How to Manage Chronic Inflammation to Improve Performance, Wellness, and Life Expectancy

Wellness, and Life Expectancy
Chronic, systemic inflammation is a major contributor to depression and nearly every chronic illness in modern life. Learn how to minimize chronic systemic inflammation with exercise and excellent sleep habits.

Did you know that spending 20 minutes three times a week in a heated sauna can be a highly effective therapy for depression? This impact has been proven in randomized clinical studies.

My colleagues and I presented a scientific study review titled “The Role of Systemic Inflammation in Major Depressive Disorder and Implications for Novel Treatment Approaches” at the annual meeting of the International Society for Affective Disorders in 2019. To recapitulate, we now have compelling empirical evidence that depression, one of the most frequent and devastating mental diseases we confront, has an immune-mediated component. Chronic, systemic inflammation is a major contributor to depression.How to Manage Chronic Inflammation to Improve Performance, Wellness, and Life Expectancy

Chronic inflammation is also a frequent disease mechanism that contributes to almost every chronic illness in contemporary life, including cancer, heart disease, lung disease, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and diabetes.

But first, a little recap. What is chronic, systemic inflammation, exactly?

Consider a moment when you cut your finger, perhaps from a paper cut or a tiny culinary mistake. You probably noticed the wound got red and swelled up a little after the bleeding stopped. This is an example of acute inflammation, our body’s immunological reaction to aid in infection prevention and healing. The obvious inflammation will fade over the course of several days while your finger heals. This type of inflammation is part of our immune system’s complicated physiological reaction to protect the body from infections while also promoting cellular health and tissue repair.How to Manage Chronic Inflammation to Improve Performance, Wellness, and Life Expectancy

Chronic and systemic inflammation can occur when inflammatory proteins circulate through our circulation, impacting every cell in our body. When this happens on a regular basis, we refer to it as chronic, systemic inflammation. The intensity of this form of inflammation may be measured in a variety of ways, most typically by blood tests that quantify levels of several biomarkers such as C-reactive protein [CRP], IFN-alpha, IL-6, and IL-10. All of them are linked to chronic diseases – all chronic diseases.

Worse, chronic disorders lead to inflammatory responses, implying that the link between disease and inflammation is most likely bidirectional. In other words, it’s a never-ending loop!How to Manage Chronic Inflammation to Improve Performance, Wellness, and Life Expectancy

Proinflammatory cytokines, according to our present understanding of their methods of action, pass the blood-brain barrier and alter pathophysiologic domains. Reduced neurotrophic support, decreased brain monoamine levels, increased glutamate release/reuptake, oxidative stress, poor brain plasticity, and activated neuroendocrine responses are all examples.How to Manage Chronic Inflammation to Improve Performance, Wellness, and Life Expectancy

But why is this happening? And why is it so prevalent?

The best explanation is that modern lifestyles in the industrialized world contribute to inflammation through behavioral patterns (e.g., modern meals, sedentary lives, bad sleep routines) and environmental exposures that are inconsistent with our species’ evolutionary history.

This includes, among other things, a credible argument that modernity has reduced natural exposure to formerly available sources of anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory signals (i.e., “germs” or “old friends”) that were historically widespread in our soil, food, and gut microbiota. (If you want to get nerdy, seek up “tolerogenic microorganisms” and the “Pathogen Host Defense” idea).

Anti-Inflammatory Practices to Improve Performance, Wellness, and Longevity

The good news is that you almost definitely do not require any drugs to control persistent systemic inflammation. It can be reduced by lifestyle changes and certain frequent activities. These are some examples:

Exercise: A sedentary lifestyle leads to chronic systemic disease. Conversely, we know that exercise has a substantial antidepressant impact, and there is reason to suspect that an important element of its mechanism of action is via an anti-inflammatory effect.

Sleep disorders such as insomnia, jet lag, shift work, and sleep deprivation can contribute to systemic inflammation. Sleep-improvement strategies are good to both inflammation levels. Make sure your sleeping “hygiene” is in order. This includes allotting enough time in bed, going to bed at the same time every night, and sleeping in a dark, quiet, and cold bedroom.

