Dr Marion Gluck explores the link between Diet and Inflammation.
There is a certain level of inflammation expected in the body as it is needed to heal in response to any injuries, however, it should subside promptly. If it doesn’t, the body stays in a state of chronic inflammation potentially leading to several health complications.
Everything we eat, will affect our minds and bodies, and is a key player in how we fee. Our diet helps to make up the community of microbes who live in our gastrointestinal tract, so it is no wonder that if we eat badly, we feel bad.
The gut microbiota has a direct link to affect the levels of neurotransmitters that facilitate neuron communication in the brain. Certain types of microbes in the gut can directly stimulate the production and release of serotonin in the cells lining the colon. In fact, these serotonin-producing cells account for more than 90% of serotonin production in humans which shows just how important these are on brain function and how we are feeling. If your gut isn’t functioning correctly, due to inflammation it may be that these cells aren’t able to produce the right levels of serotonin which will then affect how you feel physically and your mood.
Food groups that cause inflammation
Food-related inflammation and the reactivity towards food can be clustered in food groups, usually linked to the excessive intake of those. Wheat and gluten, yeast, milk and its derivatives, as well as nickel, constitute some of the “Great Food Clusters”. Prolonged inflammation can make it difficult to shift any extra weight and can make hormonal conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS worse.
There are many signs of an unhealthy gut, which can often be misdiagnosed as something else.
- Digestive issues (bloating, gas, diarrhoea or constipation)
- Weight changes
- Food sensitivities
- Skin irritation
- Autoimmune conditions
- Hormonal imbalance
How to reduce inflammation
An anti-inflammatory diet consists of unprocessed fresh food, good lean protein, good fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and oily fish. Whole grains and legumes are important for gut health and fibre and a wide variety of rainbow-coloured fruit and vegetables provide antioxidants and phytonutrients. Eat organic as much as possible to reduce consumption of pesticides and toxins which act as endocrine disruptors and affect hormone balance.
The gut not only produces certain hormones, but also detoxifies hormones such as estrogen. Therefore, it is important to nourish your gut with prebiotic and probiotic foods, which are designed to regulate the gut microbiome. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be ingested to benefit the gut. They are often found in fermented foods, including yoghurt, miso, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi. Prebiotics are consumed by probiotics to encourage growth and activity. These include garlic, asparagus, banana, leek, tomato and oats.
Foods To Avoid:
- Processed carbohydrates (in tandem with refined sugars, processed carbohydrates drive weight gain and inflammation in the body. The heavier we become, the more insulin-resistant we become, the more glucose levels go up in the bloodstream, and this drives inflammation)
- Fried foods (these have omega 6 fats in them; our bodies need more omega 3 than omega 6, as too much omega 6 will compete with omega 3, causing inflammation)
- Processed foods containing preservatives
Food-related inflammation can have an impact on many conditions including type 2 diabetes, colitis, autoimmune diseases or even migraines. It is also known to significantly impact on weight gain and obesity, with people suffering from food-related inflammation at higher risk of developing insulin resistance and fat accumulation as a defence mechanism. A personalised relationship with food is the best way to keep inflammation at bay, ultimately allowing for a good body metabolism, balanced insulin sensitivity and a healthy weight.