12 Foods That Make Inflammation Worse
If you’re suffering from pain or swelling right now, take a hard look at what you’re eating. Avoiding these inflammation-causing foods will have you feeling a whole lot better.
Wheat products like white bread and pasta can quickly cause inflammation in the body. “Refined wheat flours have been stripped of their slow-digesting fiber and nutrients, which means the body can break down these foods very quickly,” says Christopher Hollingsworth, MD, an endovascular surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates. The quicker our bodies break down these carbs, the faster our blood sugar levels rise. Dr. Hollingworth explained that this causes a spike in insulin, which leads to inflammation. If you’re concerned about inflammation, check out 7 ways to keep your blood sugar levels healthy.
Put down the milk and cookies if you want to avoid inflammation. “When ingested, [dairy products] cause disruption and irritation to the cells of the gut,” says Danielle O’Connor, ND, a naturopathic doctor in Ontario. This irritation can allow allergens to leak through into the bloodstream and cause inflammatory symptoms, she warns. These symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and skin rashes. Here are some of the most common food allergy culprits to avoid.
It’s no surprise that French fries aren’t the healthiest choice, but they could be doing more harm than you realize. “Research has shown that individuals who eat a diet high in deep-fried foods show a higher prevalence of inflammatory markers,” says Obianuju Helen Okoye, MD, MBA, a public health physician and healthcare executive in St. Louis, MO. So if you’re headed to your local state fair this summer, make sure to avoid these fried foods.
Eating a diet rich in omega fatty acids sounds healthy, but may be causing some serious inflammation. We need to consume omega-6 and omega-3 oils because our bodies cannot make them—but they need to be in balance. “Omega-6s are highly inflammatory and promote chronic disease,” Says Jennie Ann Freiman, MD, author of The SEEDS Plan. To avoid an imbalance, Dr. Freiman recommends limiting oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, soy, canola, peanut, cottonseed, and grapeseed. Don’t throw out all your oils just yet though. Check out how omega-6 fatty acids from nuts can reduce type 2 diabetes risk.
Sugar is no one’s friend and will cause inflammation throughout your entire body. “Sugar, dyes, and preservatives all cause inflammation. Foods that cause inflammation do so by damaging the gut lining leading to leaky gut,” says Joel Warsh, MD, MSc, an integrative pediatrician in Los Angeles. Our gut lining is thin and can be easily damaged, allowing food particles into the bloodstream. Dr. Warsh explains that this leakage can lead to total body inflammation. These are the most common symptoms of leaky gut.
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Think one soda here or there doesn’t add up? Think again. A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that even when volunteers only drank occasional sugary drinks like soda, they had more inflammation markers in their bodies than those who avoid the bubbly stuff. Don’t miss these other reasons to start avoiding soda now.
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If you’ve been bored with your daily turkey sandwich, try switching it up and avoiding deli meat altogether. “Processed meats such as deli meat contain more advanced glycation end products (AGEs) than most other meats,” says Dr. Hollingsworth. “AGEs are inflammatory compounds that are created when the meats are dried, smoked, or otherwise processed and cooked at high temperatures.” Dr. Hollingworth explained that these AGEs are known to cause inflammation and lead to chronic diseases like colon cancer. Processed meats are just one of the 13 foods cardiologists try never to eat.
That morning donut may be delicious, but it will cause some serious inflammation by lunchtime. Pastries give our bodies a huge dose of both sugar and trans fats. “When the body encounters an imbalance, such as in blood glucose levels, the immune system is flagged and inflammation is triggered,” says Dr. Hollingsworth. “These spikes in sugar can increase the body’s levels of pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines.” The trans fatty acids in the doughnuts also lead to inflammation and other heart problems. Make sure to avoid those sweet treats, as well as these seven shocking foods that sneak in trans fats.
Processed foods like your morning cereal or flavored oatmeal may look healthy from the outside, but studies have shown that these foods are linked to inflammation and heart disease. As if that’s not bad enough, you won’t believe these 10 sickening secrets of processed food.
While it’s true that bacon makes everything more delicious, it also makes everything more inflammatory. A study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that foods high in saturated fat like bacon cause increased inflammation in the body and eventually lead to heart disease. These 8 packaged foods contain hidden saturated fats.
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Making your own homemade soup can be a healthy alternative to unhealthier store-bought varieties. Foods high in MSG, which is often found in canned soup, lead to chronic inflammation. Eating a diet high in MSG-containing foods has also been linked to an increased risk for obesity and diabetes. You don’t need to give up the comfort of a big bowl of soup. Here are 10 delicious soup and stew recipes you can make yourself.
While an occasional glass of wine with friends won’t make you swell up, it’s best to be careful. “Excessive alcohol is also a trigger for inflammation,” says Dr. Hollingsworth. Drinking more than one glass per day for women can cause leaky gut syndrome, leading to total body inflammation. Check out some of the signs that you may be drinking too much.
Use your diet
So how can we protect ourselves against chronic inflammation? In addition to avoiding the foods on this list, start incorporating some healthy foods to fight any inflammation you already have. Just as important as avoiding pro-inflammatory foods is eating foods that have the potential to reduce inflammation,” says Nicole Harkin, MD, a board-certified cardiologist and lipidologist. Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, cherries, leafy greens, and tomatoes. Check out this list of foods that fight inflammation.