Increasingly today, the focus is shifting to recognizing chronic inflammation as a factor in many common diseases, including hard-to-treat degenerative diseases and stubborn weight gain. The good news is, because diet and lifestyle are often major contributing factors to chronic inflammation, you can do something about it.
Your inability to lose weight may be a lot more complicated than eating less and sweating more. Let’s take a look at inflammation and how you can reduce it to achieve weight loss and better overall health.
Inflammation vs. chronic inflammation
Inflammation is simply your body’s built-in response to injury as a way to defend itself and repair damage. Usually, it’s a good thing. If, for example, you cut your finger, you’ll experience temporary “acute inflammation” – pain, redness, heat, and swelling at the site of the injury. The characteristic increased blood flow fights invading organisms and promotes healing.
Chronic inflammation, though, is another matter. Usually internal, chronic inflammation is an ongoing, persistent bodily response to cellular damage. The problem here is that your body remains in an emergency-response state for prolonged periods, which often leads to other health issues. Your white bloods cells, in response to the chronic inflammation, may even begin to attack your own healthy organs and tissues, which leads to worsened inflammation and a downwardly spiraling cycle.
Understanding inflammation and weight gain as a first step toward weight loss
The bodily functions and areas affected by chronic inflammation are many and major, including cognitive function, cardiovascular health, metabolic function, and hormonal equilibrium. Some of the very real health dangers presented by chronic inflammation are:
- Build-up of arterial plaque, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke
- Increased likelihood of Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Contribution to tumor growth
Chronic inflammation can also contribute hugely to stubborn weight gain. As part of your immune system’s response to whatever is causing the inflammation, your body releases substances known as cytokines. The problem, though, is that these cytokines are pro-inflammatory and can interfere with your body’s insulin response.
Just as a person with diabetes experiences, your pancreas has to try to produce more insulin as your body becomes more insulin resistant, with the ultimate result that more fat is stored in your abdominal area.
In addition, chronic inflammation can also disrupt your body’s response to leptin, the hormone that signals your brain to let it know you have eaten enough. With no such signal — or an impaired signal — you just keep eating because you think you’re still hungry. This condition, known as leptin resistance, is now thought to be a major contributor to weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
Causes of inflammation to be addressed for weight loss
Many things in modern life and modern lifestyles lead to chronic inflammation, but, basically, anything that causes cellular damage can trigger an inflammatory response. Leading causes of chronic inflammation include:
- Ongoing stress (which results in elevated cortisol levels, leading to the accumulation of more abdominal fat)
- Exposure to harmful chemicals such as pesticides, food additives, and those in some skin-care products
- Nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamins D, B6, and B12
- Excess weight (which leads to chronic inflammation, which causes weight gain, and on and on)
- Alcohol/drug abuse
While some of these factors are hard to control (like stress) or take some time to get under control (like smoking), there are others you can address right away – such as the foods that trigger inflammation. Certain foods are notorious for causing or contributing to chronic inflammation: sugar, foods fried in vegetable oil, refined carbs, certain food additives, and artificial sweeteners.
The chief culprits here are the foods that contribute to acid formation, such as coffee, soda and sports drinks, alcohol, red meat, processed meat, and potato chips. But, by far, the worst food for inflammation is refined sugar, which also contributes to insulin resistance and elevated levels of bad cholesterol.
You’ve probably also heard that dairy can cause chronic inflammation, but the jury is still out on that one. Although there is some evidence to connect dairy with inflammation, other studies have found no increase in inflammatory markers with dairy consumption. Still, dairy products are acid forming and so can lead to an internal acidic environment in your body. So, if reducing inflammation and losing weight are your goals, it’s probably best to avoid dairy products.
How to reduce inflammation to help with weight loss
First, because so many things can contribute to chronic inflammation, you simply must take a many-pronged approach for success. The most important part of your plan will be a healthy anti-inflammatory diet. Then you will need to take measures to address leaky gut syndrome and hormonal imbalances. And then you’ll need to tackle such things as reducing your exposure to chemicals, decreasing stress, and getting regular exercise.
As for foods, you should strive to eat healthy whole fruits and vegetables at every meal, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and flush out accumulated toxins in your body. Some foods, though, contain minerals and antioxidants that are especially beneficial for fighting inflammation and boosting metabolic function. Some of the best ones are:
- Fibrous green vegetables like broccoli
- Leafy greens such as kale and spinach
- Grapes, cherries, and berries like strawberries and blueberries
- Tomatoes and bell peppers
- Various nuts and seeds
- Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
- Olives and olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Dark chocolate
- Green tea
In addition to eating the right foods, it’s also a good idea to include certain nutritional supplements to further fight inflammation – such as calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Your two most important supplements will likely be vitamin B12 to keep levels of cytokines under control and fish oil for shutting down inflammatory pathways. These supplements, combined with a low-glycemic diet and stress control, can go a long way toward reducing inflammation and re-balancing your hormones.
Help for inflammation reduction, weight loss, and better health
Ultimately, then, your key to weight loss may involve quite a bit more than just eating less and exercising more. At Quest Weight Loss, we develop personalized weight-loss plans that focus on safety, efficacy, and health benefits – a plan that addresses chronic inflammation as way to lasting weight loss and better overall health. It’s a program that puts you in charge and treats the underlying causes of weight loss, not just the symptoms.
If you’re ready to take that first step toward eliminating chronic inflammation and achieving lasting weight loss, contact us today for your free consultation!