How they affect your body, and some good substitutes.
On its face, inflammation looks bad. Redness, swelling, heat… none of these factors sound super healthy. In fact, inflammation is your body beginning to heal. That puffy redness is an influx of white blood cells gathering to fix what ails you. Your white blood cells come to the aid of your body for all kinds of injuries, but the most common of all is not one you see on your knee or your elbow: it’s in your gut.
These days, we know that a healthy gut is to precursor to a healthy life. Your gut is especially sensitive to inflammation. When our bodies function as they should, your white blood cells should calm any inflammation in your gut before it can give rise to other issues – or even symptoms! However, repeated exposure to inflammation can do longer, more permanent damage. If your body is constantly trying to fight off “infection,” it never has a chance to rest and rebuild immunity. Just as a cut won’t heal without time and care, your stomach too needs to be treated gently in the wake of inflammation. Inflammation is a side effect of a lot of foods common to even a healthy diet. Below we’ve mapped out some of the top offenders, and how to make a thoughtful substitution.
The most obvious and the worst. Sugar actually decreases the effectiveness of our white blood cells’ germ-killing abilities, weakening our immunity in total. If you’re already ill, avoid sugar to get better much more quickly. In your regular diet, cut out as much processed sugar as is possible, and address your sweet tooth with manuka honey, pure maple syrup, or agave nectar. All of these options are considerably lower in glucose, are sweeter in smaller quantities, and boast their own wellness accolades. Manuka honey in particular is rich in antimicrobials, and has been used to soothe inflammation for hundreds of years.
White flour is delicious, sure, but it’s also high in glucose-producing sugars, and lacking in the fiber that would slow down digestion and give your body access to nutrients… that have already been stripped out. Instead of white bread, choose whole-grain options, or sweet potatoes – both are high in fiber and nutrients, but won’t send your gut into inflammatory overdrive. Plus, they’re delicious.
Conventional Grain-Fed Meats
You’re affected by the food that what you’re eating eats. Say that ten time fast. If you partake in an omnivorous diet, be sure that your meat intake is limited, and that they meat you do consume is ethically raised and fed. Commercial meat producers typically feed their livestock a grain-based diet. Not only is that diet hard on the livestock’s digestive systems, it makes them gain weight much faster, and the resulting meat that makes its way to your plate is an inflammatory double-punch: infused with processed grains, and higher in saturated fats. Instead of reaching for that supermarket steak, save your cash and go vegetarian during the week. Spend that money you saved on a grass-fed primo steak. Your stomach will thank you twice over.
Much like the highly-refined meats mentioned above, the commercial dairy system has taken to pumping livestock full of antibiotics in an effort to squeeze every drop of productivity out of an animal. Not a very nice life, and also not great for your fragile gut health. The presence of antibiotics in commercial dairy, as well as the heightened presence of glucose (thanks again to the animals’ grain-based diets) makes for a confusing cocktail for our poor white blood cells. Between becoming weakened by the sugar, attempting to mitigate the deluge of dairy-induced inflammation, and the confounding presence of antibiotics, our poor guts barely know what to do with themselves. Instead of adding conventional cream to your coffee, opt instead for a low-impact oat milk. If you’re a cream aficionado, go all in on an organic creamer for your coffee. If the cows are living happy lives, your stomach is too.
Reducing inflammation in your gut is a clear path to a healthier lifestyle. You’ll notice you’re better able to digest your food, chronic pain may be reduced, and stiff joints or muscles are more easily recuperated. A good rule of thumb is to follow the mediterranean diet, or another one that is high in fruit and vegetable intake, alongside healthy fats. We like the Michael Pollan stance: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
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