By Hannah E. Whitcombe
Following an injury, an immune response is triggered in the body beginning with the necessary first step of inflammation. Inflammation is characterised by redness, pain, swelling, heat and immobility of the affected area.
Thus, the process of inflammation can be quite painful in itself, prompting many people to opt for an anti-inflammatory pain relieving medication such as ibuprofen. This type of inflammation is described as acute, and typically resolves without complication.
Chronic inflammation, however, is not so easily seen, is prolonged and leads to negative health outcomes such as osteoarthritis, cancer, autoimmune conditions and premature ageing.
Many factors including genetics, environment, prolonged stress and lifestyle may lead to the onset of chronic inflammation. However, nutrition is the primary modifiable factor in preventing its onset and managing its severity.
Major nutritional causes of chronic inflammation
- A diet high in refined sugars
- Excess energy intake (obesity)
- Artificial elements in the diet
- A diet lacking in vitamins and minerals
- An unfavourable ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6
Conditions arising from chronic inflammation
- Obesity (both a cause and a result)
- Gingivitis (bad breath)
- Heart disease
- Sight problems
- Joint pain
- Metabolic syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel conditions
What are Omega 3 and Omega 6 and how do they affect inflammation?
Omega 3 and 6, are essential fatty acids (essential meaning that they need to be obtained via the diet), which work in balance to regulate the necessary steps of inflammation. Omega 6 has a pro-inflammatory function and is converted into inflammatory hormones after ingestion; conversely, Omega 3 is converted into anti-inflammatory hormones.
Neither are ‘bad’ and both are vital, however, the problem lies in the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 consumed in a typical western diet. There is a high amount of Omega 6 found in a variety of foods such as nuts, vegetable oils and seeds, whereas Omega 3 is only available in small quantities in certain foods with the most bioavailable version only available in oily fish and algae. This leads to an imbalance likely to promote chronic inflammation in the body. In addition, most foods that contain Omega 3 also have a relatively high amount of Omega 6.
To supplement or not to supplement
A typical western diet is unlikely to provide enough Omega 3 for optimum health; this becomes even less likely in a vegan or vegetarian diet. It is thought that during the Paleolithic era, the ratio was almost 1:1, whereas now we are somewhere closer to 20:1, in favour of Omega 6.
It is thought that most, if not all of us require supplementation of Omega 3 to even out the scales. With such a wide range of supplements available, it can be confusing to know which to take and how much we should supplement on a daily basis.
In a non-vegetarian diet, fish oil is advisable, whereas, vegetarians should opt for algae oil, after all algae is where the fish get the nutrients from in the first place!. There is some argument to suggest that flaxseed oil is a good vegetarian source of Omega 3, however, the type of Omega 3 found in flaxseed requires an extra step in the conversion process to then be transformed into its active state, and due to the nutritional demands of this metabolic process, most of us simply won’t convert the amount that the body requires.
Oil is preferable to tablets, however if taking tablets, a good tip for checking the quality of your tablets is to put them in the freezer overnight and once removed, give them a squeeze to check they are still soft. If hard, it is a strong indication that they contain a high content of heavy metals and should be avoided!
The amount will vary from person to person, however, the recommended daily intake is usually nowhere near the therapeutic dose required for the average consumer. Therefore, it is worth doing your research into required amounts of supplementation.
If you’d like to speak to a member of our team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can call us on 0208 088 0614, alternatively you can book a FREE consultation with our at osteopathywestlondon.com/booknow
The information presented in this blog was taken from the work and research of Dr Nazil Aytekin. Nazli Aytekin (RNutr) is a registered nutritionist currently working as a lecturer in Human Nutrition at London South Bank University. Nazli has an honours degree in English Language and Communication, and a first class honours degree in Human Nutrition. She is currently completing PhD level research examining the potential effects of micronutrients in the hunger and satiety cycle, and has previous research experience in the effects of select B-vitamins and amino acids in the prevention of age-related sarcopenia, including a major publication in the area. Nazli’s special interests are in the field of anti-aging / preventive medicine, public health, metabolism and the role of micronutrients in health and disease. Outside of academia, Nazli has a keen interest in cooking and is a regular attendee of food festivals.