Many times people look to their appearance to determine which foods work for their body and which don’t. However, more often than not, you won’t see an external reaction before your body has an internal one. This is why people’s diets can become so dangerous, especially when they are constantly harming their internal system without even realizing it. Especially now, Americans are constantly eating foods that are extremely inflammatory, and they might not even see effects from it. And other times, they don’t even realize certain changes in their bodies are due to inflammatory foods. Your body uses inflammation as against mechanism to prevent bad things from entering your body (for example, when white blood cells rush to a new cut or wound). However, constant inflammation over time (especially internally) can cause a lot of damage in our bodies and lead to diseases (the root of almost every disease is inflammation); so it’s important to realize it before it’s too late.
Inflammation and Inflammatory Foods:
People say that training the same muscles every single day is bad because it doesn’t give your body time to recover. Imagine constantly cutting yourself in the same place – obviously your body is going to have a heck of a hard time healing that spot. So why would we want to do this with food to our gut? If you’re constantly eating foods that irritate your gut, eventually it’ll lead to chronic inflammation. And chronic inflammation can cause a lot of good things in the body to turn bad, and make a lot of bad diseases even worse. While all of this should sound absolutely terrible, it’s also significantly harder to deal with because all of this is going on internally. So, it makes it much harder to detect and keep in mind all the time. But then how do we treat this?
An important thing is to know signs of inflammation so you can then go and figure out what foods could have caused it. Many signs of inflammation are also characteristics that people actually find normal now. These include: Brain fog, fatigue, breaking out (acne), bloating, retaining water, and food cravings. Most of these things people find normal after they eat, but chances are, it’s actually because they ate something that caused inflammation inside their body.
Here are 5 foods/types of foods that are commonly eaten but should definitely be avoided when trying to prevent inflammation (keep in mind that regardless of how all the chemicals in the foods listed below will react with and in your body, introducing the toxins from them in the first place can cause a lot of inflammation in the body in an attempt to get rid of them):
In general, the less sugar, the better – and this holds true all the time. However, excess and refined sugar is especially bad for an endless number of reasons. A big one related to inflammation is that eating sugar releases inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are actually good for the body when secreted in response to an injury/wound. However, when you are constantly eating sugar and causing the body to release these cytokines, it eventually turns a good thing into a very bad one. The second big reason why sugar (especially refined sugar and in excess) is terrible is because the exposure of sugar results in the glycation of Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGE’s) which are a factor in aging and many degenerative diseases. Other reasons why sugar should be avoided is because it’s very acidic which can lead to inflammation and it also spikes your insulin (which Mike and I will probably do another article on).
- Excess Omega-6 Fatty Acids (beware of OILS!)
Don’t get me wrong, Omega-6 is found in a ton of healthy, whole foods including chicken, eggs, and nuts. However, stay away from oils including vegetable oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, sesame oil, canola oil, etc. which are extremely high in Omega-6 especially compared to Omega-3. And Omega-6 is actually pro-inflammatory! In addition to that, these oils are stored in bottles and placed on shelves for long periods of times before being used. Because of the exposure to oxygen, the fats oxidize; and oxidized fats cause inflammation. That doesn’t mean to cut out all sources of Omega-6; it just means to cut out the bad sources of Omega-6 and increase your Omega-3 intake which will actually help reduce inflammation. I have talked about the importance of the 1:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio on my Instagram, which is something ancient hunter-gatherers followed. And history tells us that they were free of many inflammatory diseases we have today including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Also, don’t eat fried foods or chips because they are all FULL of these bad oils and are 100% going to inflame your body. When you fry the fats, it damages them and inflammation occurs as a result of eating them.
- Refined Carbohydrates
I see many people over-consume carbohydrates, especially refined carbs. These include breads, cookies, cakes, bagels, crackers, cereals, and more. When you eat carbs, your body produces a large surge of insulin (which causes your blood sugar to spike). The large release of insulin inflames the pancreas (which makes the insulin) and leads to the down-regulation of the pancreas. This can lead to the diabetes. The massive release of insulin can also lead to damage in arteries and blood vessels which contributes to inflammation and cardiovascular disease. There is a clear trend between the spiking of insulin from refined carbs (and sugar) and inflammation. To avoid this, stay away from refined carbohydrates and eat carbs that are accompanied with fiber to reduce the amount of inflammation produced. These include fruits (in moderation) and lots of vegetables.
