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8 Ways to Fight Off Inflammation

Reduce your risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and more

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    8 Top Inflammation Fighters

    En español | Inflammation isn’t just a trendy buzzword. It’s a real thing probably happening in your body right now. And it’s not always bad. In fact, the inflammatory response is a healing reaction to an illness or injury. But when it gets out of control (and sticks around longer than needed), chronic inflammation has been linked to numerous conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and some cancers. Here are the latest, proven tricks for keeping it at bay.

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    Eat the right omegas

    Omega-3 fatty acids, in foods like salmon, flaxseed and walnuts, are known inflammation fighters. DHA and EPA are two types of omega-3 fatty acids (you’ll see them listed on your bottle of supplements). In a study just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects given 2.7 grams per day of DHA for 10 weeks showed fewer markers for inflammation than those given 2.7 grams of EPA or a placebo.

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    Spice things up

    Curcumin (the bioactive ingredient in the spice turmeric) has lots of science supporting its anti-inflammatory benefits. A 2015 study at the University of Arizona found that curcumin suppressed inflammation and prevented tumor formation in mice with colitis-associated colon cancer. "Ginger is another good spice to use regularly," says Chris D’Adamo, director of research, Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine. It’s been shown to inhibit compounds that promote inflammation.

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    Lose a few pounds

    Fat tissue is biologically active and continually pumps out inflammatory chemicals. If you’re overweight, your body is likely in a state of chronic inflammation. "Any weight loss, even if very small, is good," says Catherine Duggan, principal staff scientist in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Duggan’s research has found that weight loss — combined with taking 2,000 IUs daily of vitamin D — greatly decreased inflammatory markers.

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    See your friends frequently

    You already know that having a strong social network can help keep your brain sharp, but new research shows that it can also prevent inflammation. A 2015 study at the University of Chicago found that when people felt lonely, levels of norepinephrine (one of the hormones released when the body is in fight-or-flight mode) surged — which, in turn, increased the activity of inflammatory genes.

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    Eat less meat

    There are many healthy reasons to opt for a predominantly plant-based diet, and research has shown that less inflammation is one of them. A 2015 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a sugar molecule derived from red meat promotes inflammation and cancer progression. So swapping your beef burger for a veggie version (at least once in a while) could help keep systemic inflammation at bay.

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    Foster healthy bacteria

    Inflammation that originates in the gut can have surprising consequences throughout the body. That’s why keeping your gut rich in good bacteria is beneficial. How? Take a probiotic supplement or eat foods rich in those good-for-you bacteria (such as yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut). In a 2012 study at the University College of Cork in Ireland, subjects who took a probiotic supplement for eight weeks showed lower levels of inflammation than those taking a placebo.

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    Fast on occasion

    Intermittent fasting (eating fewer meals a day or not eating occasionally) may reverse inflammation and improve symptoms of some diseases, such as asthma. If fasting sounds too hard, Valter Longo, director of the University of Southern California Longevity Institute, has created a five-day "fasting mimicking diet" (see aboutprolon.com) that produces similar results without total deprivation and can be done up to several times a year under a doctor’s supervision.

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    Be less sweet

    "Sugar is inflammatory," warns Maryland’s D’Adamo. "Eating foods that are high on the glycemic index is associated with higher levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker." And the more processed the sugar is, the more inflammatory it can be. So limit your intake of cookies, candy and the like in favor of naturally sweet stuff like berries and other fruit.

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