Part 1 - Dietary Causes of Inflammation

In the last year there has been growing interest concerning anti-inflammatory diets from both patients and doc’s who refer patients for nutritional consultations. The two most common questions are “What do you think about this new anti-inflammatory diet stuff?” and “When I looked it up, nobody seems to agree on exactly what it is.” My standard reply is that I first heard the term over 15 years ago and at that time it was a concept, rather than a specific diet. I explain instead of getting hung up on web definitions {such as all organic/free range, all raw foods or GMO* free vegetarian} focus on the basic underlying themes that fuel inflammation and see if you or your patient have any areas that need to be addressed. See table 1

Table 1


Too many calories

Too much saturated fat

Too much sugar and refined carbohydrate

Omega 6 : Omega 3 fatty acid ratio is too high

Sodium : potassium ratio is too high

The sources and/or causes of the imbalances in table 1 just so happen to be the same things that doctors, nutritionists and dieticians have counseled patients (for years) to reduce and/or avoid. See table 2.

Table 2


Too much fast food

Too many servings per meal

Too much fried food

Too much processed food

Too much junk food

Too much high fat animal food

Too many soft drinks

Too many desserts

Too many meals out

Too much alcohol

Please note that there are exceptions for every scenario in table 2. Some examples would be:

--You can order moderate portions of healthy food at restaurants. --Protein powders with vitamins and minerals are highly processed, yet generally healthy.

--Two sodas and a candy bar consumed after running 26 miles does not have a negative effect on physiology. (Of course, the same cannot be said about those who have that snack while watching the race on TV.)

Conversely, a typical fast food lunch -- cheeseburger, fries and a soft drink -- delivers a meal that is high calorie, high saturated fat, high sodium, high refined carbohydrate and low omega 3 fatty acid. In other words, all 5 dietary imbalances that can promote inflammation are present in a very common, very popular meal. If this person then has dinner consisting of 3 slices of pepperoni pizza, salad (iceberg lettuce, cherry tomato, croutons with blue cheese or Italian dressing) and a beer (not exactly an unusual dinner), the result is a second consecutive 5 point pro-inflammatory exposure. (High calorie, high saturated fat, high refined carbohydrate, high sodium to potassium & high omega 6 to omega 3.)

Next month we will continue to explore this topic, including a pro/anti food list and how to apply the concepts of reducing inflammation in practical ways for normal, busy people.