We have all seen inflammation in action, whether it be a rolled ankle or a little cut on the hand. The affected area gets red, hot, and swollen. This is a normal, beneficial process, that we need to happen to keep us alive. It protects us from bacteria, toxins, and helps heal our body.
The problem with inflammation is the more insidious, chronic inflammation, that is often occurring in our body. This is long term exposure to inflammation and we may not even notice it. This is why it has been called the “silent killer”. Until we become highly inflamed, we barely notice it occurring. This inflammation can come from processed foods, vegetable oils, trans fats, eating foods that we may be sensitive to, from environmental toxins, infections in the gums, bad teeth, from chronic levels of stress, not getting enough sleep, light pollution, and from high levels of free radicals.
Free radicals cause oxidative damage to the cells, inflammation responds to this cellular injury, it is a never-ending cycle.
High levels of inflammation play a role in pretty much every disease, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, autism, and even cancer. Chronic inflammation plays a role in asthma, acne, allergies, basically everything.
Inflammation negatively affects how well the mitochondria work. This has a huge impact on how much energy you are able to produce. It also affects how well your neurons will work.
Foods that cause inflammation typically do so by irritating the gut lining, which can trigger your immune system to attack healthy cells, through a process which has been called molecular mimicry.
Food sensitivities are very hard to identify as symptoms can take a long time to show up, they are often only slight (brain fog, mood swings, rashes, sore joints), and can seem unrelated to a food you may have eaten a day or two beforehand (sore joints as an example).
Foods that typically show up as problematic for most people are trans fats, vegetable oils, gluten, wheat, grain, dairy, and eggs. Elimination diets work because you often remove the offending food. It is very difficult to know which foods are causing a problem as you have to be very disciplined to make sure you don’t have any exposure to them but I think it is definitely worth trying to figure out. It is very individualised from one person to the next, so you have to make note of how you feel and not just what someone else tells you are “good” or “bad” foods. There are tests you can do for this but the most affordable way is to try an elimination diet. You could also do what Dave Asprey mentions and check your heart rate before a meal and then again, several times after. He says that if your heart rate increases by more than 17 beats per minute, it could indicate you have a sensitivity to that food you ate.
Supplementing with fish oil can be beneficial for helping to control levels of inflammation in the body. It is well known for its anti-inflammatory benefits. There are also many anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric (active ingredient curcumin) you can use but the most important thing to remember is to get rid of the source or sources of inflammation. It doesn’t matter how many supplements you take. If you are eating processed foods, consuming trans fats, being exposed to all sorts of toxins from your environment, and not sleeping well, you won’t get on top of the inflammation. It’s like having a blocked sink and the tap still running. You have to turn the tap off before unblocking the sink.
You can check your levels of inflammation through blood tests such as high-sensitive C-reactive protein (HS-CRP) and homocysteine.
Like most things, it is about balance. Inflammation is needed and necessary to keep us alive but you just don’t want too much of it for too long.
A free radical is an atom with an unpaired electron floating around. They are formed every time we produce energy. They float around and try to bond to other molecules in healthy cells. When they do this, they release energy that can damage surrounding tissues, organs, joints, damage DNA and RNA strands, and damage the skin. This process is called oxidation.
Free radicals destroy neurons and synapses. They would rather bond with fat cells and as the brain and nerve cells are made up of a lot of fat, particularly the cell membrane which is the most important part of the cell, they can destroy a lot of brain and nerve tissue through oxidation.
Oxidation is basically the same thing as rusting. It’s what you see when you cut an apple in half and watch it turn brown, or like a piece of metal left out in the weather and it rusts. This is basically what happens when free radicals attack our tissues.
To control this, we have antioxidants that help protect us against the negative effects of free radicals. Our body produces antioxidants naturally and we also get them from food and supplements.
Free radicals also promote inflammation.
Some things that increase oxidative stress and increase mitochondrial aging include:
Insulin and high glucose environments generate free radicals and promote oxidative stress.
Chronic stress – leads to the over production of free radicals, weakens your immune system, and lowers your insulin sensitivity, among other things. (This is why the meditation, breathe work, grateful log type stuff above is important to implement)
Sleep deprivation and circadian mismatches promote all disease. If your body’s biological clocks are misaligned with its circadian rhythms, then you’ll cause more cellular stress and predispose yourself to all types of dysfunctions.
Environmental toxins – pesticides, heavy metals, plastics, cleaning products, personal care products can all increase oxidative stress
Processed food and overcooked food – increase the amount of free radicals in it
Fasting can help reduce the free radical and oxidative stress load. It is also beneficial for mitochondrial function due to this.
Fish oil, alpha lipoic acid, glutathione, CoQ10, Vitamin E and C, can decrease free radicals and oxidative stress.
So, free radicals will always be produced. You just don’t want too many of them going out of controlling, causing damage