There are two things that come to mind when people see the word diet: it is for people who need to lose weight and/or it is something temporary and we can return to our eating style after dieting.
While there is a lot to be said about these two huge misconceptions, I am going to talk about food-pain connection and how our daily diet contributes to inflammation.
In my previous posts I talked about musculoskeletal dysfunctions caused by lack of motion and misaligned posture. Whenever there is a musculoskeletal dysfunction, the affected muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves often respond by protecting the overworked areas by swelling and inflammation in order to heal and repair. This is a perfectly normal body reaction.
The problem is, many people are staying in constant state of chronic inflammation that never quite goes away. Why? Besides loading some parts of the body more than others due to misalignment, we are also consuming too many substances that work as fuel to inflammation.
There are three major offenders that everybody should stay away from – no exceptions! These substances, I cannot even call them food, are:
sugars (including all refined carbohydrates), bad fats, and all processed foods.
Sugar – the sweet poison
I know this statement will not make me popular. What about sugar cravings and the need of comfort food, what about celebrations? People have very hard time accepting the concept that sugar should not be a part of anybody’s diet.
But I am not saying anything new – all the information about sugar toxicity is already there. Many of us watched Dr. Robert Lustig on an April 1 episode of “60 Minutes” declaring that added sugar was a “toxic” substance that has “created a public health crisis.”
“Refined sugar is a genetically unfamiliar ingredient,” says Jack Challem, a nutrition researcher and author of The Inflammation Syndrome. “A lot of health problems today are the result of ancient genes bumping up against modern foods.”
When we consume sugars, including breads, pasta, white rice, pastries, fruit juices, or soft drinks blood levels of glucose rise rapidly. The body immediately releases insulin and something called IGF (Insulinlike Growth Factor) which both promote the factors of inflammation. Even whole grain breads create the same reaction since they are made from milled whole grains. Grinding provides quicker digestion so that the stored sugar in the grain is released abruptly into the blood stream rapidly increasing blood sugar levels.
When people live in constant state of internal inflammation a lot of bad things can happen – from something as simple as acne to serious skin disorders, to chronic musculoskeletal pain, or even to something as deadly as cancer.
In 2009, the massive Women’s Health Initiative study of almost one hundred thousand postmenopausal women in the United States confirmed a link between increased insulin from the diet high in sugar and white flour and elevated risk of breast cancer.
“Bad” fats – inflammation stimulants
Modern diet typically includes consumption of fats with very high omega-6 fatty acids found in common vegetable cooking oils such as corn, cottonseed, sunflower, grape seed and safflower oils and dismally low omega-3 fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and most omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “The typical American diet tends to contain 14 – 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids”.
This highly imbalanced ratio promotes inflammation – omega-6 fats found in margarine and cooking oils are the basic building blocks of arachidonic acid and prostaglandin E2, two of several key inflammation-causing substances in the body.
Many people heard of danger of trans fats in elevating bad cholesterol and increasing chances of heart disease. Not so many people know that trans fats also block the absorption of healthy omega-3 oils. Trans fats are found in deep fried foods, fast foods, commercial baked goods and anything prepared with partially hydrogenated oil, margarine and vegetable shortening.
Processed foods – the nightmare for the body
When we don’t eat food that is biologically fitting for humans, we are losing the battle with debilitating diseases. Any food that does not spoil for years is not fit for human consumption. What is in the box or a can is dead substance. It has very little nutritional value, does not have any vital life energy, very little or no enzymatic activity. It does not matter, whether it has many or only a few calories. All those supposedly healthy frozen dinners are not healthy.
What do you think happens in a human body trying to extract some nutrition from food previously cooked, loaded with sugar or salt, pumped with all sorts of preservatives, and then frozen, or canned under high pressure and high temperature, and finally, to complete the process, put into a microwave? It puts undue pressure on adrenal glands.
Recently I came across a very interesting article by Kalidasa, a natural healing practitioner, who wrote a post How Insulin Causes Lower Back Pain And What You Can Do About It. Here is an excerpt from it: “adrenal glands … didn’t evolve to contend with processed foods at all, nowadays they are called upon to do this effort over and over again. The link with the lower back is that the exhausted adrenals obtain the nutrients they need from available sources together with stealing them away from the ligaments and tendons; they use many of the same nutrients. Since the lower back supports the weight of the upper body, this is where you are most likely to experience a weakness from depleted ligaments first. Without ligament strength, the joints in the lower back and hips go out of alignment causing lower back pain that is so common today”
Take a look at all the fast foods: oils turned into carcinogens in the process of frying, hydrogenated oils that block omega-3 absorption, meats from animals that were fed inappropriate foods, growth hormones, and antibiotics, the list goes on and on.
Processed foods on the supermarket shelves are loaded with various food additives, ranging from reasonably safe food coloring to highly dangerous preservatives such as nitrates contributing to the formation of cancer-causing toxins in our bodies. Other common chemicals, such as degerming agents, artificial flavorings, flavor enhances, mold inhibitors, bleachers also put undue load on our liver and exhausted adrenal glands.
Many artificial food additives like aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) reportedly trigger inflammatory responses, especially in people who are already suffering from inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
What to eat then?
OMG! What is one supposed to eat then? You start getting most health benefits by eliminating harmful things from your diet first (see the bad food list above). In their place, add plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and truckloads of greens :-). This is a huge subject that I cannot cover in this post. I’ll return to it in the future.
Stay active, eat healthy, live pain free.