What is inflammation?
Inflammation is our body’s immune reaction following damage to tissue, to localize and eliminate the injury or infection. Acute inflammation has many triggers including:
- Viruses and bacteria
- Physical or chemical injuries
- Chronic allergies and
- Autoimmune reactions
This acute response is crucial to life, however when inflammation become chronic then it negatively impacts our health. Chronic inflammation happens when the triggering substance is not entirely eliminated, this can include but is not limited to:
- Repeated acute inflammatory reactions
- Auto-immune diseases
- Alcohol use
- Leaky gut
- Poor diet and lifestyle
- Chronic stress and
- Long term exposure to certain irritants
Chronic inflammation damages healthy tissue. Most adults have chronic inflammation that goes undetected by physicians, fuelling disease. Research suggest that chronic inflammation either promotes or is the direct cause of many diseases including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Heart disease
- Cognitive decline
- Female hormonal issues including endometriosis
- Alzheimer’s disease and
- Parkinson’s disease, to name a few.
What role do our genes play in inflammation?
Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFA) and Interleukin-1 (IL-1) play a key role in the regulation of inflammation. Some individuals have variations in their nucleotide base pairs that favours the expression of IL-6, IL-1 and TNFA which in turn promotes inflammation. While most underlying causes of inflammation can be addressed, we cannot change our genes, so these individuals need to take special care in terms of diet and lifestyle interventions to combat inflammation.
What are the special investigations to identify inflammation?
- DNA Analysis. Optimizing health based on genetics. Our DNA is made up of only 4 building blocks, adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. These nucleotides form base pairs. Human DNA consists of more than 3 billion nucleotide base pairs, 99% of which are identical in each human (which is what makes us human). Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) are variations in a single nucleotide that make up the remaining 1% of our DNA. DNA analysis gives us insight into these SNP’s which effects the functioning of our genes that can have profound effects on our health. Understanding SNP variations can allow us to tailor a diet and lifestyle program to each individual’s needs to compensate for the gene variations and to promote health.
- Blood tests include C-reactive protein (CRP) and Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). CRP is an inflammatory marker that can be increased in several diseases including infections, inflammatory diseases and heart disease. Moderately elevated levels of ESR is a good predictor of inflammation. These blood tests can give you insight into the state of inflammation within the body.
- Heal your gut: “Disease begins in the gut” Hippocrates. Our gut is a constant source of inflammation due to bacterial overgrowth, poor diet and nutrition as well leaky gut syndrome. A good gut cleanse or detox can help heal the gut lining and reduce inflammation.
- Omega 3: Omega 3 is a potent anti-inflammatory substance that can down regulate inflammation. A Mediterranean style diet is the ideal source of omega 3, including foods such as avocado, oily fish, olive oil and olives to name a few. If your diet is deficient in omega 3 then you should consider a supplement.
- Liver support. Increased inflammation causes increased stress on phase 1 detoxification of the liver. Your healthcare professional can recommend various supplements that can support the liver.
- Eat a pound of vegetables every day. SNP’s impacts the genes in which they are found, which in turn affects our biochemical pathways. Eating enough vegetables packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants can help combat the gene variations and, in this way, rewire our biochemical pathways. Try to incorporate both raw and cooked veggies with each meal and make sure you include the entire colour spectrum of vegetables.
- Weight management. Losing weight can combat inflammation. Fat cells in our abdomen, called visceral adipocytes, secrete pro-inflammatory markers which causes chronic low-level inflammation. We are all unique and lose weight in different ways, some people need a low-calorie diet or a high intensity training program to mobilise fat stores. Intermittent fasting, low carbohydrate eating plan or ketosis might be for you, or it may not. Find the program that works for you and do not be discouraged with slow and steady weight loss, some SNP genes are prone to difficulty losing weight and in these instances, slow and steady wins the race.
Article by Dr. Chantell Groenewald M. Tech Hom (UJ)