By Jack Choate, DC
You are overweight and always hungry, is your brain inflamed?
Can poor eating habits “inflame” your brain? Evidence suggests consumption of pro-inflammatory foods can, for lack of better description, “confuse” your brain and the communication it has with your stomach—in effect making it harder to discern when you’re full. The result: a tendency to overeat and gain weight, which can lead to all sorts of serious health problems over time, including insulin resistance and diabetes.
The foods we eat can inflame our brain.
We understand the process of inflammation when it comes to suffering an injury like a sprained ankle—it swells and is painful. However, research is now showing that systemic inflammation can have no symptoms at all. For example, type 2 diabetes is caused by chronic cellular inflammation and it develops without the classic signs and symptoms of inflammation—like redness, swelling, heat, and pain.
It is important to discuss the relationship of chronic, systemic inflammation and our metabolic processes. If you have at least three of the following predictors, you have metabolic syndrome X, which exists before a patient becomes obese or has type 2 diabetes:
• Blood sugar > 100 mg/dL
• Triglycerides > 150 mg/dL
• HDL cholesterol < 50 for women or 40 for men • Blood pressure > 130/85 mm Hg
• Waist circumference > or = 36 inches for women and 40 inches for men
The inflammatory state that causes metabolic syndrome X, obesity, and type 2 diabetes is also what leads to inflammation of part of our brain—the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus controls, among other functions, hunger, and it becomes inflamed as a result of a high-calorie, fat-rich diet. The outcome is a reduction in the communication between the brain and the stomach that let’s you know you’re full and it’s time to stop eating. This can lead to overeating and weight gain. In other words, the brain of an overeater is inflamed.
The good news is that this systemic inflammation can be reduced at the next meal. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and lean meat reduces inflammation. Additional calories can come from nuts and seeds, particularly chia and hemp. Grains, legumes, and dairy should be consumed in modest amounts. Foods that should be avoided include refined sugar, flour and oils, as they are all highly inflammatory. Yet, these harmful things represent about 60% of the average calories consumed by Americans.
Systemic inflammation can lead to a wide range of chronic diseases.
Supplements that can help to reduce the inflammatory state include multivitamins, magnesium, omega –3 fish oils, and vitamin D. Chromium and lipoic acid are also good supplements to improve insulin sensitivity. Many patients only need to lose 5-20 percent of body weight to reduce or eliminate the metabolic syndrome