You may remember having a cut, sprain, or sore throat. The area feels painful and hot and looks red and swollen. These are telltale signs of inflammation. Inflammation is a natural and essential process that your body uses to defend itself from infections and heal injured cells and tissues.
Inflammation is sometimes compared to a fire. It produces specific biochemicals that can destroy invaders like bacteria and viruses, increase blood flow to areas that need it, and clean up debris. It can be a good thing. But, sometimes it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
Before we talk about the power that certain dietary and lifestyle habits can have on inflammation, let’s sort out the two different types of inflammation.
There are two kinds of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is short-lived. It’s like a flaming fire that produces the painful, red, hot, swollen symptoms described above. When inflammation is acute it’s usually at high levels in a small localized area in response to an infection or some kind of damage to the body. It’s necessary for proper healing and injury repair.
When your cells detect infection or damage they send out warning signals to call over your immune system to help out. Your immune system sends over many types of white blood cells to help fight off invading germs [bacteria/viruses/pathogens] and clean up damage so you can heal.
Symptoms of acute inflammation may need short-term treatment such as pain relievers or cold compresses. More serious symptoms like fever, severe pain, or shortness of breath may need medical attention. In general, acute inflammation goes away after the damage is healed, often within days or even hours. Acute inflammation is the “good” kind of inflammation because it does an essential job and then quiets itself down.
Chronic inflammation is different. It’s more of the slow-burning and smoldering type of fire. This type of inflammation can exist throughout your whole body at lower levels. This means that the symptoms aren’t localized to one particular area that needs it. Instead, they can appear gradually and can last much longer—months or even years. This is the “bad” kind of inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is often invisible without immediate or serious symptoms, but over the long-term, it’s been linked to many chronic diseases such as:
How does chronic inflammation begin? It may start acutely—from an infection or injury—and then instead of shutting off, it becomes persistent. Chronic low-grade inflammation can also occur with exposure to chemicals (e.g., tobacco) or radiation, consuming an unhealthy diet or too much alcohol, not being very physically active, feeling stressed or socially isolated, and having excess weight.
Now that we see that inflammation underlies so many of our medical conditions, here’s what to do to put out those slow-burning, smoldering fires.
Studies show that reducing inflammation can reduce the risk of several of these conditions, including heart disease and cancer. There are medications used to help lower inflammation to treat some of these diseases such as corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and biologics. However, there are also several lifestyle changes—including a healthy diet—that can be very helpful to prevent and scale down inflammation to reduce its many damaging effects on the body.
“For chronic low-grade inflammation not caused by a defined illness, lifestyle changes are the mainstay of both prevention and treatment,” says Harvard Health. The good news is that anti-inflammatory foods help you stay healthy and reduce your risk of many diseases. In fact, it’s estimated that 60 percent of chronic diseases could be prevented with a healthy diet. Here’s how.
Enjoy an anti-inflammatory diet
Here is one of my favorite anti-inflammatory and low histamine recipes!
Chronic, long-term, low-level inflammation is linked with many health issues. The first approach to preventing and improving this is through food and lifestyle changes. Start by focusing on adding colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fish to your diet. Then layer in lifestyle upgrades like physical activity, restful sleep, and stress management.
These changes can be integrated into your day-to-day practices. First, try adding one additional fruit or vegetable to your day. Then, several times a day at each snack or meal. For inspiration, try recipes from my Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan
If you’d like a plan designed to help you enjoy more of these anti-inflammatory foods, consult a nutritionist, dietician, or myself, a Certified Functional Nutrition Counselor who can provide personalized research-based nutrition advice for your health, lifestyle, and goals. Here is a link for more information about my program https://www.truecareintegrative.com/functional-nutrition
You can easily test how these lifestyle modifications are having an impact on your health by using Lab Me to affordably and accurately track your blood work at home.
Harvard Health. (2018, November 7). Foods that fight inflammation. Retrieved from
Harvard Magazine. (2019 May-June). Could inflammation be the cause of myriad chronic conditions? Retrieved from https://harvardmagazine.com/2019/05/inflammation-disease-diet
Harvard Health. (2020, April). Understanding acute and chronic inflammation. Retrieved from
Harvard Health. (2020, May). A quick-start guide to an anti-inflammation diet. Retrieved from
Harvard Health. (2020, June). All about inflammation. Retrieved from
Mayo Clinic. (2017, November 21). C-reactive protein test. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/c-reactive-protein-test/about/pac-20385228
Mayo Clinic. (2018, May 25). Home remedies: How a healthy diet can help manage pain. Retrieved from https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/home-remedies-how-a-healthy-diet-can-help-manage-pain/
Mayo Clinic. (2019, August 13). How to use food to help your body fight inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/how-to-use-food-to-help-your-body-fight-inflammation/art-20457586
Medscape. (n.d.). Inflammation, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/923743
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2020, April 4). Inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/inflammation/index.cfm
Neuroscience News. (2020, March 5). Social isolation could cause physical inflammation. Retrieved from https://neurosciencenews.com/social-isolation-inflammation-15864/
University of California Berkeley News. (2020, June 4). Fitful nightly sleep linked to chronic inflammation, hardened arteries. Retrieved from https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/06/04/fitful-nightly-sleep-linked-to-chronic-inflammation-hardened-arteries/
University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. (2018). The anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Retrieved from https://www.fammed.wisc.edu/files/webfm-uploads/documents/outreach/im/handout_ai_diet_patient.pdf