THE BLOG

Inflammation: The Silent Killer

03/02/2014 16:14 GMT | Updated 05/04/2014 10:59 BST

This is arguably the most important article I have written in terms of improving not only your weight loss, but overall health, which should really be the primary goal.

While gut flora (a future article) is the root cause of disease, inflammation is the regarded as the catalyst for most disease; both can be the cause or the effect of each other; hence there is a close interdependency.

Most people have never heard of chronic inflammation, which is a low grade state of inflammation and is nothing to do with bumping and bruising yourself, often referred to as acute inflammation and represents our body's defence and repair mechanism.

The chronic state is caused when your immune system is constantly responding to substances like certain foods that may seem harmless to the body, but nevertheless cause the immune system to treat it as a threat; gluten and other anti-nutrients, especially those found in wheat products are highly problematic and we are not talking about celiac disease, but gluten intolerance. [1]

This immune response sets the scene for a cascade of biological reactions or events including the destruction of your good gut bacteria or flora, which can threaten your long term physical and mental health.

New research published in the journal, Nutrition and Clinical Practice [2] shows that your gut flora can affect numerous processes in your body, including your metabolism, immune function, energy production, body weight, nutrition and genetic expression i.e. whether your disease inducing genes are suppressed or turned on.

It is really important to understand that there are very few, if any symptoms of chronic inflammation; hence the reason it is often referred to as the "silent killer"; it smoulders like a slow burning log and then through time, erupts like a volcano, when symptoms become apparent, but very often it is either too late or life changing, e.g. heart attack, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's.

Chronic Inflammation and Disease

Chronic inflammation is the catalyst for most, if not all disease including; diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol (not caused by saturated fats as the statin makers would have you believe), Alzheimer's, lung conditions, arthritis, autoimmune diseases (e.g. Hashimoto's, multiple sclerosis) and many cancers.

Apart from the conditions mentioned, chronic inflammation leads to poor gut health (and vice versa), which in turn causes:

• Poor nutrient absorption

• Fat storage

• Mood disorders

• Depression

• Insulin resistance

• Digestive disorders; bloating, gas, nausea, heartburn, diarrhoea, leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, acid reflux and constipation.

Pro-inflammatory foods

If you look at most dietary advice out there, they include many allergenic foods and from a weight loss and health point of view, they are a disaster. However they persist with their misplaced advice to sell millions of books, which really do not tell it how it is, because they want their books to be more palatable to the mass market or they need to appease the food and Big Pharma industries.

Avoiding chronic inflammation will help prevent the aforementioned diseases, improve nutrient absorption, alleviate cravings, improve insulin function, help control body weight, and improve your mental state; 90% of the "feel good" brain chemical, serotonin is produced in the gut.

Inflammatory foods cause a constant immune response and should be limited or even better avoided. These include:

• Gluten especially from wheat based foods such as cereals, breads, pasta, noodles, couscous, tortillas, bagels, cakes, pastries, pies, biscuits, muffins, ready meals, processed foods, most packaged foods. NB Don't be fooled by gluten free products as they are high in other starch flours like potato and rice, which cause high insulin responses leading to potential fat storage, contain anti-nutrients as well as being devoid of nutrition.

• Refined vegetable oils, pretty much most on the supermarket shelves such as generic vegetable oil, sunflower, safflower, corn, grape seed, groundnut (peanut) soya and the non-butter spreads, processed and fried foods that contain these oils.

They are high in omega 6, disrupting the crucially important omega 6 to omega 3 balance. Use cold pressed oils like extra virgin olive oil, macadamia and avocado oils for drizzling and dressings only. NB some cold pressed nut and seed oils can be pricey such as walnut, flax seed, hemp and hazelnut.

For cooking use organic or grass fed butter or ghee, virgin coconut oil or animal fat (lard) from a grass fed animal; they are all stable at higher temperatures and do not degrade into oxidative compounds.

• Sugars and their by-products. NB sugar has many guises; corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, agave syrup, sorghum syrup and sucrose are some of the creative names used. Use natural sweeteners like Truevia, Purevia or pure Stevia.

• Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats (aka trans fats); these include margarines, baked goods, some packaged foods and vegetable shortenings.

• Dairy products ONLY if you have an intolerance to them; soy, eggs, yeast are common allergens also.

• Grain fed animal meats and poultry. Where affordability allows, opt for naturally raised meats and poultry and avoid farmed fish; it's toxic and this also includes the organic farmed fish.

• Alcohol should be limited; red wine in moderation however, reduces inflammation.

