Inflammation, Risks as We Age and How We can Prevent Illness
Inflammation is the cornerstone of the body’s healing process. When we get a paper cut it becomes red and inflamed as it heals. This is the body’s way of pushing out bacteria, flooding the area with white blood cells and making sure harmful germs don’t enter into our bloodstream. But what happens when we have chronic inflammation that builds up overtime, and we aren’t aware of it? Inflammation that persists in the body has the potential to produce diseases such as Alzheimers, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and maybe even depression (Anft, 2016).
Unfortunately, if we adhere to a modern diet we are all victims of chronic inflammation, caused by a build-up of toxins present in our body over time. Other influences are our genetics, stress levels, and environmental toxins (second hand smoke, pollution, etc). Foods that are high in refined omega-6 fatty acids increase the amount of chronic inflammation found in our bodies (Weil, 2017). And foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids do the opposite, they decrease the amount of chronic inflammation. Foods that are high in omega-6 fatty acids, like seeds and nuts, are not the primary issue surrounding chronic inflammation. Foods that have taken the oils from these seeds and nuts, refined and altered them into things like refined vegetable oils (soy oil), which is used in cookies, crackers, snack foods, and fast food are the sources of widespread chronic inflammation. Foods that decrease inflammation, which are high in Omega-3’s are foods like cold water fish (salmon, sardines, cod, etc) or walnuts and flaxseeds.
Our bodies need both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids for hormone production and creating the right balance in our body. However, the Standard American Diet has an excess of omega-6 fatty acids (primarily in the form of soybean oil), which is found in many processed and refined foods. These foods lead to spikes in blood sugar, which leads to abnormal reactions between proteins and carbohydrates, which then leads to inflammation. In turn, chronic inflammation can shorten our lifespan due to developed chronic illnesses that we typically associate with aging. But if we are able to keep the chronic inflammation to a minimum, then we shrink the risk of developing chronic illnesses in the first place.
The solution to fighting chronic inflammation and reducing the risk of chronic illness when we are older is simple. We eat whole, real foods, rich in omega-3 fatty acids; along with a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats (like olive oil or avocado oil). Another way we can work to combat chronic inflammation is be consuming anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric and ginger, both known for their ample health benefits.
Anft, M. (2016). Understanding Inflammation. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from https://www.johnshopkinshealthreview.com/issues/spring-summer-2016/articles/understanding-inflammation
Weil, A., M.D. (2017, February 21). Omega-6 Foods - Omega-6 Benefits | Dr. Weil. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/vitamins/balancing-omega-3-and-omega-6/