Inflammation is the process by which white blood cells are produced in response to illness or injury to trigger the body’s immune system and it is part of our body’s defence mechanism but it is also plays a part in many chronic diseases. These include arthritis, heart disease, bronchitis, acid reflux, diabetes, high blood pressure and dementia.
This is due to an imbalance of pro-inflammatory chemicals within the body and anti-inflammatory mechanisms that regulate the process, which leads to excess inflammation.
This growing level of inflammation begins in mid-life, but often goes unnoticed for years. The damage caused then becomes apparent in the form of chronic illness.
Though the triggers behind persistent inflammation are not entirely understood, there are many simple measures you can take to prevent it occurring.
Several studies have indicated that saturated and trans-fats trigger adipose (fat tissue) inflammation. This worsens the inflammation in conditions such as arthritis, and is an indicator for heart disease.
Avoid processed foods, refined carbohydrates and other high glycaemic index (GI) foods. Instead and opt for oily fish, nuts, berries and vegetables such as dark leafy greens and aubergine. These are high in antioxidants and will act to reduce inflammation.
Rob Hobson, Healthspan’s Head of Nutrition, and author of the Detox Kitchen Bible, passionately believes foods can heal. ‘Instead of reaching for the painkillers, try looking for natural alternatives in your kitchen cupboards or exploring supplements that may help to ease your pain naturally by tackling inflammation.’
There are powerful anti-inflammatory properties in curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric and there are studies showing how it can help with conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease. Turmeric has powerful antioxidant properties, plus there’s some exciting research looking at its role in heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even Alzheimer’s.
Most of the studies on turmeric have been carried out using very strong extracts. You’d have to eat an awful lot of curries to get that much curcumin into your system! Rob Hobson says: ‘If what you eat is not absorbed from your intestine then it passes through without any benefit. The problem is that curcumin isn’t naturally water-soluble, so the body struggles to absorb it. To truly gain the benefits of curcumin you need to take a supplement but finding one that is bioavailable is key.’
Rob Hobson discusses the benefits of turmeric
Healthspan’s NEW Opti-Turmeric 500mg is an innovative liquid capsule, which contains high potency curcumin using a revolutionary nano-micellar structure which binds the curcuminoids into water. This revolutionary new water-soluble formulation enables the body to absorb high levels of beneficial curcuminoids.
Tests have shown that Opti-Turmeric capsules are up to 185 times better absorbed and 7 times faster-acting than standard powdered turmeric. Each capsule has added vitamin C to support cartilage formation and immune health. Rob Hobson adds that turmeric has really good safety levels, which means that even at high doses, if you are supplementing as well as cooking, eating, sprinkling, drinking and drizzling with there’s no real worry of toxicity. Even so, do check with your GP if you are on any medication as your GP may need to adjust any medications with supplements especially in relation to blood thinning.
Include fish in your weekly menu
Oil fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have excellent anti-inflammatory properties. According to a study published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, daily consumption of Omega 3 fish oil supplements helped reduce inflammation and anxiety.
What’s more eating a portion each week may halve the risk of even developing rheumatoid arthritis, says a Swedish study published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Maintain a healthy weight
‘Fat stored around your midriff and clings to your internal organs is known as visceral fat,’ says GP and medical nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer. ‘This fat differs from fat elsewhere in the body as it responds to stress hormones by pumping out inflammatory chemicals that travel straight to your liver, affecting the way it processes cholesterol, glucose, triglyceride, and other factors linked with inflammation, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.’
This goes hand-in-hand with maintaining a healthy weight. Regular exercise is vital for a healthy lifespan. In line with government recommendations, we should all be taking part in at least 150 minutes of exercise per week – around 30 minutes each day.
If you’re concerned about inflammation, or suffer from arthritis or high blood pressure, avoid high-intensity exercise. ‘Intense workouts can cause inflammation levels to rise for several days. They may also strain joints and cause a spike in blood pressure,’ says Dr Brewer. ‘If you’re at risk, ditch the spinning class and opt for gentle exercise like walking and swimming.’
Cigarette smoke is packed with irritant chemicals which promote inflammation. This is a contributing factor to conditions such as heart and lung disease.
A study, conducted at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York, showed that women who quit smoking had major reductions in inflammation after just a few weeks. For advice on how to quit smoking, contact your GP or visit Smokefree.gov
Keep stress at bay
According to a recent study published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, people with a strong emotional reaction to stressful tasks are more likely to develop inflammation than those who don’t. Inflammation occurs as stress increases blood pressure and heart rate, forcing blood vessels to work harder.
To combat stress levels, try taking part in relaxation methods, such as meditation or yoga. A 2010 study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine showed that women who took part in yoga for 90 minutes twice a week had lower levels of inflammatory chemicals than those who didn’t.
According to research presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago, getting less than six hours of sleep per night is linked to a significant increase in key inflammatory chemicals within the body.
If you struggle to drop off, try sprinkling a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow, suggests Dr Sarah. ‘It’s a natural sedative which can help you relax and will improve sleep.’
Healthspan Opti-Turmeric* 30 capsules £10.95 – 60 capsules £18.95
This video was produced in partnership with Healthspan the leading vitamin and mineral supplement company