Does inflammation speed up ageing?

Does inflammation speed up ageing?

Ageing is a natural part of life that we can’t change, but did you know that unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress can accelerate the ageing process both internally and externally?

Oxidative stress and inflammation – what are they?

Let’s start with inflammation, which comes in two types—acute and chronic.

Acute inflammation occurs in response to an injury or illness. It is part of the immune system response that helps with the healing process. Acute inflammation is generally short-lived and resolves quickly.

Chronic inflammation is more concerning. The effects linger, leaving the body in a constant state of panic. Over time, chronic inflammation will start to have a negative impact on tissues and organs. It can stick around for months or even years and play a role in the development of many diseases, from autoimmune diseases to cancer.

Whilst acute inflammation is good for the body because it stimulates healing processes, long-term, chronic inflammation will leave the immune system exhausted and unable to protect us properly. Left unaddressed, chronic inflammation can damage healthy cells, tissues, and organs, causing scarring, tissue death and chronic diseases.

Chronic inflammation is made worse by:

  • Smoking
  • Bad diet
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Too much stress
  • Weight gain
  • Not getting enough sleep

If you suspect chronic inflammation, watch for symptoms that include:

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Unexplained muscle aches and joint pain
  • Stomach issues including constipation or diarrhoea
  • Gaining weight
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes

Despite the ongoing process of chronic inflammation with age, there are things that can be done to reduce, suppress, or minimise its effects.

Fibre in diet

You may be able to reduce inflammation without needing medication. If you want to avoid medication for treating inflammation, try making some lifestyle changes to improve your health such as:

Diet – try to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your meals every day. Think about foods like:

  • Fruits like cherries, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and oranges
  • Green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna
  • Healthy oils like olive oil

You’ll also need to eliminate inflammatory foods that are processed and high in added sugar. Limit these items in your diet:

  • Fizzy drinks
  • Fried foods
  • White bread, cookies, and cakes
  • Red meat
  • Beverages that are sweetened with sugar and artificial sweeteners

Paying attention to good gut health is an important way to slow chronic inflammation. An article in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition states:

“Over the past decade, considerable evidence from both animal and human studies has accumulated showing a clear link between the gut microbiome in chronic diseases, including inflammatory autoimmune disorders, gut inflammation-related disorders, and cardiometabolic diseases. It is increasingly clear that bacterial metabolites are at least in part, the key agents involved in the role of the gut microbiome on human health and among such metabolites, short-chain-fatty-acids (SCFAs) appear to be the most important ones. Butyrate-producing bacteria are associated with lower risk of inflammatory autoimmune and cardiometabolic diseases, and also irritable bowel syndrome. A number of therapeutic strategies to target the gut microbiome are possible, but nutritional changes appear to be the most obvious, non-invasive, and immediate way of altering the gut microbiome composition and function. Recent randomised controlled trials have shown that both composition and function respond in consistent ways to specific dietary interventions. Dietary fibre and unsaturated fat, separately or in a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet, result in higher relative abundances of butyrate-producing bacteria and these bacteria and the SCFAs produced in turn result in improved health outcomes. Different types of dietary fibre result in different bacterial changes and different SCFAs. The possibility of designing dietary interventions targeted specifically at increasing certain bacterial metabolites to improve cardiometabolic and inflammatory health outcomes appears well within reach within the next half decade”.

You can read the full article here.

What about oxidative stress?

Oxidative stress plays a pivotal role in various pathological conditions, including hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, with high levels of oxidative stress in target organs such as the heart, pancreas, kidney, and lung. Oxidative stress is known to activate cell overgrowth, leading to organ dysfunction as a result of free radicals building up in certain organs. A free radical is a type of unstable molecule that is made during normal cell metabolism (chemical changes that take place in a cell). Free radicals can build up in cells and cause damage to other molecules, such as DNA, lipids, and proteins. When free radicals in the body outweigh antioxidants and the build-up of cell damage causes changes within DNA, this can cause disease. This damage may increase the risk of cancer and other diseases.

Which supplements can help?

This science-based article mentions how lacto and bifidi species of bacteria (both of which are in our Live Bacteria capsules) can help reduce oxidative stress: Probiotics and their Metabolites Reduce Oxidative Stress in Middle-Aged Mice – PMC.

A diet high in antioxidants, as well as taking key supplements such as a multivitamin/mineral supplement, ideally one that contains zinc for healing (I’ve been taking one of these daily for years); live bacteria probiotics, garlic, and Omega 3, which also acts as an antioxidant, can help reduce free radicals and thus reduce oxidative stress in the body. In fact, probiotics, garlic and essential fatty acids from Omega 3 fish oils are all considered to be natural anti-inflammatory food supplements and these are the most important ones if you suffer with a chronic inflammatory condition.

Antioxidant-rich foods include:

  • Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries
  • Pecans, walnuts
  • Kidney beans
  • Wild-caught salmon
  • Tomatoes
  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Grapes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Dark chocolate
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Cloves, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric

As I’ve often quoted, ‘Genetics load the gun, but diet and lifestyle will pull the trigger’ – and will increase your risk of getting a chronic auto-immune inflammatory disease. A friend of mine has recently lost her mum at 92. Wherever she went, she was the life and soul of the party. I hope to be just like her into my 90s and I hope that you can too.