Inflammation and Diet
We usually see inflammation on the surface of our bodies, like when you have a cut or a bruise. Inflammation can be painful, but its job is to help us heal.
Chronic or systematic inflammation is different. We can’t see this response and it is usually a prolonged reaction to a persistent problem like chronic disease or environmental factors (eg pollution or smoking).
Instead of a quick response to an obvious injury or illness, systemic inflammation is slower and continuous. Chronic inflammation can damage and disrupt biological systems and tissue, and this increases risk of illness in both the body and brain.
Scroll down for the Turmeric Latte recipe
While we cannot control all factors that influence our health, there are several lifestyle behaviours over which we have a bit more say, such as our diets, that influence levels of inflammation.
There are many foods and nutrients that are particularly good at ‘tidying up’ the inflammation in our bodies – you’ve perhaps heard them advertised as antioxidants or ‘super foods’.
While there’s no quick fix as promised on a punnet of blueberries, there are many foods that can and should be incorporated as part of a healthy overall diet. For example, fish, rich in omega 3s, and vegetables and whole grain cereals, packed with fibre, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. When it comes to inflammation, it’s best to choose foods that come from a farm rather than a package.
On the other hand, processed and unheathy foods (eg donuts, fast foods, soft drinks, lollies) can increase inflammation, possibly through influencing the health of our gut.
The gut is an important interface between what we eat and our other biological systems.
An unhealthy diet can contribute to a weakening of the gut barrier lining that prevents food particles from leaking out into the bloodstream where they do not belong. Because these food particles are out of place in the bloodstream, off go the alarm bells of our inflammatory response. When poor quality foods are a part of our daily diet, the body maintains this low level of alarm, and health professionals believe this to be a risk factor for mental health problems such as depression.
Chronic inflammation is linked to brain function and mood.
In animals and humans, injection of ‘pro-inflammatory’ molecules gives rise to symptoms and behaviours like fatigue, withdrawal, and depression itself. Further, people with higher levels of inflammatory markers in their blood have been shown to be more likely to develop depression in the future.
We are learning more each day about the connection between the gut, inflammation and brain health. What goes on in the gut, as well as the inflammatory response that might follow, can disrupt the processes in the brain that help regulate our mood.
For the health of your belly, body and brain, aim to avoid heavily processed foods, and instead rely on a range of colourful, fibre rich foods in your daily diets.
Here is a lovely warming anti-inflammatory Turmeric Latte recipe that is sure to combat inflammation and make you feel beautifully cosy on this inside. And you don’t need to be a super cool and talented barista to pull this one off and impress your friends. Relax, breathe, enjoy.
- 2-2½ cups unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1–1½ teaspoons maple syrup (optional)
- In a medium pot over medium heat, add nut milk, turmeric, coconut oil or ghee.
- Stir until mixture is hot and ingredients are well combined.
- Add mixture to a blender and the remaining ingredients.
- Blend on high until mixed well.
- Serve topped with cinnamon.