This one is definitely more highly debated but it is commonly found to be pretty inflammatory. Approximately 1% of Americans are flat out gluten intolerant, but about 5% are known to have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity. That’s 1 in 20. Mike and I will probably have a whole article on gluten and the harm it can do inside your body if it can’t be digested. However, until then, keep in mind that in a lot of people, gluten can cause inflammation and do damage to your gut lining. Even for those without gluten sensitivities, the body can’t fully break down the gluten protein which causes digestive distress and leads to inflammation.
- Excessive Alcohol
Everyone knows excessive alcohol is bad for you, especially on your liver. But to be honest, that doesn’t stop a ton of people from still drinking more than they should, and doing that way more often than they should. Aside from inflaming your liver, excessive alcohol causes inflammation in your pancreas, called Pancreatitis, which prevents your pancreas from working properly (the effects from sugar is similar to this). And like many of the other inflammatory foods, this can lead to long-term diseases including pancreatic cancer.
While avoiding inflammatory foods as much as possible is definitely going to help decrease the damage done to your gut (as well as your brain, joints, cardiovascular system, and more) from your nutrition, it’s also important to be incorporating lots of anti-inflammatory foods into your daily meals as well.
Here are 5 great ones that help:
Cucumbers are high in antioxidants and are highly anti-inflammatory in addition to the multitude of other benefits they have. Because they are alkalizing, they help fight inflammation in your body. The alkalizing trait also creates an environment in your body where cancer can’t thrive. Cucumbers are not only great for digestion, but they are also really great with helping to fight off cancers related to estrogen (including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer) by binding and converting the hormones that are associated with them.
- Good Omega-3 Sources
The reasoning behind this is the same reasoning behind limiting the bad omega-6 intake in the inflammatory food list above. Good omega-3 sources like wild-caught fish and krill oil helps improve your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and are actually anti-inflammatory.
- Green, Leafy Vegetables
Green, leafy vegetables including broccoli, kale, spinach, and brussel sprouts are high in Vitamin E which are said to protect against pro-inflammatory molecules like cytokines (as mentioned in the inflammatory foods list). These vegetables are also great sources of antioxidants and micronutrients in general, so they should definitely be something you try to incorporate into your daily meals.
- Low Sugar Fruits
Berries are typically lower in sugar than other fruits like bananas and apples, and have great anti-inflammatory characteristics. Berries also contain anthocyanins, unlike most other fruits, which are great antioxidants and have really good anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have been done showing the effect of certain berries on reducing arthritis and inflammatory intestinal diseases and disorders.
- Ginger and Turmeric
Ginger and turmeric have long been used especially in Asia. Not only are they really helpful for improving digestion, they have also been seen to improve symptoms of various inflammatory conditions. For thousands of years, these roots have been used for medicinal purposes, and more and more people are beginning to incorporate them into their daily lives as well. Ginger and turmeric have improved physical pains caused by inflammation like arthritis and joint pains, as well as digestive pains caused from inflammation. Turmeric also helps to heal and regenerate your liver which can be damaged from excessive alcohol among other things.
Inflammation is an essential tool that your body uses when healing itself, but chronic inflammation can lead to so many bad problems. It’s important to learn which foods to avoid and which foods to incorporate more of to make sure we’re helping out our bodies as much as we can. And the most convenient part is that the inflammatory foods listed above have so many other dangers, while the anti-inflammatory foods listed above have so many other benefits; and hopefully that makes it much more convincing to keep them in mind in the future. Beating inflammation is a huge first step in beating many diseases.
This article was written based on my own personal experience and some research I found online. It’s important to keep in mind not to drastically change your diet based off of this list. This is just a list to keep in mind when trying to improve your diet to help with inflammation. Always consult with your doctor when making any big changes and be careful of any potential allergies you may have to any items in the article above.