Reduce Inflammation to Support Weight Loss & Metabolism
By Kara Carper, MA, CNS, LN
August 22, 2023
Struggling with a slow metabolism? Tried a low-fat diet or low-calorie diet with no lasting success? Feel like you lose some weight only to gain it back? Or maybe, despite your best efforts, you feel like you’re not making any changes to your body composition?
The solution may be an anti-inflammatory plan. Many experts have found that the nutritional plan that results in weight loss is the same plan that reduces symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, IBS, depression, PMS, joint pain, migraines, and many others.
Less Inflammation = Weight Loss
Research has shown that cleaning up the diet can get rid of chronic conditions while also increasing metabolism. Mark Hyman, MD and author of UltraMetabolism and The Ultra Mind Solution, says his patients who have refined their diets have been able to rid themselves of chronic conditions such as migraines, while lessening the symptoms of concerns like arthritis and asthma. “People need to stop focusing on weight loss and start focusing on getting their bodies back in balance. From there, excess weight will start to drop away automatically,” he explains.
Time and again in articles, on our podcast, and in our classes, we talk about how when you focus on healing the body, weight loss will follow. The Nutritional Weight & Wellness Way of eating is naturally anti-inflammatory and can help support you no matter what your health struggle might be. So let’s dig in a little bit to see what you can do to decrease inflammation and increase metabolism.
More About Inflammation
There IS a time and place for inflammation. The body is smart and has all the devices it needs within its systems and physiology to heal itself. For example, after a cut, white blood cells mobilize, which creates swelling and irritation for a few days. But then the inflammation “cools down” and things go back to normal as the cut heals. This is a normal cycle of inflammation. The purpose of inflammation is to protect the body.
However, the issue becomes when we are surrounded by things that keep up the inflammation without allowing the body to rest (much like with stress!). Bombarding the body with inflammatory foods and beverages such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, caffeine, alcohol, damaged fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods, can be too much for the body to process. Sometimes it can cause allergies or food sensitivities to develop. This then leads to swelling and irritation occurring internally and externally throughout the body, causing a host of problems:
- Inflammation in the heart can cause heart disease.
- Inflammation in the brain can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Inflammation in the lungs can exacerbate asthma.
- Inflammation in the fat cells can lead to weight gain.
Tips to Reduce Inflammation
What’s the secret to “cool down” the chronic inflammation that causes people to hold on to stored fat? The advice may sound familiar: add the good stuff and get rid of the bad stuff. Anti-inflammatory foods include plenty of brightly colored vegetables and fruit, high quality proteins (ideally without hormones or antibiotics), and healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and butter.
Some of our favorite anti-inflammatory plants:
Leafy greens (like spinach, kale, arugula, romaine)
Cruciferous veggies (like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts)
Root veggies (like carrots, sweet potatoes, beets)
Asparagus, cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini
Snow peas and snap peas
Berries and apples
Pro-inflammatory foods to avoid are those containing sugars, highly-processed fats, and artificial sweeteners. Dr. Marion Nestle gives a great description for these ultra-processed foods to avoid: stay away from food options that "cannot be made in home kitchens” because more than likely the “food” contains some sort of chemical or additive made from a lab. This is a helpful guideline when looking for anti-inflammatory foods in the grocery store.
“Our best tool to reverse inflammation isn’t a drug, but our diets,” says Barry Sears, PhD, a former research scientist at Boston University School of Medicine and author of The Zone Diet and Toxic Fat Syndrome. Dr. Sears is an advocate for eating in “The Zone” which balances blood sugar and reduces inflammation.
How Inflammation & Blood Sugar Affect Metabolism
Balancing blood sugar is another critical part of the equation to bring down your inflammation. Practicing balanced eating means having protein, fat and carbohydrates at every meal and snack, preferably four to six times per day. Eating balanced meals and snacks several times per day helps keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day rather than creating a lot of stressful peaks and valleys.
When you eat a carbohydrate, the body breaks that down into glucose (sugar) in your blood stream. To get that energy source from the food into the cells, the body produces the hormone insulin to help carry the glucose into the cells. We like carbohydrates! They give you energy and fuel for all the things you want to do in life, but there’s usually a sweet spot for the amount the body can utilize at one time. When you eat highly-processed carbohydrates with a lot of added sugar in the ingredients (and with minimal nutrient benefits), the body has to produce more insulin to get the sugar out of the blood stream and into the cells.
Because insulin is a fat storage hormone, overproduction of insulin can cause extra stress for the body, so it increases inflammation to protect from the excess sugar and the extra insulin. What goes up, must come down, so after the sugar and insulin spike, there’s a drop in blood sugar, which will have you feeling the need for another quick fix. And so begins the roller coaster cycle!
To stop this cycle in its tracks (and reduce the inflammatory response), eat those anti-inflammatory carbohydrates with lots of fiber (whole fruits and veggies!) and pair them with an animal protein and high-quality fat to slow down the blood sugar spike and give your body a chance to digest.
Food Sensitivities & Inflammation
Other culprits of inflammation and weight gain that cannot be ignored are food sensitivities. Some studies estimate that up to 60% of adults are sensitive to one or more foods. The two most common offenders are gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats) and dairy. For people sensitive to gluten or dairy, eating these foods wreaks havoc on their digestive system, which causes chronic inflammation throughout the body.
An effective and practical test for food sensitivities is to try eliminating the suspected foods for three weeks. Many people whose weight loss has reached a plateau find that their metabolism starts to work again once the inflammatory triggers are removed. Elson Haas, MD, and author of The False Fat Diet explains that eliminating foods that irritate the body while eating more foods that reduce inflammation, will get rid of bloating, water retention, and produce fewer “weight-gain” hormones.
Top tips for reducing inflammation:
- Eat an anti-inflammatory food plan of whole foods.
- Reduce or eliminate inflammable foods, like damaged oils and processed foods.
- Balance blood sugar by eating protein, fat, and fiber-filled carbs regularly.
- Experiment with cutting out foods you might be sensitive to.
- Get support from a dietitian or nutritionist.
Support Your Metabolism With Real Food
It may sound too good to be true, but removing foods causing inflammation and stomping out the internal inflammation fire within you may be the solution to increasing your metabolism. A nice benefit to remember is that you’ll also be on a path to avoid asthma, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease!
When building your meals and snacks, look for whole food proteins, healthy fats, and plant carbohydrates that feed your body healing nutrients while decreasing the amount of high sugar and highly processed foods that irritate and inflame you.
Need help figuring out what that looks like for you? We can support you in our Nutrition 4 Weight Loss program where you get to practice eating real food over several weeks’ time – making it a lasting habit and way of life. Or make a nutrition counseling appointment with one of our registered and licensed dietitians and nutritionists to get a meal plan customized to your specific needs and desires. Stomping out the fire is possible!
For more information on weight loss and metabolism, check out these resources:
- Read: 5 Reasons It’s Hard Losing Weight
- Listen: Slow Metabolism, Slow Weight Loss (We Have An Answer!)
- Take: 5 Steps To Boost Metabolism for only $25 online
- Take: Eating to Reduce Pain & Inflammation for only $25 online