10 Ways to Reduce Inflammation
To help trim your fat intake, cut down on the saturated variety, replacing butter with olive oil, writes Holly Pevzner
CHRONIC inflammation plays a significant role (as either a cause or effect) in many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, and the three top killers in the United States: heart disease, cancer and stroke. Emerging research is focusing on the link between inflammation and brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The good news is that diet, exercise and lifestyle changes can be powerful tools against inflammation. Here are 10 ways you can help stave off–or tamp down–inflammation:
1. BALANCE YOUR OMEGA FATS
Americans are gorging on too many inflammation-promoting omega-6 fats (found in vegetable oils, such as sunflower and corn, and processed and fast food made with them) and not consuming nearly enough inflammation-soothing omega-3 fats (found in salmon, tuna, flaxseeds, walnuts, canola and olive oils). In short: a diet high in omega-6s and low in omega-3s increases inflammation in the body, says Chilton.
To better balance your omega fats, opt for as much fresh, unprocessed food as possible, swap your omega-6-rich corn or sunflower oil for omega-3-packed canola and load your plate with omega-3-rich foods.
“If you eat one healthy source of omega-3 fatty acids every day, you’ll be doing good things for inflammation,” Cannon says. (Omega-3s boost the number of proteins in the body that quell inflammation and also reduce the level of proteins that promote inflammation.) If it proves difficult to get the recommended 1 to 4 grams of omega-3s daily through food (3 ounces of salmon delivers about 2 grams, 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed has 3 grams), ask your doctor about taking a supplement.
2. GET YOUR OM ON
A 2010 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that women who had regularly practiced 75 to 90 minutes of Hatha yoga twice-weekly for at least two years had markedly lower levels of interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP), two key inflammatory markers, compared to those who were new to yoga or practiced less frequently.
“A central tenet of yoga is that practicing can reduce stress responses,” explains Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, study co-author and professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University College of Medicine. Researchers think that yoga’s benefit is that it minimises stress-related physiological changes.
3. UP YOUR SOY
The US Food and Drug Administration has indicated that eating 25 grams of soy protein daily helps reduce your risk of inflammation-driven cardiovascular disease. But according to two 2009 studies, even as little as half that may be helpful. “We saw a reduction in inflammation after drinking just two [12-ounce] glasses of soymilk a day for three months,” says study co-author Elvira de Mejia, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana. (Each glass contained 6 grams of soy protein.) Apparently, lunasin, a peptide found in soymilk and tofu, in combination with other soy proteins, can quell inflammation. (If you have a hormone-sensitive condition, such as breast cancer or endometriosis, check with your doctor before increasing the amount of soy in your diet.)
4. ENJOY A MASSAGE
A massage isn’t just a treat–it can be part of staying healthy. Receiving a 45-minute Swedish massage can greatly lower levels of two key inflammation-promoting hormones, according to a study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
5. LIMIT BAD FATS
The famed Nurses’ Health Study out of Harvard University (well known as one of the largest and longest-running investigations into women’s health) found that trans-fatty acids are linked to a significant bump in total body inflammation, especially in overweight women. Trans fats can be found in items including fried foods, packaged cookies, crackers, margarines and more. And buyer beware.
“Even if a food label reads 0 grams trans fats, it can still contain less than 0.5 gram per serving, so if you eat multiple servings, you could be eating a few grams,” advises Erin Palinski. Instead, check the ingredient list for partially hydrogenated oil. If you see this, the product contains trans fats. While you’re trimming the fat, cut back on the saturated variety, as well, replacing butter with olive oil and being choosy about your protein sources.
6. EAT YOUR GREENS
Here’s yet another reason not to skimp on green leafy vegetables, whole grains and nuts: they are all rich in magnesium, a mineral that about 60 per cent of us don’t consume enough of.
7. KEEP STRESS AT BAY
Frequently frazzled? You may be opening the door to inflammation. A recent study in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that people who have a strong emotional reaction to stressful tasks (you bite your nails when you have to make a presentation at work or get tense when someone presses your buttons) experience a greater increase in circulating interleukin-6 during times of stress than those who take stressful tasks in stride.
8. SLEEP MORE
If you’re not clocking at least 6 hours of restful sleep a night, you’re more susceptible to inflammation than those who have a solid night of slumber, according to research presented at the American Heart Association 2010 Scientific Sessions in Chicago. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep was linked to significantly increased levels of three key inflammatory markers–interleukin-6, CRP and fibrinogen.
9. EXERCISE OFTEN
Losing excess weight via exercise (or eating better) is a great way to lower inflammation. Working out, however, can lower inflammation even if you don’t drop one single pound. The reason? Exercising at about 60 per cent to 80 per cent of your maximum heart rate–think brisk walking where you can still talk but it would be difficult to carry on a conversation–lowers levels of the key inflammation marker CRP, Chilton says.
10. DRINK GREEN TEA
Even if coffee is your beverage of choice, you might not want to bag tea altogether–especially the green variety. Green tea is full of potent antioxidants that help quell inflammation. In fact, researchers from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock recently found that green tea can inhibit oxidative stress and the potential inflammation that may result from it. “After 24 weeks, people who consumed 500mg of green tea polyphenols daily–that’s about 4 to 6 cups of tea–halved their oxidative stress levels,” says Leslie Shen, the study’s lead author.
CHRONIC inflammation plays a significant role (as either a cause or effect) in many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, and the three top killers in the United States: heart disease, cancer and stroke …