Believe it or not, inflammation is part of the body’s immune response system. Without inflammation, we can’t heal. But when it’s out of control inflammation can wreak major havoc on our system. I have an autoimmune condition and how inflammation reacts in my body is something that I have had to really focus on over the years. There was a time in my life that I had so much inflammation in my body that I could not walk 1/2 mile without being in considerable pain. I went to countless doctors searching for the answer. In the end I had two choices; 1) Have Mike push me around in a wheelchair for the rest of my life while taking medication to hopefully control the pain or 2)Learn how to control the impact inflammation played on my body. I picked #2 but I was on my own to conduct my research. Sadly the doctor never gave me any advice on #2. With the doctor, it was take medication or move around in the wheelchair. Operation “Research Mode” went into action!
The thing about inflammation, that a lot of people do not seem to realize, is that food plays a huge role in how inflammation affects your body. Your food choices can either help the process to reduce inflammation or also do some considerable damage. I wanted to share with you all some of the things that I have found through my research and education. I am very passionate about this topic and plan to create a new program for people on how to live a happy, healthy life while dealing with an autoimmune condition. The role food plays in the inflammation process will be a large part of the program.
The AVOID list
1) SUGAR – It may be hard to resist desserts, pastries, chocolate bars, sodas, even fruit juices. However, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Sugar goes by many names so look out for any word ending in “ose,” e.g. fructose or sucrose on ingredient labels. Check out my FREE go Sugar Free eBook here.
2) SATURATED FATS – Several studies have shown that saturated fats trigger adipose, or fat tissue inflammation, which is not only an indicator for heart disease but it also worsens arthritis inflammation. I had a horrid reaction to this. My psoriatic arthritis is triggered whenever I consume foods containing saturated fat. Pizza and cheese are the biggest sources of saturated fats in the average American diet, according to the National Cancer Institute. Other culprits include meat products (especially red meat), full-fat dairy products, pasta dishes and grain-based desserts. If pizza is one of your favorite dishes try this healthier version.
3) TRANS FATS – Harvard School of Public Health researchers helped sound the alarm about trans fats in the early 1990s. Known to trigger systemic inflammation, trans fat can be found in fast foods and other fried products, processed snack foods, frozen breakfast products, cookies, donuts, crackers and most stick margarines. Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient labels. Trans Fats became something talked about a lot about 10 years ago. I remember being horrified because so many of the foods we consumed as a family contained them. The good news is they are not hard to avoid if you eat clean, whole foods.
4) OMEGA 6 FATTY ACIDS – Omega 6 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid that the body needs for normal growth and development. However, the body needs a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to be considered healthy. Excess consumption of omega-6s can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. These fatty acids are found in oils such corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut, and vegetable; mayonnaise; and many salad dressings. Omega 6 fatty acids can not be made by our body so we have to get it from our food. This one is kind of confusing for a lot of people. Omega 3’s help fight inflammation and some Omega 6’s can actually help promote it. I think this is why Mike and I tend to eat the Mediterranean way. Without getting way to scientific here in this quick post let me tell you quickly why the Mediterranean way works for my body. The Mediterranean diet takes the guess work out of the whole which Omega is good and which is bad. This way of eating does not have a lot of red meat which is high in Omega 6’s. We do eat red meat but only grass-fed and studies show that grass-fed has more Omega 3’s than 6’s. The Mediterranean way of eating includes a lot of Omega 3’s because of the emphasis with olive oil. They also promote eating whole grains, garlic, lots of vegetables.
5) REFINED CARBOHYDRATES – White flour products (breads, rolls, crackers) white rice, white potatoes (instant mashed potatoes, or french fries) and many cereals are refined carbohydrates. According to Scientific American, processed carbohydrates may trump fats as the main driver of escalating rates of obesity and other chronic conditions. How scary is that? If you think back to what you were raised on I bet it included some Capt’n Crunch and Fruit Loops. This is an area I am looking to research more. I really believe refined carbs are something that should be eliminated from everyones diet like now! These high-glycemic index foods fuel the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) products that stimulate inflammation. This is some scary stuff.
6) GLUTEN AND DAIRY – Wheat is highly acid-forming and inflammatory in the body. Trust me, this one is close to my heart and my body changed drastically once gave up gluten. DAIRY causes inflammation in a large percentage of the population, resulting in digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea, as well as other symptoms including acne and other skin conditions. We have switched to goat dairy. My body doesn’t seem to react to this form of dairy. Goat dairy has considerable less lactose and sugar.
