** Food plays a key role in the inflammatory response. Our food choice can soothe, or worsen, inflammation. First, let's look at foods to avoid, on an anti-inflammatory diet, as well as unexpected or hidden sources for these inflammation-inducing foods.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat germ, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, farro, bulgur, semolina, farina, and triticale. People with celiac disease mount an immune response to a specific protein in gluten called gliadin. As a result, the immune cells destroy the microvilli in the small intestine, which are responsible for absorbing nutrients.
For people without celiac, gluten can still be incredibly hard to process, and can aggravate most inflammatory conditions. Some effects of consuming gluten include digestive upset, brain fog, sinus problems, joint pain, blood sugar imbalances, and skin conditions.
Most people don't produce the lactase enzyme required to digest the lactose sugars in cow's milk, leading to bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
Milk is a mucus-forming food and, when that mucus coats the digestive tract, it prevents nutrients from being absorbed. Dairy cows raised for conventional milk products are fed growth hormones and antibiotics, which can interfere with a person's hormonal balance and/or lead to inflammation. Finally, conventional dairy products are often loaded with sugar and preservatives (especially the low-fat ones) and this can further contribute to the inflammatory processes.
Corn is a common allergen, and it is also often genetically modified about 90 percent of corn in the United States is genetically engineered, according to the GMO Compass website. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs are relatively new to our food system and can potentially pose serious risks to health. For example, they can suppress the immune system and encourage inflammation. Corn is ubiquitous in processed foods, as well - so if you're eating those foods, you're eating corn.
Similar to corn, this controversial bean is a common allergen, and GMO Compass reports that 93 percent of soy growth in the US is genetically modified. In addition to the genetic modification, soy is high in goitrogens, compounds that can suppress thyroid function. Soy also contains antinutrients, such as phytates and oxalates, which interfere with our digestion and disrupt the endocrine system.
Another common allergen, peanuts contain a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin, which can effect those with liver conditions or candida. Peanut crops are heavily treated with pesticides and this can lead to further inflammation or allergic reactions. They are also high in omega-6 fatty acids, a pro-inflammatory fat, and conventional peanut butters are often loaded with added sugars and trans fats.
Coffee propels the stomach to release its contents prematurely, injecting undigested food into the small intestine where it can aggravate the digestive tract. Caffeine can send blood sugar soaring, raise blood pressure and heart rate, suppress appetite, and disrupt sleep. Coffee also stresses the nervous system, which can interfere with the production of the anti-inflammatory hormone cortisol.
While the occasional glass of wine offers a hit of antioxidants, overall, excess alcohol consumption can increase the production of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation in the blood.
Many alcoholic beverages are chock-full of sugar, which can wreak havoc on our blood sugar levels, cause headaches, and suppress the immune system. Alcohol also destroys gut flora, an integral part of digestive system. Poor intestinal flora can lead to a leaky gut, where particles of food break through the intestinal barrier and activate the immune system, inducing further inflammation and allergies.
Most citrus foods are acidic and can provoke inflammation in people with a variety of conditions such gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), arthritis, and citrus sensitivities. To butter their acidity in the body, we pull from our body's pool of soothing alkaline minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. An acidic environment can place stress on the body, leaving a person susceptible to disease.
However, lemons or limes can be handy addition to an anti-inflammatory diet. They kick-start digestion, enhance liver detoxification, and once metabolized by the body, they leave alkaline minerals behind. Overall, though, avoid citrus.
FEEDLOT ANIMAL PRODUCTS
Conventional animal products induce inflammation for a variety of reasons. Animals are fed hormones and antibiotics. This not only contributes to inflammation but also to the growing worldwide problem of antibiotic resistance.
Feedlot animals are often fed fare that is different from their natural diet-mostly grains like wheat, GMO corn, and GMO soy. We know these are inflammatory. Grain-fed animals also yield meat that is higher in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
You don't need to avoid meat entirely. Instead, choose organic products from animals that were raised without hormones or antibiotics, had out-door access, and were fed a mix of grass and grain. If you don't have access to organic meat, check with your local farmer. Sometimes farms follow organic practices but cannot afford to become "certified organic" which is expensive; talk to the farmer about their practices if you don't see this label.
There's no sugarcoating the truth; white, refined sugar is harmful to health: it spikes blood sugar, which can increase production of inflammatory cytokines (the chemical messengers involved in our immune response). Sugar produces advanced glycation end products (AGEs), substances that cause damage to cells and play a role in aging and disease. Adding to that sugar damages teeth, robs bodies of vitamins and minerals, causes mood swings, and inhibits the immune system.
ARTIFICIAL or PROCESSED FOODS
Processed foods contain many ingredients that contribute to inflammation. These include chemicals, preservatives, unhealthy fats, excess sugars, additives, artificial food dyes, refined carbohydrates, and synthetic vitamins and minerals bodies can't absorb - and more.
According to Health Canada, eggs are a top allergen in North America and can be difficult to digest; many people are sensitive or intolerant to their protein. For people with this allergy, eggs are particularly high in inflammatory nutrients, such as omega-6 fatty acids.
This family of vegetables includes tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, tobacco, and peppers. While many nightshades can be nutritious, they contain substances called alkaloids, which can cause gastrointestinal upset and aggravate inflammation in some people, particularly those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, headaches, lupus, kidney disease, gout, hypertension, and cancer. Nightshades foods may also leach calcium from bones and redistribute it to places where it shouldn't be, like joints, kidneys, and arteries.