9 Easy Things You Can Do To Fight Inflammation Right Now
Inflammation. This insidious health problem is pervasive in our modern society and exists on a spectrum from mild symptoms such as stubborn weight gain and mild fatigue on one end to hormone imbalance and full-blown autoimmune conditions on the other. While inflammation isn't inherently bad—in fact, it's an important process that helps us fight off viruses and other bacteria—it becomes a problem when it doesn't subside once the threat is gone.
The problem with inflammation.
As a functional medicine practitioner, I see people at various stages of this spectrum and their consequent symptoms. In fact, I see this so often that it prompted me to do a full deep-dive on inflammation and its effects in my book, The Inflammation Spectrum. But it ultimately boils down to this—when inflammation is out of control, it creates a cascade of pro-inflammatory cytokines and molecules, including tumor necrosis factor (TNF-a), Interleukin-1beta (IL-1b), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) that continue to build up and linger in our body.
If you are concerned about inflammation, you should talk to your doctor about running some labs. Looking at your CRP levels is the most common way to determine your overall inflammation levels. This is because, TNF-a, increases C-reactive protein (CRP) in your blood. The functional range for this is less than 1mg/L.
How to calm inflammation.
With inflammatory triggers abundant in our society, including the foods we eat, environmental toxins, and stress, it's important to focus on driving down inflammation no matter where you land on the spectrum. Whether you are looking to heal chronic inflammation or take preventive measures, here are my favorite ways to start lowering inflammation today:
1. Stimulate the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve that plays a major role in communicating with and modulating function of the gut, brain, liver, heart, and lungs. Stimulating this nerve has been shown to lower TNF (a pro-inflammatory cytokine) in those with rheumatoid arthritis, as well as alleviate inflammation-related health issues like depression and inflammatory bowel disease. You can stimulate the vagus nerve through electrode therapy but also through manual techniques like slow breathing, singing, or deep humming.
Meditation is known for its calming effect, so it's no surprise that it has some inflammation-calming effects as well. Practicing meditation can lower the pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. Since meditation also involves slow breathing, it would be logical to conclude that its inflammation-lowering abilities could be due to stimulation of the vagus nerve.
3. Try CBD oil.
Your endocannabinoid system, known as the ECS, contains endocannabinoid compounds. These compounds work to maintain a healthy inflammatory response by inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines. CBD oil interacts with the ECS to continue to drive down inflammation. CBD oil can be taken orally as a sublingual oil or as a supplement in capsule form, so it can easily be added to your anti-inflammatory daily routine.
4. Enjoy a glass of red wine.
Yes, you read that right. Organic red wine is rich in polyphenols like resveratrol, which has been shown to lower TNF-a and, in turn, CRP. Obviously some people, like those with alcohol addiction problems or those with histamine intolerance, should avoid alcohol. I rarely drink and prefer to take my resveratrol in supplement form.
5. Practice yoga.
It's no secret that yoga has a long list of benefits, including improved flexibility and reduced chronic pain, but you can add one more to the list: anti-inflammatory. One study showed a significant decrease in both TNF-a and IL-6 levels in both men and women who regularly practiced yoga for an hour a day.
6. Take a nap.
By now, you probably know that poor sleep is bad for your health. It doesn't just make you tired; it can cause brain fog, weight gain, and—you guess it—inflammation. While getting enough sleep every single night is the goal, you can mitigate the damage of that one night of poor sleep by taking a nap. A two-hour nap has been shown to significantly reduce IL-6 levels that were elevated from the previous night's lack of sleep. So put your phone on airplane mode, turn off the lights, and get ready for the nap of your dreams.
7. Physical touch
Any sort of loving physical touch like hugging, cuddling, and even sex releases the powerful hormone oxytocin from your brain's pituitary gland. Also referred to as the "love" hormone, oxytocin drives down IL-6 and boosts inflammation-fighting T-reg cells. So you can, literally, kiss your inflammation goodbye.
8. Intermittent fast.
Limiting your food intake for extended periods of time does wonders for lowering inflammation, by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines. In fact, fasting has been linked to a decrease in inflammatory conditions such as asthma, autoimmune conditions like lupus, and gut disorders like ulcerative colitis and IBS.