In a fast-paced world engineered towards driving technological innovations and efficiencies it’s understandable that our habits and lifestyles have also altered dramatically as a consequence.
Exercise, for many, is no longer an essential part of the day enabling them to get from A to B replaced instead with automotive transport; a rise in pollution; a de-purification of the environment we live in. In many ways this modern adaptation in the world of transport is also reflected in our modern dietary habits.
Due to time constraints, many people now reach for fast food options for both convenience, which overtime can lead to food addiction. Similar to the transport analogy, the new, faster alternative in many case is causing toxicity within it’s environment, in this instance: the body.
An individual’s diet can be their biggest asset or a lethal liability. It can be the difference between having a healthy body composition and growing older with less risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and joint issues and aging whilst maintaining mobility and vitality.
However if your dietary habits aren’t in alignment with the asset class, then your diet soon becomes a liability, one major implication is chronic inflammation, which can become debilitating.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a completely natural immune response to stress placed on the body. For this reason inflammation can either be classed as acute or chronic. Acute inflammation for example is swelling you see and feel after an injury. Chronic inflammation – or long-term inflammation – is a larger issue and the onset of which is insidious and progressive.
The onset of acute inflammation is typically fairly instant and reflexive to coping with bacteria and injury. Whereas chronic inflammation is far more gradual and can take months or even years before it surfaces as an issue. At this point it’s already a serious health issue.
Chronic inflammation can lead to some long-term, serious health issues with cellular rejuvenation leading to skin and mobility problems to name a few.
What causes chronic inflammation?
Chronic inflammation can be caused by stressful lifestyle habits that remain unaddressed. This can be both physical stress or emotional stress. Both of these types of stress create an ongoing immune response leading to chronic inflammation and the issues that accompanies it.
Certain stresses are external to our bodies that we gain exposure to, such as chemicals, synthetics and other people and their impact on your emotional states. Internal causes of chronic inflammation and stress can sometimes be related to genetic predisposition, such as hormonal imbalances, in particular the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. This is often the cause of conditions associated with chronic inflammation such as osteoperosis and adult acne.
Another internal cause of chronic inflammation is your body’s response to the food you feed it.
How does your diet affect inflammation?
The food we eat and its association with inflammation – like most health conditions – can be a double edged sword. Diet can either regulate inflammation and guide you towards health or fill your body with inflammation.
The main reason why diet is so crucial when looking at inflammation is because it’s comprised out of habits. Eating unhealthy food once in a while won’t be significant enough to cause inflammatory issues, however when bad eating habits are engrained into your day-to-day life, over time this causes significant stress within the body.
To compound the spiralling issue of diet induced chronic inflammation, the culprits – including processed food, sugary food and fast food – are all so convenient, abundant and quite often addictive. Because these types of foods are not natural within the environment that we live within, our bodies are not designed to process them efficiently; it’s incredibly taxing on the body to process these foods and they cause metabolic deficits. The addictive nature of some of these foods can lead to a constant internal battle happening within the body producing inflammation as a by-product.
The first step to reducing inflammation is cutting out processed food, fast food and sugar. Instead stick to eating wholesome natural food – a general rule is: if it has an ingredients, step away. Begin to create meals out of actual, nutrient dense foods.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids need to come from our diet, unlike non-essential fatty acids our bodies aren’t able to assimilate essential fatty acids, but they’re very important for bodily functions and balancing intake correctly is essential in reducing inflammation through the creation of eicosanoids, endocannabinoids and lipoxins.
There are 2 types of essential fatty acids; alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3) and linoleic acid (omega 6). Omega 3’s are anti-inflammatory whereas Omega 6’s are pro-inflammatory. The typical modern, Western diet is high in Omega 6’s and lacking in Omega 3’s, which many attribute to a reduced amount of Omega 3’s in animal foods. Balancing out dietary intake of these 2 polyunsaturated fats allows to reduce inflammation.
In recent years the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 has increased dramatically from pre-industrial figures of 4:1 to 16:1, which may be a contributing factor to increasing rates of inflammatory disease, such as heart disease and diabetes.
To ensure you’re getting enough Omega 3 in your diet you can either use an omega-3 supplement aid or increase your intake of Omega 3 rich food, such as salmon, mackerel, flax seeds, chia seeds and sardines.
Monitor Omega 6 intake
As well as hiking up your Omega 3 intake, it’s also advisable to ensure your diet isn’t too rich in Omega 6. A typical western diet is high in Omega 6 because a lot of fast food and snacks are cooked in omega 6 oils, such as potato chips and other fried/deep fried food. Oils that are high in Omega 6 include safflower oil, grapeseed oil and corn oil.
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables contain high amounts of antioxidants and polyphenols, which help combat free-radicals that build up within the body.
Free radicals are unstable atoms within the body. Stable atoms are formed with a full profile of electrons orbiting the atom, if an atom doesn’t have the necessary electron orbit casing the atom, it will look to bond with another atom to complete its electron shell, these are known as free radicals.
Oxygen molecules within the body that split form atoms which have uneven electron profiles leading to free radicals and if left unaddressed, oxidative stress, which deforms cells within the body leading to inflammation and aging.
Antioxidants – as the name suggests – serve to reduce free radical, oxidative damage by providing the necessary electron to the unstable oxygen molecules.
Fruit and vegetables particularly high in antioxidants include blueberries, strawberries, plums, oranges, kale, cherries, spinach and broccoli.
Read more about the relationship between free radicals and antioxidants.
Turmeric is a distinctively yellow spice which contains a powerful antioxidant called curcumin, which serves as a natural treatment for chronic inflammation conditions such as arthritis. Turmeric can easily be added to meals throughout the day, however a popular form of consumption is through making a tea, combining turmeric with ginger and honey.
It’s also suggested that to maximise the effects of turmeric for inflammation, it should be consumed with black pepper, which contains piperine and can boost curcumin absorption by up to 2000%.
See my recipe for turmeric and ginger tea, a fantastic natural inflammation antidote!
In order to ensure your diet is serving as an asset to your health, be sure to reduce or eliminate your processed, fast-food and sugar, all of which can lead to chronic inflammation. Your diet should also aim to keep Omega 3 intake high whilst monitoring Omega 6 intake, whilst making a conscious effort to ensure that fruit and vegetables make up a large proportion of your food intake each day to reduce oxidative stress damage.
Checkout my article on Cold Water Therapy and discover other natural ways to reduce inflammation.