I would say that every patient I see with any sort of condition has some degree of inflammation in their bodies. The more inflammation, the worse the condition/disease/risk for further disease. Illnesses such as those caused by/creating DNA damage (e.g., cancer), cardiovascular disease, skin conditions, eye/joint/nerve damage/disease, arthritis and accelerated ageing. Basically – inflammation is associated with all disease. And there IS something you can do about it!
Inflammation is your body trying to protect itself, by removing harmful irritants, damaged cells, bacteria (the harmful kind), virus, fungi, parasites. In the process of doing this, you get the typical signs of inflammation – pain, redness, swelling, and heat. You may have localised inflammation if you cut your finger, for example. This is good! Your body knows how to prevent infection from ensuing and can heal itself.
Inflammation can also be the result of oxidative stress caused by free radicals in your body. Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons, which means they need to scavenge and steal from your cells to make an electron pair (its goal in life!). In doing this, they are upsetting your body’s cells and wreaking serious havoc in your body. AND creating more free radicals! It’s a chain reaction.
Now, our bodies can deal with this most of the time (it’s a natural process), but if you are exposed to a high level of free radicals and/or not consuming enough antioxidants in your diet, the balance is upset, and they will cause damage.
Where do free radicals come from? Smoking, poor diet, obesity, radiation, pollution, exposure to toxins (e.g., at your workplace), pesticides, UV light, and – inflammation (remember that chain reaction?)!
The good news is, damage from free radicals is somewhat preventable. As mentioned above, your body can deal with this if it is in the position of having lots of available antioxidants, but if not, you’re looking at trouble. You need ANTI-oxidants to neutralise them. They do this by either giving that extra electron that free radicals are furiously searching for, or by actually breaking that free radical right down to nothingness. Even if you already have a chronic condition, there is research to show that increased consumption of antioxidants can significantly improve or reverse the illness, depending on what it is.
Where can you get antioxidants?
Antioxidant nutrients are zinc, vitamins A, C, E and selenium. Remember it as ZACES! You can find these powerful nutrients in colourful fruit and vegetables, some nuts/seeds/oils, and other sources.
Great options for natural anti-inflammatories and sources of antioxidant nutrients:
- all colourful fruit and veg – especially red capsicum/pepper, kiwi fruit, blueberries and other berries, broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, grapes, onion, garlic, prunes, spinach…#eattherainbow
- herbs and spices (all so medicinal and powerful) – add fresh and dried to everything! Try to get organic.
- nuts and seeds such as Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds/pepitas
- some oils, such as fish oils, olive oil, cod liver oil
- oily fish
- oysters – good source of zinc
- green tea
- raw cacao/chocolate
- some essential oils – such as clove, myrrh, clary sage, geranium, basil, peppermint, lime, oregano, cinnamon, orange, lime, lemon (NB. Please do not regularly ingest essential oils without consulting with a qualified aromatherapist or aromatic medicine practitioner).
- and the most potent source? Turmeric powder! Keep in a shaker on your table and SPRINKLE it on EVERYTHING! (this is why you read a lot about turmeric and curry powder being great for cancer prevention).
What about that dangerous sunlight?
We all hear about how we need sunlight, and but yet we also hear about how it seems to cause us cancer so we should avoid it. This is contradictory, and understandably confusing. Here’s the deal. Yes, we are exposed to radiation from the UV light in sunlight. And yes, you absolutely must get sun exposure. Both are correct.
So what do you do? First of all, don’t be ridiculous and regularly get ‘burnt to a frazzle’, as my partner likes to say. Get yourself out of the sun or cover up before it gets to the point of cooking your skin, and after you’ve allowed your skin to be exposed to sunlight. Get yourself a tan (not a burn!) in the summer to allow that wonderful vitamin D to synthesize. You need it for many, many body processes.
The other thing you can do is eat your sunscreen. Yes, that’s correct. By that, I mean eat your antioxidants – these will neutralise free radicals from UV, and at the same time allow your skin to be exposed to sun for oh-so-important vitamin D. You NEED sun. The more consumption of antioxidants, the less chance of skin damage/burning. Too little sun exposure can be a big problem for a whole lot of other reasons, causing systemic disease due to vitamin D deficiency. And I won’t even go into the use of toxic sunscreens today – we will discuss that another time!
And did you know that there are certain oils that naturally contain SPF? For example, carrot seed oil can have an SPF of 38-40. I make my own sunscreen using a number of oils, which I’ll share on another post. This is a great graphic listing a number of natural oils which contain SPF.
What are your thoughts? Do you consume your antioxidant foods? Do you think you have trouble with inflammation?