Have you ever had the feeling that you try so hard to lose weight and it's just not coming off? How can you even gain weight after all this time of being in a caloric deficit? You feel puffy, bloated, swollen. Sounds familiar?
There's a reason that your healthy intentions might not always yield the results you want to. This reason might be inflammation.
But first, let me say that there is no single way of healthy eating. What's healthy for me might not be healthy for you. We all respond in different ways to stimuli. Your health is your chemical response to the food you're eating. Onwards.
Inflammation and weight gain
Mind, inflammation is not generally bad and part of the body's natural defense system. Short-term inflammation is important to fight off infections and injuries. However, a chronic inflammation can be harmful to our health and can lead to weight gain.
How? When we gain weight, some fat cells expand beyond their capacity. If you're chronically inflamed, these fat cells can make existing inflammation even worse. At this point these fat cells are like tiny inflammation factories, sending signals to the brain to activate the immune system.
Your immune system basically shifts out of balance and the inflammation goes rampant. There are numerous causes for inflammation: Chronic stress, hidden food allergies, processed food, lack of exercise and so on.
Here's how an inflammation triggers 3 main hormones and hinders your weight loss:
Insulin: A chronic inflammation can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone, that controls blood sugar and leptin levels. Insulin resistance can lead to increased appetite, weight gain, and obesity.
Leptin: The hormone leptin is produced by fat cells. You might have heard of it as the "satiety" or "starvation" hormone, but it has many other functions - besides regulating hunger - such as regulating your metabolic rate, motivation, libido, and fertility. However, it's most important role is the regulation of energy balance. Meaning, leptin signals your brain that you have enough energy stored in your fat cells, so your body can expend energy at normal rates. As your leptin levels rise, your appetite diminishes, and as they fall, your appetite increases. Basically, leptin should keep you from starving or overeating. Chronic inflammation impairs the brain's ability to receive leptin's appetite suppressing message.
Cortisol: Cortisol aka our "stress hormone" is produced by the adrenal glands. Short-term bursts are beneficial for inflammation and weight loss. The problem is that our bodies can't tell the difference between physical and psychological stress. Chronic stress might lead to chronically elevated levels of cortisol. It's not an excuse for you to not lose weight, but if you are super stressed all day and you are doing everything right and you are still not losing any weight, get your cortisol levels checked.
See, when you eat a lot of processed foods, additives, chemicals, preservatives, artificial sweeteners and other inflammatory foods, you create a toxic environment. This, then, leads to more fat cells, which promotes more inflammation, until you're obese and/or borderline diabetic.
Why can I get sick and gain weight from a healthy diet?
As mentioned earlier, everybody is unique. Meaning, every body reacts differently to different foods. This is called bio-individuality. That's why even a "healthy diet" can cause inflammation.
Nobody gets the same results by eating the same kind of foods, amounts and doing the same exercises.
What is medicine for the one person can be "poison" to another.
Am I inflamed?
Basically, an inflammation occurs every time your body has to fight off stressors or irritants. This can be caused by stress, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, processed foods, allergens and much more.
Here's a short list, which should help you to determine if you are inflamed:
- Do you suffer from food allergies? Or do you feel sluggish after eating a specific food?
- Do you suffer from chronic infections (cold sores, flu, colds, sinus infections)?
- Are you often in very stressful situations? Physical and psychological?
- Are you drinking more than 3-4 alcoholic drinks per week?
- Do you suffer from pre-diabetes, diabetes, insulin resistance or other blood sugar issues?
- Are you obese?
- Do you have skin issues, such as acne, eczema, dermatitis?
- Are you doing long steady state cardio sessions (more than 2 times per week and longer than 30 minutes)?
- Do you live a sedentary lifestyle?
If you can answer more than 3 of these question with yes, chances are pretty good that you suffer from an inflammation.
How can I identify which food isn't working for me
Besides the weight gain, there are a few more signs of an inflammation. These are:
- Bloating right after a meal
- Afternoon hangover
- Depression and mood swings
- Hormonal issues
Figuring out which foods work for you and which don't is as easy as listening to your body and see how it reacts to the food. If something doesn't feel right after you ate it, that's a good sign that the food you ate doesn't suit you.
What can I do against inflammation?
Reduce your meat intake
By adding a variety of plant-based whole foods and cutting back on processed junk and animal products you'll flood your body with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants (which fight free-radicals) and fiber.
Focus on your gut health
You know the saying "I've never gone wrong trusting my gut"? It's true. About 70% of your immune system is held by your gut. Hence, if your gut's in bad shape, you can be sure that your immune system is in some serious trouble.
A good way to start is by eating more probiotic foods, such as yogurt, tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir or pickles.
Avoid antibiotics and antacids
Speaking of gut health. Now that you know that your immune system is mostly regulated by your gut, you don't want to irritate it more than it already is, by taking any medicine. Medicine could alter your gut in ways that harm your microbiome, which might lead to a "leaky gut" due to a weakened intestinal wall.
A "leaky gut" releases toxins and triggers an immune response, which leads to chronic inflammation.
Get your workout in
Working out regularly is good for your body. Research found that regardless of weight, people who did exercise on a regular basis lowered their markers of inflammation by 12%.
Reduce your sugar intake
Sugary foods can cause inflammation by causing a spike in blood sugar levels. When a blood sugar spike occurs, the pancreas releases a rush of insulin, which in turn activates the genes involved in inflammation.
This cycle is thought to contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Balance your fats out
Fats are essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism and we have to eat fat for a proper overall health. Fat is not the root of all evil.
However, if you're inflamed and the omega ratio becomes too heavily weighted towards 6's instead of 3's, you'll have a pro-inflammatory environment.
Furthermore, make sure to avoid canola oil, vegetable oil, and hydrogenated oils. These create oxidative cellular damage and initiate degenerative processes.
One of the healthiest oils you can use is non-hydrogenated coconut oil, as it remains stable when heated.
Do you have or did you have issues with inflammation? If so, which foods helped you to fight it? Let me know in the comment section down below!