Inflammation and its Role in Disease
Often enough, when I ask my patients what their diet is like, they respond with “Not bad. I try to eat healthy”, as if that was the beginning and the end of the conversation, and the intention to eat well can somehow sub in for the actual eating of healthful foods. Alas, the conversation has only just begun, and the key element, in my opinion, is inflammation.
Fortunately, you have a great deal of power in your own health, since one of the most potent ways to control inflammation in your body is through diet. Your gut is the first internal line of contact with the outside world, thus the importance of its health and integrity cannot be overstated. Any inflammation in the gut lining, resulting from exposure to irritants, allergens, or a poor microbiome, cause low-level local inflammation. As a result, small particles escape through the lining and into your bloodstream. Because these particles are essentially large proteins, your very efficient immune system interprets them as intruders and mounts an immune response. In the clinic, I often notice that healing a patient’s gut leads to reduction not only in digestive symptoms, but also many other signs of inflammation. Some examples include allergies, painful joints, painful menses, and eczema.
How does this relate to fertility? Although you’ve had all of your own eggs since before you were born, they are in an immature state. It takes many months of maturation and development before an egg is ready to be ovulated. Similarly, sperm has a 3 month life-cycle during which time it matures and develops. The environment of your body, where all that important development is taking place, plays a significant role in the quality of those eggs and sperm. It’s simple equation: healthy body, healthy eggs and sperm.
How it all works
Your body’s inflammatory mechanisms are the key in protecting you against the many invaders that can make you sick. When microbes trigger your immune system, a series of processes are set in motion that effectively destroy the intruders and reestablish homeostasis. This also happens during an acute injury where local inflammation quickly cleans and heals damaged tissue.
Short term acute inflammatory responses are an effective survival strategy. However, chronic, hidden inflammation can lead to a variety of health concerns such as diabetes and heart disease. Inflammation also plays a role in autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and type I diabetes. As you can see, inflammation is an important signpost alerting us to potential disaster in our health.
What you can do about it
The first and most fundamental rule of health is to cook your own food. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, and combine those fresh ingredients to create healthful meals. Read my earlier post for some good general guidelines for nutritious eating.
On a more specific note, however, there are some foods that should be avoided in all cases. Here’s the short-list:
Change to Omega -3 oils: It is important to have a proper balance of the essential fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3. Omega-6 fatty acids (high in vegetable oils such as cottonseed, soybean, and corn oil) promote and drive inflammation, whereas omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect. Oils like olive oil, flax oil, and coconut oil are high in omega-3’s. Unfortunately, most of the oil used in commercially manufactured foods are rich in omega-6’s, so as a result, the ratio in our modern diets is off-balance. Have a look at the labels of any packaged foods and you’ll find corn and soy oils in abundance. The solution is always to make your own food from scratch.
Quit eating sugar and all refined carbohydrates: This includes bread, pasta, treats, white rice, and soda. The high blood sugar and abdominal fat accumulation associated with insulin resistance is also associated with higher levels of systemic inflammatory markers such as cytokines.
Quit drinking: This of course is great advice for anyone trying to conceive, but it’s also important for generally keeping the inflammation in your body at bay.
Note how short the “don’t” list is. The other, longer list of do’s is a lot more fun.
Make all your own food from scratch, and enjoy it with family and friends
Eat to your heart’s content of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes
Enjoy a Mediterranean diet
Eat lots of fish, but very little other kinds of meat
Remove any and all omega-6 rich oils from your diet and replace them with olive oil, flax oil (do NOT heat - eat it only raw), or coconut oil.
These basic, simple principles will effectively reduce inflammation in you body and create a healthier environment for fertility, conception, and pregnancy.
If you have any questions, or would like to talk about your specific case, call Acubalance and book a 15 minute phone consultation today. I’m always available for a chat.