TO YOUR HEALTH

Why you should in­crease your body’s anti-in­flam­ma­tory re­sponse

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS - BY KLAUDIA BALOGH

In­flam­ma­tion Warn­ing

In­flam­ma­tion can be ei­ther your friend or your en­emy. While acute in­flam­ma­tion is part of the body’s nat­u­ral de­fense re­sponse to in­jury, chronic in­flam­ma­tion may lead to cancer, di­a­betes, car­dio­vas­cu­lar and neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­eases, re­search shows. It has also been found to be the un­der­ly­ing cause of a num­ber of au­toim­mune is­sues, and, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Au­toim­mune Re­lated Dis­eases As­so­ci­a­tion, one in five peo­ple suf­fer from au­toim­mune dis­ease in the United States.

What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween the acute and chronic forms of in­flam­ma­tion?

Acute in­flam­ma­tion is short-lived. It’s the im­mune sys­tem’s nat­u­ral re­sponse to harm, such as a scrape or burn, and can last any­where from a few sec­onds to a cou­ple of days. It in­creases blood flow and per­me­abil­ity to the af­fected area to al­low the heal­ing process to be­gin. That’s when you would ex­pe­ri­ence pain, red­ness, heat and swelling as blood and flu­ids rush to re­pair the da­m­aged tis­sue.

Then, there’s chronic in­flam­ma­tion, which is the op­po­site—it’s long-lived and of­ten goes un­no­ticed. It be­gins with the same cel­lu­lar re­ac­tion, but if an in­flam­ma­tory re­sponse is con­stantly trig­gered by un­healthy life­style choices or an un­der­ly­ing med­i­cal con­di­tion, it can con­tinue, dam­ag­ing the body in­stead of heal­ing it.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished by the Har­vard Med­i­cal School, dur­ing chronic in­flam­ma­tion “the im­mune sys­tem prompts white blood cells to at­tack nearby healthy tis­sues and or­gans, which then plays a cen­tral role in some of the most chal­leng­ing dis­eases of our time, in­clud­ing rheuma­toid arthri­tis, cancer, heart dis­ease, di­a­betes, asthma and even Alzheimer’s.”

Di­etary habits that in­crease in­flam­ma­tion tend to be high in re­fined sugar, starches and sat­u­rated and trans fats, and low in omega-3 fatty acids, nat­u­ral an­tiox­i­dants and fiber from fruits, veg­eta­bles and whole grains.

Some of the worst West­ern di­etary ten­den­cies warm up in­flam­ma­tion, while more pru­dent di­etary pat­terns cool it down. Choos­ing healthy sources of car­bo­hy­drate, fat and protein, paired with reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and avoid­ance of smok­ing and al­co­hol, are crit­i­cal to keep­ing chronic in­flam­ma­tion at bay. There are, how­ever, a few more items to con­sider adding to your diet and life­style reg­i­men.

SPICES WITH ANTI-IN­FLAM­MA­TORY COM­POUNDS

If you’re a fan of cin­na­mon buns, they may not be as bad for you as you think. Yes, they still have too much sugar and starch, but their cin­na­mon con­tent can keep your blood sugar in check. This spice has been used in natur­o­pathic medicine to treat di­a­betes in In­dia. Plus, it has been found to have blood-sugar reg­u­la­tive prop­er­ties and to con­trol glu­cose lev­els in di­a­betic and pre­di­a­betic pa­tients. Be­sides help­ing your cells reg­u­late in­sulin, the hor­mone that’s re­spon­si­ble for push­ing sugar into your cells, cin­na­mon ex­tracts can in­crease anti-in­flam­ma­tory pro­teins and fight against free rad­i­cals in your body. Two kinds of cin­na­mon are avail­able on the mar­ket to­day: Cas­sia and Cey­lon. The for­mer is more com­monly used but is con­sid­ered lower qual­ity, while the lat­ter is the “true” cin­na­mon orig­i­nat­ing from Sri Lanka and south­ern parts of In­dia.

An­other com­monly rec­om­mended spice to treat in­flam­ma­tion is turmeric and, more im­por­tantly, the chem­i­cal it con­tains, called cur­cumin. Be­cause of its anti-in­flam­ma­tory and heal­ing ben­e­fits, it’s of­ten used for myr­iad health is­sues, from skin or gut prob­lems, to flu, to arthri­tis.

FOODS HIGH IN OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

The Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion’s re­port, Strate­gic Im­pact Goal Through 2020 and Be­yond, rec­om­mends more than

two 3.5-ounce fish serv­ings per week, prefer­ably oily fish such as salmon and sar­dines. Yet stud­ies pub­lished in the Na­tional Li­brary of Medicine found that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Amer­i­can adults are not meet­ing those rec­om­men­da­tions. Flax seeds, flax oil and wal­nuts should also be in the kitchen at all times as omega-3 sources. These healthy fats give rise to anti-in­flam­ma­tory and in­flam­ma­tion-re­solv­ing me­di­a­tors.

AN­TIOX­I­DANTS

An­tiox­i­dants de­crease the ox­i­da­tion process in cells that could lead to ox­ida­tive stress, which is a di­rect cause of in­flam­ma­tion. Through ox­i­da­tion, mol­e­cules called free rad­i­cals form in the body and can cause ox­ida­tive dam­age. It’s a nat­u­ral process, and the body nat­u­rally pro­duces an­tiox­i­dants to fight the free rad­i­cals. The prob­lem, how­ever, comes when the lev­els of an­tiox­i­dants and free rad­i­cals are out of bal­ance. Be­cause of un­healthy life­style choices (smok­ing, drink­ing), as well as en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion and ex­ces­sive ex­po­sure to UV lights, the body may be in­ca­pable of keep­ing up with detox­i­fy­ing the free rad­i­cals. That’s when foods that are high in an­tiox­i­dants come into play: blue­ber­ries; yel­low, or­ange and red veg­eta­bles (pep­pers, car­rots); dark leafy greens (spinach, Ro­maine let­tuce); citrus; black and green teas; and al­lium veg­eta­bles (onions, gar­lic) are all great sources of an­tiox­i­dants that help re­duce ox­ida­tive stress and re­pair da­m­aged mol­e­cules.

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