharp. If you’re short on time (who isn’t?) I enthusiastically recommend HIIT.
10. Take CBD
CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid (EC) system, a network of millions of cannabinoid receptors densely clustered in the brain and central nervous system and intricately involved in our inflammatory and immune responses. CBD has been shown to reduce inflammation, quell anxiety, and improve sleep. CBD is an excellent addition to any anti-inflammatory treatment program or daily wellness regimen because it is incredibly effective, safe, non-psychoactive, and non-addictive.
I’m proud to offer the highest quality CBD oils and creams sourced from organic hemp, manufactured in the U.S. in an FDA-approved lab, 3rd-party tested to contain pure CBD in exactly the dosage claimed, and certified to be free of any and all contaminants. Dr. Jamie PhD CBD products are best sellers at our wellness center because they help so many of our patients manage their pain, reduce stress and anxiety, and support their immune system.
11. Start intermittent fasting
Taking a break from eating is a novel but well-researched way to reduce inflammation, reduce caloric intake, and lower glycemic load. Research shows that intermittent fasting improves inflammatory conditions like diabetes, asthma, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
You naturally fast while you sleep. So that’s already 8 hours without food. To get the benefits of intermittent fasting, shoot for at least 14 hours. That can be achieved by fasting between dinner and a late breakfast or lunch the next day (7pm-11am). Use caution with intermittent fasting – if you feel hypoglycemic, or have very low blood pressure or adrenal output, perhaps just do a 12-hr fast. And when you do break your fast, remember to eat a meal that’s rich in good fats, low in refined carbs and sugars, and full of brightly-pigmented plants.
12. Get tested for food sensitivities
Food sensitivities are extremely common, but they often go undiagnosed and unrecognized because most conventional doctors only check for food allergies (IgE antibody-mediated allergies). Food sensitivities are often called “hidden” food sensitivities because they don’t cause an immediate and dramatic reaction the way common food allergies can (think peanuts and a sudden skin rash or vomiting). They’re also “hidden” because, again, doctors don’t ever test for them (IgG antibody-mediated food sensitivities), but they cause a slow and steady reaction at the gut level. Specifically, hidden food sensitivities can trigger intestinal inflammation, leaky gut, and a host of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases including asthma, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. The most common food sensitivities are to dairy, gluten, wheat, and eggs.
The good news is that it’s easy to test for food sensitivities. And yes, you can start right now. Just click here to order a test kit to be sent to your home, where you can do it yourself in just 10 minutes. I have a personal fondness for this test because it has helped me to cure my 20-year struggle with nasal allergies (stuffy, itchy nose, itchy watery eyes, post nasal drip, sneezing attacks, and fatigue), as well as alleviate both of my sons’ nasal allergies and eczema. I have helped countless relatives, friends, and patients heal from stubborn and chronic health conditions using just this one test.
Where can I find experienced functional medicine specialists?
Inflammation can be treated in so many ways, however, choosing one is important. Our systematic and holistic approach to wellness allows us to evaluate your inflammation, manage it, and prevent it from happening again. If you want to explore deeper into your personal health concerns, Dr. Jamie offers consultations via webcam or phone, wherever you are in the world, as well as in-person consults at Oasis Healing Arts. Call 562-789-1588 or click here to schedule.