Hello everybody! Welcome back to my blog. The purpose of this blog is to help people find their way to a healthier lifestyle. I mostly talk about exercise, nutrition and the science behind them, which are my areas of expertise, but I also talk about sleeping habits, minimalism and many other subjects related to wellbeing and healthy lifestyle.
There are many questions surrounding the topic of inflammation as well as many misuses of the term. Even though inflammation is often caused from being overweight and obese and it does make the process of weight loss very difficult, it’s a much more complicated process. People who look thin may suffer from inflammation too.
Inflammation is a natural response of our immune system when it receives a stimulus. This stimulus can be a bite, a cut, a hit, a burn. Our immune system sends white blood cells to the affected area and they start the healing process. This is why the affected area gets swollen, red, warm, painful, and sometimes it’s even difficult to move. After a couple of days or weeks the area goes pack to normal. This is called acute inflammation, and it’s very important for the healing process.
In that sense, inflammation is a very positive response of our immune system to an agent that may cause further harm to our body. Without inflammation the healing process would not take place.
There is a second type of inflammation: chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation is known as “low-grade inflammation” because it doesn’t cause the same symptoms as acute inflammation, and it goes for a much longer period of time. It can be so low-grade that the person who suffers from it might not notice it until it has caused other diseases. Some of the diseases that chronic inflammation causes are mentioned above (cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, lupus, many types of cancer) as well as obesity, diabetes, liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and may also cause mental diseases such as depression. If you want to find out more about how inflammation may cause depression, visit this link from the National Library of Medicine:
As you can see, chronic inflammation is a caused of disease that nowadays take the lead as most common causes of death. Certainly something we should not take slightly.
Now that we understand a bit better the process of inflammation and when it can become a potential problem and before we talk about dietary solutions, I would like to send an important message. Diet and generally lifestyle decisions such as smoking, alcohol and other drugs abuse, not moving enough, and not sleeping enough, will certainly play an important role to avoid inflammation. Most of the diseases mentioned before are provoked by these lifestyle decisions, as well as a lack of information. Nonetheless, there is a percentage of people who suffer from a disease like this because of other factors that completely space out of their control (like genetic predisposition). It’s not to blame anyone, including yourself, if someone suffers from any disease. First step always is seeking professional help. They will assist you checking your current lifestyle and discard all the possible causes.
If you find out that you suffer from a disease because of your lifestyle choices, this is actually good news. You are in control of your life and you can make life changing adjustments. It would be much more difficult to fix if it was completely out of your control. Knowing this, there are some things we can do to prevent chronic inflammation:
There is a lot of controversy around which type of diet is best for a healthy lifestyle: vegetarian, vegan, keto, paleo. Many are the fashionable diets that promise amazing results for life. As a Nutrition Advisor and an overall healthy person, I am a firm defender of a plant-based diet. Vegetables, fruit, legumes, pulses, whole-grains, nuts, made up the base of a healthy diet.
On top of your plant-based diet there are other nutrients and micronutrients you should include in your diet somehow. A vegan diet lacks two important things, one of them essential to prevent inflammation: vitamin B12 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Even though there is misinformation around vitamin B12, the truth is that anyone who follows a vegan diet and most vegetarians must take a supplement, though many meat eaters may have a lack of this vitamin as well. A blood test will let you know if you do need a supplement or a shot of vitamin B12.
Chronic inflammation may be caused by an imbalance between Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. Our diets are reach in Omega-6 (many types of oils, many types of nuts such as almonds and walnuts) but we lack of Omega-3 (which us found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna). Both this types of fats (Omega-3 and Omega-6) are essential, meaning that we must intake them with our diet, though an imbalance of Omega-6 in regards Omega-3 is one of the most common causes of inflammation. Make sure you get enough Omega-3 through diet or supplements (always indicated by a professional) to keep a healthy ratio.
Whether you decide to include meat, fish, or other animal products is completely up to you. If you do decide to avoid animal products completely, seek advice from a nutritionist or dietitian. You might need a supplement of vitamin B12 or omega 3 (fish oil). Both of them can only be found largely in animal products.
- Smoke, alcohol, and other drugs.
