5 Foods That Cause DEADLY Inflammation

By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

Inflammation is an immune response that is designed to protect our bodies from germs and injury. Throughout history, humans have been faced with diseases that were caused by germs. All of these diseases took over communities and ultimately destroyed societies of people. Dysentery, influenza, bubonic plague, smallpox and typhoid fever are just some of the diseases the world has seen.

While most of these diseases have been eradicated, modern times reveal a new epidemic. Today there are illnesses and conditions that rob people of their quality of life, such as allergies, dementias, asthma, skin disorders, arthritis and more.

These diseases that affect millions of people across the globe are not caused by germs, but rather, inflammation.

In the last 20 years alone there has been a significant increase in degenerative conditions and diseases. Research has revealed that inflammation in Americans has rapidly increased, with no sign of stopping, due to improper diet. This is a problem that must be stopped, but it is up to you and me!

After all, “we have met the enemy – and it is us” – Pogo

Without significant changes and lifestyle modifications our nation faces the possibility of a 50% obesity rate, accompanied with a visible rise in the rates of Alzheimer’s, congenital heart failure, heart disease, cancer and more.

The Effect of Inflammation on the Body

We usually associate the word “inflammation” with symptoms of redness, heat, swelling and sometimes pain that occurs somewhere in or on the body. When a wound becomes inflamed, we can physically see the inflammation appear.

However, there is another kind of inflammation that occurs inside of the body. This kind is often referred to as ‘silent inflammation’ and can be very dangerous.

If we were able to see what ‘silent inflammation’ caused in the body, we may begin to see a picture of an illness taking place or a disease that is starting to spread. The physical symptoms associated with ‘silent inflammation’ do arise, but often become visible only when it is too late. By the time we take notice of the back pain, headaches, cough or skin irritations, it may be too late.

Chronic inflammation causes major problems for the body. Diseases may arise and long-lasting conditions wreak havoc on the system. Someone who suffers from chronic inflammation becomes more susceptible to diseases, illnesses and often the aging process is sped up.

Diseases Caused by Inflammation

There are a number of diseases associated with inflammation. Some of the most commonly recognized diseases include various types of arthritis. Arthritis is a general medical term used to describe inflammation that occurs within the joints.

Some of the more common arthritis diseases attached to inflammation are the following:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Tendinitis of the shoulder
  • Bursitis
  • Gouty arthritis
  • Polymyalgia rheumatic

Aside from these typical “inflammatory” diseases, almost every disease we know of has at its root a degree of inflammation – which is your body’s way of protecting itself from something bad.

There are many other painful issues that affect the joints and skeletal system that have not been proven to be related to inflammation, but are considered suspect. These conditions include:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Muscular neck and back pain

From a symptomatic and scientific standpoint, inflammation may look something like the following chart:

Diagram 1: Adapted and modified from eMedicineHealth, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Other Conditions Caused from Chronic Inflammation

The World Health Organization reports that nearly 13 million people across the globe die each year from cardiovascular disease. There are an estimated 8 million who die from cancer annually. Both heart disease and cancer often manifest themselves from chronic inflammation. Many times the risks for these chronic conditions can be reduced by modifying lifestyle habits and choices.

Heart disease alone was the cause of 25% of all deaths in the United States in the last year and the rate continues to rise. Nearly half of all heart disease related deaths were as a result of chronic inflammation. The numbers are extraordinary and shocking. Inflammation is a huge problem with regard to heart disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health, inflammation plays a significant role throughout disease progression in terms of heart disease, as well as other conditions such as cancer, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

Now, how does all of this relate to diet and the food we eat?

Let’s take a closer look at inflammation and inflammation causing foods.

For most sufferers of inflammation, high carbohydrate and low protein diets can be detrimental. In fact, we have seen over and over again that consistent low protein and high refined carb diets (and even high protein diets) cause inflammation, while a predominantly plant-based diet can greatly reduce inflammation and symptoms associated with the condition.

Every person’s body make up is different, so it is important to pay attention to the cues and symptoms caused by the food consumed. One person may react differently to a food type than someone else, thus the cues are important.

