Although inflammation plays a vital role in the body’s defense and repair systems, chronic inflammation can do more harm than good. And that may lead you to ask yourself: what can I do about it?
In fact, you can do a lot of things. And you may already be doing it. Indeed, some of the most important ways to fight inflammation are things you should take on a regular basis.
Let’s take a look at the key elements in the fight against chronic inflammation: prevention, detection and treatment.
Six ways to prevent unhealthy inflammation
Six of the most effective ways to ward off inflammation are:
- Choose a healthy diet. Individual foods have a rather low impact on body-wide inflammation, so no, eating more kale probably won’t help much. But making sure you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and legumes — sometimes called an anti-inflammatory diet — can reduce inflammation and lower your risk of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. cardiac. Not only can these diets help reduce inflammation on their own, but by replacing foods that increase inflammation (such as sugary drinks and highly processed foods) also benefits your body.
- Regular exercise. Physical activity can help counter certain types of inflammation through regulation of the immune system. For example, exercise has anti-inflammatory effects on white blood cells and chemical messengers called cytokines.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Because excess fat in cells stimulates body-wide inflammation, avoiding excess weight is an important way to prevent fat-related inflammation. Keeping your weight under control also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, a disease that itself causes chronic inflammation.
- To manage stress. Repeatedly triggered stress hormones contribute to chronic inflammation. Yoga, deep breathing, mindfulness practices, and other forms of relaxation can help calm your nervous system.
- NO SMOKING. The toxins inhaled in cigarette smoke trigger inflammation in the airways, damage lung tissue, and increase the risk of lung cancer and other health problems.
- Try to prevent inflammatory states, as
- Infection: Take steps to avoid infections that can cause chronic inflammation. Examples are HIV, Hepatitis C and COVID-19. Practicing safe sex, not sharing needles and getting regular vaccinations are examples of effective preventive measures.
- Cancer: Get screened for cancer according to the schedule recommended by your doctors. For example, colonoscopy can detect and remove polyps that could later turn into cancer.
- Allergies: By avoiding triggers of asthma, eczema, or allergic reactions, you can reduce the burden of inflammation in your body.
Do you need tests to detect inflammation?
Although inflammation tests are not routinely recommended, they may be useful in some situations. For example, tests for inflammation can help diagnose certain conditions (like temporal arteritis) or monitor how well treatment is controlling an inflammatory condition (like Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis).
However, there are no perfect tests for inflammation. And the best way to know if inflammation is present is to have routine medical attention. Seeing a primary care physician, reviewing your medical history and any symptoms you have, getting a physical exam, and taking basic medical tests are all reasonable places to start. This routine care usually does not include inflammation testing.
How is inflammation treated?
At first glance, dealing with unhealthy chronic inflammation may seem simple: you’re taking anti-inflammatory drugs, right? In fact, there is much more than that.
Anti-inflammatory drugs can be useful in treating an inflammatory condition. And we have many FDA-approved options that are widely available, many of them in inexpensive generic versions. Moreover, these drugs have been around for decades.
- Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are the gold standard. These powerful anti-inflammatory drugs can save lives in a variety of conditions, ranging from asthma to allergic reactions.
- Other anti-inflammatory medications can also be very effective for inflammatory conditions. Ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin – which may already be in your medicine cabinet – are among more than 20 nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that come in pills, tablets, liquids taken by mouth, products applied to the skin, injections and even suppositories.
Yet relying on anti-inflammatory drugs alone for chronic inflammation is often do not The best choice. This is because these drugs may need to be taken for long periods of time and often cause unacceptable side effects. It is far better to find and treat the cause of inflammation. Taking this approach can cure or contain many types of chronic inflammation. It can also eliminate the need for other anti-inflammatory treatments.
For example, chronic inflammation of the liver due to hepatitis C infection can lead to liver scarring, cirrhosis, and possibly liver failure. Medicines to reduce inflammation do not solve the problem, are not particularly effective and can cause intolerable side effects. However, currently available treatments can cure most cases of chronic hepatitis C. Once completed, no anti-inflammatory treatment is necessary.
Similarly, in people with rheumatoid arthritis, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or steroids may be a short-term approach that helps relieve symptoms, but joint damage may progress unabated. Controlling the underlying condition with drugs like methotrexate or etanercept can protect the joints and eliminate the need for other anti-inflammatory drugs.
The bottom line
Although we know that chronic inflammation is closely linked to a number of chronic diseases, eliminating inflammation is not the only approach, nor the best, in all cases.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to combat or even prevent unhealthy inflammation. Living an “anti-inflammatory life” isn’t always easy. But if you can do it, there’s an added bonus: Measures considered anti-inflammatory are generally good for your health, with benefits that go far beyond reducing inflammation.