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Anti-inflammatory Diet

The human immune system operates in every organ in our bodies, and certain components circulate throughout our bloodstream. The immune system uses inflammation to protect us from bacteria, viruses, parasites, molds, and foreign proteins, as well as to heal wounds. Ideally, such threats are neutralized, and the associated inflammation is resolved. When the inflammatory response remains unresolved and becomes a chronic issue, it can spread damage throughout the body.

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Researchers from different areas of medicine have independently and repeatedly concluded that inflammation plays a key role in a host of illnesses. What is less understood, by most people, is that foods can cause an inflammatory response. This can occur in a variety of ways.

Foods can cause an allergic reaction leading to anaphylactic shock, an extreme, often life-threatening allergic reaction. Foods can also contribute to autoimmune diseases that develop over time and can eventually become life-threatening. Finally, foods can stimulate a much lower grade inflammation which can lead to a myriad of health concerns, many of which are not life threatening.

Individuals that discover they are prone to the first scenario avoid the problematic food at all costs, but because the latter two health concerns develop slowly over time, many people continue to eat the very foods that are contributing to their illness.

Foods can create an inflammatory response through several mechanisms. Those with high concentrations of anti-nutrients, such as dietary lectins—gliadin in gluten, for example—can create havoc with one’s immune system. These glyco-proteins are resistant to the proteolytic enzymes in our gut, and can find their way into our systemic circulation where they can promote inappropriate inflammation throughout the body.

While a significant proportion of dietary lectins are denatured by cooking, they can impart their consequences in parts per million. Consequently, only a tiny fraction needs to survive the cooking process to be problematic. And once in our systemic circulation, numerous negative reactions can ensue.

Following a Paleo Diet® reduces these concerns. Eliminating grains and legumes considerably reduces this anti-nutrient load. The elimination of dairy helps further since dairy exacerbates the ability of these anti-nutrients to enter systemic circulation.

A high omega-6/omega-3 ratio and a high sodium/potassium ratio typical to a Western diet can also lead to an increased inflammatory response. An acidic diet, another characteristic of a typical Western diet, further exacerbates the problem.

A Paleo Diet also eliminates highly processed modern food items, such as refined sugars and hydrogenated vegetable oils, which have been implicated in the inflammatory basis of disease. In addition, foods with high glycemic indices have a pro-inflammatory effect, but the low glycemic load of the Paleo Diet avoids this issue.

While many problematic foods are eliminated, the Paleo Diet also includes foods that help to promote an anti-inflammatory environment, such as olive oil. This mono-unsaturated oil can actually reduce inflammation. Further, the high-fiber content of the Paleo diet also helps to reduce inflammation.

Ultimately, there is no better diet than The Paleo Diet to decrease the potential inflammatory effects of food.

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Paleo Leadership
 
Trevor Connor
Trevor Connor

Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark J. Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.