Five ways to reduce inflammation

Inflammation is a defence mechanism initiated by the immune system in response to perceived threat such as a virus, dietary antigen or auto-immune disease[i]. The purpose of inflammation, is to initiate healing making inflammation crucial for recovery and repair, however while acute inflammation is protective, low-grade systemic inflammation that is chronic, has been identified as a causal factor of many chronic diseases, so here are five ways for you to implement to reduce inflammation from life-style perspective:

Green space (nature)

One of my favourite things to suggest for reversing an autoimmune condition, or just generally feeling better no matter what is going on is spending time in nature. Immersion in nature is associated with a more favourable inflammatory profile. Serum levels of IL-8 and TNF-α levels (markers of inflammation) were significantly decreased after 2 hours of exposure to a forest environment in stressed young adults compared to placebo[i]. This is hypothesised to be due in part to exposure to anti-inflammatory terpenes released from trees which block the inflammatory cascade[ii]. While not all of us have forests close by, visiting your local park, going bush walking, or even going to the beach (blue space – yep this is a thing!) will have a similar action. Aim to do this every day (yep! every day). This could be sitting in a park to eat your lunch, or a walk before or after work.


Saunas are enjoying a rise in popularity and are one of my favourite things to do. An inverse, dose–response relationship has been found between regular use of sauna and reduced levels of CRP, a marker of inflammation[iii]. Acute exposure to heat increases IL-6, triggering the release of IL-10, inhibiting several pro-inflammatory cytokines[iv].


Relationships that are characterised by connection & support are associated with lower levels of systemic inflammation compared to individuals who experience unsupportive, hostile relationships[v]. Higher levels of IL-6 & TNF-a were observed in couples experiencing sustained marital conflict[vi]. For this reason, I am a huge fan of connection and support. Who are your people? This could be friends, or a therapist.

Movement & stretching

Both exercise and stretching have been shown to assist with resolution of acute inflammation [vii][viii]. Aim for daily movement for optimal benefits. This could be a hike outside or a stretching/dancing/yoga video online.


Dietary patterns that emphasise a whole food diet such as the Mediterranean diet are associated with lower levels of inflammatory cytokines, CRP and TNF-α[ix]. Key components include seasonal fruits and vegetables, herbs & spices, anti-inflammatory fats such as EVO[x] as well as omega-3 rich fish. 

Try to implement one of these techniques at a night, and once you’ve nailed one, move onto the next!

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[i] Im S.G., Choi H., Jeon Y.-H., Song M.-K., Kim W., Woo J. M. Comparison of effect of two-hour exposure to forest and urban environments on cytokine, anti-oxidant, and stress levels in young adults. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 2016;13:625. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13070625.

[ii] Andersen L, Corazon SSS, Stigsdotter UKK. Nature Exposure and Its Effects on Immune System Functioning: A Systematic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Feb 3;18(4):1416. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18041416. PMID: 33546397

[iii] Laukkanen J.A., Laukkanen T. Sauna bathing and systemic inflammation. Eur. J. Epidemiol. 2017;33:351–353. doi: 10.1007/s10654-017-0335-y

[iv] Henderson KN, Killen LG, O’Neal EK, Waldman HS. The Cardiometabolic Health Benefits of Sauna Exposure in Individuals with High-Stress Occupations. A Mechanistic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 27;18(3):1105. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18031105. PMID: 33513711

[v] Fairbank EJ, McGrath JJ, Henderson M, O’Loughlin J, Paradis G. Social support and C-reactive protein in a Québec population cohort of children and adolescents. PLoS One. 2022 Jun 22;17(6):e0268210. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0268210. PMID: 35731783

[vi] Fagundes CP, Bennett JM, Derry HM, Kiecolt-Glaser JK. Relationships and Inflammation across the Lifespan: Social Developmental Pathways to Disease. Soc Personal Psychol Compass. 2011 Nov;5(11):891-903. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2011.00392.x

[vii] Berrueta L, Muskaj I, Olenich S, Butler T, Badger GJ, Colas RA, Spite M, Serhan CN, Langevin HM. Stretching Impacts Inflammation Resolution in Connective Tissue. J Cell Physiol. 2016 Jul;231(7):1621-7. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25263

[viii] Calderin EP, Zheng JJ, Boyd NL, McNally L, Audam TN, Lorkiewicz P, Hill BG, Hellmann J. Exercise-induced specialized proresolving mediators stimulate AMPK phosphorylation to promote mitochondrial respiration in macrophages. Mol Metab. 2022 Dec;66:101637. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2022.101637

[ix] Mukherjee MS, Han CY, Sukumaran S, Delaney CL, Miller MD. Effect of anti-inflammatory diets on inflammation markers in adult human populations: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Rev. 2022 Dec 6;81(1):55-74. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuac045

[x] Schwingshackl L, Christoph M, Hoffmann G. Effects of Olive Oil on Markers of Inflammation and Endothelial Function-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2015 Sep 11;7(9):7651-75. doi: 10.3390/nu7095356.

[xi] Jaja-Chimedza, A., Hirsh, S., Bruce, D. et al. The effects of an SPM-enriched marine oil and bioavailable curcumin combination on inflammation-associated discomfort in generally healthy individuals: a virtual open-label pilot study. Translational Medicine Communications 7, 25 (2022).

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