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How to Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is said to be the root cause of all chronic disease and it’s been proven that poor nutrient intake is associated with inflammation which can wreak havoc on all body systems including the digestive, immune, cardiovascular, respiratory and dermatological systems – to name a few.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s innate response to dealing with pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. There are two types of inflammation, acute which can be termed as the ‘good’ type of inflammation as it the body’s normal response to tissue damage and metabolic stress, for example when we are injured or get hurt, our body’s defence system kicks in to protect us from further injury and aids in our recovery.

The ‘bad’ type of inflammation is known as chronic inflammation. This occurs when inflammation processes continue to be generated throughout the body. This is often linked with long term health conditions and can be identified by high levels of inflammatory markers in the blood (c-Reactive Proteins [CRP]). This build-up of inflammation can have the opposite effect of acute inflammation and essentially can cause damage to our cells and DNA when left untreated.

Common symptoms that accompany acute inflammation are redness, heat, swelling pain and loss of function. However, these symptoms can also occur when there is chronic inflammation too, along with none of these symptoms which can also be referred to as ‘silent’ inflammation’ as there is no immediate symptom to pinpoint.

What causes inflammation?

There are varying causes that can instigate inflammation, but they range from diet, lifestyle factors, medication and environmental factors. One of the most common causes of inflammation in our modern world is from poor diet and stress. The foods that we eat can also increase inflammation, therefore in our modern world we need to be mindful of what we’re eating in order to decrease this inflammatory response.

There are some common food culprits that can activate an inflammatory response, these include refined carbohydrates, sugar, processed foods, those high in trans fats. In saying that, all foods that raise insulin will initiate some level of inflammatory response, however, it’s those foods such as those just stated that raise insulin in spikes which are more susceptible to keeping the inflammatory response raised too.

Diets high in refined starches, sugar, and saturated and trans-fatty acids may cause an activation of the innate immune system and cause an excessive production of proinflammatory cytokines associated with a reduced production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. This imbalance can in turn produce endothelial cell dysfunction and predisposes susceptible people to increased incidence of the metabolic syndrome and Coronary Heart Disease. Studies have shown that it has become increasingly clear that inflammation strictly correlates with endothelial dysfunction and insulin resistance, with the best evidence coming from patients with the metabolic syndrome.

How can we reduce inflammation?

Diet is one of the most influencing factors in altering inflammation within the body. There are several diet-like approaches that have been observed in research for lowering inflammation, these include the Mediterranean diet which is focused on high consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and fish. Another approach is eating a diet rich in antioxidants, polyphenols and micronutrients which have been observed in studies to decrease inflammatory cytokine production due to the constituents in such foods. Examples include carotenoids such as lycopene which can be found in fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelon and carrots, and has been found to reduce oxidative stress and suppress inflammation in the body too.

Other factors to reduce inflammation include exercise. Current evidence supports that exercise training, such as aerobic and resistance exercise, reduces chronic inflammation, especially in obese individuals with high levels of inflammatory biomarkers. Several studies have reported that this effect is independent of the exercise-induced weight loss. There are several mechanisms through which exercise training reduces chronic inflammation, including its effect on muscle tissue to generate muscle-derived, anti-inflammatory ‘myokine’, its effect on adipose tissue to improve hypoxia and reduce local adipose tissue inflammation, its effect on endothelial cells to reduce leukocyte adhesion and cytokine production systemically, and its effect on the immune system to lower the number of pro-inflammatory cells and reduce pro-inflammatory cytokine production per cell.

Additionally, stress reduction can also have a positive effect on reducing inflammation. High production of free radicals at the site of infection by immune cells, especially macrophages, triggers oxidative stress. Free radicals can be caused by normal essential metabolic processes in the human body or from external sources such as exposure to X-rays, ozone, cigarette smoking, air pollutants, industrial chemicals and poor food sources, as well as from highly stressed lifestyles. Therefore, there is a correlating relationship between stress and inflammation.

Nutrients that can assist with reducing inflammation

Specific nutrients can have a more targeted approach at reducing inflammatory responses on a cellular level.

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the arachidonic acid content of cell membranes, resulting in the synthesis of eicosanoids that have fewer inflammatory properties than those derived from omega-6 fatty acids. Therefore, a diet rich in omega-3 foods such as oily fish (salmon, herrings, mackerel, sardines), walnuts, flaxseeds, hemp seeds or a good quality omega 3 supplement will be effective in reducing inflammation.

Dietary fibre has also been linked to reducing inflammatory markers in the blood, after increased consumption of fibre from fruits and vegetables. Additionally, consuming more fruits and vegetables also increases nutrient intake, in particular antioxidant and phytonutrient profiles, which have anti-inflammatory effects as well.

Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols which inhibit the formation of inflammatory cytokines which are chemical messengers of the immune system.

Antioxidants are substances or compounds which inhibit oxidation, and within the body, will bind to damaging free radicals in order to neutralize them and prevent any further damage coming from them. Examples of antioxidants include foods rich in vitamin C and E, carotenoids, selenium, beta carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin.


Giugliano, D., Ceriello, A., & Esposito, K. (2006). The effects of diet on inflammation: emphasis on the metabolic syndrome. The Journal of American College of Cardiology, 48(4), 677-685.

Iddir, M., Brito, A., Dingeo, G., Sosa Fernandez Del Campo, A., Samouda, H., La Frano, M. R., & Bohn, T. (2020). Strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress through diet and nutrition: considerations during the COVID-19 crisis. Nutrients, 12(6), 1562. [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. What is an inflammation? 2010 Nov 23 [Updated 2018 Feb 22]. Available from:

Tsigalou C, Konstantinidis T, Paraschaki A, Stavropoulou E, Voidarou C, Bezirtzoglou E. (2020). Mediterranean diet as a tool to combat inflammation and chronic diseases: an overview. Biomedicines, 8(7):201.

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