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How to Manage Inflammation with Right Diet

Important Points:

  • Chronic inflammation
  • Mediterranean Diet
  • Processed Foods
  • Refined carbohydrates

How to Manage Inflammation with Right Diet

Redness, hotness, swelling, and pain are the key signs of inflammation. Inflammation is not entirely a bad thing as it alerts us to the presence of an injury or infection, but when it is present long term, it becomes harmful. This chronic inflammation may last for weeks, months, or even years. Recent evidence suggests that the underlying cause of many chronic diseases is linked to chronic inflammation, so an approach that focuses on preventing chronic inflammation may be the best remedy for dealing with the associated chronic diseases. This article sheds light on how diet can be used to prevent chronic inflammation.

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation is a defense mechanism that the body employs in order to protect itself from infection, illness, or injury. Acute infection is usually accompanied by pain at the site, redness, hotness, and swelling, but inflammation, especially internal chronic inflammation, may not have these signs. When infection or inflammation occurs, the body increases the production of white blood cells, immune cells, and substances called cytokines that help fight it, and when the inflammation is the long-term internal type, the body may actually be attacking itself in a way. Inflammation may be caused by injury and infection, but chronic inflammation is also linked to an unhealthy diet, high-stress levels, and lifestyle diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Diet-Induced Inflammation

Some foods have been linked to inflammation, and when you consume these foods regularly you are likely to develop inflammation-related diseases.

Refined foods are made from carbohydrates that have been processed, and processed foods have been shown to cause inflammation. Some studies have linked refined carbs with inflammation, insulin resistance, and obesity. Processed and packaged foods are also likely to contain trans fats that have been linked to inflammation and destruction of endothelial cells that line the arteries in the heart. Examples of refined foods include white rice (but not brown rice), bread, pasta (but not whole wheat pasta), cakes, and other pastries made from refined flour. Trans fats are partially hydrogenated fats that are used in the preparation of most processed foods such as pizzas, cookies, and cakes. Processed meat such as bacon and sausages also contain unhealthy fats that may trigger chronic inflammation.

Numerous studies have linked chronic inflammation to an unhealthy diet. If you want to reduce inflammation, eat fewer inflammatory foods and more anti-inflammatory foods by adopting a fiber-rich and nutrient-dense diet with minimal amounts of processed foods. Diets that contain antioxidants can minimize your chances of developing chronic inflammation as antioxidants fight off free radicals created as a natural part of your metabolism; these free radicals can lead to inflammation when they’re not held in check.

An ideal anti-inflammatory diet should provide enough protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fat in the required proportions and contain natural foods instead of processed ones. The Mediterranean diet is one kind of diet that has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet originates from the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Its mainstay is healthy fats, and it is centered on locally sourced animal products, seafood, vegetables, nuts, butter and olive oil. Mediterranean diets omit refined and processed foods. When it comes to alcohol, the Mediterranean diet allows the intake of red wine in moderation. A low carbohydrate diet also reduces inflammation particularly for people who are obese or have metabolic syndrome.  An often overlooked component of the Mediterranean diet is the lifestyle which involves much higher levels of human connectedness as well as periods of intermittent fasting.

The health risks of inflammatory foods

Most foods that have been linked to type 2 diabetes are also associated with inflammation and are also likely to cause weight gain and obesity. It appears that ingredients in these foods have an independent role to play in the development of inflammation.

On the contrary, foods and beverages that reduce inflammation have been linked to reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Foods such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols, compounds that have cardioprotective effects as well as anti-cancer effects. Whole nuts have also been linked to reduced markers of inflammation as well as a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

  • By altering what you eat you could reduce your chances of chronic inflammation. To wrap this up, here are foods to eat and foods to avoid.
  • Pro-inflammation Foods to Avoid
  • Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, white pasta
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas
  • Sweetened baked treats such as cakes, cookies
  • Processed snacks such as chips and pretzels
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Anti-inflammatory Foods to Eat
  • Real food, including animal products
  • Fatty fish that is rich in omega oils such as salmon, herring, and anchovies
  • Vegetables
  • Dark chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Red wine

References

1.   NCBI (2012): Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and maybe the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22826636

2.   NCBI (2014): The effects of the Mediterranean diet on biomarkers of vascular wall inflammation and plaque vulnerability in subjects with high risk for cardiovascular disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24925270

3.   NCBI (2013): Very low carbohydrate diet significantly alters the serum metabolic profiles in obese subjects. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24224694

4.   NCBI (2004): Effects of a long-term vegetarian diet on biomarkers of antioxidant status and cardiovascular disease risk. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15474873

 

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Lifestyle Induced Inflammation

Important Points:

  • Inflammation
  • Lifestyle change
  • Healthy diet
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Trans fats

Lifestyle Induced Inflammation

Inflammation is not entirely a bad thing. When it happens over extended periods, it can trigger diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. A number of foods that we eat have been linked to chronic low-grade inflammation, so being aware of them and eliminating them from your diet can help to improve your health and prevent disease.

