5 Strategies to Reduce Inflammation

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The Holidays can be filled with love, joy, family and friends. But it’s also a season filled with stress, sugar, alcohol, and lack of movement. All things that promote systemic inflammation and general feelings of fatigue.

In the US, we have a candy holiday, followed by a pie holiday, next a cookies and candy holiday right before a boozer holiday, and we call it “flu season” rather than sugar poisoning season.

I’m not here to tell you you shouldn’t eat and do all the things you enjoy. But I am gonna keep it as simple as possible and offer you a few things to consider so you can keep all that inflammation that makes you feel run down, bloated and heavy to a minimum. 

Top 5 Tips for reducing inflammation

  1. Reduce Sugar Intake.

Ok, I know I’m being Captain Obvious right now, but hear me out. The average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year. That’s 3 pounds of sugar in ONE WEEK. Stop and let that sink in for a minute. That’s almost a HALF A POUND A DAY. 

As if disrupting gut health wasn’t enough (which in and of itself is a huge source of inflammation), it also raises blood sugar levels (which is also a very inflammatory state), and it makes it difficult to maintain a healthy weight (and being overweight means, you guessed – it more inflammation)

I get it, sugar is everywhere (not surprisingly, so is chronic disease), especially right now. You don’t have to be the outcast in the crowd, but you can be mindful! Don’t eat something just because it’s there. Raise your standards of what foods are “worth” eating. Definitely don’t eat something out of guilt or obligation to the host. Pick your moments where it feels right to indulge.

This will look different for everybody. Find mindful eating practices that feel right for you. 

For me, my standards are: I don’t eat store bought holiday treats – homemade goodness make with loving hands only! And I don’t indulge in sugar and gluten if the next day requires heavy mental demands.

2. Move your body.

Not only does regular exercise reduce fat which then reduces adipose tissue inflammation, exercise also increases anti-inflamatory cytokines. Resistance training is ideal! If you’re an extrovert – find a gym with a community. If you’re an introvert, the world is your oyster when it comes to short effective free workouts available at your fingertips. Don’t fall into the trap of doing nothing because you think you need to dedicate an hour a day to this. Even doing 15 minutes a few times a week is worth it. Exercise and movement will also allow you to stay in touch with your mind body connection, which I find always leads to more mindful food choices. This is NOT about exercising to “reward” or “burn off” food. This is about respecting your body and what its capable of.

3. Incorporate healthy fats into your diet.

Fat is powerful! Not only is it a HUGE help in weight loss and maintaining healthy blood sugar, but it can either be a source of inflammation or it can fight inflammation. Yep, that’s right – healthy fats actually fight inflammation. They’re building blocks to hormone like substances called prostaglandins, and those prostaglandins are responsible for your pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses.

We want our bodies to have the ability to be pro-inflammatory to help provide acute inflammation (think spraining and ankle or an infection). We do NOT want our bodies to have systemic chronic inflammation.

I’m here to tell you I love fat, and you should too! But it isn’t enough to eat fat. We need to be eating the right kinds of fats. Vegetable oils and other industrial seed oils are one of the biggest drivers of chronic inflammation.

If the world of cooking fats feels overwhelming for you, don’t worry, I got your back! I created a Guide to Healthy Fats to take the guesswork out of it.

4. Sleep.

Sleep is free medicine ya’ll! It’s where we restore and repair! If you’re burning the candle at both ends and not getting restorative sleep, you’re limiting your body’s ability to fight inflammation. And then add inflammatory foods like sugar and alcohol to inadequate sleep and you’re shooting yourself in the foot! Sugar and alcohol lead to poor sleep and inflammation. Then poor sleep limits your body’s ability to fight inflammation. Poor sleep gives you sugar cravings. Sugar cravings lead to alcohol cravings. It’s a vicious cycle. 

5. Stay Hydrated.

Water is the most important nutrient for your body! In fact, it’s the PRIMARY cofactor for every single cell function in the body, every hormone produced, every digestive process, and every detox function. It’s literally the single most important nutrient to EVERY function of the body. “Drink more water” is not just hyperbole. Staying hydrated is the least you could do.

Final thoughts

I know many of these are simple and obvious. But things like reducing sugar, alcohol and sleep are often the hardest to do. And they all negatively impact one another. So consider this your gentle reminder to keep things in perspective, enjoy the holidays in the way that feels best for you, but be mindful and intentional about it. That’s the best gift you could give yourself. 


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Kristen Barrett, FNTP, FDN-P

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