Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to fight disease and
illness is by avoiding the very foods that cause chronic inflammation.
While this isn’t a new concept for those with a more holistic view of
the body, it is for the modern medical system, which focuses on treating
symptoms instead of addressing the root cause of an issue.
Your immune system becomes activated whenever it recognizes a foreign
substance – whether that be a chemical molecule, invading microbe or
plant pollen. This triggers a process known as inflammation – a
beneficial process when triggered for the right purposes.
when this inflammation stays triggered, day in, day out, it becomes not
quite so beneficial. In fact, many major disease like cancer, heart
disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression and Alzheimer’s have all been
linked to chronic inflammation. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints.
Heart disease is inflammation of the arteries. ALS is inflammation of
the central nervous system. The list goes on.
The Inflammation Theory of Disease
so inflammation causes disease. But how does it do that? What happens
inside the body when inflammation becomes chronic and systemic? How is
it implicated in different diseases?
Maija Kohonen-Corish from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research,
chronic inflammation causes cancer through tissue destruction and
scarring, and reshaping of the tissue architecture, as well as
contributing to changes in gene expression that sustain tumorigenesis
(3). The constant presence of inflammation in the body also creates an
environment where cancer cells thrive.
“In a nutshell, it is
believed that inflammatory mediators such as cytokines and chemokine,
when persistent in the flamed tissue, can induce proliferation, survival
and growth of cells and modify their differentiation status, ‘forcing’
them to undergo transformation,” Kohonen-Corish explained.
in heart disease, inflammation is implicated. When cholesterol-rich
plaques buildup in the blood vessels, the body perceives this as
abnormal and foreign. As a result, the body tries to cover up the plaque
from the rest of the flowing blood. However, if the plaque ruptures,
the walled-off contents can come into contact with blood and trigger a
blood clot formation. This, of course, can cause a heart attack, or
stroke (depending on how close the blocked artery is to the heart or
Cytokines that develop as
a result of chronic inflammation can interfere with insulin signalling,
according to a 2009 article in the journal Gerontology. This results in
increased insulin resistance and spiked blood sugar. The blood sugar
spikes trigger white blood cells to attack, and inflammation continues.
As a result, the risk for diabetes increases.
inflammation is implicated in many lung disorders like asthma and
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic
bronchitis and emphysema. When the lungs are inflamed, fluids and mucus
accumulate, making the airways narrow, and breathing difficult.
has even been associated with increased bone loss and lack of bone
growth, according to a 2009 article in the Journal of Endocrinology.
Scientists believe that cytokines (that result from systemic
inflammation) in the blood interfere with bone “remodelling” – the
process in which old, damaged pieces of bone are replaced with new ones.
Inflammation in the gut can also reduce the ability of the body to
absorb certain nutrients from food, like vitamin D and calcium, which
are essential for bone health.
surprisingly, a study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that people
with depression had 30 percent more brain inflammation than those who
were not depressed. Another study published in The Journal of Clinical
Psychiatry similarly found that those who are depressed have 46% higher
levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammatory disease, in
their blood samples.
Top Foods That Cause Inflammation in the Body
doctors might recommend anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen
and Advil, an easier (and safer) route would be to avoid the foods that
cause inflammation in the first place.
Here are the 6 top foods that cause inflammation in the body:
1. Vegetable and Seed Oils
extra virgin olive oils and coconut oils, vegetable and seed oils are
often extracted from the seeds of plants using harsh solvents like
hexane, a component of gasoline.
This includes oils like corn, safflower, sunflower, canola (also known as rapeseed), peanut, sesame and soybean oils.
only are these oils highly processed, but they promote inflammation as a
result of their high omega-6 fatty acid content. While omega-6 fatty
acids are required in small amounts, the amounts that Western diets
provide are much more than people need.
What To Use Instead: cold-pressed coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil
reason people create so much mucus after consuming dairy is mainly
because it is an inflammatory food. Dairy is an irritant (aka. foreign
invader), which triggers the inflammatory response in the body. As a
protection mechanism, the body creates mucus to protect itself from the
irritant (dairy) you put in your body.
Dairy includes everything made from a cow: milk, ice cream, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.
To Use Instead: plant-based dairy alternatives like almond or coconut
milk, yogurt, cheese and so on. The options are endless!
3. Refined Carbohydrates
and their neighbour is scared of carbohydrates – but not all carbs are
problematic. Our ancestors consumed high-fibre, unprocessed
carbohydrates for millions of years in the form of grasses, roots and
fruits. It’s when refined carbohydrates come into the picture, and when
problems start to arise.
Researchers have found that refined
carbohydrates encourage the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria, which
increases the risk of obesity and inflammatory bowel disease (9). In
another study, healthy young men fed 50 grams of refined carbohydrates
in the form of white bread responded with an increase in the
inflammatory marker Nf-kB.
The list of refined carbohydrates are
endless. They range from pasta, to white rice, rice snacks, crackers,
cakes, cookies and bagels. Not to mention donuts, muffins, sandwich
bread, sweet bread, baked desserts, pastries, pizza dough, hamburger or
hot dog buns, pancakes and waffles. Instead of these, opt for some of
the suggestions below.
What To Use Instead: ripe fruit, starchy roots (like potatoes and beets), buckwheat and quinoa.
4. Conventional Meats
processed meats like sausage, bacon, ham, smoked meat and beef jerky
are known to cause inflammation in the body. They contain more advanced
glycation end products (AGEs) than most other meats, meaning they’re
cooked at ridiculously high temperatures. AGEs are known to cause
inflammatory changes that can lead to things like heart disease,
diabetes, stomach cancer and colon cancer.
What To Use Instead: beans and legumes, hemp “tofu”, Beyond Meat.
5. Refined Sugar
you crave soda, snack bars, candy, baked sweets and other sugary
treats? You could be creating more inflammation in your body than
According to a review in the Journal of Endocrinology,
when we eat too much glucose-containing sugar, the excess glucose our
body can’t process quickly enough can increase the levels of
pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines.
While the natural
sugars found in fruit and vegetables (aka. fructose) are fine to
consume, getting large amounts from highly processed, refined fructose
is a bad idea.
Eating a lot of refined fructose has been found to
cause inflammation within the endothelial cells that line your blood
vessels. It has also been shown to increase several inflammatory markers
in mice and humans.
What To Use Instead: coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, raw honey, fruit.
6. Trans Fats
trans fats are some of the unhealthiest fats you can eat. These oils
are often listed as “partially hydrogenated” oil on the ingredients
list. They can be found in highly-processed foods like crackers, frozen
foods, and margarine to extend shelf life.
Artificial trans fats
have been shown to cause inflammation and increase disease risk (15).
Ingesting trans fats has also been linked with high levels of
inflammatory markers like interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumour necrosis factor
(TNF), and C-reactive protein (CRP). In the Nurses Health Study, CRP
levels were 78% higher in women who reported the highest trans fat
intake. You can see why steering clear of these fats is a wise choice to
While you can’t really substitute anything here, just be
sure to steer clear of anything in the nutrition label that reads trans
While reducing your consumption of these foods will greatly
lower the levels of inflammation in your body, you also need to
understand that certain lifestyle choices also wreak havoc on the body.
Try to get to bed early, get 15-30 minutes of sun every day, and keep
stress to an absolute minimum.