Today I’m talking about foods that cause chronic inflammation in the body and why it’s so important to follow an anti-inflammatory diet when you have a chronic health condition.
If you want to stop chronic inflammation in your body, eliminating inflammatory foods like the ones I’m talking about today is a massive step in the right direction. The foods we eat either drive inflammation or they equip your body with the means of fighting inflammation. What kinds of foods are you eating?
Recently, I shot a video on some of the most important blood tests used to identify and monitor inflammation. I also did a video on some of the best supplements to take if you are inflamed, and finally I also have a video on the most common causes behind inflammation so, if you haven’t checked that out, make sure you watch these video because as each video builds on the next.
So… here’s the thing, while there are all kinds of medications that people take for inflammation, food including medicinal plants are some of the most powerful medicine on the planet.
What good does it do to take a bunch of anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids and NSAID’S pain relievers, if you continue eating the foods that fuel chronic inflammation.
That’s why I wanted to shoot todays video on foods that cause chronic inflammation. I hope that if you watch the video all the way to the end, you pick up a few foods that you didn’t realize or connect to the inflammation in your body.
Food Can Be Pro-Inflammatory or Anti-Inflammatory- Here’s Why…
So, the food we eat can either be pro-inflammatory or they can be anti-inflammatory. Most foods that drive inflammation and are problematic for us because they either;
- Drive up our sugar levels causing inflammation.
- Wrong kinds of fats for our cell membranes.
- Processed and contain high levels of pesticides, toxins and artificial colors
So, these are the three things that run through my mind anytime I personally eat something.
- Is this food going to drive up my sugar levels?
- Is this food a good fat or a bad fat?
- Is this food processed and containing high level of toxins?
If you ask yourself these three questions- it makes even the most complex diets easy to understand and follow.
So, if you have been struggling with a chronic health problem, you are not sure where to begin, my recommendation is that you start eliminating these top inflammatory foods. So, lets jump into this….
Foods That Cause Chronic Inflammation-Avoid These
This should be no surprise, in my last video I mentioned that insulin is one of the blood tests I recommend having checked when you have inflammation or you have a chronic health problem. You might remember that I said that insulins job it to take the sugar in your blood and dump it into the cells so your cells can make energy. Sugar/excess Insulin will cause chronic inflammation.
If we eat too much sugar, over time, we develop insulin resistance. Being in a state of insulin resistance drives chronic inflammation, causes hormonal imbalances, leads to cancer and all kinds of cardiovascular problems.
One of the key symptoms that makes me think a patient has a problem with insulin resistance is they feel drowsy or tired 30-60 minutes after they eat. If this is you, get your fasting insulin levels checked along with the other blood markers I talked about in the previous article.
So, the easy remedy to get control of your blood sugar levels and high insulin levels is stop eating all sugar. Ditch the sweetened coffee, the sweet tea, the after-meal snacks.
If you consume a lot of fruit sugar, in the form of morning fruit smoothies, it’s a good idea to start transitioning over to a focus on protein and fat rather than carbohydrates and sugar.
Suspect you have a blood sugar problem? Assess your risk here
Increase the amount of fiber you eat, increase the amount of protein and fat. Something you need to start doing is looking at your food and beverage labels.
I always like to look a food label and look at the number of grams of carbohydrates and the number of sugars. If you take that number and divide by the number 4- this will give you the number of teaspoons of sugar in that drink or in the food you just consumed- Then take a look at the number of servings and multiply it by that number. Sometimes that can be your rude awakening as to how much sugar you are getting.
Gluten is another food that will cause inflammation. Gluten is the protein found in a variety of grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. It’s found in bread, pizza, pasta, cereal, and most processed food.
People who have Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity need to avoid gluten because the proteins found in gluten are highly inflammatory and damage the intestinal lining. The damage to intestinal lining can set off a histamine reaction, lead to food allergies and food sensitivities well as cause leaky gut.
How Gluten Causes Chronic Inflammation.
Gliadin is one of the protein fragments found in gluten that have been shown to cause a break down in our gut barrier. Essentially gluten damages the gut lining by making them more porous. Gliadin fragments can cross the gut barrier through one of two pathways:
- Transcellular—through the cells that line the gut (which encompasses multiple routes)
- Paracellular—in between the cells that line the gut
Different people have different ways in which these gluten fragments cause leaky gut. More information on leaky gut, testing for leaky, causes of leaky gut, fatigue and leaky gut can be found here
Refined carbohydrates are found in most baked goods and other foods in your grocery stores, including white bread, bagels, crackers, pasta, flour tortillas, and breakfast cereal, fruit drinks, frozen dinners, pasta sauces, etc. Besides being full of gluten, preservatives, unnatural colors, they are devoid of nutrients and promote chronic inflammation.
When you eat refined or simple carbs “bad”, your bloodstream is flooded with sugar which causes a surge of insulin to clear the sugar from your blood. After a few hours, the drop of insulin now leave you feeling hungry and craving the next fix- from more sugary carbs.
