Diet and Inflammation
You’ve just left the doctor’s office with more questions than answers. You were handed a diagnosis, and likely, a slip of paper with a prescription (illegibly) scribbled on it. And unfortunately, you probably weren’t instructed on dietary and/or lifestyle changes that might make your journey to wellness suck a little less
.You know that inflammation is at the root of the problem. But what does that mean? What are inflammatory foods? Not to worry, 20Percenters. Let’s talk autoimmune disease and diet’s role in the bigger picture. Every bite you take is either fighting illness or feeding it. I don’t know about you, but I’m always going to put up a fight.
But where do I start?
Kick Sugar to the Curb
This isn’t easy to say … um, type. I’m beating around the bush. You’ve gotta cut out sugar. There, I said it. I get it, guys. No one is more addicted to sugar than I am. But the harsh reality is this — sugar is public enemy number one. Our bodies simply aren’t built to handle the sugar onslaught that is in the Western diet these days. Sugar is the king of inflammation and inflammation is exactly what you don’t want when your body is already attacking itself. (Really though, you don’t want inflammation ever!) Studies have shown that sugar is proven to even FEED cancer cells. Yes, you read that correctly. Sugar is food for cancer. Let that sink in …
You Booze, You Lose
Don’t freak out. Some alcohol is okay. Much like everything else in our diet, moderation is key. But too much? Yeah, you’re looking at a ticket to inflammation station. The good news is that it isn’t a one-way ticket. The occasional glass of red wine is fine! In fact, it’s packed with a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol. And if you’re looking to kick back with some buddies and indulge in a drink, keep these things in mind:
- Be mindful of your drink’s sugar content: Some drinks are better than others in regards to sugar.
- Know what you’re drinking: grain-based alcohols will likely leave you feeling worse than before (more on grains in a bit), and added dyes and artificial flavorings are commonplace for some drink brands.
Overall, just be mindful of what you’re drinking and how much you’re drinking. Luckily, finding low-sugar, clean ingredient alcohol is a whole lot easier these days. Just be a smart shopper, and you should be good to go.
Soy It Ain’t So
Remember when soy was super en vogue? It was even heralded as a healthy food option by the American Heart Association. As time went on, soy’s effects on hormone balance and thyroid suppression began to take center stage and people began to stay away.
Soy crops are usually genetically modified within an inch of their lives so that they can withstand ridiculous amounts of herbicides. The chemicals sprayed on the crop can weaken the lining of your intestines, which allows undigested food particles to cross into the bloodstream. Your immune system will likely look at this particular food (in this instance, soy) as an intruder, which will raise a red flag to your immune system. The immune system will send in the soldiers and you will be in full on inflammatory flare-up mode. All that to say, soy ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s probably best to play it safe and pass on this food altogether.
Nary A Dairy (Product)
This is another one that’s close to my heart. I love cheese just about as much as I love sugar. Interestingly enough, humans are the only species that ingests the milk of another mammal and this is why lots of people have trouble with dairy. Your body looks at dairy as an intruder. Did I really just say that delicious queso is causing problems?!? Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying,
Let’s talk loopholes. There are dairy workarounds that are every bit as delicious, but won’t cause any undue stress to your already-fragile system. Almond milk and coconut milk will quickly become your new go-to for all things (formerly known as) dairy. There’s coconut milk yogurt, almond milk-based coffee creamer, and even dairy-free ice cream. Pinkie promise, you won’t even miss the bovine varieties.
There is one actual dairy product that’s A-OK — ghee! Ghee is pure butterfat. Therefore, it is free from the troublesome lactose and casesin (milk protein). Also, people LOVE it! Some folks even add it to their coffee. Sounds weird, I know. But it’s one of those things that you just have to try to appreciate. Give it a go!
Blame It on the Grain
Ah, gluten. I’ve had my own share of ups and downs and crying fits over gluten. Traditional breads and pasta used to be one of my favorite go-to snacks, sides, entrées, and everything in between. So, what’s the big deal?
Cereal grains, like wheat and barley, contain lectins and phytic acids. The trouble with lectins and phytic acids is that they lead to conditions like leaky gut (the name itself completely freaks me out) and chronic inflammation. Other grains like corn and rice aren’t any better. Corn might technically be a vegetable, but it is a nutrient-poor one that can cause major inflammation. Rice and legumes are also bad guys.
And what happens when you’re inflamed? That’s right, kids. An autoimmune disease flare up is imminent. No fun. No fun at all. It’s best just to stay away.
Okay, enough of the bad news. Here’s the good news! There are so many delicious alternative flours and pastas out there that you won’t even miss the old stuff. Almond flour is a safe choice and is beyond versatile in the kitchen. Coconut flour is also easy to come by and pretty inexpensive as well. And there are so many wonderful recipes using these clean ingredients that you’ll positively fall in love with your new lifestyle. In fact, I’ll post a link to our treasure trove of recipes at the end of this blog post. But seriously, all of your new favorite recipes are a quick Google search away.
This is not a comprehensive list of all inflammatory foods. These are just the most common and a good place to start when trying to get a handle on your new diagnosis.
Think about this: you can change how you feel by simply making a few edits to your dietary routine. That’s pretty exciting if you ask me. You’ve got a whole lot more control than you think you do.
Not sure what’s making you feel bad? That’s where elimination diets come into play. An elimination diet removes the potentially inflammatory food for about three weeks. Upon reintroduction, you monitor how you feel and how your body reacts. Does your skin break out? Do your migraine headaches come raging back? Then you may have just discovered what doesn’t work for your particular body. Remember, we’re all so distinctively different and what works for some may not necessarily work for others.
For AIP Diet recipes and comprehensive lists of non-AIP-compliant foods, follow Twenty Percenter on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/TwentyPercenter/aip-diet-recipes/