What we don’t want is an overactive immune system – we don’t want the immune system working overtime. When it is overactive, it will drain our body and cause problems such as arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma, stroke, high blood pressure, emphysema and obesity (Ultra-Longevity, Mark Liponis, MD). An overactive immune system can cause auto-immune diseases and inflammation.
A WORD ABOUT INFLAMMATION:
As you know from the last post, when our body’s immune system responds to a foreign invader, we release chemical messengers to attack it. If we release too many messengers though, we may begin to destroy healthy tissue or damage it in a way that is harmful to us… which may ultimately result in an inflammatory disease.
As an example, think of someone with a peanut allergy who experiences swelling of the throat that then leads to the inability to breath. The peanut isn’t what kills people, it’s the body’s overreaction to the peanut that does.
Another example is people with seasonal allergies. Say a tiny bit of pollen enters the nasal cavity. A person with a normal immune response may simply sneeze it out. A person with an overactive inflammatory response may sneeze 8 times, blow her nose 15 times, have watery eyes… you get the picture.
Imagine a normal immune response would be like a gentle blow of a baby’s first birthday candle. When we have an overactive immune system and we send too many anti-inflammatory messengers to deal with a foreign invader, it’s like using a fire hose to extinguish that same one candle. That will certainly ruin the party.
The book, Inflammation Nation, by Floyd Chilton, explains that our diet has a huge impact on the amount of inflammation-producing chemicals in our bodies.
Why do we care?
Do you know anyone who has allergies, asthma, diabetes, eczema, or cardiovascular disease?
Chances are you do.
These conditions are considered by many to be a result of inflammation
Moreover, when people are overweight or obese, they have more messengers in their blood that spark an inflammatory response (they are using a fire extinguisher to blow out the small birthday-candle fires in their system):
Fat cells, themselves, produce the inflammatory messengers that cause inflammatory disease. The more fat cells you have and the bigger those cells are, the more inflammatory messengers you will produce, increasing the likelihood that you will have an inflammatory disease. (Inflammation Nation, by Floyd Chilton, page 25)
What causes such an over-reaction?
Researchers are suspecting that our environment and our food choices may be contributing to overactive inflammatory responses and, thus inflammatory disease like diabetes and heart disease.
Did You Know? Certain substances added to our food during processing, including monosodium glutamate, aspartame, various food dyes, and preservatives, are responsible for allergic reactions, including asthma, in some people.
Some foods, especially in the U.S., are loaded with a substance called arachidonic acid (AA) that increases our inflammatory response. For example, four ounces of farmed salmon contains over 1,300 mg. of AA. That is more than 13 times the amount of AA that Dr. Chilton recommends in one day. The same size of wild salmon has just 303 mg. of AA.
So what can we do?
We need to cool down our inflammatory responses. To do so, we need to eat foods that do not increase the chemical messengers that produce such an inflammatory response and we need to eat more of the foods that calm the inflammation response.
Overall, try to eat lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Try to obtain your protein from plant-based products like nuts and beans rather than animal based products like meat. Of course, also check out our nutrition I & II links if you haven’t already.
Post question: Do you try to avoid certain types of food additives? If so, which ones and why?