Inflammation: What Really Is It and How Can We Deal With It

If you’re exposed to any kind of media (be that social, internet, magazines or newspapers) you no doubt would have seen the term inflammation a fair amount recently. However, do we really know what this is, what it is doing to us and how we can help to reduce it? 

Inflammation can occur from a whole host of stimulants from less severe issues such as menstruation, reduced immune functioning, mild allergies and intolerances all the way to diseases such as cancer, respiratory diseases, atherosclerosis and joint and metabolic disorders. Inflammation occurs through the irritation of the host environment and often lower immune response. Inflammation may be acute (this is when the area is inflamed for a short period of time) or chronic (when the inflamed area is so for a longer duration which may get progressively worse). 

However, whilst I’m not here to bore you with the science of inflammation I do want to address some nutritional strategies which have been shown to help. Be aware I am not suggesting these remedies will cure all your issues however, they could improve your symptoms (of course depending on the cause). 

Turmeric: Although this spice may seem like a new trend, it’s actually an ancient medicine that has been used in East Asia for thousands of years. The active ingredient in turmeric is known as curcumin. Curcumin is better absorbed when combined with black pepper and is the key component which helps to reduce inflammation. Some research has shown that turmeric helps to reduce flatulence and gastrointestinal disorders (however, more research is required in these areas). Research has shown that turmeric helps to inhibit or reduce TNF-α and prostaglandin E2 which are cytokines released as part of the inflammation process. 

Omega-3: You may be familiar with the idea that omega-3 helps to improve your brain functioning, however, did you know that omega-3 also exhibits anti-inflammatory effects. Fish oils have shown numerous ways to reduce or inhibit inflammation including through the inhibition of prostaglandins and leukotrienes which are inflammatory cytokines. I recommend eating at least two portions of oily fish a week. For vegetarians and vegans I recommend consuming more nuts and seeds (including chia seeds). Acai is also a great source of plant based omega-3. 

Coenzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10): this is not necessarily a nutrient we discuss on a daily basis.  That’s not to say it’s not worthy of attention. CoQ10 is an antioxidant which the body produces itself (aka an endogenous antioxidant). Research has shown that supplementation of CoQ10 can help improve arthiritus, reduce inflammatory markers and may even have a role to play in cardiovascular disease. However, the research on the latter is still emerging and so I wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions. 

Flavanoids: Falvanoids are biological compounds found in plants. If you eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables in your diet you should be gaining a wide variety of flavanoids. Due to the high antioxidant activity of flavanoids they have been found to inhibit inflammatory cytokines. Research has demonstrated that a variety of flavanoids (including: flavanols, flavaones, anthocyadins and isoflavones) can be beneficial in acute inflammation of irritable bowel disease. I recommend eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, if youcan stretch it to seven even better. Ensure that you have around two pieces of fruit and the rest vegetables. 

Whilst I am not suggesting that these nutrients are going to cure you for life, evidence has shown that they have beneficial effects on inflammation. Of course this is dependant on the severity and the stimulants of inflammation.