Before I started out on LCHF, the word “inflammation” meant very little to me. I just thought it was something that happens when a cut becomes infected, you bang your toe, or something similar. Since then, I’ve discovered that it means WAY more than that, especially in the dietary context. Ask any medical professional and they will tell you that in general, long-term inflammation is something to be avoided. Successful LCHF is, by definition, also a state of “low inflammation”. But what does all this mean in practice? Let’s start with the basics..
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the human body’s response to invasion or attack from foreign bodies, the so-called “autoimmune response”, mainly in the form of the production of white blood cells. Causes of inflammation are many but include disease, infection, ingested food, etc., etc. It is important to note that inflammation is NOT necessarily synonymous with infection i.e. it is possible to be inflamed without being infected. It is now an indisputable fact that there are strong links between long-term inflammation, atherosclerosis, T2D, obesity, cancer, strokes and a whole host of other disorders too numerous to mention. Hence, it is important to avoid all sources of longer term inflammation in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Common causes of Dietary Inflammation
If you’ve read through this blog thoroughly, you will already be aware that one of the primary causes of dietary inflammation are carbohydrates. To be precise, it’s the insulin and not the carbs themselves, produced as a result of ingesting carbohydrates that causes inflammation. Hence, it stands to reason that if you reduce your carb intake, you will also reduce your inflammation. However, this is only part of the story! There are many other foods that will cause inflammation as well. If, after reducing your carb intake you are still not losing weight, and are displaying other symptoms of inflammation (see below), chances are there is something else in your diet that’s inflaming you. You need to identify it and remove it from your diet in order to enter/ remain in ketosis (fat burning) and ultimately be successful at losing/ maintaining weight.
Based on my 3 years of successful LCHF living, here are my tips for avoiding inflammation:
- Carbs: stick to your daily limit/ tolerance level at ALL TIMES. The penalty for not doing so is dropping out of ketosis and having to start all over again! Remember also that as you get older your carb tolerance drops, so that even if you were successful in getting into ketosis on say 30g carbs/day, this may well fall gradually over the years. Be aware of this and act accordingly i.e. reduce carb intake further. See here for more..
- Dairy: A MAJOR source of inflammation for humans and the main reason that I nearly ended LCHF before I really began, see here. Remove ALL dairy from your diet if at all possible. There’s nothing in dairy, essential to humans, that can’t be sourced from other, non-inflammatory sources.
- Fats: Ensure that you are consuming more “good” fats than “bad” i.e. more Omega 3 than Omega 6. In practice, this generally means avoiding vegetable fats, ESPECIALLY rapeseed oil (HIGHLY INFLAMMATORY to dangerous levels), margarine, etc., and including more of the good ones i.e. animal fats. For more practical advice on how to achieve this, see this blog entry.
- Sneezing, skin irritation & rashes: If you are sneezing regularly for no apparent reason, have unexplained skin irritation and/ or rashes, you are probably inflamed. I also include hay fever and other animal allergies here. Reduce your inflammation and there’s a good chance that these symptoms will be severely reduced, if not disappear altogether, as was the case with me.
- Finally, be aware of what you are eating and the ingredients therein. Read food labels carefully. If you don’t understand what it contains, find out. There’s plenty of information on the internet. If, after eating something, you sneeze or your eyes begin to water a few minutes later, this is an almost certain sign that you are inflamed. Remove the item from your diet immediately. It could be something as simple as tomatoes or nuts, etc., etc. Try to eat as “clean” as possible at all times.
For more information on inflammation and how to measure it directly, see here.