Is your body inflamed?
Is your body inflamed? Here are tell-tale signs and what you can do about it
Inflammation is a necessary protective mechanism, but when it gets out of hand you may find you have chronic low grade inflammation that doesn’t switch off. This can be a trigger for more serious health conditions. Here are some typical signs of inflammation to look out for. And read on for my dietary and lifestyle approaches to create a more anti-inflammatory “happy” body state.
Acute inflammation is an important protective and repair mechanism. Take me recently as a good example. I took a nasty tumble out running and badly grazed my knee. It swelled up slightly, making movement difficult for a few days whilst the inflammatory cytokines and white blood cells rushed to the damaged site to clear up the debris and heal and repair. It created pus initially and then formed a scar at the damaged site. Job done!
I’m back to normal now, but for many people there is a heightened state of inflammation going on within the body that may not be obvious. But be aware that long-term inflammation is a marker for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune conditions and cancer.
Typical signs of underlying inflammation in the body
Many skin irritations, rashes and itching are due to inflammation. Psoriasis and eczema are common, extremely irritating and troublesome inflammatory states.
Many aches and pains are signs of internal inflammation that are not just due to the ageing process. The more we can manage internal inflammation, the longer we can keep the body functioning well – without creaking! – as we age.
Those who suffer with frequent infections and /or infections that are hard to shake off are due to poor immune defences that may be hindered due to inflammation.
Irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive and gut disorders can be a sign of gut inflammation of the gut barrier wall.
In medical terms, any condition ending in “itis” is an inflammatory state, such as arthritis, rhinitis or tendonitis.
What causes inflammation?
Let’s start with dietary choices. Certain foods will create a more pro-inflammatory response in the body:
- Processed foods (with high levels of sugars and processed fats);
- High intake of saturated fats (animal foods) as these follow a pathway to create pro-inflammatory messengers in the body;
- High intake of seed and vegetable oils (sunflower, vegetable, canola). These oils are commonly used in the food manufacturing industry, so look very carefully at labels. The manufacturing process damages the fats, creating inflammatory free radicals in the body. Avoid!
- Be particularly careful when buying supposedly healthy nut milks, as many are thickened with sunflower oil.
- Too much sugary and starchy food. It has been found that chronic hyper blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia) create a pro-inflammatory state in the body.
- Too many refined grains, especially those rich in gluten, may be inflammatory for some. This includes grains like wheat, rye and barley.
- Alcohol is inflammatory. Enough said!
- Food sensitivities and intolerances. This is different to a true food allergy that triggers an immediate allergic reaction. Food sensitivities are more subtle and the systemic effect in the body is not obviously related to the food eaten (in the previous 24 hours). Gluten, eggs and dairy are common intolerances, but there can be many other foods identified on a good quality test.
Chronic stress that triggers the ongoing release of cortisol is pro-inflammatory. Initially, the acute release of cortisol has an anti-inflammatory effect, but chronic stress with chronic raised cortisol has the opposite effect.
Poor sleep is associated with increased inflammatory blood markers.
Excess intensive exercise can create ongoing inflammation that is hard to switch off. The body needs time to heal and repair, but too much exercise too often may trigger ongoing inflammation.
How to lower inflammation
Let’s start with dietary choices! Certain foods will create a more anti-inflammatory response in the body:
- Oily fish like mackerel, sardines, trout, salmon and herring are naturally anti-inflammatory to the body and should be eaten three times a week. These types of fish are high in Essential Fatty Acids from Omega-3 called EPA and DHA. These fats send out anti-inflammatory messages around the body.
- Other good fats like cold pressed olive oil, olives, avocados, nuts and seeds. Eating the actual seeds is OK. It is the high intake of the cheaply processed seed oils that is problematic.
- A high intake and wide diversity of vegetables with lots of colours. These contain plant compounds like polyphenols and other flavonoids and anti-oxidants that help to reduce free radical damage and inflammation.
- A little low sugar fruit, especially berries. These bright red and purple fruits are also rich in protective compounds that help lower the inflammatory response.
- Plenty of herbs – like vegetables, they have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Regular intake of turmeric in cooking (eat with some fat to help absorption). The active compound curcumin is recognised as highly anti-inflammatory.
Be aware of any food sensitivities mentioned above. A good quality test using finger prick blood testing will identify high levels of IgG antibodies, which suggests certain foods may be problematic for you.
Can supplements help?
Yes, they can enhance the anti-inflammatory state in the body, especially if the diet is lacking certain foods.
There are three main supplements that can be very helpful:
- Curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric), taken as a fat soluble formula, which enhances the absorption from the gut into the bloodstream.
- Fish Oils or algae oils (if vegan/vegetarian) with a good EPA and DHA potency. It isn’t the Omega-3 that is relevant, but the levels of EPA and DHA.
- Bromelain or another proteolytic enzyme like serrapeptase which can help to break down inflammatory debris at sites like joints. These should be taken well away from food, otherwise they just digest the protein in the meal.
Lowering hidden inflammation in the body is a must for long-term health. Be aware of any of the signs I mention above and take early action to reset your body.
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