8 Methods to Help You Reduce and Prevent Inflammation

If you’ve ever cut your finger, been bitten by a mosquito or twisted an ankle, you’ve experienced the redness, swelling, or pain symptoms associated with inflammation – a critical part of the body’s healing process.

But did you know that inflammation can actually increase with age?

It’s true. Inflammation increases with age and can develop into chronic, low-grade inflammation contributing to many age-related diseases.

While aging is inevitable, there are steps you can take to help reduce inflammation and its associated health risks.


woman with chronic inflammation

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural response of the body’s immune system to injury, infection, or irritation, involving the release of various chemicals, including cytokines and white blood cells, which help to protect the body and promote healing.[1]

In some cases, inflammation can aid healing, but chronic or excessive inflammation can lead to tissue damage and disease.

Acute Inflammation

Acute inflammation is a type of inflammation that occurs rapidly in response to injury, infection, or tissue damage and is characterized by five signs: redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function.[1] These short-term responses usually resolve within a few days to a few weeks as the body eliminates pathogens and damaged tissues and begins to heal.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation persists for prolonged periods. Various factors, including autoimmune disorders, persistent infections, exposure to environmental toxins, and lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor diet, and stress, can cause it.[1]

Chronic inflammation is characterized by a sustained release of inflammatory mediators, such as cytokines, chemokines, and reactive oxygen species, which can damage tissue and contribute to the development of various diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.


Signs of Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation can be insidious and affect different body parts. Its symptoms can vary depending on the underlying cause and the affected area. Here are some common signs of chronic inflammation: [4]

  • Fatigue: Chronic inflammation can cause a persistent feeling of tiredness and lack of energy, even after getting adequate sleep.
  • Joint pain and stiffness: Chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of joint pain and stiffness, which can be signs of arthritis.
  • Digestive issues: Chronic inflammation can affect the gut lining and lead to digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.
  • Skin issues: Chronic inflammation can cause skin rashes, acne, and other skin irritations. For example, Inflammation due to Mast Cell Activation Syndrome can commonly present with rashes, hives, and other skin issues.
  • Allergies and asthma: Chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of allergies and asthma by causing inflammation of the airways, sinuses, and nasal passages.
  • Mood disorders: Chronic inflammation develops mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.[5] This idea of the brain being “on fire” is probably far more accurate than the idea that mood disorders are neurotransmitter imbalances!
  • Weight gain: Chronic inflammation can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate weight and contribute to obesity. Those of you who have done an elimination diet know this one well. Once you avoid the foods causing inflammation, the weight often falls off!

How do you diagnose inflammation?

The diagnosis of inflammation typically involves a combination of clinical evaluation and laboratory testing. As a functional medicine provider, here are some of the common laboratory tests I run to check for unhealthy levels of inflammation:


C-reactive protein (CRP) is an inflammatory protein produced by the liver in response to inflammatory signals in the body.[6] I find that the cardiac or high sensitive CRP is far more valuable than the regular CRP for identifying this low-level chronic inflammation.

Sedimentation rate (ESR):

ESR measures how quickly red blood cells settle to the bottom of a test tube over an hour.[7] The theory behind the test is that when there is inflammation in the body, specific proteins in the blood, such as fibrinogen and globulin, increase. These proteins can cause red blood cells to clump together, making them heavier and causing them to settle more quickly. Therefore, a higher sedimentation rate can indicate the presence of inflammation in the body. ESR is usually markedly elevated in acute inflammation and autoimmune conditions but rarely in chronic inflammation. However, it is an important marker to check to rule out acute issues when evaluating inflammation.

White Blood Cell Count (WBC):

An increase in white blood cells (leukocytosis) is a common sign of inflammation, as the body produces more white blood cells to help fight off infections or other sources of inflammation.[8]


Ferritin is a protein that stores iron in the body. During inflammation, the body increases ferritin production to store iron and prevent it from being used by pathogens. Therefore, elevated levels of ferritin in the blood may indicate the presence of inflammation. We call this acute phase reactant; oftentimes, the rest of the iron panel is normal.


Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by the body as a byproduct of methionine metabolism, another amino acid. Elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood have been associated with inflammation and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.[9] Additionally, it can often be lowered by adding adequate amounts of B12, B6, and methyl folate to the supplement regimen.

Fibrinogen Activity:

It is a protein found in blood plasma that is involved in blood clotting and can increase in response to inflammation, injury, or infection.[10] Fibrinogen testing is used to monitor the progression of chronic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or to evaluate the severity of acute inflammatory events. It can also be used to evaluate the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, as elevated fibrinogen levels have been associated with increased blood clots and heart disease.

Methylation Gene Testing:

Methylation gene testing can identify gene variations such as MTHFR, COMT, and CBS, which have been linked to inflammation and chronic diseases.[11]

Testing individual cytokines and chemokines and markers of mast cell activation, such as histamine, leukotriene, and prostaglandin metabolites, is possible but much more complex and requires working with a skilled functional practitioner.



