Avoid These Foods That Cause Inflammation

If you read my article yesterday, you learned that inflammation is believed by many to be the root cause of all disease.

There are several foods that cause our body to have an inflammatory response and should be consumed only in small quantities, particularly if you suffer from high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, peripheral artery disease (PAD), and especially cancer, whether current or in remission.

Hereโ€™s a list of 14 foods you should avoid or at least limit in your diet.ย There are others but these are some of the main culprits to avoid.

๐Ÿญ.ย ๐—ฆ๐—จ๐—š๐—”๐—ฅ

Iโ€™m sure you couldโ€™ve guessed this one would be on the list. According to a review in the Journal of Endocrinology, when we eat too much glucose-containing sugar, the excess glucose our body canโ€™t process quickly enough can increase levels of pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines. And thatโ€™s not all. Sugar also suppresses the effectiveness of our white blood cellsโ€™ germ-killing ability, weakening our immune system and making us more susceptible to infectious diseases.

๐Ÿฎ.ย ๐—ฉ๐—˜๐—š๐—˜๐—ง๐—”๐—•๐—Ÿ๐—˜ ๐—ข๐—œ๐—Ÿ

Once we became aware of the artery-clogging ill effects of trans fats, manufacturers switched to injecting their products with or frying their foods in vegetable oils such as soy, corn, sunflower, safflower, or palm oilโ€”which wasnโ€™t much better. Thatโ€™s because these vegetable oils have a high concentration of the inflammatory fat, omega-6, and are low in the anti-inflammatory fat, omega-3. In fact, Americans are eating so many vegetable-oil-laden products that the average person has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of around 20:1 when it should be 1:1.

๐Ÿฏ.ย ๐—™๐—ฅ๐—œ๐—˜๐—— ๐—™๐—ข๐—ข๐——๐—ฆ

The issue with these vegetable-oil-fried and processed foods is that they contain high levels of inflammatory advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These are compounds that form when products are cooked at high temperatures, pasteurized, dried, smoked, fried, or grilled. Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that when people cut out processed and fried foods that have high levels of AGEs, markers of inflammation in their body diminished.

๐Ÿฐ.ย ๐—ฅ๐—˜๐—™๐—œ๐—ก๐—˜๐—— ๐—™๐—Ÿ๐—ข๐—จ๐—ฅ

Refined wheat flours have been stripped of their slow-digesting fiber and nutrients, which means your body breaks them down very quickly. The more quickly your body digests glucose-containing foods, like these carbs, the faster your blood sugar levels can spike. This also spikes your insulin levelsโ€”a compound associated with a pro-inflammatory response. A Journal of Nutrition study found that a diet high in refined grains showed a greater concentration of the inflammatory marker, PAI-1, in the blood. On the other hand, a diet rich in whole grains resulted in a lower concentration of the same marker as well as one of the most well-known inflammatory biomarkers, C-reactive protein (CRP).

๐Ÿฑ.ย ๐——๐—”๐—œ๐—ฅ๐—ฌ

While a moderate intake of yogurt can actually help decrease inflammation with its gut-healing probiotics, dairy is also a source of inflammation-inducing saturated fats. On top of that, studies have connected full-fat dairy with disrupting our gut microbiome, actually decreasing levels of our good gut bacteria which are key players in reducing inflammation. And lastly, dairy is a common allergenโ€”30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, according to the FDA. Either way, any type of allergen can trigger inflammatory reactions through the release of histamines. If you feel particularly bloated after a few blocks of cheese, consider cutting dairy from your diet.

๐Ÿฒ.ย ๐—”๐—ฅ๐—ง๐—œ๐—™๐—œ๐—–๐—œ๐—”๐—Ÿ ๐—ฆ๐—ช๐—˜๐—˜๐—ง๐—˜๐—ก๐—˜๐—ฅ๐—ฆ

A 2014 study published in Nature found that artificial sweetener consumption in both mice and humans enhances the risk of glucose intolerance by altering our gut microbiome. Researchers also found an increase in bad gut bacteria that have previously been associated with type 2 diabetes. When our bodies canโ€™t metabolize glucose properly, it can lead to a greater release of inflammatory cytokines, as is the case with sugar and refined carbs. On top of that, artificial sweeteners disrupt the composition of our gut microbiota by decreasing levels of the good bacteria Bacteroides, which are known to help release anti-inflammatory compounds.

