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Food & Health

Inflammation (Part 1)

In the last decades, we have been witnessing an escalation in chronic diseases once unknown except in the very elderly or the obese. What do we attribute the state of chronic disorders to? If the cause is a mystery to you, it is not to medical and scientific researchers any more. Studies have shown that unhealthy modern lifestyles and excesses are the main causes for such health issues. Poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyles, work demands and environmental and emotional stress take a toll on the human body. Our diet and way of eating have drastically changed in the last six decades from fresh whole organic foods to manufactured, denatured, genetically engineered foods.
Vegetables and fruits are no longer fresh, whole or organic; more or less depleted from nutrients (long refrigeration periods, soil depletion, food processing) or contaminated with pesticides and additives to increase production and shelf life.
The same applies to grains; they are no longer whole, but processed, genetically engineered, or stripped from their bran and nutrients. They have become empty carbohydrates.
Vegetable fats are not healthy any more. They are heat-pressed and used at very high temperatures, which change their configuration. They turn into health damaging trans fats.
The meat and poultry we eat are not only non-organic but also processed, containing “harmful” hormones, antibiotics and additives.
It was once said: “You are what you eat.” Now, we have become the product of what we are fed: “corrupted” foods, pesticide-sprayed produce, hormone-fed cattle, genetically modified grains, contaminated fish and trans fats.
Moreover, food portions have become super sized and food preparation has become more complicated: Fatty, fried, starchy, sugary, refined and processed. The beverages we drink are sugar-laden and highly-caffeinated or with sugar substitutes and additives. The end result is that we have become oversized fat bipeds, who have become immobilized, disease-afflicted, unproductive, dependent and burdens on family and society.
Do we realize what happens to our bodies when we consume gigantic portions of man-made “modern” foods? We become obese and disease-stricken with diabetes, heart disorders and cancer before the age of forty. When we reach this stage we realize that we are in deep trouble. This becomes a point of “no return” unless we shape up and address the problem before it is too late. We often ask how? Well, when we make complete modifications to our lives to save our health. Before suggesting a diet or a lifestyle, I shall explain what happens inside the body when we reach this stage of obesity and unwellness.
We see everyday how “modern” diets provide us with fatty super sized meals with genetically modified foods, manipulated fats and ultra sweet beverages altered by synthetic chemicals (sweeteners, coloring, flavors). The meals we consume are not made out of fresh natural whole organic foodstuffs any more. They may be “eatable” but they have nothing nutritious about them. Our digestive systems have been tricked into accepting them as food, but our body cells, organs and systems protest by developing and manifesting silent inflammation, autoimmune disorders, cancer and other diseases. Let us see how such changes occur.
Disease starts somewhere inside the body. What ignites it has been a mystery for ages. But, thanks to recent scientific evidence and tireless efforts of dedicated medical researchers like Dr. Barry Sears, the enigma is beginning to unravel. He and others believe that silent inflammation is at the base of many “modern” chronic disorders, diabetes Type 2, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer, depending on each person’s genetic disposition. What is suspected to cause silent inflammation is obesity and modified foods. Let us see what triggers it.
Our “modern” diet of huge portions of the “wrong” fats and refined sugar and carbohydrates along with stress and sedentary lifestyles have driven our bodies to store layers and layers of fat, making most people either fat or obese and unfortunately diseased. The obese are more prone to toxicity as fat hides toxins within its layers.
Because the same “modern” diets of fast food and supersized portions plus inactivity have taken over our traditional lifestyles, obesity in Saudi Arabia has reached close to 60 percent, something unknown to us 30 years ago, except for the unfortunate few. Over three million citizens are obese and ailing, costing the country millions according to Dr. Walid Bukhari, chief surgeon at the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah.
You must be wondering, how obesity generates internal inflammation. Obesity is the result of cumulative body fat. Too much refined carbohydrate and sugar consumption puts the pancreas on overdrive to produce insulin to allow blood sugar into cells to use and metabolize. When cells become engorged with fat they become insulin resistant. They lose their capacity to receive insulin through their insulin receptors. The condition is called insulin resistance. Blood glucose remains elevated and un-metabolized. The pancreas continues pumping more insulin to remove the extra blood glucose, resulting in high levels of insulin and sugar lurking in the blood, wrecking havoc in the system. Let us explain the course of obesity.
Overconsumption of high glycemic carbohydrates (refined sugar and grains, fried potatoes, overcooked starches) and fat raise insulin levels, which increase visceral fat around the waist, resulting into obesity. Insulin, fat cells and excessive meat intake release pro-inflammatory hormones, eicosanoids, which promote inflammation. It is also believed that silent inflammation could trigger insulin resistance, as oversized fat cells and insulin produce inflammatory compounds.
To combat fat cells, the pancreas keeps on pumping insulin to metabolize fat. With fat cells increasing in number and size, they lock their receptors to insulin, resulting in insulin resistance, un-metabolized blood sugar and consequently diabetes Type 2. With insulin and sugar swimming in the blood, the body releases cortisol, a powerful stress hormone. Cortisol floods the system in order to contain the insulin influx. The battle goes on silently in the system, creating more and more damage. Silent inflammation persists in this manner for months and years without manifesting any symptoms until diabetes Type 2 or other metabolic syndromes surface regardless of age.
Next week, I shall pursue the subject of silent inflammation in order to keep this culprit hushed and low for better health and wellness.
N.B.: Individuals with medical conditions or on medication should consult their physicians when they decide to introduce anything new in their diet even if it is natural.
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