Inflammation Part 2

Make sure to read Part 1, the causes of chronic inflammation.

WHAT ABOUT DIET?

How does diet impact chronic inflammation?

What you eat can play both a positive and negative role in managing chronic inflammation. There are foods that can aggravate chronic inflammation (pro-inflammatory foods) and those that are anti-inflammatory.

Follow a few basic rules:

  1. Know and understand the dietary CULPRITS.
  2. Include foods KNOWN and PROVEN to minimize chronic inflammation on a DAILY basis.
  3. Treat conditions that contribute to chronic inflammation, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
  4. Evaluate your lifestyle, and make changes where necessary for the benefit of your long term health. Prepare and shop for healthy foods in advance (involve a Registered Dietician to assist you in planning a balanced and tailor-made eating plan.
  5. Do regular daily exercise (involve a biokineticist or physio to assist you, so that unnecessary injury and further inflammation is prevented).

Food Culprits

The following foods have been known to increase inflammation in some people:

  • fried foods, like French fries
  • refined carbohydrates, like white bread, pastries and high sugar foods and cold drinks.
  • processed meat, like hot dogs and sausages

 

The role of: FAT, especially SATURATED FATS = PRO-INFLAMMATORY (bad!)

It has been shown in recent research that saturated fats can aggravate or even cause inflammation in the body.

Scientists from the Imperial College London showed in a 2015 study that the presence of high levels of saturated fats in mice resulted in monocytes — a type of white blood cell — migrating into the tissues of vital organs.

The researchers believe that the newly arrived monocytes could worsen tissue damage because they may exacerbate ongoing or underlying inflammation, this aspect is still under study.

It was hypothesized that humans also sometimes have equally high levels of saturated fats, either from an inherited condition, or through eating fatty foods.

Modern lifestyles seem to go hand-in-hand with high levels of fat in the blood. This fat comes from the food and drink we consume; for example, you’d be surprised how much saturated fat a latte contains, and some drink several through the course of the day.

The thinking is that by maintaining a relatively high concentration of saturated fats, for example: constantly snacking on processed foods and refined carbohydrates such as cakes, biscuits, and pastries could be causing monocytes to migrate out of the blood and into surrounding tissues. As the organs take in fats, most of the migrated monocytes are turned into another type of immune cell called a macrophage, some of the cells located within the tissues take in fat and are then turned into ‘foam cells’. These foam cells and macrophages then stimulate production of a signalling molecule called CCL4, which attracts more monocytes into the tissue. This spiral continues as long as the level of saturated fat is elevated. As such the inflammation process continues unless radical lifestyle changes are made: such as removing all saturated fats from the diet!

Saturated fats are primarily found in fatty meat, dark meat of the chicken, fried foods, processed foods (e.g. processed meats), cheese, full fat dairy products and cakes and pastries.

 

The role of: REFINED CARBOHYDRATES AND SUGARS = PRO-INFLAMMATORY (bad!)

Consumption of poor nutrient diets (with daily and excessive intake of refined starch foods and sugars) is associated with fat tissue expansion and with a low-grade inflammation.

In 2014, a systematic literature search was conducted to evaluate the relevance of carbohydrate quality on inflammatory markers in observational and intervention studies.

Many studies showed significant anti-inflammatory effects of a low-GI/GL diet, and further studies suggested beneficial effects of these diets. Several studies also showed a significant anti-inflammatory effect of fiber intake, and a further trial reported a beneficial trend. For whole-grain intake, 6 observational studies observed an inverse association with inflammatory markers.

This all means that when refined carbohydrate and high sugar foods (both considered harmful to body tissues) are consumed on an ongoing basis – the scene is set for developing one or more inflammatory conditions in the body, and that when high fibre foods (Low GI wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and unprocessed soya) are consumed, inflammatory markers and inflammation is reduced.

By choosing plant-based protein sources such as SOYA, other legumes and beans and nuts, and by eating “clean, unprocessed foods” – by using fat-free / low fat cooking methods, one automatically excludes saturated fats from the diet, with the scientifically proven potential to reduce and prevent inflammation in the body’s cells / tissues.

 

The role of: FIBRE = ANTI-INFLAMMATORY (good!)

Foods high in fibre, such as Low GI wholewheat/seed breads, oats, high fibre cereals, brown rice, quinoa, all vegetables, all fruits, legumes (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, butter beans, sugar beans, black beans – and more), unprocessed soya, nuts and seeds, are known to reduce inflammation in the body.

In short, the scientific/physiological explanation is:

High intakes of dietary fermentable fibres and resistant starch:

  • Reduces oxidative stress and as such reduces inflammation by:
    • Reducing the dietary acid load
    • Increasing intake of antioxidants
    • Reducing indoxyl sulfate and p-cresyl sulfate
  • Increases stool frequency (removing harmful toxins and waste products more effectively)
  • Increases short chain fatty acids which lower LDL cholesterol (which damage arterial walls), and improves insulin sensitivity.

 

The role of: HEALTHY FATS = ANTI-INFLAMMATORY (good!)

A limited intake of unsaturated fats and omega-3 rich foods, have definite anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Specific examples include:

  • Olive oil, avocado oil max 2tsp per day
  • Avocado ½ small avo per day
  • Nuts 30g serving twice/week (especially on weight-loss diets)
  • Seeds 2Tbs per day
  • Flaxseed 1 Tbs per day
  • Omega-3 supplements 1000-4000mg/day (consult your Dietician for the right amount for you)

 

The role of: ANTIOXIDANTS = ANTI-INFLAMMATORY (good!)

Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging.  They are linked to aging and a host of diseases.

One of the free radicals, superoxide, is particularly damaging – as when it comes into contact with DNA, it can damage genes, which, if not repaired, can cause mutations in the chromosomes that may lead to cancer. In addition, inflammation – is also the result of free radical damage.  The process of free radical damage is called oxidative stress, and the resulting cellular damage is what essentially causes ageing. Ageing, inflammation and disease have been thought of as the oxidation of the body. Oxidative stress causes inter alia, memory loss, and the breakdown of organ systems.

Antioxidants are the body’s “defence squad” which destroy the free radical (and the potential damage it may cause), at the point of entry into the cells. And – one can slow down the oxidation process by eating foods containing lots of antioxidants!

Antioxidants are present in all fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. Some fruits and veggies are higher in antioxidants than others, however if one consumes fruits, veggies, herbs and spices at every meal, once will continuously flood the body with antioxidants to ward off inflammatory damage and disease.

Potent antioxidant-rich foods include:

  • Leafy greens, like kale and spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Several spices may also help with chronic inflammation and inflammatory disease, including ginger, garlic, and cayenne.
  • Fruits, especially cherries, blueberries, and oranges

 

Now that you know some of the dietary culprits, it’s important to be mindful of what you eat. Avoiding pro-inflammatory foods and incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet can help manage chronic inflammation. It may take a little bit of time to get used to new eating habits, but in the long run, it will be worth it!

 

 

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