Inflammation is the way our body responds to foreign invaders, toxins or cell injury. It’s our body’s way of defending itself from injury or infection.
There is a very complex cascade of chemicals and communication between cells but we’ll keep it simple!
What triggers inflammation?
The three main triggers for inflammation are
- Microbes – e.g. bacteria getting into a cut on your figer
- Tissue damage – injury
- Metabolic stress – significant changes in nutrients, excessive exercise, obesity
Exposure to the trigger may involve a breakdown in barrier function or a loss of normal immune tolerance
Is inflammation of the gut bad for me?
Acute inflammation is a normal response to injury or attack. Inflammation tells your immune system to initiate an attack against foreign invaders or toxins, and brings new blood to begin repair of damaged structures.
If you get an infected cut on your hand it may become hot, red and sore.
This is the work of inflammation helping to zap the pathogenic bacteria, turning up the heat to kill off pathogens then turning them to pus as they are dealt with.
We need this response to help us fight infection.
So that doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well if it’s happening all over the body, especially in areas like blood vessels, brain cells, then we can end up with more serious health conditions.
What causes inflammation of the gut?
When we eat foods that irritate the gut, the gaps between the cells can become loose.
This is ‘leaky gut’, where undigested food particles and bacterial endotoxins called lipopolysaccharides (LPS) can get into the blood stream.
Your immune system mounts a response to the invaders which creates inflammation.
Some medical texts dispute the existence of leaky gut (and the NHS isn’t quite convinced), but there is an emerging body of evidence to support the link between diet and inflammation.
There are also specific conditions such an inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) where inflammation in the gut weakens the junctions between intestinal cells.
How you can help – identify your food sensitivities and eliminate them from your diet. There are common allergens (e.g. gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, peanuts) but people can react to anything if they have lived with a leaky gut for a long time. It doesn’t mean everyone needs to cut these foods out, but you may need to remove them for a while if you experience symptoms such as headaches, hormonal issues, skin disorders, as well as digestive discomfort such as bloating, constipation or loose stools.
You need to heal the gut to restore this important barrier. This can be done through food, supplements and lifestyle changes and I work with clients to do this in a controlled way.
Eating a pro-inflammatory diet can also add to the inflammation. Foods rich in fructose can increase systemic inflammation in mice. This doesn’t include fruit but means foods with high frutose content through artifical means.
Artificial trans fats also increase inflammatory markers and reduce the impact of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats.
How you can help – eat whole foods in their natural state, vegetables, pulses, meat/fish, eggs, fruit, etc. Include lots of fibre and variety. Avoid food from a packet. Also avoid heavy alcohol use, processed meats (e.g. bacon, salami) due to the nitrates.
I often see clients feeling better within a short time of removing ultra processed foods and concentrating on whole foods again.
You can get an overgrowth of the bad bugs, perhaps a yeast like candida, or other bugs which work against us rather than with us, or for us. We can function well with some of them in our guts, but only in small numbers. If these microbes over colonise the gut we can be left unable to properly digest certain foods leading to bloating, gas or pain.
How you can help – To address the bacterial imbalance you can boost the beneficial bacteria. These ‘good’ microbes love fibre, so diet rich in wholegrains, pulses, vegetables and fruit. You can also add beneficial microbes back in through eating fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir.
Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritional Therapist.
I can help you to:
- understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
- eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
- develop better digestion and more energy
Find more about my 3 month 1:1 Gut Reset programme
Struggling with IBS-D? Did you know it could be related to bile acid diarrhoea (BAD)? You might not have heard of this, but some studies show that around 34% of people with Diarrhoea predominant IBS may have BAD. What are bile acids? Bile is made in the liver, and...
Stop scrolling all those blogs about better gut health! This is my best gut health advice, the one thing you need to do to get better digestion. If you're looking to improve your gut health my number one tip is to eat more variety. Specifically, we need to aim to...
You might not often discuss your bowel habits with your nearest and dearest, but here's a list of red flags for bowel movements you would need to speak to your doctor about. Red flags to look out for around bowel movements In general terms ongoing bleeding or pain...