~By Sheree Crute~

Imagine red, swollen irritated tissue on the inside of your arteries and joints. That’s how inflammation works, and black women’s bodies are more likely to experience a potentially lethal immune system response.

When inflammation rages out of control, it contributes to everything from cancer to diabetes, lupus, heart disease, dementia (in old age), and even premature birth.

Inflammation is a health risk for everyone, but we may have a greater inherited tendency to mount an inflammatory response to negative stimuli than other people, a fact that’s become increasingly clear over the last 10 years and most recently with a study in late 2012. And while out-of-control inflammation can cause illness in anyone, we have an additional challenge—unhealthy levels of inflammation can increase in response to discrimination.

How it Begins

Inflammation, when it’s under control, is one of the body’s tools for healing. It’s a normal biological response that fights bacteria, viruses and helps heal damaged tissue. Problems arise when your body becomes chronically inflamed, over-reacting to immune system stimuli.

Once inflammation starts, the lining of the arteries swells and narrows, joints enlarge and become painful. It can even injure the lining of your heart to the degree that it becomes difficult for it to pump.

Here are five steps to cool your body’s invisible fire and cut one of our top health risks:

1. Chill Out

Finding a path to peace in your life—no matter what circumstances you face—is one of the most important aspects of dealing with

inflammation. Why? Studies have found a solid link between the stress of living with racism and harmful levels of inflammation, especially in black women. Inflammation may be behind the ongoing disparities in low birth weight among black babies.

How should we handle this in a society where we cannot control the attitudes of others? Accept the fact that experiencing discrimination is part of life as black women and arm yourself with a prepared, healthy response.

First, remember, discrimination is a negative commentary on the person acting against you, not you. Second, get to know more about the wonderful, inspiring and amazing achievements of black women. Have a positive attitude about our life and our culture has a protective effect.

Spicing up your life with tumeric is easy, cheap and effective in fighting inflammation. (Photo: Creative Commons)

2. Spice Up Your Life

One of the cheapest, easiest and most effective ways to reduce inflammation levels is to add generous amounts of turmeric (curcumin) and ginger to your diet. Tumeric is not a traditional ingredient in African American cuisine, but women from the Caribbean no doubt recognize it as the ingredient that gives curry its rich golden hue.

Can’t stand curry? Not a problem. Turmeric alone has a mild, almost savory taste. It can be used to make yellow rice, help food brown (like paprika) or you can simply take it in a capsule. As a bonus, tumeric may prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease; just do not mix high doses with blood thinners or non-sterpidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

3. Deal With Your diet

You cannot fight inflammation effectively if you eat the wrong foods, but it’s simple to get on the right track. Cut Gluten (in wheat, barley and rye), fried food, red meat, processed foods and sugar as often as possible.

4. Invest in a High-Quality Vitamin

Lately, research has shed doubt on whether vitamins are worth the trouble. When it comes to fighting inflammation, it seems like they just may be. Vitamins A, B6, C, D, E and K all play a role so your best bet, in addition to eating primarily fruits and vegetables, is to add a good multivitamin to your regimen.

5. Work Out With Care

There’s no doubt that exercise reduces inflammation, but not if you pile on the injuries or exhaust yourself. Pick a moderate workout that targets abdominal fat and obesity (an inflammation factory and tough problem for us) and stick with it four days a week.

Sheree Crute is co-founder and editor-in-chief of FierceforBlackWomen.com. She is an award-winning writer and editor who covers a broad range of health topics and specializes in consumer and multicultural health.