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By Marvin | October 3, 2017 |
Your immune system is a very complex network of cells, tissues and organs. All these components work together to help protect your body and fight off foreign invaders, such as germs, bacteria, viruses and parasites.
The problem? It’s not just germs and parasites that put health at risk. Sometimes it’s our food choices that initiate an immune response.
Maybe you’ve heard that certain foods can cause inflammation in your body. This happens because your body perceives something as potentially harmful and iniates an immune response. You don’t even have to be allergic to foods for this to occur. However, if you are allergic then the response can be very severe and even life-threatening
When you ingest foods that cause an inflammatory response (we’ll have a look at what foods do this in a moment), your immune system detects a threat. This threat triggers inflammation in specific areas within your body.
This response, caused by specific types of foods, can contribute to a number of health concerns including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. For a little more information on this, have a look at Chris Kresser’s article ‘ How inflammation makes you fat and diabetic (and vice versa)’
First off, let’s look at the types of foods that trigger inflammation:
Dairy: Natural yogurt is full of probiotics, which helps balance out the good bacteria in your guts. However most dairy disrupts the internal microbiome of the guts by replacing good bacteria with harmful bacteria. This is a real no-no when it comes to inflammation. Good bacteria reduces inflammation and helps the digestion process. So when it gets replaced, inflammation skyrockets and digestion stalls. Dairy also ranks quite high on the allergen list. 1 in 4 adults have trouble digesting dairy!
Refined grains: The refining process strips grains of most of their fiber and nutritional goodness. This leaves behind a simple carb (white rice, pasta) that your body quickly digests. Simple carbs spike your blood sugar levels. In turn, this raises your body’s insulin levels. Insulin helps cause a proinflammatory response. Translation: refined grains trigger inflammation!
Sugar: Sugar really is the bane of the human diet. First off, sugar weakens your immune system. This is because sugar suppresses the effectiveness of your white blood cell, which protect your body against germ. Secondly, sugar increases the number of pro-inflammatory messengers, called ‘cytokines’, moving through your body. This puts sugar high on the list of foods that inflame your body.
Bad fats: Fats from vegetable sources, hydrogenated fats and fats that have a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids in them. These come from sources such as canola oil, deep-fried foods and other refined oils. All these foods have been shown to trigger white adipose tissue inflammation. This white tissue (fat tissue), is the kind that stores energy rather than burning it. The more unstable and refined fats you eat, the larger these cells become. As the cells grow, they increase the amount of pro-inflammatory agents they release. These agents trigger inflammation throughout your body.
Processed meats: Most processed meats contain large levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are inflammatory compounds created when meat is processed. Processing meat also injects preservatives, artificial colorings and flavoring, and numerous other chemicals. These all register as a threat to your immune system, potentially triggering further inflammatory responses.
Artificial sweeteners/Additives: Artificial sweeteners increase the risk of glucose intolerance. This effects your body’s ability to properly metabolize glucose, which leads to an increase in cytokines in the body. Another downside to artificial sweeteners that should be considered is that they disrupt the natural bacteria in the gut and cause an increase in bad bacteria, which again can lead to inflammation.
The good news is that there are numerous types of inflammation fighting food. These healthy foods are rich in essential nutrients and antioxidants, and they help combat inflammation in your body.
Fish: Choose oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines or mackerel. These fish contain a lot of omega 3 fatty acids, which helps to reduce inflammation.
Nuts: Almonds and walnuts are full of antioxidants and a kind of omega 3 called ‘alpha-linolenic acid’. Both of these properties make nuts an excellent choice to prevent harmful immune responses.
Berries: Berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, are all brightly colored. The anti-oxidant flavonoids, ‘anthocyanins’, gives berries both their bright colors and their anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger & Turmeric: Both these spices, prevalent in many Asian countries, help fight off inflammation in the body. Turmeric works by switching off NF-Kappa B, which is a key actor in triggering the immune process. Ginger works during digestion to reduce inflammation in the gut.
Onion & Garlic: Both onion and garlic boast powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Garlic contains a compound called ‘Organosulfur’. This compound lowers the substances in the blood that can cause inflammation. Onions contain a flavonoid, ‘quercetin’, which inhibits inflammatory properties in conditions such as arthritis.
Olive oil: Olive oil is a well known healthy fat that also contains a substance called ‘oleocanthal’. Oleocanthal has a similar effect on the body as ibuprofen (an anti-inflammatory/pain reliever). This and other health benefits makes olive oil a great choice for cooking.
The truth is that the foods that cause inflammation are ones that you want to avoid anyway. So if you replace them with foods that reduce inflammation, you’ll enhance other aspects of your health as well.
You should always opt for fresh produce, lean meats, and nuts instead of processed foods. Avoid refined sugars and dairy in excess. Use healthy oils, such as coconut oil, ghee, grass fed butter and olive oil instead of refined ‘vegetable oils’ like canola, sunflower, soybean, corn or peanut oil etc.
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