Time magazine did a report entitled Inflammation: The Secret Killer back in 2004 that showed how inflammation is linked to many diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer to Alzheimer’s.
Inflammation is a response by the body to remove harmful particles such as pathogens or damaged cells from the body and heal the area that is inflamed. Without an inflammation response your cuts and wounds simply wouldn’t heal.
Cutting your skin or having a pathogen such as a virus invade your body is a form of acute inflammation. This means that the inflammation is very pronounced but goes away in a relatively short amount of time as the body heals itself.
Chronic inflammation is where your body continually acts like it needs healed in a certain area and continues to pump various nutrients and chemicals to the site needing healed. This results in a simultaneous destruction and healing of the cells in question.
What does all this mean?
As with nearly everything in the body, what was meant for good has somehow changed around into something bad. The body attacks itself instead of attacking the real problem.
So what causes chronic inflammations?
A whole host of things cause inflammation including injuries, foreign particles, toxins, irritants, and immune reactions due to hypersensitivity.
Hopefully most of you are trying to avoid injury, the common cold, and know to avoid known toxins and irritants such as those you are exposed to through cigarette smoking. With that being said, we will focus on how the food you eat causes a chronic inflammation response.
As I mentioned in my article on Food Intolerance and Allergies anything that you are intolerant too will cause inflammation. Again these include, but are not limited to, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. You could be eating these things all your life and not realize how much they are hurting you.
You may or may not be intolerant to the foods listed above, but it never hurts to do your research and find out for yourself. With that being said, here is a list of pro inflammatory foods…
- Sugar – Of all foods nothing is more inflammatory than sugar in it’s raw form. This is because sugar causes a high insulin response and insulin itself is very pro-inflammatory. Insulin is the primary hormone that helps move nutrients into our cells. Limiting sugar intake in all its forms will help you to manage your inflammation response.
- Foods High in Omega-6 – While Omega-6 fat is an essential fat for the body we tend to get too much of it, especially in terms of how much Omega 3 fat we ingest. It is best to try and get equal amounts of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fat in our diet. Foods HIGH in Omega 6 include oils such as soybean and corn oil which are used in processed foods and beef that is raised on a large amount of grain instead of grass-fed. Foods HIGH in Omega 3, which are the foods you should eat more of include, fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, and halibut, flax seeds, and walnuts.
- Trans Fats – These are the worthless fats otherwise known as hydrogenated vegetable oils. Avoid them at all costs.
- Alcohol – Not necessarily a food, but pro-inflammatory in any case. Alcohol can help contribute to all types of inflammation. Like all things, if you must drink, do it in moderation.
- Grains – Grains contribute to inflammation, if not through gluten (or other protein) sensitivity, then through increased insulin response. While “whole grains” have been touted as being better for you than refined grains (due to a lesser glycemic index), they are still not as good for you in terms of your other foods choices.
When you take all the above together you will realize why processed foods are the worst thing you could possibly be eating. Combine some sugar, wheat flour, and soybean or corn oil, and you have a recipe for inflammation disaster.
So what is the solution? Eating anti-inflammatory foods.
- Fruits and Vegetables – Whole fruits and vegetables, juices don’t count because they usually have too much sugar in them. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables gives you a ton of antioxidants. Oxidative stress is one of the primary causes of inflammation and antioxidants help prevent it.
- Fatty Fish – Again, fatty fish has a high amount of omega 3 fatty acids in it which are anti-inflammatory. You can get it by eating the fish, by taking fish oil supplements, or both.
- Green Tea – The flavonoids in green tea are known for their high amount of antioxidants and therefore their high anti-inflammatory properties.
- Herbs & Spices – Many of the herbs and spices we eat everyday have great anti-inflammatory properties. The top three to eat are garlic, turmeric, and ginger.
- Rest – Again this isn’t exactly a food, but getting adequate sleep every night and having relatively low chronic stress in your life will also help to prevent inflammation in your body.
With all the research coming out about inflammation it is good to incorporate what we are learning about it in terms of our own preventative health. Limiting the things that cause inflammation, and increasing the things that limit inflammation in our bodies and our lives will go a long way to improving our overall health and livelihood.
This is our 16th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…