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Why Inflammation Threatens Us All

Every year, inflammation in the body is linked to more health conditions, both physical diseases and now, potentially, mental health. The list of chronic diseases with connections to inflammation is long and includes Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, blindness, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. An unpleasant list, by anyone’s reckoning.

“It's a smouldering process that injures your tissues, joints, and blood vessels, and you often do not notice it until significant damage is done.”

Dr. Andrew Luster, Center for Immunology & Inflammatory Diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital

Recently, high levels of inflammation have been linked with greater degrees of vulnerability to Covid-19, while anti-inflammatory drugs are being used in its treatment. Although we don’t know what’s coming next, reducing levels of inflammation is a smart, preparatory move.

Thinking about our health, we mainly consider the wellness of our key organs, like the heart, brain, liver and lungs. This makes sense: they are tangible, physical things we can visualise. Yet, it’s equally important to actively minimise excess inflammation, as this it leaves us vulnerable to both serious, life-threatening medical conditions and day-to-day health issues.

There are no quick fixes to reduce levels of inflammation, but there are four fairly simple steps you can take that will make a difference.

1. Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet

Embracing an anti-inflammatory diet brings lots of benefits, as you effectively stop fueling the inflammatory fire and start fighting it. Firstly, cut out inflammatory foods, such as refined sugars and ‘industrial’ oils; if you stop eating processed foods, you’d reduce these nasties dramatically. Instead, choose fresh fruit for sweetness, olive or avocado oil for cooking, and butter for baking and spreading. Secondly, add anti-inflammatory ingredients to your diet, such as green vegetables, fresh or frozen berries and spices (such as turmeric, cinnamon, chili and garlic). If you’re looking for recipe inspiration, we have lots here.

2. Reduce Levels of Stress

Excess stress is both a cause of inflammation and a symptom. It’s not easy to manage, especially nowadays, but actively adopting stress-busting activities in your day is vital to overall health. Just like brushing your teeth before bed, or taking a supplement with breakfast, it pays to build this into your routine. Consider 5-mins of deep-breathing before your morning tea or take a bracing walk around the block after dinner. Cut back on screen time and definitely don’t read social media before bedtime… it’s full of negative, stress-inducing news.

3. Improve Gut Health

As with many aspects of health, attention is increasingly focused on the gut’s role in reducing inflammation. There are many routes to digestive wellness, but increasing levels of prebiotics and probiotics is a great start. Probiotics are the good bacteria that work hard in your gut and can be found in fermented foods, such as live yoghurts, crème fraiche, kefir, kimchi, miso, tempeh and pickles. These bacteria are made more effective by prebiotics, the dietary fibers they feed off. Good sources of prebiotics include fruits, vegetables (the more colourful the better), seeds and nuts. Alternatively, both are available in supplements.

“Taking better care of your gut’s health will pay back many times over. By contrast, the negative health outcomes can be hard to stomach.”

Rachel Redman, Registered Dietitian, Positive Science People

4. Boost Vital Nutrients

Evidence is now clear that certain vitamins and minerals contribute to reduced levels of inflammation. There is research to support the impact of boron, curcumin (the working part of the turmeric root), magnesium, vitamins E, D & K2 and zinc, in reducing inflammatory markers or destroying inflammatory cells. Either eat foods rich in these vitamins or choose a quality supplement that contains them.

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