Whatever causes inflammation causes insulin resistance and vice-versa.
I hope that you are already aware that insulin resistance is both prevalent and unhealthful. It’s a main factor in our current epidemics of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It’s also a factor in cancer, dementia, and depression.
Evidence is mounting that hidden systemic inflammation has a critical role in these diseases and conditions. Unfortunately, although you may be suffering from it, you may not realize it. There are markers that a physician can detect (such as a high C-reactive protein blood level), but can you yourself detect it?
There’s good news and bad news.
The bad news is that it is quite likely that you suffer from it.
You may be inflamed if you suffer from any of the following and, the more of these that affect you, the greater your risk:
• Frequent colds and infections
• Recurring sinusitis
• Seasonal or environmental allergies
• Food allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities
• Feeling poorly after eating such as feeling sluggish or having a headache
• Exposure at work to chemicals and poor ventiliation
• Exposure at work to loud noise or toxic boss or co-workers
• Heart disease or heart attack
• Overweight or obese
• Degenerative arthritis
• Autoimmune disease such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or hypothyroidism
• Colitis or inflammatory bowel disease
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease in your family
• A lot of stress
• Drinking more than 3 alcoholic drinks weekly
• Failure to exercise at least 30 minutes three times weekly
This list comes from The Blood Sugar Solution by Mark Hyman, M.D. Although he seems not to understand fully the benefits of a traditional, natural diet (for example, he still recommends eating whole grains), it’s a book I recommend.
Is it likely that you suffer from hidden inflammation?
If so, what can you do about it?
Quite a lot. That’s the good news.
Here’s what you can do immediately.
First, the most important change you can make is to eat better. The most important dietary change you can make is to cut down consumption of carbohydrates from all sources (including whole grains and fruits).
With the possible exception of one cheat day per week, keep your intake of carbohydrates at 25 grams or lower every day. Period.
When digested, all dietary carbohydrates are broken down into sugar. Sugar starts a cascade of biochemical reactions (including a spike in insulin levels) that increase inflammation.
Second, eliminate all artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, and sugar alcohols (such as malitol and xylitol) and anything, especially diet drinks, that contains them.
Unfortunately, even though it is a natural product, it’s best to eliminate stevia, too. If you don’t eliminate it, at least severely restrict it.
All these sweeteners are addictive. Using them will slow down your metabolic rate and promote fat gain.
Third, eliminate foods that you are sensitive to or allergic to.
Of course, eliminate any food such as peanuts that cause acute allergic reactions. The real key here is to eliminate those foods that cause a delayed reaction.
In many people, this means eliminating all dairy products and grains such as wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and oats that are sources of gluten. Gluten isn’t only capable of triggering celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that causes systemic inflammation, but it can also cause your immune system to create low-level antibodies and damage the lining of your gut.
If you crave these foods, it’s likely that you are actually allergic to them.
Implementing these first three changes alone can improve your health significantly.
Fourth, are you suffering from any chronic infections? If so, these can contribute to obesity and, so, it’s important to take whatever steps are required to boost your immune system.
Fifth, environmental exposure to toxins such as persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals can cause inflammation. Persistent organic pollutants are products such as PCB’s and pesticides. Heavy metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic also undermine health.
If you suffer from such exposure, eliminate it.
Sixth, do you suffer from too much stress? Too much stress is simply more stress than you handle well. It’s not the stress that it is problem, it’s your reaction to it that really matters.
By learning how to meditate and similar measures, you can quickly teach yourself how to enjoy much greater peace of mind. Relaxation techniques can reduce inflammation. [See the Spiritual Well-Being category of this blog.]
Seventh, do you suffer from too little exercise? By itself, never exercising causes low-grade, systemic inflammation. A proper program of regular exercise will enable you to feel better as well as to reduce it.
Nothing beats a combination of resistance training and intense fitness training. [See the Physical Well-Being category of this blog.]
Eighth, do you suffer from deficiencies in basic nutrients such as vitamin D, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats such as fish oil and flaxseeds, antioxidents, and fiber? Eating poorly also often means that you are eating too many foods such as inflammatory omega-6 fats such as corn oil that are undermining your health.
In short, if you will teach yourself how to eat well, exercise well, and relax well there’s a lot that can be done to reduce or eliminate the damage that inflammation is doing to you.
As always, if you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please pass it along.
Recommended reading: Mark Hyman, M.D., The Blood Sugar Solution.