5 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation and Start Feeling Your Best
Phrases like "anti-inflammatory lifestyle" are buzzy these days, but they're not completely accurate. The truth is, trying to rid your body of all inflammation is actually impossible—you have to start by differentiating between "good" inflammation and "bad" inflammation.
Acute Inflammation ("The Good")
Your body has an inflammatory system that can respond to trauma and infection, says Maria Borelius, a biologist and author of Health Revolution: Finding Happiness and Health Through an Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle. The first type, called acute inflammation, is a response where an area of your body hurts and becomes red and swollen because it's circulating more blood there to repair damaged tissue.
Say you accidentally slice into your thumb while chopping an onion—it will likely throb and stay red and swollen for a few days as your body heals. That's the "good" kind of inflammation, marked by a beginning, a peak, and an end, Borelius says. The body's response to a cold virus is another perfect example of beneficial inflammation. Cold symptoms (sneezing, high temperature, stuffy nose, swollen glands), though extremely unpleasant, are the byproduct of your body fighting and purging foreign infection.
Low-Grade Systemic Inflammation ("The Bad")
"Bad" inflammation, on the other hand, is called low-grade systemic inflammation. It's the same kind of biologic response as acute inflammation, but doesn't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Essentially, it never stops, just lingers in your system—and that's where things become dangerous.
Low-grade systemic inflammation is practically a "gateway to disease," Borelius says. While there isn't always a direct correlation, chronic inflammation is linked to increased risk of diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, depression, bipolar disorder, and more.
Borelius explains that one reason for this is that constantly fighting inflammation eventually wears down your immune system. "It's like if you have a village with a fire brigade and there are constant small fires they're constantly trying to put out; they won't have any power when something big comes along," she says.
It's no surprise, then, that lowering this systemic inflammation can be one of the best things you do for your health, because it impacts your entire body. Here are some natural, everyday good habits that can help you reduce inflammation and feel better.