How to Keep Chronic Inflammation at Bay

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

When it comes to the real nuts and bolts of staying healthy, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to keep your inflammation level down.

Now I’ll be honest. Chronic inflammation is one of those topics that’s not particularly glamorous, but it is important. Here are a few of the reasons why: Inflammation is the primary cause of heart disease—plus it’s been linked to a number of autoimmune conditions and long-term degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis.

How do you protect yourself from these problems? You begin by taming inflammation. Fortunately, that’s easy to do if you make healthy lifestyle choices and commit to eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

I’ll tell you specifically how to do that in a few minutes. But first, I want to address what chronic inflammation is, and how to know if you have it.

What Is Chronic Inflammation, Anyway?

Inflammation is a great example of medical irony. It can literally destroy your health if it’s left unchecked, yet it’s a completely normal response from our immune system—one that’s actually designed to help us heal!

When we get a cut or burn, for example, the injured area will get red, swollen, and sometimes warm. This is your inflammatory response, and the puffy redness is an outward sign that your body is working hard to repair the damage. As the injury heals and the inflammatory response slows, the swelling and redness go away, and before you know it, you’re back to normal.

That’s what a normal, acute inflammatory response looks like. Where we get into trouble, though, is when this response never fully shuts itself off, and inflammation becomes chronic.

Unlike acute inflammation, which we can usually see and feel, chronic inflammation burns deep inside the body, at the cellular level, and is fueled by free radical damage. It’s different from acute inflammation because cuts and scrapes are usually one-time things—you hurt yourself, and then you heal. Free-radical damage, though, tends to be more of an ongoing issue.

What ends up happening with free radical damage is that the inflammatory response never really progresses normally from start to finish, because it’s constantly being re-triggered. As a result, the entire process to become so disordered that it eventually settles into an “always on” state. That’s when inflammation stops being a friend and turns into our enemy.

How Do I Know if I have Chronic Inflammation?

Unfortunately, you may not know unless you’re proactive with your doctor about testing for it.

There are a handful of key blood markers that will tell you if you’re overly inflamed, but they’re usually not part of a standard lipid panel—so you have to ask for them. When I was actively seeing patients, I used these extra tests all the time because they gave me a lot more insight into exactly how to treat people.

One of the biggies is C-reactive protein (CRP); it’s a good overall measurement of how much inflammation you have inside. I also like testing for specific markers that are known to cause chronic inflammation, like homocysteine and lipoprotein (a) (also called Lp(a) ). If they’re high, you’ll need to take action to protect your long-term health. (Check out my full list of recommended blood tests.)

You’ll especially want to get tested if you fall into any of the following groups, since higher levels of inflammation are associated with them:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Regularly consume fast food and/or processed foods
  • Regularly participate in strenuous exercise or athletic activity
  • Experience chronic emotional stress
  • Have been significantly exposed to environmental toxins, including heavy metals, pesticides, and industrial cleaning chemicals
  • Have high blood pressure or diabetes

How Can I Reduce Chronic Inflammation?

Since chronic inflammation is caused by free radical activity, the number one thing you need to do is to reduce, as much as possible, the number of free radicals in your bloodstream.

One way to do this is by avoiding exposure to things that cause oxidative stress in the body, since oxidation is what creates free radicals in the first place. Here are some of the biggest offenders:

Each time you eat, touch, breathe, or otherwise come into contact with these things, you’re throwing another log on the fire, so to speak. My advice: steer clear as best you can, and stop fanning the flames! You won’t get your inflammation under control until you cut off its primary fuel sources.

Use an Anti-Inflammatory Diet to Reduce Inflammation

My favorite way to reduce inflammation is by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet and loading up on anti-inflammatory foods. It’s also the one you have the most control over, so it’s an area where I would focus a lot of energy.

I like the anti-inflammatory diet because it cuts out the bad stuff—sugars, processed and packaged foods, bad fats, and conventionally produced foods that are exposed to a lot of pesticides and herbicides—and substitutes a lot of organic, antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies, as well as healthy fats like olive oil. Not only does this greatly reduce the number of free radicals that form from food, but it increases the overall level of antioxidants in the bloodstream, which makes the body more efficient at neutralizing free radicals before they do too much damage.

It’s a win-win, if I ever saw one!