What is inflamm-aging?

Inflamm-aging or inflammaging is a term used to describe the chronic, low-grade inflammation that occurs with aging.

As the body ages, there is a gradual decline in the function of the immune system, which can lead to an increase in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and other inflammatory mediators.

This low-grade chronic inflammation is thought to play a role in developing many age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis. And it likely contributes to the decline in physical and cognitive function commonly observed in older adults.


Inflamm-aging: The Causes of Age-Related Inflammation and How to Prevent It

As we age, our immune system undergoes changes that can lead to chronic, Inflamm-aging. Even though the exact mechanisms underlying inflamm-aging are not fully understood, it’s believed that this silent inflammation accelerates aging.


How is age related to inflammation?

Aging is closely associated with inflammation, and chronic, low-grade inflammation is a hallmark of aging. Several factors contribute to the relationship between aging and inflammation, including the following:

Oxidative stress:

As we age, our bodies are less able to neutralize free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that can damage cells and contribute to inflammation. Toxins, chronic infections like Lyme disease, mold, and mycotoxin exposures all cause oxidative stress, which can overwhelm our internal antioxidants enzyme systems like glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, and catalase, leading to chronic inflammation.

Chronic infections:

Chronic infections such as viral, bacterial, or fungal infections can cause inflammation that persists over time, leading to inflamm-aging. In this situation, the acute inflammatory response to these infections persists due to the persistence of the infections. Further complicating the situation, many of these organisms live in a biofilm, which is like a forcefield that protects the organisms from attacks by our immune system.

Stay tuned for more on biofilms in upcoming blogs!

Dysbiosis of gut microbiota:

Undesirable changes in the composition and function of the gut microbiota have been linked to inflammation and age-related diseases. Our diet choices, lifestyle, and even our thoughts can dramatically impact the health of our microbiome.

Cellular senescence:

As cells age, they may stop dividing and become senescent, which can release pro-inflammatory factors contributing to inflammation and aging. Autophagy is the process by which cells get broken down and recycled.

Hormonal changes:

As we age, levels of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone decline, which can contribute to inflammation.

Lifestyle factors:

Poor diet, lack of physical activity, chronic stress, and sleep disturbances can all contribute to inflammation and inflamm-aging.

Environmental factors:

Exposure to environmental toxins such as air pollution, pesticides, and heavy metals can contribute to inflammation and age-related diseases.

The relationship between aging and inflammation is complex and multifactorial. However, understanding the mechanisms contributing to inflamm-aging may help develop interventions to slow the aging process and reduce the risk of age-related diseases.


inflamm-aging and supplements

8 Methods for Reducing and Preventing Inflammation

While aging is inevitable, several methods exist for reducing and preventing inflammation. Here are eight strategies that may be helpful:

1. Eat An Anti-inflammatory Diet

Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, including an array of brightly colored, ideally organic fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and wild-caught fatty fish, lowers risk of Alzheimer’s and improves brain function as we age.[12] This also means ditching sugars, refined carbs, and processed food, which we know contribute to inflammation, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia. I find that most people need to avoid gluten and cow dairy products as well since these are pro-inflammatory foods.

2. Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise reduces inflammation in the body.[13] Aim for a combination of moderate-intensity cardiovascular and resistance training for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

3. Manage Stress

Chronic stress has been linked to inflammation in the body.[14] When the body experiences stress, it releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones activate the body’s “fight or flight” response, which can increase inflammation over time. Chronic stress can also affect the immune system and make it more likely to trigger inflammation in response to infections or injuries.

Managing stress through meditation, yoga, or deep breathing can help reduce inflammation in the body.

4. Get Enough Sleep

Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to increased inflammation markers in the body.[15] During sleep, the body repairs and regenerates cells, including those that play a role in the immune system. Without enough sleep, the immune system may not function as effectively and may be more likely to trigger inflammation.

5. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity has been linked to chronic inflammation; maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce inflammation in the body.[16] Excess body fat, especially around the waistline, has been linked to increased inflammatory markers. In addition, adipose tissue, or body fat, releases pro-inflammatory molecules that can contribute to chronic inflammation.

6. Avoid Smoking and Limit Alcohol Intake

Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can increase inflammation in the body.[17] [18] Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake may help reduce inflammation.

7. Consider Anti-inflammatory Supplements

There are several anti-inflammatory supplements shown to have beneficial effects on reducing inflammation in the body, including [19]

8. Treat Underlying Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as autoimmune disorders or chronic infections, can contribute to inflammation. Getting to the root cause of these conditions may help reduce inflammation.

Finding ways to reduce and prevent inflammation as we age holds the potential for treating and preventing age-related diseases. And the good news is that even small changes can significantly impact your overall health and longevity.



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