Reduce Inflammation and Improve Immunity With Lifestyle Changes, Not Supplements

People often take echinacea to bolster immunity and ward off colds or other viruses. They turn to turmeric to alleviate pain or to reduce inflammation due to psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis. In our survey, turmeric was the most popular supplement for chronic health problems.

Some studies suggest that taking echinacea might make you slightly less susceptible to colds, and preliminary research indicates that curcumin could potentially help with knee pain from osteoarthritis. But conclusive evidence that these products work is lacking, according to experts who have studied them and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health.

There are, however, other, proven nonpharmacological ways you can get these desired health benefits.

Strengthen Your Immune System

Get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep nightly. This will improve your ability to fight off viral infections, such as the common cold, says Robert McLean, M.D., a rheumatologist at Yale New Haven Hospital and president of the American College of Physicians.

Increase your intake of nutrient-dense foods. These include fatty fish (sardines and salmon), which provide vitamin D, key for immune-system function, says Julie Stefanski, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Rehab your diet with superfoods. These include dark leafy greens, raspberries and blackberries, and citrus and broccoli, all good sources of vitamin C, which supports the immune system and healing. Pumpkin and sweet potatoes provide vitamin A for a strong immune system. And foods such as olive oil, chia seeds, and avocado provide vital nutrients that help to fight infection.

More On

Supplements and Botanicals

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Supplements and Botanicals

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Reduce Inflammation

If you’re dealing with inflammation from an injury, ice can reduce pain and swelling. For minor pains, an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen, can also provide short-term relief, McLean says.

You’ll also want to avoid soda, processed meat, and too much alcohol (more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men). Regular exercise and adequate sleep have also been shown to help with chronic inflammation.

If you think you might have a medical condition, such as celiac disease, where certain foods trigger inflammation, talk to your doctor.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the December 2019 issue of Consumer Reports.

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