Inflammation is a serious health problem you can't even feel, but it does tremendous damage, especially over a long period of time.
Scientists say inflammation could be behind heart disease, arthritis, cancer, ADD/ADHD, diabetes, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, and more.
Although inflammation is caused by toxins like cigarette smoke and environmental pollutants, the biggest factor is an inflammatory diet. Many of the foods we eat cause inflammation and simply avoiding them can lead to immediate and dramatic improvements.
Then on top of avoiding the bad foods, adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet creates and even healthier you. Many people who follow an anti-inflammatory diet also lose weight.
A Picture of Health
Mark Sisson is a leading expert on an anti-inflammatory diet. At age 60 he is the picture of health: He has the body of a man half his age, inside and out. He does not suffer from any diseases or chronic conditions and doesn't take any medications.
But he hasn't always been this healthy. His anti-inflammatory diet changed everything.
“Most of what ails people today could be, if not cured, substantially mitigated with a few lifestyle corrections, first and foremost being diet,” he said.
Sisson follows the Paleo Diet. (Get Diet Plan and Recipes.) Last year the Paleo Diet was the number one searched diet on the Internet and Sisson's is the top Paleo Diet website.
He's been studying nutrition research for the last 25 years and writes about his findings on Mark's Daily Apple.
Sisson said the readers who follow the Paleo Diet are very happy with it.
“We've got hundreds of thousands of user experiences on my site, Mark's Daily Apple,” he said. “Of people who've embraced this program who've said, ‘Not only did I lose the weight but my blood work improved and my energy levels improved.'”
The Paleo Diet is about avoiding foods that cause inflammation. That means no sugar, no wheat, no trans fats or industrialized Omega-6 fats, and very little or no dairy.
“When you get rid of all the bad guys you decrease inflammation and you improve your body's ability to burn fat,” Sisson said.
Sugar weakens your immune system and causes insulin problems. Wheat treats your body much the same way.
In fact, many people who follow the Paleo Diet stop eating all grains, such as rice, corn and oats, in addition to wheat. Sisson didn't even know wheat was causing him problems until he stopped eating it.
“My IBS [Irritable Bowel Syndrome] went away, my arthritis went away, the lingering sinus issues went away. The heartburn that I used to have infrequently but enough to be carrying Pepcid AC in my wallet, that went away,” he said.
Highly inflammatory trans fats and industrialized Omega-6 fats are Paleo no-nos.
Trans fats are man-made oils that have been hydrogenated, meaning they have been infused with hydrogen for the primary purpose of prolonging the shelf-life of a processed food. Therefore, most trans fats are in packaged foods.
You can recognize whether a product contains a trans fat by looking at the list of ingredients. If you see the word “hydrogenated,” it's in there. Vegetable shortening and margarine are also trans fats.
What Can I Eat?
People considering the Paleo Diet may wonder, after giving up sugar, grains, trans fats, industrialized Omega-6 fats and dairy, what's left to eat? As it turns out, a lot! (Meal ideas from the Paleo Diet Cookbook.)
“Certainly use plants, vegetables as the main basis of the Paleo eating strategy,” Mark explained. “And then great sources of protein: so meat, fish, fowl, eggs, and so on, and then healthy fats.”
Healthy fats include things like avocadoes, nuts and seeds, olive oil, fish oil, and coconut oil.
Coconut oil is one of many saturated fats that the Paleo Diet encourages. Saturated fat from beef and pork are also encouraged.
The endorsement of saturated fat is controversial. Some health professionals believe saturated fat leads to heart disease and should not be consumed.
However, many recent studies, which are very reliable in that they are large and exhaustive, find no evidence that eating saturated fat is bad for your heart.
Nevertheless, much of the medical community still relies on industry standards from the past that condemn the consumption of saturated fat, though the number of people holding to that belief is reducing every year.
“Some doctors have a real, still, have a real issue with saturated fat because they're relying on 20-year-old studies that were faulty to begin with,” Sisson explained. “And they haven't stayed current with dietary research. But there are thousands of doctors who have completely shifted and are embracing this concept.”
That includes Dr. Eric Westman, who heads the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, who like many physicians, formerly believed saturated fat caused heart disease, but changed his mind.
“In fact, saturated fat, the fat that we've been taught not to eat, raises your good cholesterol best of all the foods you can eat,” he explained.