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12 Lifestyle Habits that Contribute to Inflammation

by Kate Daugherty, MS, CNS, Denver Functional Medicine Nutritionist

A pro-inflammatory lifestyle is driven by choices that negatively impact health and drive the body into chronic inflammation. Many of these things can be changed with awareness. It takes replacing poor habits with better choices and living a well-balanced lifestyle.

Although correcting these pro-inflammatory lifestyle choices may not be "easy"- it can certainly be simple.

What contributes to inflammation? Lifestyle changes for decreasing inflammation

Here are 12 contributors to a pro-inflammatory lifestyle (and what to do about them)…

1. High-Sugar Foods: There is immune-suppression for 2-4 hours after eating foods high in simple sugars. The biggest offenders are refined and processed sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup. Minimizing these sugars means choosing naturally sweetened foods (like fruit) and using alternative sweeteners like Stevia or Monkfruit.

2. High-Fat Foods: Particularly foods high in arachidonic acid and omega-6 oils. This includes conventionally raised meat and dairy, vegetable oils, and hydrogenated fats. I always recommend choosing organic, grass-fed, pasture raised meats, and organic fermented dairy. Vegetable Oils are among the most pro-inflammatory food in our Standard American Diet and should be avoided at all costs. This includes Canola, Rapeseed, Soybean, and Corn oils.

3. Food Allergens: Known or unknown food allergens (and sensitivities) cause an immune reaction that leads to inflammation. While there are many food sensitivity tests commercially available, an elimination diet is still the gold standard for determining individual tolerance. It takes a period of restriction followed by systematic reintroduction. Reach out to Kate for help structuring an elimination diet for yourself.

4. Foods that promote dysbiosis in the gut: Gut health is paramount to minimizing inflammation in the body. Quickly digested foods tend to promote bacterial overgrowth in the gut. This includes simple sugars and carbohydrates like white flour. When the bacterial flora is out of balance, we can have myriad health issues from digestive distress to mood problems.

5. Insufficient fiber: Fiber acts like a broom to sweep out toxins from the gut. As the liver processes toxins (from the environment, or our own metabolic processes like hormones), fiber binds to them and carries them out of the body in our waste. Most Americans are chronically deficient in fiber. Aim for 25g or more per day.

6. Insufficient Phytonutrients: Phytonutrients primarily found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and spices have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which quench inflammation. The best way to ensure you get adequate phytonutrients is to practice Eating The Rainbow.

Phytonutrients for minimizing inflammation in the body
Allllll the colors and phytonutrients

7. Insufficient Exercise: To start, adipose tissue (fat) is pro-inflammatory. By decreasing fat tissue and maintaining a healthy body composition, you put yourself into a healthier state. Secondarily, exercising muscle improves insulin sensitivity, thus reducing inflammation. Exercise can take many forms- from daily walking, strength training, or HIIT classes. Just like nutrition, exercise can be very individual. Need help committing to an exercise program? Book a free fitness assessment with Aaron. Want to workout at home? Try Aaron’s 12-week Strength Program.

8. Vitamin D Deficiency: Vitamin D is an essential vitamin (and acts as a hormone) in every cell in the body. When we are vitamin D deficient, we are more prone to illness, autoimmunity, and osteoarthritis/osteoporosis. A functional range is 50-100 ng/mL, which often requires supplementation. Quality Matters. Get pharmaceutical-grade Vitamin D here.

9. Fatty Acid Imbalances: I’ve already touched on consumption of poor-quality fats. A high Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio is a measurable marker of inflammation. To correct this ratio, consumption of high-quality fats (fish, avocado, seeds, and olive oil) is important. You may also benefit from an Omega 3 supplement.

10. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies: In addition to fats and vitamin D, a deficiency in a number of other vitamins or minerals can contribute to inflammation. Particularly, magnesium deficiency is seen in 20-40% of Americans. Other vitamins and minerals to consider include B-vitamins, zinc, copper, selenium, sodium, and potassium. These are all things we can look at using functional lab testing.

11. Xenobiotic/Toxin Accumulation: While this a bit non-specific, any number of toxic burdens can lead to inflammation. Consider your environment-what is your exposure to xenobiotics or toxins and how can you minimize it?

12. Emotional Stress / Toxic Relationships: Our emotional state has a profound impact on our physical health. The mind IS part of the body. Emotional stressors promote inflammation, impair wound healing, and promote immunosuppression. The vagal nerve is the main connection between brain and other organs. It is vital that this connection is healthy. If you’re struggling with poor mental health, reach out to a therapist.


What are some ways to manage a pro-inflammatory lifestyle and craft an anti-inflammatory strategy?

Make healthier diet choices. Try Kate’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet Guide and Meal Plan.

Practice Mindfulness. Start Neil’s 33-Day Mind-Body-Breath Reset

Start Therapy. Book a free phone consult with Kristen to see if she’s a good fit for you.


Final Thoughts on Inflammation

Ultimately, being intentional about lifestyle choices can bring you closer to a state of well-being. Small changes add up. While an injury or illness can be a 'wake-up call' you don't have to wait to make living an anti-inflammatory life a priority. Choose one thing you can do this week to minimize inflammation from known triggers.


Want to work with a functional medicine doctor to run labs and assess nutrient status? Struggling with hormone imbalance, IBS, weight gain, mood changes? Let's look at BIOCHEMISTRY. Read more about Functional Medicine at The Facility here.

Not sure where to start?

CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE 15-Minute Consult with Kate to determine your best course of action!

Or reach out by email




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Dr. Mitchell Rasmussen - Doctor of Chiro
Kate Daugherty - Nutritionist - Function
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