Chronic inflammation and the role of nutrition
I’m often asked about inflammation. It would seem there is a lot of confusion on the subject..is it good? Is it bad? Should we take medication for it?
There is a big difference between acute and chronic inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s immune system responding to an injury of some kind…not necessarily physical, for example, stress is enough to cause inflammation. But think of a simple injury like a twisted ankle…this is an acute injury with symptoms such as heat, swelling, redness and pain. Chemicals from the body’s white blood cells are released into the blood or affected tissues to protect your body from foreign substances, and blood flow increases to the area. This is the first stage of healing so is generally a good thing and if we try and stop this too early research has shown that it can slow down muscle healing.
Chronic inflammation is very different. It typically has no symptoms until actual loss of function occurs, often silently damaging tissues over an extended period of time. Basically the immune system becomes overactive and the body attacks itself without any kind of external assault! It plays a central role in some of the most challenging diseases of our time from rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and even Alzheimers.
There is more and more evidence that food and supplements can have a hugely beneficial affect on chronic inflammation. Spices such as ginger, black pepper, and curcumin (the active component of turmeric) target inflammatory molecules in the prevention of chronic diseases. Nutrients such as bromelian (an enzyme in pineapple), flavonoids (found in such things as citrus fruits) and magnesium (in many things including vegetables, nuts, seeds and bananas) all support the body in blocking the synthesis of messenger molecules that promote inflammation. Also, probiotics and synbiotics can be used to treat chronic inflammatory diseases, principally due to their role in immune system modulation.
There needs to be a lot more research on the effect of food and supplements on chronic inflammatory conditions but a balanced, heathy diet avoiding, processed foods, sugary drinks, and trans fats (in fried food) will all help balance the body and show how important food is as medicine.