What we eat matters: The link between diet, inflammation and chronic disease

Have you ever taken the time to reflect on how much diet and lifestyle has changed in the past century? Here is a summary of my thoughts:

• Humans have generally become more sedentary in the workplace.

• Physical activity must be planned and executed, no longer an involuntary component of life.

• Food: Easily accessible, highly processed and incredibly tasty – addictive.

• Technological advancements converge time and space – people are easily contactable and high expectations have been set around communication – constant input.

• Information overload, particularly in the world of health and fitness – instagram.

Diet and lifestyle choices have a huge impact on physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing. The aim of this blog is to discuss the effect of diet on inflammatory processes and the correlation between inflammation and chronic disease.

The inflammatory process is our bodies natural defence mechanism against toxins that pose a threat to body tissues. When you eat, food is digested and nutrients are absorbed from your small intestine into your blood stream. Nutrients in their simplest form (glucose, fat and protein) travel to body tissues enabling each cell to perform a specific function.

Overconsumption of foods containing high volumes of sugar, fat and salt over an extended period of time cause small amounts of damage to arterial walls. This microscopic damage is the catalyst that stimulates a constant low-grade inflammatory response. Damaged arterial walls release chemical ‘markers or messengers’ that circulate through the blood stream initiating systemic inflammation.

Persistent systemic inflammation is a contributing factor to early stages of disease development and increases the risk of a wide range of chronic conditions including but not limited to: liver disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis (1).

Diet plays a huge role in initiating the inflammatory process. People who consume diets that promote inflammation have 38% higher chance of developing cardiovascular disease (2).

Today, typical western diets are characterised by low consumption of fruit and vegetables and high consumption of calorie-dense processed pro-inflammatory foods, including but not limited to red meat, processed meats, refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, desserts) and sweetened beverages (2,3).

Anti-inflammatory diets, also known as more ‘traditional diets’ are consist of fruits, vegetables, fatty fish (salmon), poultry, extra virgin olive oil and whole grains (2,3). Research has confirmed that green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach), dark yellow vegetables (pumpkin, sweet potato), whole grains (quinoa, whole grain bread, brown rice, oatmeal), fruit, tea, coffee, dark chocolate and red wine all have anti-inflammatory qualities (2,3).

Its important not to get caught up in the fast-paced whirl of life and in turn neglect your mental, physical and emotional health. Take time to make healthy diet choices by implementing a ‘whole-foods’ approach and cast aside the processed foods.

The long term benefits of squeezing in your 30-60 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity per day are numerous and requires its own blog to unpack all of the benefits! Up-to-date research suggests that as little as 20-minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily has an anti-inflammatory effect (4). Little changes over a period of time make a big difference, remember it takes 66 days to create a habit.

At Stoke we have started up an exercise program for people with hip and knee OA called the GLA:D (Good Life with osteoArthtis in Denmark) program. This 12 week (2x 60-minute sessions per week) exercise program aims to reduce pain-related to knee/hip osteoarthritis, increase muscle strength, endurance and improve cardiorespiratory fitness. A component of the program includes education related to how diet impacts inflammatory-related flare-ups of hip/knee osteoarthritis!

Interested in joining the next intake? Email us at admin@stokephysio.com.au or give us a buzz on 9448 2994 to find out more!

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4579563/

2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/do-pro-inflammatory-diets-harm-our-health-and-can-anti-inflammatory-diets-help-2020122321624

3. https://nutrition.org/the-link-between-diet-inflammation-and-disease/\

4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315255#As-little-as-20-minutes-of-exercise-reduces-inflammation

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