Instant Ways to Reduce Your Inflammation, According to a Doctor

Kenneth Perry, MD FACEP
·4 min read
woman holding her hand
woman holding her hand

As an Emergency Department doctor, I know from my own experience that inflammation is a common complaint that brings people to the ER. Inflammation usually causes pain and is the reason that people feel pain from broken bones or even infections. Inflammation is much more concerning than just the nagging pain or discomfort, however as it can lead to very serious medical conditions such as cancers and heart disease.

Although you should need to seek medical attention for the cause of the inflammation, knowing how to treat inflammation at home is also important. Here are a few anti-inflammatory tips that could help.

Use Over the Counter Medications (responsibly)

NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are very common medications that are mostly sold over the counter, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These medications are used to reduce fever and pain due to inflammation by turning off an enzyme, cyclooxygenase or COX, that is needed in the body's inflammatory response.

COX is used to create substances that cause inflammation as well as change the normal temperature within the body. Since the COX enzyme is turned off, the products are not made which will keep fever and inflammation from occurring.

NSAIDs can be dangerous, however, when not taken appropriately. The COX enzyme is found in the stomach and small intestine and is responsible for much of the lining of these organs. Since NSAIDs turn off the COX enzymes, they can cause the lining of the gastrointestinal system to be reduced which can lead to bleeding in the stomach and small intestine.

These medications can also cause kidney injuries in some patients. The COX enzymes are used to form certain substances which keep blood flowing to the kidneys. Turning off the enzymes causes these substances to not be produced, which will reduce blood flow to the kidneys sometimes leading to damage of the kidney cells.

Discuss Steroids With Your Doctor

Corticosteroids, or steroids as they are better known, are compounds that are normally produced within the body by the adrenal gland. All tissues within the body are affected by steroids which can cause a variety of different responses such as increasing blood sugar levels, or increasing the amount of the red blood cells within the body.

The anti-inflammatory effects of steroids are also very diverse. For instance, if you suffer a cut on your leg that becomes infected the area can become very inflamed. Inflammation occurs because the blood vessels in the area become leaky which allows for the body's immune cells to migrate to the area. The leaking blood vessels also cause fluid to build up in the area worsening the inflammation.

Steroids work by reducing the build-up of the fluid and immune cells thereby reducing the inflammation. They are very helpful to reduce inflammation within the brain and lungs as well and are a common medication given to patients with chronic inflammation such as asthma, as well as rheumatologic conditions.

Steroids can be problematic for some patients causing weight gain, elevated blood sugars as well as ulcers in the stomach, and small intestine. In some cases of chronic steroid treatment, the adrenal gland can stop producing its own steroids, which may require life long supplemental steroids.

Eat These Foods

The connection between inflammation and chronic diseases is ever increasing. Asthma, cancer, heart disease, Crohn's disease and even diabetes are linked to chronic inflammation. Although medications can be used to treat much of the inflammation that is caused by these conditions, there is increasing evidence that food and lifestyle changes can help minimize the effects of these conditions.

Foods that are high in antioxidants can help reduce inflammation. Foods such as:

  • berries

  • avocados

  • fish

  • spices (garlic, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper)

are known to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. These foods can help naturally reduce inflammation making medications less necessary.

Avoid These Foods

Some foods are also known to be moderately pro-inflammatory and may cause worsening of underlying medical conditions:

  • processed meats

  • sugar

  • trans fats

  • excess alcohol

  • some processed carbohydrates

can promote inflammation within the body. For any person, consumption of these should be reduced but especially for patients who have a known condition that is affected by inflammation, they should be completely avoided.

As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.