The Shocking Truth About Food and Inflammation
It’s All About Choices
Inflammation is a word we are hearing more and more. Studies show that inflammation may be the root cause of many diseases in the body.
The body responds to stress by creating an inflammation. For example, if you catch a cold, your body may become fevered. Your body is heating up to try to get rid of the virus. But if we stayed in that inflammatory state all the time, it could cause damage in other ways inside the body; problems like aging too quickly, infections, skin conditions, digestive issues, cancer, arthritis and so much more.
Inflammation can be caused by:
· Food sensitivities
· An imbalance of bacteria in the gut
· Toxins from the environment or food we eat
There are several food categories that are shown to be linked to causing inflammation in the body.
Oh dear, all the delicious cheese. Do we have to give up the cheese? Yes, maybe you will have to give up all the delicious cheese. You see, dairy is one of the most inflammatory foods on the market. There are several reasons for this.
First, many people are lactose intolerant. This intolerance is caused when the body can’t produce the enzyme lactase. This enzyme is what helps break down the sugars in milk. Our traditional dairy no longer has this enzyme because it is killed offer during the pasteurization process. This intolerance can lead to gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. Other people who do produce lactase may have a reaction to the milk due to the proteins casein and whey. Casein is similar in construction to gluten. Those who don’t tolerate gluten will likely have an issue with dairy too.
Second, dairy products can cause too much acidity in the body. Milk is an acid forming food. In order for the body to maintain a neutral pH balance (not too much acidity and not too much alkalinity), it pulls nutrients that are stored in our bones. While some drink milk for the calcium to maintain good bone health, it may have the opposite effect and cause osteoporosis because of the nutrients pulled from the bones. Many of the treatments for osteoporosis also cause inflammation in the body.
A third reason that dairy products can lead to inflammation in the body is because it could be full of chemicals and hormones. Our traditional dairy farmers inject cows with growth hormone so that they will produce more milk. This forced production of milk can cause the cows to get infections called mastitis and that gets treated with antibiotics. All of these added components come through the dairy products we consume. One of the side effects of antibiotics in the body is that they kill off “good bacteria” as well as bad. When you get antibiotics in your system from the food you eat, the good bacteria die and that leads to issues in your gut. Things like inflammation can result because the normal gut bacteria are not present to keep everything healthy and working as it should.
Probably the top food that causes inflammation in the body is gluten. So what exactly is gluten? Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and other derivatives of these grains. Gluten acts like a glue and helps maintain the shape of the food.
Why is it bad for so many people? There are a definitely people that have a complete gluten intolerance (like those with Celiac disease) and there are those with a gluten sensitivity. However, there are many in the health and wellness world that believe that gluten is bad for everyone.
You see, the gluten proteins can irritate the gut. This irritation can lead to inflammation. Sustained inflammation leads to gut permeability, which is basically that too many things are passing through the intestinal walls and getting into the bloodstream. What can happen next is a host of autoimmune diseases. Those are the diseases where the body starts attacking itself. Yikes!
In general the medical community does not officially recognize that gluten is a problem for people with arthritis. However, I have heard testimony after testimony where people got off pain meds and anti-inflammatory meds by removing gluten from their diets. My mother is case in point. She had extreme joint pain due to arthritis starting in her early 40’s. She survived her 40’s and 50’s by taking lots and lots of prescription anti-inflammatory pain meds and had three knee replacements surgeries (one knee twice). In her 60’s she heard about gluten and decided to eliminate it and see what happened. Within weeks she was able to completely stop her prescription meds. She also lost about 30 pounds in a short period of time as well. Most of that weight loss was due to a release of the inflammation in her body. And now she is past 70 and feels better than she did when she was in her 40’s!
Sugar is one of the most pervasive foods in our food system. It is also the most addictive. It has been compared to cocaine with that level of addictive properties.
That isn’t the worst news though. Sugar is one of the worst foods for us. It is high in calories, it has no nutritional value and it is the leading cause of obesity. AND it also causes inflammation.
You see, if we consume too much refined sugar then we have too much glucose flowing through our bloodstream. This excess glucose leads to a surplus of something called AGEs, advanced glycation end products. When we have too many of these, they bind with cells and integral proteins and change their normal functions. This leads to oxidative stress and inflammation.
Sugar also is food for the bad bacteria in the gut. Too much bad bacteria leads to an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria, which results in inflammation.
Reducing your intake of added sugars is one of the BEST things you can do for your body. Once you break the addiction to sugar, you can begin to develop your taste buds to PREFER things that are not so sweet.
Processed foods are those generally found in the middle aisles of the grocery and they come in a box, bag or can. These foods have very low nutritional value and often have unnecessary ingredients (and lots of added sugar). Here are a few other things to look for:
1. Trans fats — found in muffins, cookies, doughnuts, frozen pizza etc. — Trans fats do not naturally occur in food, so the body can’t break them down. When the body doesn’t recognize something, it can have an inflammatory response.
2. Saturated fats — chips, candy, burgers — These fats trigger fat tissue and as the cells get bigger they release pro-inflammation agents.
3. Artificial additives — cereal, ice cream, etc. — These are additives that aren’t found in nature. They can be things like coloring, thickeners and flavoring. All of these things can trigger an inflammatory response in the body because the body doesn’t recognize them.
4. Vegetable oil — soy, corn, sunflower, safflower, etc. — These oils are high in Omega-6 fatty acids which are the inflammatory ones. They are also low in Omega-3 fatty acids, the anti-inflammatory ones. That imbalance leads to inflammation.
5. Artificial sweeteners — aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, etc. — These sweeteners cause an increase in the bad bacteria in the gut and decrease the good. Those good bacteria are the ones that release anti-inflammatory agents.
6. Salt — everything processed — There are studies being done that show that excess salt consumption is linked to autoimmune disease and has been shown to be inflammatory in mice.
The key to avoiding inflammatory food is to become a food detective — read packages and educate yourself on what those big words mean. While you are doing that, stick to the outside walls of the grocery, buy organic and grass-fed meats when possible, and make as many things as you can yourself with ingredients that you know are good for you.
One great way to start is to complete a food cleanse. I support my clients as they complete 5, 14 or 21 day food cleanses. During a food cleanse, we eliminate all of the above foods, so that your body has the chance to release inflammation and begin to heal.
Have you completed a food cleanse or eliminated any of the above foods from your diet? I’d love to hear your story and the result you got. Comment below and tell me about it!
Sherry Parks is a Wellness Coach who helps career women escape feeling trapped and out of control in their work life, so that they are happy on their own terms and have joy and excitement for their life. Grab her Free PDF, Top Tips for Successful Food Cleansing, here.