The "Inflammaging" Phenomenon - Part 1
Aging is the ultimate bane of human existence. Researchers and medical professionals have spent countless hours studying cells and tissues, trying to find out why we age and how we can thwart the process. The anti-aging industry is globally worth 50-billion US dollars and the beauty industry is constantly touting new products to stave off wrinkles and keep you looking young.
But in the end, inflammation is the main culprit. In 2000, Claudio Franceschi coined the term “inflammaging“, referring to the persistent, low-grade state of inflammation that is responsible for all the problems that come with aging.
Your cells are born, reproduce, and die by the millions and your body is generally adept at flushing out the waste. However, as we go about our lives, there are countless environmental factors that chip away at these mechanisms, making the body less efficient at clearing cellular debris. When this cellular debris piles up, proteins known as cytokines alert the immune system, causing inflammation and even damaging healthy cells nearby. This is the inflammaging process- a constant state of mild inflammation that eventually leads to the physical and mental decline we associate with getting older.
Researchers are always working to unearth the “fountain of youth” that may be buried somewhere in our genes. Until then, you can take proactive steps to reduce inflammaging by eliminating inflammatory responses as much as possible.
There is a bustling kingdom inside your gut; a colony of bacteria responsible for breaking down food, producing vitamins and regulating your immune system. This is called your microbiome and the more we study it, the more we realize that having a flourishing array of healthy gut bacteria is vital for aging well and avoiding disease.
Your gut has evolved to handle a wide variety of fiber and polyphenol-rich foods, developed over millions of years of evolution. It’s no shock that when we switched to a nutrient-poor Western-style diet our gut kingdoms revolted, causing havoc on our immune system. Your stomach doesn’t understand french fries as real food and alerts the immune system to a threat, causing low-grade inflammation.
The best way to decrease the effects of inflammaging therefore, it to eat a diet similar to what our ancestors ate. This is a loaded question, as dietary studies are numerous and often unreliable due to countless variables. The diet you should be consuming somewhat depends on your genetics; what causes inflammation for some people, can be innocuous for others.
A good place to start is by eliminating processed foods. Chips, cookies, crackers- basically anything packaged with a shelf life contains un-natural substances unfit for a healthy microbiome. Foods that are generally considered inflammatory include refined flours, sugar, gluten, milk, cheese, red meat, and trans- and saturated fatty acids.
A study published in March 2020 put individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (a debilitating inflammatory autoimmune disorder) on a diet that eliminated pro-inflammatory foods and replaced them with whole, natural foods containing plenty of polyphenols and flavonoids. Even if you’re not suffering from a disorder, you can still take note of the study’s creation of a diet with a high content of known potential anti-inflammatory ingredients:
- fatty fish such as sardines or tuna, twice per week
- daily intake of chia seeds and flaxseed oil
- daily intake of nuts, avocado, and/or sesame seeds or tahini
- avoid pre-cooked food, red meat, and processed meat
- cook by baking, boiling or vapor- avoid frying
- include daily green leafy vegetables (arugula, lettuce, broccoli, zucchini, green beans)
- include daily fruits
- consume whole grains and avoid refined flours
- daily yogurt (a brand that contains Lactobacillus Casei among other species or miso)
- substitute plant-based milk (almond, rice, coconut) for dairy
- season with turmeric, black pepper, and ginger (black pepper and ginger should be used at the same time)
- keep salt intake low by eliminating pre-cooked food
- increase consumption of garlic, onion, purple carrot and zucchini
- substitute sugar for honey and avoid sodas and juices
- try a daily dose of apple cider vinegar
There are a host of other doctors, nutritionists, and researchers that have created diet plans to benefit your microbiome and reduce the effects of inflammaging. Dr. Andrew Weil has his anti-inflammatory pyramid. Dr. Susan Blum recommends “rainbow dieting” or, eating natural foods of every color every day to get the full range of anti-inflammatory polyphenols.
As you can see, these diets are not restrictive and are a great way to lower your body’s inflammation response and increase your healthspan.
See you on Thursday for Part Two!
To your longevity,
Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Opitmization
Chief Medical Advisor, Longevity Insider HQ
* This content is provided by the Institute for Human Optimization (www.ifho.org).