Inflammation and fasting
If you haven’t done so yet, do listen to one of Michael Mosley’s extended programme Just One Thing on Radio Four, interviewing Professor Janet Lord on inflammation. It is gold dust in terms of how to support ourselves and our patients to reduce inflammation in the body and activate wellbeing.
Professor Janet Lord is Emeritus Professor of Immune Cell Biology at the University of Birmingham. She measures inflammation by looking at the level of immune hormones in the blood called cytokines. Whilst we know that inflammation is a part of the bodies normal response to acute injury or infection, unfortunately with ageing we are increasingly dealing with chronic inflammation which is associated with nearly every type of disease we see in older adults including dementia, arthritis, heart disease, insulin resistance and type two diabetes.
I was fascinated to hear the Professor set out her five top tips to help reduce inflammation. These were:
- Being less sedentary. The recommendation is that no-one sits for no longer than an hour at a time as moving muscles via myokines (a small protein released from our muscular cells) reduces inflammation. Our skeletal muscle mass is also a major regulator of the immune system and the more you move the more you can keep your muscles healthy and counter inflammation. Even just standing up, making a cup of tea and moving around for 4-5minutes every hour will have a big impact on inflammation and our health.
- Reducing calorie intake. Reducing calorie intake can be either by fasting or time restricted eating which is eating within a certain number of hours and fasting for the rest of the 24 hours period. Fasting may have many health benefits including the reduction of inflammation, but also helps your bodies ability to clean out dead or damaged proteins in a cell, a process called autophagy. Keeping our weight in check is important too as adipose (fat) tissue is pro-inflammatory and the more you have the more inflammation will be driven throughout the body.
- Exercise. The recommendation is that we exercise regularly throughout life and we don’t let age stop us. Biologically we are hunter-gatherers, so we are not designed to slow down as we age and we should stay physically active for as long as we can. Any form of regular physical activity will reduce inflammation and help keep your immune system young!
- Reduce stress – be it emotional or physical. Cortisol, our master stress hormone, can be kept in check by DHEA which is a type of anti-stress hormone. Cortisol suppresses our immune system, drives muscle loss and causes inflammation in the body. From the age of around thirty, we see a decline in DHEA, so as we age we need to actively try to find ways to reduce stress to keep things in balance. Exercise and deep breathing are both wonderful ways of inhibiting and managing stress. But we should also remember that relationships with others can also be at the core of reducing inflammation in the body.
- Nutrition. Professor Lord recommends a Mediterranean Plus diet which is the Mediterranean diet plus the inclusion of anti-oxidant rich nuts and berries. A good diverse diet, such as the Mediterranean Plus diet, results in diversity of the microbiome (gut bacteria) which reduces leaky gut which can drive inflammation.
Having a particular interest in emotional and mental health in my therapeutic work I was pleased that a top tip was an emphasis on good quality, relationships being at the core of reducing inflammation in the body. Her recommendations on diet also reflect those that we give in our clinical service – using a predominantly plant based, rainbow-coloured diet, with lots of herbs and spices and small amounts of good quality organic and wild animal produce. It was lovely to discover that strawberries and berries in general contain a compound called fisetin, which helps the body get rid of old or senescent cells. Not only that but strawberries, in an effort to attract animals, taste sweet but they are not packed full of sugar and instead a perfume to intensity the experience of sweetness. Isn’t nature amazing?
I was also fascinated to hear the discussion on fasting and how that triggers the clearing of old senescent cells and cellular parts like proteins. With fasting in mind, some of you may remember that around 18 months ago when faced with rising blood pressure, abdominal obesity and an abnormal lipid profile I started to use the Fasting Mimicking Diet to support me to gain more metabolic flexibility. Many of us move towards metabolic syndrome in later life particularly post menopause, and I’ve made some headway over the past year with an improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol but I’m not in my ideal BMI range and I’ve still got lipids which need improving. For those of you not familiar with metabolic syndrome, it’s the name given to a group of health conditions that increase the risk of heart diseases and related problems. Diagnosis follows a combination of at least three of the following: increased waistline, high blood pressure, increased blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, and low levels of HDL cholesterol and these findings reflect inflammation in the body.
So, in the coming months I’m going to embark on a five-day Fasting Mimicking Diet with Prolon every month for three months, to see if I can support and accelerate gaining metabolic flexibility. I’m someone who has never been good at not eating for longer than three hours without feeling weak and headachy, but with the Prolon Five Day Fasting Mimicking Diet I have been able to move through the fasting process. Clinically proven, Prolon provides plant-based nutrition which allows the body to enter into a beneficial fasting state without triggering the cells’ nutrient sensors. As the name suggests, it mimics fasting while still letting you eat food. Some of you may ask why I don’t just use healthy eating, but there is something about a box conveniently arriving with everything you should eat, that reduces the tendency to snack when hungry and having three small meals a day suits me psychologically.
Watch out for more posts and blogs on this in the coming weeks.