Inflammatory conditions are at an all-time high and scientists continue to discover new connections between inflammation and disease processes. Why, though, is inflammation such a serious problem? Research suggests that the issue may stem from changes in our diet, with the typical American diet putting people at especially high risk for inflammatory diseases.
Inflammation And Disease Processes
Certain common diseases are obviously inflammatory in nature; consider, for example, rheumatoid arthritis, which causes the body to attack and inflame joints throughout the body. Other diseases, though, deploy inflammation more subtly. Chronic metabolic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and even many forms of cancer seem to be triggered by chronic, low-grade inflammation, as opposed to individual incidences of severe inflammation.
Because of certain biological tendencies, our bodies have evolved to be more prone to inflammation. In evolutionary terms, inflammation helped us survive diseases and eventually go on to reproduce. Unfortunately, the very traits that helped us survive, now make us vulnerable to our modern lifestyle.
Foods The Fuel Inflammation
Certain foods seem to play a much more direct role in inflammation than others. Sugar, for example, has been shown to depress the immune system, making people more prone to infections. Additionally, because of the metabolic demands involved in processing sugar, eating too much of it can deplete necessary minerals. Taken together, these traits make those with high sugar diets more likely to get sick, leading to more inflammation.
Another food frequently associated with inflammation is processed meat, including products sausage, bacon, and ham. These foods contain high amounts of advanced glycation end products that can cause inflammation in the colon. That’s why individuals who consume a lot of processed meat are more likely to develop colon cancer than the rest of the population. Unprocessed meats pose a far lower risk of inflammation.
Reducing Your Risk
In addition to sugar and processed meat, American diets are packed with the types of foods that cause inflammation, such as refined flour, fats, and alcohol, but the news isn’t all bad. There are plenty of things the average person can do to reduce their risk of chronic inflammation. One option is to follow the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, which eliminates many of these inflammation-causing foods. You can then introduce foods one by one and watch for potential signs of inflammation to determine what your body is sensitive to and what you can eat safely.
For those following the trends, another way to manage inflammation is through the use of CBD products. Preliminary research suggests that CBD can mediate immune response pathways, reducing symptoms of autoimmune disorders and minimizing inflammation throughout the body. Our understanding of CBD products is still rudimentary, however, the right form and dosage to benefit from these anti-inflammatory properties remains unknown.
Even without a formal dietary plan, you can minimize inflammation by focusing on those foods generally thought to be at the core of a healthy diet. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans, rather than heavily processed foods. The closer a food is to its original form, the better it’s going to be for you. Michael Pollan offers some good guidelines here, including the recommendation not to eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food and, his most famous line, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
Inflammatory diseases are the major killer of Americans and in order to set the course straight, we need to radically change the way that we eat. Mostly, that just means going back to eating the way our ancestors did – not in terms of some paleo diet or other trend, but simply by getting back to basics. The goal is a sustainable lifestyle, not a quick fix.