Finally, in her early thirties, she began studying nutritional therapy to try to understand the complex interplay between diet and lifestyle, gut health, stress, emotional trauma, chronic inflammation and autoimmunity.
“There’s a saying that genes load the gun and the environment pulls the trigger,” she says. “I was seriously ill when I was six months old with a digestive problem. I was given lots of antibiotics – which would have impacted my gut microbiota – although the problem was later revealed to be an intolerance Then other family members with autoimmune disease probably made me more susceptible to autoimmune disease later in life.
She initially ate a very low-carb, high-fat diet to help her body heal, then slowly reintroduced other whole foods, vegetables, and fruits, creating a nutrient-dense daily diet.
In a year, she has transformed. “I didn’t nap during the day, my muscles didn’t hurt anymore, I didn’t have restless legs or irritated and inflamed skin. My brain was back too,” she says.
Life is very different now. “I work for myself, I plan my time, I walk my dogs every day. I do Pilates or strength training every morning. I make my own food and I don’t drink alcohol regularly. Dark chocolate is on the menu, but only with 90% cocoa.
Bone broth, baked apples, and fermented foods help support her gut, and she takes a probiotic containing lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
“I can never be cured – autoimmune diseases are not curable – but I haven’t had any symptoms for seven years. At 39, I feel better than ever.
How to Reduce Inflammation in Your Body
Immunologist Dr Jenna Macciochi outlines simple steps we can take to balance our bodies, improve gut health and reduce inflammation
Ditch processed foods
“Humans are healthier when they eat minimally processed foods,” writes Dr Macciochi in his new book Your Blueprint for Strong Immunity (£14.99, Yellow Kite). Yet more than half of the calories consumed by an average person in the UK come from ultra-processed foods (UPF), which include ready meals, fast foods, pastries, cakes, crisps, biscuits and confectionery.
They are highly refined items, filled with additives, preservatives, sugar and unhealthy fats, which are linked to poor health and premature death, but which are difficult to resist. “They contain little to no intact foods and provide ’empty calories’ that take up space in healthier foods and help reduce microbiome diversity,” she says.
Balance your blood sugar
Blood sugar spikes and crashes not only lead to a roller coaster of high energy followed by exhaustion, they are a “major problem for the immune system and inflammation levels”.
Sugar causes an inflammatory reaction in the body after eating, and sugar molecules surround immune cells and interfere with their functioning, says Dr. Macciochi. While reducing sugar in your diet is the obvious solution, other small tweaks can help as well. Adding protein to every meal stabilizes blood sugar, especially if you eat protein first. and cinnamon, ginger, and vinegar have also been found to balance blood sugar. Eating at the same times each day can prevent overeating during a session, which then leads to a spike in blood sugar.
Swap alcohol for herbal tea
Do you drink in moderation? Well, even your modest glass of wine each evening could weaken your immune system.
“Alcohol disrupts our body barriers, including the airways and gut barrier, and the beneficial microbes that live there,” says Dr. Macciochi. “It can have negative effects on sleep, stress and eating habits, as well as nutrient absorption.” Instead, try to drink at least 1.5 to 2 liters of water a day and add herbal teas to your daily fluid intake. “Herbal teas are rich sources of phytonutrients and can help with overall antioxidant intake and management of unwanted inflammation,” she says.
Eat garlic every day
Eat cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or kale, or garlic, leeks and onions every day as they are high in the essential mineral sulfur.
Sulfur, which is also found in chickpeas, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds, as well as dairy products, meat and seafood, helps improve immune function, reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease. To really get the most out of these compounds, Dr. Macciochi advises slicing vegetables or onions and letting them sit for a few minutes before steaming to release and activate the compounds before eating.
Avoid Bad Body Fat
When we gain weight, our fat cells become “metabolically out of balance” and may begin to accumulate around the abdominal muscles and organs as visceral fat. “This type of fat is an immunologically active tissue, which can lead to inflammation and metabolic dysregulation,” says Dr. Macciochi. Thus, people who carry weight on their abdomen (an “apple” shape) rather than on their hips (a “pear” shape) are at higher risk of developing certain inflammatory conditions. Obesity is considered “a gateway disease to other conditions” because it alters the way fat cells communicate with the immune system, increasing the likelihood of developing a range of inflammatory conditions, as well as susceptibility to infection and disease. cancer.
Consume vitamin P
One of the reasons we’re advised to “eat the rainbow” is to make sure we’re getting enough flavonoids, powerful plant chemicals that are part of the antioxidant polyphenol family. Known collectively as “Vitamin P,” these powerful phytonutrients can regulate our immune defenses, help us fight infections, tame inflammation, and counteract daily wear and tear on our cells.
Eating enough is as simple as increasing the plant diversity of your diet, by eating produce such as olive oil, berries, onions, kale, grapes, tomatoes, citrus fruits and plums. , parsley, thyme and mint, and black and green teas. You can even taste chocolate, just make sure it’s dark, as milk chocolate and white chocolate won’t have the same effect.
Build your muscles
Lifting weights might just save your life: “More muscle mass and muscle strength equals less risk of dying,” says Dr. Macciochi.
“When it comes to your immune system, muscle is non-negotiable. Muscle tissue is preventative against some of the most common and increasingly prevalent inflammatory health issues.
In fact, muscle correlates with reduced metabolic disease [chronic conditions, including heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, which include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist and high cholesterol]better cancer treatment outcomes, better protection against infections, and lower all-cause mortality.
But don’t worry about joining a gym. “Resistance can include picking up a heavy object like a child, carrying shopping bags, or moving logs, rocks, or anything with mass,” says Dr. Macciochi. “The World Health Organization recommends at least two strength training sessions a week. That’s a good baseline to aim for.
Boost your bugs
A healthy gut microbiota filled with a diverse mix of friendly flora is necessary for good health. Luckily, there’s a lot we can do to help our guts out.
Increasing our fiber is crucial. “Fiber is the essential dietary nutrient that almost all of the UK population don’t get enough of, but your gut bugs love,” says Dr Macciochi. Aim for a minimum of 30g per day.
Prebiotics are also essential. It’s vegetables – including onions, leeks, celery, asparagus, garlic, kidney beans, chickpeas, unpeeled apples and figs – that promote the growth of beneficial chemicals in our intestines. , which help manage inflammation. Take a probiotic containing strains of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, as well as saccharomyces boulardii, a type of yeast that decreases inflammation. Meanwhile, fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut are “incredible for gut microbial diversity.” “The microbes found in kimchi have been shown to protect against the flu and kill cancer cells in test tubes, while a study showed that a 10-week diet high in fermented foods, both dairy and plants, improved the diversity of gut microbes, reducing unwanted inflammation,” says Dr. Macciochi.