Did you know that certain foods can trigger inflammation in your body? Chances are, you already know that certain things in your diet can make you feel well or not so great. Plus, it’s no secret that a balanced diet is the key to staying healthy and feeling your best.
But there are always the little things we forget to consider or realize are affecting health.
This article will cover some of the most common inflammatory foods that affect gastrointestinal health, can worsen or lead to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and can even contribute to developing cancer. It will include practical tips on how to avoid these types of foods and stay healthy.
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Inflammation is a normal body reaction to injury or infection. The cardinal signs of inflammation include swelling, pain, redness, warmth, and loss of function.
The harmful effects of inflammation are a complicated subject. In the short term, inflammation can help the immune system fight off foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses.
But long term, chronic inflammation can be damaging. Chronic health conditions like autoimmune diseases, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and even some types of depression result from prolonged inflammation.
Which Foods Does Research Increase Inflammation?
Research from the American Society for Nutrition has shown that certain foods can increase inflammation in the body.
– Unprocessed red meats like beef and pork
– High-fat dairy foods like full-fat milk and butter
– High omega-6 vegetable oils like sunflower oil and soybean oil
– Highly refined grains like white bread, white rice, and white potatoes
– Refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners
Some foods can trigger inflammation, while others can protect the body and be anti-inflammatory. The vital thing to remember is that wholesome food can optimize and improve overall health – even reversing disease.
There is a growing body of literature on the relationship between diet and health. One article showed how dietary components influence key pathways to inflammation, including adrenalin, oxidative stress, transcription factor nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) activation (a sequence that causes inflammation), and pro-inflammatory cytokine (small proteins) production.
Further, another publication explains that diets that promote inflammation are typically high in refined starches, sugar, saturated and trans-fats, and low in omega-3 fatty acids, natural antioxidants, and fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Additionally, trans fat consumption correlates with inflammation across several controlled trials and observational studies.
The substrates from certain foods are proven to induce inflammation. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats, represents one of these. It is commonly a filler in processed foods, bread, pasta, and cereals. It is a significant cause of inflammation, potentially contributing to many symptoms, including joint pain, stomach cramps, bloating, headaches, fatigue, and depression.
Studies have found that those with an inflammatory gut are more predisposed to certain diseases. Food affects the gut flora, i.e., the microbiome, so a healthy diet is essential for protecting the gut from damage. The gut becomes inflamed when someone eats inflammatory foods, which may lead to specific health conditions.
Chronic inflammation can lead to severe conditions, including cancer. The link between upper gastrointestinal (GI) cancers and colon cancer is poorly understood. However, research suggests that certain foods may increase the risk of these types of cancers. In particular, diets high in red meat and processed meats may lead to inflammation of the GI tract and an increased risk of upper GI and colon cancer.
Obesity can cause changes in the gut flora and cause inflammation. Obesity has been found to speed up the growth of harmful gut flora. It can also negatively affect the structure of the gut lining, making it more permeable. This means that food and toxins can pass more easily through the gut wall and cause damage.
How to Protect the Gut from Inflammatory Foods
If you want to protect your delicate gut lining, following a diet based on foods that reduce inflammation is best. Instead of eating a diet high in certain inflammatory fats and proteins, you can switch to a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as foods high in fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.
- High-watery vegetables like watercress, arugula, and veggie sprouts
- High-antioxidant fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi
- High-protein foods like grass-fed meats and eggs
- Low-fat dairy foods like low-fat yogurt and milk
- Low-sugar fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries
- High-potency herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon
While a high-antioxidant diet can help to protect the gut from inflammation, studies show that it’s not necessary to switch to a high-antioxidant diet for this benefit. Notwithstanding, choosing high-watery vegetables, high-antioxidant fruits, and high-protein foods will help protect your gut from inflammation caused by certain foods.
Check out another Your Health Forum Article on how to fireproof your health. Here are a few practical tips to help protect the integrity of your GI tract:
- Try to eat as healthy a diet as possible. The more whole, unprocessed foods you eat, the better your chances of avoiding inflammatory foods and maintaining a healthy gut.
- If you already have an inflammatory gut, try to change your diet as much as possible to reduce the number of inflammatory foods you’re eating. Try to stick to a diet based on anti-inflammatory foods. (Attached is a handout of anti-inflammatory foods).
- If you have a diet high in inflammatory foods, try to make a change and switch to a diet based on anti-inflammatory foods.
- Eat More Fiber. It helps to keep the digestive system clean and healthy. A diet high in fiber may help reduce inflammation and protect the gut lining.
- Avoid Sugar. Blood sugar levels are less controlled when we overconsume sugar. These fluctuations cause insulin spikes, which trigger inflammation.
- Drink Water. Drinking water helps flush out toxins and maintain proper hydration. Try drinking at least eight glasses of water each day.
- Reduce Stress. Stress affects the body’s immune system and increases inflammation. Practice deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and exercise.
- Don’t Overdo Alcohol. Alcohol is a toxin that damages the liver and lowers the immune system. Limit alcohol intake to two drinks per week.
With all the buzz about inflammation and the need to protect the gut from damage, it can be easy to forget the importance of a healthy diet. However, it’s essential to remember that while certain foods can increase the risk of an inflammatory gut, overall, what you eat is still crucial for your health.
There are many ways to protect the gut and your health, including eating a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods, eating a healthy amount of fiber, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy weight. These are all steps to take if you want to protect yourself from the harmful effects of an inflammatory gut.