Inflammation is a term that has become commonly used in the health and fitness industry. People speak of inflammation and why they seek to reduce it, but do we all actually have a clear understanding of it? One thing you may not understand is that chronic inflammation disrupts the body’s ability to carry out normal metabolic processes, which can affect how easy your body burns fat. Is inflammation causing your weight gain? Read below to find out.
There are 2 Types of Inflammation; Acute and Chronic
Acute Inflammation is your body’s natural response to pain, injury, illness or stress. It is fast, short lived and involves breaking down tissue, rebuilding and healing. This is normal and a healthy body is equipped to deal with this.
Chronic inflammation is over activity of the immune system. It is a constant low-level immune response that is always “switched on”. This uncontrolled inflammatory response in the body disrupt normal metabolic pathways, damages cells leading to an array of problems.
Chronic inflammation caused by poor diet, stress and pollution is the root of all modern day diseases such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, arthritis and diabetes. Yet there is a simple and life-changing solution: I truly believe your food can serve as medicine.
Signs of Inflammation
Here are common signs that you may be suffering from a degree of chronic inflammation. In my experience with my clients, once addressing the issue of inflammation and cutting out certain foods these symptoms have reduced and eventually completely disappear.
- Sleep issues
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Skin issues like eczema, redness of the face and acne.
- Low energy levels
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Chronic muscle and joint pain
- Gut issues such as IBS, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and gas.
Chronic inflammation can affect your brain and often there are no signs for this – the brain has no pain fibers unlike your knee. This can manifest into headaches, brain fog, lethargy, depression and fatigue.
The foods that cause inflammation make up 80% of the dietary intake in today’s western society. You might think my advice is too extreme, but what is more extreme than developing heart disease? Make small realistic changes, this will ensure you are creating long lasting lifestyle habits. Start your first week by cutting out the gluten, or go even smaller by cutting out bread alone. A rule of thumb; if it is natural and unprocessed then eat it, if it comes in a packet – avoid it.
Foods to Avoid and Simple Substitutions
- Gluten (wheat, rye, barley) substitute for grains such as brown/wild rice, quinoa, millet, oats, buckwheat, amaranth.
- Vegetables oils- these oils readily oxidise, turn rancid, and have toxic inflammatory effects on the body. E.g. canola, soybean, corn, cotton seed, rapeseed, sunflower oil.
- High levels of saturated fats and trans-fats e.g. red meat, bacon, processed meats also baked goods and cakes.
- Refined carbohydrates with a high glycemic index. Stay away from white bread, cereals, pasta, white rice and choose whole grains such as the gluten free grains mentioned in the first point.
- Conventionally raised beef and chicken fed GMO corn and soy products, poorly treated, prone to disease. Buy free-range, grass fed and preferably organic animal products.
- Dairy products – If you can tolerate a small amount of dairy choose full fat, organic from free range and grass fed cows.
- Sugar – Avoiding processed and unnatural foods will reduce your sugar intake. If you choose to sweeten food use natural sugar such as honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar.
Anti-inflammatory foods that You SHOULD be Eating
- Coloured fruit and vegetables- chemical compounds in plant foods such as phytochemicals and antioxidants provide anti-inflammatory support in the body, these compounds are concentrated in fruit and vegetables. Phytochemicals serve as the colour pigment in foods so look for fruit and vegetables that are bright in colour. My favourite examples are: blackberries, cherries, beetroot, spinach, kale and sweet potato.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – the best places to get this is from fresh wild salmon, krill, sardines and mackerel. When buying a supplementation avoid omega-3 with added omega-6 and 9, this will do more harm than good. A high ratio of omega-6 (founds in processed foods and vegetable oils) to omega-3 in the body contributes to inflammation.
- Mono-unsaturated fats – Increase your intake of olive oil, chia seeds, mixed nuts, avocados, flax oil, ground flax and other seeds in increase monounsaturated fats and balance out the saturated fats naturally occurring in protein sources.
- Herbs and spices- Ginger, clove, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, basil and rosemary have all been shown to reduce inflammation.
Poor diet is the major contributor to inflammation other factors such as stress, over training and environmental pollution also play a key role. As a nutritionist I like to take a holistic approach to health and believe all factors need to be dealt with. Make sure you rest your body, treat is well, and give it a well deserved break every now and then.