Do this often enough and not only will you develop poor eating habit like overeating, you will also now start packing on the weight, and over time develop insulin resistance, leptin resistance, Thyroid problems and type-2 diabetes.
Diets high in refined carbs and sugar have also been linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, Leaky Gut, hyperactivity, mood disorders, and even suicide in teenagers.
Good Carbs Vs Bad Carbs
Unlike simple carbs, complex carbohydrates/starches “good” are high in fiber, good for gut health and and are digested more slowly than refined carbohydrates. Due to the fiber there is a more natural increase in our insulin levels. If you are new to following an anti-inflammatory diet, start by increasing more of the complex Carbs and Starches you see below.
- Cassava Root / 1 cup (206g) = 78g carbs
- Plantains / 1 cup (148g) = 47g carbs
- Taro Root / 1 cup (132g) = 46g carbs
- Yam / 1 cup (136g) = 37g carbs
- Acorn Squash / 1 cup (205g) = 31g carbs
- Parsnips / 1 cup (178g) = 27g carbs
- White Potato / 1 cup (122g) = 27g carbs
- Sweet Potato / 1 cup (133g) = 26.8g carbs
- Butternut Squash / 1 cup (205g) = 22g carbs
- Green Peas / 1 cup (145g) = 21g carbs
- Onion / 1 cup (210g) = 21g carbs
- Lotus Root / 1 cup (120g) = 19g carbs
- Carrots / 1 cup (128g) = 13g carbs
- Beets / 1 cup (136g) = 13g carbs
- Kohlrabi / 1 cup (165g) = 12g carbs
- Winter Squash / 1 cup (116g) = 10g carbs
- Turnips / 1 cup (130g) = 8g carbs
- Broccoli / 1 cup (91g) = 6g carbs
Increase More of These Fruits
- Raisins / 1 cup (165g) = 131g carbs
- Mango / 1 cup (165g) = 28g carbs
- Banana / 1 medium banana = 27g carbs
- Pineapple / 1 cup (165g) = 21g carbs
- Pear / 1 cup (140g) = 21g carbs
- Blueberries / 1 cup (148g) = 21g carbs
- Oranges / 1 cup (180g) = 21g carbs
- Dates / 1 date = 18g carbs
- Apple / 1 cup (125g) = 17g carbs
- Honeydew / 1 cup (177g) = 16g carbs
- Peach / 1 cup (154g) = 15g carbs
- Coconut / 1 cup shredded (80g) = 12g carbs
- Avocados / 1 cup (146g) = 12g carbs
- Persimmon / 1 fruit = 8g carbs
As a general rule of thumb, Complex carbs and starches are nutrient dense, have a lower glycemic load, contain more anti-oxidants, contain prebiotics that feed the gut microbiome. For these reasons, these foods have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
Meat, Meat Glue, Dairy
Now when I say “meat”- the kind of meat I am talking about include the kinds of meat where the animals are not pumped with hormones, steroids, antibiotics, genetically modified grains. Meat does not cause inflammation in our bodies the way we are told.
Cows are designed to eat grass, not be fattened up on corn, chickens are designed to forage for insects, plants, wild seeds, they too are not designed to eat corn, and lastly fish- all fish are designed to eat smaller fish, insects, algae- they were never designed to eat corn. But that’s what’s happening in modern agriculture.
So, if the meat you are eating is raised on corn, antibiotics, growth hormones, steroids, this kind of meat is not worth eating.
When you take an animal and feed it foods that it’s not biologically designed to eat, you modify the natural balance of fats in the animal. Many of these animals will have a higher omega 6 content and lower omega 3 content. They get sick more often which requires more medications.
Make sure that the meat you eat comes from animals that were raised humanely and fed a diet that is meant for them to keep them healthy and are not treated with growth hormones and antibiotics.
Remember cows and fish don’t rummage and forage through the cornfields, nor should you!
Look for labels that state the fish are wild caught, the beef is grass fed, and the poultry is pasture raised. So, again meat in itself does not cause inflammation, the wrong kinds of meat combined with diets loaded with sugar cause inflammation.
The other thing about meat is that some individuals can have reaction to the glues in meats. You may be saying Glue in meat? Keep reading…..
Meat glue is also known as transglutaminase and for some people ingestion of these transglutaminase can trigger inflammation and all kinds of GI problems including autoimmunity.
Transglutaminase is an enzyme that allows small pieces of meat to bind together with other pieces of meat which in turn allow for larger more uniform pieces.
Meat glue is also used to improve the texture of sausages, chicken nuggets, imitation crab, bread, and cheese. Hopefully I’ve got you thinking about how would you know if your meat or food has meat glue in it? ,
The USDA requires meat, egg, and poultry producers to list transglutaminase on ingredient labels. But like most of the government run agencies, they are not always so clear in how they provide this information to consumers.
So again, read your labels and look for something that says, transglutaminase, or “TG enzyme,” “TGP enzyme” used.
If the food package has used this enzyme at any point in the manufacturing process, the food should also be labeled as “formed” or “reformed” meat.
In 2016 a study appeared in Autoimmunity Reviews, individuals with a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease should avoid foods made with meat glue (Transglutaminase).
