When you hear the word stress, what comes to mind? Your commute to work, paying for your kids' college tuition or trying to function on four hours of sleep. We all have a good understanding of what stress feels like and what causes it, and many of us even practice techniques to manage that stress.
But the stress I'm referring to may not even be apparent. You may be causing stress within your body without even knowing it.
Food can act as either an ideal fuel for the body or a poison that should be avoided. When you eat certain foods, they may be causing stress within your body, also known as inflammation. Inflammation is our body's response to illness, injury or stress. Inflammation can actually be beneficial when it's short term. Sprain an ankle and it will become inflamed to begin the healing process. But, if inflammation is long term and systemic, it could lead to many diseases and health problems.
Diseases associated with long-term systemic inflammation include cancer, heart disease, arthritis and many other autoimmune diseases. So it would seem logical to try to minimize or at least control inflammation.
Taking control of systemic inflammation begins with the digestive system. Changing the types of foods you eat will have a dramatic effect on the health of your digestive tract. Cutting out processed foods, sugary foods, chemical laden foods and trans fats is a good place to start. Adding healthy fats such as fish oil, while limiting certain plant oils such as soybean oil may help balance out your Omega 3 to Omega 6 fat ratio. Most Omega 3 fatty acids have a natural anti-inflammatory effect, while most Omega 6 fatty acids have an inflammatory effect when consumed.
Some healthy foods could also be causing inflammation if your body cannot tolerate them. Common food allergies include gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, rice and nuts. These allergens could be causing unneeded stress on the body every time they're consumed. Your immune system could be attacking these foods in a similar way that it attacks a flu virus. It's almost as if your body thinks you're sick every time you eat an intolerable food. If you think you may have a food allergy, talk your doctor. By taking a sample of your blood, a lab can determine if you have reactions to certain foods.
Imagine living life in a constant state of inflammation fundamentally caused by the foods you're eating. Your body would literally be stressed out all the time. To put that in perspective, just think if you were mentally stressed out all the time. Life wouldn't be much fun would it?
So give your body a break from this stress by choosing foods that produce benefits rather than do harm. You'll have less stress, more energy and live a longer and healthier life.
A quote by Dr. Ann Wigmore sums it up best, "The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison."
For more nutrition tips, visit our blog at PushFitnessTraining.com or find us on Facebook.
• Joshua Steckler and Mark Trapp are co-owners of Push Fitness, a personal training studio in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning and nutrition. Contact them at PushFitnessTraining.com.