Top 5 Tips to Avoid Inflammation and Increase Performance

Even though athletes can typically get away with not eating healthy and stay at a healthy weight, we should all admit to ourselves that bad foods still harm the body and can decrease performance. If you typically eat healthy, and every once and a while at a tournament you gorge on fruit snacks, you are probably not going to suffer any harmful consequences longterm. But even during a tournament, the body will perform better when the foods we are consuming are working for us and not against us.

Foods that are bad for you are typically bad because they require more processing than the calories are worth, overwhelming the body with stress hormones (i.e. cortisol) and free radicals (particles that can damage cells) and eventually inflaming the body. This is not only detrimental to your health, but can lead to serious health consequences (e.g. having a heart attack during marathon even though at a healthy weight). Below are the top 5 things you should know to help decrease inflammation and increase performance. Incorporating this knowledge will also increase your overall health. See Tables 1 and 2 for lists of the healthiest, mostly healthy, not very healthy, and foods to avoid in each nutrient group on a regular basis.

Even though every athlete is different and has a variety of other health factors to consider at one time, diet is one aspect of our performance we can control to a certain degree. The knowledge that exercise and training is inflammatory should translate to engaging in behaviors and eating foods that reduce inflammation. This will in turn increase performance and overall health, and could be the edge you need for the championship.

Tip #5 ? Avoid Dyes

Dyes are not always harmful when derived from natural sources (e.g. betacarotene, paprika, beet juice, turmeric), but many companies find cheaper, brighter, and more stable sources by deriving them from petroleum (they were originally derived from coal tar when first developed). There are dyes in many foods, including everything from gatorade, to candy, cereals, fruit snacks, cosmetics, and dog food. Although dyes are tested by the FDA for levels determined to be safe, there are many studies that show links between dyes and kidney, thyroid, and bladder tumors, and cancers in mice or rats, and ADHD in some children. Limit or avoid US?these dyes if possible due to their lack of need in the diet and potential harmful effects.


Tip #4 ? Avoid Sugar and Fake Sweeteners

Sugar spikes glucose levels in the blood and is highly inflammatory. Sugar also feeds unhealthy bacteria in the gut, further contributing to inflammation. A small amount of organic sugar on some grapefruit every once and while or honey in your tea is not necessarily harmful, but regular consumption of sugar in breads, cereals, dairy products, salad dressings, jellies, etc., can elevate the blood sugar too much on a regular basis, leading to higher than normal levels of sugar in the bloodstream, leading to insulin-resistance and eventually diabetes. Fake sweeteners are two to seven times sweeter than table sugar and can also interfere with the normal blood sugar response6 . In addition, if the body is always full from sugar and then is not getting needed nutrients from whole foods, protein, fruit and vegetables, etc. that help decrease inflammation. There are many healthier ways to get a sweet taste after a meal, such as dark chocolate, coconut ice cream, and fruit with natural chocolate syrup, that are not full of sugar (also desserts made with nut flour, eggs, and smaller amounts of sugar). Look at your food labels, and if sugar is in the first three ingredients, that food should be avoided or eaten as little as possible. You will gradually lessen your taste for sweet foods, and you will naturally eat more of the foods you need like protein, fruits and veggies, and good fat.

Tip #3 ? Avoid Partially-hydrogenated Oils

These oils are other highly processed oils that are added to foods to make them less perishable (e.g. margarine, baked goods, potato chips). They have an extra bond between the molecules, making them very difficult breakdown, both on the shelf and in the body. They sit in the fat cells of the body and increase the LDL (bad) and decrease the HDL (good) cholesterol, as well as increase inflammation, and they are associated with insulin resistance and obesity. Light-colored oils that are processed and unstable to begin with are high in free radicals, and avoiding consuming foods fried in these oils and will help decrease inflammation.

Tip #2 ? Limit Dairy and Wheat

Dairy and gluten may be included in the diet as a useful sources of calories if desired, but they are best used as condiments to meals and not the main course. Athletes should be aware of the inflammatory properties in both the lactose (milk) and casein (cheese) in dairy. Wheat proteins, including gluten, can be inflammatory to the gut, as they mimic certain foreign substances and can cause an immune response (i.e. inflammation). Gluten is found in much higher concentrations now than in the past, leading to more frequent gluten allergies (called Celiac’s disease).

As for dairy, most of us lose the ability to digest lactose after weaning, so it can be slightly inflammatory for everyone. Greek yogurt contains bacteria that have already digested the lactose for you, making it less inflammatory and easier to digest. Many dairy products also contain hormones and added sugars and have had the fat removed (the healthy part from an organic source). Lactose-free milk, coconut milk, and full fat almond milk are good alternatives. Full-fat dairy sources from organic and grass-fed cows, e.g. cottage cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese, and butter are also healthier choices.

Tip #1 ? Eat Up!

