Top dietary sources of inflammation to avoid in 2020:
The human body is an input-output mechanism. The way we look, feel, and act is a direct result of what we choose to put into our body. That’s a concept that makes more sense to me than random chance. Essentially, we either take responsibility for our actions or we chose to blame circumstance.
Seven main contributors to inflammation and a compromised digestion are the following:
(1) overuse of antibiotics
(2) refined sugar
(3) artificial ingredients
(4) insoluble fiber
(8) vegetable oils
(9) certain components in dairy
(1) Antibiotics are a double-edged sword. They can help save lives by eliminating bad bacteria and pathogens. But they can also compromise digestion because they also wipe out the good bacteria as well. In general, manmade drugs tend to have tradeoffs. That seems to be a theme in nature. So, you may be thinking. What can I do mitigate any damage caused by antibiotics? Ideally, you want to restore the good bacteria in the gut. To do this, you would want to eat take an SBO (soil-based organism) probiotic while consuming prebiotic foods. The term ‘prebiotic’ is synonymous with ‘soluble fiber.’ In other words, they two different words that mean the same thing. If your stomach is particularly sensitive, I would recommend blending the prebiotic foods. Typically, prebiotic foods tend to be fruits or vegetables that are soft and fibrous. Examples could be blueberries, bananas, sweet potatoes, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, and others.
To simplify the concept of establishing good bacteria in the stomach, I will break it down into layman’s terms. Probiotic foods establish a colony within the stomach. To grow that colony, you need to eat prebiotic foods. Prebiotic foods are the fuel source to probiotic foods. I recommend getting probiotics through whole foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and others. But if your stomach is in a particularly fragile state due to an autoimmune condition, I would recommend eating little to no fiber while taking a soil-based probiotic supplement. These can be found on amazon.com for relatively cheap. This will help replenish the good bacteria in your stomach without causing any irritation. Most disease is caused by an imbalance of bad and good gut bacteria. And we can learn from ancient medicine because they addressed these issues back in roughly 350 BC. Hippocrates (the philosopher of Greek Medicine) even said:
“All disease begins in the gut.”
Being born into modernity, we need to look at the past in order to make decisions about the present. To neglect the past is ignorant. And it is our duty as humans to teach our children about how they can live their best life.
(2) At this point, you may want to know a bit more about bad bacteria and what feeds it. Refined sugars are the main contributors to the chaos. And if your gut is really compromised, sugar from fruit can do the same. Not only do refined sugars feed bad bacteria (pathogens, microbes, viruses), they kill good bacteria. That is why refined sugar needs to be eliminated out of one’s daily eating habits. In unpreventable circumstances, it is okay. But making a habit of it is deliberately putting yourself or your kid at a disadvantage. The human body is a beautiful mechanism because of how it can adapt.
Once refined sugars are eliminated from one’s diet, the body will no longer crave these sweets. A prime example of a notorious, refined sugar is high fructose corn syrup. This unnecessary ingredient also contributes to elevated hunger levels and inflammation. It also flows smoothly into the next inflammatory topic, which is unnecessary ingredients (artificial ingredients).
(3) When it comes artificial ingredients, the first thing you need to do is start reading the ingredients list on food labels. A good rule of thumb is to only eat ingredients that come from nature. That’s what I do 99% of the time and it is well worth it. For example, I would recommend you eat an preservative like rosemary extract as opposed to sodium nitrate. Anything that sounds like a chemical or is hard to pronounce is generally a no-go. When a foreign substance enters the body, it triggers an immune response due to the presence of an unknown substance. It’s not worth it to potentially cause inflammation because of some flavorless, pointless artificial ingredient. I love living in America but due to economic system, companies thrive on being cost-effective. And these ingredients are dirt cheap when it comes to preserving food and even enhancing taste to make the consumer want more. All-in-all, artificial ingredients provide no nutritional value and contribute to food addiction.
(4) Now onto the topic of fiber. To break it down, there are two types: soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber (the same as prebiotic fiber) is easier to digest and feeds the colonies of good bacteria within the gut microbiome or stomach. Soluble fiber is generally in softer foods like bananas, blueberries, mangos, and cooked vegetables. On the contrary, insoluble fiber is harder to digest and is pushed through the intestines in the form of stool. A big myth in America is that we need a certain amount of insoluble fiber to stay “regular.” An analogy that makes sense to me is to think of our digestive system as a flowing river. Throwing a bunch of logs onto the river is not going to help the river flow any better, but instead can do the opposite. It can potentially jam the river (hence constipation). If the nutritional information in the United States was so accurate, why would diseases rate and obesity be at an all-time high? We need to get into the habit of questioning what has been normalized in society. Insoluble fiber is found in foods like wheat products, raw vegetables, and nuts/legumes. In my opinion, I don’t see a point in eating nuts, so I steer clear of them (former nut addict). If you do choose to eat nuts, I recommend you soak them in saltwater for 12 hours in-advance to soften their structure. With regards to vegetables, I cook them to help them digest easier. If you do choose to eat vegetables, I recommend you cook them as well. Not only does steaming your vegetables make them easier to digest, it also can reduce the antinutrients they contain.
