From the Harvard Health Letter
A mattress, a toothbrush and a salmon dinner don’t seem to have much in common on the surface. But they all represent healthy lifestyle habits that help fight chronic inflammation, a persistent state of our immune system that is linked to many health problems. The more healthy habits you practice the better chance you will have at keeping chronic inflammation at bay.
Usually, inflammation is part of how the body responds to threats such as injury or invading microbes. Our body sends special cells to attack and isolate invaders, clean up debris and heal tissue and organs. It is a vital system that kicks into high gear when we need it most and returns to normal when health is restored. But sometimes the immune response continues indefinitely fueled by unhealthy lifestyle habits. A constantly active immune system does more harm than good. It can damage tissue and organs and increases the risks for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, weight gain, heart attacks and strokes.
Fortunately, for reasons not fully understood, certain healthy habits can counter chronic inflammation. A healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, maintaining good oral health, and reducing stress all reduce inflammation.
Here are some easy things you can do to help reduce inflammation.
- Eat fatty fish twice a week. Salmon and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation. Omega-3s disrupt the production of chemicals that cause inflammation by certain immune system cells. Other ways to fight inflammation with diet is minimizing processed foods and added sugars and eating lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, poultry, fish and healthy oils.
- Get a new mattress. If your mattress makes you toss and turn get a new one. Even one night of disturbed sleep can spark inflammation. It increases inflammatory substances in the blood. Regularly missing sleep contributes to obesity linked to inflammation. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night is associated with reduced risks for many chronic diseases, including dementia.
- Brush your teeth regularly. We are all supposed to brush at least twice a day and floss once. It’s necessary to brush away the bacteria that can inflame gums, lead to infection and cause inflammation or infection elsewhere in the body.
- Go for a walk. Aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and lungs working, is an important way to fight chronic inflammation. It helps reduce body fat, which contains inflammation promoting substances. Exercise may also increase the production of hormones that help keep inflammation in check.
- Do some deep breathing exercises. Feeling stressed. Chronic stress promotes inflammation and is linked to several chronic inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, depression and IBS. To reduce stress practice relaxation exercises such as deep breathing. Do this several times each day.
- Will it really work? Practicing just one of these simple strategies probably won’t be enough to ward off all chronic inflammation but you have to start somewhere. If you swap out one unhealthy meal for a healthy one you are on the right track. Then add another healthy habit and then another.
Remember, incorporating lots of healthy habits into your day may help ward off chronic inflammation and help keep you healthier.