The last blog, “One Species. One Diet.” focused on the necessity of certain foods and the optimal diet for the human species. This blog expands on that concept by revealing the a few of the top inflammatory foods that contribute to chronic disease.
Root of disease
The root of the vast majority of disease is inflammation. Thus, we need to find ways to decrease the amount of inflammation in the body in order to decrease risk of inflammation, which we have learned leads to chronic disease and illness. One of the most effective ways to reduce inflammation is by adjusting the foods that we eat. Although foods with wheat, soy and dairy may have some beneficial nutrients in them, most properties of these foods tend to increase the amount of inflammation in the body.
Gluten has been a buzzword for several years now, bringing trend diets and the predictable backlash into the cultural mainstream. Some people have gone so far as to try the diet for some time only to find, after completing the blood test, that no such allergy exists. Being intolerant to gluten is a pure yes/no diagnosis, however being sensitive to gluten is not. Gluten sensitivity is a spectrum, ranging from no issues to Celiac.
Research estimates that 18 million Americans have a gluten sensitivity. That is six times the amount of Americans who have celiac disease (Peña 2014). Individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity have a prevalence of extraintestinal or non-gastrointestinal symptoms, such as headache, “foggy mind,” joint pain, and numbness in the legs, arms or fingers. Symptoms typically appear hours or days after gluten has been ingested (Peña, 2014, n.p.).
Dairy is also not necessary in the human diet. Nearly 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy (Lactose intolerance, 2018, n.p.). No other mammal on earth consumes breast milk past infancy and humans are the only animal in nature to drink another animal’s milk. Unless you are of Scandinavian background, specifically Swedish, you more than likely have some sensitivity to dairy.
Inflammatory Reactions to Dairy
Clinically, I have seen how dairy seems to affect most the linings of the body: skin, lungs, sinuses, and gastrointestinal. When people, including myself, remove dairy from their diet they notice an improvement, if not full resolution, of their seasonal allergies, skin rashes, irritable bowel syndrome, acne, constipation, asthma, and acid reflux (in adults and infants).
Dairy and Prostate Cancer
Evidence from international, case-control, and cohort studies suggests that men who avoid dairy products are at lower risk for prostate cancer incidence and mortality, compared to others (Ayyadurai, 2018, n.p.).
So, what dairy substitute calcium sources are most healthful? A moderate amount from a variety of plant sources seems to be best. There’s plenty of easily absorbable calcium in dark leafy greens, such as bok choy, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and turnip greens, as well as broccoli, dried beans, figs, almonds, calcium-fortified juices, and almond milk. Plus, these foods contain other cancer-fighting nutrients that just aren’t present in dairy products.
Soy can also be a source of inflammation in the body, mostly due to the amount of compound modification during processing. Soy, in its natural form, is a phytoestrogen – estrogen coming from a plant source. Some research suggests that soy may be beneficial in health, while others suggest that the hormonal properties of soy may interfere with the endocrine system leading to complications.
My single biggest concern with soy is the prevalence of genetic modification. A brand new study published a in the peer-reviewed journal Agricultural Sciences revealed that genetically engineered soy (the GMO) increases levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and decreases glutathione, an important anti-oxidant necessary for cellular detoxification (Ayyadurai, 2018, n.p.). If you do choose soy for your diet, understand your source and how your soy was processed.
Out of all the foods to avoid on this list would be refined sugars. These are the worst of the inflammatory foods. They have been linked to not only obesity and Type II Diabetes, but also non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, high cholesterol, heart disease and even cancer. In 2017, a new study showed that drinking diet soda daily increases your risk for stroke and dementia (Pase, 2018, n.p.). High intake of refined sugars leads to disruption of insulin, a key growth hormone, that can lead to diabetes and cancer. There is a direct correlation between the rapid expansion of refined sugars in the American diet and the rate of obesity, heart disease and certain cancers.
Sugars and Arthritis
From my clinical experience, when clients remove processed sugars from their diet, their arthritic pain lessens and in many people the pain goes away. They also have more energy, sleep better, and improved mood when they remove processed sugars. In fact, the topic of refined sugars is such an important one that there will be an added blog post next week looking more in depth at how refined sugars became such a problem and how they drastically lead to the most destructive health issues in our country.
We are what we eat
One of my favorite quotes is by Heather Morgan, MS, NLC “Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.” We are what we eat, literally. Input equals output. If we put necessary foods in our bodies, we function optimally. If we put unnecessary food in, especially the ones we spoke of tonight, then we increase our risk of inefficient output.
If we let food by our medicine and medicine our food, then we have the potential to live a higher quality life free from the dependencies of medications, ER visits, doctors appointments, expensive imaging. Which means more money in our pockets and more time doing the things we love with the people we love.
What to do
When your diet is centered around basic foods like veggies, fruits, quality sources of protein and natural fats, there’s no need to count calories (or “points”). These foods will nourish you and naturally make you feel satisfied making you less likely to overeat. More importantly, you become healthier as your body begins to learn how to run on this better source of fuel for energy rather than relying so heavily of sugar.
If you do choose to eat the kinds of foods mentioned in this post in your diet, be aware of their source and their processing. The less processing these foods have been through the more nutrients there will be. However, keep in mind that these foods can to lead to increased inflammation in most people because they are not necessary nutrients for humans. When choosing your sources of any food, whether necessary or unnecessary, local and organic is best.
Ayyadurai, V.A.S., & Deonikar, P. (2015). Do GMOs Accumulate Formaldehyde and Disrupt Molecular Systems Equilibria? Systems Biology May Provide Answers. Agricultural Sciences. http://integrativesystems.org/systems-biology-of-gmos/.
De Punder, K., & Pruimboom, L. (2013). The Dietary Intake of Wheat and other Cereal Grains and Their Role in Inflammation. Nutrients. 771-787. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705319/.
He L, Han M, Qiao S, He P, Li D, Li N1, Ma X. (2015). Curr Protein Pept Sci. 613-621. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26122781
Heine RG. (2015). Gastrointestinal food allergies. Chem Immunol Allergy. 171-180. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26022877.
N.A. (2018). Lactose intolerance. Genetics Home Reference. N.p. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance.
N.A. (2018). Prostate Cancer. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. N.p. https://www.pcrm.org/health-topics/prostate-cancer.
N.A. (2009). The Milk Myth: What Your Body Really Needs. Mercola. N.p. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/07/18/the-milk-myth-what-your-body-really-needs.aspx
Pase, M.P., et al. (2017). Sugar- and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and the Risks of Incident Stroke and Dementia. Stroke, 1139-1146. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/strokeaha.116.016027.
Peña, A. S., & Rodrigo, L. (2014). Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, 25-44. doi:10.3926/oms.236.
Pikul, C. (2017). What, Is Milk Suddenly Bad for You?! Huffington Post, n.p. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/19/is-milk-bad-for-you_n_5311851.html.