Refined sugars and foods with a high glycemic index actually increase insulin levels in the body and cause the immune system to respond. There is an interaction between inflammatory messengers, known as cytokines and prostaglandins, and insulin and glucose levels that take place. Studies indicate that when certain stressors come into play, insulin can actually cause an inflammatory response.

The top inflammation causing foods include the following:


Excessive sugar intake has been linked to obesity, inflammation and other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. When you eat a lot of sugar an immune response can occur. Refined sugar slows the process of detoxification in the body and has been shown to weaken the immune system.

Studies revealed earlier this year from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine that the origin of diabetes, an inflammation induced disease, may originate in the intestines. Findings published in the February 2012 edition of Cell Host & Microbe showed that the hallmark of diabetes in mice began in the intestines.

Mice that were unable to create fatty acid synthase (FAS) in the intestine were examined. This enzyme is critical in the production of lipids and is regulated by insulin. People who suffer from diabetes typically have defects in FAS production. The mice that did not have FAS in the intestines developed chronic inflammation of the gut – a powerful precursor to diabetes.

Common vegetable cooking oils

Oils containing high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids promote inflammation. All of these types of foods place a detrimental impact on the body, especially the gallbladder and liver resulting in pain and inflammation.

Eating the wrong combination of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids can present harm to your body through the contribution of inflammation that in turn leads to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The typical American diet is imbalance and contains nearly 20 times more omega-6 fatty acids than the omega-3s, which is considered out of whack.

Consuming trans fats, found in fried and fast foods, are also linked to inflammation, insulin resistance and other degenerative illnesses.


Non-organic dairy products have been linked to inflammation in women, due to common allergens that trigger inflammatory responses. Scientists have determined that dairy can be a trigger food for inflammation and is considered to be an inflammation aggravator. This is particularly true of dairy products from livestock that has been industrially raised – that is, not fed on grass but rather fatty by-products.

It may come as a surprise that discoveries have been made in the dairy industry that feedlot cattle were fed bakery scraps, stale gummy bears and plate scrapings in an effort to fatten up the animals. A report surfaced several years ago from the University of Wisconsin Extension Nutritionist that exposed this unconventional diet for cattle.

This diet is anything but good for the consumer and can lead to the consumption of unwanted sugar and poor dairy products that trigger inflammation.


The most common food allergies are caused by wheat and gluten containing foods. Allergies are an immune response or reaction that can, and typically does, lead to inflammation. These foods are typically found in breads, whole grains, pastas and other foods sources that contain gluten and refined flour.

Research from a 2004 study testing wheat gluten and inflammation at the German Diabetes Research Institute revealed that gut inflammation was induced. Genetically predisposed individuals were more inclined to experience gut inflammation when wheat gluten was consumed.

Further research is being conducted that links the consumption of wheat and whole grain products to joint inflammation, arthritis and allergic immune responses in both children and adults.

Red or processed meats

The consumption of red or processed meat has been linked to immune responses that trigger chronic inflammatory responses. It is the animal protein that causes the majority of the problems, however fat may also contribute.

One of the problems with too much meat (or animal product) consumption is that it is metabolized into arachidonic acid, a precursor to inflammatory prostaglandins in the body.

There is also a link between the consumption of processed meat and cancer that is significantly founded and well researched. According to publications in the British Journal of Cancer, those who consume too much red meat or an over-abundance of processed meats are at an increased risk for pancreatic cancer induced by inflammation.

This research study included over 2 million people and showed that there was a 19% increased risk for pancreatic cancer as a result of over-consuming processed meat.

Other foods that should be eaten moderately or avoided include refined grains, alcohol, artificial food additives and feedlot raised meats, as mentioned above. These products should be removed from the diet in the event that symptoms of inflammation are present or occur.

If you want to improve your life, pay attention to the food you are putting into your body. It is time to take responsibility for your own diet – remember we are our own worst enemy! Paying careful attention to what is on the end of your fork can help you live a much better quality of life.

