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5 Ways To Reduce Inflammation Naturally, Backed By Science

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Inflammation is a chronic symptom that leads to multiple diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

It is very common in 21st-century life due to increased consumption of processed foods, reduction in natural whole food intake, reduced levels of exercise and exposure to toxins from substances such as alcohol, additives etc.

In order to lead a happy, healthy and pain-free life, it is essential to try to minimize inflammation in the body, especially if you are overweight which can often cause elevated inflammation levels.

In this article, I’ll provide some of the most powerful, research-proven strategies you can apply to reduce inflammation, disease risk and even lose body fat.

1. Start Exercising More To Reduce Inflammation

Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce inflammation and prevent it from reaching dangerous levels.

Multiple studies have revealed that beginning an exercise program, whether aerobic/cardio or resistance/weight training based, may help improve inflammatory response and reduce pain.

Additionally, some evidence suggests that combining the two, (weight training and cardio), might be the best way to fight off inflammation.

Interestingly, exercise such as resistance training actually increases substances called cytokines in the body that increase inflammation (1, 2, 3).  While that may sound like the opposite of what you want, it’s actually something you need.

Small and localized inflammation brought on by exercise is a normal healthy response to the stress of exercising. Exercise is actually seen by the body as a stressor or a threat, which in turn requires the body to respond and adapt.

In response to the low amount of inflammation that occurs as a result of exercise, a myriad of different processes become up-regulated to help repair and increase the body’s resilience to inflammation in the future.

In doing so, this provides a two-fold effect:

  1. The body has now grown stronger and become more resilient to pro-inflammatory threats.
  2. The process itself, that responds to pro-inflammatory threats, is now stronger and better able to deal with stressors, helping to prevent further inflammation.

In essence, by exercising you’ll increase the strength and efficiency of your immune system to help reduce and even prevent future inflammation.

2. Try Intermittent Fasting To Reduce Inflammation

Intermittent fasting is a fairly new dieting trend that is great for fat loss and helps reduce inflammation (4, 5, 6, 7).

For athletic individuals, intermittent fasting typically consists of 12-15 hours of fasting (through the night and next morning) followed by a period of 12-8 hours of eating, respectively.

However, if your goal is simply to combat inflammation, you may also want to consider alternate day fasting. This approach consists of one day where you eat as you normally would be followed by the next day where you do a full fasting, consuming roughly 25% of your normal calories.

With normal eating patterns (no fasting), you expose your body to continued food and calorie intake throughout the day. In doing so, you up-regulate processes associated with growth, which may also result in inflammation.

When you fast, virtually the opposite happens, via a process called autophagy, where the body uses a significant portion of the up-regulating processes to aid in cellular repair and recycling of damaged cellular components (8, 9).

Additionally, this fasting period allows the body to spend time to reduce inflammation, rather than working on digestion and growth.

3. Try a Ketogenic Diet to Reduce Inflammation

The ketogenic diet is also another popular diet that can accelerate fat loss, reduce inflammation and potentially provide anti-cancer benefits (10, 11, 12, 13).

The ketogenic diet consists of consuming a large amount of your calories from healthy fats. Additionally, this is combined with a low to moderate amount of protein and a very low amount of carbohydrates to decrease insulin and boost ketone levels.

The typical macro ratio is 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs. Here’s an overview of the food groups:

inflammation

Interestingly, a few studies have indicated that consuming refined carbohydrates in large amounts (especially combined with excess total calories) is strongly associated with increased inflammation (14, 15, 16).

Another explanation behind the ketogenic diet and its benefits for inflammation is that increasing ketones in the blood may actually be associated with a reduced inflammatory response (17). In essence, you are reducing pro-inflammatory foods while increasing intake of foods that help prevent inflammation.

You can learn more about the ketogenic diet and download full 7-day meal plans and 80 recipes here.

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4. Choose The Right Foods To Fight Inflammation

While a number of different lifestyle factors and even genetics can affect inflammation, one of the key causes of inflammation is your diet.

In contrast to how many people eat nowadays, a diet lower in processed carbs and high in antioxidants such as fruits/vegetables is possibly the number one best way to combat and even prevent inflammation.

