I am not an MD. Instead, I have a PhD and certification as a Vegan Lifestyle Coach. The following is a summary of what I have learned and I encourage everyone to keep digging about diet and how it affects our bodies. There is a tremendous amount of misinformation available about diet to purposely confuse us and keep us eating the foods that are harmful for us. Right now, with COVID-19 being linked to inflammation, we should all be thinking about how to reduce our personal inflammation. Keep reading to learn more.
Inflammation has been discussed for a long time as the root cause for many diseases. For example, it has been connected to arthritis, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, type-2 diabetes, obesity that supports the diseases already listed, and other auto-immune diseases. I have endometriosis, which is considered an auto-immune disease, and thus have tried to follow an anti-inflammatory diet for decades to help reduce the pain associated with this disease.
Inflammation in the body inspires an immune response. When we get a scratch or sprain an ankle, our immune system is triggered to heal and repair the damaged area. We see redness, swelling, and feel heat as our bodies heal. But when we trigger the same response inside our bodies chronically, we create the perfect environment, without even feeling anything, for chronic disease and weaken our immune system to respond to other invasions from bacteria or viruses. If we, potentially unknowingly, have a weakened immune system from chronic inflammation, we are placing ourselves at greater risk for bacterial and viral infections. COVID-19 is such a new virus that, as far as we know, no one has full immunity and everyone is expected to contract it at some point. Especially while we do not have a vaccine. However, if our bodies already have an over-extended immune response from inflammation, we are at a greater risk of developing a more severe case of the novel virus.
So what do we do? Luckily, we can eat in ways that help us reduce the inflammation in our bodies. This will help us reduce our risk of the diseases already listed, reduce pain from chronic diseases, and potentially help us avoid some of the more severe symptoms of COVID-19.
Foods that encourage inflammation?
- Refined grains, including seitan
- Refined sugar, corn syrup, and agave
- Animal proteins from meat, especially processed meats, eggs, and dairy
- Vegetable and seed oils
- Trans fats, less common in the U.S. diet since legislation was passed to remove it from processed foods
- Artificial additives
- Too much salt
- Certain molds on our foods, like from peanuts
- Packed juices that have been pasteurized, the process makes them mostly sugar
When we eat a lot of these foods on a regular basis, our body is constantly trying to process them and triggering our immune system. Instead, these foods should be rare in our diets and avoided as much as possible. I’m certainly not perfect and sugar is my vice. I am a chocoholic after all, but I am able to avoid most of the other inflammatory foods. It is something I am working on.
Instead, reach for whole foods. Don’t be afraid of fruit. Try interesting whole grains. Eat as many vegetables as possible. If worried about too many beans or grains causing gas, consider some anti-gas options. Make sure to eat some beans and whole grains every day so your body gets used to them and creates less gas.
What is your inflammatory vice? Share in the comments.