Why Am I Tired All the Time? The Role of Inflammation in Fatigue (Part 2 of 2)

Switching to a low glycemic load diet can significantly improve your fatigue, in part because it helps lower inflammation.

Switching away from a pro-inflammatory diet to a more anti-inflammatory diet is one powerful way to naturally lower inflammation and CRP levels, and thus improve your fatigue.

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In Part I of this article, you learned about the surprising link between fatigue and inflammation. Now, we will explore in greater detail some of the causes of chronic inflammation as well as some of these natural fatigue-beating, anti-inflammatory therapies. The good news is that chronic inflammation is not only easy to test for, it is most effectively treated using natural and lifestyle therapies involving nutrition, stress reduction techniques, exercise, lifestyle changes, and supplements. No drugs or surgeries are typically needed.

Switching away from a pro-inflammatory diet to a more anti-inflammatory diet is one powerful way to naturally lower inflammation and CRP levels, and thus improve your fatigue. The quality of the carbohydrates you consume in your diet is crucially important for controlling inflammation. A diet rich in slowly-digested carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, most vegetables, and other high-fiber foods, significantly reduces markers of inflammation. This type of diet is called a low-glycemic load diet. The “glycemic load” describes the overall effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar taking into account both how many and what type of carbohydrates are consumed. Generally, a low glycemic load diet is one that is very low in foods made with sugars, white flour, white rice, and white potatoes.

Switching to a low glycemic load diet can significantly improve your fatigue, in part because it helps lower inflammation. Researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Prevention Program in Seattle wanted to know whether diets that keep blood sugar levels more stable, independent of weight loss, lower inflammation and improve the health profile of healthy adults, some of whom were overweight but otherwise healthy.

They compared two 28-day diets identical in everything (calories, total carbs, total fat, total protein) except the quality of the carbs. One diet contained carbs which quickly enter the bloodstream and cause quick spikes in blood sugar (high-glycemic load), while the other diet contained carbs which slowly enter the bloodstream and keep blood sugar low and steady (low-glycemic load).

Among the overweight participants, the low-glycemic load diet significantly reduced inflammation and increased the fat-burning hormone known as adiponectin. The Fred Hutchinson investigators concluded that carbohydrate quality, independent of calories, is important—diets emphasizing foods which don’t spike blood sugar decrease inflammation and increase fat-burning hormone profiles of overweight and obese individuals.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

In addition to balancing your blood sugar, another way you can alter your diet to decrease fatigue and inflammation is by eating more anti-inflammatory foods. Eating foods that decrease inflammation rather than provoke it can have profound effects on your energy levels, while at the same time decreasing your risk of a host of chronic diseases.

In general, eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and fish is the sure way to lower your inflammation through diet. In addition to vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help with inflammation and boost energy, plant foods contain phytochemicals, also known as phytonutrients, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, and other polyphenols, which have tremendous anti-inflammatory activity. Many of the most anti-inflammatory phytochemicals are brightly pigmented and thus give plant foods their rich colors.

The greater the variety of fruits and vegetables, the better, including dark green, red, orange, yellow, blue, and purple fruits and vegetables. Some studies suggest that for reducing inflammation, variety is more important than quantity, but you should aim for nine or more servings of vegetables and fruits every day. The nutrition researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute of Micronutrient Research for Optimum Health at Oregon State University recommend that you eat four servings (roughly 2 cups total) of fruit and five servings (roughly 2½ cups total) of vegetables daily but don’t include potatoes in your tally.

While all plant foods contain anti-inflammatory nutrients, certain foods have undergone extensive research and can be emphasized because of their extraordinary powers. Specific examples of anti-inflammatory include berries; wild salmon; green leafy vegetables; cruciferous vegetables like broccoli; spices like ginger, garlic, and turmeric; green tea; dark chocolate; and red wine.

So, just by increasing anti-inflammatory foods and switching to a lower glycemic load diet, you can significantly decrease your body’s levels of chronic inflammation and decrease your fatigue. At the same time, by decreasing your inflammation levels, you will be lowering your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, dementia, and other inflammatory diseases. You will even feel more satiated and may even lose weight. It’s win-win!

Have you followed a low glycemic load or anti-inflammatory diet?  Perhaps you’ve changed your diet and seen a difference in your energy levels. If so, tell us your experience in the Comments sections below.  By doing so, you can inspire others who are thinking about beginning this new diet plan.