Below are the approved foods that decrease inflammation in the body. Now that you know which foods to avoid, the following are wise choices that can be eaten to improve your symptoms and prevent inflammation from occurring.

This chart is a helpful resource that will allow you to select the foods that are nutritionally sound when it comes to the war against inflammation.

Chart 1: Adapted and modified from the Anti-Inflammatory Diet by Andrew Weil, MD: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/PAG00361/anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid.html

The time is now to take a stand and improve your quality of life. By being responsible for the food you consume, you have more control over your future health and well-being.

Here’s to your health and wellness through the years. The time is now and it is never too late to start.







Leave A Reply (71 comments So Far)

  1. Yuri, Thank you so much for this information. I am teaching a raw food class this afternoon and this info will be very useful.

    Thanks again!

  2. Margie

    Would agave nectar be on the include or exclude column for sweeteners? Thanks

    • YuriElkaim

      I would now exclude it.

  3. shannon

    hi Yuri!!
    Love your posts, but I have a question relating to the article,
    Why have you recommended avoiding honey, when its a natural sweetner from nature (and if you pick manuaka honey it has vitimans and minerals, great for immune system etc) but recommended eating stevia, which being an artificial sweetner has had some evidence to suggest cancer and not be very healthy for us.
    I would love to hear back from you
    Kind regards

  4. Who would of guessed?

  5. Tamara

    Thank you, the chart is clear and very helpful.

  6. nacho

    why exclude oranges?. there sre some real studie about this?

  7. diane Garvey

    I have heard many lectures and read other articles on the silent killer “Inflammation.”
    Your article is so well organized , easy to understand and easy to pass onto clients.

  8. Jennifer BB


    Stevia is a plant-based sweetener that many people can grow in their own backyard. I think its possible that you may have confused the name with splenda.

  9. Edna

    What about grass feed dairy and red meat?

    • YuriElkaim

      It’s better but will still cause some degree of inflammation, as will any animal-derived food because of its conversion to arachidonic acid, amongst other problems.

  10. Arti thukral

    Hi:) why have you excluded oranges, honey n soya ? Would appreciate some insights. Thanks much

    • YuriElkaim

      In some people (myself included) citrus fruit like oranges can cause inflammation and mucus build up inside the body. Soy should just be avoided across the board as it’s far too processed and too powerful a phytoestrogen.

  11. shannon

    Yes you are correct, but honey that’s manuka is meant to be healthy isn’t it? It helps prevent colds and in some cases weight loss.

    • YuriElkaim

      Sure, it’s helpful but obviously in moderation.

  12. lyle

    Thanks Yuri. I am a dead man. I kinda knew that stuff, but now hearing it from you in your own way I really am taking it to heart. lyle fellow Canadian, transplanted to California

  13. Arti thukral

    Looking forward to your answer to my question:)

  14. Thanks Yuri,
    It would be easier for me to follow your diet seeing that you appear to be healthy. Can you share with your me what you use for oils, butter and other healthy choices in your diet. I’m having a serious problem right now with LS (lichen sclerosis) and am hoping I can get myself better. In 2010 I went vegan and a few months later I changed to vegetarian. Oddly enough that’s when my problem started. I know that my downfall is sugar and even though I do pretty good most days, there is still room for improvement. What do you do to fight the sugar cravings?

  15. Michelle


    Thoughts on:
    1. Coconut Oil?
    2. Also a friend pointed out that almond milk, rice milk, etc is suspended with vegetable oil –could this be a potential problem?

  16. yossi

    This is nonsense. Inflamation is a molecular intracellular process that is not triggered nor caused by food.

  17. Hi Yuri, Thank you so much for the useful information. I have Osteoarthritis and whenever I eat ham I experience pain in my joints. When I eat wheat, my hands swell, which I am sure doesn’t help my arthritis either.Sugar always makes me stiff and achy, but I was surprised at the red meat, which I like to eat now and then. I love my burgers. I will try to go without these items and see how I feel, I will keep you posted.

    Thanks again.

