When it comes to health and wellness, Inflammation is possibly the most talked about and confusing topic. Some health experts talk about the benefits of Inflammation, while others are touting anti-inflammatory diets, cures or solutions.
This can naturally be very confusing and raises lots of questions. So before you head off to attempt to fix some source of information, it is crucial to understand what it is and the link between the human body and Inflammation.
Inflammation is a significant part of the human body’s defence mechanism. It is a process, wherein our immune system identifies, fights harmful stimuli (virus, bacteria, others) and heals tissues if any are injured. In simple terms, Inflammation can be understood as the natural battle of your body, safeguarding itself from infections or damages.
Clearly, Inflammation has many positive strings to its bow. However, there is saying “It’s not good to have too much of anything”. Likewise, Inflammation must function only when it needs to defend the body. After it has done its job, it is supposed to relax. If Inflammation continues indefinitely in the body it can have a perilous effect and even hurt the functioning of vital organs, for example, your heart, brain, kidneys, liver etc.
This situation where Inflammation lasts for several months to years is known as “Chronic Inflammation”. Researchers have linked chronic Inflammation to serious health problems such as heart diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and cancer (Source: The Wall Street Journal).
Persistent Inflammation (higher circulating levels of inflammatory mediators) is recognised as a significant risk factor for chronic diseases and ageing-related disabilities (Reference: Source 1).
Research studies have shown that inflammatory biomarkers upsurge in ageing individuals, even in the absence of other diseases. The reasons are twofold; 1) Aging is associated with growth in tissue and circulating levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) (essentially chemically reactive chemical species containing oxygen that cause cell damage), along with a decrease in antioxidant capacity (the bodies’ natural defence against ROS). 2) The escalation in oxidative stress due to ROS leads to chronic Inflammation and diseases (Reference: Source 2).
Studies reported that the body mass index of individuals is proportional to the amount of pro-inflammatory cytokines (small proteins involved in cell signalling) secreted. The adipose tissues play a vital role in the homeostasis of insulin resistance. Any overload of food encourages obesity, which typically leads to chronic low-grade Inflammation (Reference: Source 3).
Individuals Leading Poor Lifestyle:
It is realised that higher C-reactive protein (CRP) is a crucial indicator of systemic Inflammation. CRP is more connected to lifestyle risk aspects such as physical inactivity, stress, an unhealthy diet (high intake of saturated fat, low intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains), smoking etc. (Reference: Source 4).
Pharma developments offer solutions or anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for regulating Inflammation. However, these can have a number of complications or nasty side effects. Therefore, lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking, physical training, reducing weight (specifically abdominal fat) and dietary modifications can be of enormous help.
Studies indicate that an increase in physical activity could be useful for reducing Chronic Inflammation, especially in individuals with chronic diseases (Reference: Source 1). The contraction of skeletal muscle while exercising produces and secretes several cytokines, especially IL-6, which facilitates metabolic changes. The release of IL-6 from muscle tissue rises up to 100-fold during exercise and results in enhanced systemic anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1 receptor antagonist and IL-10). Basically, weight training is particularly good for fighting chronic inflammation.
Additionally, skeletal muscle IL-8 expression also increases with acute exercise. This initiates an immune response whose effects are primarily anti-inflammatory. Essentially this means that intensive training is especially beneficial when it comes to reducing chronic inflammation!
Diet Alterations and Food Supplementation:
Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of a healthy diet for Inflammation. It is suggested that the diet must be high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils. Especially dietary supplementation of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) with fish oils works incredibly well for other auto-immune diseases (Reference: Source 5).
Elderly and individuals affected by chronic diseases experience muscle loss and impaired physical function. Omega 3 fatty acids (FA) mitigate Inflammation and age-associated muscle loss, avert systemic insulin resistance and develop plasma lipids, controlling sarcopenia (loss of skeletal muscle mass) (Reference: Source 6).
To conclude, Inflammation can be both good and bad for our bodies. If we wish to unlock only the good part of it, we need to opt for a healthy lifestyle. We would recommend taking a more holistic approach that is a combination of nutrition, supplements and a resistance training regimen, to get a higher overall benefit.
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1. Effect of exercise training on chronic inflammation, Kristen M. Beavers, Tina E. Brinkley, Barbara J. Nicklas, Clin Chim Acta. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 Apr 18. Published in final edited form as: Clin Chim Acta. 2010 Jun 3; 411(0): 785–793. Published online 2010 Feb 25. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2010.02.069, PMCID: PMC3629815
2. Exercise, Inflammation and Aging, Jeffrey A. Woods, Kenneth R. Wilund, Stephen A. Martin, Brandon M. Kistler, Aging Dis. 2012 Feb; 3(1): 130–140. Published online 2011 Oct 29, PMCID: PMC3320801
3. Obesity, Inflammation and Diet, Hansongyi Lee, In Seok Lee, Ryowon Choue, Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2013 Sep; 16(3): 143–152. Published online 2013 Sep 30. doi: 10.5223/pghn.2013.16.3.143, PMCID: PMC3819692
4. Influence of Lifestyle Factors on Inflammation in Men and Women with Type 2 Diabetes: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004, Soghra Jarvandi, Nicholas O. Davidson, Donna B. Jeffe, Mario Schootman, Ann Behav Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 Dec 1. Published in final edited form as: Ann Behav Med. 2012 Dec; 44(3): 399–407. doi: 10.1007/s12160-012-9397-y. PMCID: PMC3590805
5. Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases, Simopoulos AP1, J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Dec;21(6):495-505. PMID: 12480795
6. Update on the Impact of Omega 3 Fatty Acids on Inflammation, Insulin Resistance and Sarcopenia: A Review, Alex Buoite Stella, Gianluca Gortan Cappellari, Rocco Barazzoni, Michela Zanetti, Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jan; 19(1): 218. Published online 2018 Jan 11. doi: 10.3390/ijms19010218, PMCID: PMC5796167