First off, what the heck is “inflammation”? It’s a process – a release of chemicals and chemical messengers, which tell your body how to respond to a foreign microbe or an injury. So, it’s essential, not to mention a necessary biological response. However, if your body is bombarded with foreign microbes via your diet/toxins/stress, your body will be in a constant state of inflammation, which will eventually cause tissue damage, and mess with your normal cell function. One of the reasons why inflammation has recently been linked to heart disease is that these inflammation messengers can damage your blood vessel walls too.
Many different things come into play when treating inflammation. It’s not just the food we eat. It’s also how we eat it, our lifestyle, our exercise, and our stress management. Our body is a finely tuned orchestra of biochemical responses, and one one function is out of whack everything is affected.
Let me give you a simple example. Nowadays we are so rushed that many of us eat our lunch in front of a screen, in the car, or on the run. We don’t chew properly. When we don’t chew our food, the digestive enzymes in our mouth, which are needed to initially break down the food for digestion, are not released. So, food that is not broken down hits our stomach. Then, as we get older, our digestive enzymes secretion weakens (in the stomach), which means that this poorly broken down food not be properly processed by the stomach. The cascade effect goes on and on until the food reaches our small intestines, where the nutrients are supposed to be absorbed.
Now, if your intestinal lining is strong and healthy, even if you’ve been rushing around, not digesting food properly, you’ll probably get away with it (for a few years at least), but many of us have a less-than-healthy gut lining, and this is where the real problems kick in.
An unhealthy gut lining is one that doesn’t provide a strong barrier. This is sometimes known as “leaky gut” syndrome. This means that large particles of food can seep through the intestinal wall, where they are not supposed to go, and the immune cells on the other side of the barrier (think of them as the paramedics), alert your body to go into a state of inflammation to deal with these foreign particles.
Some foods are worse than others in terms of being the kind that end up only partially digested in your gut, and which create this inflammatory response. For some people, gluten can be inflammatory – but only if you are truly sensitive to it. . Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, kamut and spelt. If you have a weak or leaky intestinal gut lining, and you have a bagel for breakfast, the partially digested particles may make their way through your intestinal lining (think picket fence instead of a wall), and bump smack into those immune cells. If you keep on eating gluten, there will be a permanent attack against it, and even other tissues in your body.
In terms of what other foods to avoid: The usual suspects are suspects because they only too easily trigger a similar allergic/inflammatory response:
- Dairy: This is largely due to the casein and whey (proteins), which a lot of people are very sensitive/allergic to. The allergic response is often mistaken for being lactose-intolerant. If you suffer from chronic congestion, recurring sinus infections, you may need to look into this further.
- Soy: Some people are fine with soy (I am), but a lot of people are allergic. If your hands and feet are swollen or if you have digestive issues the day after eating it, it’s probably better to avoid it.
- Corn: A lot of people have become very sensitive to corn. This is probably due to two reason. Firstly, much of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. Secondly, we eat SO much of the stuff that we’ve probably become over sensitive to it. Also keep in mind that most animals are now fed with corn instead of grass. This means that their muscle and fat is now filled with inflammatory saturated fats, when it didn’t used to be. Years ago, cows were just grass-fed, which meant their flesh contained a healthy ratio of Omega 3 – Omega 6 fatty acids. BTW – be a bit careful because even if you read a “grass-fed” meat label, it might just mean that the animal has eaten grass in the last few months of its life.
Here are my 5 Simple Step to Reduce Inflammation, which is foolproof for most. Remember, this isn’t a life-sentence. Try it for 30 days and see how you feel.
- Actually sit down to eat every meal. Try to switch off electronics while eating, and chew each mouthful thoroughly. It helps to lay down your fork between bies.
- Avoid gluten, dairy, corn, soy and sugar for 30 days. If you feel 100% better, you’ll have a clue. You can then add them back in one-by-one, and carefully note your body’s response.
- Learn to meditate: Stress is so closely tied up with your inflammation and stress response. You will do yourself a huge favor by even downloading a good app and practicing for 5 minutes a day.
- Take a good probiotic supplement.
- Drink a large 6-8 ounce glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon 30 minutes before eating. This will help fire up your digestive enzymes. Or, consider taking a digestive enzyme, especially if you know you are eating a richer meal that might include some of your “elimination” foods.