Welcome to week 4.
Hopefully by now you’re noticing improvements in your flexibility. You may also be noticing some niggles, so let’s chat inflammation. We touched on this in week 1, but this week we will go a bit deeper.
Inflammation occurs as a result of a build up of little chemical compounds called ‘reactive oxygen species’. To some degree they are natural and normal, so no need to worry. They occur as a result of many things including exercise, and are a by-product of digestion, pollution, smoking etc.
Inflammation is a defence response. It causes a reaction which generates heat, redness, swelling and sometimes pain. Inflammation can be acute (short lived) in response to a wound or damaged tissues, but it can also be chronic (long-term). Chronic inflammation can be very painful and is the cause of diseases such as asthma, arthritis and Crohn’s disease. But let’s not get too hung up on chronic inflammation.
By addressing acute inflammation, we can improve flexibility. Inflammation happens naturally in response to over stretching and pushing your body to new limits. We want to support the body to recover and progress — and we can do this with an anti-inflammatory diet.
Coenzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10)
This isn’t a nutrient we hear about often, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. CoQ10 is an antioxidant that our body makes itself. Research suggests that higher levels of CoQ10 are linked with lower levels of inflammation. This isn’t a reason to go supplementing just yet, but we do suggest you support the demands of your classes with foods rich in CoQ10. These foods include organ meats, oily fish, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli and legumes such as beans, peas and peanuts.
You may have read about flavonoids lately as they have started to gain more attention. Essentially, they’re compounds found naturally in plants. They have very high antioxidant capacity and have been shown to lower inflammatory cytokines (these are other chemical markers of inflammation). There has been some research to show that flavonoids can help to reduce acute inflammation and can have particularly beneficial effects on IBD (irritable bowel disease). Because fruits and veg are such good sources, we recommend trying to eat at least 5 portions a day. Start by adding one portion to what you’re currently eating. Then add one more, and one more, until you hit those 5 portions. Once you’re comfortable you can work on upping it to 7-10 portions.
These too have taken the stage recently and for good reason. Polyphenols are natural compounds found mainly in plants, and help get rid of the reactive oxygen species (the little compounds that cause inflammation) by making them more stable. Foods rich in polyphenols include: flaxseeds, dark chocolate, berries, spinach, green tea and red wine (all in moderation of course!)
Omega-3 and spices
We already touched on this in week 1, but as a reminder you should try to get in 2 portions of oily fish a week to boost your omega-3 intake and help reduce inflammation. Even better if you season it with a range of spices.
Some anti-inflammatory recipe inspiration: We recommend chicken liver and chorizo salad and this apple and linseed porridge for an easy, delicious and warming winter brekkie.
More next week!
Zhai, J., Bo, Y., Lu, Y., Liu, C., & Zhang, L. (2017). Effects of coenzyme Q10 on markers of inflammation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS one, 12(1), e0170172.
Vezza, T., Rodríguez-Nogales, A., Algieri, F., Utrilla, M. P., Rodriguez-Cabezas, M. E., & Galvez, J. (2016). Flavonoids in inflammatory bowel disease: a review. Nutrients, 8(4), 211.