Diet and Inflammation….can they play a part in your risk of infection and disease?

Most people have read about the various diets, have tried one or currently stick to a specific eating regime or diet. You may have also read or learnt about inflammation in the body and I am sure most would have experienced the wrath of acute inflammation from a sore joint, muscle or wound.

Chronic inflammation however, is associated with many diseases including neurological disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and poor immune function. Combined with the increase in mortality rate of chronic diseases and decline in good nutrition and food choices, the effect of diet (and lifestyle) choices on health must be considered.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is a critical and protective response from the body to destroy and dilute the driver or cause while helping to repair the injured tissue. The cause of an inflammatory response is either from an injurious or infectious agent of which the immune system takes effect with the many different immune cells playing their part to help resolve the injury and inflammation.

Inflammation can become chronic with constant low levels of inflammation present when there is a persistent trigger or stimulus that is not resolved. Not only can this produce ongoing symptoms for an individual but it may also increase the risk of chronic disease and pathophysiological changes in tissues and organs.

Some signs of inflammation can include:

  • behaviour changes, tics, ocd in children
  • anxiety, depression, brain fog
  • autoimmune disease
  • fatigue and exhaustion
  • bloating, pain, gut health issues

Can diet help?

Paleo, keto, FODMAP, gluten free, mediterranean are just some of the diets you may have heard about over the past decade. There is not a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to the right diet however, different diets can play a role in helping people to regain health and this can be partly due to the anti-inflammatory effects through food choices and nutrients.

Some common factors in diets include increasing plant based foods, reducing processed foods and refined sugar and eliminating foods that may be causing inflammation.

There is no doubt that when we increase the amount of plant based foods and whole foods that  are consumed you are providing the body with a diverse range nutrient dense food that is loaded with antioxidant vitamins and minerals such as (vitamin C, E, selenium and folate) to help combat inflammation. These foods also help to increase the diversity of our gut microbiome (bacteria) which is now known to be important for good health (I am sure you have heard about good gut health!).

It can be assumed that effective dietary (and lifestyle) strategies can help to reduce the risk or help manage chronic disease or illness through controlling inflammation.

Some simple ways you can start to reduce inflammation now can include:

  • Begin to increase plant based foods into your diet. This could be as simple as adding extra vegetables to your meals or having two meat-free days per week
  • Find the trigger: if you do have signs and symptoms of inflammation it is important to find the cause. This could be infection, gut health, food, stress or poor diet choices. 
  • Move: if exercise is not part of your weekly routine it is never too late to start. Even just small amounts are great for health
  • Connect with others and manage your stress. Over the years this has been found to be one of the biggest factors in health and longevity.

Maintaining good nutritional status through a healthy balanced diet can offer essential macro and micro nutrients, probiotics and prebiotics to help restore and maintain good immune function and reduce chronic inflammation. It is never too late to start making necessary changes to improve your health and feel great again.

Zabetakis, I., Lordan, R., Norton, C., & Tsoupras, A. (2020). COVID-19: The inflammation Link and the Role of Nutrition in Potential Mitigation. Nutrients, 12(5), 1466.  https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051466

Dubois, R. N. (2015). The Jeremiah Metzger Lecture: Inflammation, Immune Modulators, and Chronic Disease. Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, 126, 230-236.

 

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