What is inflammation & is an anti-inflammatory diet really that important? 

What is inflammation and is an anti-inflammatory diet really that important? 

While there are several links and risk factors related to chronic disease, the following information focuses on inflammation and its link to illness. Common questions about how inflammation relates to diet and lifestyle are also addressed.
 
What is inflammation anyway?

Inflammation is not always a bad thing. It’s the balance that’s important.
Inflammation is a natural process that our body uses to protect against infections, irritants, and damage. It also helps to reduce the cause of the damage by fighting the infection.
 
However, long-term (chronic) inflammation has damaging effects on the body, and is often associated with several health conditions, including diabetes (and other auto-immune diseases), heart disease, and excess body weight. 

Heart disease and diabetes are on the rise worldwide.  In fact, it's estimated that 90% of people with pre-diabetes don’t even know it. The first stage of heart disease is called atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and inflammation is a key issue with both atherosclerosis and heart attacks.  
These, and other chronic diseases, are serious, long-term conditions considered to be “lifestyle” diseases. This means that they tend to occur in people with certain lifestyles (i.e. not-so-awesome nutrition and exercise habits, etc.).
 
Diabetes and heart disease are also linked with excess body fat, as well as inflammation.  There’s a lot of evidence that improving nutrition and lifestyle can help many factors associated with chronic diseases, including reducing inflammation. 
  
According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health):
 
“People with insulin resistance and pre-diabetes can decrease their risk for diabetes by eating a healthy diet and reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, increasing physical activity, not smoking, and taking medication."

and

“The main treatment for atherosclerosis is lifestyle changes.”
 
So what type of diet is best?
 
A nutritious diet promotes health, reduces risk of many chronic diseases, and can reduce inflammation. 
 
Substances like polyphenols. flavonoids, pigments, unsaturated fats (including omega-3s), and anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals like vitamin E and selenium are showing promising results.  Foods that contain these substances may also help to improve insulin sensitivity, cholesterol levels, and gut microbiota. 

Many anti-inflammatory effects of foods containing the substances mentioned above have been demonstrated in human and animal testing.  When we look at individual components in a food, we should keep in mind that it’s the whole diet, with all foods and lifestyle components that help to promote health. One or two individual aspects don’t have the same effect as a holistic approach to improving overall nutrition and lifestyle.
 
What about sugar and starch?
 
Excess sugars and starches put stress on our blood sugar levels and increase our risk of chronic diseases. They also promote inflammation in the body.
 
Studies show that those who eat sweets and white bread, and drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages have higher levels of inflammatory markers, while those following a diet low in sugar and refined starch have lower than average levels of inflammation.
 
One possible reason is that more sugar and starch may increase production of inflammatory molecules and free radicals (unstable molecules) and give immune cells more fuel, as well as increase their activity.
 
You can upgrade your nutrition in this area by eating fewer sugars and starches.  Especially “added” sugars and “refined” starches.
 
Does fat intake affect inflammation?
 
Some studies show that increased levels of saturated fats can increase production of inflammatory markers and free radicals. 
 
Unsaturated fats like omega-3’s from fish seem to be particularly healthful. People who eat more fish tend to have lower levels of atherosclerosis and heart disease. 

Fish-based omega-3 unsaturated fats reduce inflammation in two ways. They reduce the source of inflammation, as well as increase the number of anti-inflammatory molecules.
 
Tree nuts are another good source of unsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. While nuts do contain a fair amount of fat, many studies show no weight gain after adding nuts to the diet.  In fact, many studies show that people who regularly eat nuts do not tend to have a higher BMI (body mass index) or more body fat.
 
You can improve your dietary fats by eating more fish and nuts. Fish and nuts contain unsaturated fats that have anti-inflammatory effects. They can also improve insulin sensitivity and even improve the health of insulin-producing cells.
 
Is dietary fibre linked to inflammation?
 
People who eat more fiber, fruits, and vegetables tend to have lower levels of inflammation. They also have lower risks of diabetes and heart disease. 
 
Additionally, studies show that eating fiber reduces excess body fat. This effect can be because fiber slows down absorption of food from the body, reducing blood sugar spikes. It can also be because of its interaction with the friendly microbes in our gut.
 
Some foods high in fiber include whole grains, legumes (i.e. beans and lentils), cocoa, seeds (e.g. sesame), tree nuts (e.g. almonds), avocados, raspberries, and squash.
 
Can exercise help reduce inflammation?
 
Regular exercise helps with many chronic diseases, as well as helping to reduce inflammation.
 
Levels of inflammatory markers are lower in people who exercise regularly, in comparison to those who do not. Adding regular moderate exercise to a nutritious anti-inflammatory diet lowers inflammatory markers even more.  
 
Is there a link to inflammation and quality of sleep? 
 
Both acute and chronic sleep deprivation cause an increase in inflammatory markers in the blood. Additionally, sleep loss is a risk factor for insulin resistance and diabetes. 
 
Conclusion
 
Inflammation can be healthy if it’s fighting an infection or healing a wound, but chronic inflammation is associated with many serious conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Two things these diseases have in common are excess body fat and increased levels of inflammation. 

There are a lot of nutrition and lifestyle issues that can contribute to chronic diseases and inflammation is one contributing factor.
 
The good news is that nutrition and lifestyle factors can be improved by eating less sugars and starches, eating more fish, nuts and dietary fibre, and getting regular exercise and quality sleep.
 
If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss your health challenges with me, schedule your complimentary 60-minute no-obligation consultation here.
 
To learn more about me and my holistic approach to wellness follow this link https://www.janiceinspiringchange.com

This is Janice, inspiring change