It’s the New Year and maybe you’ve overdone it a bit with getting back into an exercise routine. Or maybe you’ve done some home renovations and have a gained a few bumps and bruises in the process. Or…perhaps you picked up a viral or bacterial foreign invader over the holidays. If so, then you’ve probably experienced inflammation.
Inflammation’s one of our body’s first line of defenses, a natural process the body undergoes in response to an injury, an infection, or a foreign substance in the body. The body’s immune system responds with swelling, redness, heat or pain as the white blood cells rush in to the rescue so that healing can begin.
Inflammation can have a downside, however. Researchers say that an invisible kind of inflammation can be repeatedly present throughout the body, and it can cause all sorts of problems, including heart, vascular, blood sugar and cellular unhealth.
Since there are limited outward signs of this kind of inflammation, a blood test is usually necessary to measure the extent of inflammation indicators like C-reactive protein, or CRP, which is produced by the liver during those excessively fiery times.
The good news, however, is that there are some steps you can take which can help to tame the fires of inflammation. One of those steps includes eating healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil and the fatty acids, which are found abundantly in fatty fish like salmon or sardines. Researchers say that a healthy balance of fats can reduce the production of a hormone-like substance that fans the flames of inflammation.
In fact, researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center (University of the Sciences, Philadelphia, PA), made an interesting discovery about a substance called oleocanthal, which is found in extra virgin olive oil. Oleocanthal is present in fairly high levels in extra virgin olive oil, but is not found in other types of olive oil. The oleocanthal content varies with olive ripeness at harvest, the type of olive tree and the time of olive pressing.
Here’s what the Monell Chemical Senses Center research team found. They said that oleocanthal found in extra virgin olive oil is “a natural anti-inflammatory compound that has a potency and profile strikingly similar to that of ibuprofen.” Wow.
But fats aren’t the only firefighters in food form. Eating a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans also appears to support healthy inflammation levels. Antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C in these kinds of foods are believed to interact with a broad range of protective plant compounds to add to these health benefits that can douse the fires within.
In addition to these dietary suggestions, studies indicate that those who exercise regularly, don’t smoke, and have a healthy mouth and gums have lower levels of markers for inflammation. Managing one’s weight is important, too. When people are overweight, their fats cells increase in size and inflammation-promoting protein production is increased.
So, why fight fire with fire? Try healthy fats, a healthy diet, regular exercise and weight management instead. They may just give your body the cooling relief it needs.