Evolving Wellness

Holistic, Natural, and Green Approach to Optimal Wellness

The Diet-Inflammation Connection

This is the 2nd article in a series aimed at helping people reclaim their health namely through examining dietary habits and making positive changes.

In the first article, we examined why are we so dedicated to disease.

As a practicing chiropractor since 1997 I have increasingly moved away from just a mechanistic model of health care in the way I practice and what I preach to my patients.  What I once viewed for example as chronic low back pain in a construction worker needing routine adjustments, I now see a more complete picture when I include an examination of a person’s dietary status in addition to things such as work-modifications and/or a stretching routine alongside chiropractic care.  I’m going to make up a fictitious patient that is not unlike a typical young man coming to me for care so that I can make my point here.

For those who don’t see the obvious connection here just yet, let’s say this person is relatively young (say in their 30’s) who may appear generally fit and obviously not sedentary based on his type of work.   Yet despite following my treatment protocol and incorporating exercise, the condition still persists intermittently over months and even years.  This chronic condition then means the care I offer is just another bandaid solution…temporary relief, but bound to return.

On closer examination of this person in question I offer an example of their dietary habits.

Breakfast:  coffee and a bowl of cereal with milk.  When rushed sometimes no cereal at all but just the coffee.

First snack:  a granola bar with an apple and another coffee.

Lunch:  2 sandwiches – luncheon meat between whole wheat toast spread with margarine.  Beside it a few sticks of celery and then followed by 4 store-bought cookies.  Sometimes water is consumed at lunch, sometimes coffee, sometimes both.

Afternoon snack: store-bought muffin, beef jerky or a sausage stick, maybe another granola bar, more coffee and only water if it’s really hot outside.

Supper: either a pork chop on the barbeque with baked potato or possibly a sausage on a bun or a hamburger (store-bought), and then a salad with Kraft dressing on the side.  1 or 2 beers may also be included with supper.

Evening Snack: By late evening during TV time, snacks can be chips, bits & bites, ice cream, or a few cookies washed down with 1 or 2 cans of pop.

Now to the average person, this may be quite a typical scenario and true a large majority of people eat this way and don’t think anything of it.  Yet to natural health care practitioners, this is a perfect example of the S.A.D or Standard American Diet, which is one of the reasons why society is seeing such an increase in ill-health.  And I’m not just talking about chronic pain, but other areas where we are seeing more and more disease.

A Deeper Analysis Paints a New Picture

You may be wondering what’s wrong with the way he eats, it doesn’t seem that bad?  He isn’t eating out and he appears relatively fit (a construction job certainly helps).  Let’s start by examining how many fruits and vegetables he ate.  1 fruit (apple) and 2 veggies (celery and salad) and you have a total of 3 (the World Health Organization in their minimum requirements for vegetable intake excludes potatoes and other starchy tubers so his baked potato doesn’t count).

Consider the dietary recommendation of 8-10 fruits and vegetables daily. So right off the bat this person is majorly lacking in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and you can only imagine the deficit created in the body if this is a typical day.  Then add this over days, months, and years and can we really wonder why a person’s body breaks down?

Not only is the intake from the plant kingdom deficient, but this person appears to never (or possibly only very seldom) eat cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, or dark leafy greens like swiss chard, kale, or spinach, or even leafy herbs like parsley or cilantro.  I probably don’t have to preach in detail about the proven connection between lack of fruit and vegetable consumption and heart disease and cancers.

Then there is the lack of healthy fats in the diet – no nuts or seeds, foods like avocado, or olive oil (many commercial salad dressings are made using low-grade soybean oil which is genetically modified and not healthy).  I would question whether this person eats any eggs or fish in a typical week as part of his diet which would be healthy to incorporate.  As for the fat in margarine, it is simply another processed food marketed to us to appear healthy but nothing could be further from the truth.

Next there is the issue of processed cereal foods such as breakfast cereals and granola bars, and we can include here the processed grains in the store-bought muffins and cookies.  They are usually laden with sugar and do nothing more than spike insulin levels and cause a sugar ‘high’ in the bloodstream with very little nutritional value.  Processed (boxed) cereals are so stripped of nutrients that companies have to add the vitamins back in under the pretense of making them more ‘healthy’.

The regular intake of processed luncheon meats with nitrates (most contain them) is known to be a contributing factor in certain cancers, so this is problematic over time.  And then there is also the issue of coffee consumption which strips minerals from the body and creates an acid environment that causes inflammation.  And you probably have already guessed by now that his water consumption is not adequate.  Coffee and pop both dehydrate the body.  Dehydration is a contributor to chronic pain conditions.

Wheat products (in this case from his cereal, granola bars, muffin, sandwich bread, hotdog or hamburger bun, cookies, and evening snacks like bits & bites) also promote acidity and bodily inflammation.

This leads me to the crux of this article:  inflammatory-promoting foods will create a dis-eased or diseased state in the body and bring about weaknesses that show up as problematic areas.  In this particular case a chronic low back issue that never truly heals.  Inflammatory foods include: processed grains, coffee, wheat, processed luncheon meats or hot-dogs, sugar, alcohol (these are just to name a few).

In my next article I will examine more about the reliance society has on certain ways of eating and processed foods that take us so far away from what nature has intended for our bodies.  It usually stems from unhealthy and habitual attitudes towards food and simply not knowing what other substitutions could possibly be used without compromising on convenience or cost.  This series is dedicated to offering suggestions on how to improve our diets, our health, and ultimately our lives. Until next time…

Published Nov 19th 2012
Updated Sep 16th 2013
Dr. Colette Szalay
Author Dr. Colette Szalay
Dr. Colette Szalay is a chiropractor who practices in Ontario, Canada. She works with all ages, from infants to the elderly. She has a particular passion for helping patients transform their health with dietary changes since she believes the majority of conditions she sees are a cumulative result of poor food choices. She has felt first-hand the benefits of changing her diet over the years and inspires others to do so as well.

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