Inflammation is one of the culprits behind a number of serious diseases, as well as acne, skin conditions, heavy periods, headaches and even hangovers.
When your immune system is “poked” by something it doesn’t like, for example something you’re allergic to, or an environmental toxin, or damaged tissue, your body summons an army of immune cells and liquid to the damaged area to help kill off whatever is there.
This causes swelling, pain, heat and redness while you heal. An example of the short-term inflammatory response would be your skin being pricked by a thorn; the area would become red, painful, hot and swollen while your immune system’s team of helpers crowd into the area where the thorn had been to fight off infection and heal the wound, then the “helpers” leave and life goes on as before.
This short-term inflammation is good, because it helps your body repair, but if it happens long-term it’s very bad news because that “army of helpers” disrupts proper functioning of the area where the inflammation is located. Imagine if an emergency response team moved into the road outside your house and refused to leave; it would cause all kinds of chaos. And, in our bodies, chronic inflammation also causes chaos, and worse, when it happens it’s largely silent. Which is worrying because scientists believe that chronic inflammation is behind a number of serious diseases from Alzheimer’s to cancer.
And, it also causes you to age faster too: Chronic inflammation can result from a viral or microbial infection, environmental antigen (e.g., pollen), autoimmune reaction or persistent activation of inflammatory molecules. The persistent low-grade attack on all body tissues caused by chronic inflammation precedes and characterises most degenerative diseases. It impairs the functioning and repair of tissues and cells and accelerates ageing.
Stress is believed to be a huge factor in inflammation, and bad dietary choices – such as refined sugar, processed food and lots of bad fats – also play a part.
Diets rich in saturated fats, trans fats and foods with a high glycemic index stimulate inflammation. In contrast, following the Mediterranean diet, a diet rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains, helps prevent chronic inflammation.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory addition to your diet, as well as flaxseed oil, which is rich in omega-3.
As well as reducing stress, eating a diet which is rich in leafy greens and other colourful vegetables, good fats like avocado and olive oil, some fish and lot of turmeric, you can fight inflammation by whipping up a powerful anti-inflammatory drink every morning.
Hot water with fresh lemon slices: Starting the day with hot water and lemon is more than an easy way to kickstart your metabolism. It helps to alkalise the system, reduces acidity and brings down inflammation levels. It also helps to improve digestion, and can even improve liver function.
Matcha tea: We’ve talked about matcha before, but it’s worth adding to your list of go-to hot drinks. The powerful antioxidants in matcha may reduce inflammation and slow cartilage breakdown – meaning it’s a powerful weapon against arthritis.
Carrot juice: Packed with vitamin A, carrot juice is an alkalising food that reduces inflammation. If you can’t stand the taste, it slips easily into a fresh apple and orange juice. Add a piece of raw ginger – which has also been shown to reduce inflammation.
Aloe vera: Used on skin, aloe vera soothes inflammation. If you drink it, it detoxes your liver and research shows that it has been helpful for treating inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and colitis.
Beetroot juice: Beetroot juice helps to bring down inflammation and it increases oxygen uptake, meaning you can work harder for longer. It has also been linked to lower blood pressure.
Tart cherry juice: Runners love this drink for a reason: It reduces muscle soreness after a hard workout. Cherries are rich in anthocyanins, pigments that help to bring down inflammation levels. They also contain a wide range of anti-oxidant compounds that protect the cells from free radical damage and premature ageing.
Turmeric drinks: This incredible root is practically tasteless when added to smoothies. Our favourite is with oranges, lemons and pineapple (which contains bromelain – which is used in itself as a supplement as it is a powerful enzyme which slows down the growth of cancerous cells). But you can also make turmeric lattes, and teas and they’re a delicious way to find off inflammation and premature ageing, as well as helping you to look and feel fantastic.