A good alternative to artificial sweeteners is stevia, a natural sweetener found in the leaves of the Stevia Plant

๐Ÿณ.ย ๐—”๐—ฅ๐—ง๐—œ๐—™๐—œ๐—–๐—œ๐—”๐—Ÿ ๐—”๐——๐——๐—œ๐—ง๐—œ๐—ฉ๐—˜๐—ฆ

Artificialโ€ means that the product is not naturally found in nature. And that means your body usually doesnโ€™t have a way to process it. Ingredients like artificial coloringโ€”which are made from petroleum (oil)โ€”have been linked to host of health issues, from disrupting hormone function to causing hyperactivity in children, to tumor production in animal studies. And a meta-analysis in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicinefound that our immune system attempts to defend the body from these synthetic colorants, which activates the inflammatory cascade. Another study by researchers at Georgia State University found that additives like emulsifying agents used to thicken foods can disrupt the bacterial makeup of the gut, leading to inflammation and weight gain in animals. The evidence in humans is sparse, but your best bet would still be to steer clear of these ingredients and stick to their natural counterparts.

๐Ÿด.ย ๐—ฆ๐—”๐—ง๐—จ๐—ฅ๐—”๐—ง๐—˜๐—— ๐—™๐—”๐—ง๐—ฆ

We may have just absolved saturated fats of their connection to heart disease, but that doesnโ€™t mean theyโ€™re out of the woods just yet. Thatโ€™s because multiple studies have connected saturated fats with triggering white adipose tissue (fat tissue) inflammation. This white tissue is the type of fat that stores energy, rather than burns energy like brown fat cells do. And as your fat cells get bigger with greater intakes of saturated fats, they actually release pro-inflammatory agents that promote systemic inflammation, according to a review in the journal Expert Review of Cardiovascular Therapy.

๐Ÿต.ย ๐—š๐—ฅ๐—”๐—œ๐—ก ๐—™๐—˜๐—— ๐— ๐—˜๐—”๐—ง

Because cattle, chicken, and pigs didnโ€™t evolve on a grain-fed diet, many producers have to load up their animals with antibiotics. These drugs not only keep the animals from getting diseases in cramped feedlots or getting sick from their unnatural diet, but they also help them (and us) gain weight faster. Altogether, this means weโ€™re eating meats that are higher in inflammatory saturated fats, have greater levels of inflammatory omega-6s from the corn and soy diet, and our body thinks itโ€™s in a constant state of attack due to ingesting leftover levels of antibiotics and hormones. Even worse, when we grill meat at high temperatures, it creates inflammatory carcinogens.

Take steps to remove meat foods that cause inflammation from your diet with these tips:

โ€ขLimiting red meat consumption to less than three times a week.

โ€ขMake sure you pick up lean cuts of grass-fed beef for your protein. This healthy source provides more healthy saturated and trans fats as well as inflammation-fighting omega-3s.

โ€ขAdd a bit of lemon juice to your meats: the acid acts as an antioxidant, protecting you from the harmful carcinogens producing during grilling.

๐Ÿญ๐Ÿฌ.ย ๐—ฃ๐—ฅ๐—ข๐—–๐—˜๐—ฆ๐—ฆ๐—˜๐—— ๐— ๐—˜๐—”๐—ง๐—ฆ

Processed meats are the worst of both worlds. Theyโ€™re typically made from red meats high in saturated fats and they contain high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), inflammatory compounds that are created when these processed meats are dried, smoked, pasteurized, and cooked at high temperatures. Not to mention the fact that these meats are injected with preservatives, colorings, and artificial flavorings that also register as foreign attackers to our immune system.

