Inflammation - how it drives disease in the body and why refined sugar is one of the key drivers!
..........Read on to find out why you may need a dietary 'Spring clean' and receive suggestions of how to ease inflammation in the body.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Spring is the time to detox, rebalance and strengthen our whole system. This is because the laws of nature support this with the rebirth of plants. For us this means that a detox programme in the Spring is likely to be more effective than if it was followed in the middle of Winter when the body is in a state of contraction. There are other more obvious reasons to support the body at this time of year with many people experiencing allergy symptoms. Spring is the time of liver regeneration and since the liver is 'the planner' in TCM we must acknowledge that the liver is a key dictator of overall health and influences all body systems and indeed all health concern symptoms. Throughout the winter it is natural, whatever our diet has been like during that time, every person will accumulate a build up of some degree of toxicity over the Winter months when the body is in a constricted state and mucus can build up in the cells. The Spring is the natural time for us to release this toxin and mucus build up from our cells and organs. This is something I can help with!
What is inflammation?
When I talk about inflammation with clients I am referring to the chronic inflammation that is at the root cause of many ailments, health concerns and chronic diseases. We live in an inflammatory world meaning that many aspects of modern day to day life are drivers of inflammation in the body and mind. The power lies in knowing what anti-inflammatory self-care measures we can utilise to help promote our overall health and wellbeing and what are the inflammatory aspects of day to day to life which we can limit or balance out with recuperative measures. For example since we know that an overriding dominance of the stress response is one of the most prominent drivers of inflammation in the modern world we can choose to incorporate measures in our days that calm that stress response. In a similar way, since we know that the typical 'Western Diet' with it's high levels of refined sugar & salt and processed fats combined with low levels of antioxidants, complex carbohydrates and Omega 3's is inflammatory to the body we can find solutions to empower us to skip the inflammatory foods and enjoy more of the anti-inflammatory foods that offer nourishment and restoration for body and mind.
How does inflammation express in the body?
Inflammation is a natural process in the body intended to be acute and short lived; to heal an injury or trauma such as from a burn, infection or accident. Unfortunately the more unnatural aspects of the modern world such as processed foods, continuous stress, lack of sleep and high toxic load seems to give a constant message to the body that something is wrong and this results in the chronic inflammation I talk to clients about, that causes disease. When inflammation becomes continual due to the body giving these distress signals the result is damage to cells, tissues and even DNA and this can lead to digestive problems, autoimmunity, allergies, heart disease, fatigue, sleep difficulties, mood disorders, chronic pain and cancer.
Sugar and Inflammation
High refined sugar intake is a key component of the inflammatory 'Western Diet' which has been shown to promote disease. Refined or processed sugars are the inflammatory culprits not the sugars found naturally in food such as fruit, honey or maple syrup. Refined/ processed sugars are added to many supermarket products and large amounts can be hiding in foods we believe to be healthy such as cereal bars & shop bought granola. Sugar is widely added to products marketed as 'low fat' to give taste. Refined sugar results in the 'dumping' of toxic levels of sugar into our blood stream causing inflammation. To rectify the situation our body sends the signal to our pancreas to release insulin and the insulin helps the sugar to move out of the blood stream and into cells. Insulin also signals to the liver to store the sugars for later use promoting weight gain. The pancreas- insulin process becomes a strain to the body when it is perpetually required as in the case of high sugar diets and can lead to heart disease, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Refined sugar causes inflammation in the gut by promoting the growth of bad bacteria and altering the healthy microbiome balance which has been linked to autoimmunity and cancer.
The inflammation caused by eating refined sugars is not just immediate it can last for several hours afterwards. The inflammatory spiral of a sweet breakfast, sugar snack mid morning and afternoon and something sweet after dinner will last a full 24 hours and if continued the next day the result is continuous inflammation. This pattern has a negative influence on energy levels, brain function and our hormones amongst other impacts. I always encourage clients to reduce the refined sugar in their diet for overall health and particularly when there is a specific health concern.
Reducing Sugar will help....
