Belly Fat and Other Triggers of Inflammation
Can you guess what one of the biggest contributors to inflammation is? If you said belly fat, you’re right! Fat tissues in your body secrete hormones that help regulate your immune system (which inflammation is a part of). The more fatty tissue you have, the more hormones your body secretes. And when these hormones become out of balance, inflammation can result.
Poor dietary choices can lead to chronic inflammation. Many nutrients and added ingredients, when consumed in excess, can contribute to inflammation in the intestines, which therefore can increase inflammation throughout the body.
Here are some of the biggest inflammation triggers:
Excessive intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates
Simple sugars, such as added sugar or white flour, can trigger an increase in insulin response, which, over time, can increase inflammation. Instead, aim to reduce your intake of sugar by avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, limiting sugar-packed desserts, and choosing whole-grain starches over their white counterparts.
These fats are doubly bad in the body because they not only raise unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels, but they also lower healthy HDL cholesterol levels. Research has found that individuals with a high dietary intake of trans fats have more visceral fat. These fats also further increase inflammation in the body.
These oils, such as corn oil, are rich in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids. A diet with a ratio of fats high in omega-6s and low in omega-3s has been linked to increased inflammation.
Why? Because a diet rich in carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates, has been shown to, when combined with omega-6 fatty acids, increase production of pro-inflammatory hormones called eicosanoids. Instead, use oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids or monounsaturated fats, which include flaxseed oil (great source of omega-3s) and olive oil (monounsaturated fat).
Excessive dietary sodium can stiffen arteries, helping to promote inflammation and increase the risk of a cardiovascular event. Avoid adding table salt to foods, and select whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible to help reduce your sodium intake.
In moderate amounts (one glass of alcohol per day for women and two glasses per day for men), alcohol can be beneficial and may have mild anti-inflammatory properties. However, increased intake of alcohol has been shown to elevate inflammation markers in the body, which is a sign of chronic inflammation. Excessive alcohol can also increase the storage of visceral fat, further increasing inflammation risk.
Food sensitivities unique to you
Do certain foods make you feel sick after you’ve eaten them? Do you tend to get stomach pains or indigestion after eating them? Have you noticed a change in bowel habits or even a skin rash or hives after eating some foods? If so, you may have a food allergy or intolerance.
Consuming a food that your body can’t tolerate can cause inflammation because your body views this food as an intruder.
If you notice symptoms of a potential food allergy, see a food allergy specialist to be tested. If you do have multiple food allergies or intolerances, you need to meet with a Registered Dietitian to assess your food intake and ensure you’re meeting your body’s nutrient needs while eliminating these allergens from your diet.