we get close to the holiday season, we become inundated with thoughts of comfort foods and traditional family foods. Food is emotional. For years, after cutting out inflammatory foods from my diet, I still craved certain things like pastries, cheese and pizza. Happily I know how to make all of these now without inflammatory ingredients but it took some time and experimentation to find recipes that worked for me.

Though inflammatory foods may not be the root cause of what ails you, it’s definitely one layer to tackle in your quest for health. For a lucky few of you however, removing just one of these inflammatory foods might completely resolve your condition!

Top Inflammatory Foods

1. Gluten

I know, you’ve probably heard this one before but it’s quite an issue today. For one, the grains we eat most commonly today don’t resemble grains we ate 100 years ago or more. Grains today have more chromosomes due to cross breeding making them more difficult for us to digest. Many grains are GMO or are sprayed with Glyphosate (if they aren’t organic) making them less nutritious, more poisonous and harder to digest. Products with grains in them are also prepared in the quickest way possible and often are heavily processed instead of being traditionally processed (fermentation and sprouting) and eaten whole. Even non-gluten containing grains can become problematic for some due to these issues. Symptoms related to gluten intolerance, allergy or celiacs is wide ranging. Everything from diarrhea and autoimmune diseases to feeling like you’re going crazy. Try cutting these out for a couple weeks and see how you feel. Do you notice any difference?

2. Dairy

This is a bit more broad a topic because dairy is composed of lactose, casein and whey and one or all of those components could be inflammatory for you. How do you know if you’re dairy intolerant or allergic? You might have stomach pains right after drinking milk (gas, bloating and diarrhea). You could get acne around your chin after eating cheese. If you have acne, definitely consider taking a break from milk products and see if you’re symptoms get better.

3. Sugar and Sugar Substitutes

I’ve written about what sugar can do to you here. And really, that was a shortened list. But what about sugar substitutes?  Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners contribute to the epidemic of metabolic syndrome and obesity. Even with regard to Stevia (which is natural and considered the safest alternative to sugar) our sweetness receptors in our intestines react to all sweetness the same way. This starts insulin production which promotes production of fat.

4. Vegetable and Seed Oils

I bet you didn’t think of this one and it’s a bit of a doozy since many restaurants use this.Vegetable and seed oils disrupt the gut micro biome and attacks our brain by disarming its antioxidant defense system.  The disruption in the gut micro biome can cause anxiety as well as obesity. The polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in the oil are volatile and oxidize quickly due to time as well well as a rise in temperature (cooking and ingesting) and when that happens it becomes toxic. With regard to our brain, we rely on antioxidants to defend it against oxidative stress. But because vegetable oils are so easily oxidized, they deplete the body and brain of antioxidants leaving our nerve cells subject to free radicals and damaging inflammation. So toss the canola, sunflower and safflower oils. If you use olive oil, then be sure it’s from a good source, and don’t heat it up beyond 350 degrees. You can also experiment with coconut oil, ghee and lard.

5. Alcohol

Oh I know. We all love to have a glass of wine or beer or something stronger now and again. Some studies show an occasional drink can be healthful. However the inflammatory marker CRP increases when you drink alcohol. Excessive alcohol also stresses your liver which is key for detoxification and can increase occurrence of leaky gut. While some suggest that one drink a day for women (two for men) could be ok, other researchers have suggested that no amount of alcohol is safe or conducive to health. For myself, I feel that 2 to 5 glasses of wine a week is probably fine so long as I’m hydrated and eating as cleanly as possible.

I know I’ve pretty much listed key ingredients for a cocktail party but remember that there are plenty of options that are delicious. Consider living by the 90/10 rule. Living healthy 90 percent of the time and 10% for partying! It will still make a huge difference in how you feel.