My favorite anti-inflammatory diet is my own Pan-Asian Modified Mediterranean diet plan, or PAMM. PAMM combines foods traditionally eaten in the Mediterranean and Pacific Rim regions, which are two of the longest-lived areas in the world.  It focuses primarily on low-glycemic carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Olive oil is especially prominent, and with good reason—more and more research, including the well-known PREDIMED study, is showing that this food alone has anti-inflammatory benefits that can even affect gene expression.

My PAMM Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Remember, if you control inflammation, you control your health. Start by taking small steps to reduce it, like swapping one inflammatory food for one anti-inflammatory food. Then gradually scale up your efforts. Soon, you’ll see those small changes deliver some big results.

Additional references:

© 2010, 2017, 2018 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.

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  1. Jean Berg

    on September 6, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    10 years ago I failed a stress test. After months of back pain. I found Dr Sinatra on Your Health with Dr Becker and started his program of the awesome foursome and have had no further problem. I take his Omega Q with Resveratrol and Nattokinase daily. Thank you Dr Sinatra, you saved my life.

  2. Beverly Ann Stevens

    on December 13, 2016 at 3:09 am

    I have spent several hours reading, downloading & writing down notes to study & help reminding me of the sensible steps in changing my diet, taking specific supplements, get serious about exercising by walking & avoiding or limiting certain foods & WiFi & hand held cordless phones. Simple solutions like drinking more water & walking each day would bring many benefits to my body. I learned the importance of K2 & MK-7 supplements to direct calcium out of my arteries & into my bones where calcium belongs. Thanks for the many warnings for those of us who be taking blood thinners, have kidney problems or diabetes. I just read about the inflammation connection with anemia & cardiovascular disease. It’s late but I will write down notes & study valuable info to follow sometime soon! My grateful thanks to give me some reins to pull on to slow down the progression of my out of bounds triglycerides & LDLs & C-reactive protein & high blood pressure. Thanks again for helpful healthy beneficial education to help improve my daily life at age 73.

  3. Beverly Ann Stevens

    on December 13, 2016 at 3:27 am

    Thank u for teaching me about MK7 directing calcium from arteries to bones, immflation diet, simple 8 steps & 5 Surprising Ways to lower blood pressure! 7 Reasons Why Exercise more Powerful Than Drugs were easily understood & easy to incorporate in my life! Many thanks for the information that helps me!

  4. Beverly Ann Stevens

    on December 13, 2016 at 3:38 am

    I gained simple steps & ways to lower blood pressure & MK7’s ability to direct calcium into bones plus other supplements. Thanks!

  5. michael g.

    on August 7, 2017 at 1:52 am

    Trying real hard to make 80, I’m 76 soon had heart / kidney transplanted February 14th. 1997, kidney hold’ing.
    I started supplementing 15 yrs.ago with many one at a time to see how the kidney would do, dr.s thought i was nuts
    had to cut back now,pass dec. kidney was shutting down left lung filling with fuid drined as much as i could stand ,one dr, wanted to start dialysis , the other said go home will see how u do , well were dr. leave off GOD kicks in , January natural my body shifted in gear no med’s started urinating profusely at night to 3 pounds ,feb. 1st up to 30 pounds fluid, during that time could not get any water down could not drink just a sip with food ,hum i wonder who did that i had no control over that.. thanks every one i’m blabbing it’s 1;50 am. having tea with walnuts. Michael

  6. michael g.

    on August 7, 2017 at 1:57 am

    I liked that white paper u published on D-rebose tried that to . can’t pay for every thing now. SAD

  7. Albert Smith

    on October 27, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    After taking the time to read all this I felt very informed and blessed. You were very thorough, but simplistic enough that I didn’t have to stop and consult the dictionary, as with many advertisement and promotional dispatches. Thank you for your patience and concern regarding health and well being for your patients, clients and other health conscious observers (like myself) who frequent the browsing of your medical journals/articles/informational advice.

  8. sarah abdel-wahaab

    on February 26, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    I take vitamin D to lower my blood pressure with K2 than i take Nattokinase small amount before sleep 50mg or less
    i take at night 1/4 nebivolol 5mg
    I have at the moment mitral valve prolapse with trivial regurge
    i have type I antegrade diastolic mitral flow denoting impaired LV relaxation
    i feel pain in left chest specially when my blood pressure decrease 90/50
    PLEASE what shall I take from your supplement Im in FRANCE

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