Reduce inflammation in the body and be healthier and leaner. Inflammation is connected to a laundry list of problems: Obesity, fat gain, accelerated aging, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, cancer, and even stomach problems. Inflammation can shorten your life and cause you pain on a persistent daily basis.
As an athlete or trainee, you undoubtedly have experience with inflammation from training and injuries and you know it’s something you want to diminish for healing. And you’re right, you don’t want it, but in the case of injuries or sickness such as a sore throat, inflammation is a natural, necessary response of the immune system.
This kind of inflammation is a part of healing, but it’s the chronic raging inflammation that you need to reduce. Here is a list of twelve strategies for reducing inflammation, getting healthier, and possibly saving your life.
1. Use Nutrition To Combat Muscle Inflammation
First, let’s talk about how to decrease tissue inflammation after weight training or injury. This is not the chronic inflammation that will kill. This inflammation is the natural response to intense training, especially exercises that cause muscle damage such as eccentric-enhanced lifting or plyometrics.
Acute or immediate muscle damage is produced by mechanical stress and disturbances of calcium homeostasis, increase in cytokines and other inflammatory molecules, and free radical production. The inflammation will naturally go away within 24 to 72 hours after training.
One strategy for an accelerated recovery is targeted nutrition therapy. Certain foods can help clear inflammatory biological markers such as creatine kinase and cytokines. For example, consuming tart cherries has been found to reduce post-workout soreness and accelerate recovery from exercise. Other recovery foods include coffee, leafy green vegetables, almonds and walnuts, eggs, and anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric and cinnamon.
2. Abolish Trans-Fatty Acids for Better Heart Health
Trans-fatty acids and hydrogenated fats have been shown to significantly increase cardiovascular inflammation and cholesterol levels. For example, a 2010 study found that consuming a diet with elevated levels of partially hydrogenated soybean oil significantly increased cholesterol levels and C-reactive protein (a primary marker of cardiovascular inflammation).
The really bad thing about trans-fatty acids in your diet are that they cause chronic, lasting inflammation, partly because they interfere with your body’s ability to process other beneficial fats such as omega-3 fatty acids that help lower inflammation.
3. Eat Fish and Up Your Omega-3s
Omega-3s fatty acids are found in fish oils, and are known to play a potent role in decreasing inflammation. They have strong anti-inflammatory effects and also support the immune system.
A skewed ratio of omega-6s fatty acids to omega-3s (read more about this in #4) are directly linked to inflammatory disease risk including cancer, arthritis, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and psychiatric disorders.
4. Rebalance Your Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio
You want this ratio to be just about equal but most Western diets have a ratio between 15:1 to 50:1. Omega-6s do have protective benefits, but a distorted ratio is probably the primary reason we’ve seen an increase in inflammatory-related disorders in past half century.
Human cells can’t convert omega-6s to omega-3s because they lack the converting enzyme, and Western diets typically have a large quantity of omega-6s that add up and contribute to inflammatory disorders such as heart disease and cancer through cell proliferation.
Higher levels of omega-3s and a more equal ratio has been shown to be a potent therapeutic remedy for inflammatory diseases because omega-3s decrease C-reactive proteins and cytokines.
One study of cardiovascular disease patients found a 70 percent decrease in death after increasing omega-3 intake and rebalancing the -6 to -3 ratio. There were similar positive effects on the incidence of depression when omega-6 and -3s were rebalanced, likely because omega-3s diminish inflammation that inhibits neurotransmitter function in the brain.
5. Do Strength Training To Lower Oxidative Inflammation
Resistance training effectively lowers inflammation, improves cardiovascular health, prevents atherosclerosis, and can decrease risk of diabetes. A recent study compared the effect of a hypertrophy-type protocol (six exercises, three sets of twelve at 70 percent 1RM) and a strength-program (six exercises, three sets of six reps at 85 percent 1RM) on two oxidative inflammation markers.
