At this time of year after countless Christmas parties and new year celebrations, most people will be experiencing some level of inflammation from overindulging in food, alcohol, accidents minor and major that seem to happen at this time of year, food poising and the general stress from it all.
Inflammation in the body has been recognised as one of the main contributors/drivers of many types of conditions such as autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, allergies and neuropsychiatric disorders.
Let’s look a little closer at what inflammation is, what can cause it and what we can do to reduce it to avoid increasing our susceptibility to the above mentioned conditions. Simply put, inflammation usually is a response to some form of injury but can also be a response to stress and we need a certain amount of inflammatory mediators to help address these injuries. Infections also cause an inflammatory reaction to help fight the bacteria or virus.
The external signs of inflammation include heat, swelling and pain. The systemic effects include mild fever, feeling unwell, fatigue, headache and loss of appetite. The inflammatory response usually resolves as soon as the exposure has been removed. If the causative agent isn’t removed inflammation will continue to persist.
This is the inflammation we don’t want – when it out-stays its welcome and we get caught up in a pro-inflammatory pattern, even after the injury/stress/infection has been dealt with.
Any health problem that ends in -itis can involve inflammation eg. arthritis is inflammation of the joints.
Most chronic inflammatory diseases such as obesity, diabetes, allergic diseases etc are strongly influenced by nutrition as metabolism of food in itself causes an inflammatory reaction as a normal stress response of the cells reacting to the ingestion of food. Certain nutrients can then modulate these inflammatory reactions.
Foods that can cause inflammation include:
- Sugar including fructose, sucrose etc;
- Excessive saturated fats including coconut oil;
- Trans-fats – very unhealthy and unnecessary fats that should be avoided completely,
- Refined carbohydrates such as white flour products, white potatoes (especially French fries/hot chips)
- Omega 6 essential fatty acids which are contained in plants and their oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut, vegetable oil (this should always be avoided) etc. We generally have an unbalanced Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio and need to bring this ratio to a higher omega 3 ratio. Our ratio should be closer to 1:1 or more of omega 3 to combat inflammation.
- Gluten and casein – gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, kamut and spelt and can also be an added ingredient in some commercial breads and foods. Casein is one of the main proteins found in dairy products.
- Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame – Just don’t consume any foods with artificial sweeteners!!
Avoiding these above-mentioned foods as much as possible is a key lifestyle change to ensure less inflammation and longevity of your body and mind.
Foods and supplements that can help reduce inflammation include:
- Bromelain found in pineapples
- Carotenoids – are not directly anti-inflammatory but do get depleted when there is inflammation and should be replaced. These include alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin which can be sourced from such foods as pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, apricots, oranges/tangerines, cooked tomatoes, watermelon, asparagus, mangoes, broccoli, pistachios, capsicums, eggs and fish.
- Omega 3 fatty acids from fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel or a good fish oil supplement. Or Omega 3 from linseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. Seaweed is great vegetarian source of Omega 3.
- Flavonoids – quercetin, hesperidin and rutin found in leafy greens, apples, black and green tea, lemons/oranges, buckwheat, figs
- Glutamine – an amino acid (protein) which specifically has anti-inflammatory properties for the digestive tract
- Lysine – another amnio acid (protein) is not specifically anti-inflammatory but can help modulate the anti-inflammatory effects of other anti-inflammatory foods/supplements
There are specifically designed supplement combinations to help reduce inflammation and these are worth going through with a health practitioner like a Nutritionist or Naturopath if you feel you have too much inflammation. There are tests that can show markers of inflammation generally in the body and in the gut – these can be worth investigating.
Eating a variety of organic seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables (eat the rainbow), avoiding the above inflammation causing foods, keeping stress levels as low as possible, getting good sleep, drinking good quality water and avoiding injuries/infections are all ways to minimise inflammation.
I carry out functional testing and/or can provide a detoxification program to help reduce inflammation and the effects of the post festive season. I also can help to reduce stress levels, build immune systems and keep digestive functioning optimal.
*References upon request
Megan Crockart is a qualified Holistic Nutritionist & a self-confessed foodie! Megan has special interest in working with individuals with allergies, food intolerances, SIBO, eczema, pre- & post- natal health & children’s health.
To book a consultation with Megan please click here.