Use this checklist to get your body back on track.

By Arielle Weg
March 27, 2018
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It seems like everyone is talking about inflammation these days—and for good reason. Every person has experienced it at some point in their lives, and you probably already recognize your body’s telltale signs of inflammation (think: swelling, redness, or discomfort).

Inflammation happens when your immune system sends out white blood cells to attack invaders like viruses, bacteria, or toxins. In fact, you experience acute inflammation any time you feel pain, swelling around an injury, or redness of your skin. That's a natural response, but not all inflammation is normal.

There are some things within our control—such as diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits—that can cause an inflammatory response and eventually become chronic inflammation. Over time, chronic inflammation can lead to greater risk of developing chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

Here are five simple lifestyle changes you can make to help keep chronic inflammation in check.

RELATED: What Is Inflammation and How Do I Know if I Have It?

Limit Alcohol

Try to limit or eliminate alcoholic beverages to keep inflammation down. One study found alcohol consumption can impair gut and liver functions, both of which are major players in keeping inflammation under control.

Eat the Right Fats

Certain fats can cause some serious inflammation, so it’s important to swap them out of your diet. Trans fats, which are often found in foods like margarine, packaged desserts, and French fries, have been found to induce an inflammatory response in your cells. Saturated fats, found in most animal products and coconut oil, also point towards an increased risk of inflammation.

Additionally, omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids—found in mayo, vegetable oil, and fast food items—can trigger chronic inflammation. Though our bodies need omega-6 fatty acids because we can’t produce it ourselves, the average American typically consumes more than enough.

Consider an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Tough there’s no specific anti-inflammatory diet, the main pillars include eating anti-inflammatory foods (such as cherries, spinach, and avocado), cutting out refined or ultra-processed ingredients, consuming less sugar, and increasing your plant intake. We even have a recipe that incorporates five inflammatory fighting foods.

RELATED: What to Eat to Beat Inflammation

Enjoy Whole Grains

When possible, choose whole grains over refined grains. Whole grains are unprocessed—the grain’s bran and germ are still intact, so you’ll get the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your body needs. One study even found that eating whole grains can decrease inflammation-producing compounds in our bodies.

Get Moving

There’s more to ending inflammation than just changing what you put into your body. One study examined how exercise could affect inflammation resulting from rheumatic diseases, and found it could be a potential treatment for those experiencing inflammation. Another study found certain exercises could improve both antioxidants in the body while also decreasing inflammation.