Inflammation is lurking down every aisle

Posted on September 19, 2009


“New, healthy granola bar!” “-More Protein! -Less Sugar! -May set you on fire from the inside out!”

inflammation food

inflammation food

That is what food product companies could say in their marketing pieces…yet, you probably would never know that truth. Eating healthy is a language. First, you learn the basics: drink more water, eat less fat/sugar. Then you start going for the “healthy” boxed stuff because baked chips are better than fried, reduced sugar granola bars are better than regular granola bars….right?  Unfortunately, the food industry (& its’ sister marketing teams) have done a really good job of clipping your ‘language learning wings’ at this point.

They know now that you are reading food labels, and looking for key words on the front of the box of whatever you are about to purchase. They have got you thinking that a certain Fiber Bar (w/ a line of cereal, yogurt, bars, etc) is a great source of fiber when it’s just as easy (and cheaper!) to hit up your produce dept. for much of the fiber you need for one day – and in its true & natural form!

The problem lies in the fact that, among being unhealthy for other reasons, one of the biggest problems with any processed food & even some foods that are minimally proceed but consumed too often, is how inflammatory they can be to your body. Normally, we think of inflammation and minor things like bug bites come to mind, and we think of major inflammation as heart disease & arthritis. But inflammation presents itself in many ways in they body, and many people deal with it daily without realizing that changing their diet could actually provide relief. In addition, failing to reduce inflammation can lead to more serious health conditions, and will certainly keep you from living optimally well!

*Common symptoms of inflammation in the body are: acid reflux, psoriasis, acne, arthritis, bronchitis, chronic pain, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, candidiasis, heart disease, urinary tract infections, susceptibility to bacterial, fungal, & viral infections, & visible signs of aging on the skin beyond the norm(like wrinkles & dark under-eye circles)

Much of what we consider “normal” is actually not so & much of what we think is just something we get a treatment for, can actually be corrected through diet & exercise. There are some inflammation issues like diabetes and heart disease, that by the time they reach that state, medical intervention is required because diet alone can no longer un-do what has been done. But what Western medicine doctors may not tell you is that improving the diet and getting more exercise can exponentially improve the quality of life, so much so, that the meds that are necessary at this point in time, may not be needed in the future if you take hold now and make some changes.

So why is your healthy granola bar being brought into this inflammation mess? The reason is simple. There are 7 categories of food & drink that increase inflammation in the body: caffeine, alcohol, sugar, wheat, dairy, eggs & the insanely weird world of food additives (many of which should be banned from consumption instead of being the most prevalent thing in food today – more on that in a future topic).

Your healthy granola bar fits in at least 2 of these categories. These 7 groups include things that are hard for the body to break down, or that the body has to do extra work to try to convert for energy or storage.  They also could be simple immune responses that are happening because you have created an intolerance to that food from taking it in day after day and the body having to build an immune response day after day. Just like when we get sick and the body creates T cells to fight in the immune response to heal our body, constant barrage of something like wheat or dairy, can in some people make the body start fighting itself to get rid of the constant barrage of dairy & wheat proteins.

Study after study does show that eating the same small group of foods consistently does heighten the body’s immune response and develops inflammation in the body.You may still develop a food sensitivity or allergy, but you may also simply inflame your body and force it to deal with one of the conditions listed above. You are best served to rotate your foods throughout your week and fight the urge to rely on the same go-to’s when it comes to meal time.

Think of inflammation this way: your body is trying to perpetually stay balanced with its’ hormones, chemical processes, physical responses i.e. fight or flight responses. Every time the body gets too much of one thing that is tough to work with, the body goes into overdrive to balance out again.

Caffeine…stresses the adrenal glands- this spikes cortisol & adrenaline levels in the body…the hormone scale is now unbalanced & the body must try to regulate- failure to regulate means weight gain, lethargy, sugar cravings, mood swings

Alcohol…overworks the liver- body must then produce more chemicals to process it…also affects brain hormone levels- we cannot live without a liver & if it does not function properly, then we are not getting detoxed as we should be naturally from the body

Sugar…actually changes the cellular structure of our cells making them pre-disposed to store more fat- sends gut flora into a feeding frenzy allowing bad flora and bacteria in the gut & body to flourish which is the cause of a multitude of issues- candidiasis being at the forefront

Wheat…has gluten which is a large, complex protein- very hard to break down & initiates an immune response in the body that inflames at our cellular level- since this breaks down in the gut, forcing wheat on an inflamed body can lead to leaky gut syndrome, where the gut is now cut with holes and everything from inside seeps out thereby inviting your body to become very ill

Dairy…Lactose enzyme difficult to break down- pasteurization of milk actually heats & changes proteins- mostly noticed in an upset stomach & congestion when over-consumed but also lead to greater inflammation issues

Eggs…probably the lightest offender here- eggs are generally healthy for you- very rich in omega-3 fatty acids which we need in our diet – only if you have a known egg allergy should you really have problems here

Food additives…make up most of the processed food you eat today, anything chemical-based the body will not recognize & will have to break down somehow, wasting energy to do this rather than help you jog farther, jump higher;

  • also compounds like MSG are used on lab rats to make them obese for experiments – this is done by just giving them MSG, no change is made to their calorie intake. This means they fatten the rats by MSG alone & we are eating it so what happens to us? MSG also may have implications in affecting our brains, it is not a fully understood compound & you should consume with caution.

**Food producers know you are looking for MSG, so they are now hiding it in the ingredients list as ‘hydrolyzed veg. protein’, ‘hydrolyzed protein’, ‘calcium caseinate’, ‘yeast extract’, ‘TVP’, ‘autolyzed yeast’, & ‘corn oil’ just to name a few.

So what to do about this list of seemingly in-everything foods that is setting us on fire from the inside out? Here’s a simple list to get you started on taking action against inflammation:

1) Write down everything you eat & drink for 3 days

– Look for the 7 categories of inflammatory foods/drinks/additives & see how many times you eat something that lists one of the 7 in in the ingredients

– Look for patterns in your eating habits; are you eating oatmeal every day? are you eating yogurt, milk, cheese daily as snacks during the day?

2) The next time you grocery shop, if you are purchasing anything in a box, read the ingredients list & if it has more than 6 ingredients, put it back and find something else

3) If you want to truly see if anything you are living with currently could be due to inflammation, a true inflammation diet removes any inflammatory agents for 2 weeks completely. Try taking out sugar, wheat & dairy for 1 week if you think you’ll die without your morning coffee or evening wine (just remember, beer is like liquid wheat, so if you’re still going to drink alcohol while trying this inflammation free week, you should avoid beer)

Try these things & see if you don’t feel differently at the end of the week. You may even lose some weight as your body no longer has to fight the inflammation and gets to use energy from simple, clean sources!

One final note, I read the ingredients list on that popular Fiber Bar (there is a number in the name of the bar) & while on the front it has 3 different healthy banners like “35% of daily fiber needs” & “whole grain” on the back ingredients list, there were 6 different sources of sugar listed & 4 different sources of wheat listed, amongst approx. 12 other ingredients – that’s 22 total ingredients!!! In a stupid little granola bar! that is inflaming your insides!

So put out the fire and put down the granola bar! You deserve to be optimally well!