We all know what acute inflammation looks like – red, hot, swollen, and really sore. You see and feel it after you cut yourself, when an insect’s bitten you, or you’ve broken out in a rash or with pimples. We experience it when we have allergies, asthma, digestive problems, and muscle and joint aches and pains. Inflammation can also be happening inside you without you being aware of it. Common conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune conditions are chronic inflammatory conditions. If left untreated, inflammation can cause significant damage to cells and tissues, which can lead to a loss of function, increased pain, infections and other more serious health risks.
Whilst taking anti-inflammatory medications (such as aspirin or ibuprofen) can provide relief they don’t fix the problem, so you need to keep taking them. What causes inflammation? Many conditions have a genetic component or are a complex interaction of factors, making them difficult to treat. However, there is a lot we can do to reduce systemic inflammation.
What we eat can dramatically impact the level of inflammation throughout the body. The standard diet in Western countries now contains high levels of Omega 6 fats. Omega 6 fats promote the production of inflammation stimulating components. Every cell membrane in our body is composed of fats and when there are too many Omega 6 fats in proportion to Omega 3 fats, the cell is stimulated to produce excessive amounts of inflammation producing mediators. This happens in every cell in the body! When you have an inflammation reaction to infection or injury it may keep going for too long, or you may have an inflammation response to something that shouldn’t normally cause a reaction.
This is why people often take an Omega 3 supplement in the form of fish oils. It helps to rebalance the fat ratios and reduce inflammation. Better yet would be to also reduce the amount of Omega 6 fats you consume (we do need to consume some Omega 6 fats because our bodies can’t make them). The oils commonly used in cooking and in packaged foods that are high in Omega 6 fats are sunflower, corn, soybean and peanut oils. Use olive oil or coconut oil instead. Butter is also low in Omega 6 fats. Make sure to read the ingredients on all packaged foods and find out what sort of oil is being used.
You can also increase foods that contain high amounts of Omega 3 fats, such as oily fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, pilchards. Choose grass-fed meat over grain-fed, as the food the animal eats will alter the fat composition of the meat as well (grains used are often high in Omega 6 fats). You can also get Omega 3 enriched eggs, and again free-range is better than grain-fed.
For a great source of information about Omega 3 and 6 fats visit Authority Nutrition’s website.