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January 24, 2012

Food As Medicine
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Blood Sugar Control and Inflammation

Inflammation wasn’t much of a conscious concern for most people until an enlightening article was released on February 23, 2004 in Time Magazine entitled “Inflammation: The Silent Killer”. Since the release of this article, the importance of inflammation has been more widely accepted by both clinicians and patients as a contributing factor of pretty much every disease process.

There are many factors we need to consider in order to keep inflammation in check. My colleague Julie Daniluk recently published an amazing book that outlines these factors very clearly.

One of the most important factors, which I am going to focus on, is blood sugar control.

Many people don’t realize that controlling your blood sugar is critical for maintaining an anti-inflammatory state.

Refined sugar and flour, as well as other foods with a high glycemic index, jack up the levels of insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas. (Glycemic index is a scale, rating the speed at which a food increases blood sugar). Once released, insulin works to facilitate the movement of sugar into cells for energy. However, when high glycemic index foods are consumed there is a hyper-insulin response.

Assume you’re building a shed for a moment. You would probably buy long two-by-fours, so you could cut them to the appropriate size.

The body carries out a similar process with fats. There are certain fats (essential fats omega-3 and 6) that are used as raw materials to make either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory compounds.

Omega-3 fats, which we hear so much about, can only be converted into anti-inflammatory compounds.

Omega-6 fats however, have a “Jekyll and Hyde” type personality. They can either convert into pro-inflammatory compounds or anti-inflammatory compounds.

Here’s the kicker. Insulin can control the fate of the omega-6 fatty acids.

When there are elevated levels of insulin due to a high glycemic index diet, omega-6 fatty acids are skewed toward a pro-inflammatory pathway, creating molecules called prostaglandins.

Pro-inflammatory prostaglandins not only increase inflammation, but they also increase clot formation, and blood pressure.

What Can I Do To Control Blood Sugar And Inflammation?

The great thing about this whole process is that it can be reversed the second you start controlling your blood sugar and eating a low glycemic index diet.

Here are four things you can do at your next meal to lower the glycemic index of your diet and thus decrease inflammation:

  1. Consume high fibre, unrefined foods with every meal.
  2. Make sure you include a good quality protein such as wild fish, tempeh, organic chicken, eggs, nuts and/or seeds with every meal.
  3. Use fat to decrease the glycemic index of meals. Good fats to use are extra-virgin olive oil, flax oil, hemp oil, coconut oil, and chia oil.
  4. Educate yourself on the glycemic index of foods. One of my favorite resources is The World’s Healthiest Foods.

Controlling blood sugar levels can afford you great benefits in preventing and controlling inflammatory conditions.

– Josh