Health in Flames

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There are two types of inflammation; acute and systemic. Acute inflammation is what you experience with a headache, wound or back pain. Popping an anti-inflammatory will help you out with this. Systemic inflammation on the other hand, is going to need a hell of a lot more than a few Neurofen to rectify.

What Is Systemic Inflammation?

Systemic inflammation is described as elevated circulating cytokines, which are molecules secreted by cells that have a biological function. These nasty little molecules wreak havoc on the body by promoting oxidative stress, reducing insulin sensitivity and other negative functions. Systemic inflammation is a silent killer that parallels obesity and is a common denominator of its co-morbidities, of which include hypertension, cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes and liver disease.

The Long Run

You may not know this but every time you eat, you are causing bodily inflammation. This type of transient inflammation isn’t going to kill you. Once the meal is consumed, digested and metabolised, gradually the associated cytokines subside and a happy healthy balance is restored.

Sustained, obesity-linked, systemic inflammation is far more concerning. This results from decades of poor dietary choices that are low in healthy fat, whole grains, fruit and vegetables. A lifetime of McDonalds, processed meals and energy dense, nutrient poor food results in fat accumulation and obesity (Duh!). While this type of visual fat accumulation may cause some self-esteem issues, it is only a concern in the mirror. More worrying, is the fat you can’t see – the visceral fat that hangs around your organs. This type of fat secretes inflammatory cytokines and promotes long term inflammation. Having a lot of this sort of fat around, and continuing to feed to it with unhealthy foods, exacerbates the cytokine release. And this is how you end up with chronic systemic inflammation.

How Do I Avoid It?

‘Okay so, eating causes inflammation. Alright then, I’ll just not eat then…??’

This is the rationale behind fasting and the 5:2 diet. However, I prefer to keep my inflammation down without starving myself. This is how to do it…

The vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals within fruit, vegetables and whole grains are excellent antioxidants that help neutralise some of the nasty reactive species that naturally occur with the metabolism of a meal. When high calorie meals are consumed in the absence of such antioxidants (for example deep fried, processed foods), the body is at greater risk of reactive species build up. One of the many harmful effects of these reactive species is to increase the production of inflammatory cytokines, through a nutrigenomic interaction. By consuming a wide range of fruit, veg and whole grains it is possible to mitigate some of the inflammatory stress our body is subjected to.

Healthy fats contained in fish, avocado and nuts are also capable of up-regulating anti-inflammatory responses. Such fats are the precursor to anti-inflammatory eicosanoids that battle the pro-inflammatory cytokines to produce a balanced inflammatory state.

AGEs (advanced glycation end products) are harmful substances that do as their name suggest- age you. They are the product of non-enzymatic Malliard reactions between protein and carbohydrate. AGE formation occurs when you roast, bake, fry or brown any food, and can be consumed in this form. Alternatively, AGEs can be made in the body because of chronic high blood glucose which is often the case in obese or systemically inflamed individuals. These AGEs promote inflammation through a nutrigenomic effect and increase cytokine production (like reactive species). Therefore, to avoid systemic inflammation and it’s resulting diseases, avoid a diet high in AGEs and manage your blood glucose with a low GI diet.

By following a better diet, we can lead ourselves towards a controlled inflammatory state and better health. If you eat well and control portion sizes, the only inflammation you’ll have to worry about can be solved by Neurofen.

Renae Earle

Renae Earle is a third year Bachelor of Exercise and Nutrition Science student at the University of Queensland. She intends to commence her Master of Dietetics in 2018.

Renae is passionate about evidence-based practice and debunking nutrition myths. She believes that in today’s fad celebrity diet culture, it is increasingly important to deliver the facts. She aims to help people achieve a sustainable and healthful lifestyle by combating the flurry of misinformation offered by tabloids and social media.

In order to achieve this goal, Renae has dedicated herself to the field of nutrition. She is well educated on a wide range of nutrition topics such as supplementation, chronic disease, restrictive diets and metabolism.

Renae has a keen interest in offering personalised nutrition plans that suit the specific needs of her future clients.

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