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The Link Between Diet, Inflammation and Weight Gain

In many places today, we have convenient and quick access to a variety of processed foods, sugary beverages, and pre-prepared foods that are predominantly made up of carbohydrates, starches, and simple sugars. Unfortunately, the standard American diet has contributed to the rise in metabolic disorders such as diabetes, obesity, or metabolic syndrome, as well as heart disease and even certain cancers.

One of the greatest dangers to eating a diet high in carbohydrates and sugars is the rise of inflammation. Inflammation is now thought to be a driving force of numerous chronic illnesses.

First, it’s important to remember that our gastrointestinal tract is often the first point of contact with the external environment, primarily through the food we eat. This is the point at which our body evaluates what’s coming in, differentiating “helpful” from “harmful,” and continually responds to prevent or correct further damage to our cells. Our immune system will respond accordingly, in an effort to keep us functioning and to maintain vitality throughout our body.

Inflammation and Weight Gain

When the body is in an inflammatory state, (which can be a result of excess sugars in the diet) inflammatory cytokines (substances of the immune system) begin to make their way throughout the body causing a rise in overall inflammation, which can be a predictor of weight gain and a precursor to insulin resistance [1]. Some of the greatest contributors to inflammation include: dietary factors (sugar/fructose, wheat, seed oils), stress, poor sleep, imbalances in the microbiome, and environmental toxins.

Additionally, fat cells can contribute to worsening inflammation by negatively impacting the mitochondria of our cells, or the producers of energy. As fat cells perpetuate inflammation, fat tissue can also cause insulin resistance, a key part of type II diabetes [2].

Furthermore, the brain can also be a victim to inflammation, as well. Inflammation of the brain can affect leptin, the “satiety hormone,” or the hormone that lets your body know it’s full. This particular hormone helps regulate food intake and energy. The primary design of leptin is to help your body maintain its weight.

Because it comes from fat cells, leptin amounts are directly connected to an individual’s amount of body fat. If someone continues to accumulate body fat, leptin will increase, too. Leptin resistance in the body causes sugar and fat metabolism to become impaired, which can result in type II diabetes. Inflammation in the gut contributes to both insulin and leptin resistance, ultimately creating the perfect storm for weight gain.

Using Diet in the Fight Against Inflammation:

For many people, it’s recommended to follow an anti-inflammatory diet while working to heal the body. This style of eating includes reducing sugars and carbohydrates in an effort to balance blood sugars. In addition to refined sugars, candy, soda, and desserts, grains, starches, and other processed foods also cause a rise in blood sugar.

The effect of food on blood sugar is often ranked by the Glycemic Index (GI) or Glycemic Load (GL). The GI measures how slow or fast certain foods will raise your blood-glucose level.

The GL measures how long the food will release sugar into the body. High GL foods are often inflammatory, so it’s often advised to consume foods that are both low GI and GL.

Low-glycemic diets focus on healthy fats, lean protein, and complex (low GI) carbohydrates. This type of diet resembles the Mediterranean diet which is comprised of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts & seeds, fish, and olive oil.

Some people also consider a low-carbohydrate diet. Low carbohydrate diets often include measuring the number of carbohydrates someone is consuming overall, and the target is tailored to each person. This type of diet also emphasizes high fiber vegetables, quality protein, and healthy fats.
Other blood-sugar balancing tips:

Lemons.

Did you know that citric acid found in lemons can actually help buffer the release of blood sugar? Lemons also contain powerful antioxidants, which can help decrease inflammation, as well as trace minerals that improve insulin signaling, support liver function, and stabilize blood sugar overall.

Cinnamon.

Not only is cinnamon a delicious addition to several recipes, but it has been shown to help regulate blood sugar, support digestion, reduce inflammation, improve blood circulation, and even reduce cholesterol levels [4].

Fermented foods.

Coconut kefir, lacto-fermented sauerkraut and pickles, kimchi, grass-fed yogurt, and raw cheese (if dairy is well-tolerated) each have natural acids that slow the release of blood sugar. They also provide beneficial enzymes and probiotics to support blood sugar signaling and support the microbiome!

Exercise.

Did you know that physical activity can lower your blood sugar levels for 24 hours or more afterward? Exercise is an extremely effective and easily accessible component of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Remember that if you do have blood sugar imbalances, have been diagnosed with diabetes, or experience hypoglycemic symptoms, discuss various diet and exercise plans with our functional nutritionist who can help devise an individualized plan for you.

Resources:

  1. Inflammation-Sensitive Plasma Proteins Are Associated With Future Weight Gain
  2. Adipose expression of tumor necrosis factor-alpha: direct role in obesity-linked insulin resistance
  3. Metabolic effects of low glycaemic index diets
  4. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes
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