Many people normally don’t think of diabetes as an inflammatory disease, but inflammation plays an important role in both the development of diabetes and its treatment.

The good news is that an anti-inflammatory diet—consisting of whole foods, lots of fruit and vegetables and avoiding the foods you are sensitive to can help both prevent and treat diabetes. (Don’t forget, exercise is important too!)

Physicians have known for years that people with diabetes had higher levels of inflammation in their bodies. We have also known that being overweight or obese was associated with inflammation AND with a higher risk of diabetes. What’s the connection?

Well, the connection is that a poor diet that is high in processed foods, simple carbohydrates, junk foods and low in quality protein, fruits and vegetables can lead to weight gain. The extra calories are stored in the body as fat. Over time, the fat cells produce more and more inflammatory cytokines—the cytokines are cell to cell messengers. These inflammatory cytokines affect all sorts of body systems, including the pancreas, the source of insulin. Inflammation reduces the ability of insulin to move glucose—blood sugar—out of the blood and into cells where it is used to produce energy. As the fat cells produce more and more inflammatory cytokines, cells throughout the body become more and more resistant to insulin. This state of “insulin resistance” is believed by many to be a “pre-diabetes” state and that insulin resistance progresses to full-blown diabetes over time.

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So what can someone do to prevent this from happening to them, especially if they have a family history or increased risk of diabetes?

Well, plenty, it turns out.

First, switch to an anti-inflammatory diet! This will help in a number of ways. First, it is likely to help you lose weight and second, it will help decrease the amounts of inflammatory additives and preservatives that enter your body. Yes—the additives and preservatives in processed foods ADD to the inflammation in your body. You should also use the diet outlined in “Diseaseless” to determine which foods you may be sensitive to. Any food that you have a sensitivity to is an inflammatory food as far as you are concerned. Make sure you stick to whole foods, lots of fruits and vegetables and quality protein. Include anti-inflammatory herbs and spices in your foods. There are many anti-inflammatory herbs that you can use—a partial list includes turmeric/curcumin, basil, garlic and onions, cumin and oregano.

Second, increase your activity level. This doesn’t have to mean that you have to jog 5 miles a day or work out 20 hours a week. It means that instead of taking the elevator, you walk up a few flights of stairs to get to your office. It means parking further away from the grocery store (where you are picking up fresh fruits and vegetables!) and walking more. It can also mean taking the dog for a longer walk (your dog, by the way, will love it!).

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Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet and increasing your activity level will help you lose weight and reduce your risk of diabetes—so, what are you waiting for?