Dear JJ: My doctor recently said I had chronic inflammation. I thought inflammation was a natural part of healing, but she suggested it could keep me from losing weight. Since you're an expert on weight loss resistance, can you explain the connection?
Redness, heat, pain, and swelling are the four classic inflammatory responses. Think of how a cut turns red and becomes warm and tender. That's called acute inflammation, and you can immediately see its impact.
Inflammation should do its job and then go. Like that partygoer who won't take the hint to leave, chronic low-grade inflammation sticks around beyond its welcome. Studies show obesity and metabolic syndrome are among its wide-ranging havoc.
Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation often remains invisible: Time Magazine called it "The Silent Killer" on a 2004 front cover.
"What few people understand is that hidden inflammation run amok is at the root of all chronic illness we experience -- conditions like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dementia, depression, cancer, and even autism," writes Dr. Mark Hyman.
While numerous things contribute, studies show diet plays a key role in chronic inflammation.
Food intolerances certainly can. When a highly reactive food triggers an immune reaction, your digestive tract becomes inflamed. Studies show if you frequently eat foods like gluten that inflame your system, you can struggle with chronic low-grade inflammation and hormonal imbalances.
Excess sugar also contributes to inflammation. Dr. Nicholas Perricone calls sugar (and keep in mind, all carbohydrates including wheat bread convert to sugar in your body) "a burst of inflammation throughout the body."
Altogether, this becomes bad news for your overall health and your waistline in many ways, including knocking these fat-regulating hormones out of whack:
1. Cortisol. A five-year study with 5,118 participants found a direct link between chronic stress and weight gain. No kidding, right? Like inflammation, your key stress hormone cortisol should do its job and then step away. Indeed, studies show ramped-up-beyond-their-prime cortisol levels contribute to inflammation and obesity.
2. Serotonin. Your gut manufacturers most serotonin, which explains why researchers link low levels of your "happy" hormone with inflammatory gut conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Studies show an inverse relationship between cortisol and feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin. It shouldn't be any surprise, then, that low serotonin levels can create sugar cravings and weight gain.
3. Leptin. Inflammation creates resistance to leptin, the hormone that regulates feelings of hunger and fullness. Leptin resistance means leptin can't get into your cells. This makes you hungrier, so you eat more, well past the point where your brain would normally be signaling "enough." Studies show a direct relationship between inflammation, leptin resistance, and obesity.
4. Adiponectin. Inflammation stymies adiponectin, which helps regulate blood sugar and body fat. Studies show imbalances of this hormone contribute to obesity-related insulin resistance and increased inflammation.
5. Insulin. Insulin resistance occurs when your cells can't "hear" insulin so your blood sugar remains high. You can't use that extra blood sugar for energy, so it ends up getting stored as fat. Insulin resistance basically slams the doors to your fat cells shut, making fat loss nearly impossible. Studies show inflammation virtually guarantees you'll struggle with insulin resistance and obesity.
Next week I'll share an optimal anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle plan, including the one test you must ask your doctor for to detect hidden inflammation.
Have you connected chronic inflammation with weight loss resistance? Share your story below. And keep those fab questions coming at AskJJ@jjvirgin.com.