Almost everything about inflammation that we see on TV or read online says that it is bad.
But, if you cut your finger, platelets clump together and then release chemicals, named cytokines, into your bloodstream as your inflammatory first-responders. These chemicals call on immune cells, such as macrophages and neutrophils, to fight off germs so we don’t get an infection. The rushing in of these cells, in addition to fluid and proteins, causes swelling or inflammation.
So, in the case of a cut or injury, inflammation is good. But it can, and often does unfortunately become, a wayward and dangerous process.
And, as with insulin, while it is the “king of hormones,” and is the master regulator of our metabolism, when it leads to insulin resistance, that’s when insulin and sugar can turn deadly.
The Insulin Connection
If we don’t do anything to combat it, insulin resistance — along with obesity and physical inactivity — often leads to pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
With type 2 diabetes, your cells become resistant to insulin and your pancreas can’t make enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Instead of being able to go into your cells, where it's needed for energy, sugar builds up in the bloodstream.
And not only does this lead to insulin being blocked and sugar building up, this also causes a number of toxic substances to be developed that also cause disease and accelerate aging, such as advanced glycation end products (AGEs).
AGEs are proteins or fats that become “glycated,” or transformed in a bad way, as a result of exposure to too much sugar. And it is now believed that elevated levels of glycated hemoglobin A1c (also called HbA1c or just A1c) sets the stage for the formation of AGEs.
In fact, you’ve no doubt heard about the HbA1c test, which evaluates your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. An A1C level of 6.5 or higher on two separate tests indicates that you have diabetes. Below 5.7 is considered normal. People with pre-diabetes have values between 5.7 and 6.4.
And inflammation is associated with higher HbA1c levels.
Inflammation That Won’t Quit
In fact, inflammation that won’t quit is at the core of almost every disease. And chronic inflammation, on top of nutritional shortfalls, is where the rubber hits the road with these diseases, including diabetes.
Insulin resistance develops, over a period of time, when our bodies get overwhelmed with too much sugar, causing our cells to go into defense mode and to disregard insulin’s unlock “requests,” which spikes our blood sugar levels and moves us down the road to chronic disease.
And insulin resistance can bring on metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is found in at least 47 million Americans. It’s marked by increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, too much belly fat, and by unhealthy levels of either LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or ”bad” cholesterol) or triglycerides. Metabolic syndrome boosts your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
With type 2 diabetes, your cells become resistant to insulin and your pancreas can’t make enough insulin to overcome this resistance.
And instead of being able to go into your cells, where it's needed for energy, sugar builds up in the bloodstream and inflammation reigns supreme.
Diabetes: A Disease of Inflammation
In diabetes, inflammation is the culprit. Aside from the obvious swelling, we see in joints and muscles, inflammation, itself, is often a stealth army and the diabetes it causes typically flies below our radar, as well.
This frequently makes diabetes a silent killer. It develops within the body without any noticeable symptoms.
But elevated glucose levels are toxic to our kidneys and diabetes is linked to a higher risk for heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, cancer and other diseases.
And diabetes basically makes our bodies, organs and system age and break down faster, which is why diseases that used to only happen in old age now occur in middle age, too.
Insulin may well be the oldest hormone shared by all animals, moss and fungi. And its role is much more foundational than just regulating blood sugar levels. It turns on and turns off a whole slew of genes, increases the storage of body fat and is involved in muscle growth.
In fact, insulin binds to very specific receptors on muscle cells and sends an “all-clear” signal that allows glucose, amino acids and other nutrients to enter.
This master hormone also increases muscle blood flow and the activity of specific enzymes, like glycogen synthase, which triggers glycogen formation in your muscles, thereby boosting performance, muscle size and recovery.
Low Inflammation Diet
Stealthy and chronic low-grade — sometimes called subclinical — inflammation partly gets worse precisely because of excess refined sugar and saturated fat in the diet.
A diet which is bursting with poor-quality fats causes increased insulin secretion, can promote weight gain and subsequent diabetes.
What can be done to reduce inflammation and slow the resulting diabetes impact? Is there an anti-inflammation diet that can help us achieve metabolic health?
Best Diet for Saying “No” to Inflammation
Is there nutritional help available to tackle inflammation? Is there a “best diet” that can counter this sneaky inflammation that brings on diabetes in so many?
As a pharmacist I recommend use of a low glycemic high protein diet.
This diet offers opportunities to reduce inflammation naturally. It avoids consuming high amounts of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. It only provides the good carbs that we need while avoiding those unhealthy sugars that we don’t.
It has none of those processed trans fats that promote inflammation. In fact, it features vitamins and other vital nutrients, including amino acids, protein and bioactive peptides that support metabolic health, and even support healthy immunity, to boot!
Foods In Our Best Diet
The best diet features fewer inflammatory foods and more anti- inflammatory foods.
Example of foods to choose more of include:
- deep-colored berries like grapes and cherries
- good-fat fruits, including avocados and olives
- healthy fat oils (olive and flaxseed oil)
- fatty fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel
- and other nuts
- unsweetened dark chocolate
- green tea
A diet with these foods and ingredients will provide your body the needed daily allowance of necessary ingredients to maintain energy, stay healthy and support cognitive health.Foods to avoid include:
- sugary beverages, including sweetened fruit juices,
- white bread
- white pasta
- processed foods including hot dogs, bologna, sausages, crackers, chips and pretzels, processed seed and vegetable oils
- excessive alcohol
And we should remember that we can’t exercise our way out of a poor diet.
“I think the role of exercise in weight loss is highly overrated," says Marc Reitman, chief of diabetes and obesity branch of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). He explains that while exercise is excellent for being fit, overeating is what causes overweight.
Scientific studies based on computer simulations from “The Biggest Loser” television program, showed that diet alone was responsible for more weight loss than exercise.
So, the next time we’re standing at the local supermarket saying no to the trans-fat packed and sugar-drenched donuts, we can feel quite pleased with ourselves and our commitment to what can be our healthiest selves ever!