๐Ÿญ๐Ÿญ.ย ๐—š๐—Ÿ๐—จ๐—ง๐—˜๐—ก ๐—™๐—ฅ๐—ข๐—  ๐—ฆ๐—ง๐—ข๐—ฅ๐—˜-๐—•๐—ข๐—จ๐—š๐—›๐—ง ๐—•๐—ฅ๐—˜๐—”๐——

Many of the breads on the market can go from flour and yeast to baked bread in just a few hours. But this shortening of the period of fermentation causes a decrease in the amount of starch and gluten the yeast typically can pre-digest for us. Without the assistance in digestion, it can be harder for our bodies to digest the breadโ€™s gluten, causing inflammation in the lining of your intestines. Experts believe this could be one reason for the rise in gluten sensitivity among Americans. Another theory is that modern strains of wheat contain a super starch known as amylopectin A, which has been shown to have inflammatory effects.

To avoid this food that causes inflammation, consider making some gluten-free swaps:

โ€ขServe burgers in lettuce wraps

โ€ขUse cauliflower crust as a pizza base

โ€ขMake avocado toast using sliced sweet potato instead of bread

Either way, store-bought breads should be a pass if youโ€™ve been struggling to lose weight. We are, however, giving bakery-made sourdough the green light. Sourdough bread is one of the surprising fermented foods that provide healthy probiotics to help heal your gutโ€”key in helping to reduce inflammation!

๐Ÿญ๐Ÿฎ.ย ๐—ง๐—ข๐—ข ๐— ๐—จ๐—–๐—› ๐—”๐—Ÿ๐—–๐—ข๐—›๐—ข๐—Ÿ

While some research has shown a drink a day can actually lower levels of the inflammatory biomarker C-reactive protein (CRP), too much alcohol actually has the opposite effect. Thatโ€™s because the process of breaking down alcohol generates toxic byproducts that can damage liver cells, promote inflammation, and weaken the bodyโ€™s immune system.

On the other hand, drinking in moderation can pose some benefits. The flavonoids and antioxidants found in wineโ€”as well as the probiotics in beerโ€”might actually contribute an anti-inflammatory effect, according to a study published in the journal Nutrients. We canโ€™t say it enough, โ€œEverything in moderation!โ€

๐Ÿญ๐Ÿฏ.ย ๐—ง๐—ฅ๐—”๐—ก๐—ฆ ๐—™๐—”๐—ง ๐—™๐—ข๐—ข๐——๐—ฆ

Because manmade partially hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats, do not occur naturally in foods, our body doesnโ€™t possess an adequate mechanism to break them down. And when our body senses an unknown, foreign object, it can stimulate an inflammatory response. According to the Mayo Clinic, these trans fats can cause inflammation by damaging the cells in the lining of blood vessels.

And a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate foods high in trans fat also had higher levels of markers of systemic inflammation, like interleukin 6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP).

Thankfully, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a global initiative that will eliminate artificial trans fats by 2023. And while weโ€™ve banned trans fats from our packaged food supply, you will still see trans fats on restaurant menus. As such, make sure to avoid eating trans-fat-laden restaurant foods.

๐Ÿญ๐Ÿฐ.ย ๐—™๐—”๐—ฆ๐—ง ๐—™๐—ข๐—ข๐——

Even if you donโ€™t know how to pronounce it, you should know what phthalates (thฤl-ates) are. Thatโ€™s because many of us are unknowingly eating this class of endocrine-disrupting chemical toxins. Similar to BPA, phthalates are used in plastic food and beverage packagingโ€”and theyโ€™re not staying there.

An Environmental Health Perspectives study made headlines for its finding that people who often ate fast food had dose-dependent higher levels of phthalate metabolites than infrequent eaters. And thereโ€™s more bad news for all-day-breakfast lovers.

A separate study published in Environmental Science & Technology found phthalates to be associated with the CRP marker of inflammation while another study in Environmental Health connected higher exposure to phthalates with metabolic syndrome, a disease also commonly associated with increased levels of inflammation. Lowering inflammation is only one of the things that happen to your body when you give up fast food!

INTEGRATIVE PRACTITIONER, Katherine Rushlau, March 15, 2017

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