Everyone knows them and has been affected by them: Inflammations. They play out in our bodies and directly affect our health. But what is inflammation, how does inflammaging affect our longevity, and what can we do to reduce our inflammation? You'll learn all about it in this post.
Inflammation at a glance
Inflammations are the body's own reactions to damaging internal or external stimuli. The goal of inflammation is to eliminate these damaging stimuli and to initiate a healing process. Accordingly, inflammations are immune reactions that consist of many complex sub-steps and biological processes. Inflammation plays an important role in many age-related diseases. More on this later.
Fun Facts: In medicine, the suffix -itis is used for inflammations of affected parts of the body. For example, dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin (ancient Greek: derma).
What are the signs of inflammation?
Everyone knows it: You stub your toe on the edge of the bed and it hurts like hell. At first there is a stabbing pain, then the toe becomes red, very warm and swells. In addition, it may be a bit difficult to step on as a result. All in all, quite typical signs of inflammation. The five classic signs of inflammation are:
- Redness (Latin: rubor)
- Swelling (Latin: tumor)
- Overheating (Latin: calor)
- Pain (Latin: dolor)
- Restricted function (Latin: functio laesa)
These inflammatory reactions also take place at the molecular level in our body and can be determined by inflammatory parameters in the blood. In medicine, the parameters examined in inflammation include the following (3):
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
- Interleukins (e.g. IL-6)
- Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α)
These laboratory values can also be elevated in certain inflammatory diseases or infections.
Why does inflammation occur in the body?
Inflammation occurs when stimuli act on the body from inside or outside that exceed physiological levels. For example, injuries caused by pressure or friction in accidents. In addition, exposure to cold or heat can overstress the body's resilience, causing inflammatory responses. However, you can learn how cold can also be used as a longevity hack in our article on cryotherapy.
Metabolic products such as uric acid crystals can cause mechanical damage within the body, which then results in inflammatory reactions in the joints (e.g.: in gout). In addition, inflammation is also caused by the action of allergens from food, e.g. in celiac disease the body reacts to the wheat protein gluten with inflammatory reactions in the intestine. This tolerance disorder leads to the destruction of the intestinal epithelium in affected individuals over time if left untreated.
Basically, inflammation is in itself a positive protective measure of the body against harmful influences that has been preserved over millions of years. However, in certain autoimmune diseases, these inflammatory processes can lead to self-destruction.
Diet can do some good here: Learn more about anti-inflammatory foods you should eat daily in a moment. Scientifically proven with studies.
But before we get to the practical tips, let's clarify the role inflammation plays in the aging process (inflammaging) and why it's so important to keep an eye on it.
Inflammaging - inflammation and the aging process
With increasing age, in addition to changes in proteostasis and the accumulation of senescent cells in our body to the so-called Inflammaging.
Inflammaging is a term frequently used in longevity research that is composed of the words inflammation and aging. The so-called inflammation aging.
This process is also promoted by senescent cells, as these can secrete pro-inflammatory substances. At the molecular level, this leads to an increased activation of NF-kB - a transcription factor that is significantly involved in the development of inflammation. In addition, pro-inflammatory messenger substances such as interleukin-1b, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interferons (IFNs) are increasingly produced. These inflammatory responses, which increase with age, can deregulate signal transduction pathways in the body and disrupt intercellular communication. The consequences of this are a weakened immune system and body systems that do not function optimally.
Thus, inflammatory processes play a role in many age-related diseases such as:
- Alzheimer's dementia
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cardiovascular diseases
Since chronic inflammation is associated with many age-related diseases, it is important to prevent it. Among other things, an anti-inflammatory diet can also help.
Before we look at specific foods, it can already help to give your intestines targeted rest periods to alleviate inflammation in the body. Intermittent fasting in combination with calorie restriction has been shown in studies to reduce inflammatory parameters in the blood. This involves eating only during a specific window of time each day. For example, you fast for 16 hours from 20:00 in the evening until 12:00 in the morning and then eat your meals from 12:00 to 20:00 within an 8-hour window. During fasting, the body activates, among other things, the so-called autophagy - a biological process in which the cellular balance is tidied up.
However, the specific selection of certain foods can also prevent or reduce inflammation.
Taking long-chain omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce inflammation. Read more about the top 5 supplements you should take when needed, despite a healthy diet, in this article.
In addition, certain secondary plant compounds known as polyphenols can help. These lower the NF-kB level mentioned earlier, which plays a significant role in the development of inflammation. In addition, polyphenols can positively influence other inflammatory parameters such as interleukin-6. Therefore, a plant-based and colorful diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables has a beneficial effect on our health.
Foods rich in polyphenols include:
- Cocoa powder
- Soy products
- Green or black tea
However, almost all plant foods contain some amount of these phytochemicals.
Conclusion on Inflammaging
Inflammation is a risk factor for some age-related diseases. Therefore, it makes sense to maintain healthy habits that lower inflammation. These include eating a balanced diet with plenty of polyphenol-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as taking long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. So-called intermittent fasting can also help reduce inflammation. If you want to learn more about the causes of aging and inflammaging, check out our blog series on the 9 Hallmarks of Aging .
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