What Is Inflammation?
The word “inflammation” comes from the Latin word inflammare, to set on fire.
Inflammation refers to your body’s process of fighting against things that harm it in order to heal itself, such as infections, injuries and toxins. When something damages your cells, the body releases chemicals that trigger a response from the immune system.
Inflammation can either be acute (short-lived) or chronic (long-lasting):
Acute inflammation lasts several days. Following this time, we may have different outcomes: the inflammation may be resolved, formation of an abscess may occur or the inflammation becomes chronic.
Chronic inflammation is persistent. It produces a steady, low-level of inflammation throughout the body. Even if there isn’t a disease to fight or an injury to heal, the body perceives an internal threat and triggers low levels of inflammation, signalling the immune system to respond.
As a result, white blood cells swarm into the system but have nothing to fight. They are not easy to recall and may start attacking healthy tissues and cells.
Researchers are still working to understand the implications of chronic inflammation in the body and the mechanisms involved in the process.
Inflammation is good in the short run. It’s a natural response of the immune system to heal from an injury or to fight infections. However, it’s supposed to stop after that. If it becomes long-lasting, it can be bad for our body. Long-term (or “chronic”) inflammation is seen as the cause of many diseases and conditions (such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, etc.)
Many different factors may increase the risk of inflammation, such as:
- Compromised immune system
- A diet that is rich in saturated fats and processed sugar
- Hormonal imbalances
- High levels of stress
- Sleep problems
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Pollution (including EMF and smog)
A typical piece of advice is: “If you want to reduce inflammation, eat fewer inflammatory foods and more anti-inflammatory foods”. But what does this mean?
It would be best to base our diet on unprocessed, rich-in-fibre, nutrient-dense foods that contain antioxidants and avoid processed products.
Antioxidants reduce levels of free radicals. These molecules are created as a natural part of our metabolism and are present in our food and environment, but when they’re not held in check they can lead to inflammation.
Our diet should provide a healthy balance of proteins, carbs and fats at each meal, making sure we also meet our body’s need for vitamins, minerals, fibre and water.
Hence, the types of food we eat affect our inflammatory response.
Getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins (like beans and nuts), foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish, algae, seeds and nuts), healthier oils (like olive oil) and foods with prebiotics and probiotics help to keep the inflammation response in check. At the same time, saturated fats found in meats and dairy products, refined carbs, processed foods, alcohol and food additives have the potential to trigger or aggravate inflammation.
Three diets are considered anti-inflammatory: (1) the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers, (2) a low-carb diet, which also reduces inflammation, particularly for people who are obese or who have a metabolic syndrome and (3) vegetarian or vegan diets. All three help to reduce inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation through a variety of mechanisms from helping our body produce anti-inflammatory molecules, to helping repair the tissues and lower stress levels. They are associated with changes in the fatty acid composition of cell membranes. These changes can modify membrane fluidity, cell signalling (which leads to altered gene expression) and the pattern of lipid mediator production. EPA and DHA give rise to newly discovered resolvins which are anti-inflammatory and inflammation-resolving. Resolvins are a group of molecules our body produces from omega-3 fatty acids. They are part of a biochemical program that allows inflamed tissues to return to their balanced state once the inflammation is over.
Vitamins play an important role too, particularly vitamin C and vitamin B. They can reduce acute and chronic inflammation and modulate the immune reaction.
Vitamin B can lower your levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to a higher risk for heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammation and it can modulate the immune reaction. Also, people with low vitamin B6 will often have high C reactive proteins, another compound responsible for inflammation, especially in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Phytality Ultana Phytoplankton is a great source of omega-3 as well as more than 75 other nutrients that may help fight inflammation and support our immune system.
Phytoplankton is a vegan (plant-based), wholefood containing great antioxidants like chlorophyll, zeaxanthin, lutein, vitamin B-complex, vitamin E (an antioxidant that also has anti-inflammatory properties), beta carotenoid (that prevents our immune system from overreacting and causing inflammation) and minerals (such as calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.) Zinc has potent anti-inflammatory effects as it supports the immune system by modulating the production of inflammatory messengers and by being a key component of many antioxidants.
Gram for gram, it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet!
Other nutrients are also useful for fighting inflammation. You may want to integrate these into your diet or take them as supplements:
- Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps get rid of free radicals that can damage cells and tissue, which means fewer triggers for inflammation. Regularly consuming vitamin C-rich foods can lower the chance of chronic inflammation and heart disease.
- Curcumin and boswellia serrata resin have been shown to help reduce inflammation, speed up wound healing and reduce pain.
- Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple. People use it as a medicine to reduce pain and muscle soreness, reduce swelling and bring relief from many other conditions.
- Garlic contains diallyl disulfide, an anti-inflammatory compound that limits the onset of inflammation, helps fight inflammation and prevents tissue damage.
- CBD (otherwise known as the non-psychoactive component of hemp) has real substance and efficacy, especially when it comes to chronic inflammation. CBD is gaining traction as a fantastic anti-inflammatory supplement for many conditions ranging from chronic inflammation to anxiety, stress reactions, and more.
- Vitamin K lowers the levels of inflammation. But we don’t know yet if that also reduces your risk for inflammation-related diseases.
- Vitamin D has a significant anti-inflammatory effect on cells. There’s also some evidence that D can lessen the ongoing pain from inflammation. Low vitamin D levels are linked to inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.
While it’s important to have the right diet to fight inflammation, it’s also vital that our lifestyle complement our diet.
Here a few lifestyle changes that may help keep inflammation at bay:
- Stay active
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Reduce allergens
- Stop smoking
- Reduce stress
- Alkalise your body
- Drink lots of water
- Integrate herbs and spices to your diet
- Consider intermittent fasting (IF)
- Reduce EMF exposure