Timing the circadian clock: Epidemiological studies reveal that 80% of the general population lives a “shift work lifestyle” (e.g., chronic circadian rhythm disruption) and may be at risk for chronic inflammation-related disorders. Strategies that improve the circadian lifestyle, therapy timing, and addressing particular circadian aspects may be quite useful. Going to bed at the same time every night and having 5-10 minutes of direct sunshine on your eyes in the morning can do wonders.

Time-Restricted Feeding (TRF) or Intermittent Fasting: Restricting food to a small window of time (12- or 8-hours, or even less) every day may provide a variety of health advantages linked with lower inflammation, such as weight control and better mood and cognition. In a mouse research, it was shown that TRF (10-hour feeding window) avoided obesity and metabolic syndrome even when mice were permitted to consume the same quantity of calories that led other mice (non-TRF) to gain weight fast. In humans, a TRF strategy might provide a comparable effect by strengthening cellular defenses against metabolic stress. It is also more compatible with our predecessors’ dietary patterns.

Eating a whole foods diet (e.g., a Mediterranean or Ketogenic diet) that limits added sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and refined grains while increasing healthy fats, quality proteins, fiber, natural vegetables, and certain fruits has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation. According to a recent meta-analysis, following the Mediterranean diet or a diet low on the Dietary Inflammatory Index was linked to a decreased incidence of depression and inflammation. Eating highly processed junk food increases the likelihood of developing and sustaining depression. One randomized controlled trial discovered that flavonoid-rich chocolate (for example, 2 grams of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa) significantly reduced DNA damage, improved cell nucleus integrity, and improved biochemical parameters (total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol), as well as waist circumference. Another recent study discovered that an anti-inflammatory diet is connected with lower all-cause mortality.

Hydration: Drink lots of water, roughly 80-120 ounces each day, more if you sweat a lot.

Supplementation: Certain naturally occurring substances, such as turmeric/curcumin and Omega 3 fatty acids, may be beneficial as both foods and dietary supplements for lowering inflammation. A recent randomized controlled trial discovered that adjunctive turmeric/curcumin supplementation (500-1500 mg/day) showed substantial antidepressant benefits in individuals with severe depressive disorder, with males benefiting more than females.How to Manage Chronic Inflammation to Improve Performance, Wellness, and Life Expectancy


As we understand more about the relationship between gut microbiota and systemic inflammation, research shows that probiotic supplements, as well as foods that support gut health (e.g., fermented foods, bone broth), may be anti-inflammatory. Yogurt, kefir, miso, and anything naturally pickled without the addition of vinegar are examples of fermented foods.                    

Stress management: Because psychological stress increases the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, measures for reducing perceived stress and responding to stress have an anti-inflammatory impact. Recovery strategies have proven to be really beneficial. Meditation, yoga, Jiu Jitsu, religious/spiritual activities, disconnecting from digital connections, spending time outdoors (e.g., “forest bathing”), calming hobbies, and good social support are examples of such techniques.How to Manage Chronic Inflammation to Improve Performance, Wellness, and Life Expectancy

Sauna bathing, cold immersion, and float treatment are all options.
Hyperthermia (e.g., Finnish-style sauna bathing) has been linked to lower systemic inflammation and a variety of health advantages, including a lower risk of vascular and cardiovascular illness, neurocognitive disorders, pulmonary diseases, and all-cause mortality. Cold immersion (ice baths) and float tank treatment appear to offer substantial anti-inflammatory advantages as well.How to Manage Chronic Inflammation to Improve Performance, Wellness, and Life Expectancy

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Chronic, systemic inflammation is implicated in the pathophysiology of nearly all chronic illnesses. Many features of our modern lifestyle and food habits are mostly to blame. Changing your routines to have a more “ancient lifestyle” will reduce inflammation, improve metabolic and immunological function, and improve your general health and functioning.

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