Deepak Chopra, a world leader in alternative medicine and meditation, shed light on what he deems the world’s most pressing health problem in a talk this week in New York City, where he announced his company’s expansion into wellness tourism.
“The number one pandemic of our times right now is inflammation,” he said.
When the body’s immune system is alerted to anything foreign, like pollen or microbes, it triggers an inflammatory response. Acute inflammation protects the body and helps it heal. However, when inflammation persists, and becomes what’s known as chronic inflammation, serious health consequences can follow.
“Stress, inflammation, depression, anxiety, and chronic disease go together,” Chopra said. “Inflammation is the culprit in all these diseases.”
Constant stress can put the body in a state of chronic inflammation, which increases the risk for mental health problems like anxiety and depression along with heart disease and Alzheimer’s, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
“The reason for that is trauma. Anyone who’s had trauma is likely to be inflamed,” Chopra said. The rise in mental health problems and chronic stress is related to the body’s response to trauma, which can stem from generational trauma, isolation, or the stress of the news cycle, Chopra explained.
There’s so much we can’t control, but Chopra says to look inward at what you can change. “It’s a very daunting task,” he admitted, but understanding the biology of inflammation and how it can be exacerbated by lifestyle habits is a good place to start, he continued.
Here’s how Deepak Chopra suggests reducing chronic inflammation.
1. Get enough sleep
Chopra says sleep is vital for reducing stress. Sleep deprivation is associated with increased inflammation, according to Harvard Health.
Most adults need at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night to reduce the risk of a host of chronic health problems like heart disease and stroke. Having a wind-down routine—including minimizing screen time, practicing mindfulness before bed, and keeping a consistent sleep and wake time—will help people get an ample number of hours.
Since stress is linked to inflammation, finding ways to reduce it is crucial—whether it’s through mindfulness, meditation, exercise, or a hobby.
Even twenty minutes of an art activity or a couple of minutes of deep breathing, can make a difference over time. Practicing gratitude also serves to calm the minds and body and can, in turn, increase levels of happiness.
3. Stay emotionally connected to others
Positive relationships with others is associated with lower levels of inflammation, unlike isolation and loneliness which puts people at risk for chronic inflammation and a host of health conditions.
Finding ways to stay connected to others through volunteering, community groups, and activities can help mitigate health risks.
4. Find moments of joy
Research shows that finding moments of joy can increase feelings of calm and help us de-stress.
Luckily, there are opportunities for joy everywhere. Listen to a song you love, notice the leaves changing color, or smell the spices of a meal you love to cook.
5. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Chopra recommends eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in plant-based, whole foods. Eating foods that fight inflammation can lower your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and depression. He touts the pillars of the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and lean meats.