Updated on January 22, 2016
How does your lifestyle cause disease?
“When a diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When a diet is right, medicine is of no need.” – Ayurvedic proverb
I have written many times in my articles and blogs about the negative impact of inflammation on the body and mind. I have cried hoarse in senior management workshops in large companies supposedly concerned about their leaders’ health. And yet, we pop anti inflammatory medicines rather than just shift to an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Inflammation inside the body is the root of all pain and most illnesses. Inflammation ages you, your organs and makes you get diseases faster. It accelerates degenerative diseases you were meant to get in your 60s, and makes you get them in your 30s and 40s. So often we hear about people collapsing and dying of a heart attack in their 30s. This sudden death is caused by a combination of accelerated aging due to inflammation and no knowledge that the body is inflamed, and hence being caught unawares.
For a 29-year-old man, getting heart problems seems like it’s going to be in another life. For a 28-year old woman, menopause is something old rickety ladies get. Yet, I get so many cases of men and women in their early 30s with both the above problems, due to the lifestyles they lead. By the time we reach 30, our body has begun the process of aging. For those of us who follow a pro-inflammatory lifestyle, that aging is rapid and way beyond your years. And that is due to internal inflammation.
The problem with treating inflammation is that it has multiple sources and hence has to be attacked in multiple ways. However, western medicine only has one primary treatment for it: anti-inflammatory drugs. Non-steroidal and steroid anti-inflammatory drugs both have serious, sometimes debilitating side-effects, which many times outstrip the inflammation itself in terms of impact on the body and it’s organs. And considering it’s easier to reverse or prevent a disease via your lifestyle than have packed up liver, kidneys or porous bones due to drug side effects, why wouldn’t you choose it? Because these foods and lifestyle habits, listed below, are part of your life, and causing the inflammation that causes diseases.
So what causes inflammation?
- High Sugar Foods:
You immune system is suppressed for 2-4 hours after ingesting it. Sugar is linked to promoting cancer cells growth. As long ago as 1982, cancer research proved that sugar was a big culprit. As per the below cancer research, “Cancer cells demonstrate a 3 to 5 fold increase in glucose uptake compared to healthy cells,” said GE Demetrakopoulos, who worked extensively on Cancer Research, and published in the Harvard Catalyst journal vol.42, p.756S, in Feb.1982. Further studies have proven the link between sugar and neoplastic diseases (where there is tumour growth and tumour cells multiply in a sugar happy environment). In fact, people who drink two or more sweetened soft drinks a week (especially with alcohol) have a much higher risk of pancreatic cancer, an unusual but deadly cancer. A study of 60,000 people in Singapore found that sugar was to blame, said Mark Pereira of the University of Minnesota, who led the study. ”The high levels of sugar in soft drinks may be increasing the level of insulin in the body, which we think contributes to pancreatic cancer cell growth,” Pereira said in a statement. Insulin, which helps the body metabolize sugar, is made in the pancreas. Writing in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, Pereira and colleagues said they followed 60,524 men and women in the Singapore Chinese Health Study for 14 years. Over that time, 140 of the volunteers developed pancreatic cancer. Those who drank two or more soft drinks a week had an 87 per cent higher risk of being among those who got pancreatic cancer. Pereira said he believed the findings would apply elsewhere.
Tumour cells use more glucose than other cells. One 12-ounce (355 ml) can of non-diet soda contains about 130 calories, almost all of them from sugar.
- High Fat Foods: Especially foods with arachidonic acid and saturated fats (dairy and animal fats primarily). The right kind of fat is very important, beneficial and anti-inflammatory which we will talk about later as part of your disease prevention and management program.
- Processed and cured meats & cheeses: Hams, sausages, cold cuts, smoked items, all cause internal inflammation. Young girls with high consumption of these get early periods or PCOD. These promote high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high uric acid – all precursors to cardiovascular disease.
- Food Allergies: Allergens form immune complexes and lead to inflammation. And our allergy levels are increasing because we’re consuming more artificial foods, colouring and processing. We need loads of zinc and vitamin C to flush out allergens from our blood, but we are not having these. Hence, allergies raise inflammation levels and the result is that you have to take an anti allergy to suppress the allergy rather than root it out by going to the root cause.
- Insufficient Fibre: Fibre pulls toxins from the GI tract and acts like a broom to sweep them out. Processed and cooked foods have little or no fibre, and hence the food toxins remain in our system, increasing internal inflammation after a while.
- Insufficient Phytonutrients: Phytonutrients are primarily found in fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds and act as anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants, which quench inflammation. These are rich in cancer fighting properties, and stop growth of cancer cells. The higher the cancer cells in your body, the higher the inflammation.
- Insufficient Exercise: Exercise helps reduce adipose tissue (fat), which is pro-inflammatory and it increases lean muscle mass which reduces inflammation by improving insulin sensitivity. Exercise also releases endorphins, chemicals that make you feel better, more positive – negativity is toxic!
- Vitamin D deficiency: Causes inflammation, promotes autoimmune disorders, and accelerates the progression of osteoarthritis since lack of vitamin D means lack of calcium absorption to strengthen the bones. A simple blood test will quickly tell how much you should be taking.
- Fatty Acid Imbalance: Insufficiency in Omega 3 and 6 fats, along with excesses of saturated fat and trans-fats lead to inflammation. This simply means that if you’re having even very little oil in your cooked food, but no good fats like raw extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish, flaxseeds, you will be deficient and an imbalance will be there.
- Vitamin and Mineral deficiency: Especially magnesium, which is seen in 20-40% of the most urban populations. Magnesium protects against cancer cell growth, and other vitamins and minerals protect the body against toxic substances all around us, which deplete nutrients. Magnesium is naturally present in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds and mackerel, an oily fish, apart from whole grains avocadoes and figs.
- Toxic substances. These are artificial substances, which did not exist in nature before their synthesis by humans like chemicals, pesticides, diodes from plastic bottles and food boxes, cigarette smoke (active or passive), pollution etc.
- Emotional Stress and Toxic Relationships: High stress has been shown to impair wound healing, decreases the immune system, and promotes inflammation inside the body as well as the mind. It is linked to autoimmune disorders getting aggravated.
Take the time to go through each of these categories and circle which ones you need to work on and then begin to work on them by introducing a healthier alternative…one step at a time. In the book in the next few pages, I will be guiding you with how to plug deficiency gaps, how to reduce your inflammation and how to reduce your stress levels.
Simple inflammatory markers done with blood testing can reveal the level of inflammation, as well as your own symptoms like skin disorders, joint pain, gastric esophageal reflux, digestive issues, menstrual cramps, hot flashes, autoimmune disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, mood swings, depression and anxiety, insomnia, and more. Some regular inflammation markers that a doc will ask you for are listed below (which you maybe familiar with). There are so many other, which predict other chronic, serious diseases, but the bottom line is: inflammation inside your body is causing the disease. Your purpose is to root out the inflammation to be disease free.
In many diseases, multiple inflammation markers are high, indicating a very advanced level. There is only one way to decrease inflammation without taking the harmful drugs: to eat anti-inflammatory foods and practice an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. As explained earlier, it really isn’t that difficult to do so.
And the rewards are a youthful, disease-free, energetic you. Not so bad eh? Now which anti-inflammatory drug prescribed by doctors can promise such a reward?
Excerpted from RESTORE, the book on how to fight diseases with food & lifestyle changes. Order your copy here.