Inflammation - what is it and how you can reduce it?
It’s hard to ignore inflammation when it comes to a twisted ankle or an insect bite. Inflammation can occur anywhere in the body - on the skin, in the gut, in the brain, in our joints or in our muscles. Inflammation is an important part of the body’s healing process, however chronic inflammation causes many diseases and health conditions.
Below we breakdown what inflammation is and how you can reduce it with anti-inflammatory foods.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation happens when your immune system is reacting to the sudden injury or infection, protecting your body from invaders. This could be that sprain in the ankle or an unknown bacteria.
Chemicals, such as histamines and prostaglandins, from your body’s white blood cells, enter your blood or tissues to prevent these invaders, thus increasing the blood flow to the injured or infected area. This in turn causes redness and can heat up the affected area.
Oftentimes these chemicals cause fluid to leak into your tissues resulting in the classic swell. This whole process plays a crucial part in the healing process and is just another way to destroy these invading and foreign microorganisms from attacking your body.
In this sense, inflammation is good, as it’s just your immune system’s automatic reaction to protecting your body from injury or infection.
But at times, inflammation can lead to chronic inflammation and we all know that too much of one thing can become unpleasant, as is the case with inflammation.
When Inflammation Becomes A Bad Thing
Long term inflammation can occur when our immune system triggers an inflammatory response to something that’s actually not a threat to our body.
When this happens, it can cause harmful inflammations such as rheumatoid arthritis, which is where many joints throughout the body are permanently inflamed. It can also cause inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Chronic inflammation can also lead to weight gain and disease.
It can also have an impact on our skin, causing flare ups in the skin with dry patchy areas and even psoriasis, a chronic skin disease.
This is where anti-inflammation and antioxidants both play an important part in your body. As a quick reminder, antioxidants help prevent free radicals, which is a molecule with unpaired electrons. As they come unpaired, they steal other electrons to try and become a pair, which then in turn creates another free radical.
These free radicals trigger inflammations and the whole process can cause damage to cells, proteins and even DNA.
It is important to note that both inflammation and antioxidants need to be balanced in your body, as too little or too much can cause different and potentially life long problems to your body.
Studies have shown that there are certain foods and spices that can fight inflammation. Keep in mind that although these foods have strong anti-inflammatory properties, it is not a magic wand that will solve all inflammation problems, but it sure is a good start!
The best way to absorb the necessary vitamins and minerals to be able to fight off inflammation is to have a whole foods diet that is rich in phytochemicals. This is an antioxidant nutrient compound that has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects. It is best to eat a range of anti-inflammatory foods, as different foods will have different anti-inflammatory properties.
Berries are often on many lists of benefits to your body, so why not start eating them? They may not be in season at the moment but getting frozen berries are perfect for your morning fruit smoothies. Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries have compounds that reduce inflammation, boost immunity and reduce risk of heart disease.
Alliums and crucifers. Alliums refer to garlic, onions, leeks, and crucifiers are vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and everyone’s favourite, brussel sprouts. Consume these weekly to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
Herbs and spices are not only known for taking your meal up another level, but their anti-inflammatory properties make it even more beneficial to add them to your daily meals. These include chili peppers, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, gingers, rosemary, sage and thyme.
Virgin Olive Oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat. It’s a staple in the meditterranean diet, and rightfully so, with its numerous health benefits. Olive oil reduces the risk of heart disease and significantly decreases the chance of inflammation when consuming 50ml of olive oil on a daily basis.
Natural Supplements are sometimes easier to incorporate into the diet on a regular basis. Supplements with anti-inflammatory properties include Omega 3, Zinc, Green Tea supplements and of course Curcumin.
As you can see, these anti-inflammatory foods are not difficult to obtain or hard to incorporate in your meals and daily routine.