  18. Rainey Grimes

    Could semen be part of a healthy diet? Which would be healthier, someone else’s or my own.

  19. diane

    why exclude cashews and cashew butter ? cashews are one of the most nutrient dense nuts out there, and organic cashew butter (with no additives ) is a wonderful way to get protein without harmful fats etc etc. ???

  20. Jokuh

    After living as a vegetarian most of my life, I became a rawfoody (80%) 2 1/2 years ago. All you have said I shouldn’t eat I have not, I only ate what was allowed but nevertheless I have developed polymyaligia rheumatica. I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions?


  21. emmanuel balanquit

    What about salt intake such as , ordinary table salt, iodized salt and chemical salt replacers ?

  22. I have been on a gluten free lactose free diet for a number of years. I also stopped eating beef due to antibiotic allergies at least five years ago. I don’t eat processed foods. My blood markers for inflammation are down. But CRPS has me by its nasty grasp along with dysautonomia. My diet has not had much effect on these. Any helpful suggestions?

  23. This is an excellent read on inflammation.

  24. Charlene Anderson

    Why are oranges excluded??? Also, what’s wrong with mustard and pickle relish??? And, I thought honey and maple syrup, since they are natural, would be OK as long as you don’t overdo it. I know that I’ve heard recently, and from more than one source, that drinking a little coffee everyday is actually good for you!!! I’d really appreciate it if you could tell me about the foods I just mentioned because I really want to eat healthy but I really hope I don’t have to give up these things!! I’m very surprised about oranges because I thought it was really healthy to eat all fresh fruit including oranges!!! Thanks!!!

  25. Franco

    Hi Yuri , you’re the man thanks for all this info

    I Have a question on the list above ,

    Why are oranges exluded ? I remember you saying something about to much sugar but I train on a regular base and i do eat oranges on my breaks at work .

    I have been enjoying a morning breakfast that I you showed me on one of your video’s that includes cashews . I noticed they are too in the excluded list .

    Thanks .


    • YuriElkaim

      Thanks Jen.

  27. Yuri, Thanks for all the great health & wellness information you share.
    You mentioned here that the animal protein in beef causes inflammation – but what about other animal proteins like poultry & pork. In the last few years grass fed, ethically raised beef has been touted as full of CLA’s and very healthy – do you then disagree with this?

    • YuriElkaim

      That is true but these “healthy” meats are still slightly inflammatory albeit better than conventionally raised animals.

  28. Randi


    Where does coconut oil fit in?


    • YuriElkaim

      I believe it is anti-inflammatory.

  29. shirley

    Blood type O- is not suppose to use any form of coconut , do you know why?

    • YuriElkaim

      It may be due to the lectins that O types might be sensitive to.

  30. marilyn


    I have been taking green-lipped mussel caps for inflammation for my arthritis and stiffness. you mentioned that shellfish should not be eaten. i’m confused! which is correct?

    • YuriElkaim

      I’m not familiar with what you’re taking so I’m not sure what I can tell you. Fish oil and omega-3s are fine for arthritis.

  31. Jakub

    Sunflower oil is very inflammatory. That is the main point I cannot agree with. Sesame oil is better but again too much omega 6. Butter should not be such a problem. Fat from grass fed animals contains very good ration of omega 6 to omega 3.

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  33. zack

    Yuri I see a lot of holes in your recommendations. Especially with the oils, meats, nuts, fruits, starches, legumes, and sweeteners. I’m not sure you are completely aware of both sides of each opposition. It merely sounds like you are quoting from a book or teacher rather than really scouring through the research yourself. You seem to be more of a converted vegan with your approach mixed with aryuvedic/tcm . Hard science is where truth lies, not in usda posted “anti inflammatory” foods. Plenty of foods you listed have extremely high anti nutrient content and are full of lectins and more. Nuts, grains and legumes need serious rethinking on your behalf. Best of luck with your studies

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  55. Steve

    I would add that in the swine industry, pigs are commonly fed food waste from institutions like schools, prisons, hospitals, etc.


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