The aging-inflammation connection



Everyone's talking about inflammation these days. It's our body's natural process of warding off harmful stimuli and instigating the healing response, but when it becomes chronic, inflammation can actually lead to the breakdown of our body's tissues and functions. Many experts now believe that the more our inflammatory response is triggered over our lifetime-due to childhood illness, exposure to toxins, etc.-the more likely we are to have health problems later in life.

"We absolutely need inflammation to heal our bodies," says Kate Brainard, naturopath at our La Jolla store. "But chronic inflammation can lead to a host of diseases. If your body is constantly trying to fight something, whether it's a bad diet or back pain, it creates a burden on the body that can develop other crises."

According to Discover Magazine, our inflammation levels may be the most important component in the aging process that we can actually control. Here are a few things Kate recommends to help maintain a low level of inflammation throughout your life.

"Turmeric is a huge anti-inflammatory," she says. She recommends Thorne's Meriva-SR, which is well-researched as a potent, time-released turmeric. New Chapter's Zyflamend is another good blend of anti-inflammatories, such as turmeric, ginger and holy basil, which can be extra helpful for joint- and muscle-based inflammation. ("These anti-inflammatory herbs are circulating and warming, so take them with a large glass of water or a meal or it can hurt your stomach," she says.)  

Exercise is another vital part of maintaining a low level of inflammation. Kate explains that the more in shape you are, the more your body adapts to exercise and doesn't need an inflammatory response to recover from exertion. So keep up with daily walking, stretching and make sure you're nutritionally supporting your body if you do overextend yourself physically.    

Your diet is another key place to look for inflammation triggers. A general rule of thumb is that if it has toxins in it, as do fast foods or alcohol, your body will have to exert an inflammatory response to get rid of it. In addition, Kate says that we can create inflammation by eating a diet high in omega 6, including processed foods and polyunsaturated oils (e.g. corn and soy, which are ubiquitous in the American diet) without a proper balance of omega-3s (salmon, anchovy, flax).  

Finally, be aware that some common prescription drugs can cause inflammation when taken over long periods of time. Dr. Peter Wannigman, pharmacist at La Jolla, says to be especially wary of cholesterol-lowering statins, for example, which can cause inflammation in the muscles and produce weakness and soreness. (Though no one quite knows why, it's postulated that it's due to a deficiency in CoQ10 or to the movement of cholesterol toward the liver.)

In addition, while cortisones like prednisone are meant to be anti-inflammatory, they can actually break down collagen and joints over the long term, causing an inflammation-like reaction and speeding the aging process.

For more information about the connection between inflammation and aging, or for resources on an anti-inflammatory diet, visit our Project Wellness blog.
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