• Grains such as wheat as mentioned above, white rice, white flour, white bread, corn and corn flour, noodles, pasta, biscuits and pastries. NB whole grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye etc) should also be avoided or minimised as they are moderately inflammatory, have very little nutrition relative to the calories and come with anti-nutrients and a plethora of health problems including weight gain and obesity.

• Beans and legumes UNLESS they are pre-soaked when using in the dried form to remove anti-nutrients. Unfermented soy products like tofu and soy milk are obviously sources of this legume, but it's also found in many cereals, baked goods, energy bars, canned broths and soups. Read ingredient labels carefully.

• Artificial food additives such as aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, MSG, colourings, flavourings etc.

• Medicines including antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors (PPI's), birth control and anti-inflammatories should be avoided. There is mounting evidence that antibiotics can permanently destroy your gut flora. [3]

Anti-inflammatory Foods

So what should you eat to help keep inflammation at bay?

• Probiotic foods include sauerkraut and kimchee (both homemade), plain yogurts with live cultures including goat's milk products, kefir, microalgae (spirulina, chorella, and blue-green algae), miso soup, pickles (homemade), tempeh, natto, kombucha and high quality probiotic supplements.

NB To ingest enough healthy bacteria, you will need to consume a food like homemade sauerkraut, which has been found to be very effective at populating your gut with beneficial bacteria and is very cheap to make and much cheaper than probiotic supplements, which do not always guarantee potency; they certainly do not have the wide range of bacteria that sauerkraut offers.

• Prebiotic foods contain the most common type of prebiotic from the soluble dietary fibre inulin. Inulin is common in many plants containing oligofructose. Furthermore, many of these plants are frequently eaten as vegetables like asparagus, garlic, leek, onion, artichoke and are excellent sources of inulin. Other foods include legumes, bananas and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, radish and rutabaga, also contain appreciable amounts of inulin.

NB You need to soak legumes to remove the anti-nutrients.

• A wide assortment of vegetables including leafy greens

• Wild Alaskan salmon and other wild fatty fish; omega 3 is highly effective at thwarting inflammation. Supplementation would also help and guarantee that you maintain your omega 3 intake.

• Some fruits especially blueberries and other berries, cherries, pomegranates and papaya and pineapple, which all contains anti-inflammatory compounds.

• Turmeric and ginger; all herbs and spices really

• Green tea and Rooibos (Redbush), which make great natural drinks

Green juice every day or every other day

• Sweet potatoes

• In general, a diet high in healthy fats; coconut and its by-products, EVOO and other cold pressed oils, fat from naturally raised animals and poultry, raw nuts and seeds in moderation, olives, avocados, oily fish, wild fish, meats including offal and poultry from grass fed or naturally reared animals when affordable, FRO eggs, high fat organic or grass fed dairy in moderation, fruits, vegetables, milled flaxseed, all spices and herbs.

NB If you have an allergy or intolerance to dairy, then you should consider eliminating them.

Other factors and inflammation

• Sleep or the lack of, is also a cause of elevated cytokines (inflammatory markers).[4]

• Stress is a major contributor to inflammation [5] and steps should be taken to reduce it; a proper night's sleep is in actual fact one of the best strategies, meditation and yoga are other options.

• Environmental toxins, also labelled as endocrine disrupters or hormone mimickers, increase oestrogen levels in turn causing fat gain; fat is a factory for cytokines, (inflammatory chemical mediators. These toxins are found in household cleaners, pesticides, canned foods, plastics, toiletries in particular phthalates and parabens, industrial products e.g. solvents and paints, herbicides and non-filtered water; they all cause inflammation. [6]

• A Sedentary lifestyle; exercise in moderation will help reduce inflammatory markers [7], whereas too much and the wrong type can actually cause inflammation.

• Chronic infections; identify and take steps to eliminate these bacteria, viruses, parasites etc

If you find the article useful, please feel free to share it.

References

[1] http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/glutenintolerance/a/How-Many-People-Have-Gluten-Sensitivity.htm

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%22Nutrition+in+clinical+practice+%3A+official+publication+of+the+American+Society+for+Parenteral+and+Enteral+Nutrition%22[Jour]+AND+2012[pdat]+AND+Krajmalnik+Brown[author]&cmd=detailssearch

[3] http://www.naturalnews.com/033901_antibiotics_gut_flora.html

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3548567/

[5] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546.htm

[6] http://blog.lef.org/2010/07/environmental-toxins-cause-inflammation.html

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15772055