Foods to combat and prevent inflammation include (18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23).:

  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Mushrooms
  • Green Tea
  • Turmeric
  • Dark Cocoa

Foods that cause inflammation and should be avoided (24, 25, 26, 27):

  • Foods high in added sugar
  • Trans fats
  • Refined Carbohydrates
  • Extensively processed meat

By increasing anti-inflammatory foods while avoiding pro-inflammatory ones, you’ll be able to reduce potential inflammation just by altering daily food you are consuming.

5. Use Fish Oil / Omega-3 To Lower Inflammation

In addition to changing your diet and implementing an exercise program, I also suggest that you use one of the healthiest supplements and fats around, Omega-3 fish oil.

Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory whereas Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory. If we were to go back 100 years, the ratio of omega 3 to 6 fatty acids was pretty equal and managed to keep inflammatory levels in check. However, we now consume far too many omega 6 fatty acids and only a small amount of omega 3s.

By regularly consuming an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement such as fish oil, you might be able to offset this ratio and decrease the amount of inflammation in your body (28, 29, 30). Combined with reducing the processed foods listed above and adding in extra omega 3 via supplements you can improve your omega 3 to 6 ratios.

Other food sources include oily fish, walnuts and flaxseeds. Aim to consume around 3 – 5g of omega 3 per day; this can be from a combination of foods and supplements.

How to Reduce Inflammation Naturally

While inflammation can cause serious issues, there are many different ways you can help either reduce or completely prevent inflammation if you start today.

Beginning an exercise program is a great way to help strengthen your immune system while a dietary style change to intermittent fasting, ketogenic dieting or both may help reduce and prevent further inflammation.

Lastly, using supplements that are anti-inflammatory in nature such as Omega-3 fish oils may help compliment your diet and exercise lifestyle to help reduce and prevent inflammation.

References

1. Beavers, K. M., Brinkley, T. E., & Nicklas, B. J. (2010). Effect of exercise training on chronic inflammation. Clinica chimica acta, 411(11), 785-793.

2. Hopps, E., Canino, B., & Caimi, G. (2011). Effects of exercise on inflammation markers in type 2 diabetic subjects. Acta diabetologica, 48(3), 183-189.

3. Febbraio, M. A. (2007). Exercise and inflammation. Journal of Applied Physiology, 103(1), 376-377.

4. Mattson, M. P., & Wan, R. (2005). Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 16(3), 129-137.

5. Johnson, J. B., Summer, W., Cutler, R. G., Martin, B., Hyun, D. H., Dixit, V. D., … & Carlson, O. (2007). Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 42(5), 665-674.

6. Spreadbury, I. (2012). Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes, 5, 175-189.

7. Kacimi, S., Ref’at, A., Fararjeh, M. A., Bustanji, Y. K., Mohammad, M. K., & Salem, M. L. (2012). Intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects. Nutrition research, 32(12), 947-955.

8. Weichhart, T., Hengstschläger, M., & Linke, M. (2015). Regulation of innate immune cell function by mTOR. Nature Reviews Immunology, 15(10), 599-614.

9. Honjoh, S., Yamamoto, T., Uno, M., & Nishida, E. (2009). Signalling through RHEB-1 mediates intermittent fasting-induced longevity in C. elegans. Nature, 457(7230), 726-730.

10. Godar, R. J., Ma, X., Liu, H., Murphy, J. T., Weinheimer, C. J., Kovacs, A., … & Diwan, A. (2015). Repetitive stimulation of autophagy-lysosome machinery by intermittent fasting preconditions the myocardium to ischemia-reperfusion injury. Autophagy, 11(9), 1537-1560.

11. Maalouf, M., Rho, J. M., & Mattson, M. P. (2009). The neuroprotective properties of calorie restriction, the ketogenic diet, and ketone bodies. Brain research reviews, 59(2), 293-315.

12. Kolb, H., & Mandrup-Poulsen, T. (2010). The global diabetes epidemic as a consequence of lifestyle-induced low-grade inflammation. Diabetologia, 53(1), 10-20.

13. Pearson, T. A., Mensah, G. A., Alexander, R. W., Anderson, J. L., Cannon, R. O., Criqui, M., … & Rifai, N. (2003). Markers of inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Circulation, 107(3), 499-511.

14. Gregor, M. F., & Hotamisligil, G. S. (2011). Inflammatory mechanisms in obesity. Annual review of immunology, 29, 415-445.

