Most of us have experienced inflammation at one point or another but did you know that it can present itself in various forms from different triggers? Amanda Magrini, MD, Family Medicine Physician and Medical Director at Northern Nevada Medical Group shares with us how to reduce inflammation, causes, and when to seek medical help.
Inflammation is an overarching term used to describe the body’s reaction to something that it recognizes as foreign. Whether that is an infection or damage to the body, inflammation can be present anywhere in the body and can appear in different ways.
Common Causes of Inflammation
Since inflammation can refer to many different things, there is not one singular cause. However, some of the most common causes are seasonal allergies, autoimmune conditions, and infections.
During allergy season, you may experience inflammation in your eyes, nose. or sinuses. This is due to the body releasing histamines, which may cause the itchy reactions commonly associated with seasonal allergies.
Think of that time you threw out your back, twisted your knee or injured yourself. The pain and swelling you may experience are signs of inflammation. However, in the case of injuries, the inflammation is caused by your body sending healing white blood cells and other chemicals to the injured area to aid recovery.
Rheumatoid arthritis, which is when white blood cells attack part of the body they should not because they believe it to be a foreign body, is an example of one autoimmune condition where inflammation presents. In this condition and other autoimmune conditions, inflammation is presented as pain felt internally, such as joint pain.
There are a number of autoimmune conditions, some well-researched and others that may be less common and still being researched. Each condition has a unique treatment plan, including ways to manage inflammation.
Infections can cause inflammation because the body naturally wants to attack a foreign agent as a means of protecting itself. You may experience inflammation in the form of redness, pain and swelling if the infection is on the skin, and as pain or a fever if the infection is internal.
When Should I Seek Medical Attention for Inflammation?
While there isn’t one sign or symptom that indicates the need for emergency care, if you have swelling or redness that lasts longer than 24-48 hours, is spreading and getting worse, or is paired with systemic symptoms like fever, chills, chest pain, or shortness of breath, you should seek medical care sooner than later.
If you are experiencing these symptoms and are seeking medical care, your primary care provider is a great place to start. They are best suited to understand your history and evaluate the potential source of your inflammation. If they are unavailable, urgent care is a reasonable next step to receive care in a timely manner.
How to Reduce Inflammation
There are many factors that can lead to inflammation and even chronic inflammation but ignoring your body’s signals and not properly caring for yourself can impair the normal healing process and lead to a chronically inflamed state. Here are 3 great ways how to reduce inflammation at home.
A healthy and balanced lifestyle, which can include a whole food diet, at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and regular exercise are great ways to help reduce inflammation.
Whole Food Diet
Incorporating more whole foods into your diet can help to reduce inflammation because they contain nutrients and phytonutrients, plus a boost of antioxidants.
Here is a list of foods that can help naturally lower inflammation:
Fatty Fish: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and other fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have potent anti-inflammatory effects.
Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and other berries are high in antioxidants and phytochemicals that help combat inflammation.
Turmeric: Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, collard greens, and other leafy vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that contribute to reducing inflammation.
Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, and other nuts are good sources of healthy fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects similar to NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Ginger: Ginger contains gingerol, a compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Green Tea: Green tea is packed with polyphenols, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Garlic: Garlic contains allicin, a compound with potential anti-inflammatory effects.
Beans and Legumes: Beans, lentils, and other legumes are rich in fiber and phytonutrients that contribute to anti-inflammatory effects.
Spices: Besides turmeric and ginger, other spices like cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and cloves have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage contain sulforaphane, a compound known for its potential anti-inflammatory effects.
The food items below may contribute to inflammation:
Processed Foods: Highly processed foods often contain additives, unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and artificial ingredients that can contribute to inflammation.
Sugary Foods: Excessive consumption of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup has been linked to inflammation and various health issues.
Refined Carbohydrates: Foods made from refined grains, such as white bread, white rice, and many baked goods, can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and inflammation.
Trans Fats: Artificial trans fats, often found in fried and commercially baked goods, have been shown to promote inflammation and increase the risk of chronic diseases.
Vegetable Oils: Certain vegetable oils, such as corn, soybean, and sunflower oil, are high in omega-6 fatty acids and may promote inflammation when consumed in excess compared to omega-3 fatty acids.
Processed Meats: Processed meats like sausages, hot dogs, and bacon contain harmful compounds that can contribute to inflammation and increase the risk of chronic diseases.
Dairy Products: Some individuals may be sensitive to dairy and experience inflammation when consuming dairy products. Full-fat dairy items might also contain saturated fats that can contribute to inflammation.
Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt the body’s immune system and contribute to inflammation.
Artificial Sweeteners: Some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners might promote inflammation and disrupt the balance of gut bacteria.
Highly Processed Snacks: Snack foods like chips, crackers, and other packaged snacks often contain unhealthy fats, sugars, and additives that can contribute to inflammation.
Gluten: For individuals with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, consuming gluten-containing foods can lead to inflammation.
Artificial Additives: Some food additives and preservatives might trigger inflammatory responses in certain individuals.
We have always been told how important sleep is, but it is especially important if you are trying to reduce inflammation. During sleep, your immune system releases certain proteins. The production of these proteins increases when you have inflammation to account for the extra fighting power needed to care for the affected area.
Lack of sleep may mean these proteins are not being produced at the level needed to properly reduce inflammation.
Finally, exercise has been shown to activate the sympathetic nervous system and reduce certain proteins that are known to have inflammatory properties.
The reduction of these proteins will help to reduce inflammation and may help to prevent you from developing chronic inflammation.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle To Reduce Inflammation
Although inflammation is a necessary part of the body’s immune response, it can vary from watery eyes caused by allergies to chronic pain. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a great way to reduce various forms of inflammation and prevent the development of inflammatory conditions.
Most importantly, talk to your provider if you feel your inflammation is chronic or if symptoms worsen.
Northern Nevada Health System is a regional network of care that has elevated and improved access to healthcare for 40 years. The System operates two acute care hospitals located in Sparks and Reno, 24/7 freestanding emergency departments, a Medical Group which offers family and internal medicine, urgent care and specialty care, and Quail Surgical and Pain Management. NNHS is committed to maintaining and improving the well-being of the community and is known for top-rated patient satisfaction, in addition to providing quality care and a safe environment for patients to heal. To learn more, visit northernnevadahealth.com.