The medical community agrees that certain foods put stress on the immune system. These inflammatory foods irritate your body’s system, causing it to enter into attack mode. When consuming foods that cause inflammation, your body feels threatened.

Your body’s response can present itself as joint pain, swelling, anxiety, acne, and digestive issues.

Here is a list of inflammatory foods to avoid while you get your health back on track.

1. Gluten

Wheat, barley, and rye can reduce your body’s ability to absorb the proper nutrients. It can offset a number of symptoms, from anxiety to severe joint pain. A person does not have to be diagnosed with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance to be negatively affected by gluten.

“It’s estimated that one percent of the population has Celiac disease and one in 30 people have a gluten sensitivity–and eating gluten causes inflammation every time they eat it,” says Dr. Amy Meyers, a clinical doctor and New York Times Bestselling Author. “What’s more, an estimated 99 percent of people with gluten sensitivity are undiagnosed, so they are fanning the flames of their inflammation without even knowing it.”

2. Dressings

Believe it or not, adding that small amount of dressing, mayonnaise, or oil to your meal can do a lot of damage. It is typically the high concentration of omega-6, a fatty acid that is necessary but should not be overdone. Currently, Americans are consuming 20 times as much omega-6 as the body can handle.

Dr. Travis Stork, TV Host of The Doctors and author of The Doctor’s Diet, encourages people to replace pre-made dressings with extra virgin olive oil, lemon, and spices.

“My good cholesterol numbers—my HDL—has increased dramatically because I’ve really made an effort to increase these healthy fats.”

3. Sugar

This particular inflammatory produces something called cytokines. These are tiny proteins that are released on behalf of your immune system. An over-production of cytokines leads to disease. Sugar is found in products like desserts, cereals, and candy. However, sugar is also added to many unexpected items like tomato sauce, milk, and many brands of peanut butter.

Laura A. Schmidt, Ph.D., M.S.W., M.P.H. a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, writes that there is “a growing body of research on sugar as an independent risk factor in chronic disease. It underscores the likelihood that, at levels of consumption common among Americans, added sugar is a significant risk factor.”

4. Processed Meat

Because of a foreign compound that is found in processed meats, the body will create antibodies to attack what they do not recognize as safe. Often, this can lead to chronic inflammation. Even though processed meats usually bring to mind hot dogs and beef jerky, it also includes anything that has been smoked, salted or chemically preserved meats. There is a strong link between cured meats and colon cancer.

“The scientific data showing that consumption of processed meats has multiple adverse health effects is persuasive, unambiguous and overwhelming,” concludes Dr. Cordain, a researcher for evolutionary basis of diet and disease and founder of the Paleo Diet.

5. Artificial Additives

If you have been working on a healthier lifestyle, one of the first things you learn to avoid are additives. Unfortunately, these artificial foods are inside of items you would never think to check. Aspartame, food coloring and monosodium glutamate (MSG) are the forerunners of inflammatory response.

You can find aspartame as a sugar substitute in many candies, chewing gums, and low-fat labels. MSG is a common additive in Chinese food, fast food, sausage, and seasonings. Food coloring has only recently been removed from many shelf products but remains prevalent as the means to make food look “prettier.”

Andrew Gewirtz, an immunologist at Georgia State University in Atlanta and his team have found that feeding, otherwise healthy, mice inflammatory additives resulted in bowel disease. He says that there is still debate with any study. “When it comes to people making their own decisions, between our studies and others out there, it’s better to eat less processed food,” he concludes.

6. Dairy

Researchers are finding that most people are unable to effectively digest milk after graduating from infancy. Dairy products trigger a number of inflammatory responses such as diarrhea, skin rashes, acne, hives, and digestive issues. We understand dairy to be products like milk, butter, and cheese. Also know that it can be found inside of many baking mixes, soups, cereals, and boxed goods.

Dr. Frank Hu, MD, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston says there is no easy answer to eliminating dairy.

It is good to know that yogurt does not make the list. According to Dr. Hu, “Yogurt is associated with decreased inflammation, decreased insulin resistance, and it may prevent type 2 diabetes.”

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