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Understanding inflammation

Depression, diabetes, arthritis, IBS, obesity and asthma all have one thing in common – inflammation… 


The dreaded word ‘inflammation’ may bring to mind images of swollen ankles, sports injury or a sore throat. We all know what an inflamed wound looks like – this is the body’s response to injury or infection. However, when it becomes chronic is can cause serious illnesses, such as diabetes, arthritis, IBS, asthma, obesity, heart diseases, dementia and depression. ‘In these cases, the inflammatory response continues, often because the immune system mistakes part of the body as a pathogen and attacks its own tissue. Very often, there are no symptoms and you won’t feel it for a long time. In the worst case scenarios, inflammation that is uncontrolled and unchecked can lead to serious disease‘ explains Cassandra Barns, Nutritionist.

Inflammation  – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

‘The purpose of inflammation is to repair any damage to the tissues and to eliminate any bacteria or other pathogens. Inflammation starts with increased blood flow to the area: the capillaries becoming more leaky, allowing more white blood cells and antibodies to leave the bloodstream and gather in the affected area. This causes the swelling, redness, pain and heat.’ explains Barns.

This kind of inflammation is part of our normal immune response, necessary for survival, to help our body recognise friend from foe. ‘In normal, healthy body, the injury is resolved by the white blood cells, antibodies and other immune chemicals that make the inflammation goes away.’

Inflammation can get a bad rep, as unfortunately, in some cases our defense system goes into overdrive and begins destroying healthy cells – this is where chronic inflammation occurs.

Beat inflammation

There are two main triggers for inflammation:

Stress. ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s permanent or unexpected nerve-racking situation – it raises the level of cortisol, stress hormone, which boosts inflammation.’ explains Nutritionist Michela Vagnini. With our busy lifestyles it’s difficult to eliminate stress, however try taking 10 to 15 minutes a day to be quiet, reflect or even meditate. ‘Take a long, relaxing bath, go for a walk or try yoga.’ advises Barns.

Food. ‘Diet has a major impact on inflammation ’ says Michela. We all know that noshing on high-carb, high-sugar and processed food won’t do any good for us.

Avoid these…

  • The three P’s – Prepared, Processed and Packaged foods
  • Foods that increase our blood sugar level quickly (sweets, juices, bread) – that’s when our body releases the pro-inflammatory messengers 
  • Trans and saturated fats (margarine, pastries, crisps, fast foods, poor quality cooking oils)
  • Wheat and gluten-containing products (pasta, gravy, tortillas, cakes, cereal). They are particularly associated with autoimmune conditions. Try to investigate food intolerances through testing or an elimination diet
  • Alcohol

Eat these…

  • Increase your omega-3 fats intake in the diet (oily fish, nuts, avocado, soybeans and flaxseeds)
  • Increase sources of antioxidants by consuming a wide variety of vegetables and fruit, including berries (blueberries have the highest amount of antioxidants)
  • Spice it up! (ginger, cinnamon, sage, oregano, turmeric, as they are potent anti-inflammatory agents)
  • Eat whole foods (High-fiber, plant-based diet is essentially anti-inflammatory)
  • Go for fermented food (Kombucha tea, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and apple cider vinegar are all examples of probiotic-rich superfoods that balance your gut flora).

What else can help?

  • Good quality fish oil. It has been proved that Omega-3 can reduce inflammation (e.g. in a form of arthritic pain) just as effectively as ibuprofen! Omega 3-6-9 by Quest Vitamins, £5.89.
  • Turmeric or curcumin, preferably in a form that can be easily absorbed. CurQuMax by Quest Vitamins, which contains curcumin from turmeric and piperine from black pepper, £10.45.
  • Probiotics, to support digestive track and restore a healthy gut lining, which reduces inflammation. ProVen 25 Billion, £13.95.
  • Anti-inflammatory and immune-balancing support from medicinal mushrooms. Mico-Rei by Hifas da Terra, containing a pure, organic extract of reishi mushroom(known as ‘Mushroom of Immortality’) which may protect against or relieve conditions associated with inflammation, such as arthritis, heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia, Harrods, £55
  • Antioxidant combinations found in food. Nature’s Plus AgeLoss First Day Healthy Inflammation Response, contains a complex of antioxidant-packed botanicals, including grape seed, bilberry and blueberry, £47.45.


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