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Proven Ways to Stop Inflammation Anywhere on Your Body

Here’s how to fight inflammation, according to doctors.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Inflammation is the natural response of the body to infection or injury, but there is a point where it can cause harm. "We need a little inflammation," says Edwin McDonald, MD. "We would die if we did not have inflammation. Chronic inflammation, however, is another story. Chronic inflammation can damage healthy cells, tissues and organs. Over time, it can lead to diseases like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease." Here are five proven ways to stop inflammation, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Anti-Inflammatory Foods Are Your Friend

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What you eat (or don't eat) has a significant impact on inflammation. "I want to emphasize that people really need to focus on their pattern of eating — as opposed to eating a few particular foods — to reduce inflammation," says Dr. McDonald. "There's no miracle food out there that's going to cure people with chronic inflammation. You need to have an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and diet. That said, Mediterranean and plant-based diets, which are low in red meat and processed foods, can offer some protection against chronic inflammation. So can foods with antioxidants, such as nuts, olive oil, dark chocolate, beans, fruits and vegetables."


Don't Stress

20- or 30-something woman awake at night
Shutterstock / Syda Productions

Ok, so it's impossible never to stress but, at least try and manage your stress—it will help lower inflammation. "When stress becomes chronic and mismanaged it is a detriment to our health and well-being," says Robert Kress RPh. "Prolonged stress leads to hyper physiological levels of cortisol. This alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate both the inflammatory and immune response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to cortisol. As the human body heals, inflammation becomes a response to stress. Like stress, inflammation is beneficial, although when stress becomes chronic, it can lead to constant tissue breakdown and impairment of the immune system."

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Get Regular Exercise

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If gyms are not your thing, don't worry—research shows just 20 minutes of moderate exercise can help fight inflammation. "Each time we exercise, we are truly doing something good for our body on many levels, including at the immune cell level," says Suzi Hong, Ph.D, Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "The anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise have been known to researchers, but finding out how that process happens is the key to safely maximizing those benefits."

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Make Quality Sleep a Priority

Depressed woman suffering from headache, lying in bed

Good sleep is vital for good health—there is simply no way around it. "Physical and psychological stress brought on in part by grinding work, school and social schedules is keeping millions of Americans up at night," says Michael Irwin, MD. "America's sleep habits are simply not healthy. Our findings suggest even modest sleep loss may play a role in common disorders that affect sweeping segments of the population."

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Try Intermittent Fasting

fasting diet

There is growing evidence that time-restricted eating could have a positive impact on inflammation. "New research on time-restrictive eating and intermittent fasting shows timing may affect inflammation," says Dr. McDonald. "Certain genes responsible for our inflammation are turned on and off at different times of the day. So if we eat at a time when those inflammation genes are turned on, that may potentially increase our risk of inflammation. Is eating at 1 a.m. going to have the same effect on inflammation as eating at 8 a.m.? I'd say they're probably going to be some differences."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan