If anyone has had chronic pain, they have likely heard of the term “inflammation.” What many of you may not realize is that this inflammation, when it is chronic, may be keeping you from achieving your weight loss potential.
Inflammation means that the immune system is in overdrive. This is good for the short term like when fighting an infection. Chronic inflammation causes the release of compounds like cytokines that can cause a host of health issues (like joint pain, inflammatory bowel diseases, allergies, and skin rashes).
Inflammatory compounds have been shown to cause the release of more fat and sugar into the bloodstream, making it easier for the body to build fat tissue.
A Quick Word about Exercise
It is important to realize that exercise increases oxidative stress in the body, but only briefly. This can actually be a good thing. But if someone’s immune system is out of balance and they are in an inflammatory state, intense exercise may actually make things worse. On a similar vein, many people may go to the gym every day to lose the weight, working hard, yet not achieving their desired results. In these cases the answer is to first reduce the inflammation in the body with nutrition. Only then will exercise help to speed fat loss.
So let’s take a deep dive into a few food based solutions to reducing your chronic inflammation and improving weight loss.
Eat in diversity
As I said in a previous blog post about Gut Health, having a diverse diet is very important for maintaining a healthy gut, thereby keeping a balanced immune system (most of the immune system is located in the gut) and consequently lowering inflammation. The immune system is “social” and is happy when it can interact with a wide variety of foods.
Eat inflammation-reducing foods
This is a no-brainer. Just think plants like vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Some of my favorites are: blueberries, spinach, and turmeric. Blueberries taste great and have nutrients great for blood sugar balance. Spinach is full of vitamins and key minerals like magnesium and iron. Turmeric has been shown to be helpful not only for inflammatory conditions like arthritis but also weight loss. There are many more foods out there that reduce inflammation like beans, pumpkin, oats, oranges, and even proteins like turkey. Be sure to include a variety of these inflammation-reducing foods in your weight loss diet.
Maintain a balanced blood sugar
Excess sugar consumption is inflammatory. Additionally, eating too many starches or even eating too much protein can disrupt blood sugar balance. (Yes, a high protein diet may sabotage weight loss goals.)
Avoid processed foods
They are quick, cheap and convenient. But, unfortunately, due to their long shelf life, they are full of preservatives and can cause inflammation.
Use caution with wheat, dairy, and eggs
They are the most common inflammation promoting foods for people. But, these foods have health benefits and may be enjoyed in moderation. However, if someone has an immune imbalance avoiding or minimizing these foods for a while is a often a good idea as they contain proteins that are hard to digest and can irritate the gut.
Go beyond nutrition
Many lifestyle choices, such as getting that extra hour of sleep, meditation, or even laughter, can have an anti-inflammatory effect.
So the next time you are at the supermarket, be adventurous and buy that vegetable, fruit, seed or grain you have never tried before. Your immune system will thank you.
Aaron Slotkin is a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist and licensed Pharmacist. He has seen numerous clients suffering with various health-related problems. Using a holistic approach of customized diet and lifestyle interventions, targeted supplements, and laboratory testing, he has been very successful helping clients achieve their optimal weight and health. You can follow him on Facebook.