You’ve probably heard of the term inflammation and you might even have a general idea of what it is. But did you know that inflammation is something that everyone, including our dogs, struggle with to some degree? This blog piece will help to break down what inflammation is and how you can reduce the severity of both acute and chronic inflammation in you and your pup.
What is inflammation?
Your body has an amazing natural defense in its immune system that helps to eliminate disease and heal damage to tissues. However sometimes immune cells can result in their own damage to the body, this is known as inflammation or an inflammatory response.
There are 2 types of inflammation, acute and chronic inflammation. Acute means that inflammation occurs rapidly for a short period of time and chronic is a long-term, sustained response.
Acute inflammation is usually the less severe of the two and is actually helpful in wound healing. Acute inflammation occurs as an immune response to kill bacteria and other pathogens around a wound to reduce the chance of infection. As the wound heals, the inflammation usually subsides.
On the other hand, chronic inflammation is usually the result of an ongoing disease or assault from reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals. A chronic inflammatory response is often not localized to one area and can affect multiple parts of the body at once. Chronic inflammation can range from a nagging soreness to a debilitating pain, depending on the severity of conditions and age of the individual.
Some diseases classified as or associated with chronic inflammation are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Autoimmune diseases
- Neurological disease
- Crohn's disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Coeliac disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Nutrition and inflammation
Medical antiinflammatory drugs are usually the best and most efficient course of action for chronic inflammation, but nutrition can also play a big role in the betterment or worsening of inflammatory conditions.
Let’s start off with how certain foods can make inflammation worse. Sugars and trans fats are the biggest nutritional inflammatory aggregators. Their metabolism triggers the production of reactive oxygen species (also known as free radicals), which are the main factors responsible for oxidation and inflammation of tissues.
Carbohydrate sources that are high in resistant starch (or fibre), rather than available starch can greatly lower absorption of sugars. Below are some examples of good and bad carbohydrates with respect to available sugars and inflammation.
While it may be best to avoid high fat foods when it comes to inflammation, not all fats are bad. Omega 3 fatty acids come from a class of polyunsaturated lipids that are extremely important for metabolism and daily physiological processes. Omega’s have been scientifically shown to reduce inflammation by increasing inflammatory mediators.
There are 3 different types of omega 3 fatty acids; alpha linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Unfortunately, dogs, cats, humans and other animals cannot naturally produce a significant amount of this fatty acid and it must be supplemented in the diet.
Some dietary sources of omega 3’s are:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp hearts
- Fish and fish oil (various types including salmon, herring, sardine, etc.)
- Some variations of edible algae
Lastly, antioxidants are a dietary superhero in the fight against inflammation. While antioxidants are beneficial in reducing inflammation, they are best utilized as a preventative measure. This is because antioxidants reduce and repair the damage inflicted by free radicals before a severe inflammatory reaction even occurs.
Some foods that are high in antioxidants are:
- And many more!