Before doing so I need you to understand why inflammation triggers so many of the health problems we want to avoid.
When you injure yourself, pick up an infection or are exposed to something you’re intolerant to, the most common being pollen, wheat or dairy, your body tries to protect you by triggering inflammation. This happens because your cells start producing inflammatory cytokines with strange names (TNF, IL1, IL6 and others) and other inflammatory chemicals such as histamine and C-reactive protein (CRP). These gee up your immune system, trigger hot flushes and fever and put your gut-associated immune system on red alert.
If your immune system gets stuck in this ‘emergency mode’, you can develop an auto-immune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, underactive thyroid (Hashimoto’s), SLE and even multiple sclerosis. Also, if your fat cells are chocabloc full, your immune system can see them as the enemy and attack.
All this inflammation produces flu-like symptoms, body and joint aches and constant tiredness. Yes, the symptoms of flu are produced by your body, not by the virus. Of course, if you’re allergic to pollen, or eat a food you’re intolerant to, that can be the last straw, tipping you into inflammation. All those symptoms of hayfever – blocked nose, headache, itchy eyes, body aches – are just inflammation.
Calm down and take back control
You can, however, switch off this constant state of inflammation. That’s what painkiller drugs such as ibuprofen are designed to do. But they have their side-effects in gut damage so you have to be careful.
There’s a better way. I call it the two step.
1. Stop doing the things that cause inflammation.
2. Start eating and drinking the things that switch off inflammation naturally.
The things that cause inflammation are:
• exposure to allergens and food intolerances;
• too much alcohol, which damages the gut and taxes the liver, which plays a critical role in inflammation;
• airborne pollution including smoking;
• excess weight;
• misalignment and pressure on joints.
As hay fever season is approaching, it’s worth pointing out that the three most common intolerances are grass pollen, wheat and milk. I have a theory, unproven but which many people have reported effective, that these three which are all connected to grass, may have something in common and if you avoid wheat and milk when the pollen count is high, you may not reach the tipping point for symptoms. Also, increase my six favourite anti-inflammatories, especially quercitin from red onions.
My six top anti-inflammatory secrets
Good quality olive oil, rich in polyphenols, has so many benefits. Olives provide oleocanthals, which are potent anti-inflammatory painkillers. They give good olive oil that peppery ‘bite’ at the back of the throat and have been shown to lower inflammatory markers (IL-1, IL-6, TNFα) and raise NO (nitric oxide) in a recent study.
But there’s another hero ingredient in good quality olive oil – a polyphenol called hydroxytyrosol. This is an extremely potent antioxidant which, among other things, protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, thus also lowering it, according to a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition. It is damaged LDL cholesterol that leads to heart disease. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) allows any olive oil with at least 5mg of hydroxytyrosol per 20g of olive oil to claim that it protects blood lipids from oxidative stress.
These polyphenols have been shown to improve heart function, brain function, digestive health, bone health and reduce cancer risk.
The problem is getting a high quality olive oil, which needs to be cold-pressed and organic. The highest recorded, according to a study at the University of Athens of over 2500 samples from around the world, measured using the NMR method, is a type of olive called Olympia (also known as Ladolia or Palaiokastritsa), grown in a mountainous valley in the Peloponnese in Greece.
It is called ‘Drop of Life’ olive oil and contains over 1900mg/kg of polyphenols, which is eight times higher than the level needed to make health claims and ten times higher than average olive oils. Don’t use this exceptional oil for frying – it is something to add to food after cooking, drizzling on vegetables, salads, rice or adding to soups.
Action: Have a teaspoon, drizzled on salad and foods after cooking. Aim for a teaspoon a day. It is exclusively available in the UK from HOLFORDirect.com.
Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric activates genes that help to dampen down inflammation and reduce oxidative stress. It helps reduce pain in arthritis, detoxify alcohol and protect the brain. A study last month also reported improvement in depression giving curcumin extract versus placebo over 8 weeks. Countries, such as India, where the turmeric content of the diet is high, have much lower risk of several ‘inflammatory’ diseases, including Alzheimer’s whose incidence is a quarter of that of the US. Curcumin is also good for your skin.
The big problem with curcumin is that it has low bio-availability but, as my recent report How to get the full benefit from turmeric explained, new ‘colloidal’ curcumin compounds have upped its bioavailability ......
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