7 Foods that Cause Inflammation

Inflammation is a normal biological response to injury, infection, and illness. When inflammation is triggered your body’s immune system releases chemicals that cause swelling, redness, and heat in the affected area. But Inflammation isn't all bad in fact it's necessary for healing. After a workout, for example, inflammation spikes to help stimulate your muscles into recovery. It's chronic inflammation that can lead to long-term health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and even obesity. One of the biggest controllable factors that cause inflammation in our bodies is the food we eat, as certain food groups are extremely likely to trigger the inflammation response.

These foods can cause chronic inflammation which will affect your body composition negatively because it leads to the erosion of many tissues in your body, including muscle tissue.

This is because inflammation goes hand in hand with an overactive immune system which can lead to the loss of muscle mass. This is why research links chronic inflammation to having a harder time building muscle as well as joint injuries and lower testosterone levels.

7 Foods that Cause Inflammation

Studies show that Inflammation markers like resting IL-6 levels negatively correlate with muscle growth meaning the more inflammation the less muscle participants will grow and the more prone they'll be to weight and fat gain So if you want less pain in your joints, and to have less friction with burning fat and building muscle you're going to want to avoid or at least limit these 7 food groups that are known to trigger the inflammatory response.

1. Refined sugar

One of the most well-known culprits is Refined sugar. Refined sugars can cause inflammation in the body due to their ability to activate a process known as glycation. Glycation is when sugar molecules bind with proteins or fats, creating advanced glycation end products otherwise known as AGE's. AGE's are toxic compounds that the body finds difficult to break down and dispose of. This leads to an accumulation of AGE's which can cause inflammation throughout the body. In addition to activating glycation pathways, refined sugar can cause leptin resistance. We don't want leptin resistance because leptin is one of the hormones responsible for regulating appetite and metabolism.

When leptin is not able to respond properly it causes an elevation in inflammatory markers like TNFα and IL-6 – further contributing to systemic inflammation within the body. Of course, the ideal solution would be to avoid processed sugars altogether forever, but most people will want to have some ice cream, cake, cookies, or other sweets at least here and there. So aside from doing your best to only eat these foods in moderation and in very limited quantities, if you still really crave sweet desserts, one easy solution to implement is to replace sugar with natural alternative sweeteners like stevia. There's no doubt that you can use stevia to make just as delicious desserts including cakes, cookies, and pastries while drastically reducing AGE's and the number of calories you take in.

With all that said one thing to keep in mind is that the sugars found in fruit aren’t refined sugars. You don’t have to avoid fruit. The reason is that fruit contains lots of anti-inflammatory compounds like antioxidants and fiber.

2. Fried Foods

Now another thing aside from sugar that can make almost any food taste significantly better is to fry it. But unfortunately, Fried Foods as nice as they may be for our taste buds, are also highly inflammatory. Common processed fried foods like chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and french fries aren't the only problem. Many homemade foods that are less processed, happen to be a staple in many people's diets around the world, and the act of frying in and of itself makes these foods popular and tasty, but also highly inflammatory.

The main culprit behind the inflammatory responses caused by fried foods is the high temperature used to cook them. The heat breaks down fats and oils, once again creating those toxins AGE's which trigger inflammation by activating the body's immune system, leading to an increase in cytokine production. 

3. Artificial trans-fats

Aside from that, fried foods also often contain our next big no-no for inflammation artificial trans-fats. Artificial trans-fats are found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils which are commonly used for deep frying and other cooking methods. They are a type of unsaturated fat that has been artificially created by the hydrogenation process which involves adding hydrogen atoms to vegetable oils to make them more solid and from a business standpoint this is done to increase shelf life and cut costs.

Artificial trans fats are actually found in many processed foods such as margarine fried foods snack foods and baked goods scientific research has shown that artificial trans fats can cause inflammation in the body due to their effects on our cell membranes and immune systems. 

The presence of artificial trans fats causes changes at the molecular level that lead to an accumulation of pro-inflammatory substances within our cells, this increases the levels of certain cytokines which are cell signaling molecules that trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body, Studies have also demonstrated a link between an increased intake of artificial trans fats and higher levels of C-reactive protein which is an indicator of systematic inflammation in humans.

High CRP concentrations are linked to various chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease diabetes mellitus and obesity all of these are conditions where inflammation plays a major role in how each of these diseases develop.

once again I want to mention that it's important to differentiate that we're only talking about artificial trans fats some kinds of trans fats are naturally occurring like the ones found in Dairy and meat these kinds of trans fats are not harmful so even though many dietitians claim that Dairy is inflammatory we have a systematic review published in 2019 that showed that milk and dairy products do not have a pro-inflammatory effect and may even help reduce inflammation in a similar way the natural trans fats found in meat also don't have the same effect as artificial trans fats. 

4. Processed meats

of course once you add processing to the equation even meats can become harmful in terms of inflammation processed meats are another food group that's very inflammatory and just to clarify processed meats are defined as any meat that has been preserved through salting curing or smoking, 

Examples include bacon ham hot dogs and sausages, processed Meats contain high levels of nitrates which are are used to preserve them for longer periods of time. nitrates create n nitroso compounds when they come into contact with stomach acids and nitroso compounds or nocs for sure are known to have carcinogenic properties which are not only highly inflammatory but can also lead to cancer.

on top of that processed Meats also contain Advanced glycation end products which aside from everything else that I've already mentioned they can also damage cells when consumed in large amounts and can lead to oxidative stress which is linked with chronic inflammation and other diseases including heart disease and stroke. so even though having one or two hot dogs on Memorial Day Weekend won't kill you do your best to keep processed Meats out of your diet the vast majority of the time.

5. Refined carbohydrates

similar to refined sugars refined carbohydrates are also big contributors to inflammation, refined carbohydrates describe any type of carb rich food that has been processed and stripped of its original nutritional value. examples are white bread crackers and many other common foods and snacks like Cheez-Its, goldfish and even pretzels while refined carbohydrates do provide your body with energy in the short term they can have long-term negative effects on health due to their tendency to cause inflammation.

for example in one study eating just 50 grams of refined carbs in the form of white bread resulted in an increase in the inflammatory marker nfkb this was due to the high glycemic index of white bread having a high glycemic index means that white bread is quickly broken down into Sugar by your body causing blood sugar levels to spike rapidly, your body then releases insulin in order to bring these levels back down but this can lead to an overproduction of cytokines and other inflammatory chemicals if done too often or for too long. 

this is again why I say that total avoidance may not be necessary but rather consuming these Foods in limited quantities is key so having a sandwich with white bread every once in a while is very different from having multiple slices of white bread every day for breakfast and lunch. even though calories and carbs will be very similar between 100 whole grain bread and white bread the white bread is far more inflammatory due to the river fine carbohydrates unlike 100 whole grain products these refined carbs also usually lack fiber which otherwise would slow down digestion. so this lack of fiber is another factor that causes the sugar to reach your bloodstream faster leading to a more significant spike in insulin.

6. Alcohol

next I have to mention alcohol which is by far one of the worst things for inflammation especially if consumed in excess or too often alcohol can have a direct effect on inflammation through its interaction with our immune cells, immune cells are responsible for responding to foreign Invaders such as bacteria or viruses that enter the body but alcohol can interfere with their ability to do so effectively this leads to an increase in cytokines and other inflammatory mediators which trigger an inflammatory response from other immune cells like macrophages and neutrophils, these increased levels of cytokines leads to further recruitment of other immune cells and ultimately results in a snowball effect that leads to even greater inflammation throughout the body. 

Another issue with alcohol is that it can increase inflammation indirectly by disrupting the gut microbiome and causing a condition known as leaky gut syndrome, the gut microbiome is a collection of bacteria fungi and other microorganisms that live in the intestines and help regulate many bodily functions including digestion and Immunity when alcohol is consumed it disrupts this balance of bacteria which leads to an increase in inflammatory molecules being released into the bloodstream. this causes an increased inflammatory response throughout the entire body.

finally one last thing about alcohol consumption is that it's been linked to increased oxidative stress which can cause further damage to cells also contributing to the inflammatory response. oxidative stress occurs when there's an imbalance between free radicals which are molecules that can cause damage to cells and antioxidants which are molecules that in Reverse help protect cells from free radical damage, so when alcohol is consumed it increases the amount of free radicals in the body which leads to oxidative stress this in turn causes cell damage and inflammation throughout the body.

7. Refined oils

refined oils the primary source of these refined oils comes in the form of vegetable soybean grape seed and sunflower oil but also includes others like canola and peanut oil refined oils like canola oil for

example go through several stages of chemical treatment like bleaching and deodorizing, because in their natural state they don't taste very good and would be very difficult to sell to Consumers for cooking.

these oils are composed of various polyunsaturated fatty acids also known as pufas. pufas are known as essential fatty acids because they cannot be produced by the human body and must be consumed from dietary sources such as vegetable oils, the problem with pufas is that when they are exposed to heat they become unstable and oxidized resulting in the formation of harmful compounds called lipid peroxides, these lipid peroxides can cause inflammation by activating pro-inflammatory Pathways in the body in addition to pufa refined oils also contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids which have been linked with increased inflammation throughout the body.

omega-6 fatty acids are considered pro-inflammatory because they tend to increase the production of molecules like prostaglandins and cytokines, this is in contrast to omega-3 fatty acids which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and imbalance between these two types of fats may lead to increased inflammation all on its own.

lastly refined oils can also contain artificial trans fats which as I've already mentioned also increase inflammation. it's for these reasons that it's best to minimize or avoid refined oils instead stick to healthier unrefined Alternatives such as Olive and coconut oil.

So those are seven of the worst things found in foods that you eat that'll trigger inflammation and cause unnecessary pain and health problems in your body. do your best to consume these types of foods in very limited quantities and you'll likely have less pain in your joints better overall health and a better body composition.

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