Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
I've been a chiropractor for fifteen years now. I've noticed a trend that many of my patients are experiencing - more aches and pains throughout their whole body, their skin feels hot and puffy and they are feeling increasingly tired and sluggish. While many of these patients do have past traumas or repetitive stress that explain some of their aches and pains, most of my patients are now experiencing whole body inflammation. Inflammation, occurs when the body is fighting off threats from outside stressors, such pollutants, germs, toxins, stress or goods they are allergic or intolerant to. Generally speaking, this is a good thing, because it means the body is increasing its line of defense and properly protecting you.
However, when your body is constantly in a state of inflammation, it means that it is struggling in its fight and causing you harm in the long run. Chronic inflammation is an indication of disease - it limits our body's ability to defend itself, eventually giving way to various degenerative diseases such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, or heart disease. Chronic inflammation means that the body's cells are overheating and wearing down more quickly than they can repair themselves. It means that the body is struggling to overcome illness.
Figuring out why one is inflamed helpful, and can be done through specific lab testing such as the GI Effects Test to measure for leaky gut, or the Adrenocortex test to measure for adrenal insufficiency. But paying attention to the food you eat is just as important.
The foods we eat can increase the occurrence of low-grade, chronic inflammation. In one of my previous blog posts, Did You Know Sugar Can Cause Pain, I touched on just one of the biggest contributors to inflammation, sugar. However, there are lots of foods that have the same effect on the body:
Refined carbohydrates have been stripped of their nutrition and fiber, making it really easy for the body to quickly process them and turn them into sugar. The quicker the body digests foods that contain glucose, the quicker the blood sugar levels spike. When this happens, the body releases insulin to transport the sugar. Insulin is a compound that is associated with increased inflammation. Sugar is a huge contributor to inflammation, as is white flour and white rice.
Vegetable Oil, Saturated Fats, and Trans Fats
Vegetable oil has a high concentration of Omega-6 fatty acids (an inflammatory fat), and a low concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids (an inflammation-fighting fat). Our consumption of these two fatty acids should be 1:1, but in general Americans tend to eat a 20:1 ratio. Additionally, when food is cooked in vegetable oil at high temperatures (via frying, smoking, grilling, or pasteurization), a chemical reaction occurs and a compound called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) is produced, causing inflammation. Saturated fats have been linked to the inflammation of adipose (fat) tissue and the increase in size of these fat cells positively correspond to the body's pro-inflammatory response.
Some dairy (unsweetened yogurt, mainly) can decrease inflammation. However, most dairy contributes to it. It can disrupt the gut biome, reducing the number of good bacteria, which are big players in fighting inflammation. Dairy is also an allergen for a lot of people. And allergens cause the body to release histamines, triggering inflammation.
Grain-fed and Processed Meats
Conventionally farmed animals in America are raised on corn and soy, which they are not evolved to eat. Because of this and other reasons, these animals get sick more frequently and require a lifetime of antibiotics. The combination of antibiotics and grains majorly contributes to inflammation in human consumers. When you add the fact that most of these meats are cooked or fried at high temperatures, it's easy to see that these meats are huge contributors to inflammation. Processed meats are the worst because they, again, have a high concentration of AGEs, as well as preservatives, colorings, and other artificial additives -- all of which contribute to a state of disease.
Artificial Sweeteners and Additives
Artificial sweeteners increase glucose intolerance, increase bad gut bacteria, and disrupt the biome of the gut by killing the good bacteria. Additives in some foods, such as color dyes, increase the inflammatory response because the body does not recognize them as being safe for consumption. Many artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame (in sodas and gum) are also known as excitotoxins. This means that these chemicals literally excite your nerves to death. On top of killing nerves, they increase inflammation. These are on my list of never to be consumed.
Foods That Fight Inflammation
While there are a lot of inflammatory foods out there, it's just as common to find delicious foods that fight the inflammatory response.
Berries and Apples
Berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins which have anti-inflammatory effects. Anthocyanins work by turning off inflammatory genes - blueberries contain the greatest amount of these antioxidants. Apples contain pectin, which is a fruit fiber that aids the gut in producing beneficial bacteria. Pair your berries and apples with yogurt for an even greater anti-inflammatory effect.
Raw Oats and Whole Grains
Raw oats are a resistant starch, which means that they are not easily broken down by the body. They contain lots of fiber, which feeds the body's healthy gut bacteria, which in turn generates butyrate. Butyrate is a fatty acid that increases fat oxidation and reduces body inflammation and insulin resistance.
Ginger and Turmeric
Ginger (especially fresh ginger) contains gingerols which are antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. They work to fight inflammation by blocking out inflammation-causing genes and enzymes. Turmeric contains curcumin, an active compound that inhibits activation of inflammatory pathways by turning off COX-2 and 5-LOX, two inflammation-producing enzymes. It's also what gives turmeric is bright orange color.
Green tea contains catechins, a group of antioxidants found in the tea leaves. Within this group is a very powerful catechin only found in green tea, called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. The high content of EGCG and other antioxidants make it a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Dark chocolate containing 70% and higher cacao content are powerful antioxidants and may lower blood sugar levels. Also, our gut microbes ferment chocolate during digestion, activating anti-inflammatory compounds that turn off genes linked to insulin resistance.
Peppers (Especially Red), Broccoli, Tomatoes, and Spinach
Red peppers have the highest amount of vitamin C out of all the three colors of bell pepper, and also contain bioflavonoids which enhance the benefit of vitamin C. Spinach and broccoli both contain high levels of vitamin K and tomatoes contain high levels lycopene. Both are antioxidants which regulate the body's inflammatory response.
Almonds and Walnuts
Nuts contain high levels of vitamin B6 and monounsaturated fats such as ALA (a plant-based Omega-3), both of which are anti-inflammatory. Almonds also contain Vitamin E which protect our cells from oxidative stress.
Yogurts contain probiotics, which are essential to the balance of the miniature ecosystem of bacteria located in our digestive system. Probiotics are the "good bacteria" that contribute to the health of our guts. If our guts contain a healthy number of these probiotics, it will aid our digestive process by breaking down foods into anti-inflammatory fatty acids. Be careful with yogurt though. It is also one of the foods that has the most added sugar. If you're going to eat yogurt, make sure it is unsweetened. You should also take a high-quality probiotic in addition to add good bacteria to your gut biome. You can order those at Fullscript. Go to Catalog, Digestive Support for a selection of probiotics I recommend.
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Did you know that we now offer Functional Medicine for you or anyone in the country?
I have been studying Functional Medicine for the past year and I'm excited to roll out this wonderful new service! Functional Medicine addresses the root cause of disease, using a systems-oriented, patient-focused model. It addresses not just the symptoms (like pain) but the underlying, often systematic causes of the symptoms. For example, systemic inflammation can cause pain and gastrointestinal dysfunction can cause inflammation.
So rather than just addressing the pain through adjustments, we will help to heal your gut to reduce inflammation and thereby reduce pain. I do this through specialized testing, lifestyle modifications, and supplementation.
We now have test kits available that are sent to you that you can do safely in your own home. We will order them for you and the tests will be sent to you with clear, easy to understand instructions. You then mail the test back to the lab -- no contact required -- and we'll follow up with you in a couple weeks. We will check the health of your gut, testing for things like leaky gut, gut inflammation, gut pathogens or infections, good vs. bad gut bacteria, and digestive enzyme insufficiencies. Issues in your gut can lead to all kinds of problems including pain.
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