Inflammation is your body’s immune response to injuries, illness, toxins, and disease. While these are common causes of inflammation, there are foods that could be in your diet that contribute to inflammation as well. When you experience inflammation, your body is telling you that this food isn’t agreeing with your system, and should probably be avoided. In this article, we’re going to cover the most common foods that cause inflammation. If you feel that certain foods are causing inflammation, talk to your healthcare provider about any necessary steps that should be taken.
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To help keep inflammation down, here are some of the foods that should be avoided when possible.
Why Worry About Inflammation?
Inflammation can have upsides and downsides. Because it is your body’s response to injury and infection, you do want it to work as it should for those issues. However, inflammation that comes from foods can trigger flare-ups of arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. It can lead to chronic joint pain, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and diabetes. These foods can also contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and cancer, so knowing what they are and how you can avoid them can help your overall health, too.
Sugar, Artificial Sweeteners, and Sugar Products
Sugar is one of the top culprits when it comes to inflammation, and it comes in many forms. You will most commonly find sugar named things such as sucrose, dextrose, fructose, and other words that end in -ose. It can also be called high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup. But sugar also comes in the form of maple syrup, honey, agave, and stevia, among other products. While it might seem “safer” to get a little sweetness in the form of a natural plant, it still raises your blood sugar and causes some degree of inflammation. Be on the lookout for artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, which, while they may be calorie-free, can interrupt the processes of the bacteria found in the gut, and have been linked to type 2 diabetes.
Carbohydrates come in many forms, but the form that you should be especially wary of is the processed or refined kind. Refined carbs come in the form of bread, cake, donuts, pancakes, etc. The grains they’re made from are highly processed to be more attractive and smooth, but that process also means the body digests them very quickly, raising your blood sugar more than if it were whole grains you were consuming. This blood sugar increases your body’s inflammatory response, as well as your chances of gaining weight.
Dairy and Lactose
Dairy products are typically sought out by those who are trying to get more calcium in their diet. However, many other foods provide the calcium your body needs, such as dark, leafy greens, almonds, beans, lentils, figs, and edamame. The human body isn’t designed to digest milk, and we don’t need it to live. Lactose and casein, which are found in dairy products, can be difficult to digest for many people, cause inflammation throughout the body, and cause bloating and other digestive issues. Yogurt is the exception, and has been shown to decrease inflammation and aid the digestive system with its probiotics (just be sure that the yogurt you eat isn’t high in sugar and artificial ingredients!).
Some fats are very healthy for your diet, so choosing wisely when it comes to fats is key to your health. Trans fats are the worst fats for your body, and they’re listed on ingredient labels as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. They’re used in processed foods to provide stability and to increase the shelf life. While this might be beneficial for the food manufacturers, it’s not so great for those who consume trans fats. They can actually harm the tissues of the arteries, increase LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase inflammation, and cause people to gain weight. You’ll find trans fats in ice cream, margarine, frozen prepared foods like pizza, packaged pastries, cookies, and frosting, to name a few.
Seed and Vegetable Oils
While we’re on oils and fats, let’s address the vegetable and seed oils that could be in your diet. These oils are pulled from vegetables using solvents, some of which are components of gasoline, and can oxidize, which is bad for your body. They are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can cause inflammation in the amounts most people consume.
We’re not telling you to give up your favorite craft beer—just drink in moderation! The recommended amount is 2-3 drinks each week, and this small amount can actually reduce the inflammatory markers c-reactive protein, TNF-alpha receptor 2, and interleukin-6. More than a few drinks a week can disrupt sleep and cause inflammation. All the tissues in the body are able to absorb alcohol, leading to inflammation. If you’re drinking beer, which contains gluten (another inflammatory substance found in grains), you could be faced with a double whammy. Cocktails are typically high in sugar, and wines contain sulfites, which reduces the oxygen in your system. And finally, alcohol in high quantities can deplete the much-needed vitamins your body is storing.
If you’re experiencing inflammation, these foods could be the culprit. You’ll want to look more closely at nutrition and ingredients labels to determine if these are hiding in any of the foods you eat. Work to eliminate them as much as possible, and you’ll likely begin to experience less inflammation day to day. If you’re still suffering from achy joints, puffy eyes, and other signs of inflammation, speak to your healthcare practitioner to determine if further investigation is warranted.
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