Energy - Our energy, concentration and mood are supported by good quality protein and healthy fats combined with some fruit sugars and slow release energy from complex carbohydrates and vegetables.
Stress - The blood sugar highs and the inflammation that is created by refined sugars will drive and perpetuate the physiological stress response promoting elevated levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, leading to anxiety and stress states. Supportive foods calm the stress response and lower inflammation in body and mind.
Hormones - Over-production of insulin can interfere and disregulate the production of oestrogen, progesterone and thyroid hormones which can cause an array of health concerns and hamper our whole endocrine system.
Our gut - A healthier microbiome is associated with lower refined sugar in the diet and this leads to better hormone function and optimal production of our neurotransmitters- serotonin, melatonin and dopamine essential for brain, cognition and mood health.
Immunity - Refined sugar lowers the immune system, it can stunt the cells that attack pathogens, your body's white blood cells, making you more susceptible to illness and infection. Reducing refined sugar and eating more essential fat foods such as probiotic yogurt, nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil, humous, eggs, coconut oil, grass-fed/ french butter, citrus fruits, ginger, garlic, broccoli, fish, sweet potato and turmeric which are all anti-inflammatory and high in vitamins and minerals will help boost and keep your immune system strong.
But sugar provides us with energy........not accurate!
There is a misconception that sugar gives us energy, gives us a boost. This is correct to a certain extent but it's the wrong type of energy boost. Your body absorbs simple sugars quickly, which increases your blood sugar and gives you a temporary surge in energy. This is known as a 'sugar high' and is short lived and is often followed by a dramatic crash in energy which causes an overall lowering in mental alertness and overall performance. A diet that is rich in healthy protein, essential fats and complex carbohydrates regulates blood sugar levels, avoids the sugar highs and lows and results in more stable energy and a balanced mental state throughout the day.
How much sugar should we eat?
The average person in the UK consumes around 90g of sugar daily which is three times higher than the recommended daily amount, as below:
Adults advised to have no more than 30g daily.
Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g daily.
Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g daily.
There is no guidance for children under aged 4, but it is recommended they avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it.
*These are government guidelines
I support my clients to work on bowel function, bile production and liver detoxification which is essential for reducing overall levels of inflammation in the body. I also help them to rehydrate fully which not only involves adequate hydration but most importantly encouraging the body to be able to absorb the water using omega 3 and essential fats and also kidney support. Increasing good quality protein and fats is also essential to balance hormones and providing the body with an array of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods for nutrient absorption. Finding practical solutions for incorporating more of certain foods and less of others and making sure each meal and snack is completely balanced in terms of the nutrients it delivers to support the body and brain.
Omega 3 fats are amongst the most beneficial nutrient groups for easing inflammation improving mood, memory and brain health. Essential fats are essential for detoxification and also promote beneficial gut bacteria. Omega 3 fats bind very effectively to toxins and remove them from the body. Fats are also essential for bowel function as they bolster the production of bile which aids healthy elimination of wastes thus improving levels of inflammation.
Dose - half a teaspoon of the oil with food daily. Keep refrigerated.
Add Epsom salts to your bath to draw out toxins. Calming for body & mind, helps sleep. Laying in a bath with 500g of the salts for 20 mins, ideally prior to bed results in inflammation causing sodium being removed from the body, due to the drawing quality of the salts and at the same time magnesium is absorbed through the skin. You can test this by not washing. The salts are so powerful you come out completely clean just from lying in the salts. This is how detoxifying they are. Start with 250g salts initially.
Linseeds and the oil that is released into water when you soak them calms inflammation, hydrating the system by soothing the intestinal tract. Rich in polyphenols, essential fats, vitamins and minerals this food source is a potent metabolism balancer, supporting both hormones and blood sugar. At bedtime, place 2 tablespoons of the seeds in a mug of filtered water filled to the top and leave overnight. In the morning, either drink the whole cup including the seeds and the water or add it to your breakfast.
If you would like to work with me and want to discuss your individual situation then just drop me a line by emailing me at email@example.com