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Inflammation the Modern Day Epidemic

by Penny Crowther(more info)

listed in immune function, originally published in issue 267 - January 2021


Inflammation underlies so many chronic health conditions. From heart disease to dementia, type 2 diabetes to asthma, allergies, skin conditions, arthritis and auto immune disease, even depression; chronic inflammation is the common thread behind these health issues.

Inflammation makes your immune system less efficient too, not helpful in the midst of a pandemic. In rare, but worst case scenarios such as when people are very ill with coronavirus, inflammation triggers life threatening immune reactions.

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation is a defensive response kicked off by your immune system. For example, typical signs are redness of the skin, heat, pain or swelling.

As a short lived response in response to, for example, a bacteria or injury, inflammation is a natural and necessary part of the healing process.

Inflammation becomes a problem if the inflammation response is not switched off. It then causes damage to the body. This then further stimulates the immune response and a vicious circle follows, increasing our susceptibility to chronic disease.

How Do You Know If You Have Inflammation?

Sometimes you don’t know if you have inflammation. If you have raised levels of something called C Reactive Protein (CRP) in blood test results from your GP, that is one way to measure it.


Penny Crowther 267


What Can Be Done To Prevent Inflammation?

There is much that can be done to prevent inflammation with food and lifestyle. Here are some pointers to start with:

  • A healthy gut flora helps prevent chronic inflammation. Keep your gut bacteria healthy with a varied diet and the help of a probiotic or probiotic foods such as yoghurt, kefir and fermented foods (use caution if you have existing IBS though). Bacterial or fungal overgrowth in the gut contributes to unhealthy gut flora. This can be tested for through a private laboratory with a stool sample and treated;
  • Food intolerances e.g. to gluten or cow’s milk, can cause chronic inflammation. Try eliminating these and seek the help of a nutritional therapist, to make sure your diet is balanced;
  • Keep your healthy fats up, particularly omega 3. Omega 3 fats are converted into substances which help regulate inflammation. Good food sources of omega 3 fats are oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, cold pressed oil such as linseed  (flaxseed) or hempseed oil;
  • Increase fruit and vegetables. Us nutritionists are always going on about this but it’s so important! Keep looking for the rainbow. Whether this be through getting more on your plate with salads and sides or through smoothies and vegetable juices;
  • Fruit and vegetables contain plentiful supplies of antioxidants. There is a lot of evidence now to show that oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are linked. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. A good example of oxidation in practice is  when a cut fruit such as an apple becomes brown. Squeezing antioxidant rich lemon juice onto a freshly cut apple will prevent oxidation and maintain the colour of the fruit. In a similar way, our bodies have the internal resources for the ongoing fight against free radicals, one of the principle defences being antioxidants. So there is a good reason behind the advice to eat your greens;
  • Turmeric is a particularly powerful anti-inflammatory food. The benefits of turmeric come from the active ingredient, curcumin, a potent antioxidant  and anti-inflammation agent;
  • Add turmeric separately rather than using ready blended curry powders which won’t contain as much. Turmeric goes particularly well with onions, fresh coriander and lemon or lime juice. You can add in live natural yoghurt to make a great marinade for fish or chicken or eggs. You can also add turmeric to a healthier mayonnaise such as Meridian, Plamil or Farringtons. Turmeric added to food is very safe. In capsules it is more concentrated and there are some contraindications with medications;
  • Pineapple, ginger and cherries are other good foods for helping fight inflammation.
  • Cut down on sugar and refined carbohydrates;
  • Dysregulated blood sugar levels often go hand in hand with inflammation. Diet has a vital role to play because of its effect on balancing insulin and blood sugar;
  • The UK government tends to wheel out the PHE Eatwell Guide, promoting a low fat, higher carb diet which is out of date and hasn’t worked to reduce obesity and the associated inflammation. There is an increasing amount of research now to show that lower carb diets work much better to regulate weight, insulin and blood sugar
  • Keep hydrated;  
  • On a non-nutritional note, pinpointing and dealing with sources of stress in your life is important when it comes to inflammation. Not always an easy task but very necessary. Long term stress produces a high amount of free radicals which cause oxidative damage and inflammation. Journaling is a good place to start and it’s free!


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About Penny Crowther

Penny Crowther BANT CNHC qualified as a nutritional therapist in 1997 and has been in clinical practice ever since. She has seen several thousand clients over the years, at her practice in London and online. Penny now specializes in nutrition for women in their 40s and beyond, particularly around peri and post menopause. Mid Life for women can be a time when fluctuating hormones play havoc with your wellbeing. In the midst of all the publicity around HRT, it's easy to forget just how powerful diet and lifestyle changes can be when it comes to navigating the menopausal years.

Penny will guide and support you through specific changes to your diet, targeted to you specifically, in midlife. She provides practical, easy to follow menu plans with easy and delicious recipes. The food you eat affects every cell and system in your body. It optimizes how you look and feel, both mentally and physically.

To book an appointment view consultation options here >>

As well as being a regular columnist for Positive Health, Penny has written for Holland and Barrett, and contributed to articles for the Daily TelegraphThe Times Literary supplement, Pregnancy & Birth and Marie Claire. She has been featured in the Daily Express, Daily Mirror and on local radio.

Penny is a registered nutritional therapist with standards of training endorsed by BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and CNHC. This includes completing 30 hours of continuing professional development, annually.

Penny’s approach to health is holistic, and takes into account emotional, mental and environmental factors as well as nutrition. She has trained in coaching and studied many complementary therapies before qualifying as a nutritionist, which provides a broad foundation of knowledge in her nutrition practice. Penny may be contacted on Tel: 07761 768 754;

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