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The Inflammation Epidemic: No End in Sight (Part 2 of 2)

Mark Becker discusses the potential of antioxidant-rich foods to fight inflammation and about the effects of sugar and refined carbohydrates on inflammation.

Yesterday, I talked about the prevalence of inflammation and its impact on the body, along with the importance of balance omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid intake to manage inflammation.

Antioxidant-Rich Foods Fight Free Radicals

Free radicals are highly reactive compounds that can damage the cells of your body and create and contribute to chronic inflammation. Antioxidants are able to neutralize these free radicals to reduce inflammation. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E as well as the colorful pigments that are found in fruits and vegetables.

The importance of cellular renewal and minimizing the damage done to cells over time cannot be understated. This is the key to minimizing inflammation which is essential for a quality life and a long and vital existence. We all struggle inflammation – some of us age more than others. Why? Studies have linked oxidative stress to chronic inflammation. Simply stated, oxidation occurs when the body produces by-products more commonly known as free radicals. The result is something akin to a machine rusting. And when this rusting is applied to humans (and not iron), it results in inflammation, aging and disease.

Our bodies normally make free radicals as part of our daily metabolism. And they occur as a result of food and environmental pollutions from everyday things like air, water and sun. As we age, we become more susceptible to the long-term effects of oxidative stress (or too many free radicals) and inflammation on the cellular level. 

The process of oxidation is abundant and can actually help the body work properly. But this very same process can also cause harm.  The oxidizing process creates free radicals which are electrically charged molecules. These free radicals interact with cells to create both good and bad results. For example, the immune system uses free radicals to help fight infection. However, when oxidized, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) can be produced.

Oxidative stress is when the free radicals overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defense system causing cell damage and inflammation. As previously mentioned, free radicals have useful functions in the body, but are extremely unstable molecules. If left uncontrolled, they will destroy cells, enzymes and DNA, and ultimately cause inflammation. Moreover, free radicals can also contribute to the development of many chronic inflammatory diseases including arthritis, heart disease and even cancer.

Inflammation is caused by free radical damage.  And the negative effects of free radicals are due to oxidation. How can this be addressed in a nutritional regimen? Antioxidant-rich foods play a major role in combatting oxidative stress and can minimize the damage free radicals cause in the body. Functional food consumption continues to escalate. Suppliers and marketers have noticed and continue to formulate these types of products

Just Say NO! to Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates 

Sugar and refined carbohydrates contribute to elevated blood sugar and insulin levels, which may cause and exacerbate inflammation.

Consuming a diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates is easier said than done. These types of food are ridiculously prevalent on grocery store shelves.   Before attempting to follow an anti-inflammatory diet, you need to understand which carbohydrates promote inflammation and which carbohydrates decrease inflammation.

Pro-inflammatory carbohydrates include sugar of all sorts, white rice and refined carbohydrates made from refined or “enriched" flour (bagels, most breads, crackers, most packaged cereals, cookies, cakes, etc). Anti-inflammatory carbohydrates are the unrefined “whole" carbohydrates that include all fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and unrefined non-flour whole grains. All anti-inflammatory carbohydrates are nutrient-rich and include phytonutrients and antioxidants.

That said, it is important to understand that all carbohydrates convert to sugar in the blood. The more refined the carbohydrates are, the quicker the conversion.

Refined carbohydrates cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, which, in turn, triggers the pancreas to produce an insulin surge. This surge pushes sugar into the cells and out of the bloodstream. This is where problems occur. Not only does excess insulin promote the storage of pro-inflammatory body fat, excess insulin also activates enzymes that cause the body to produce a type of fat called arachidonic acid (AA). Although some AA is necessary for your body to function at an optimal level, an excess of AA can be very inflammatory. One way to prevent your body from producing excess amounts of insulin and too much AA is by avoiding refined carbohydrates and consuming unrefined “whole" carbohydrates in their natural form.

In addition, sugar and refined carbs also contribute to weight gain and can make it more difficult to lose weight. Excess body fat is another major contributor to inflammation.

Our country is immersed in an epidemic of chronic inflammation.  The United States has the best doctors and facilities in the world. Nevertheless, people continue to suffer from chronic inflammation. Suppliers and marketers understand the “inflammation landscape" and many have manufactured products that have helped millions address inflammation. Suppliers and marketers also need to make every effort to educate consumers. These efforts will not only help their bottom lines, but will make the consumer aware of key inflammation drivers in an effort to forge a path to long-term health and wellness!

Mark Becker is an account manager for Vivion, a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, California. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 20 years. Mark has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor's in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his Master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For more than 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 103 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement and homeopathic regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow Mark Becker on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, access www.vivioninc.com or www.EnergyatLast.com.

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