A few days ago we talked about silent inflammation and the damaging effects it can have on your body. Now we need to discuss what causes it in the first place, and what you can do to prevent or even reverse it. If you are eating a standard american diet, have gastrointestinal discomfort, are overweight, have any sort of skin disorder, autoimmune disease, or neurological disorder, its safe to say you most likely have some inflammation going on in your body. So here’s a list of things that trigger it, and how you can avoid them.
1. Imbalanced diet.
When you eat a lot of sugars and carbs, your body will eventually start storing them in your fat cells, especially in your abdomen. More and more research indicates that this fat tissue isn’t just “more to love”, its actually an active part of our endocrine system. It secretes cortisol and pro-inflammatory agents. You can also get the spare tire effect by eating too much protein and not enough carbohydrates. You get hypoglycemic, your body releases cortisol in order to bring your blood sugar back up, and that cortisol leads to fat deposition in your abdomen. So don’t swing too far either way. Everybody is different, but its important to find the balance of carbs and proteins that works for you.
2. Too many omega 6’s and not enough omega 3’s.
These are essential fatty acids that your body uses for a whole host of metabolic processes, including fat metabolism and immune system regulation. A very oversimplified way to think of these two would be that omega 6’s are pro-inflammatory, and omega 3’s are anti-inflammatory. You need both in order to function properly. However, the standard american diet is WAY high in omega 6’s, and WAY low in omega 3’s. Omega 6’s are found in processed foods, industrial seed oils like canola and soybean, and animals raised in CAFO environments (due to the feed they’re given.) Omega 3’s are found most abundantly in wild caught fish, flax seed oil, and fish oil. Most american’s omega ratio is anywhere from 10:1 to 20:1 (omega 6 to omega 3), when it really needs to be closer to 2:1 or 1:1. Including more wild caught fish, flax, and even a fish oil supplement while reducing processed foods and seed oil intake will greatly improve this important biomarker of health.
3. Consuming foods you’re body doesn’t tolerate (food allergens).
You may not know if you’re intolerant of certain foods if you’ve never been tested. Food allergies aren’t always like environmental allergies, with the sneezing, itching, throat swelling kind of reaction. Sometimes they manifest as intestinal upset, constipation, diarrhea, skin disorders, neurological symptoms (headache, brain fog), or even autoimmune diseases. Every time you consume these foods, the lining of your gut gets more and more damaged and inflamed. Eventually food particles reach your blood stream and activate your immune system, and systemic inflammation occurs.
This one can be tough, as it can be hard to determine what you’re intolerant of. Blood tests aren’t always reliable, so the best method is probably a 30 day elimination diet. If you’re interested in really getting to the bottom of what your body does and doesn’t tolerate, Robb Wolf has a great 30 day protocol to help you figure it out.
4. Not enough sleep/too much stress.
Again, we’re back to cortisol. It really is a necessary hormone, and without it we wouldn’t be able to drag ourselves out of bed every morning. The problem is that, with our modern lifestyle, we have too much of it. We’re overworked, overstressed, and hardly any of us get enough rest. All of these things lead to increased cortisol production, which feeds the cycle of inflammation, weight gain, and even more stress and less sleep. You’ve gotta find a way to break the cycle. Take a walk on your lunch break to de-stress, take a long weekend to recharge your batteries, or even just 15 minutes of meditation and deep breathing before bed to help you relax and sleep soundly. Anything will help.
Start with any one of these steps and work on it until you feel ready to tackle the next one. Before you know it, you’ll have significantly improved your health and reduced your risk for a whole cadre of nasty disease processes. You should be proud of yourself!