Inflammation is one of the major drivers behind ageing. Put simply, inflammation is your immune system’s response to a stimulus – usually problematic substances that have entered your body or been created in your body. How do they enter? Through ingestion (eating and drinking), via your breath (what you inhale) or absorbed through your skin.
When your immune system perceives that a threatening substance is in your diet, for example, it mounts a powerful and multi-pronged attack on the “invader”. Part of that response is to create inflammation, which we recognise as heat, swelling and redness. This occurs wherever the immune system is engaged in its battle – in the tissues of your face, other areas of skin, in your arteries and/or in your vital organs, for example.
Inflammation is essential for keeping us alive, but it also causes collateral damage, such as scarring and wrinkling as well as long term degeneration from the inside out. The more pollutants we are exposed to, the more inflammation our body experiences, and the more rapidly we age. Inflammation is not just about the effects of ageing on our appearance though. Chronic inflammation is involved in many health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Our lifestyle choices – including our food and beverage choices, the skin, beauty and household products we choose, how hard we push our bodies and how much rest we get, as well as our perception of pressure and urgency — can all either drive or reduce inflammatory responses in the body.
How do you know if there is inflammation in your body? Sometimes it’s obvious – you might experience eczema or other inflammatory skin conditions, you may feel achy and sore for no reason, or have joint pain. The red, hot, painful inflammation that your body lets you know about tends to be an acute localised response, however chronic low-grade inflammation is often silent, and can happen when a person is carrying an excess of body fat or is chronically stressed.
We can decrease inflammation in the body by reducing our exposure to what I like to call “liver loaders”—trans fats, refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine and synthetic substances that are often found in cosmetics, skincare and household cleaning products. There are also a number of foods that have natural anti-inflammatory properties and increasing our consumption of these can also have an impact. Some examples include oily fish (such as salmon and sardines), ginger and turmeric.
Remember that any food that contains antioxidants is also great for helping to reduce inflammation through the mopping up of free radicals to prevent oxidative damage. An abundance of antioxidants are found in colourful plants, so aim to eat a rainbow of colours in order to get a range of different antioxidant substances. Your inner health and outer sparkle will love you for it!