15. Spreadbury, I. (2012). Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes, 5, 175-189.

16. López-Alarcón, M., Perichart-Perera, O., Flores-Huerta, S., Inda-Icaza, P., Rodríguez-Cruz, M., Armenta-Álvarez, A., … & Mayorga-Ochoa, M. (2014). Excessive refined carbohydrates and scarce micronutrients intakes increase inflammatory mediators and insulin resistance in prepubertal and pubertal obese children independently of obesity. Mediators of inflammation, 2014.

17. López-Alarcón, M., Perichart-Perera, O., Flores-Huerta, S., Inda-Icaza, P., Rodríguez-Cruz, M., Armenta-Álvarez, A., … & Mayorga-Ochoa, M. (2014). Excessive refined carbohydrates and scarce micronutrients intakes increase inflammatory mediators and insulin resistance in prepubertal and pubertal obese children independently of obesity. Mediators of inflammation, 2014.

18. Dixon, L. J., Kabi, A., Nickerson, K. P., & McDonald, C. (2015). Combinatorial effects of diet and genetics on inflammatory bowel disease pathogenesis. Inflammatory bowel diseases, 21(4), 912.

19. Youm, Y. H., Nguyen, K. Y., Grant, R. W., Goldberg, E. L., Bodogai, M., Kim, D., … & Kang, S. (2015). The ketone metabolite [beta]-hydroxybutyrate blocks NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated inflammatory disease. Nature medicine, 21(3), 263-269.

20. Joseph, S. V., Edirisinghe, I., & Burton-Freeman, B. M. (2014). Berries: anti-inflammatory effects in humans. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 62(18), 3886-3903.

21. Lu, Q. Y., Zhang, Y., Wang, Y., Wang, D., Lee, R. P., Gao, K., … & Heber, D. (2009). California Hass avocado: profiling of carotenoids, tocopherol, fatty acid, and fat content during maturation and from different growing areas. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 57(21), 10408-10413.

22. Chacko, S. M., Thambi, P. T., Kuttan, R., & Nishigaki, I. (2010). Beneficial effects of green tea: a literature review. Chinese medicine, 5(1), 13.

23. Hassan, M. A. A., Rouf, R., Tiralongo, E., May, T. W., & Tiralongo, J. (2015). Mushroom lectins: specificity, structure and bioactivity relevant to human disease. International journal of molecular sciences, 16(4), 7802-7838.

24. Menon, V. P., & Sudheer, A. R. (2007). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. In The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease (pp. 105-125). Springer US.

25. Fisher, N. D., & Hollenberg, N. K. (2006). Aging and vascular responses to flavanol-rich cocoa. Journal of hypertension, 24(8), 1575-1580.

26. Schultz, A., Barbosa-da-Silva, S., Aguila, M. B., & Mandarim-de-Lacerda, C. A. (2015). Differences and similarities in hepatic lipogenesis, gluconeogenesis and oxidative imbalance in mice fed diets rich in fructose or sucrose. Food & function, 6(5), 1684-1691.

27. Nestel, P. (2014). Trans fatty acids: are its cardiovascular risks fully appreciated?. Clinical therapeutics, 36(3), 315-321.

28. Spreadbury, I. (2012). Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes, 5, 175-189.

29. Micha, R., Wallace, S. K., & Mozaffarian, D. (2010). Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation.

30. Cazzola, R., Russo-Volpe, S., Miles, E. A., Rees, D., Banerjee, T., Roynette, C. E., … & Cestaro, B. (2007). Age-and dose-dependent effects of an eicosapentaenoic acid-rich oil on cardiovascular risk factors in healthy male subjects. Atherosclerosis, 193(1), 159-167.

31. Ciubotaru, I., Lee, Y. S., & Wander, R. C. (2003). Dietary fish oil decreases C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and triacylglycerol to HDL-cholesterol ratio in postmenopausal women on HRT. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 14(9), 513-521.

32. Martins, J. G. (2009). EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 28(5), 525-542.

About the author

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Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN

Rudy has a 1st class BSc in Exercise, Nutrition & Health and a Masters in Exercise & Nutrition Science from the University of Tampa. Rudy currently works as a Human Performance Researcher, Sports Nutritionist and Physique Coach. Over 7 years he has helped over 500 people around the world achieve long last physique transformations.

He now works closely with a variety of professional athletes and teams, including the NBA, USA Athletics, World Triathlon Gold Medalists, Hollywood Celebrities and IFBB Pro Bodybuilders. If you would like to get in contact or work with Rudy please contact him on social media.

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