Inflammation is one of those mechanisms that evolved to protect the body, but it can sometimes backfire. When you’re wounded or suffering from a localized infection, it provides a cushioning effect and enables more immune cells to congregate where they’re needed. Sometimes, though, it lasts for too long or develops when it’s not required. That can cause pain, make it difficult to move, and, if it lasts for a long time, can cause other things to go wrong with your body. It can make it hard to get back to your regular workout after a minor injury, or it can trigger the development of a serious illness.

When you have unwanted inflammation, there are things you can do to reduce it. If it’s localized, soaking the area in hot, salty water helps a lot. If it’s systemic – affecting your whole body or a large part of it – then the following approaches may help.

Avoid allergens

Allergic reactions often trigger inflammation, and when you’re already suffering from it, it’s all the more important to avoid allergens so that you don’t make it worse. That is why anti-histamines are often an effective treatment, but prevention is better than cure. While it’s easy to identify skin allergens that cause localized swelling, such as insect bites or contact with particular plants, it can be harder to identify them in what we eat. Working through a list of common dietary allergens and eliminating them from what you eat, one by one, for two weeks each, can help you to work out if any of them are causing problems for you.

Eat more healthily

Even if you avoid allergens, an unhealthy diet can significantly increase your risk of developing inflammation. The worst culprit is refined sugar, and diabetes is often classed as an inflammatory disease. Refined foods, in general, are bad news, and unless you need them because of a medical condition, it’s best to stick to whole grains, avoiding white bread and heavily processed foods. Vegetarian diets can help reduce inflammation, and red meat is particularly unhelpful because it’s high in protein and fat, both of which contribute to the problem. If you don’t want to go vegetarian, a Mediterranean diet is a good choice. Olives help to lower inflammation directly, as do walnuts, avocados, peppers, green tea, fatty fish, and – you may be pleased to hear – dark chocolate and red wine.

Use herbal remedies

Although they won’t solve all your medical problems, herbal remedies do have their uses. Ginger and turmeric have been used, together and separately, over hundreds of years as anti-inflammatory agents. You can add them to your diet, consume them in herbal teas, or, if you prefer, take them in capsule form. Then there’s CBD isolate powder, which you can order online, and research suggests it is highly effective for taking down system swelling and particularly helpful for related problems with the intestines. It can even be mixed into food – though it does have quite a strong taste.

Give up smoking

You already know that smoking is bad for you, but when it comes to inflammation, you may not realize that it’s one of the worst things you can do. It aggravates swelling throughout the body and also interferes with circulation, which means that problems can’t be remedied as effectively as usual. This latter effect is something that gets worse over time. There is a bright side, however – if you successfully quit, inflammation will usually start to go down noticeably after just two weeks, and your risk of associated illnesses will also decrease.

Get more sleep

There’s one thing you can do to reduce inflammation that doesn’t require much effort at all, and that’s to sleep more. If you can’t fit in enough at night, napping also helps, as does relaxation in general. While stress makes inflammation worse, sleep allows the body’s natural repair mechanisms to do their work and lets everything get back in balance. It’s incredible what a difference it can make. Try reorganizing your daily schedule so that you’re not pushing yourself as much.

If you have persistent inflammation that doesn’t go away when you use these methods, talk to your doctor. It could be a sign of a more severe problem. Most of the time, however, it’s only temporary, and you will be able to treat it yourself so that you can get back to living a happy, healthy life.