Almost all diseases and illnesses stem from chronic inflammation. Inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing. It is your body’s first line of defense against toxins, infections and injuries. It helps to keep your body healthy and working properly. When your cells are in distress, they release chemicals to alert your immune system. Your body then sends inflammatory cells to heal the body from the foreign substance. A good example of inflammation is when you get a splinter in your finger and your finger becomes red and puffy because your body is trying to fight any potential bacteria that is trying to enter your body. This puts your body and immune system in overdrive causing chronic inflammation.
You may be suffering from chronic inflammation and not even know it. Are you having a hard time maintaining a healthy weight, aging earlier than you should, or feel tired and sick all the time? This is most likely due to chronic inflammation.
The most effective way to combat chronic inflammation is through diet. At The Lifestyle Clinic, we put our patients on an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of high-quality proteins, vegetables, healthy fats, fruits (in moderation), and nuts. We try to focus on going back to the basics and making healthy food choices easy and simple for the everyday person.
Healing chronic inflammation isn’t only about adding anti-inflammatory foods—it’s also about getting rid of pro-inflammatory foods. Most of us know that sugar and white flour are pro-inflammatory, but these are other foods that are usually known as “healthy” foods. They may surprise you!
1. Whole wheat bread
The sugar in whole wheat bread will increase your blood glucose, causing your body to produce higher levels of pro-inflammatory cells. Sugar elevates your insulin levels, triggering an immune response of destructive molecules to form, therefore feeding inflammation.
**Try eating your sandwich without bread or substituting with lettuce wraps. If you don’t generally feel satisfied until you eat bread, try filling up on veggies first. Gluten is one of the main culprits of chronic inflammation.
Dairy is thought to be the backbone of a healthy diet, providing essential nutrients and helping to build strong bones. The truth is that dairy is the most inflammatory food in our diets after gluten. The human body is not able to break down the sugars and proteins (casein and whey) found in dairy. When dairy enters the body, inflammatory chemicals are released in an attempt to help the body digest these foreign substances.
**Try consuming unsweetened nut or hemp milks as good alternatives to cow’s milk. Other non-dairy sources of calcium are almonds, kale, collard greens, broccoli, and spinach. Dairy is highly inflammatory and one of the leading factors to chronic inflammation, despite the fact that we are told from a young age that it builds strong bones.
3. Diet soda
Have you made the switch to drinks with splenda, aspartame or other artificial sweeteners because you’re trying to lose weight by avoiding sugar? If so, these sweeteners are causing your body more harm than sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners can cause glucose intolerance, increasing belly fat which in turn forces your body to crank out inflammatory chemicals.
**If you want to switch up the water to avoid chronic inflammation, try drinking unsweetened tea and sweetening with natural stevia or lemon. You can also add fruits to your water!
4. Seed oils
You might have heard that seed oils like corn, soybean, sunflower, and canola oil are good for you. However, these oils are heavily processed and they’re frequently rancid even at the time you buy them. Worse yet, they have an unhealthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. They’re high in omega-6s, which are pro-inflammatory, and low in anti-inflammatory omega-3s.
**Substitute these with healthy fats like olive, coconut, and avocado oils. These healthy fats are anti-inflammatory and can help to decrease chronic inflammation.
5. Nonfat fruit yogurt
Most people view this as the ultimate health food, fast and convenient and having probiotics to help your gut flora. Most people don’t even realize that they don’t tolerate dairy well until they eliminate it from their diet. When they do, symptoms such as headaches, acne, bloating and allergies will clear up. This usually means that your internal inflammation is decreasing.
These yogurts are often full of pro-inflammatory sugar or artificial sweeteners and contain only a tiny amount of actual fruit. When these are made and stripped of its fat, they substitute artificial fillers and thickeners—ingredients that are unfamiliar to your body and can promote inflammation.
**Avoid dairy and to increase the health of your gut, take a daily probiotic and eat fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi.
To fight inflammation, rethink “healthy.” Call The Lifestyle Clinic today to schedule a free consultation with one of our Naturopathic Doctors to learn more about healthy foods and to come up with a nutritional plan to help you feel your best!
Instead, try some of these Anti-Inflammatory Foods:
Dark, leafy greens
Broccoli, cabbage and other cruciferous veggies
-By Dr. Kivette Parkes, Naturopathic Doctor