You’ll be well aware of the effects of inflammation if you’ve ever sprained your ankle, had a sore throat, jammed your finger in a door, grazed your knee, or had a similar medical complaint.
The associated pain, fever, swelling, redness, and frequent impaired function, are all indicators of inflammation.
Inflammation is part of our body’s response to most physical injuries or when exposed to germs. It’s designed to protect the affected organ and trigger the healing process.
Throughout our life we often experience inflammation and in many situations it’s a normal, natural reaction. However, not all cases of inflammation are benign or obvious.
In some circumstances, inflammation can lead to a chronic condition, rather than a short-term immune response. Chronic inflammation can spread slowly within the body and cause metabolic impairment, resulting in serious long-term health problems.
Most people are aware that disorders such as allergies, eczema, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis are symptomatic of chronic inflammation. However, research has now linked inflammation to an array of other modern diseases, including but not limited to diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s, and even depression. 1234
The serious nature of these chronic illnesses and the association with inflammation is a major cause for concern. In 2004, it was reported that chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease accounted for 29 million deaths worldwide in 2002 5. Over a decade later, incidences of these diseases continue to rise at an alarming rate.
Unfortunately, many people rely solely on pain relief medications to combat symptoms of inflammation. A long-term reliance on pharmaceutical drugs can lead to other health problems, such as serious damage to the liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract, amongst other chronic conditions.
The statistics associated with chronic inflammation are disturbing, and our relationship with certain medications is dangerous. However, there are a number of steps that people can take to help combat inflammation naturally and reduce the risk of developing serious health problems.
Top Foods to Help with Inflammation
Our diet plays a critical role in our health. Unfortunately, typical western diets are dominated by excess sugar and fat, refined starches and highly processed foods. Many people don’t consume enough fruit, whole grains and vegetables. This leads to a deficiency in important amino acids, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. These factors fuel inflammation and contribute to chronic illnesses.
Altering our diet to incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and essential amino acids can help to reduce inflammation. Foods such as canola oil, walnuts, ground flax seeds, pasture-raised red meat, wild rice, and fish are ideal. A daily intake of seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables is also highly recommended. Cranberries, grapes, apples, cherries and broccoli are particularly beneficial. Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet is essential for healthy living.
In order to survive our body requires 21 amino acids. Our body is capable of producing many of these amino acids; however, there are nine amino acids that our body can’t manufacture. These essential amino acids must be gained from our diet and several of them have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
BCAAs (branch-chained amino acids) are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. Found in high concentrations within dairy, meat and eggs, these amino acids are renowned for their role in promoting muscle growth and strength. Body builders and other athletes significantly benefit from their anti-inflammatory properties.
These amino acids reduce recovery times following intense workouts and alleviate muscle fatigue and muscle damage 6. However, the benefits of BCAAs not only apply to athletes. Research has suggested that BCAA supplements can help reduce inflammation in patients suffering from liver disease 7, diabetes and depression, amongst others.
While research continues into possible treatments for chronic inflammation using BCAAs, the preliminary results are positive.
Glutamine, abbreviated as Q, is a non-essential amino acid involved in an array of biochemical processes. Synthesised primarily in muscle tissue, Q is mainly used within the intestines, kidneys and by the immune system. Research has shown that Q has important antioxidant properties and can help reduce inflammation. 89
Although not classified as an essential amino acid, Q deficiencies can occur in certain situations. People that have gastrointestinal disorders or undertake intensive athletic training often have a shortage of this amino acid. Most animal proteins are rich in Q, along with beans, spinach, cabbage and parsley. Maintaining a healthy diet incorporating these foods will help your body sustain sufficient Q levels during periods of physical stress.
Another non-essential amino acid, Glycine (G) also has anti-inflammatory properties. Involved in a range of physiological processes, G has been shown to help treat patients with chronic pain syndromes associated with inflammation 10. This amino acid can reduce swelling and limit the production of inflammatory cytokines.
To supplement the body’s own production of this important amino acid, it’s recommended to consume G rich foods such as poultry, seaweed, ham and lima beans.
Other Preventative Measures
In addition to ensuring an adequate intake of BCAAs, Q, G and omega-3 fatty acids, there are other supplements that can help combat inflammation. Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc and curcumin (a nutrient within the spice turmeric) are all particularly beneficial. Regularly taking dietary supplements containing these natural anti-inflammatory agents can combat the deficiency that most people experience.
Probiotics can make a big difference in fighting inflammation. For many people, a combination of inactivity, poor diet and stress can lead to an unhealthy gut. Chronic inflammation is often linked to an unbalanced gut flora. By detoxifying the body with a high potency, good quality probotic, it’s possible to start effectively treating inflammation.
Just like the treatment of most physical ailments, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important. You can have a positive impact on your health through drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and avoiding stress whenever possible.
Inflammation is part of our body’s defence mechanism and is closely associated with our immune system. Unfortunately, modern lifestyles and poor diets have unbalanced this finely-tuned, natural response mechanism. The resulting chronic inflammation is often a precursor to a diversity of serious illnesses. However, making positive changes to our diet and lifestyle can successfully combat inflammation.
Amino acids such as BCAAs, Q and G are vital to restore immune system balance. Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, curcumin and probiotics are also very beneficial. However, diet alone is rarely enough to ensure a good balance. Despite this, there are many natural supplements available that offer an excellent alternative to pharmaceutical inflammation treatments. Not only due these supplements help to reduce inflammation, they also contribute to other important functions within the body and have no risky side-effects.
Here is a very useful video explaining the body’s inflammatory response mechanism in detail: