5 Surprising Habits That Reduce Inflammation
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No one has to tell you that a massage feels great—but it's more than just a thing you do to relax. "Massages decrease inflammatory stress hormones. People think it's a luxury, but it really shouldn't be," says nutrition and weight loss expert Lori Shemek, PhD, author of How to Fight FATflammation! Because massage provides short-term benefits, you need to get them regularly. She suggests one every two weeks. A full-body massage not an option? Even something as simple as a scalp massage for as little as 15 minutes can make a difference in lowering levels of cortisol and blood pressure, research shows.
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Fresh may usually be best, but not necessarily when it comes to the anti-inflammatory potential of herbs and spices. Herbs are teeming with antioxidant plant compounds called polyphenols. "I recommend getting into the habit of using as much herbs and spices as you can in every meal," says Shemek. (Like coating chicken in oregano and garlic.) When it comes to the number of antioxidants in those like oregano, thyme and basil, dried have been found to have much higher levels compared to fresh. The lesson? Dried is one healthy and anti-inflammatory food prep shortcut.
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Antibiotics can be lifesaving, but taking them unnecessarily can ratchet up your inflammation levels. "These kill both the good and bad bacteria in your gut. Disrupting this bacterial balance can trigger low-level inflammation," says Shemek. Indeed, research in mBio found that a single course of antibiotics is enough to change the gut microbiome for up to a year. One way to make a big impact on your own antibiotic use? Avoid taking them unnecessarily, like for viral conditions such as bronchitis, the common cold, the flu or a sore throat, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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"Keep a daily dose of vitamin D in your anti-inflammatory arsenal," says Kellyann Petrucci, MS, ND, author of The 10-Day Belly Slimdown. "Vitamin D is actually a hormone. If you don't have enough D, your body can't put the brakes on inflammation," she says. It's one reason why low D status is associated with various inflammatory diseases. Talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement. You can also get D through your diet in foods like salmon, tuna and egg yolks.
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All exercise is basically a chill pill, but high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which focuses on short, intense bouts of activity interspersed with periods of recovery, is especially potent. "Animal research shows HIIT lowers inflammation in the hippocampus, the part of the brain where our emotions come from," says Petrucci. HIIT has also been found to decrease inflammation in type 2 diabetes patients, as well as in people who are obese or overweight. Petrucci says doing HIIT three times a week for 10 minutes will give you the best benefits.