You can’t survive without me, yet I lie behind many of
today’s chronic diseases.
Inflammation has become a favourite topic of wellness
bloggers and influencers. It’s a scary sounding condition that’s blamed for many
common illnesses, often with justification but frequently without any strong
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is usually a good thing. Without it, wounds and
infections would never heal, spelling bad news for your survival.
An inflammatory response is the natural response of your
immune system to any foreign invader or perceived threat, whether that’s
bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, or an injury.
You’ll see acute inflammation in action if you cut or burn
yourself. An influx of white blood cells and chemicals trigger redness and
swelling – all part of your body’s response that begins the healing process.
Inflammation is also in action out of sight, fighting off disease, including
the rogue cells that cause cancer. After the initial reaction, inflammation
calms down to allow your body to heal.
Can inflammation work against us?
Yes, it can. Inflammation becomes a problem when it can’t be
turned off and your body continues to react to something it sees as a threat.
Persistent, invisible, low levels of inflammation (known as
chronic inflammation) can damage your body. It’s linked to many long-term
diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and
some cancers. It plays a role in inflammatory bowel disease and is even
believed to contribute to certain types of depression.
Inflammation is serious, but you can do something about it.
It all starts with understanding what can cause it.
What causes chronic inflammation?
Viruses, autoimmune disease like lupus and rheumatoid
arthritis, and pathogens the body can’t get rid of can all cause inflammation.
So too can:
- poor diet
- lack of sleep
- being overweight, particularly
carrying weight around your middle.
What you can do
Your diet and lifestyle can go a long way to calming down
chronic inflammation. Getting active for as little as 20 minutes every day can
reduce chronic inflammation. So too can quitting smoking, getting adequate
sleep, losing weight and reducing stress.
One of the most powerful tools you have to combat
inflammation is your choice of food. Pick the wrong ones and you can accelerate
inflammation. But choose the right foods and you can reduce your risk of
“A pretty poor typical Western diet high in highly processed
convenience foods and added sugar and low in minimally processed plant foods
has been implicated in inflammation,” says nutrition research scientist Dr Tim
Crowe on his blog Thinking Nutrition.
“What is widely considered an anti-inflammatory diet” is one
high in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, legumes, and wholegrains,” explains
Dr Crowe. The Mediterranean style diet is a good example, especially if you
include fish and olive oil, as it is rich in antioxidants and other