Inflammation is the root of disease, and food is one of the major drivers of inflammation. There are more inflammation causing foods than those discussed in mainstream news. Even popular “health” foods can trigger inflammation, and, over time, lead to disease.
Inflammation reduction and disease prevention lies in our hands, and on our plates, especially when we consider modern disease epidemics are just that: modern.
A Brief History of Modern Disease
- Cancer claimed the lives of just 4% of the population in 1900, and 23% in 2000.
- Heart disease (CVD, heart disease and stroke) was responsible for only 14% of all deaths in 1900, but 37% in 2000.
- The first heart attacks were diagnosed and recorded in 1912 as new phenomena in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
While these were most certainly not the first heart attacks ever to afflict humans, it’s clear rates have increased dramatically since 1912. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out these statistics can’t be accounted for by better disease tracking alone.
Inflammation Causing Foods
The rate at which heart disease and cancer have skyrocketed in the last hundred years directly overlaps with the shift from food as primarily homemade nourishment to an industrialized, politicized commodity.
The following are the more mainstream inflammation causing foods:
- High-fructose corn syrup
- the inhumane horrors of commercial agriculture.
And then there are less obvious inflammation causing foods, characterized by
- low fat (leading to overall lowered fat consumption)
- too much sugar
- too much starch
- too much omega-6 polyunsaturated fats from plant foods
- too much omega-6 polyunsaturated fats from commercially-raised animal foods.
In order to turn inflammation around, it’s critical to understand food is one of the foundational keys to vibrance and disease prevention. But first we need to understand what exactly disease is.
Inflammation’s Role in Disease
At first, this can seem complicated when you think about all the different kinds of disease: obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and so on.
But the beautiful thing about the way Nature and biology work is there are some fundamental ideas that underpin seeming multiplicity and exclusivity. This is the case with the root of disease: it is the result of inflammation—chronic inflammation to be exact.
Granted, inflammation is a necessary and healthy response. It’s how our bodies protect ourselves. Think of how an animal’s scruff poufs up when it’s threatened. Inflammation is kind of like that, a response to some kind of antagonism.
We all experience acute inflammation in our lives, like redness or swelling when we get a cut, a bruise when we bang our knee, fever when we’re sick, or an allergic reaction to, say, pollen. With the exception of a more serious reaction (i.e. an allergic reaction to peanuts or a bee sting), these are generally not life-threatening.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is life-threatening. Much like that threatened animal’s scruff, your body isn’t supposed to be poufed up like that nonstop. If your body is, it scrambles to fix the problem however it can, but after some time things give way.
Inflammation Causing Foods Drive
Most inflammatory diseases begin in our guts when our immune systems have to repeatedly respond to antagonists (i.e. from inflammation causing foods). The gut lining is built to be semi-permeable so nutrients can enter our bloodstream and nourish our bodies. But if we are frequently subjected to antagonists, over time the gut lining becomes too permeable, and we don’t digest our food properly, or absorb its nutrients.
Undigested food particles then enter our bloodstream through the intestinal wall, along with bacteria, viruses, yeast, and toxins. After a while, the immune system steps in in an attempt to attack the invaders. This is inflammation, which manifests as various allergies and diseases when it becomes chronic.
Foods can and do trigger inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses in the body, making it critical to avoid inflammation causing foods.
This makes anti-inflammatory foods a foundational key to good health. Of course, there’s a lot of talk about anti-inflammatory foods these days, and a lot of that talk is misguided, like the discussion of omega-3 from plant foods in my article You’re Being Fed BS About Omega-3 from Chia, Flax and Plant Foods (And What You Can Do About It).
In coming posts, I’ll teach you how to sniff out nutrition hype (‘cause sadly there’s frikin’ tons of it).
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1 “Quarterly Surveillance Report: The Epidemiologic Transition and the Prevalence of Cancer.” Montana Cancer Control Section. October 2006. http://leg.mt.gov/content/committees/interim/2007_2008/environmental_quality_council/meetings/minutes/eqc01152008_ex13.pdf