(5) Like all living things in nature, we have defense mechanisms to ward us off from predators. For animals, they have sharp teeth or claws. For plants, there are certain antinutrients (like gluten) that are meant to defend them as well. My whole life I thought vegetables were the healthiest foods that only yielded benefits. But those of us who are prone to irritable bowel disease/syndrome are at an increased risk. There are two sides to every story. And I hope you can recognize the pattern with living in Westernized culture. America loves to capitalize on the benefits of foods, but fails to even acknowledge that there are two sides to every story. Plant foods have negatives as well. The two main antinutrients that are most notorious for inflammation and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) are lectins and gluten. Lectins are found in foods such as beans, raw nuts, tomatoes, white potatoes, wheat, and wheat products. A golden tip to remove lectins from a food is to deseed that fruit or vegetable if possible. For example, our ancestors used to remove all of the seeds in a tomato before consumption. And that can go for other foods as well (like watermelon). It makes sense too, right? The seed was meant to grow; therefore it shouldn’t be eaten. So, I personally avoid these types of foods to stay on the safe side. It’s amazing how much better my body looks and feels as a result (healthier hair, skin, nails, overall energy, healthy joints). Gluten is found in grains, breads, wafers, and other wheat products. As you can probably note, grains and wheat products are not worth having in your diet. If you don’t believe me, avoid them for a week and see what happens. It’s not like you’ll die if you give up one food group for a week!
(6) The sixth inflammatory factor are pesticides and herbicides used on fruits and vegetables. These herbicides and pesticides don’t necessarily affect vitamin and mineral content, but can wreak havoc on your gut health. To simplify their harmful effects, these chemicals kill good gut bacteria and can create an environment where bad bacteria can thrive. From a financial standpoint, the purpose of pesticide and herbicide use to deter insects and bugs from ruining the crop. Essentially, this can save the farmer time and money. This results in cheaper groceries and a mass production of fruits and veggies. Hence, the American economy thrives as a result. That’s why there is value in buying organic fruits and vegetables because there is substantially less pesticide/herbicide residue. And a lot of these pesticides/herbicides are illegal outside of the United States. Glyphosate is a prime example of a horrific herbicide. It is not only carcinogenic and inflammatory to the gut microbiome; it is toxic to the environment (livestock, aquatic life, among many other issues). It’s typically sprayed on conventional/non-organic wheat and grass. Countries like Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and many more have banned the use of glyphosate. Sadly, there are many pesticide and herbicide chemicals that exist, and we need to rid of them of our diet. It’s very interesting to take a more in depth look at the American system we have set up. The incentive to become cost efficient reduces the nutrition in our food. And as a result, the health of our nation is obese and compromised. Interestingly enough, this sickened state of the people fuels industries like pharmaceuticals and big food corporations.
(7) At this point, there are a multitude of reasons you should eliminate wheat products/grains out of your diet. While many people rely on grains for adequate fiber intake, it is unnecessary and can irritate the gut lining.. Additionally, grains are high in insoluble fiber, lectins, gluten, and is heavily sprayed with pesticides. When it comes to avoiding disease, eliminating grains will make drastic difference. It’s not that grains are inherently evil. It’s that humans have modified the nature of the grain. Whether the grain is hosed in chemicals or fortified with synthetic vitamins, the grain is completely different than what our ancestors ate.
(8) The next source of inflammation are vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are comprised of pure polyunsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fat can be good and bad. Polyunsaturated fats are categorized as either omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids. Its good when in the form of omega-3 fatty acids (like wild-caught fish). It can be both good and bad in the form of an omega 6 fatty acids. In various whole foods (like almonds or other nuts), omega 6s can be good because there needs to be a proper balance between omega 3s and 6s. For vegetable oils, these omega 6’s are super shelf-stable and cheap which is their main selling point. As a result, they are incredibly toxic (and hard to detox) for our cells and mitochondria. Having good mitochondrial health is essential to warding off disease and accelerated aging. Not only are they hard to detox, vegetable oil consumption have been linked to heightened risk of heart disease, immune system impairment, brain dysfunction, and various forms of cellular damage. The issue with vegetable oils is that they are everywhere. In an effort to be cost effective, they are used in most restaurants. The average American’s omega 6:3 ratio is 20:1, when a 1:1 ratio is recommended to reduce inflammation. This elevated omega 6:3 ratio results in disease and inflammation of the stomach. A modern day issue a lot of kids have is dyslexia. And there is a lot of evidence showing that it could be due to an omega-6, omega-3 imbalance. Some examples of vegetable oils include canola oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and many more. Due to the refinement of these products, they have little to no nutritional value and can last on a shelf for far too long.
(9) The final source of inflammation to avoid is dairy. But not completely. There are two main inflammatory responses that occur from certain components of dairy. First, is lactose. Lactose is a sugar in dairy that is known to cause upset stomach, diarrhea, and loose stools. For most of us, it is hard to digest because we don’t produce enough of the digestive enzyme lactase. To know if a dairy product has lactose, simply check the nutrition label to see if there is any sugar. For those of you that love cheese, it is typically pure fat and protein with almost zero lactose. As a general rule of thumb, the harder the cheese and the more aged the cheese is, the easier it will be to digest and will contain minimal amounts of lactose. But this brings up the second inflammatory component in dairy. That would be A1 casein. A1 beta-casein is a protein that causes inflammatory responses in some individuals. It’s only found in dairy products that are derived from cattle. In animals like goats and sheep, they contain a more digestible form of casein protein called A2 beta-casein. So if you’re having trouble with cow products, give goat and sheep products a shot. In general, if cow dairy has any protein content, it most likely has A1 beta-casein. Fat-dominant foods like ghee, butter, and heavy cream should have zero casein. Maybe trace amounts if anything. For this reason, ghee and grass-fed butter are staples in my diet. To reduce any response to lactose and dairy, I recommend eating dairy a few times per week in moderation. If dairy works well with you, I suggest learning to ferment your own kefir or milk. This will help create a probiotic effect. Probiotic dairy is abundant in good bacteria and contains live enzymes break down the lactose and casein. Essentially, probiotic dairy is predigested so the body doesn’t have to work as hard to digest the food or beverage. My personal favorite is Parmesan Reggiano. It’s a raw, probiotic dairy product of Italy. It is insanely flavorful and brings me back to my Italian roots!