Trying to decode the signals our bodies send us can feel like a giant puzzle sometimes. Why do we feel great some days and crappy on others? And what do those nagging symptoms really mean?
I know how frustrating this kind of uncertainty can be. You want (and deserve!) to feel great. And you can. It all starts with connecting the dots between your lifestyle choices—the foods you eat, how much sleep and exercise you get, the stressors you face—and your overall well-being.
Because the truth is, our daily habits can nourish us, but they can also trick our bodies into thinking they’re under attack. This sends our immune systems into total chaos—the root of chronic inflammation. That’s exactly what I want to talk with you about today!
Over the past decade, I’ve renovated everything from my grocery cart to my makeup bag to my mind in an effort to upgrade my immune system. And as I moved from a stressful life full of fast food, toxins and bad boyfriends, to a more balanced existence filled with plant-based nourishment, inner growth and conscious living, I started experiencing the perks—my chronic inflammation decreased, and my body started working with me to heal and rebuild.
Are you ready to start connecting the dots in your own life?
Before we learn about how to reduce inflammation, let’s talk about the difference between acute and chronic inflammation, and the different roles they play in our health.
What is inflammation?
Acute inflammation is your body’s natural and helpful immune response to tissue damage. For example, when you fall off your bike, the cut swells, reddens and feels…inflamed! These are all signs that your immune system is busy at work sending white blood cells to the site of your injury to repair the tissue. In this situation, inflammation is our friend—we couldn’t live without it.
Chronic inflammation is your body’s confused and damaging immune response to a barrage of environmental, physical and mental invaders. What you eat and drink, the thoughts you think, toxins, smoking, booze and even being a couch-potato can all trigger a fiery cascade of inflammation throughout your body.
When your body hits inflammatory overload, your defense system gets so overwhelmed and confused that it literally doesn’t know the difference between the invader and you. As a result, your well-meaning immune system turns on itself, destroying healthy cells, tissue, and everything else in its wake. It’s like when Al Pacino played Tony Montana in Scarface. He mows down everything in sight, yelling, “Say hello to my little friend!”
The dangers of chronic inflammation.
Over time, chronic inflammation wears out your immune system, which may lead to autoimmune diseases and other health issues, including cancer, asthma, heart disease, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, osteoporosis and even (gasp!) appearing older than your years.
Unfortunately, these challenges are often only treated with drugs and surgery. These may provide temporary relief from the symptoms, but don’t get to the root of the problem. In addition, these drugs (and their side effects) sometimes only add to your health problems.
Could it be that many of the pills in your cabinet are just band-aids and that the key to health lies in your daily diet and lifestyle choices? That’s certainly what I’ve found to be true.
But I’ve got good news! There are plenty of simple practices you can add to your day that will fight chronic inflammation. Here’s how to reduce inflammation in 5 easy steps.
How to kick butt & reduce inflammation
1. Eat more whole, plant-based, nutrient-dense foods.
Certain foods can trigger an inflammatory response including processed foods that are high in refined sugar, flour and trans fats, fried foods, and animal products. The easiest way to clean up your diet is to add before you subtract. Crowd out the foods that cause inflammation by eating a beautiful cornucopia of whole, plant-based foods.
Build your next meal around anti-inflammatory powerhouses like dark leafy greens, tomatoes, nuts, berries (cherries in particular), olive oil and flax oil, hemp seeds, turmeric (or more specifically, curcumin, a naturally occurring chemical with anti-inflammatory properties), green tea, and ginger.
Eating these foods on a regular basis will flood your body with the vitamins, minerals, cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber and other goodies it needs to reduce inflammation. Here are a few of my favorite recipes to tap into those anti-inflammatory effects:
There’s more where that came from—my cookbooks, Crazy Sexy Kitchen and Crazy Sexy Juice, are both packed with delicious anti-inflammatory recipes!
Oh, and don’t forget to stay hydrated. Proper hydration helps decrease inflammation and can even prevent it from happening in the first place, so drink up, buttercup!
