Eliminate these three foods and start healing now!
The healthiest change you could make to your diet right now is to eliminate grains, sugars and unhealthy oils.
Seems like a tall order, I know, but eliminating these three food groups will go a long way toward reducing inflammation throughout the body.
All grains deliver an excessive level of carbohydrates, which, from an evolutionary perspective, our genes are woefully unprepared to handle. Grains also contain anti-nutrients (lectins, phytates and gluten) that we can’t adequately digest. Considering how long humans have been roaming the planet, our exposure to grain crops is a relatively recent event. As adaptable as we are, our evolutionary potential has yet to surmount the challenges of a grain-based diet.
A high-carbohydrate diet creates a vicious cycle of dependence on carbohydrates for energy. Once consumed, carbohydrates quickly convert into glucose, which is burned for immediate energy. Any excess glucose is transported by insulin to the muscles and liver where it is then stored as glycogen. But once those storage tanks are full, the remainder of calories are moved into fat cells called triglycerides for more long-term storage.
The high-carbohydrate, high insulin-producing diet leaves cells starved for energy and dependent upon the next high-carb meal to satisfy those energy demands. All the while, excess calories continue to be stored in the fat cells and remain as an untapped energy source. The glucose-insulin roller coaster keeps you reliant on external sources of energy and inhibits the body from accessing fat stores. This process disrupts the delicate hormone signaling that controls hunger and satiety (more on this roller coaster later).
Lectins are phytochemical toxins that plants manufacture to defend against UV radiation, insect predators and various microorganisms. Lectins are found in their highest concentrations within the seeds of plants and are critical to a plant’s survival. Certain forms of lectins have a toxic effect when ingested such as suppressing immune function, increasing gut permeability (leaky gut) and promoting systemic inflammation.
Two classes of lectins that are particularly problematic are prolamins and agglutinins. Both “toxic” lectins will damage the fragile villi and microvilli of the mucosal barrier allowing undigested food antigens, toxic chemicals, pathogens and other foreign bodies to leak through the gut lining and infiltrate the bloodstream. This process, known as “leaky gut syndrome,” can excite the immune system to such a degree that it triggers an inflammatory cascade throughout the body thus setting the stage for autoimmunity.
Since these toxic lectins can be quite sticky, and once they get through the gut barrier and make their way to other areas of the body, they can stick to organ tissues and act as bullseyes for the immune system. When the immune system identifies and attacks the lectins, the surrounding organ tissue may be damaged in the process. Wheat germ agglutinin (a lectin found in wheat) is particularly destructive and has been linked to both thyroid and neurological disorders.
Phytates are indigestible compounds found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Phytates bind to a variety of minerals (magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, etc.) in the GI tract, interfering with nutrient absorption and increasing the risk of chronic mineral deficiencies. Excessive phytate consumption is also believed to compromise Vitamin D levels due to its impact on calcium uptake. Some experts believe that the overconsumption of phytates inherent in a grain-based diet is a contributing factor to a rise in osteoporosis. It should be noted that the soaking, sprouting and fermenting of high-phytate foods will help to reduce overall phytate levels, making the foods easier to digest.
Gluten is a prolamin form of lectin that can trigger a mild-to-severe inflammatory reaction in the body, compromising digestion and disrupting immune function. Current research suggests that up to one-third of the population may be gluten intolerant to some degree and about one out of every 100 individuals may have celiac disease.
Regardless of one’s sensitivity level, gluten promotes leaky gut in everyone. Not only is gluten one of those toxic lectins that damages the villi and microvilli of the gut lining, but it also triggers a rise in zonulin. Zonulin is an enzyme that regulates the tight junctions between the epithelial cells of the gut lining. As zonulin levels rise, the tight junctions open, allowing unwanted organisms, food antigens, toxins and immune globulins to leak through and make their way into the bloodstream.
Gluten is one of the most common allergenic foods and can trigger mild-to-nagging inflammatory conditions throughout the body. Long-term gluten consumption may result in joint pain, various skin conditions, chronic headaches, acid reflux and other digestive complaints along with anxiety, depression and other neurological symptoms.
The average American consumes an estimated 115 pounds of sugar and sugar-laden processed foods each year.
We’ve already covered that a problem with excess carb intake is carbohydrates quickly converting into glucose, spiking blood glucose and provoking an insulin response. Sugar consumption is simply a straight shot of glucose into the bloodstream, which promotes a state of oxidation and inflammation. The resulting excess insulin production drives fat storage and inflicts undue stress on the pancreas, which eventually wears out.
Though the body requires approximately 150 grams of glucose per day to sustain basic functions, the liver can meet these needs through a process known as gluconeogenesis, regardless of dietary intake. Our true dietary glucose requirements are quite low and can be satisfied through the consumption of both starchy and non-starchy vegetables. The common experience of “needing” a snack every 2-3 hours is not reflective of our body’s actual energy needs but the result of being trapped on the glucose-insulin roller coaster.
Chronically high levels of glucose in the bloodstream damage organs, increase free radical production, suppress immune function, promote cancer and increase your risk for metabolic and cardiovascular disease.
Fat is not bad for you…BAD fat is bad for you!
Chemically altered trans- and partially hydrogenated fats are some of the worst things you can put into your body. These fats oxidize to form free-radical chain reactions in the body that lead to systemic cellular and tissue damage. Consumption of these fats has been linked to cancer, obesity, heart disease and accelerated aging. Unfortunately, these fats are everywhere: chips, crackers, cookies, fast food, frozen foods, processed snacks, deep-fried foods and margarine-type spreads.
High polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are consumed in excess in the modern diet and mostly in the form of vegetable and seed oils like canola, cottonseed, corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed and peanut oils. These fats are highly unstable and prone to oxidation. When exposed to heat, they oxidize quickly, contributing to inflammation and free-radical damage. PUFA oils are also high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and, when consumed regularly, will displace anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in body tissues. The resulting imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids can impair the body’s ability to regulate inflammation.
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