What you do in the morning is completely up to you. But in the name of good health, it can help to be aware of certain morning habits that can lead to inflammation. While you don't have to avoid these things entirely, replacing them with other options can be a great way to lower your body's inflammation — and feel better as a result.
To start, "focus on eating a balanced breakfast that incorporates anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, whole grains, vegetables, nuts, seafood, herbs, and spices," Ysabel Montemayor, registered dietitian at Fresh n' Lean, tells Bustle. What we tend to think of as "breakfast food" doesn't have to be the only option. Sure, you can have cereal or a donut if you'd like. But why not try something else, too?
You can also make a point of slowing down in the morning, seeing as stress is a major cause of inflammation. "Take steps to reduce chronic stress in the form of rushing around, constant worrying, and repetitive thoughts," Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and author, tells Bustle. "Carve out some time, even just 10 minutes, to meditate, pray, journal, read, or do another activity that feels empowering and positive."
Doing these things can lead to a calmer and more organized morning, while also protecting you from too much inflammation. With that in mind, read on for some common morning habits that can actually cause inflammation, according to experts.
Eating Processed Breakfast Foods
"There’s evidence that eating lots of added sugar triggers the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines," Dr. Axe says. "Many processed snack foods, frozen breakfast products, cookies, donuts, etc. contain trans-fats, refined vegetable oils and/or margarine, all of which can be inflammatory."
While cereal, granola, sweetened yogurts, waffles, and donuts are fine every once and a while, it can help to go another route — especially if you're worried about inflammation.
"Make a healthy breakfast, ideally one with protein, fiber, and fat to keep you full," Dr. Axe says. "Examples include eggs with spinach and avocado, rolled oats with berries and plain yogurt, or a big green smoothie with your favorite superfoods like collagen powder, kale, banana, and cocoa."
Stressing Out & Rushing Around
It's so common to spend the morning rushing around, looking for lost keys, and stressing yourself out as you zoom off to work. But all of that chaos can really do a number on your body.
"Inflammation can be a response to chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels," Dr. Axe says. "If your mornings are hectic and leave you feeling anxious and wiped out, you’re setting yourself up for burnout, since chronic stress takes a toll on the immune system."
To break the habit, try to go to bed earlier so you can wake up earlier, and have extra time to get ready. If you don't have to panic and rush, you'll be able to start the day on a much healthier foot.
Doing An Intense Workout
While exercise can reduce inflammation, too much or too little of it isn't good for your health. "Try to strike a balance in the morning between doing no movement at all, and over-doing exercise to the point that you’re later fatigued," Dr. Axe says.
If you're worried about inflammation, doing yoga in the morning can be a good choice, as can a medium-intensity workout class, or a walk around the block.
And if you do decide to go hard at the gym, be sure to recover afterward. "Intense exercise can cause inflammation as it does cause stress on the body," Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, founder of Real Nutrition, tells Bustle. "[But] refueling properly with whole foods and adequate rest can help ease the inflammation."
Checking Your Phone Right Away
"For most of us, looking at emails, text messages, or even social media can certainly elicit an immediate stress response," Tracy Southwick, ND, HHP, owner of Heights of Health, tells Bustle. So if you have a tendency to reach for your phone the moment you wake up — only to get hit with an onslaught of stress — it may be a habit worth breaking.
"This can be a terrible way to start the day," Southwick says, "because emotional stress is a top producer of inflammation in the body." Instead, give yourself time to wake up and do something peaceful, like that aforementioned yoga, before getting sucked into your phone.
Waking Up To A Loud Alarm
You gotta do what you gotta do to get out of bed in the morning, and sometimes that means setting multiple loud alarms. But if you have a choice, opting for a more peaceful wakeup can be better for your health.
As Harris says, a jarring alarm can lead to inflammation, all thanks to the stress it produces. A better option, she says, may be an alarm clock that has a more soothing sound, or one that mimics the sunrise as it lights up your room.
Adding Sugar To Your Coffee
"Although coffee is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, adding extra cream and sugar might be counterproductive," Montemayor says. "Consuming too much sugar not only raises blood sugar, but can also raise inflammation in the body."
Coffee creamer can cause inflammation too, due to its saturated and trans-fat contents. "This doesn't mean you can never enjoy coffee with cream and sugar — just don't go overboard," Montemayor says.
For more energy — and less inflammation — opt for fruit or a fresh green smoothie instead, Harris says. That way you can get a sweet kick, without inundating your body with inflammation-inducing sugar.
Worrying About The Day Ahead
It can be tricky to remain calm in the morning, especially if you're staring down a packed schedule. And yet, to reduce inflammation, you'll want to do whatever you can to avoid stress and worry.
"A good practice is to write down three things you are grateful for when you go to bed and again when you wake up," Harris says. "You will be shocked at the difference this can make in your life over time."
Other chill morning routines, such as taking some time to read or meditate, can also help keep your mind off stress, and start your day in a healthier way.
Drinking Sweetened Smoothies
"One sneaky way that you could be contributing to chronic inflammation in the morning is by sipping on a sugary beverage," registered dietician Jillian Kubala, tells Bustle. This might include fruit smoothies and juices, which are typical morning fare. And yet they tend to be loaded with extra sugar.
"Added sugar has been shown to contribute to low-grade, chronic inflammation in the body," Kubala says, so if you are going to smoothie it up, you may want to read labels, and keep it to a minimum.
You certainly don't have to overhaul your entire morning routine in order to fight inflammation. But if you're worried about it — and any of these habits ring a bell — it won't hurt to replace them with something healthier, as a way of helping your body out.