[1] Armendáriz-Anguiano AL, Jiménez-Cruz A, Bacardí-Gascón M, Hurtado-Ayala L. Effect of a low glycemic load on body composition and Homeostasis Model Assessment (HOMA) in overweight and obese subjects. Nutr Hosp. 2011 Jan-Feb;26(1):170-5.

[2] Chang KT, Lampe JW, Schwarz Y, Breymeyer KL, Noar KA, Song X, Neuhouser ML. Low Glycemic Load Experimental Diet More Satiating Than High Glycemic Load Diet. Nutr Cancer. 2012 May 7. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22564018.

[3] Lopez-Garcia E, Schulze MB, Fung TT, Meigs JB, Rifai N, Manson JE, Hu FB. Major dietary patterns are related to plasma concentrations of markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Oct;80(4):1029-35.

[4] Nanri A, Yoshida D, Yamaji T, Mizoue T, Takayanagi R, Kono S. Dietary patterns and C-reactive protein in Japanese men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1488-96.

[5] Neuhouser ML, Schwarz Y, Wang C, Breymeyer K, Coronado G, Wang CY, Noar K, Song X, Lampe JW. A low-glycemic load diet reduces serum C-reactive protein and modestly increases adiponectin in overweight and obese adults. J Nutr. 2012 Feb;142(2):369-74.

[6] O’Keefe JH, Gheewala NM, O’Keefe JO. Dietary strategies for improving post-prandial glucose, lipids, inflammation, and cardiovascular health. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008 Jan 22;51(3):249-55.

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  • I have suffered from low grade chronic inflammation for all of my adult life, and I never even knew it. As a result of that, in my 50s I suffered three heart attacks, the third one almost fatal. Since I had none of the usual predictors of heart disease like being overweight, having high blood pressure, or poor eating habits, no allopathic doctor — including my cardiologist — could come up with a satisfactory explanation. They just prescribed Big Pharma poisons (statins, beta-blockers, etc.) and told me to eat a “heart healthy diet” high in health-destroying refined carbohydrates and processed vegetable oils. And of course I was told to completely avoid healthy foods like butter and eggs.

    I recently had the good fortune of seeking out another dentist for a second opinion about a root canal that my now ex-dentist said I needed. My new (holistic) dentist, who knew nothing about my medical history, took a thorough set of x-rays, which he went over with me in detail. He pointed to the base of a root canal I had done at the age of 20 (I’m now 65) and said, “You have a serious chronic infection going on there, and if you don’t have that tooth pulled, it’s very likely going to cause a heart attack.” Needless to say, I now have an appointment scheduled to have that tooth extracted.

    If you have ever had a root canal and the dead tooth is still in place, I strongly urge you to search the internet for “root canal” combined with either “Weston Price” or his successor, “Hal Huggins.” Then make an appointment with a holistic dentist for a consultation. (If it’s not a holistic dentist, don’t bother. The official A.D.A line is that root canals are entirely safe and never cause a problem.) Changing your diet alone will not be enough to get rid of chronic inflammation resulting from a bacterial infection that is thriving inside the walls of a dead tooth.

  • Dietary changes in the early stages of an inflammatory disease may be helpful. In chronic disease that has progressed to foraminal and other stenosis of the spine and its outlets, what a person eats has little effect on the magnitude of the problem AND the degenerative changes of muscle and spine make standing and moving so difficult that the movements required to procure and prepare the ingredients for an anti-inflammatory diet are either impossible or are too painful to perform. In other words, the benefits of such a diet do not outweigh the pain, suffering and difficulty of following one. In my experience, hiring someone to do the preparation and cooking involved, and to prepare and freeze meals and snacks ahead of time, is useful but, once again, the cost is not comparable with the benefits it provides. In my case, I tried a calorie controlled Jenny Craig diet for a while. In spite of following it exactly, my weight loss stalled and then I actually started to put on weight. Chronic inflammatory disease, and the drugs used to treat acute flare-ups and the effects of chronic inflammation (like hypertension) alter the bodies immune system and metabolism. Anti-inflammatory diets do not reverse or control these problems.
    The bottom line is that anti-inflammatory diets are ineffective and may actually be harmful in severe cases.

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