Did you know that you can be in a state of inflammageing? Inflammation-ageing, aka inflammageing, a term first coined in 2000 by Claudio Franceschi2, is a sped-up ageing process due to excess inflammation in your body, but without the benefit of immune protection. For those with chronic illness and autoimmune disease, inflammageing may contribute to the onset of these conditions.
So could lowering excess inflammation help to prevent ageing? This article will explore one of the most crucial factors in chronic illness, inflammageing and how diet and lifestyle may help to rewind this fast-forward process.
Why the Immune System Turns Against Us
The immune system has an incredible ability to protect you from infections, such as viruses and bacteria, and helps you heal from injury. Inflammation is the reason why you can overcome these challenges, as the inflammatory response, often characterised by pain, swelling and redness, helps to wade off the enemy and clean up any wounded cells and tissue in a short period of time.
However, as you age, your immune system can wear out. The healing process becomes tiresome, and the immune cells become dysfunctional – the immune system never fully completes the healing process. Yet, it still produces inflammation which causes further damage to the cells. This type of inflammation is not helpful and becomes chronic, in a vicious cycle of flaring and repairing.
In the opportunistic environment that this creates, cells that have outserved their duties hang around. Cell senescence is the phenomenon when a cell ends its cycle and stops dividing. Senescent cells are stuck at their end phase but still can operate and affect functions in the body. These zombie-like cells do more harm than good and need to be removed before they create damage. As parts of the cell, including the DNA, may be defective, the immune system identifies this and starts its attack, creating more havoc. As you age, your body’s ability to eradicate senescent cells becomes impaired and contributes to inflammageing.
What Causes Inflammageing?
As much as ageing is a natural process, some are more prone to inflammageing than others. That is, you are more likely to develop early signs of ageing as a result of inflammation.
Data suggests that those who have a genetic susceptibility may be at more risk of the effects of inflammation. For example, if you have variations in the genes that code for pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6, you are more likely to be inflamed from stressors than others. Cytokines are messengers in the immune system which either tell it to switch on or off. When you have genetic variations in the genes coding for these messengers, it is more likely that your immune system will get a fallacious message and fire up inappropriately when all is calm. You can test your gene variation with genetic profiling such as DNAHealth offered through The Autoimmunity Nutritionist clinic.
Other factors that increase your risk of inflammageing include obesity (especially around the abdomen), impaired gut function and increased permeability, such as leaky gut syndrome and chronic infections.
Your vessels become inflamed and stiff in a chronic inflammatory state, and your tissue starts to break down. Many autoimmune conditions such as arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and diabetes, all have a link with long-standing inflammation in the body.
The Symptoms of Inflammageing
I am sure you recognise the common signs of ageing – greying hair, hair loss, wrinkles and sunspots on the skin, and memory recall issues such as remembering names and words. These are all familiar signs of ageing. However, other signs of ageing might include fatigue, poor sleep, lack of appetite, high blood pressure, sarcopenia and anxiety. These symptoms are likely a result of hormone imbalance, impaired gut health and nutrient deficiency.
Inflammageing may also be a factor in cardiovascular disease, as it can cause inflammation and narrowing of the arteries, which is a risk factor for a cardiac event. If you have heart health issues or risk developing one, addressing inflammation is a significant step to improve your health and longevity.
The Cascade Effect – Inflammation & Detoxification
Inflammation not only disrupts your tissues and cells, but it also halts vital detoxification and mopping up of cell debris and turns on the stress responses. In a stressed environment, both emotional and physiological, your body secretes the stress hormone cortisol.
Cortisol is ‘anti-inflammatory’ which may sound like a good thing, but remember, inflammation is also necessary. In a long-standing stressed state, cortisol suppresses the immune response, which means it is less likely to fight off infections and clear out bad cells. As a result, you are more likely to develop chronic symptoms or disease. High cortisol also causes narrowing of the arteries, which may increase blood pressure and impair circulation.
The Anti-inflammageing Lifestyle
You can’t prevent the natural ageing process, but you can avoid the factors contributing to inflammageing.
Eating a pro-inflammatory diet, such as the standard western diet, is more likely to promote a proinflammatory response in your body. By eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods similar to the Mediterranean diet, such as dark coloured vegetables and fruits, green and black teas, extra virgin olive oil and an assortment of herbs and spices, you are in an excellent place to neutralise the effects of free radicals and prevent inflammageing.
However, you also need to eliminate those senescent cells from your body. One way to promote this is through fasting, following a ketogenic diet or eating in a restrictive eating window, such as eating 8 hours of every day. Cardio exercise also promotes autophagy, and the clearing of bad cells, so committing to 30 minutes of movement of activity every day will do wonders for your healthspan.
Understanding the root cause of inflammation is the best way to start to address this. Food sensitivities, a highly toxic or viral load, fatty acid imbalances and issues with blood sugar regulation may all promote inflammation in your body. Functional testing helps to unravel the root cause of your condition, which is offered at The Autoimmunity Nutritionist clinic so that you can take a personalised approach to feel better.
In addition, as stress can be an underpinning factor, adopting stress management techniques such as stretching and yoga, journaling and doing more of what you love in life will help bring down unwanted inflammation in your body. That is why as part of our Autoimmune Recovery Plan, RELEASE is the crucial first step to your path to better health and living symptom-free. Please email the clinic HERE if you would like a free copy of the Autoimmune Recovery Plan.
Inflammageing or early ageing may be the first sign that things are amiss in your body. If you feel older than you are, it might be time to take a step back and reflect on your diet and lifestyle. You can start to turn the clock back today, so don’t wait, take one action today to a brighter future.
Ferrucci L, Fabbri E. Inflammageing: chronic inflammation in ageing, cardiovascular disease, and frailty. Nat Rev Cardiol. 2018;15(9):505-522. doi:10.1038/s41569-018-0064-2
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