Concerned about inflammation in your body? Perhaps a doctor has told you that you have inflammation or that inflammation is affecting your health.
Inflammation is caused by the foods we eat or drink, or by conditions such as obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis or celiac disease. As one of today’s most researched topics, we have learned how inflammation, over time, can lead to even more serious illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease. Inflammation has even been shown to have connections to depression.
Following are foods to avoid:
- Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. There is more sugar in our food than many of us realize! Read food labels and look for low-sugar items.
- Artificial sweeteners and “diet” products should be used with caution. Often they trick the brain into thinking it is getting sugar when it really isn’t. This creates a want for more sugar.
- Saturated and trans fats.
- Refined carbohydrates. These are items with processed white flour, which has had most of the beneficial fiber removed. Fiber is important because it promotes a feeling of fullness and better controls blood sugar.
- Artificial colors and dyes.
- Meats and poultry that contain pesticides, antibiotics, or growth hormone.
- Excessive alcohol. When we drink too much alcohol, it can lead to eating the wrong things, bad decisions overall, and over time it can lead to “leaky gut,” which can promote widespread inflammation in the body.
- Processed meat. Lunch meats and other processed meats such as sausage, bacon, smoked ham, and beef jerky are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stomach cancer, and colon cancer.
Evidence continues to point to the fundamental role of the microbiome, the trillions of microbes in our intestines, in determining levels of inflammation in the gut, shaping the way food is digested and absorbed. Thus, growing your microbiome in a healthy way is essential to avoiding inflammation.
To start, avoid ingredients such as saturated and trans fats, refined carbohydrates, artificial colors and dyes, and meats and poultry that contain pesticides, antibiotics or growth hormone. Artificial sweeteners are on the list as well, and sugar is one of the biggest culprits of all.
Focus instead on eating foods as they come from nature. For example, slicing an apple and eating it raw is far better than drinking apple juice which eliminates all the healthy fiber.
Other foods that can help you avoid inflammation are fish, spices such as ginger and turmeric, mushrooms and flax seeds (crush and sprinkle the fiber). The key is to vary your food intake, which will encourage healthy microbiome growth.
I also recommend food journaling as a way to understand how food affects your body. While numerous articles and studies suggest foods that may help avoid or minimize disease, it’s essential to learn their impact on your personal health and well-being. Through food journaling, you can keep track of what you eat and drink, and how you feel afterward. For example, if you eat a sandwich for lunch and feel intense fatigue or brain fog that afternoon, you might want to try a different lunch option that will make you feel energized and alert.
Also, if you have chronic – or constant – pain or illness that could be related to inflammation, talk to your doctor about the ways you can pinpoint the cause. Allergy tests may be done to determine if your inflammation is triggered by specific food or environmental allergens.
Most importantly, remember that while genetics or other factors may be irreversible, you have the power to improve your health with the choices you make each day – eat well, exercise often, and take time to nurture your spirit.