7) ALCOHOL – Alcohol is high in sugar and a burden to the liver if not used in moderation. Excessive use weakens liver function and disrupts other multi-organ interactions and can cause inflammation. Alcohol can also disrupt the sleep cycle which can prohibit healthy cell regeneration at night. This one, as you all know, is hard for me as I love my glass of vino. This is where I need to use all my strength and exercise the whole balance thing. I could have a glass of wine every night but that is not going to be treating my body the way it needs to be treated. If I ever slip and enjoy a glass or two of wine for more than two nights in a row I ALWAYS feel it in my joints and muscles. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know why. For some people it might not be a trigger but for those of us with autoimmune conditions it almost always will.
8) FOOD ADDITIVES – Colors, flavor enhancers, stabilizers, preservatives, etc. Some of the main ones include sulfites, benzoates, and colors named FD&C #”X.” Unfortunately, many foods consumed by children are loaded with these harmful, toxic ingredients. Read those labels. There are so many natural ways to flavor and color your food. Message me if you want some suggestions 🙂
Now that we have the bad out of the way, lets chat about what you CAN do to fight inflammation.
1) EAT MORE FISH – Wild caught is the best and fish that contain high Omega 3 oils. Some great suggestions are salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, anchovies, scallops and other cold-water fish.
2) MUNCH ON SOME NUTS AND SEEDS – Moderation needs to be practiced here. Don’t grab the bag and sit on the couch… count them out. Nuts are jam-packed with inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat. Some great suggestions are walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds.
3) Shakeology– You all know I love it and would not drink it everyday if my body did not respond to it. Here is a quick breakdown of why Shakeology is the only shake Mike and I would ever consider drinking and why we have been drinking it for over 3 years now.
Here is an excellent audio from the creator of Shakeology. It is not about Shakeology though, it is about treating your body right with super foods. I had to fast forward about 7 minutes because Dr. Laura makes me crazy. I was glad I listened to it though because Darin knocked it out of the park.
4) EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGGIES – Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. These potent chemicals act as the body’s natural defense system, helping to neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals that can damage cells. Dark leafy greens are awesome choices as they are loaded with vitamin E. Studies have suggested that vitamin E may play a key role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines—Dark greens and cruciferous vegetables also tend to have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals—like calcium, iron, and disease-fighting phytochemicals—than those with lighter-colored leaves. Some great suggestions for fruit are blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and strawberries. Some great suggestions for vegetables are spinach, kale, broccoli, eggplant and bell peppers.
5) CONSUME ONLY WHOLE GRAINS – Make sure you read the label. The Marketing Departments in the processed food industry are getting more sneaky with how they label their food. Make sure that the first ingredient uses the word ‘WHOLE grain. This is not always a guarantee but your chances are good. Also look for the whole grain stamp.
Whole grains have more fiber, which has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood, and they usually have less added sugar.
6)TAKE IN AS MUCH OLIVE OIL AS YOU CAN. Olive oil is made up largely of healthful, monounsaturated fat. It’s anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy and I think it taste really good as well. I have been known to not only cook with it but also down a tablespoon or two for good health. It tastes great! I try and buy from a local farm if possible. Nowadays there are local stores in almost every mall. The varietals are amazing and all bring a different taste to your food. When I can’t get it local I usually buy the garlic infused olive oil bottle from Trader Joe’s. It is a perfect balance of flavors and tastes amazing on my vegetables.
7) The last thing is really not a food but a comment about the food. There is not one food or one diet that is going to work for everyone. I think this is why I have never really ever strictly followed a specific diet plan like Atkins, Paleo, Thyroid, South Beach, etc. My body reacts differently to foods than your’s will. Mike and I sometimes have to have separate meals because some of the foods that bother me he loves and can tolerate where some of my favorite meals give him heartburn. You need to keep a food journal and really tune into your body. Pay attention to how each food makes you feel. Write it down and reflect back on it often. These are all guidelines but not the end-all be-all answer to your situation. I know how frustrating it can be but if you stick with writing it down and really reflecting on how you feel after consuming your foods you will be off and running in no time. You can feel better. I am living proof.
The really good news about all of this is that you can make a difference today by just making better food choices. I am not saying it is easy but I am saying it is worth it. Take it from a girl that now loves to run, jump and dance. I wish I had the courage to go back and talk to that one doctor that told me I needed to take medication to stop the inflammation process or I would be in a wheelchair. One day I just might.