Can you reduce inflammation by changing what you eat?

Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 1 September 2020

Of course! Food is not just a source of calories. Think of the food you eat as messages that go directly to your genes. You have the choice to send positive messages or negative messages and this depends on the foods you choose to eat.

In the case of inflammation, you can choose to send messages to your genes to upregulate inflammatory mediators like cytokines, prostaglandins, and eicosanoids OR their non-inflammatory counterparts, depending on the foods you eat.

So let’s discuss 3 major categories of foods that will upregulate inflammation:

  1. Artificial ingredients
  2. Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats
  3. Refined carbohydrates and sugar

Artificial ingredients

This would include anything that is difficult to pronounce or sounds like a chemical on a nutrition label. If the food doesn’t have a label, it almost always has no artificial ingredients in it. Some common examples of artificial ingredients are high fructose corn syrup, BHA, BHT, MSG, aspartame, and other artificial sweeteners (this does not include stevia or xylitol).

Omega 6 Polyunsaturated fats

Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats have become a significant part of the modern diet. It is now estimated that the omega 6 content of our diet is 20X higher than it should be. No wonder so many people are suffering from all different types of inflammatory conditions! These pro-inflammatory fats are found primarily in the oh so popular vegetable oils (corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, shortening, margarine, and canola oil). All of these oils can be found in salad dressings, mayonnaise, corn chips, potato chips, popcorn, any fast food, muffins, cookies, graham crackers, brownies, and even cereals! Just to name a few.

Refined carbohydrates and sugar

Refined carbohydrates, even whole-grain ones, have taken over as the main source of our calories in the modern world. We are also eating several pounds of sugar per year. This was unheard of before agricultural industrialization. No longer are vegetables the staple on everyone’s plate. It is usually some type of refined wheat product at every meal, and breakfast is usually the worst! Think of bagels, cereal, muffins, toast, sandwiches, tortillas, rice and pasta. All of these foods cause a massive bolus of insulin to be released and insulin is a very pro-inflammatory hormone. On the other hand, insulin is our friend when secreted in small manageable amounts, such as after eating a big salad. It ends up being our enemy in large amounts secreted time after time after time in response to refined carbohydrate foods like a bowl of pasta or cereal.

So, what should you focus on instead to reduce inflammation?

In two words, real food. This is food you pick or dig from the garden, buy at the butcher, catch in the lake, pick off a tree.

Even though this advice is simple, it is not always easy. That is why help is available. If you are a subscriber to my newsletter you will be receiving an invitation for my group Inflammation Detox.

This detox is five weeks long and includes a meal plan and grocery list each week. Stay tuned for more details!

Now I would love to hear from you! What is one change you have been wanting to make to reduce inflammation in your diet but haven’t been able to quite do it yet and why? Leave a comment below and I'll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday!

One Reply to “Can you reduce inflammation by changing what you eat?”


Best money I ever spent was in this detox program and time spent with you! Such important lessons about making the connection between gut and health (both mentally and physically!).

I didn’t lose weight but I sure feel immensely better!

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