Both protocols provided protective effects against oxidative stress and lowered inflammation, regardless of intensity, indicating that a wave-like program can be used when training without risk of increasing chronic inflammation.
6. Get Your Magnesium Level Up to Lower Inflammation
Magnesium deficiency results in an increase in C-reactive protein concentration—the same marker that trans-fatty acids elevate. Adequate magnesium levels have been shown to be linked to cardiovascular health and lower levels of oxidative stress.
A recent study of patients with chronic kidney disease found that those with higher magnesium levels had significantly better cell health, lower C-reactive proteins, and better body composition. Researchers concluded that the adequate magnesium content was directly related to decreased inflammation and prevention of death.
7. Eat Red, Blue, and Purple Berries
Eat more berries to get the right antioxidants and decrease inflammation. Antioxidants minimize inflammation because they abolish free radicals and inhibit the production of enzymes that cause irritation and pain in conditions such as arthritis and gout. They also lower oxidative stress, which is a contributor to heart disease and aging.
Raspberries are one of the best fruits to add to your diet because they contain a large amount of a rare type of antioxidant called ellagitannins (raspberries have more than any other known food on earth). By getting rid of inflammation, ellagitannins help fight cancer, heal damaged tissue and wounds, prevent heart disease, and lower blood pressure. Good Stuff!
8. Take Melatonin: Stay Young and Strong
Supplement with melatonin and decrease inflammation, recover faster from training or injury, and prevent cancer. Melatonin is a potent therapeutic hormone that helps you sleep, aids muscle regeneration, and decreases oxidative stress by getting rid of inflammation.
Lack of sleep triggers inflammation, and getting your beauty rest can help protect against it and the many negative effects of exhaustion. Additionally, because of its antioxidant potential, melatonin slows the aging process.
Research shows melatonin is one of the best supplements for muscular and tissue healing following injury. A study from Germany found that taking melatonin daily after blunt trauma injury significantly increased muscular contraction force. Markers of muscle resynthesis were upregulated both one and four days after injury, while inflammation was decreased.
9. Optimize Vitamin D Levels
Supplement with vitamin D to lower inflammation that affects the lungs. A University of Colorado-Denver study found that higher vitamin D levels are associated with better lung function because this mineral decreases the inflammatory lung response that causes asthma and breathing disorders.
There is a link between eating a diet high in trans-fatty acids, fatter body composition, low vitamin D levels, and asthma symptoms—all because of chronic inflammation. Abolishing trans-fats and upping your D levels will help you have a leaner physique and keep you healthier by getting rid of inflammation.
10. Go Gluten-Free: Lower Intestinal Inflammation
Gluten, naturally occurring in wheat, barley, and rye is a highly inflammatory food that agitates the intestine. If you are allergic to gluten, you’ll likely have symptoms including diarrhea, abdominal pain, and suffer random weight loss, and gluten has been shown to increase symptoms in type 1 diabetics.
11. Add Gotu Kola to Your Nutrition Plan
Gotu Kola, an excellent, lesser-known herb that has a variety of healing effects, decreases the inflammatory reaction in the body and it also promotes wound and tissue healing. It has been shown to lower a variety of oxidative stress markers in rats. Gotu Kola also has a calming effect and can help your brain function better.
12. Zinc: Eradicate Inflammation and Improve Muscle Mass
Take zinc and lower systemic inflammation and protect your heart. The U.S. population has chronically low zinc levels, and this mineral is critical for overall health and avoiding inflammation. Adequate zinc levels are essential for minimizing the bodies inflammatory process, and zinc is related to testosterone level.
Two research studies identified a link between higher zinc levels and normal testosterone in men. Zinc deficiency equaled low testosterone and a greater incidence of male menopause. Also zinc has been shown to elevate the conversion rate of androstenedione to testosterone, meaning that with adequate zinc and high-intensity exercise, the body will produce testosterone at a higher rate and create a more anabolic environment.