Inflammation is, nowadays, the real enemy to fight. Yes, because this protection mechanism, essential for dealing with external threats, can, in some cases, backfire on us. But let's try to understand better what we are talking about and then, in the following paragraphs, also what we can do against inflammation.
The two faces of inflammation
Inflammation is the body's natural response to a threat. When the threat has been eradicated, however, the inflammation must go away. The problem is when the inflammation remains constant and acts silently over the years, at a low but always present level. When this happens then our body is impacted, the immune defenses are lowered because they are weakened by inflammation, the risk of neurodegeneration and cellular degeneration, overweight and obesity, depression, diabetes and cardiovascular disease increases. In short, the protection mechanism jams and can cause really considerable damage.
Inflammation and viral infections
The pandemic we are experiencing has brought to the fore the importance of a healthy body to face external threats. More and more scientific studies have observed that respiratory viruses, especially in severe cases, are associated with a constant level of inflammation (Vahid et al, Clin Nutr ESPEN, 2021). Inflammation, in fact, makes infection easier and more likely a course with complications (Suardi et al, Int J Environ res Public Health, 2021).
Inflammation and obesity
Chronic inflammation is also connected to a higher risk of developing metabolic diseases. Therefore, a low level of inflammation, which however is always present, increases the probability of obesity but also of fatty liver (Guerra et al, Biomedicines, 2020).
Inflammation and muscles
Scientific studies have observed that inflammation is also related to a reduction in muscle mass, or sarcopenia. In particular, a pro-inflammatory diet, which includes foods capable of promoting inflammation, is associated with an increased risk of sarcopenia (Geng et al, Aging, 2021). This finding is important as sarcopenia increases the risk of falls and fractures.
How to combat inflammation
Just as there are habits and diets that promote inflammation, there is also a lifestyle that can counteract this condition. For example, a diet that reduces or excludes sugars and refined carbohydrates is protective, as excess sugar has been shown to unbalance the gut microbiota, weaken the immune system and increase inflammation levels (Fajstova et al, Cells, 2020). Various diets, such as the Mediterranean or the Japanese, have been shown to counteract inflammation. In general, it is possible to observe some points in common between these feeding regimes and make them your own to counteract inflammation every day. A substance with a high anti-inflammatory power is quercetin, which is found in dark chocolate, elderberries, capers and onions. Also noteworthy are the ferulic acid contained in aubergines, dark chocolate and whole grains, the kaempferol of capers, cumin, black and white beans, but also the epicatechin of cocoa powder, black olives and blackberries. Do not forget the caffeic acid of oregano, rosemary, thyme and chicory, the resveratrol of grapes, the tangeritin of oranges and the catechins of green tea, plums, nuts and cocoa. The apigenin of extra virgin olive oil, the genistein of soy, the gingerol of ginger, the beta carotene of sweet potatoes, carrots, lettuce and spinach are also anti-inflammatory, as well as the omega 3 fatty acids contained in fatty fish, flaxseeds and chia seeds (Stromsnes et al, Biomedicines, 2021). Vitamin D also plays a role in protecting us against infections. Our body synthesizes vitamin D through sun exposure or can obtain it from some food sources such as egg yolk, mushrooms and fatty fish (Suardi et al, Int J Environ res Public Health, 2021).
It is never too early to start ...
The fight against inflammation should take our whole life. Even when we feel strong. Because today's health will determine how we will be in the future, also from the point of view of mental health. Scientific studies have found that taking an anti-inflammatory diet already in childhood, from the age of 11-12, has allowed it to protect mental health and well-being as adults and throughout the whole life (Lycett et al, Br J Nutr, 2021).