THANKSGIVING is like the ringing of the dinner bell — the start of holiday festivities that end with New Year’s Day.
Like most holidays and special occasions, the gatherings of friends, family and colleagues tend to center around food and drinks. How you celebrate in the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can affect your for weeks, maybe months, if you are affected by these three inflammatory dietary triggers.
Not to rain on your parade by any means, but beware that actions are always followed by consequences, and when it comes to food intake, consequences can be beneficial or troublesome. Here are the “three amigos” of inflammatory foods:
This magic ingredient makes almost anything taste better! Even newborn infants prefer sugar over anything else, and is the natural fuel of choice for human metabolism. The average American consumes about 152 pounds of sugar per year, about three pounds per day!
Sugar is in fruits, vegetables and bread, but most notably in processed foods, pastries and desserts. In excess, sugar is more than mere empty calories. It is a compound that has endocrine impact on our adrenal gland, pancreas and liver.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar concentration) also invites fluid retention, an autonomic effect that dilutes sugar concentrations in the blood. If you are not getting enough water while you consume high sugar concentrates, your body will pull the water from healthy cells and reuse what’s in your body — and you will accelerate dehydration. Drinking water during high sugar intake also increases fluid retention and affects blood pressure. Either way, your body will retain fluids and you will feel the effects sooner or later.
Inflammation is different than swelling. Inflammation is a reaction inside the cell and is a sequence of chemical changes that typically end up in increased pain and eventually produce swelling among many other chemical reactions. Swelling is extra-cellular fluid presence, meaning more pressure to joints and nerves and restricted mobility. High sugar concentration triggers a vicious inflammatory cycle and is more extensive than just exceeding calorie counts.
Alcohol acts like a sugar, and is broken down into sugar compounds eventually. Alcohols, like sugars, can trigger inflammation and edema at various individual thresholds. Intoxication through alcohol consumption is a sign that the liver is overwhelmed, and that alcohol intake has exceeded its breakdown and clearance. Inflammation is triggered, blood alcohol levels rise and the central nervous system becomes sedated. Repetitive episodes are harmful to the liver, causing it to underperform other important roles like internal sanitation and filtration. Imagine your garbage disposal not doing its job properly!
This is another magic ingredient that makes most of your food flavors come to life. Sodium and chloride are ever-so present in prepared and packaged foods, and in excess amounts will trigger your body to retain fluid.
As with sugars and alcohols in excess amounts, the body will attempt to dilute high salt intake with fluid retention. Blood pressure rises, joints get stiff and pain follows. Salt intake produces more swelling than inflammation, and if you don’t sweat or use the restroom often, your sodium retention will remain high.
Though inflammation might be relatively low during high salt intake, blood flow resistance from increased swelling can negatively affect liver and kidney function, and other sources of inflammation like alcohol and sugars are not cleared effectively by these organs.
It’s truly difficult to avoid spectacular food around the holidays. If you find yourself gathering frequently around foods, I do have a tip … and that is, don’t show up to your party hungry
Hunger triggers impulsive eating and binging — so beware of the three amigos of inflammation this holiday season, as they are typically inseparable at your festive gatherings.
Dr. Adrian Pujayana has been providing drug-free solutions for health and wellness to adults, athletes and youth since 2000 through his private practice at Family Chiropractic Center of South Pasadena, a place for strength training and nutrition-based health care. For comments or questions, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.