If someone yelled “fire, fire” what would your response be?
Probably high-tail it out of where you’re standing or chip in and help try to get it under control. What if your body is yelling “inflammation, inflammation” would your response time be as quick?
Inflammation seems to be a buzzword in health circles lately, but inflammation is something we’re used to terms of broken bones, or rashes, or some other acute injury. You’ve seen it, right? You get a case of poison ivy and you swell around the areas of the rash. That my friend is inflammation. You can see it, you feel confident in dealing with it. You watch it dissipate in a few days or weeks.
There’s another type of inflammation that you rarely see.
It’s happening on the inside and can be so quiet that you may not even know it’s there. It’s known as chronic inflammation. It’s like a slow-burning fire and one that you may continue to feed with the foods you eat, the toxins you’re exposed to, or the quality of sleep you receive. You may not even realize the fire’s been burning until it’s all of sudden out of control.
Think of a small camp-fire on a windy day, in dry conditions. It’s the perfect opportunity for the fire to spread insanely fast and burn up everything in it’s path. The choices you make may continue to put gas on your internal fire until the conditions are just right for the fire to spread out of control.
What does that look like? It takes any number of forms from diabetes, asthma, mental health disorders, depression, anxiety…you get the picture.
Truth is chronic inflammation can have a whole heap of health effects and can make you more likely to develop sooo many health conditions. Foods can be a key source of fuel you’re using to ignite and/or feed the flames. You may think that you are eating all the right anti-inflammatory foods, but the effects of anti-inflammatory foods can be hugely negated if you’re also consuming plenty of inflammatory foods. Here are a few of the sources of fuel for increasing inflammation.
Not all carbs are bad but refined carbs can raise inflammation levels. Research has suggested that they can increase levels of inflammatory gut bacteria that can make you more likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease and be obese.
In a study involving young, healthy men who ate 50g of refined carbs had higher blood sugar levels and certain inflammatory markers had also increased.
White bread and white pasta are super common examples of refined carbs. Swap them for whole-grain alternatives to give yourself a fiber boost.
Some vegetable oils can be extremely inflammatory, including soybean oil. They can contribute a ton of omega-6 fatty acids.
Given that the typical Western diet (SAD diet, as I like to call it) is already full of omega-6 fatty acids and often doesn’t include adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, cooking with these types of oils may increase inflammation levels even more.
In a study on rats, consuming a lot more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids increased inflammatory markers.
Ideally, you want to be getting a lot more omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6 fatty acids to keep inflammation in check.
There’s a ton of evidence to say that trans fats are one of the worst things you can eat when it comes to inflammation. They’re hugely inflammatory and raise the risk factor for a whole heap of conditions.
These types of fats can lower levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and have negative effects on endothelial cells in the blood vessels. The latter is one of the risk factors for heart disease.
They can also raise inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP). In one study, women with high levels of CRP also consumed large amounts of trans fats in their diet.
Trans fats are found in a ton of processed foods, including margarine, cookies, donuts, crackers, breakfast products, and processed snacks. Fried foods and fast food are also culprits.
Scan food labels and swerve anything with “partially hydrogenated fats” on the label. This is a big giveaway that trans fats are lurking.
Saturated fats can be a problem too. According to some research, it can “short circuit” immune cells, which can cause an inflammatory response. This can raise the risk factor for heart disease and arthritis, amongst other conditions.
Full-fat dairy products, pizza, red meat, and cheese are some of the biggest sources of saturated fat. If you eat a lot of these foods, look for lower-fat alternatives.
Sugar is extremely inflammatory and is a super common culprit for raising inflammation levels and keeping them high.
High-fructose corn syrup can be a big problem here, not least because it’s added to tons of processed foods.
Research has shown that a high-fructose diet can lead to inflammation in the endothelial cells in the blood vessels and raise the risk factor for developing heart disease.
A high-fructose diet has also been linked to increased inflammatory markers in both mice and humans.
Mice that were given a high-fructose diet didn’t see as much anti-inflammatory effect from omega-3 fatty acids.
The bottom line? If you’re already getting plenty of fructose from fruits and vegetables, you don’t want to be getting a ton from elsewhere too. Added sugars, in general, encourage the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Processed meats are linked to inflammation. They tend to contain a whole heap of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) as they cook, and this can be inflammatory. Eating a lot of processed meat can be a risk factor for certain types of cancer, including colon cancer.
When you think processed foods think meats like bacon, ham, and sausages. Swap processed and fatty meats for fish or lean protein. Poultry and lean cuts of grass-fed beef can work great for the latter.
Foods with MSG
Mono-sodium-glutamate (MSG) is added to a ton of foods to add flavor. It can also encourage inflammation. It’s a super common ingredient in pre-prepared Asian foods, soy sauce, salad dressings, pre-prepared soups, deli meats, and fast food.
If you eat these types of foods regularly, think about making your own soups, salad dressings, and Asian-inspired dishes. It may take a little bit more time but you’ll know that it’s free from MSG and a lot healthier into the bargain.
So many adverse effects can be prevented by avoiding these inflammatory foods. It will allow you to put away your personal gas can while having noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health.
If you find this post beneficial, then connect with me to keep the conversation going about how to improve your health to live a longer, healthier life.
Until next time!
Health & Hugs
This is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional mental advice or medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional mental health advice or treatment, or medical advice or treatment. If you have a medical or mental health concern you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical or mental health treatment. Never disregard professional treatment because of something you read on this blog. If you feel you have an emergency situation, seek professional help immediately.