Foods that increase inflammation in the body

More and more, many MDs are noticing the importance of eating foods which do not increase inflammatory factors in the body. As an eye MD, this is especially important in patients that have dry eyes, diabetes, or any autoimmune disease, such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis to name a few.

Causes of Chronic InflammationA number of lifestyle factors can cause chronic inflammation. These include:
  • Stress: finding ways to get rid of stress are key. I just went on a silent retreat myself, which was really amazing in helping get rid of stress. I’m convinced that a yearly silent retreat (no talking, no internet, no phone, no texting, etc for 4 full days) is an excellent idea in helping bring the stress level down to zero.
  • Lack of sleep: 8 hours is the best. Avoiding caffeine helps or only taking caffeine in the am if possible.
  • Smoking: just quit! It has been shown to do so much damage to those around you and your descendants (in terms of their increased risk of cancer). Smoking is guaranteed to increase inflammatory factors in most.
  • Lack of exercise: hard to get in sometimes. But is very helpful even if it means taking the stairs (even just one flight) every day instead of the elevator all the way. Park further away. More your feet, legs around at the desk. 
  • Diet: see below. This is key.
  • Pollution: often overlooked, but important.

    Foods that Cause Inflammation

    The issues most MDs have with the list below is that there are still no great randomized, prospective, double blind studies to “prove” they are harmful. Yet, most of my MD colleagues and all my eyeMD colleagues especially those at Harvard have starting moving to a low gluten (gluten free in many cases), very low carb, low fat diet: Mediterranean you could say without the pasta or bread or fatty meat: a lot of good fish (wild salmon, high Omega 3 fish with low arachadonic levels); majority item is green leafy veggies (kale, green lettuce (no iceburg), broccoli, brussel sprouts (a family favorite: see my posting on how we make brussel sprount chips).

    1. Sugar and refined starch
    Each time you eat refined carbohydrates (i.e., any type of sugar including high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, lactose, and others, as well as white foods such as white bread, etc.), it results in a rapid rise in blood sugar. This causes insulin levels to spike which trigger the cascade of immunological responses that can cause damage in your body. When blood sugar levels and/or insulin levels are high, the result is a pro-inflammatory response. This occurs every time you eat foods containing refined carbs, sugars, and starches, which can lead to chronic inflammation.
    Also be aware that too much fruit (especially fruit juices) is risky as well as they contain fructose which is fruit sugar. A friend recently noted that she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: she could not understand as she never ate refined sugars and carbs but did eat A LOT of fruit. 

    Some sites also note to avoid agave, which may be low in glucose but super high in fructose, which creates its own set of problems.

    2. Vegetable oil Many vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fats, reducing your body’s critical balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. While omega-6 fatty acids are not bad in and of themselves, when your body gets out of balance, inflammation can result. That’s why I recommend cooking with just a tiny amount of coconut oil, which contains medium chain fatty acids. Olive oil is okay in small amounts as it is a monounsaturated oil. Avoid corn, soybean, safflower, etc. oils and products that contain them- like vegan “butter” spreads and mayonnaise.

    3. Dairy products Dairy can cause inflammation in some people because your body recognizes it as a foreign invader and fights it with an inflammatory response. That’s because the human body does not process the high levels of protein (casein) or sugar (lactose) in dairy products well. If you feel tired or run down after a heavy load of cheese, dairy, consider refraining for a time to see how you feel. This could be a sign that it is causing an inflammatory reaction.

    4. Red meat  Eating non-grass fed red meat produces a chemical called Neu5gc. The body produces an inflammatory immune response to it. Some people predisposed to Gout, often react poorly to red meat. Be aware that in The body produces an inflammatory immune response to it.

     5. Wheat, rye, and barley These grains all contain the common allergen, gluten. When an allergen enters the body, the result is an immediate inflammatory immune response.
    6. Foods high in trans fats When you eat trans fats (hydrogenated oils found in many processed foods), they create low-density lipoproteins. LDLs feed inflammation.
    7. Processed CornYou’d be shocked at just how much corn there is in processed foods. The food processing industry uses a number of corn derivatives such as high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, corn oil because it is cheap and plentiful. In its refined form, corn spikes blood sugar, leading to an increased insulin and inflammatory response.
    8. Peanuts Peanuts are one of the most common food allergens. There are naturally occurring molds found on peanuts. Even if you don’t have an anaphylactic response to peanuts, your body may recognize them as foreign invaders and create an inflammatory response.
    9. Foods containing chemicals The human body has not evolved to eat artificial chemicals such as additives, preservatives, food coloring, and the many other chemicals found in processed foods. Because your body doesn’t recognize these things as foods (and with good reason – they aren’t!), it launches an immune system response.
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