So you know the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet, and you probably know that inflammation is the way your body reacts to foreign invaders. Chronic inflammation can be caused by everything from stress to pesticides to air pollution, and show up in the body as acne, chronic disease, brain fog, digestive issues, and more.
Anti-inflammation is more than just a passing wellness fad or a diet that’s trending on Instagram – it’s a natural response our bodies make to the foods we eat and the lifestyles we lead (fun fact: an article from Harvard Health Publishing noted that a number of studies found that CRP levels, or inflammation levels, are more effective than cholesterol levels at predicting heart disease risk in women).
In today’s world, when “stress” feels like a daily emotion, our iPhones are more like a fifth limb than a form of communication, and toxic chemicals are considered to be viable food ingredients, inflammation is everywhere. Keep your body healthy and prevent or reduce chronic health issues with these 10 simple hacks for lowering inflammation.
1. Get eight hours of good quality sleep
Studies have found that not enough sleep (or a bad night of sleep) triggers a wide range of inflammatory reactions; during deep sleep cycles, the body is able to perform housekeeping functions, including reducing inflammation. Do everything you can to make sure you’re getting a proper night’s sleep (7 to 9 hours of deep REM cycles) – make your bedroom cool and as dark as possible (or consider an eye mask – especially one that’s good for your hair and skin too), go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day, and eat no later than two hours before bed.
2. Add leafy greens to your meals
You get it at this point – what can’t leafy greens do? The answer: not a lot. Leafy greens are one of (if not the) best foods for lowering inflammation because they’re loaded with antioxidants and bioactive compounds. The combo not only lowers current inflammation in the body, but it prevents free radicals from creating new inflammation as well. Aim to add greens like arugula, spinach, and kale to at least two meals a day — toss as a side salad with dinner or add to your smoothie in the AM.
Since chronic stress has been linked to inflammation, taking measures to reduce stress is just as important for lowering inflammation as the foods you eat and the sleep you get. Meditation is one of the easiest ways to reduce stress by actually rewiring the chemistry of the brain, and in turn, lowering inflammation. Add meditation into your nighttime and/or morning routine with popular apps like Headspace, or try prompted journaling if you’re more visual.
4. Avoid blue light
I get it – staring at a screen (whether it’s an iPhone, an iPad, a laptop, or a TV) is a way of life. For many of us, it’s how we make a living (thank god for Google Docs, am I right??), and for others, it’s an addiction (the Instagram scroll is real!). But overexposure to blue light causes stress and inflammation in the body. When you do need to look at a screen, wear protective glasses that block blue light (I’m partial to my stylish Quay Australia pair), or add anti-blue light settings on your device. Also try to spend at least one or two hours before bed screen-less – turn off Netflix, put your phone on “Do Not Disturb,” and open a good book.
5. Go on an evening walk
Just 20 minutes of exercise may act as an anti-inflammatory, and studies show that even short-term exposure to nature has a wide variety of health benefits, including lowering inflammation. Give your inflammation levels a wellness double whammy by taking a 20-minute walk outside to get a boost of movement, as well as a boost of nature.
6. Rethink your beverage routine
Everygirls, rejoice! One glass of red wine or one cup of coffee can lower inflammation because of antioxidant levels. However, limit intake of any alcohol and caffeine (which might increase inflammation in excess) – make sure to be mindful of consumption (those glasses that can fit a whole bottle of wine do not count as “one glass”). If a glass of red wine is a part of your evening routine, stick to one glass, and limit yourself to one cup of coffee in the mornings. Instead of the usual second (and third!) cup, sip on green tea, matcha, or moringa tea to reduce inflammation, and DIY a turmeric latte in the morning or before bed (turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice).
7. Take an Omega-3 Supplement
Omega-3 fatty acids have amazing benefits for your body and brain, but they’re also linked to anti-inflammatory benefits because they can reduce the production of inflammation molecules, like eicosanoids and cytokines. Study after study has found omega-3s to be an effective supplement in inflammation reduction because of their powerful benefits. Plus, omega-3 fatty acids can also fight or prevent inflammation symptoms like depression (which is not an inflammatory disease, but inflammation does play a huge role) and high blood pressure (which has been linked to inflammation, especially in women).
8. Gratitude Journal
OK yes, this one may sound a bit hokey, but there’s actually a proven link between positive thinking and reducing inflammation/chronic disease. To be exact, researchers found that people who experienced a wide range of 16 positive emotions (enthusiastic, interested, determined, excited, amused, inspired, alert, active, strong, proud, attentive, happy, relaxed, cheerful, at ease, and calm), actually had lower levels of inflammation. Aim to experience all 16 emotions throughout the day – add them into your nighttime routine through methods like gratitude journaling, doing a creative activity of your choice (writing, painting, cooking, etc.), or reading a book that inspires you.
9. Prioritize Oral Health
Good oral hygiene not only prevents cavities (and dreading going to the dentist), but it actually is strongly tied to reducing inflammation in the body. Before bed, brush your teeth, scrape your tongue, and consider alternative practices like oil pulling for optimal oral health and reduction in gum inflammation.
10. Be kind to yourself
Let’s be honest – there are going to be days (maybe even weeks) that #1-9 are just not happening. We’re all human, and sometimes a strict diet is hard to keep up with or a Netflix binge is too hard to resist. Rest-assured that self-blame, guilt, and other toxic emotions might have a worse effect on your body than an ice cream cone or a Gilmore Girls binge ever could, so forgive yourself and prioritize giving your body and mind what they need.
If you are concerned about inflammation levels in the body (or have chronic inflammation-related issues like chronic fatigue, rosacea, or digestive issues), talk to your doctor to see if additional testing is right for you. Levels of C-reactive protein in the body can be measured through blood tests (an indicator of your body’s inflammation levels), to help you figure out what exactly is going on. But also remember that your body was made to be resilient and heal itself. Bottom line: eat your veggies, de-stress, love yourself, and enjoy your life.