An article by exercise physiologist, Jennifer Smallridge

Known as “the fire within”, inflammation is actually a normal part of life - it’s the body’s way of protecting itself against harm, for example, when you get a paper cut or catch a virus. Unfortunately, when inflammation in the body becomes chronic, it can start to create a cascade of consequences throughout multiple systems. Read on to discover what these can involve, and most importantly, what can be done about it.  

 

What can cause long term inflammation? 

Foods that spike your blood sugar (eg: white bread and pasta, processed sugary foods) have been associated with inflammation in the body. Some people with inflammatory conditions (eg: arthritis) can noticeably feel more sore after indulging! Alcohol and smoking are also known inflammatory agents in the body, so minimising intake or stopping completely will reduce your inflammatory load. 

It may also come as no surprise that stress is a huge pro-inflammatory process in the body. In the short term, stress would traditionally be used to “fight or flight” from a threat - however these days, the release of cortisol and adrenaline can lead to an accumulative, detrimental impact on many systems of the body.   

Sedentary behaviours, also known as sitting still for too long, have also been linked to inflammation levels in the body - purely because this is time that could be spent engaging in anti-inflammatory movement. 

 

What are the risks of long term inflammation? 

Joint health: Long-term inflammation tends to be problematic, as it increases the rate of breakdown of cartilage and joint inflammation in the body. This can result in pain, stiffness and weakness; followed by a lack of activity, which then leads to more pain, stiffness and weakness. Talk about a vicious cycle!  

Brain health: From the research, depression is now starting to be considered a disease of inflammation and activation of the immune system (along with other factors such as genetics and life circumstances). Inflammation has also been considered and proposed as a driving force behind Alzheimer’s disease. 

Cardiovascular health: Most diseases of the heart and blood vessels are now accepted as having an inflammatory component. If you have a family history of stroke, heart attacks or heart disease, it is especially important to keep down your “bad” levels of cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins, or LDLs) and keep your “good” cholesterol high.  

Metabolic health: Low-grade chronic inflammation has also been found as a feature of Type 2 Diabetes and metabolic syndrome.  

 

What can we do to prevent or reduce inflammation? 

Healthy diet: A dietitian can assist you to ensure you are eating a balanced diet, and the recipes in the Nageze newsletter have all been designed with anti-inflammatory benefits in mind. 

Exercise: Regular movement is one of the most anti-inflammatory “medicines” we have access too! Particularly if it is cardiovascular in nature (walking, swimming, cycling). If you are just getting started, try to move a little bit and do it often, rather than a lot all at once.  

Curcumin: One of nature’s oldest anti-inflammatory compounds is curcumin, particularly when it is made to be bio-available (able to be readily absorbed and taken up by the body) - such as in Nageze!  

Good healthcare: Have regular conversations with your GP around your internal health, as many of the above diseases have early warning signs that we cannot feel, but they can be detected.  

Relaxation strategies: There is some fantastic evidence emerging that regular meditation, yoga and tai chi can dampen down the genes associated with inflammation in the body. Plus, if it makes you feel good, it can’t do any harm.  

 

 

References: 

 Alfaddagh, A., Martin, S.S., Leucker, T.M., Michos, E.D., Blaha, M.J., Lowenstein, C.J., Jones, S.R. and Toth, P.P., 2020. Inflammation and cardiovascular disease: from mechanisms to therapeutics. American Journal of Preventive Cardiology, p.100130. 

Bergens, O., Nilsson, A., Papaioannou, K.G. and Kadi, F., 2021. Sedentary patterns and systemic inflammation: sex-specific links in older adults. Frontiers in Physiology, 12, p.69. 

Kinney, J.W., Bemiller, S.M., Murtishaw, A.S., Leisgang, A.M., Salazar, A.M. and Lamb, B.T., 2018. Inflammation as a central mechanism in Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, 4, pp.575-590. 

Lee, H., Lee, I.S. and Choue, R., 2013. Obesity, inflammation and diet. Pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology & nutrition, 16(3), pp.143-152.  

Lee, C.H. and Giuliani, F., 2019. The role of inflammation in depression and fatigue. Frontiers in immunology, 10, p.1696. 

Tsalamandris, S., Antonopoulos, A.S., Oikonomou, E., Papamikroulis, G.A., Vogiatzi, G., Papaioannou, S., Deftereos, S. and Tousoulis, D., 2019. The role of inflammation in diabetes: current concepts and future perspectives. European Cardiology Review, 14(1), p.50. 

Wellen, K.E. and Hotamisligil, G.S., 2005. Inflammation, stress, and diabetes. The Journal of clinical investigation, 115(5), pp.1111-1119. 

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