You may not be aware that inflammation is a part of the body’s defence system (immune system) that protects the body when attacked by bacteria or injured with open wounds. Inflammation is a way for the body to protect itself from anything harmful. That is something very important to remember.
Factors causing inflammation
Well, there are many factors that can cause inflammation, like mentioned above external injuries like cuts or bacteria, viruses or fungi and chemicals. There are also many diseases or illnesses that cause inflammation like bronchitis or dermatitis.
What are the signs of inflammation?
- Redness of the skin – due to a lot of blood flowing to the affected area the colour of the skin may turn red.
- Swelling of the area – for example when you sprain your ankle and you can notice the area has swollen up, it is inflammation and a protective mechanism that holds the joint in place to prevent further injury.
- Pain – the type of pain experienced from inflammation is considered an ache and it is a constant ache. It can be a throbbing, pulsating, stabbing or pinching pain.
- Loss of function – for example when you sprain your ankle, the motion of the joint is very limited
So what actually happens?
The body has cells which release chemicals also known as inflammatory mediators. These chemicals include bradykinin and hitamine. Side note: allergy medication supress these chemicals which reduce the inflammation in the body for example anti histamines prevent the histamine chemical from doing its job. So the inflammatory mediators expand the blood vessels in the affected area allowing more blood flow to that area, this in turn allows for more defence cells to access the affected area. Hormones can irritate nerves which cause the pain and more fluid is transported to the area causing swelling. Mucus membranes release more fluid as well.
Platelets – These cause the blood to clot and prevent bleeding and also block up the open wound.
White blood cells (leukocytes) – they are created in the bone marrow and only last 1 to 3 days and are stored in the blood and once the white blood cells consume the bacteria, they are removed via the lymphatic system. There are different types of white blood cells each having a different job from breaking down bacteria to attacking cancer cells.
The reason why I wanted to explain what inflammation is was so that you could understand that inflammation is just the body’s way of protecting itself. Yes the body is self-healing but if the attack is too strong or constant it can make the body go into over drive to protect itself.
Inflammation can cause chronic diseases for example Rheumatoid arthritis. So it is important to get it checked out by a health care practitioner. Also along with the help from a health care professional you can also change your life style to not only suppress the symptoms for temporary relief but also to help stop the inflammation. Below is a list of foods that are very helpful in controlling and suppressing inflammation. What you will notice is that the foods should be a part of a healthy diet. Below are foods to help control the inflammation and to help the body heal itself.
List of foods that reduce inflammation
- Tart Cherries – Tart cherries have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any foods. You can eat a cup and a half of the cherries or drink a glass of juice a day. Tart cherries have been shown to reduce inflammation and are very effective for people with joint pain and gout.
- Berries – Berries are high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
- Garlic and onions – Garlic and onions work similarly to NSAID pain killers; they contain anti-inflammatory chemicals such as quercetin and allicin which shut off pathways to inflammation.
- Ginger and turmeric – these spices are both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. Ginger shuts of NF-Kappa, a protein regulating the immune system. Ginger has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestines.
- Beetroot –Beetroots are high in fibre, vitamin c, betalains (which provides the beetroot its rich colour) and antioxidants.
- Tomatoes – Tomatoes are rich in Lycopene which reduces inflammation in lungs.
- Peppers – Peppers are high in antioxidant and in particular chilli and cayenne contain capsaicin which is added to topical anti-inflammatory creams to reduce pain. But they should be avoided if you have Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Low fat dairy products – dairy products are high in probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria in the gut and are the first line of defence against virus or toxins. Diary products also contain vitamin D and Calcium. But they should be avoided if you have casein intolerance as this will cause inflammation.
- Nuts – all nuts are good for inflammation, they are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins and Omega -3 which help the body to fight and repair. Almonds are high in Vitamin E, fibre and Calcium. Walnuts are high in Alpha-linolenic acid which is a type of Omega-3.
- Oily Fish – fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory. Fish such as Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, and Sardines etc. are all good sources of Omega-3. It is best to avoid frying the fish as most oils are high in omega-6 and you need to maintain a ratio of 1:1. Alternatively you can grill, Pan Broil, pouch or Sauté fish for a much healthier alternative to frying.
- Dark Leafy Greens – Dark Leafy Greens are high in Vitamin E. Vitamin E protects the body from pro-inflammatory molecules (cytokines). The darker the vegetables the more nutrients it has. Dark Leafy greens also contain many nutrients that help heal the body.
Reasons for inflammation
As I have mentioned diet, drugs, pollution, stress or environment could be causing the inflammation. Something is triggering the symptoms and we need to get to the root of the problem rather than suppressing the symptoms, although suppressing the symptoms will provide relief. Inflammation is your body trying to heal itself, if the body has too many factors causing damage, it won’t be able to heal itself. For example an army of 100 people being attacked by army of a 1000, the army will try its best to defend itself for as long as it can but inevitably it will lose. Therefore we have to eliminate the cause of the oxidative stress. You want your body to be in an anabolic state (the state of building cells not breaking cells which is a metabolic state).
Medications – All prescription medication have side effects, take a look at the medications that you are taking and you will notice that they have many possible side effects. Medications stop a metabolic process and they have a toxic effect on the body not to mention they are harmful to the liver and kidneys. So if you have to be on medication permanently then I suggest its time you change your doctor. Whatever you do don’t stop taking medication; consult your doctor to slowly help reduce the dose. If you stop taking medication completely it could have detrimental effect on the body, you should be slowly taken off of them.
Diet – processed foods, sugars, preservatives, additives, pesticides etc. If you eat more acidic food then alkaline foods you will have acidic residue in the intestinal tracks which causes damage to your mucus membranes. A diet high in alkaline foods consists of consuming a large amount of vegetables, lentils and beans. Acidic foods are anything with high amounts of sugar, junk foods, meat, eggs, dairy and grains. Fruits are also acidic because they contain high amounts of sugar, but they do have a lot of nutrients so they should still be consumed in moderation. Simply consume a large amount of alkaline foods with some acidic foods, simple. For example a meal can be split up into 70% alkaline and 30% acidic or 60% alkaline and 40%, you can work your way up. Also avoid anything processed, sugary and non-organic.
Omega-6 and Omega-3 – the ratio should be 1:1 but with the western diets use of a huge amount of vegetable oils which are extremely high in omega 6 and not many foods high in Omega-3 we have on average ratio of 20:1. Disease starts at a ratio of 8:1. The ratio needs to be brought down to a ratio of 1:1 by consuming healthy saturated fats and fish and removing polyunsaturated oils from the diet immediately.
Free radical exposure – besides our diet we need to make sure we are not putting anything harmful on our skin. With the increase in beauty and skin care products for women and men we are exposing ourselves to a lot more toxins. These products can also cause oxidative stress to the body. You should eliminate the use of as many products as you can and try natural alternatives. Also don’t fall for the natural labels on products that may not be as harmless as they make it out to be. Also cleaning products are also harmful. Although we don’t realise it but these chemicals are all around us. The best we can do is to eliminate these harmful elements from our lives but also to provide our bodies with the nutrients they need to heal and protect.
[Note: This blog is only for informational purposes only. It is not medical advice or diagnosis. Please consult with a Health care practitioner before making any diet, nutrition changes or when starting a new fitness program.