There is nothing positive about smoking, and the more the scientist do studies around it, the more they can show us how bad it is. Smoking does no good to your body. On top of many other diseases and illnesses, it also increases inflammation. Nicotine activates neutrophils, which are a type of white cell. Neutrophils are one of the protagonists of acute inflammation, and therefore it’s no surprise that they may cause chronic inflammation.
There is some evidence that red wine may decrease inflammation because it contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants. Nonetheless, it’s still alcohol. Apart from all the effects it has in our body, mainly in our brain and liver, it’s your worst enemy if your goal is to lose weight. Alcohol increases inflammation by interfering with the homeostasis. It can also cause arthritis, which is the inflammation of the joints.
The occasional drink is acceptable, and there are some recommendations. The WHO’s recommendation is to not exceed 14 standards drinks per week, in Australia the number goes down to 10 standard drinks per week. It’s strongly advised to have at least one alcohol-free day per week and not having more than 4 drinks on the same day. Considering that the actual consumption of alcohol in Australia is much higher, this recommendation may be a good start point. To be completely honest, the least the better.
Despite the fact that a glass of red may have some health benefits, do not use this as an excuse to overdo it. If polyphenols are your mean reason to drink wine, there are other foods that contain these antioxidants: berries, spices, coffee, tea, cocoa (make sure it’s 80% or over), as well as some vegetables, nuts, seeds, and herbs.
- Exercise regularly.
One of the key ingredients for a healthy lifestyle is exercise. Alongside with a good eating pattern and a proper rest, exercising may be the answer for many of the diseases we suffer today.
In relation with inflammation, studies have shown some evidence that regular physical activity decreases chronic inflammation. More investigation is needed to find out how much, how often, and what other conditions may affect inflammation in relation with exercise. There are some cases in which too much exercise has been linked with inflammation.
What we do know for sure is that we do not move enough to even start worrying about inflammation due to too much exercise, and that a healthy life always includes daily physical activity. I have shared many posts about this subject, the most popular so far has been “A new approach of fitness”. Check it out on the link below!
- Sleep well.
As I have already mentioned in many other posts and as I hope everyone knows, there’s no healthy life without a healthy sleep hygiene. In the link below, you’ll find a post about sleeping and its importance. I invite you to check it out and enjoy it!
Sleep deprivation increases the release of inflammatory molecules, such as cytokines. If you have already a process of inflammation whether it’s acute or chronic, not having a good rest may slow down the healing process or even worsen the situation.
As an important part of a healthy lifestyle, make sure that you get enough and good quality sleep. You can find many posts on my blog about sleep hygiene, what to do and what to avoid to sleep better, and on top of that, I strongly recommend you to read (or listen to) this life changing book from Arianna Huffington, “The Sleep Revolution”.
- Stress control.
Broadly underestimated and untreated, stress is one of the biggest and most worrying mental issues of our era, and one that can provoke many of the other mental and physical illnesses such as depression, high cholesterol, and heart disease. When our stress levels go up, we release a hormone called cortisol. This is an important hormone for the “fight or flight” process, and it’s released when we do exercise as well. This is a controlled and necessary released of the hormone cortisol that keeps us awake and alert, as well as being a potent anti-inflammatory. When the release of cortisol is uncontrolled, it can provoke a malfunction resulting in the reactivation of a pro-inflammatory stress response. One of the biggest issues in our society is that we are continuously stressed out, and therefore, releasing cortisol. It’s as if our ancestors would always be alert for potential predators, 24 hours 7 days a week.
Controlling stress is not easy and sometimes the help of an appropriate professional is needed. There are some things you can do to control your stress levels, such as having a bath, going for a walk, or doing art and crafts.
This post comes a bit later this time. I always try to post weekly but sometimes things that escape from your control happen, and they may hold you back. I dedicate this post, and the rest of them from now, to my best friend in the whole world, my dog Mel, who unfortunately is not with us anymore. I miss you now and I’ll miss you for ever.
That’s it for today! I really hope that you enjoy it. If you like what I do and you want to support this project, follow me on Instagram and Facebook, like the post and comment! Should you have feedback you’d like to leave, a comment to share with me, or a cool idea for a post, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org