2. Get down with your gut!
Your gut holds approximately 60–70 percent of your immune system, so it’s a great place to start if you want to reduce inflammation. If your gut is in bad shape, your immune system might be in some serious trouble.
One easy way to start improving your gut health is by adding a high-quality probiotic to your daily routine. The FloraMend Prime Probiotic from Thorne Research, Ultimate Flora from Renew Life and Jarro-Dophilus EPS from Jarro Formulas are some of my personal faves. And if you want more tips and resources to help you take care of your gut health, check out my post here!
If you’re experiencing prolonged bloating, gas or other digestive discomforts, taking digestive enzymes with meals can help you get more nutrition out of your food, as well as improving digestion and boosting your immune system. Check out my blog here for more info on digestive enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics!
Another possible cause of inflammatory symptoms is leaky gut syndrome. This condition occurs when your intestinal lining is damaged, allowing bacteria, undigested food and other toxins to literally “leak” into your bloodstream. This kind of leak triggers an autoimmune response with a host of painful inflammatory symptoms. If you think you may have a leaky gut, ask your doc to help you get a test done!
3. Find an integrative MD you trust.
Finding the right doctor is a critical part of nipping chronic inflammation in the bud. A good integrative MD takes a holistic approach by looking at your habits and the way you lead your life. Then you can work together to identify and address possible chronic inflammation triggers. Here are two in particular that your doctor is on the lookout for:
Food sensitivities: Gluten, soy, dairy, eggs and yeast are just a few of the common problem foods that might be wreaking havoc on your immune system every time you sit down for a meal.
If you think you might have a sensitivity or allergy, start paying close attention to what you’re eating and how it makes you feel. If your symptoms persist, fill your doc in on what you notice— they may suggest a blood test or elimination diet. You can find more info about food allergies and sensitivities here.
Chronic infection: Bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites—oh my! These guys could be hiding out in your body under the radar and dragging your immune system down. If chronic infection is a suspect in your inflammation mystery, your doc may ask for blood work and/or a stool sample to analyze. Yes, your poop has a lot to say about what’s going on inside, so listen up!
And if doctors make you nervous, here are some helpful tips to face that fear and get the care you deserve. You’ve got this!
4. Get more rest and relaxation.
Your body works hard to repair and restore your glorious cells while you sleep. Most doctors recommend 7–8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re cutting corners in the snooze department, you’re cheating your immune system, which means it needs to kick into high gear in an effort to keep you well (hello, inflammation!).
Stress goes hand in hand with a lack of sleep and a laundry list of demands in our daily lives. Unfortunately, when you’re stressed out all the time, you’re also producing more of the hormone cortisol—inflammation’s BFF. You can reduce inflammation by reducing stress. Get more sleep, try yoga or meditation, take long walks, use less technology, or take a much-needed vacation. You know I love to take every opportunity I can to remind you to take a chill pill!
5. Reduce toxins in your food, home and personal care products.
Your body’s alarm system goes off when you absorb toxic chemicals and pesticides through your digestive tract and skin—inflammation station, here we come! Luckily, there are some small, simple changes you can make to start protecting yourself right away. And please don’t feel like you’ve gotta throw out everything in your house and start from scratch—each and every baby step goes a long way.
First, check out EWG’s Clean Fifteen/Dirty Dozen charts before your next trip to the grocery store. It will help you prioritize which produce to buy organic (and when it’s OK to go with conventional). Those lists change yearly, so be sure to check back often. EWG also has you covered with their Skin-Deep database of non-toxic personal care products. Finally, I put together this resource to help you steer clear of yucky chemicals in your household cleaning products.
Remember, small steps lead to big change! That’s especially true when it comes to fighting chronic inflammation. Start connecting the dots to better health by trying one of these suggestions and see how you feel.
I bet you’ll start to notice a difference and want to build from there! Now, I’m about to go sip on my leafy greens, how about you?
Your turn: Do you struggle with chronic inflammation? Which one of these tips will you try? Or, if you have inflammation fighting tips of your own, tell me all about them!
Peace & immunity,
My Crazy Sexy Reset: 3-Day Plant-Based Cleanse is designed to help you get back on track quickly and address the challenges that often come along with unbalanced eating (I’m talkin’ bloating, fatigue, mental fog—you name it). Click here to get started for just $25!
I’ve recently started to realize how extremely important our gut health is. I really appreciate the great information you provide us 🙂 I’ve started taking oil of oregano when I feel I need it, as well as S. Boulardii probiotic, and I try to eat 2 cloves of crushed garlic daily.
I would love to begin switching my makeup to a safer brand. It is overwhelming figuring out where to start. Do you have any brands that you can recommend that work well for you?
Wendy, I’m not Kris obviously, but I do know a little about safe makeup brands. 🙂 I make natural skincare (Blissoma) and so I sell side by side with some really great, safe companies. Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques is a wonderful brand that is woman and independently owned. Great products, reasonable prices, very safe. http://www.TheNatureofBeauty.com also carries a wide range of safe makeups. I use Logona and Lavera most often for my powder and blush – they are European BDIH certified natural brands. Couleur Caramel also makes great color cosmetics if you want more intense shades (I use their eyeliner) and RMS Beauty is very well respected for simple, extremely clean, high performance cream blushes and concealers. I have used all of these and really like them.
I also make seriously natural skincare as I mentioned above, by the brand name Blissoma if you want excellent skin nutrition to go along with your makeup.
Hope you find what you are looking for! 🙂 I am battling some inflammation in my back lately and have been taking a lot of Chlorella (very helpful for pain, inflammation, and detox), and just added Gaia Herbs Turmeric Supreme to my daily regimen. Yoga at least 3 times a week has been key as well. The pain was so bad I couldn’t sleep more than 2 hours comfortably but with these changes and some acupuncture it is doing better finally. I’m going to have to stay on top of it though. Taking care of yourself well is the best love you can give yourself. 🙂
Thanks for this, Kris! My mom passed away from cancer a few years ago (as did her brother, and many family members on her side of the family have had cancer, as well), and this was a total wake-up call for me to start getting serious about my health as to avoid a cancer diagnosis in the future. Lately, it has becoming more and more apparent to me how crucial reducing inflammation is in order to avoid cancer. Of course, there are other factors involved, but the more I read, the more I’m convinced that this plays a huuuge part.
I recently got myself tested for food allergies, and discovered I’m allergic to yeast, and I cringe when I think of all the years I spent eating bread, etc. and what I must have put my immune system through! I was surprised to find out it’s a very common allergy, and most people don’t even realize they have it until they get tested / eliminate it from their diets.
Thank you so much for posting this article. Some of the subject matter is scary for me — I’ve put off food allergy tests because I’m nervous about what I’d find — but I’m in my late 20s and and suffering from chronic pain so maybe it’s time to stop being a wuss?
Keep being awesome!
I love your inspiration, website and emails. I have been struggling this past year to to put myself back together so to speak. I got myself into some real trouble with unhealthy behaviors such as over- exercising, prescription diet pills, OTC diet products and dealing with some personal issues… I crashed into heavy drinking on top of things, this is where spiraling down happened really fast. Thank Gawd I have kids because my angel that watches over me said Stephanie you are going to die if you don’t make some changes. Scary. My first step was to get off of the toxins but it wasn’t even close to being easy.. To make a long story short I did find your page which was extremely inspiring for me. I resonate with a lot of your stuff. I can’t thank you enough for being you & inspiring me with your stories. Making me look into myself & say “Are you slowing down? Are you taking care of you?”
I know you inspire millions but here is a genuine thank you from one 44 year old lady who needed you.
Good for you Stephanie, I wish you well in your continued quest to become whole again. Be your own best friend and treat yourself no different than you would nurture your child.
If you have a virus that will not ever leave your body, does that mean that you have lost the battle? Is it then just to keep minimazing the inflammation by eating plant-based food etc.
