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Centr Team

Do you really need to worry about inflammation?

Centr Team

Inflammation is a hot topic right now.

But do you know the difference between good and bad inflammation? Does alcohol cause inflammation? And where does your diet come into it?

We asked nutrition expert Angie Asche to help us sort fact from fiction and answer 5 of the biggest questions about inflammation.

1. Is inflammation always a bad thing?

There are two types of inflammation to be aware of, with different causes and impacts on the body.

Acute inflammation is the body’s immediate protective response to injury, infection or stressor,” Angie says. “This isn’t a bad thing: it’s your immune system’s way of repairing. The inflammatory response can even happen after a hard workout, when it actually helps to repair and strengthen your muscles.”

But chronic inflammation is a very different story.

“That’s the kind we need to be concerned about,” Angie says. “This is what happens when inflammation isn’t resolved and your immune system is constantly activated. It has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.”

2. What causes inflammation?

Acute inflammation can be caused by injury or infection. For example, you might notice swelling and heat at the site of a muscle tear, or cough because your airways are inflamed when you’re ill with bronchitis.

Chronic inflammation can be caused by ongoing illness and autoimmune diseases, as well as lifestyle factors such as a poor diet, being sedentary, high levels of stress, high amounts of body fat and excessive alcohol consumption (more on that below).

A collation of four different mocktails from the Centr mocktail menu.

All the good times, none of the inflammation. Get the party started with some of our favorite alcohol-free mocktails instead.

3. Does alcohol cause inflammation?

"Alcohol can cause both acute and chronic inflammation,” Angie says.

“When alcohol gets broken down and metabolized in your body, it produces a byproduct called acetaldehyde. This is a toxic substance (and known carcinogen) that can damage your cells and result in an acute inflammatory response.”

The immediate inflammatory response to drinking alcohol consumption can interfere with your body’s ability to repair and build muscle after working out.

“I’m not going to say you should never drink again (I’d be a hypocrite if I did) but there’s a time and a place for it – and it’s not after a workout,” Angie says.

The more serious chronic inflammation can be a result of drinking alcohol frequently, especially in large quantities, which can keep your body in a constant state of inflammation.

“Giving your body (and your intestinal tract) breaks from alcohol and especially reducing the amount you drink can make a big difference to your health,” Angie says.

Four different gut-healthy recipes from the Centr menu.

Keep your gut in good health, and inflammation at bay, with Angie’s pick of recipes packing all the right ingredients.

4. Can you reduce inflammation through food?

While you can’t counteract all inflammation with food, there are things you can eat to counteract inflammation in the gut.

"Because our gut is closely tied to our immune system, lowering inflammation here can help to prevent a wide range of health problems,” Angie says. She recommends:

  • Probiotic-rich foods, which help support a healthy gut microbiome, such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha and yogurt.
  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, chia seeds and flaxseed,
  • Nuts and seeds, which contain both fiber (for prebiotics) and powerful antioxidants.
  • Fruits and vegetables, which provide both fiber and antioxidants. My top picks are berries and leafy greens.
  • Whole grains and legumes rich in fiber and micronutrients. Aim for a variety of these plant foods – beans, lentils, oats, barley, buckwheat, quinoa – to support a healthy gut microbiome.

5. Does exercise impact inflammation?

Crushing a long and intense exercise session can cause acute inflammation, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and doesn’t mean you should give up your training.

If you train hard regularly – for example, taking part in endurance events – make sure you’re incorporating adequate rest to prevent undue stress on your system.

Moderate exercise, the kind most of us do, is associated with lower levels of inflammation overall. Some studies have suggested this is because the body produces anti-inflammatory mechanisms when under stress, leading to a more robust anti-inflammatory response overall.

And it’s a good idea to keep moving: regular exercise can also help to reduce the risk of chronic inflammation by reducing body fat levels.

Want more advice from the experts?

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