Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting itself from infection, illness and injury. Acute inflammation is a short-term response which happens in response to something harming your body, kick-starting a protective defense system which aids recovery. Chronic inflammation happens when the inflammation process goes on for too long, or there’s too much of it. This increases the risk of developing chronic diseases and is not good news. Read on for 5 causes of inflammation, knowing what they are and minimising exposure/ avoiding them where possible, will help to improve your overall health.

 

  1. Sugar

 

Consuming too much added sugar not only leads to weight gain, it also leads to low-grade inflammation. It’s important to remember sugar doesn’t just come in the form of sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks. Other sources to look out for are:

 

  • Refined carbohydrates: these are also sugars which also contribute to increased inflammation.

 

  • Added sugar: found in processed foods, often labelled as high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, glucose and corn sugar.

 

What can you do to help? Natural sugars, found in fruits and vegetables have anti-inflammatory properties which can help negate inflammation. Combine rainbow coloured vegetables with whole grains like oats and pasta, brown rice, quinoa and barley to help protect your body. The addition of antioxidant rich foods such as nuts, seeds, avocado, oily fish and olive oil will also help to counteract inflammation

 

  1. Stress

 

Chronic stress, experienced over a prolonged period of time leads to an increased risk of physical and psychiatric disorders, which is called stress-related diseases. Excessive inflammation directly contributes to pathophysiology of stress-related diseases. There’s a lot of evidence which indicates stress can activate an inflammatory response. Simple ways to help reduce stress include:

 

  • Exercise: known to combat mental stress and releases feel-good endorphins.
  • Sleep: priorities getting 7 hours each night of good quality sleep.
  • Socialize: Spending quality time with friends and family
  • Don’t over commit: learning to say “no” more often can reduce the amount you have to juggle and in-turn reduces feeling of being overwhelmed.

 

  1. Smoking

 

Nicotine actives white blood cells called neutrophils which in turn release molecules that lead to inflammation. It’s no secret that smoking is bad for you, the cancer-causing effects of smoking have been known for decades, but now we know smoking is also linked to immune changes and inflammation it really is time to give up for good.

 

 

  1. Excess fat intake

 

Dietary fat has a bad reputation but we need fat in our diets to survive and flourish. However, certain fat types pose an inflammatory risk and these need to be consumed in moderation.

 

  • Trans fat: found in foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, the worst type for you. I.e. fried foods, margarine and processed food.
  • Saturated fat: the type found in high-fat meats and dairy products. To be used sparingly. I.e. sausages, lard, and ice cream.
  • Monounsaturated fat: healthy fats which can decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. I.e. nuts, avocado and olive oil.

 

 

  1. Alcohol overuse

 

Chronic alcohol ingestion is associated with elevated baseline serum levels of inflammatory markers in our body. Although Dry January may be over it is still important that you monitor your alcohol intake. Abstaining altogether isn’t necessary, studies show that moderate alcohol intake is associated with lower levels of some acute-phase inflammation markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP). It’s best to stick within the UK’s recommended intake, no more than 14 alcohol units per week for men and women, opting for red wine which contains the antioxidant.