H from Finland
This is a good reminder of easy way to be an inflammation warrior. I continue to have extremely high levels of inflammation in my blood tests even after working hard on diet and having a healthy lifestyle and doctors can’t seem to figure out why. I appreciate the additional tips on how to investigate further for other things that might be going on to create my high inflammation levels. This was a great read to start my week off right….
I’m have been seeing my NMD for over two years and have adopted most of the things you mention (and more)! I still have an elevated CRP number and can only conclude that there is some environmental toxin that I need to deal with. What recommendations do you have for make up and hair color? I wear very little make up–usually only when going out and I use the hair color products from Whole Foods.
Keep up the good work! Karen
Thank you so much for providing the links to the labs for testing. It’s all so overwhelming and I wasn’t sure who I could trust. If I’m going to spend the money out of pocket to test for allergies and gut health I need to know that these tests really work. Thank you!
This is a very timely post. I’ve been a less than healthy vegan for 6 yrs, even though I thought my diet was healthy. I’ve recently been experiencing inflammation-based auto immune conditions (RA, chronic hives, pain), and am ready to finally are the dietary and lifestyle changes that I need to reclaim my quality of life. Thank you.
I learned a number of years ago that chronic inflammation can cause all kinds of issues. I finally learned I have celiac disease, and cut out the gluten. Well, I had also had years and years of horrible seasonal allergy issues and symptoms that were barely tolerable with two prescription medications. Eight years into my gluten free lifestyle, I still notice the seasonal allergens when they are in the air, but I don’t even have enough of a reaction to them anymore to even merit taking an OTC medication for them. I’ve come to believe that once I cut out the gluten, my body’s total inflammation load went WAY down, and now seasonal allergies barely affect it anymore.
Great article. I was recently diagnsed with Hashimoto’s and your article explained better thatn almost anything I’ve read how food and toxins affect your body. Also, loved you in “Hungry for Change”. Thank you!
Chronic inflammation: a big area of concern is our teeth and gums! I have found a totally AWESOME routine to add to my dental hygiene. It is the ayurvedic technique of oil pulling. It works like this: I take a nice round tablespoon of organic virgin coconut oil into my mouth, it melts and I swish it around for at least 15 minutes, first thing in the morning, and before I go to bed at night. I’m having my shower, getting dressed, etc. I don’t swallow, but spit it all out. The lauric acid in coconut oil draws all the pathogens, all the bad bacteria and all the plaque right out of my mouth,big time! I follow up with a heaping teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in hot water, right into my water pic. Woohoo! I will be doing this routine for the rest of my life.
So interesting! Does that replace brushing?
Thank you for all the continued great info. With the help of many I have completely changed my lifestyle and inflammation is a huge component. I’ve been faithfully taking Aloe Gold. A bio available – bio active aloe vera. Super healing to the gut!!! As well, this company has a stellar natural anti- inflammatory It has actually out performed the leading pharmaceutical in 5 clinical trials Dialing down on the chronic inflammation is so important daily, just as you say Kris. Mentioning a product line is probably not what you appreciate here on this blog. But, I simply can’t keep this to myself. It’s about embracing all modalities to stay on a path of health and happiness Looking forward to reaching year 120!!! I am just half way there. Lots to live for!
