Inflammation refers to our immunological defence against injury, infection, or allergy. Marked by increased blood flow, proliferation of white blood cells to the affected area, and the release of antibodies and proteins, inflammation is the natural way the body protects itself against foreign organisms and triggers repair to tissue, by chemicals eliciting the body’s immune response. Acute inflammation lasts 1anything between a few hours to a few days.
Chronic inflammation occurs when the immune response lingers and it leaves the body in a constant state of alert. Over time, systemic chronic inflammation (SCI) may have a negative impact on tissues and organs and research suggests that chronic inflammation may contribute to a range of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as metabolic disease, cancer to stroke. Collectively, these NCDs represent the leading causes of disability and mortality.
When inflammation becomes chronic, it is important to keep it under control to prevent long-term damage. Typical treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids but with long-term use, these can lead to further health complications such as peptic ulcers, kidney disease, vision problems, hypertension and osteoporosis.
‘chronic inflammatory diseases are the most significant cause of death in the world today, with more than 50 per cent of all deaths being attributable to inflammation-related diseases’
George Slavich, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Bio behavioural sciences at UCLA
By far the most natural way to help mitigate chronic inflammation is through positive lifestyle choices such as exercise and diet. Every day we have 3 opportunities to nutritionally benefit our body and help mitigate long term health issues like metabolic syndrome, heart disease, ulcerative colitis and bowel disease, arthritis and even some forms of cancer.
Slavich continues “diet is one of the key factors that influences inflammation in the body”. Ultra-processed foods and a diet high in refined carbohydrates tend to increase inflammation. A recent cohort study of 44,551 French adults followed for 7 years found that a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed food consumption was associated with a 14% greater risk of all-cause mortality.
Where refined carbohydrates tend to increase inflammation, fruits, nuts, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes and olive oil tend to reduce inflammation. Therefore, while diet is not the only factor that can be targeted to improve immune health, it is an important one.
Foods known to have anti-inflammatory properties include those that are high in antioxidants and polyphenols, such as
· olive oil
· leafy greens, like kale and spinach
· fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, and mackerel
· fruits, especially cherries, blueberries, and oranges
And certain supplements and spices have also been shown to reduce chronic inflammation
· Fish oil
· Lipoic acid
The most common way to measure inflammation is to conduct a blood test for C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), a key inflammation marker. At The Core nutrition advisor Chris Quint shares a few ideas around assessing your diet help ahead of seeking expert nutritional advice:
· Improve your knowledge of anti-inflammatory foods
· Keep a food diary to log your own nutritional intake
· Increase consumption of anti-inflammatory foods such as omega rich fish and leafy greens
· Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate with at least 2 litres of water a day
· Include more exercise within your existing daily routine – take the stairs, cycle rather than drive
· Manage stress through meditation and breathing techniques
Chris can be contacted via the Bath clinic for individual nutrition assessments and anti inflammatory diet meal planning.