Foods provide us with more than just carbohydrates, protein and vitamins. Did you know that foods also can contribute to your health in other ways. Foods contain phytonutrients which can have effects upon our body to promote health, reduce inflammation, fight rouge cancer cells and promote blood circulation. Today we are going to look at how foods can have an anti-inflammatory action upon the body.
Firstly lets explore what inflammation is, so that you can understand how the foods can effect inflammation. Everyday occurrences such as toxic substances in our foods or water, the air that we breathe, allergy-triggering substances such as pollens or dust mites, poor general health, medications (prescription or over-the-counter) and lifestyle factors all can result in promotion of our inflammatory system.
Inflammation is a critical defence mechanism that protects us from pathogen or tumours. Short term inflammation is beneficial and can help activate our immune system to attack viruses or bacteria, resolve allergy reactions, promote healing of a wound or injury. But when this inflammation remains longer term – it is referred to as chronic inflammation and becomes part of our everyday life (24/7). This chronic inflammation can weaken our body’s ability to heal and our detoxification ability. When the liver, kidneys or skin cannot keep up with the detoxification of the inflammatory chemicals then they remain in circulation and keep increasing in concentration promoting more inflammation. This process also results in an accumulation of ‘free-radicals’ producing oxidative stress. These free radical molecules can damage our tissues including our DNA genetic structure resulting in degenerative diseases including auto-immune disease, asthma, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
Since we cannot live in a ‘bubble’ to avoid triggers of inflammation, we should look towards our foods to help provide ‘inflammatory quenchers’. Foods can provide nutrients that help to reduce the inflammatory chemical cascade that can result in chronic inflammation. When these foods are eaten regularly they can help to keep the delicate balance between health and disease caused by chronic inflammation.
Lets look at some of these foods and how they can reduce your inflammatory load.
Fish oils: are renowned for their anti-inflammatory effects. There are many advertisements about fish oil supplements and reduction of joint pain. Deep sea fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring or tuna contains a type of fatty acid that we cannot produce adequately on our own. When eat consume these fish we consume omega 3 fatty acids. There are several mechanisms proposed as to how omega 3 fats reduce inflammation. One method is that omega 3 fatty acids compete with omega 6 fatty acids to reduce the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals via COX 2 enzyme – This action is similar to the effect of ibuprofen. Omega 3 fatty acids also influence the expression of the genes which code for the pro-inflammatory chemicals. By switching off these genes, the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals is reduced.
Food is always the best way of getting these nutrients but the issue with deep sea fish is the level of mercury found in the flesh of these fish. If you are pregnant it is advised to consume tuna, mackerel etc no more than once weekly. This is one time that I suggest that supplements be taken if you require regular doses of fish oils. If you are not pregnant then consuming fish 2-3 times per week can be a great way of getting these oils.
Turmeric: is a great spice that you can use regularly in your cooking. It is a spice that is added to many curries. This spice has many healing properties which can be attributed to the active phytonutrient curcumin. Turmeric can inhibit a number of different molecules that are involved in the inflammatory cascade. It also has an action in turning off the gene that codes for NF kappaB – a chemical that is a potent inflammatory agent.
This spice is best absorbed when it is combined with fats such as butter, ghee coconut cream or coconut oil. What better way than have a curry, a risotto, chutney dish or casserole with turmeric laced in it and help your body reduce its inflammatory load.
There are still more foods to visit. Come back to visit this site soon for more information of anti inflammatory foods. I will continue with the effects of foods like pineapple, broccoli, and green tea. Look forward to your next visit.