G’day Kris! First of all, it’s been awhile since your NYC book signing with Chad but I wanted to let you know what a pleasure it was to meet you both, I really enjoyed the demo and brief chat! I was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine physical.. I have lost three aunts (sisters) to three types of cancer. Chronic inflammation within the body very often goes unnoticed until much damage has already been done and it contributes to a number of complaints and diseases. This is such an important subject and I believe knowledge is power so thank you for being you and sharing your experience and knowledge with everyone! I swear we must be kindred spirits! 😉 I decided not to tell anyone about my diagnosis, I was determined that this would not be how my story ended and got busy “rewriting”! I lived on the Gold Coast of Australia for six years and that’s where my journey back to health began. I began ferociously educating myself and changing my diet, my habits, personal and household products used, my thoughts, self talk, taking inventory on the quality of my relationship…etc. It didn’t happen over night, and I am still fine tuning as I age but I’m healthier and happier than I’ve ever been and on top of that I really know my body now and I listen intently to what it has to say. Everything is connected so it’s about finding that healthy balance and what works for you specifically. I’m happy to say I am cancer free and working on plans for my walkabout completely around Australia for Olivia Newton-Johns Cancer and Wellness Center in Melbourne. When you love yourself enough to set your own health and wellbeing as a priority, every other part of your life improves!! Brilliant Stuff!! 😉 Take care..be your beautiful self and have an insanely happy week ahead!! x
Kris, this is fabulous. As an RN who recovery from fibromyalgia and became a wellness coach after doing all the things you mentioned, I applaud YOU! This is going right on my FB page. The only thing I also had to do was to work out stressful relationship issues and find a sense of home in the world. That’s what I do with women now, look into how they over give, feel unworthy of wellness and keep sabotaging what they know they should be doing because they haven’t embraced the power within them to fill their own needs. Thank- you for this post! It’s fantastic.
that is great!
Thank you Kris! This is so timely for me. I’ve stopped eating my chief allergen (yeast) for ten days and I feel better and look better. Now I understand better why it always feel better when I do this.
This has been my health soapbox since reading your book, ‘Crazy Sexy Diet’. And I’ve spent nearly a year learning about what foods are good for MY body and what lifestyle helps the most. As an avid soccer player growing up I was frequently suffering from injuries. Once I hits my 20’s, I felt like I was constantly falling apart, whether it was knee pain, a pulled back, bunions, or whatever the pain I assumed my soccer days were over. So I sat around and did nothing, making it even more difficult to work out when I felt the random urge to get off the couch. Starting this year I gave up glutens, caffeine, and dairy and got serious about staying active. (Eliminating these foods also made huge improvements in my endometriosis symptoms!) Over the past 3 months I’ve starting cycling, yoga, and now after 8 years I’m back to playing soccer. I know how to eat to prepare for a game, I know that ginger helps reduce my soreness and aches after games, I know that sugars will only increase my joint pain during workouts and slow me down. I now am able to pin point pain and ask myself ‘what changes do I need to make today?’ Focusing on eliminating inflammation has been life changing! Thank you!
Thanks for the info and all of the links to the topic of inflammation, I have a lot to learn and to research. What is the name of the urine test that will reveal leaky gut syndrome?
It is called lactulose manitol test
I’ve been researching this for the last two weeks. I’ve got such BAD pain in my hips, pelvis and knees. It’s the most severe in the early morning and when sitting/laying down. I am always exhausted and I’ve got “brain fog”. My GP thought I had Rheumatoid Arthritis and sent me for blood work. No RA, but I did notice I had elevated C-Reactive protein levels, which signal an inflammatory issue going on. My mom pointed me in the direction f JJ Virgin’s book The Virgin Diet which discusses how most (if not all) of my symptoms are possible inflammatory responses. She has you cut out her 7 hi-FI (food intolerance) foods for 21 days, and then add 4 of them back in one week at a time to see how you feel upon doing so. She mentions a lot of the same stuff as you do; gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, sugar and artificial sweeteners, and finally, corn. She doesn’t have a problem with meat as long as it is organic, free range, etc.
I happened to see you on a documentary on Netflix and looked you up, and here you are saying basically the same thing she does! I’ve been himming and hawing over whether or not to take the plunge and do an elimination diet to see what is triggering all of this crap, and I keep finding more and more reasons to do so.
I think I will do it. And hopefully I will feel better!
HI Kris, I am so glad you wrote about the importance of rest and relaxation – so many advise sleeping 7 -10 hours at night, but neglect to talk about taking a break to rest during the day. Just slowing down a bit is a huge help to that already stressed system! It sends a completely different message to the body.
LOVE this post!