"Let Food Be Thy Medicine" -- Why Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
Several times last year, I wrote articles about anti-inflammatory foods, but I never clearly stated why I believe an anti-inflammatory diet is important for health, general well-being, and especially pain management.
Inflammation is often associated with an acute (immediate, short-term) injury or illness. If we get injured the affected area becomes hot, red, swollen, and painful. This is the immune system’s way of funneling resources to an area that needs them. Unfortunately, anything in abundance can be detrimental…and chronic (long-term) inflammation is no different. Chronic inflammation is a signal that the body’s immune system believes something in the body needs to be attacked and/or eliminated for the health of the system. But if there’s no specific injury or illness that can be eliminated, the constant “fight” state of the immune system becomes very taxing and can lead to many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Chronic inflammation has become an increasingly popular subject over the past several years as researchers continue to find connections between inflammation and other diseases. We now recognize obesity as an inflammatory disease because of the level of inflammatory chemicals in fat cells. One of the more significant research findings in recent years was the discovery of the connection between inflammation and insulin resistance.
I want to briefly explain insulin and insulin resistance. Researchers like Mario Kratz, Ph.D., have discovered a connection between insulin resistance and inflammation. It’s unclear whether chronic inflammation can drive insulin resistance or the other way around, but it is clear that the two are related. Understanding insulin is critical to understanding what a healthy diet looks like. In a properly working body, carbohydrates turn into blood glucose. Glucose in the blood stream signals the pancreas to release insulin. Think of insulin like an Uber driver; its job is to pick up the glucose and take it to muscle cells where it can be absorbed and used to produce energy. Muscle cells have insulin receptors that open the door, so to speak, so the insulin can take glucose inside. One clever YouTuber made the analogy of muscle cells being like a club, with insulin receptors as the ‘bouncers’. The bouncers won’t let just anyone into the club, but insulin is a VIP and all of its guests get to join the party. It’s important to understand that muscle cells have only so much room and when the club is full, even the VIP’s don’t get in. That’s exactly what happens when we have too much glucose in our blood stream. The pancreas has to work overtime to create extra insulin to move glucose out of the blood stream, but there’s no room left in the muscle cells…so the doors get shut. When a muscle cell stops taking in glucose, it’s called insulin resistance, and it’s the starting point for obesity and Type II diabetes. Another important note about insulin is that it’s the only hormone in the body that can drive excess calories into fat cells. That’s why insulin is known as the “storage hormone”. Insulin activity is such a critical concept to understand: 1) It explains why “not all calories are created equal”, and 2) It is the rationale for getting your nutrition from certain healthy sources rather than eating whatever you want in moderation.
One important lesson that I learned from health writer Dave Palumbo is that while there are essential amino acids (proteins that body must have that we can only get from food), and there are essential fatty acids (fats that the body must have that we can only get from food), there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are not involved in the rebuild/repair process, nor do they offer much in the way of hormonal regulation -- our bodies are able to utilize proteins and fats as their main sources of energy.
Photo credit: http://scienceofsugar.com/insulin-resistance/
Let’s put all of this together: the nutrient most directly associated with insulin resistance and chronic inflammation (which is at the root of countless life threatening illnesses) is the only non-essential nutrient, yet it is the nutrient most heavily consumed in the standard American diet. I don’t know about you, but I find that to be a bit confusing. Anti-inflammatory diets, conversely, are built around whole food protein, vegetables, fiber, and healthy fats, with carbohydrates limited to unprocessed sources (free of gluten and wheat) and only in the amount needed to take in adequate fiber and meet energy needs.
Vegetables and Omega-3 fatty acids help the body control the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals, thereby reducing chronic inflammation.
A steady supply of amino acids from proteins keeps the body in a positive state of repair and recovery.
Fiber feeds good gut bacteria and eliminates harmful waste.
Because I believe so heavily in these principles and the importance of an anti-inflammatory diet (be it for weight loss, pain management, or just general health), I’ve introduced a line of products to The Doleys Clinic to help patients and non-patients achieve their health goals. Our diet is built around meal replacements (cookies and bars) for convenience. The ingredients are designed to provide whole food nutrition with servings of complete proteins, quality fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, essential vitamins and minerals, and plant-based nutrition. Let me be clear, there is nothing magical here. I am not offering you a special ingredient that promises quick miracles. I’m offering you an easy-to-follow, cost-effective, tasty diet. The difference between The Doleys Clinic plan and some others is that we’ve done the prep work for you. Let’s face it, eating clean food is easy. The hard part is picking recipes, shopping, cooking, portioning, storing, and making sure your stored food is always with you so fast food won’t be the easy option. Our bars and cookies are made with the same ingredients you’d find on any healthy diet, but all of the food you need is cooked and portioned for you. You simply grab the number of bars you need for the day and go about your business. The convenience of these products and this plan is why patients are getting results…and why you will as well.
To get more information about The Doleys Clinic weight loss program and products, visit www.doleysweightloss.com. You can contact me (Nick) at the clinic -- 205-982-3596 -- or stop by and ask to speak with me. Anyone who wishes to learn more will get a free sample of one of our bars.
Yours in good health,