Nutritional Considerations: Inflammation & Pain

The energy stored in food is measured in terms of calories. We burn sugar or fat.
The energy stored in food is measured in terms of calories. We burn sugar or fat.

Today’s Anatomy, Exercise, and Biomechanics lecture was a very eye-opening one. Earlier in the semester, we had asked Dr. Jordan Mackner about nutrition as it relates to athletic performance, and what we got was some “food for thought.” The big thing I learned today: diet is a driver of pain and inflammation in the body and predisposes a person to inflammation.

The energy stored in food is measured in terms of calories. For example:
1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories
1 oz. of alcohol = 198.44 calories (1 oz. = 28.3 grams)

We burn sugar (glucose) or fat for energy. We can’t burn protein, but protein can be turned into glucose, which we can use for energy. Excess carbs turn into fat. Because diets in the Western world are so rich in carbohydrates, it would take 3-4 weeks to retrain our bodies to burn fat for energy once again. Eating fatty foods only makes us fat because our bodies are trained to burn that fat into energy.

Foods can be inflammatory for different reasons such as carbohydrate content, type of fat, acidity, pH level, and food sensitivity. It also depends on how our bodies react to and break down the foods we eat.

So why is inflammation in the body bad? Inflammation is a pre-cursor to chronic diseases in the body such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, stroke, myocardial infarction (MI), and cancer. Foods can be either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Pro-inflammatory foods include: refined grains, whole grains, grain/flour products, grain-fed meat, eggs, most packaged or processed foods, deep fried foods, trans fats (margarine and some processed oils), and most commercial salad dressings.

Anti-inflammatory foods include: fruits, vegetables, nuts, potatoes, fresh fish, wild game, grass-fed meats, Omega III foods such as eggs, grass-fed meats, and avocados, highly saturated organic oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, and butter, dark chocolate, stout beer, red wine, and spices such as ginger, turmeric, garlic, oregano, and cumin.

Our bodies aren’t designed to eat grains. We can’t break down the gluten proteins.

Grains and Gluten
Gliadin (gluten protein) cannot be broken down by human beings. That means we are all gluten sensitive to some degree, but because it’s such a wide spectrum, some people exhibit more symptoms than others. Grains contain lectins, gliadin, and an acidic pH, which are pro-inflammatory in our bodies. They are very high in carbohydrates, which feeds into insulin sensitivity and fat storage. Gliadins create a leakiness in the gut, which predisposes us to inflammatory and immune reactions.

Research shows there is a real connection between our stomachs (or guts) and our brains. We are more bacteria than human being – we have more DNA in our bodies from bacteria than we do from our own cells. Bacteria in the gut outnumber our own cells 10:1. Nerves connect our stomachs to our brains, which means bacteria can influence our hormonal production, gene regulation, and even how we feel. The bacteria in our stomachs could be to blame for our current moods!

Insulin Resistance and Syndrome X
Insulin resistance represents a pre-diabetic state referred to as Syndrome X or Metabolic Syndrome. If patients have three or more of the following risk factors, they are said to have Syndrome X or pre-diabetic: a fasting glucose greater than 110, triglycerides greater than 150, HDL cholesterol less than 40 for men and 50 for women, blood pressure over 130, and a waist circumference greater than 40″ for men and 35″ for women. Insulin resistance is also involved in the pathogenesis of many pro-inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, stroke, MI, and cancer.

Omega III fatty acids come from a variety
Omega III fatty acids come from a variety of foods including cold-water salmon.

Omega III vs. Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs). When we cannot produce these in our bodies, we need to get them via nutrition. Omega III and Omega 6 fatty acids are essential but react in the body much differently. In the traditional hunter-gatherer diets under which we evolved, there was a 1:1 ratio of Omega IIIs to Omega 6s. Today, that ratio is closer to 30:1. A high concentration of Omega 6 fatty acids is pro-inflammatory in our bodies.

Next Week
Dr. J will tell us why he recommends supplements such as Vitamin D, probiotics, anti-oxidants, fish oil, and mult-vitamins.

We will also be reviewing common diets such as the anti-inflammatory diet, the paleo diet, the ketogenic diet, vegetarianism, and veganism.

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