Inflammation is both our body’s friend, and its deadliest enemy.
Good inflammation heals cuts and grazes, or protects damaged muscles. It does its healing job, then goes away. problems come when we suffer long-term chronic inflammation, when the body turns on itself, causing everything from premature ageing to, er, death.
I’ve been thinking hard about inflammation – my husband suffers from psoriasis, an auto-immune disease caused by chronic inflammation. I worry that this is causing greater damage to his body than simply plaques on his skin. In recent years, oncologists and cardiologists have delved into the links between inflammation, cancer and heart disease. This deadly trio used to be treated as three entirely separate problems. But recent research has highlighted the links between all three. Not something any partner wants to read.
A decade ago, American cardiologists Peter Libby and Paul Ridker realised that immune cells which had been ‘switched on’ by inflammation were part of the process that allowed ‘plaque’ to grow and block arteries – leading to heart attacks. So they asked the obvious next question: would a reduction in inflammation also reduce heart attacks?
This summer they published research showing just that. They gave a drug used to treat rare inflammatory diseases to 10,000 patients at risk of a heart attack. And found a demonstrable reduction in heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular death. Along the way, they also found that patients taking the anti-inflammatory medication had a drop in all cancer mortality, but particularly lung cancer.
This is an extraordinary finding, but it doesn’t mean we should go out and start popping anti-inflammatory drugs in the hope of avoiding a heart attack or cancer. The cost, side effects and need for more trials mean that regular usage is a long way in the future.
So what can I do now? I’ve got lots of books on anti-inflammatory diets, and the internet is packed with advice on reducing inflammation in the body. No one’s saying that an anti-inflammatory diet is going to save me from cancer or heart attacks, but many of the key principles of Kale & Cocoa’s Age-Well journey might help keep inflammation at bay.
Top 10 inflammation busters (and links to our posts on each one):
- Look after your gut
- Reduce stress
- Eat salmon and other oily fish
- Drink green tea
- Include turmeric in your diet
- Get plenty of Vitamin D
- Supplement with Coenzyme Q10
- Reduce sugar intake
- Eat lots of wholefoods, fresh vegetables and fruit
- Add nuts, especially almonds, to your diet
Look out for a great new recipe next week which is anti-inflammatory AND delicious!