When it comes to inflammation, there are often SO many contributing factors. Our bodies can become increasingly sensitive to various foods that are often touted as ‘miracle foods’. The message here is that while these foods definitely have amazing properties, too much of anything can have the opposite effect and for whatever reason, season or lifetime, they might not be ideal for you.
If you’re in a state of inflammation and that your body is under stress then addressing your diet and doing a few gentle experiments to test various modifications to your food mix, is just one way to reduce symptoms. We discuss diet in great detail as part of the Inflammation Ninja On-demand eCourse. But for now, consider how you may be affected by some of the food groups we’ve listed below.
Nuts are super nutritious but can be highly inflammatory for anyone suffering from FODMAP sensitivity/ IBS like symptoms and autoimmune conditions like Crohn’s and colitis. Why so? Nuts (specifically raw nuts) contain moderate levels of phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. These are nature’s way of ensuring the nuts can pass through the digestive system of an animal and still find their way back to the soil to continue to grow – clever plants, hey? The main issue with phytates is that when they are ingested through nuts and seeds they can bind to dietary minerals in the body, slow absorption of nutrients and cause gas and bloating.
To reduce the anti-nutrient effects of phytic acid in nuts, try the following:
- Soak nuts overnight with some vinegar or Greek yoghurt and then bake in the oven at the lowest temperature (60-80 degrees Celsius is ideal) for 10-12 hours. This deactivates the anti-nutrients in the skin and makes the nuts more digestible and bioavailable.
- Soak nuts overnight with a dash of apple cider vinegar or greek yoghurt and then rinse thoroughly. Blitz with filtered water and strain to make nut milk.
Looking deeper into nut allergies and autoimmune conditions. the science really speaks for itself.
A study comparing the frequency of IgG food intolerance in Inflammatory Bowel Disease sufferers compared to healthy controls found that nut and seed intolerance were very common, especially in Crohn’s disease sufferers.
In another study of people with unexplained gastrointestinal inflammation and symptoms, cashews were one of the most common nut intolerances, affecting upwards of 50% of study participants.
Most nuts are also fairly rich in omega 6 polyunsaturated fats (PUFA’s). Excess PUFAs are linked to inflammation in the body, especially when not balanced out by ample Omega 3’s (non-inflammatory fatty acids). So the key is, to think of a handful here and there rather than nut-based breads, biscuits, nut snacks AND nut milk, which if you’re experiencing inflammation of any kind, especially digestive, would be a wonderful experiment to cut back and see if you feel it eases or quietens down.
#2 Histamine-rich foods
Histamine is not commonly talked about but can cause huge inflammatory spikes in the body. Histamine is a chemical that is produced as an immune response in the body when it is exposed to allergens either internally or externally. Histamine is also raised when we are stressed. While histamine is a substance made by the body, it also comes naturally in many foods. When we get a build up of histamine in the body through stress, food, allergies OR a combination of all of these our histamine bucket can spill over resulting in a physiological response by the body.
Symptoms of histamine intolerance/overload include:
- Headaches or migraines
- Low blood pressure
- Itchy eyes/runny nose/congestion
- Premenstrual cramping
- Foggy head
- A feeling of being ‘wired’ or ‘buzzy’.
Foods that are histamine rich:
This might surprise you but some of the “healthiest” foods are rich in histamine. If you think you might have a histamine sensitivity then it is worth cutting back on these foods for a month and seeing how you feel:
- Leftover foods – any foods for longer than 2 hours will start releasing histamine
- Pickled or canned foods
- Fermented foods – sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, beet kvass
- Matured cheeses
- Smoked meat products – salami, ham, sausages
- Beans and pulses – chickpeas, soybeans, peanuts
- Chocolates and other cocoa-based products
- Processed sweet and salty snack foods
I know my histamine bucket was totally overflowing at the peak of my having CIRS (see podcast #55 for what that is) and so I ate a very basic fresh lamb mince, sprouts and rocket / arugula most meals for about a month to calm it down. It made a HUGE difference. We talk about food hacks when you’re super inflamed in our new on-demand Inflammation Ninja course at length and I interview a wonderful nutritionist on the subject in detail to help set us up for success. I can now incorporate most of the above foods in small amounts each day again – Yipee!
Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to cell membranes. They are abundant in raw legumes and grains. They’re also found in dairy products and certain vegetables. While lectin content in food is fairly constant, the genetic modification of plants has created some discrepancies.
Lectin found in plant foods and legumes is nature’s natural defence against microorganisms, pests, and insects. And again, they can withstand the digestive tract of animals in order to go back into the soil. Genius but not great for us humans.
The trouble here is that lectins are difficult for most of us to digest. As a result of this, the human body can produce antibodies, resulting in the activation of the immune system and inflammation of the gut. This for lots of people can include cramping, pain, bloating and excessive gas. You can read more on this in this report by Harvard School of Public Health.
While many foods contain lectins the ones you should keep an eye on are:
- Grains – particularly wheat.
- Nightshade fruits and vegetables – Such as white potatoes, tomatoes, goji berries, eggplants and capsicums.
- Legumes – Red kidney beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, peanuts, and cashews.
- Dairy products.
If you’re going to eat any of these foods, well cooked, well prepared (think soaking, culturing, slow cooking) is going to bring the lectin content down. A little experiment you can do for yourself if to cut back on these foods if you experience joint pain / arthritis or MS and see if it make s a difference to how you feel after a month. Because we’re all so bio-individual, a huge part of thriving and feeling our best, is actually FEELING through what helps us to thrive and what brings us down.
Did any of your favourite foods come up on that list? If you want more advice on how to eliminate inflammation from your life then check out our new Inflammation Ninja eCourse. It is a course I am so proud of, created by myself and our wonderful naturopath Steph Hinton, with the support of some of the finest doctors I know! I look forward to seeing you there if it speaks to you at the moment in your life – so many of us wandering around highly inflamed and as one of them and everything I went through with mold, this course couldn’t be more from the heart.
Real Food. Happy Bodies. Happy Planet.