With more public approval for holistic medicine and changing fitness trends, it can be difficult to keep up with the influx of information. In the last couple of years, one common word in both the media and research is “anti-inflammation.” We now have anti-inflammatory drinks, foods and so on.
Before understanding why anti-inflammation is important, we must know what inflammation is and why the human body relies on it. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury and illness with the intention to repair. Inflammation is not necessarily bad, because the body needs this response to heal itself. The body releases white cells, including macrophages, into the bloodstream and sends them to the area of injury to protect us from foreign substances. The macrophages release a chemical called cytokines, which kills germs and sends a signal to other inflammation responses. Because of this process, blood flow is increased to the point of injury and can cause tenderness and swelling.
Inflammation can become harmful to the body. Dr. Jacek Hawiger of Vanderbilt University notes that two of the largest epidemics in America are obesity and diabetes, connected by inflammation. Like macrophages, fat cells can create cytokines. As fat tissues grow, they attract macrophages. Over time, fat cells begin to crush each other, causing more inflammatory responses to clean up.
On top of that, inflammation acts against insulin, which is responsible for muscle stimulation and glucose absorption from the blood. Insulin resistance causes an increase in blood-sugar levels and worsens due to the overpopulation of cytokines. This is when Type 2 diabetes develops. Both diabetes and obesity increase the risk of heart disease, which also triggers inflammation.
A lifestyle that promotes anti-inflammation is ideal for good health because it can reduce heart-disease risk and relieve stiff and tender joints. Many argue that anti-inflammatory diets are ideal for some diseases, but not all. Dr. Barry Seals said one can feel fine and still have high inflammation. Many Americans eat foods rich in Omega-6 and not as many with Omega-3, which can put us off balance. The idea is to find a balance that works best for the individual. This can include eating the right fruits, veggies and lean meats; getting your Omega-3s; using spices with anti-inflammatory properties and reducing refined carbs.
More research is needed on anti-inflammatory diets to prove they actually work; however, from the existing research, foods that promote anti-infammation have shown improved outcomes in conditions such as heart disease and arthritis.
Megan Niño is a kinesiologist and personal trainer through her business Vigor Vida Fitness & Wellness. She is an energetic and positive person who prides herself on teaching others to find empowerment in their lives through fitness. She trains her clients out of Optimal Sports Club and offers in-home training in Philadelphia and on the Main Line.