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Why inflammation is as important a measure as blood sugar when it comes to metabolic health

Learn about how inflammation affects your body, how it relates to your metabolic health, and how managing your blood sugar can also help support a healthy inflammatory response.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and is the first step of any healing process. If a virus, bacteria, or other toxin enters your body or you hurt yourself in some way, your body signals for help. Cue your immune system to the rescue, sending white blood cells to the site of infection or injury, where they release chemicals to protect you and start the healing process.

What’s the deal with chronic inflammation?

In itself, inflammation is a great system for dealing with acute damage and threats. However, it has a tendency to show up when it’s not necessarily needed and/or overstay its welcome. We’re talking chronic inflammation: aka inflammation that lasts for a prolonged period of time (generally months or years).

Chronic inflammation occurs when you constantly get exposed to things that light up your immune system (e.g. certain foods, stress and excess fat; more on that below). This causes your immune system to continue to call for backup and to send out its chemical messengers to the rest of your body. Because our bodies aren’t meant to endure inflammation for long periods of time, chronic inflammation can cause long-term health issues related to your heart, your blood sugar, your cells and your gut, and has been associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

The constant state of inflammation can further cause oxidative stress to your cells, which in the long run can cause DNA mutation and damage, contributing to the risk of developing cancer and other age-related diseases.

Aside from infection/injury, what else causes inflammation?

As always, researchers and scientists argue day in and day out about what causes inflammation beyond acute trauma, but the two most commonly agreed-upon causes are ones (mostly) within our control:

  • Food
  • Stress

The food you eat is a major factor, and inflammation can be caused by a variety of foods such as:

  • Sugar - desserts, pastries, chocolate, sodas
  • Saturated fats -  red meat, dairy products
  • Trans fats - fast food, fried foods, cookies, donuts
  • Excess Omega-6 fatty acids - corn oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil
  • Refined carbohydrates - bread, white rice, white potatoes
  • Alcohol

Stress is also an important part of the puzzle. When you are stressed, your body prepares for damage by cranking up the inflammatory response. So, in the long run, chronic stress can lead to chronic inflammation.

The blood sugar connection: how inflammation impacts metabolic health

As it turns out, this inflammatory response is closely linked to your blood sugar. The chemical messengers used by your immune response—cytokines—can eventually cause insulin resistance. And it can become a vicious cycle over time. High blood sugar has been linked to increased inflammation, and it has been shown that individuals with higher blood sugar have a larger inflammatory response to the same trigger than those with lower blood sugar.

So, how can we try to manage inflammation?

While inflammation isn’t entirely avoidable (and that’s a good thing—since it does have its time and place), we can take steps to manage our potential triggers of inflammation and help support a healthy inflammatory response through anti-inflammatory actions. ‍

Managing your inflammatory triggers:

  • Try to reduce your intake of potentially inflammatory foods
  • Experiment with ways to manage stress (removing stressors from your life and/or practicing stress-management techniques like meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature)

Supporting a healthy inflammatory response:

  • Consuming foods with anti-inflammatory properties, like Omega-3s (found in olive oil, salmon, avocados, walnuts, leafy greens, etc.) and polyphenols like curcumin (found in turmeric; try combining with black pepper or taking it in curcumin phytosome form—both proven to increase the bioavailability by ~2,000%.)
  • Regular exercise (e.g. a daily 30-minute walk) not only helps manage blood sugar—it can also lower inflammation levels throughout your entire body
  • Monitoring your blood sugar and taking steps to reduce glucose spikes and keep your blood sugar low & consistent

Overall, the key to supporting your body’s inflammatory response is knowing your body and using that knowledge to make the right lifestyle choices for you. For the blood sugar component, Veri’s Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) system can help equip you with valuable insights to help make decisions to support your well-being.

References

  1. Roma Pahwa et al., "Chronic Inflammation", 2021. StatPearls Publishing LLC. URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/
  2. A. Buyken et al., “Carbohydrate nutrition and inflammatory disease mortality in older adults”, 2010. Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. URL: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/92/3/634/4597464
  3. C. de Luca and J. Olefsky, “Inflammation and Insulin Resistance”, 2008. Published in FEBS Letters. URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2246086/
  4. COVID Symptom Study, “Inflammation, diet, weight and COVID-19: what’s the connection?”, 2020. Published through ZOE. URL: https://covid.joinzoe.com/post/covid-blood-sugar-inflammation
  5. Harvard Men’s Health Watch, “Understanding acute and chronic inflammation”, 2020. Published through Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. URL: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-chronic-inflammation
  6. I. Spreadbury, "Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity”, 2015. Published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy. URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3402009/
  7. J. Bruun et al., “Consumption of sucrose-sweetened soft drinks increases plasma levels of uric acid in overweight and obese subjects: a 6-month randomised controlled trial”, 2015. Published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn201595
  8. K. Wellen and G. Hotamisligil, “Inflammation, stress and diabetes”, 2005. Published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1087185/
  9. N. Khansari et al., “Chronic Inflammation and Oxidative Stress as a Major Cause of Age-Related Diseases and Cancer”, 2008. Published in Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery. URL: https://www.eurekaselect.com/93095/article
  10. S. Chuengsamarn et al., “Curcumin Extract for Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes”, 2012. Published in Diabetes Care. URL: https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/35/11/2121.full
  11. S. Dickinson et al., “High-glycemic index carbohydrate increases nuclear factor-kappaB activation in mononuclear cells of young, lean healthy subjects”, 2008. Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. URL: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18469238/
  12. S. Hewlings and D. Kalman, “Curcumin: A Review of It’s Effects on Human Health”, 2017. Published in Foods. URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/
    Thorne, “Curcumin Phytosome”, 2020. Published through Thorne. URL: https://www.thorne.com/ingredients/curcumin-phytosome

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