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In my last post, we discussed sugar and how bad it is for your body. So many things can go wrong when you over-consume sugar!
One of the issues with sugar is it causes inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is not always a bad thing. In today’s post, I’d like to take a closer look at inflammation in the body.
Let’s get started.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s response to a foreign invader in our body. The classic signs of inflammation are heat, pain, redness, loss of function, and swelling.
Think of the last time that you got a splinter. If you left it in the skin, your body reacted by releasing some chemicals to trigger a response from the immune system. The body released antibodies and proteins and sends more blood flow to the damaged area. This process lasts a couple hours, or at most a couple of days if there is acute inflammation.
If you leave the splinter there, there will be redness at the site, it will feel warm, and it will hurt. These are the body’s natural responses to something it sees as a foreign object that may cause an infection. This is not a bad thing. Inflammation is a good response to help us stay healthy.
Inflammation is the body’s way of signaling the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue, as well as defend itself against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria.
The problem occurs when we have chronic inflammation in the body. If our immune system is constantly having to release the chemical needed to reduce the inflammation in our bodies, our immune system gets overloaded.
As I mentioned above, the symptoms of acute inflammation (short term; a splinter for example) are obvious: redness, pain, heat, and swelling.
The symptoms of chronic inflammation are more subtle, and we may not even realize that we are experiencing inflammation. Some of the common symptoms of chronic inflammation are:
These symptoms can be mild or severe and may last for days, months, or years.
Here are some of the factors that cause chronic inflammation:
- untreated acute inflammations, such as infection or injury
- an auto-immune disorder, where your body is attacking itself for no good reason
- long term exposure to harmful elements in the environment
- continual ingestion of foods that cause inflammation
Also, smoking, alcohol, obesity, and chronic stress may add to the levels of inflammation in the body.
Our bodies are equipped to handle the eating of an inflammatory food once in a while. It treats it like it treats the sliver, and gets rid of the problem in short order.
But if we continually give our bodies work to do, to rid ourselves of the inflammation causing foods, we overload the immune system and chronic inflammation is the end result.
If chronic inflammation is left unchecked, it could lead to:
As you can see, there is no good side to chronic inflammation. We need to take care of it, just like we remove the splinter before it causes us pain, or at least right away when we notice it!
There are several ways to deal with chronic inflammation. You could take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, but long term use of these drugs can cause their own issues including ulcers or kidney problems.
Another option is to take steroids. Corticosteroids are a type of hormone that reduces inflammation and suppresses the immune system. This will help with the inflammation, but again, long term use can cause issues with your vision, give you high blood pressure, or lead to osteoporosis.
There are also supplements and spices, such as curcumin (turmeric) that are helpful in reducing inflammation.
But let’s focus on food.
Remember I mentioned that inflammation is just as much about what we don’t et as what we do eat?
Let’s start there.
Even if you don’t think you have inflammation in your body, you probably do. Everyone reacts differently to the foods they eat. Two people can eat the same food and react differently. Peanuts are a perfect example.
Please remember that inflammation left unchecked can lead to any number of diseases, as mentioned above. We need to do all we can to reduce inflammation, and if it is a simple as avoiding certain foods, we owe it to ourselves to do just that. Avoid them.
So if that is the case, what foods are causing inflammation in our bodies? In no particular order:
- Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup – see this article for details.
- Artificial Trans Fats also known as hydrogenated oils. These can be found in French Fries, other fried fast foods, some microwave popcorn, certain margarines and vegetable shortenings, packaged cakes and cookies, some pastries, and all processed foods that list hydrogenated vegetable oil on the label.
- Vegetable and Seed Oils which contain very high omega-6 fatty acids such as soybean, safflower, sunflower, and corn oils.
- Refined Carbohydrates – remember, all carbs are not created equally, as I mentioned in this article. The carbs we get from fruits and vegetables are fine, since there is a lot of fibre we are also getting from the food. Refined carbs have had the fibre removed, and they will always raise your blood sugar and cause an insulin response, which=h may lead to inflammation. Refined carbs are found in candy, bread, pasta, pastries, some cereals, cookies, cakes, sugary soft drinks, and all processed foods that contain added sugar or flour.
- Excessive Alcohol consumption can lead to inflammation. Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to have many health benefits, but excessive consumption, not so much. You should try to limit yourself to 14 units of alcohol per week. To calculate this, take the volume of alcohol in milliliters and multiply that by the alcohol per volume (APV). then divide this number by 1000 to give you the number of units. This would be about 6 or 7 beers in a week, or 2-3 beers and a bottle of wine per week. Some say two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Any more than that would be considered excessive.
- Processed Meats such as sausage, bacon, ham, smoked meats, and beef jerky. These meats contain a large quantity of advanced glycation end products which have been linked to various diseases.
If we can increase our health by reducing the inflammation in our bodies just by avoiding these foods, what have we got to lose? We should give it a try and see if we feel better!
So, enough with the negative. Here is a list of all the yummy foods you should be eating to reduce inflammation in your body:
- Tomatoes – if you are eating them raw, you can consume the entire tomato, skin, seeds, and all. If you are cooking with tomatoes, please remove the seeds and the skin, as they have the most lectin, which can cause leaky gut and more inflammation.
- Olive Oil – please choose the extra virgin variety, and feel free to consume up to one bottle a week on salads, in drinks, or just straight out of the bottle.
- Green Leafy Vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collards.
- Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts.
- Nuts such as almonds and walnuts. Not all nuts, and avoid the skin on the almonds. See this article for details.
- Fatty Fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna ad sardines which contain omega-3 (good for you) not omega-6 Bad for you).
- Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, grapes, and oranges.
- Avocados – one of the few super foods worth its title!
- Green Tea
- Peppers – with the caveat that you remove the seeds (which we all do) and the skin, to reduce your lectin intake.
- Dark Chocolate and cocoa
This list is not exhaustive. There are so many foods that are good for you. Here are a few more.
As long as you avoid junk foods, refined carbs, fried foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meats, and trans fats you will be on your way to eliminating inflammation in your body.
So there you have it.
Inflammation is good and bad. Our immune system uses it for good to remove the bad stuff from our bodies. Continually giving our bodies bad stuff will cause the immune system to overwork and then chronic inflammation becomes an issue.
If you think you are suffering from chronic inflammation, please seek the advice of a medical professional.
The opinions in this article are just that, my opinions.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Also, if you are a father (or mother) (or anyone for that matter) who would like an easy to follow program that includes a menu and work out information, check out this article from a few months ago.
Thanks for listening.
See you in the next article.
Have a great day!