Inflammation is a normal part of the body’s defense against pathogens. However, as we age, our ability to regulate inflammation begins to wane. Then, rather than protecting us, inflammation becomes silent and systemic, morphing into a process of stealthy internal destruction.
Health experts sometimes refer to “silent inflammation,” an entirely different process than acute inflammation which we know by its outward signs – rubor (redness), calor (heat), tumor (swelling), and dolor (pain).
When inflammation turns silent, things turn ugly. Silent inflammation causes the body to turn on itself, its immune defenses attacking its own organs. It damages arteries, destroys nerve cells and organs, compromises the immune system, and promotes illness. If you have silent inflammation, you may feel well today but be assured you are headed for a world of pain tomorrow.
Fortunately, we can help our bodies maintain a healthy inflammation response by paying close attention to our diets.
The average North American diet is high in inflammation-promoting omega-6 fats but low in inflammation-reducing omega-3 fats. A chronic imbalance of these fatty acids can lead to an increase in systemic inflammation. Experts say the logical response to this situation is to reduce sources of omega-6 oils and supplement with high-dose omega-3s.
This can be achieved by increasing dietary intake of fatty fish (wild salmon in particular), eating raw nuts and grains rich in healthy fats, and supplementing with a high-quality fish oil or flaxseed oil.
At the same time, eat less red meat, eggs, high-glycemic foods, and foods high in saturated fats to further shift the balance in favor of the beneficial omega-3 fats.
To further combat the oxidative stresses that promote and encourage inflammation, a diet rich in plant foods will supply free radical-fighting antioxidants. Especially helpful are toxin-busting nutrients found in fruits and berries (citrus bioflavonoids); red grapes (resveratrol); turmeric (curcumin); and green tea (catechins).
Sound familiar? That’s because every “anti-aging” strategy we’ve seen or read about over the last 10 years includes these same dietary recommendations. It’s time we paid attention!
What is your favorite omega-3 food?