There’s a lot of buzz about inflammation – health and wellness experts alike are telling us that inflammation could be the cause of a number of ailments. Let's have a look at what science says, and how you can use that science to improve your health and keep you moving at all ages.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is an important part of your body’s natural healing and protection processes. It is, however, important to understand the difference between acute and chronic inflammation.
When everything’s working well, acute inflammation is a response to harmful stimuli – toxins, infection or physical damage, for example.
Monocytes, a type of white blood cell, releases chemicals into the blood or affected tissues, that increase the blood flow to make the area red, warm and swollen. You’ll have seen this when you slam your finger in the door, or after sunburn. Ouch! The same process happens internally, too.
Chronic inflammation is when this important response starts to work against your body.
For a variety of reasons, the inflammation can occur without negative stimuli at all, or continue long after an infection, injury or toxin is cleared.
This is a growing field of research, but there are many studies that suggest chronic inflammation may at least contribute to conditions like arthritis, joint pain and other related health problems.
We also know that all adults have some level of chronic inflammation, putting a strain on our tissues and organs, speeding our ageing and making us a little more susceptible to aches and pains.
That doesn’t mean we’re all headed toward a lifetime of pain! It just means that by reducing and fighting inflammation, it’s possible that we could improve our long-term health.
How to reduce chronic inflammation fast
If you’re suffering from arthritis or other joint issues, you could consult your doctor for medications. There are other natural complementary measures you can take to improve your inflammation symptoms, too.
Lifestyle changes can also help the rest of us reduce inflammation – especially if you have a family history of joint issues.
Start on a new anti-inflammatory regime of healthy eating, exercise and considered supplementation and you may see some good health benefits.
For those with problematic joints, you’ll feel freer – movement will become looser and more fluid, even after you’ve been inactive for a while. Here's how...
Reduce inflammation with regular exercise
It’s probably not news that exercise is good for your health.
Moving your body comes with a whole raft of health benefits. It makes your brain release all sorts of feel-good chemicals, improves your muscle strength which can protect your joints and back as you age, and boost your endurance with more oxygen and nutrients rushing around your body.
It also makes for better sleep, which can majorly reduce stress and all the illnesses that come along with it.
We now know that exercise can also help prevent or manage a variety of health issues too – and that’s in part because it reduces inflammation in the body.
As you push your body to work harder, you trigger the sympathetic nervous system to increase your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. That also releases hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline, which hold back the production of inflammatory cytokines.
The extra good news is that you don’t need to be a gym junkie to reap the anti-inflammatory health benefits – just take a brisk, 20 minute walk every day and trigger your body’s anti-inflammatory response.
Foods that help to reduce inflammation
Old wisdom says that food is your best medicine – and we know which foods tend to reduce inflammation
The lists won’t surprise you – prioritise fresh, unprocessed fruit, vegetables, proteins and grains, organic where possible. Try to avoid fried, processed, salted or sweetened foods.
Many common diets already follow anti-inflammatory principles – the Mediterranean diet is a good example.
If following a prescribed diet would make things easier for you, look for one that peddles moderation – steer clear of any diets that ask you to cut out whole food groups (like fat or carbohydrates) or buy processed, packaged food.
A wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables of all kinds should feature heavily in an anti-inflammatory diet – some nutritionists recommend that at least half your plate at every meal should be vegetables.
In short, all produce is good produce -- not just leafy greens. You’ll notice the list below particularly mentions fruit and veggies that are highly coloured – darker colours tend to indicate that the food is more nutritious, and packs a more powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory punch.
Here’s what to eat more of, to reduce inflammation and improve the health of your joints and connective tissue:
- Dark leafy greens, like kale, silverbeet and spinach.
- Dark berries like dark red grapes, blueberries, blackberries and cherries.
- Fresh, nutrition-dense veggies like garlic, onions, green beans, broccoli and cauliflower.
- Legumes (pulses) like peas, beans and lentils.
- Green tea.
- Small portions of whole grains such as oatmeal, barley, quinoa and brown rice.
- Healthy fats from fresh avocado, whole coconuts, seeds, nuts and olives.
- Fresh fish such as mackerel and salmon - rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids
You’ll notice we haven't made mention of eggs, dairy, or meat other than fish – some research suggests that a vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian diet could be beneficial for inflammation. Another study supports this by showing that animal products increase systemic inflammation. Consult with a health professional on any dietary changes unique to your individual needs.
Natural anti-inflammatory supplementation to consider
The reality of modern life means even our best efforts to eat well and exercise will sometimes fall short.
Dietary supplements to address inflammation can often help to fill the gaps. Choose ones that have been widely studied, and come with at least some clinical evidence for ingredients such as Boswellia, Turmeric and NZ Greenshell™ Mussel.
NZ Green lipped Mussel Powder
Worth looking at on their own are green-lipped mussels (also known as NZ Greenshell™ Mussel), which have been shown to modulate those inflammatory cytokines.
They also deliver unusual amounts of omega-3 and GAGs (glycosaminoglycans) that are particularly good for joint inflammation.
GAGs act as shock absorbers and lubricants for joints, responsible for keeping cartilage around joints flexible, elastic and strong. The severity of arthritis is directly related to the loss of GAGs in the joint and surrounding cartilage.
There is also good evidence to show that green-lipped mussels can help in treating osteoarthritis.
NZ mussel powder from a supplement such as Two Islands Move Me delivers these anti-inflammatory properties. Packed in there are also some additional whole-food benefits of protein, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, which are extremely valuable for reducing inflammation.
Turmeric & Curcumin -- Not Cumin
Curcumin is often confused with cumin, but these are not the same thing. Curcumin is derived from turmeric, the bright yellow spice that's part of the ginger family. Cumin is derived from a plant in the parsley family.
An easy way to remember the difference between curcumin vs. cumin:
Cumin is the seed derived from a plant that's part of the parsley family, harvested above the ground.
Curcumin is derived from turmeric root, harvested from below the ground.
Now we've cleared that up, let's dig a little deeper into curcumin and its health benefits.
Curcumin is the primary compound in a family of active compounds called curcuminoids. This compound blocks the proteins that could create inflammation and pain in the body. Curcumin also helps neutralise any oxidative damage, making it an effective antioxidant as well as an effective anti-inflammatory.
Curcumin has even been effective in helping to relieve the symptoms of arthritis (including rheumatoid arthritis), with research showing that curcumin supplementation allows for significant reductions in tenderness and swelling of joints.
Boswellia extract & AKBA
Boswellia extract comes from the Boswellia serata tree native to Africa and Asia. Four powerful boswellic acids can block the causes and reduce the symptoms of inflammation and related illnesses such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Acetyl-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA) is one of the four boswellic acids particularly recognised for its anti-inflammatory properties. High quality boswellia extract containing 30% AKBA, like that used in Move Me, has been shown to improve joint pain and physical function scores in just 7 days.
With a daily regimen of movement, nutritious food and natural anti-inflammatory supplementation, you should be well equipped to fight the pains of inflammation so you can keep moving more.