Inflammation is a natural part of the healing process. It’s part of your body’s defense system, helping you to recover from injury and fight off bacteria and viruses.
When there is an injury or infection, blood flow to the affected area increases as white blood cells arrive to do their protective work. The result is inflammation—swelling, redness, warmth, and sometimes pain as nerves are triggered—but there is also healing.
Not All Inflammation is Welcome
You’ll often hear advice to ice an injury to reduce swelling. This can be misguided, however, as reducing swelling can actually delay healing. But inflammation can also be a chronic condition related to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or asthma, and long-term inflammation can even cause some types of arthritis and autoimmune diseases.
In cases like that, the inflammation isn’t curing anything. It’s only making things worse.
Diagnosing Chronic Inflammation
You might not even know you have chronic inflammation. Symptoms can include joint pain and stiffness as well as fever, chills, headaches, and fatigue. Inflammation can also occur in the heart, kidneys, or lungs, resulting in shortness of breath or high blood pressure. But sometimes, you might not even notice anything unusual—inflammation symptoms can easily be brushed off as daily facts of life. But considering that they can lead to more serious consequences if left untreated, regular checkups with your doctor are important.
How to Decrease Inflammation
If you have been diagnosed with chronic inflammation, there are several ways you can try to control it:
- Medications — NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen are often the first line of defense. You may also be prescribed corticosteroids, antimalarial medications, and antirheumatic drugs.
- Surgery — This may be necessary if there is already severe joint damage, but surgery should always be a last resort after other methods have failed. Surgeries can range from relatively minor arthroscopy to complete joint replacement.
Enjoy an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
A healthy diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and it’s great for controlling inflammation as well. Specific foods recommended for inflammation generally align with those found in a Mediterranean diet, including tomatoes, olive oil, leafy greens, nuts, fish, and fruit. Try to limit refined carbohydrates, fried foods, sugary sodas, processed and red meats, and other highly processed and packaged foods.
DIY Inflammation Remedies
Whether or not you are receiving treatment from a doctor, there are several proactive steps you can take that can not only have a positive effect on inflammation but other areas of your health as well:
- If you are a smoker, stop smoking.
- Cut back on the alcohol.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Manage stress.
Stay Active to Beat Inflammation
Along with diet, regular physical activity is critical when it comes to staying healthy and controlling inflammation. An inactive lifestyle with lots of sitting is a major non-dietary contributor to chronic inflammation.
At a minimum, regular walks can help you maintain a strong immune system. Get out of your chair and move around. Be sure to work in some strength training, too, along with stretching and flexibility exercises.