Inflammation is the precursor to many diseases and has been recognized as such for thousands of years. Recently, however, inflammation has been on the rise among the general population as a result of the common Western diet. Today I’ll simplify inflammation, what it is, and what it can cause, as well as how to naturally remedy inflammation in your body through food.
Inflammation is a vital part of our survival. Think of inflammation in the body like this.. Let’s say you go for a light jog and accidentally roll your ankle. Even if you’re not in a huge amount of pain, you’ll probably notice your ankle start to swell. This is the body’s reaction to an injury in the body and serves as a healing mechanism to bring fresh blood and nutrients to the area to not only heal it, but protect it from further damage. This type of inflammation is good.
But what if you continue to roll your ankle or cause the same damage over and over? Then inflammation becomes chronic and never ceases. When we look at inflammation in the large scale perspective of the whole body, imagine how hard the body is working to provide nutrients and protection to all areas of the body inflamed. What results is exhaustion and ultimately the inability to help all areas of the body.
One of the biggest ways that our body is often under continuous stress and inflammation is from sensitivities to food and improper ratios of nutrients. Our gut ends up under attack in the face of poor nutrition, which results in ongoing inflammation.
As this happens, disease is able to make it’s way into the body as the immune system is being exhausted through its attempts to heal your gut. Cytokines are secreted by the immune system to help, but can be pro-inflammatory and make many diseases worse. Just a few diseases that result from chronic inflammation include:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Inflammation as a once-in-awhile reaction is essential, but as inflammation becomes ongoing especially in areas of the body that are crucially linked to our health, such as the gut, it becomes a very serious issue.
How Do We Fix Chronic Inflammation?
The common Western diet fuels inflammation through the excessive presence of carbohydrates and unhealthy fats in the diet. We’ll discuss each of these in depth to give you the most tools for combatting inflammation, take control of your gut health, and consequently your overall health.
Excessive carbohydrates in the diet have been linked not only to obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome outside of any gut sensitivities. If you are in fact sensitive to certain carbohydrates, their intake becomes much more detrimental to your health. Inflammation results from the introduction of carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (GI) into the body. These are typically those carbs low in fiber and high in sugars and starches (think potatoes, bread, pasta, etc).
To promote overall gut health, the best carbohydrates for you include those with low glycemic indexes that are high in fiber - vegetables. The fiber allows your digestive track to operate optimally and regularly, which the low GI prevents your body from releases mass amounts of insulin to accommodate for the sugars entering the blood stream. Less insulin being released allows the body to be in a more neutral state with steady blood sugar levels, and thus less inflammation. (Check out the GI of any food here).
Next and equally important is the fat intake of our diet. In the common Western diet, it’s very easy to get certain fats, especially omega-6 fats, saturated fats, and trans fats. The issue, however, is in the ratio of these fats with the healthy fats required for our bodies to function.
Our bodies produce neither omega-6 or omega-3, which means that we need to get them from our diet. Omega-6 sources include plant oils and factory-farmed animals, while omega-3 comes from fish and their oils, as well as some seeds.
We ideally need a 1:1 ratio between the two omega’s. These two fats compete for space in our cells, which means that the amount of intake is not as important as the ratio between the two. The average Westerner’s ratio is around 1:20 omega-6 to omega-3 respectively. To equalize the ratio between the two, we need to introduce more omega-3 fats into our diet regularly. This is where fish oil supplements come into action. You should be getting 2-4mg of the DHA and EPA (omega-3’s) present in fish oil supplements.
Saturated fats are those we typically get from animal fats and I want to stress that these are good fats when in moderation and from grass-fed animals. Trans fats are vegetable oils that have been hydrogenated for a better shelf-life, and are typically used by fast food chains for cooking their food. Both saturated fats and trans fats can work against the anti-inflammatory efforts of omega-3 fats and should be present in the diet in limited amounts.
If you want to learn more about fats, which to eat, and in what quantities, check out my Fierce Program designed for women.
Here’s the quick and dirty for reducing inflammation:
- Eat less carbs with a high GI (breads, pasta, potatoes, etc.) and more carbs with low GI (vegetables).
- Incorporate more omega-3 into your diet through eating fish or by taking a fish oil supplement.
- Avoid trans fats always.
- Opt for grass-fed animal sources whenever possible.
Need help determining if you're being plagued by inflammation as a result of your nutrition? Contact me and let's set up a free consultation.