07.02.2017 Holistic Health

Beating Chronic Inflammation

Adopting the right lifestyle and diet can keep this all-too-common condition at bay, says Jen Kaz

We often hear people say they’re feeling achy with pains in their joints or muscles.These feelings can be due to excessive inflammation brought on by your body’s response to outside threats such as fatigue, stress, infection or toxic chemicals

Reducing inflammation could make a massive difference to the way you feel each day.

However inflammation is a vital part of the body’s immune response as it attempts to heal itself after an injury or fights a virus and bacteria.

When you’ve had a cold, fever, or a sore throat with swollen glands, or maybe a cut that’s become infected you could experience inflammation.Inflammation is often characterised by redness, warmth to touch and sometimes pain. In this instance, inflammation is a healthy and necessary function for healing and only temporary, as the inflammation will leave your body when the infection or illness is gone.

When in a “flight or fight” response your body is flooded with adrenaline.A constant release of adrenaline surging throughout your body over a long period of time, or maybe dwelling on past stressful events can create inflammation and this is when it can become harmful.

Heart disease

Chronic inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular diseases.As cholesterol gets deposited in the lining of blood vessels, the growing fatty plaque can cause blockages and blood clots, which then could cause a heart attack.

Some scientists, including those from the Mayo Clinic, theorise that bacteria from gum disease can make their way to the heart or blood vessels also causing inflammation that increases the chance of a heart attack.

Lifestyle can play an important role in either increasing or decreasing inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory diet and foods

A Mediterranean diet is recommended and certainly suits our Australian way of life.Include these key food groups:

  • Cold water fish as these are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids along with salmon, herring and tuna
  • Avocados are full of anti-inflammatory properties
  • Cruciferous vegetables - broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and other green leafy vegetables that contain sulforaphane, which is associated with blocking enzymes linked to joint deterioration and consequently inflammation.
  • Fresh fruits, and in particular watermelon, works as an antioxidant to neutralise free radicals
  • Moderate portions of walnuts and other nuts
  • Onions have anti-inflammatory properties
  • Reduce your intake of red meat and dairy
  • Drink moderate amounts of coffee, tea and alcohol
  • Add turmeric to your diet daily, with black pepper to assist absorption.Curcumin is the main active ingredient, which has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect as well as being a very strong antioxidant.However, to experience the full effects you would need to take an extract that contains significant amounts of curcumin
  • Attending yoga classes regularly as well as yoga retreats to help reduce stress.Cortisol is released when stressed and is a known inflammation trigger
  • Science has proved that mindfulness meditation can have a positive effect on many health conditions including cancer, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Increase your water intake with fresh spring water. Tap water is full of chemicals that could affect your hormones.
  • Get plenty of sleep

Lasting effects of chronic inflammation

  • Visible signs of ageing like wrinkles
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Psoriasis and acne
  • Linked to cancers of the lung, esophagus, cervix
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Diabetes

Food ingredients that can cause inflammation

  • Sugar including words ending in ‘ose’ (fructose or sucrose)
  • Saturated fats – pizza and cheese are the biggest sources of saturated fats.Full fat dairy, pasta and grain-based desserts.
  • Trans fats – fried and processed foods, biscuits, cakes and most margarines.Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Omega 6 fatty acids – the body requires a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids but excess consumption of omega-6s can produce pro-inflammatory chemicals.These fatty acids are found in oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, grape seed, soy, peanut and vegetable along with mayonnaise and many salad dressings.
  • Refined carbohydrates – white flour products (breads, rolls) white rice and many cereals are refined carbohydrates.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – a flavor-enhancing additive generally prepared in Asian foods.
  • Gluten and casein – gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and casein is found in whey protein products.
  • Aspartame – artificial sweetener found in more than 4,000 products worldwide.It is a neurotoxin, which means it affects the brain and as your immune system will react to the foreign substance by attacking the chemical, this will trigger an inflammatory response.
  • Alcohol – excessive use weakens liver function and can cause inflammation.

Inflammation does not necessarily mean infection, even when an infection causes inflammation.This is your body’s natural reaction at self protection when healing a virus or bacteria.

Lifestyle also plays a role in controlling chronic inflammation and aiming to have a more alkaline than acid body will help arrest inflammation.

Jen Kaz

Jen Kaz trained and taught yoga in London in 2008. In early 2010 she returned to Perth and began teaching QiYoga. www.qiyoga.org