January 21, 2012 3:42:20 am
Today,several chronic diseases and conditions such as arthritis,metabolic syndrome (a cluster of risk factors leading to diabetes and heart disease),multiple sclerosis and cancer have been linked to inflammation. Other inflammatory conditions include gastritis (inflammation of lining of the stomach),diverticulitis (inflammation of diverticula (small pouches) in small intestines),Crohns disease (inflammatory digestive disorder),asthma,celiac disease (gluten intolerance),rheumatoid arthritis etc. Chronic inflammation may also lead to hormonal imbalance thus causing PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome) or insulin resistance; neurological disorders such as Alzheimers,dementia or Parkinsons and poor bone health or muscular dystrophy.
Inflammation is one of the bodys natural ways of protecting itself,characterised by heat,redness,swelling and pain at the injury site. Although a healing response,chronic inflammation may proceed to a lingering state,where it can predispose to disease conditions.
There are several causes for inflammatory response in the body. Unhealthy diets,increased caloric intake,consumption of trans fats (hydrogenated fats),obesity,sedentary lifestyles,excessive alcohol consumption,smoking,sleep deprivation chronic infections,disease conditions,and injury,have been strongly associated with inflammation.
Inflammation generates free radicals,which are highly damaging chemical fragments,which can cause cellular damage and oxidative stress,leading to an imbalanced immune response. It has been suggested that the largest cause of internal inflammation is the foods we eat.
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Diets with high glycemic index carbohydrates (refined starches and sugars),fats (hydrogenated saturated fats and trans-fatty acids),red and processed meats,french fries and fast foods have been positively associated with inflammation.
It is fairly well established that inadequate intake of anti-inflammatory foods including omega-3 fats and phyto-chemicals perhaps contributes to disease initiation as well as progression.
Clear evidence establishes that diet seems particularly promising to reduce inflammation. Along with good diet and exercise,other components of food which have been found to lower inflammation are essential nutrients such as vitamin C,D,E,prebiotics and probiotics. Cold pressed oils including extra-virgin Coconut oil,extra virgin Olive oil,sesame and organic mustard oil; soy and soy products (isoflavone); turmeric and ginger have also been found to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Several studies have found that fish oils contain compounds that help reduce reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs and now are an integral component of therapy for arthritis,especially rheumatoid arthritis.
The Mediterranean style diet- high in oleic acid (MUFA- mono-unsaturated fatty acid) from olive oil,fibre and antioxidants from fruits,vegetables,nuts and red wine,represents a good diet. This may help to explain lower inflammation,and corresponding coronary artery disease in the general population.
Meanwhile,managing weight,limiting caloric intake,inclusion of protective foods,choosing low glycemic index carbohydrates,good fats (omega-3 fatty acids),good proteins,avoiding smoking along with a healthy lifestyle,would be prudent to prevent inflammation and associated diseases.
Ishi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being,one should integrate physical,mental and spiritual health. According to her: To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.
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