5 Foods that Trigger Inflammation

1. Artificial Sugars

There are two main types of artificial sugars:

  • Table sugar – sucrose composed of 50% glucose and 50% fructose
  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – 45% glucose and 55% fructose.

One reason artificial sugars are harmful is that they can increase inflammation which can lead to disease. In one study, mice fed high-sucrose diets developed breast cancer that spread to their lungs, in part due to the inflammatory response to sugar. In another study, the anti-inflammatory impact of omega-3 fatty acids was impaired in mice fed a high-sugar diet.

In yet another study, people were given regular soda, diet soda, milk, or water. Of these, only those in the regular soda group had increased levels of uric acid which causes inflammation and insulin resistance. While the small amounts of fructose in fruits and vegetables are fine, getting large amounts from added sugars is a bad idea. Eating a lot of fructose has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer, and chronic kidney disease. Food high in artificial sugar includes candy, soft drinks, cakes, sweet pastries, and certain cereals.

2. Artificial Trans Fats

Artificial trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats, which are liquid, in order to make them solid. In a solid state they have a longer shelf life. Consequently, manufacturers often use trans fats to extend the shelf life of processed foods such as French fries and other fried fast food, margarine and vegetable shortening, packaged cakes and cookies, pastries, and all processed food with “partially hydrogenated” oils as part of the ingredients.

Artificial trans fats have been shown to cause chronic low-grade inflammation. They lower “good” HDL cholesterol levels and may cause damage to endothelial cells lining arteries which is a risk factor for heart disease.

3. Refined Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the source of energy for our cells. However, refined carbohydrates, which have most of the fiber removed, may cause inflammation by creating an environment for the growth of inflammatory microbiota. They may also cause leptin resistance and obesity.

Fiber is essential for promoting satiety and improving blood sugar control. Refined carbs have a higher glycemic index (GI) than unrefined carbs, and foods with a high glycemic index elevate blood sugar rapidly. White bread is an example of refined carbohydrates. In one study, subjects who ate 50 grams of white bread experienced higher blood sugar levels and a spike in inflammatory markers. Refined carbohydrates are found in white bread, pasta, white rice, carbonated drinks, cakes and all processed food that contains added sugar or white flour.

4. Excessive Alcohol

Moderate consumption of alcohol has been associated with cardiovascular benefits, however excessive consumption is likely to cause inflammation and trigger disease. Heavy drinking can also trigger leaky gut syndrome which is a precursor for inflammation and organ damage. Moderate alcohol consumption should not exceed two standard bottles for men and one standard bottle for women.

5. Processed Meat

Excessively processed meats have added compounds such as advanced glycation end products which are harmful to the body. They have been linked with heart disease, diabetes, stomach cancer, and colon cancer. Common types of processed meat include some sausages, bacon, ham, smoked meat, and beef jerky. Advanced glycation products are created by exposing meats to high temperatures during preparation. These products are known to increase oxidant stress and inflammation, and cause inflammation through other mechanisms as well. As a result, it is wise to minimize the consumption of processed meat.

The Bottom Line for Inflammation and Disease

Chronic low-grade inflammation is linked to a number of chronic diseases including cancer, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. These conditions further contribute to inflammation making it a vicious cycle. It is also evident that lifestyle contributes to this kind of toxic inflammation, and by altering diet and making a few lifestyle changes one can greatly minimize their chances of getting these diseases. It is not enough to just drop these unhealthy foods, but you need to replace them with healthier alternatives. Here is an article about foods that reduce inflammation (hyperlink to the article on managing inflammation with diet).

What happens if you have already been diagnosed with an inflammation-related disease? Do not panic as hope is not lost. By altering your diet, you can claim your health back. Foods that promote insulin sensitivity can help to reverse diabetes and cure obesity. You can also read our article on how to reverse diabetes with diet.

If you are at high risk for lifestyle-related disease there is no shortcut to health and longevity; you just have to take drastic measures to change your diet and lifestyle. A good place to start is by eliminating these toxic foods from your diet.

References

1.   NCBI (2010): The global diabetes epidemic as a consequence of lifestyle-induced low-grade inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19890624

2.   NCBI (2015): Differences and similarities in hepatic lipogenesis, gluconeogenesis and oxidative imbalance in mice fed diets rich in fructose or sucrose. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25905791

3.   NCBI (2014): Trans fatty acids: are its cardiovascular risks fully appreciated? Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24636816

4.   NCBI (2005): Consumption of trans fatty acids is related to plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15735094

5.   NCBI (2008): High-glycemic index carbohydrate increases nuclear factor-kappaB activation in mononuclear cells of young, lean healthy subjects. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18469238