So if you are someone with a compromised immune systems, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, thyroid problems, should reconsider eating all foods with meat glue (Transglutaminase) and stick to whole, unprocessed meats.
So just some things to be on the look out for.
I get a lot of questions about dairy- and so if you are inflamed, I recommend that you try eliminating all dairy including raw milk, butter, yogurt for 90-120 days to see how you do.
If you have multiple food sensitivities, or you are noticing that you are starting to react foods that you never had problems with then I recommend you go straight to testing for both food allergies and delayed food sensitivities. We can help you with both.
So, we talked about how sugar (insulin) drives inflammation and other metabolic-hormone problems in your body so you might be thinking well I don’t eat any of those sugars, I use artificial sugars.
Your artificial sugars, that was made in lab probably by some pharmaceutical company come with their own problems.
If you use any of the artificial sugars like aspartame, Sweet and Low, Ace-K, Equal you will want to check out the video I did on sugar substitutes and why you want to avoid them.
While many of these sugars are zero calories, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily healthy.
They may not raise your blood sugar the way ordinary sugar does, but they still are highly inflammatory.
They have a neurotoxic effect on your brain can lead to mood disorders, depression and anxiety, they cause all kinds of gastrointestinal problems including gut dysbiosis that I talk about in this video. Three sugar substitutes you want to avoid.
Trans Fats aka Hydrogenated Oil-
Trans fats and hydrogenated oils are another cause of chronic inflammation. If you start reading labels you will start noticing that certain foods packaging might say “hydrogenated” if you see this in your food label avoid it.
Hydrogenated fats are Trans fats- these are typically found in your oils, your snacks, cereals, your potato chips, soups, etc.
These trans fats upset the balance between the good and bad cholesterol levels in your body. Hydrogenated fats raising the bad cholesterol and lowering the good cholesterol. So, if you look at your LDL cholesterol- are these high? Are your HDL on the low end?
Numerous studies also show that when you disturb this ratio, you are at greater risk for heart attacks, strokes, and type 2 diabetes. All conditions that are caused by inflammation.
Highly Processed Vegetable and Seed Oil
It’s important to eat a balance of omega 3 and omega 6. In fact, with many of my patients we will test all the different kinds of fats and then look at the omega 3 index. Omega 3 come from fish, flax seed while your omega 6 comes from the vegetable and seed oils things like vegetable oils, corn oils, canola, soybean, safflower, sunflower seed oil.
If you are not eating fish or consuming flax seed, my best guess is that you going to have a higher omega 6 ratio. This will promote inflammation in your body.
Remember you need to balance your omega 6 and your omega 3’s. One thing I want to be clear on is that your body needs omega 6. I’ve seen too many patients who on testing had extremely low levels of omega 6’s. This is not good. You need omega 6 essential fatty acids, you just don’t want to have too many of them because they can convert to inflammatory fatty acid known as arachidonic acid.
Omega-6 fats, which again come from vegetable oils, have benefits. They lower harmful LDL cholesterol and boost protective HDL. They help keep blood sugar in check by improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
The main charge against omega-6 fats is that the body can convert the most common one, linolenic acid, into another fatty acid called arachidonic acid, and arachidonic acid is a building block for molecules that can promote inflammation, blood clotting, and the constriction of blood vessels. While this is all true, the body also converts arachidonic acid into molecules that calm inflammation and fight blood clots.
So, the takeaway message here is that you have been eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), you need to increase your omega 3s, minimize your omega 6’s. If you have been avoiding omega 6’s its time to reintroduce them back into your diet while monitoring healthy balance between the two. If you are really tryin to take your health to the next level, get your omega 3 index in the 8-12% range.
This can be accomplished by eating more fatty fish or supplementing with a high quality fish oil.
Following an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Following an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best things you can do to reduce inflammation, lower your risk of developing a chronic disease, and improving your overall health.
Remember what I said in the beginning of the video, there are three things that run through my mind anytime I eat something.
Is this food going to drive up my sugar and insulin levels? is this food a good fat or a bad fat? and is this food processed and containing high level of toxins, artificial colors, and flavors?
If I can’t answer these three questions, I don’t want to put it in my body and nor should you!
While I realize that it is impossible to review everything about an anti-inflammatory diet in a video like this- this video should give you a jump start on what you should be avoiding as well as some of the benefits of eating an anti-inflammatory diet.
If you feel you need help implementing a dietary strategy and you need help with meal planning and recipes reach out to my clinic.
I have several nutritionists who can take the guess work out of what to eat and what not to eat. They can help with meal planning and really help get you back on track from a dietary approach.
If you are interested in getting tested or digging deeper into your health problems because you have a lot of different kinds of health issues going on visit my website and look for the start here button– tell me a little about what you are struggling with and what you need help with, and we can then strategize the best approach to handle and tackle these problems.
Well, there you go! Hope you learned or were reminded of a few things today, also be sure to check out the other videos in this series- best blood tests for identifying and monitoring inflammation as well as Supplements to help reduce inflammation.
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- Best Blood Tests for Detecting and Measuring Inflammation