What Is Inflammation and Can Food and Nutrition Really Help?



As Melbourne now enters version 2.0 of lockdown it is more vital than ever that we place importance on what we reach for to eat as most of us work from home. It is all too easy during times of stress to emotionally eat or reach for fast, convenient foods and snacks that take minimal effort to prepare but are often high in trans-fats, salt and sugar, and can lead to inflammation in the body.


Most of us are familiar with the growing amount of research that discusses the link between chronic low-grade inflammation in the pathology of numerous age-related chronic conditions. An unresolved inflammatory response is likely to be involved from the early stages of disease development which is why health experts emphasize the importance of anti-inflammatory foods and particular diets such as the Mediterranean which emphasises fish, vegetables and olive oil, among other staples.

Chronic conditions such as Heart Disease, Arthritis, Cancer, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Chronic Fatigue, and persistent pain all have inflammation in common.


So, what is inflammation, and can food and nutrition really help?

Inflammation comes from the Latin word ‘inflammare’, which means to ‘set on fire’. A certain amount of inflammation is necessary within the body whereby in an injury, our immune response sends white blood cells to the site to assist with healing. It is also necessary to fight off pathogens and in a healthy human being, inflammation is controlled and self-limited. However ongoing, chronic or systemic inflammation can persist for long times in the body and become the source of developing chronic disease or pain.

One way to measure the level of inflammation in your body is a blood test that checks high sensitivity C-reactive protein levels and can be undertaken by your GP. Whilst this test doesn’t tell you what is causing the inflammation it does give you an idea of the amount of inflammation present within your body.


High levels of CRP are often found in conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Metabolic Syndrome, Cancer, High Blood Pressure, Infections and Chronic Fatigue. High insulin levels are also inflammatory and can contribute to the development of chronic disease. We are already aware of the importance of diet in conditions such as Diabetes. Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates which easily converts to fat can also lead to an increased inflammation so a diet whereby blood sugar levels are stable is also important.


Smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and inadequate sleep can all play a part in increasing the inflammatory response and it is important to regularly review our diet and lifestyle to provide us with the best opportunity to reduce chronic inflammation in the body and in the long term to prevent chronic disease.

Undertaking an anti-inflammatory diet and foods rich in phytonutrients can go a long way to overall good health and maintenance. In addition to this there are foods that we can avoid to reduce inflammation within the body such as those with added sugars and highly processed foods and trans fats which are often found in many snack foods.


Phytonutrients are chemicals produced by plants that have high anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Plants themselves use phytonutrients to stay healthy so any anti-inflammatory diet should be rich in plant-based recipes whereby you eat the ‘colours of the rainbow.’ This includes purple, white, green, orange, red and green fruits and vegetables.


With all this time working from home now is the perfect time to look to your Naturopathic Physician to assist with assessment of foods that are compatible for you and tailor a personalised nutrition plan that meets your specific needs or signs and symptoms.


Many companies offer delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables to your home so it has never been easier to plan, prepare and cook quick nutritious meals for yourself and your family that will not only reduce your long-term chronic disease development but work on building a healthier, happier and more energetic you.

Research:


Low-grade inflammation, diet composition and health: current research evidence and its translation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4579563/


Foods that fight Inflammation – Harvard Medical:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation?fbclid=IwAR0JRZThZpSt8xkVtwB3KUxmaQMjX11GdpAbHvKw7zSNssuvd2yQzT7tKHM


Diet and Inflammation

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0884533610385703

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