By Dr Megan Chircop
Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine.” He was right!
Many scientific studies have reported the health benefits of certain foods. It is starting to become evident that those foods that reduce inflammation in our body have the biggest benefit, particularly if you have a specific chronic condition.
'Inflammation' is a bit of a buzz word in the health industry at the moment. But what does it really mean? And does this mean anything to YOUR health?
When inflammation is a good thing:
In healthy adults and children, inflammation is actually completely normal and a good thing. An inflammatory response is your bodies way of protecting you from foreign invaders, called antigens. These antigens can be the bacteria in a in the nail you step on that causes swelling and soreness, the common cold you catch in winter that causes your head to feel all stuffed up, or the bacteria in that crazed knee you got whilst rumbling with your kids in the park.
Invaders that cause inflammation can also be pollen that triggers your allergies, or the food you may be sensitive to that causes hives and itching.
On a more serious note, and when inflammation causes serious health issues is in chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, gut diseases like Chrons, ceolic disease .
When inflammation takes a bad turn:
The result is CHRONIC DISEASE.
Sometimes, our bodies immune system fails - it responds too much or too little, or views a relatively harmless substance as a deadly threat. Inflammation occurs, even though it was not necessarily needed, and may not get the signal from the body to stop. In these cases, our normal inflammatory response can turn into a systemic or chronic version.
Abnormal inflammation can occur in the brain, the arteries, the gut and the joints, causing diseases such as depression, and autoimmune diseases, e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, Graves' disease.
Foods with the highest anti-inflammatory benefits:
• fruits and vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables),
• colourful roots and herbs (including turmeric and ginger)
• omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish and chia seed)
• healthy fats (including olive oil)
• high fibre whole grains.
These foods also stimulate growth of healthy gut bacteria that have an anti-inflammatory impact.
Foods to avoid:
• sugar, which has been shown in one study to activate inflammatory pathways that may increase the risk for breast cancer.
• red meat consumption, refined grains and a high intake of saturated fat have also been shown to induce inflammation.
• gluten - studies have found it may cause inflammatory side effects when consumed by people with either coeliac disease (an autoimmune condition) or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.
Take home message:
Be aware of those individual foods that may trigger an unnecessary inflammatory response in YOUR body, This may show up as bloating, headaches, brain fog, constipation, diarrhoea, sore joints,
It is also really important to think about your overall eating pattern and lifestyle. Combining healthy eating behaviours with a lifestyle that encompasses plenty of relaxation, e.g. meditation, yoga, reading a book, etc, is going to provide you with the best overall health and well-being and enable you to live life to its fullest.
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