The foods we should be eating more of to fight inflammation include fruits and vegetables, probiotics for the gut (available in pills or formulated dairy-like drinks), and more Omega 3 fatty acids from olive oils, fish, shellfish, walnuts, and avocados. The type of fat in olive oil (monounsaturated) turns into anti-inflammatory molecules that help prevent asthma, arthritis, and protect the heart . Other spices like ginger, turmeric, rosemary, and basil, can be anti-inflammatory. Ginger acts like an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aleve), suppressing inflammatory molecules, but with no side effects. Turmeric, the yellow colored spice in curry, contains curcumen, which blocks inflammatory chemicals in the body. Fruits and veggies specifically known for their anti-inflammatory properties include broccoli (vitamins C and K, beta-carotene, and calcium), pineapple (contains bromelain that helps break down proteins, aid in digestion, reduce swelling, and aid in circulation), and sweet potato (contains lots of vitamins B6 and C, manganese, beta-carotene, and fiber).


1. Kobylewski, S., and Jacobson, M. E., PhD (2010). Food Dyes, A Rainbow of Risks. Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved from

2. Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School (2005). What You Eat Can Cool or Cool Inflammation, a Key Driver of Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Other Chronic Conditions. Retrieved from

3. Sly, B. (n.d.) An Athlete’s Guide to Inflammation: What to Eat and What to Avoid. Retrieved from

4. Hoolihan, C., Streeck, R., MPH (2008). Exercise and the Inflammation Process. Retrieved from

5. Weil, A., MD (n.d.). 4 Favorite Anti-inflammatory Foods. Retrieved from

6. Strawbridge, H. (July 16th, 2012). Harvard Health Blog. Artificial sweeteners: Sugar- free, but at what cost? [Web Log]. Retrieved from

7. Katz, A.E., et al. 2005. Zyflamend, a unique herbal preparation with nonselective OCX inhibitory activity, induces apoptosis of prostate cancer cells that lack COX-2 expression. Nutrition and Cancer, 52 (2), 202?212. ?


Weight Loss & Fertility — Healthy Strategies for Overcoming PCOS

By: Katy Harris, MSPH, CSCS, NS ?| ?April 25, 2017


PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is a condition that affects many women in their 20s and 30s hoping to have a child.? The exact cause is not known, but symptoms include an irregular menstrual cycle, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, developing hair in unwanted places, acne, thinning hair, darkening skin, and skin tags. ?It may also be difficult to conceive, as regular ovulation (when the egg is released from the ovaries) may not occur.


The causes of PCOS can include a combination of factors, including genetic, higher levels of androgens (male hormones) than estrogens (female hormones), and being overweight. PCOS can also cause Insulin resistance, which prevents the body from being able to process food and sugar properly.? Other health problems may also arise, include diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, sleep apnea, depression and anxiety, and an increase in the likelihood of developing endometrial cancer.


Hormonal imbalances, as well as increased stress and the inability to conceive, can exacerbate the physical effects on the body.? If you are unsuccessful with either weight loss or fertility or both, you may experience an increase in stress and depression, both of which can lead to unhealthy behaviors.


To help with the hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS, medications such as birth control for androgens and/or Metformin for insulin resistance can be effective.? Weight loss can also reduce many of the symptoms, but many doctors may not be able to provide the help and support you may need in achieving your weight loss goals.? Simply reducing calories may not have worked in the past, and exercise is often unrealistic and can be counterproductive under these conditions.

TO HELP YOU IN THIS JOURNEY, WELLLIFE PLANS CAN HELP by providing weekly coaching, support, and education that will guide you toward the foods and habits that are under your control.? Through working with your counselor, you will identify your goals and motivations and begin your journey to a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle.? You have the motivation, but you also need the knowledge and the skills to be successful.? You do not need killer workouts ? you will benefit the most from someone who understands what you are going through, listens to your experiences and concerns, and guides you through healthy eating strategies that will work for you.??

THE WAY WELLLIFE WORKS is by personalizing a nutrition plan that will help your body heal from stress and hormonal imbalances.? Since everyone processes energy in a different way, you will work with your counselor to address your stressors and discover the foods that will work with your body instead of against it. ?WellLife plans help you not only reduce calories, but also help you get the right kind of calories, at the right times. ?You will also work with your counselor to stay accountable to making time to prepare and eat those foods. When you follow the plan successfully, the result will be reduced weight, fat, cholesterol, and blood pressure.? At the same time, you will also start to feel better, have more energy, and increase muscle, mood, and motivation as you see results.? This will also all help your body increase the chances of ovulation and conception.? And all this is possible with NO drugs, diet pills, or surgery!? All you need is a commitment to your health and to work with your doctor and counselor to find the right combination of foods, medications, and/or supplements that will work for you.

For Fertility Awareness Week at Carolina Conceptions, WellLife would like to provide a FREE 30-minute weight loss session and a 20% discount on packages for April and May to all clients.