We've all scraped our knee, twisted an ankle, bruised our shin, or whacked our heads. After doing so, our bodies immediately go to work and begin to heal the injury. We often see swelling, redness, bruising, etc. and we know that in a few days our body will take care of it and we'll be back to normal. These are all common examples of inflammation, which is our body's immune response to a physical threat. In these cases, when the inflammation is only short term, it's known as acute inflammation.
What most of us don't know is that inflammation is occurring inside our bodies all the time, even though there's likely no external signals. In fact, inflammation is the root of all the most common diseases that kill us today: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's and many more. All of these start with inflammation.
So what causes inflammation in the first place and where does it start? It starts in the gut. Our guts our made up of a very large and semi-permeable lining. When certain things occur in our body, the lining of the gut can leak releasing food, toxins, bacteria, viruses, and much more. The major causes of leaky gut are stress, lack of sleep, and the food we consume.
I think most of us know that stress and lack of sleep have very serious effects on our bodies, so the fact that it can cause inflammation is likely no surprise. But what about food? What types of food can cause leaky gut and inflammation? All recent studies point to saturated fat from animal products. When we eat foods high in saturated fats, it causes the lining of the gut to leak and all kinds of bacteria are released into our bloodstream. Our body then reacts to the bacteria as a threat, resulting in inflammation.
Furthermore, studies have found that within only hours of eating animal fat, our arteries ability to open normally is cut in half! Within hours! Then, 5 or 6 hours later, when our bodies are finally getting things in order and the inflammation starts to go down, we eat another meal with animal fat in it and the cycle starts again!
Between consuming animal fat, the stress in our daily lives, and lack of sleep, most Americans are in a constant state of inflammation. This is known as chronic inflammation. And as I mentioned previously, the presence of inflammation is what makes us susceptible to disease. For example, asthma is chronic inflammation of the lungs, Alzheimer's is chronic inflammation of the brain, arthritis is chronic inflammation of the joints, heart disease is chronic inflammation of arteries to the heart, and so on and so forth. So if we're in a chronic state of inflammation, our bodies are feeding disease 24/7.
Here's a great analogy that Dr. Michael Greger uses in his Book How Not To Die (if you haven't read it, go read it!): when you bump your shin on a coffee table and it bruises up, your body goes to work and heals it. Now imagine if you walked into that coffee table and hit yourself in the shin in the same exact spot 3 times each day. Your shin would never heal, right? That's what we do to our gut 3 times a day, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner when we eat animal products. As a result, it never heals and therefore we're never able to heal inflammation and fight disease!
So, when you sit down to your meal, or you're up late watching House of Cards, or you're ready to flip out on your boss, you need to know that the decision you're about to make is either going to feed disease or fight it. So, take a breath, and choose wisely.