Diet plays an important role in the inflammatory responses in the body that is less researched by medical scientists. Chronic diseases that lead to degenerative diseases have the similar biochemical cause as a diet-induced pro inflammatory state. Foods which trigger inflammation are known as pro-inflammatory foods. Avoiding certain food items may help to cut down the risk of inflammation in the body especially in chronic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn's disease.(1)

Certain foods can stimulate the process of inflammation and they are listed below:

1. Sugar: Our meal is incomplete without a sweet dish or dessert, It is also often difficult to resist desserts, pastries, chocolates and many sweet treats. According to studies, processed sugars help to stimulate the release of inflammatory messenger known as cytokines. Sugar is present not only in sweets and desserts, it is also a vital ingredient in soft drinks, fruit juices and many other processed foods including tomato ketchup.

2. Trans Fats: Higher intake of trans fats can increase the coronary heart disease. Trans fats can trigger the systemic inflammation. Higher content of trans fats in diet can worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. When foods are highly processed or cooked and fried in hydrogenated oil they tend to contain trans fats. Foods that have trans fats include fast foods, fried products, processed snack foods, frozen breakfast products, cookies, donuts, crackers and margarines.

High intake of Trans Fat Increases Coronary Heart Disease

3. Saturated Fats: Various studies have reported that adipose (fat) tissue inflammation is triggered by saturated fats. Inflammation of adipose tissue indicates heart disease, as well as, arthritis inflammation. Burger, pizza, candy, chips and cheese are the primary sources of saturated fats.(2) Meat products (e.g., red meat), full-fat dairy products, pasta dishes and grain-based desserts are also the source of saturates fats.

4. Omega 6 Fatty Acids: Omega 6 fatty acids play a crucial role in normal growth and development. However, it is important to maintain a healthy balance of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. Excess intake of omega 6 fatty acids can stimulate the body to generate pro-inflammatory chemicals. Omega 6 fatty acids are commonly found in vegetable oils including corn, sunflower, soy, peanut; salad dressings and mayonnaise.

5. Mono Sodium Glutamate (MSG): Commonly known as MSG, this is used as a flavor enhancer in most of the Asian dishes and processed foods. It is also found in fast foods, prepared soups and soup mixes and salad dressings. This artificial food can trigger chronic inflammation and also affect liver health.

Mono Sodium Glutamate can Cause Liver Inflammation

6. Aspartame: Aspartame is also a food additive like MSG and a toxic chemical which cannot be processed naturally, and thus stimulates an inflammatory attack response when digested. It is a non-nutritive artificial sweetener, which is mainly used in sugar-free drinks and low calorie foods.

7. Alcohol: Excess intake of alcohol can worsen liver function and disrupt interaction between organs resulting in inflammation. Alcohol also causes irritation and inflammation of esophagus and larynx. Over a period of time the chronic inflammation can trigger tumor growth and gives rise to cancer in the area of repeated irritation. Hence, it is recommended to avoid alcohol or use it in moderation.

Long Term Consumption of Alcohol may Cause Inflammation in the Esophagus

8. Casein: Milk protein is known as casein. Some people have milk allergy, that can induce inflammation and this may occur due to the presence of casein. Milk and milk products in these individuals can trigger inflammation including stomach distress, constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, and acne in susceptible individuals.

9. Gluten: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Certain people are allergic to gluten, and therefore cause an inflammatory reaction when digested. when Consumption of gluten by many patients with rheumatoid arthritis can result in adverse inflammatory symptoms. Gluten is found in wheat products such as bread, pasta and many preserved or processed foods.(3)

10. Refined Carbohydrates: Foods including white bread, white rice, pasta and cereals are prepared from white flour. White flour comes under refined carbohydrate, which is widely used in our food. Refined carbohydrates have high glycemic index, which triggers the production of advanced glycation end products and thereby triggers inflammation. It is recommended to opt for better alternatives including corn and brown rice flour.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is referred as the response to the stimulus of body’s immune system. When a wound swells up and turns red, it is an indication of inflammation. Inflammation results in due to various causes and they are:

  • Pathogens such as bacteria, fungi or viruses
  • External injuries like scrapes or foreign objects
  • Effects of chemicals or radiation

Various diseases or illnesses also result in inflammation and they are:

Redness, heat, swelling, pain and loss of function are the common five signs of inflammation. When the inflammation is severe, general reactions including sickness, exhaustion, and fever are observed in the body. An inflammation always may not, be a supportive response of the body. Sometimes inflammatory responses are harmful when immune system fights against its own cells by mistake.(4)


Tips to Reduce Inflammation

Eating the right kind of food can help reduce or eliminate inflammation caused due to food. Following tips can help you to avoid inflammatory foods:

  • Look for the product brands which have lower levels of unhealthy fats and sugars
  • Avoid taking deep fried foods or foods cooked at high temperatures
  • While buying processed foods, try to choose more low fat and trans fat free products
  • Maintain the balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids by adding fish in the diet.
  • Read ingredient labels on the back of the product and always check the levels of saturated and trans fats
  • Keep plant based sources of protein such as beans, nuts and seeds in your diet
  • Opt for whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates. Substitute white rice with brown, black or wild rice, choose whole wheat bread instead of white bread
  • Include more fresh fruits and vegetables in your meal(5)

Diet is one of the crucial factors which can trigger inflammation in the body, other factors are lack of sleep and a sedentary lifestyle. Healthy lifestyle requires a balance of all these factors starting from what you eat and drink.


  1. The diet-induced proinflammatory state: a cause of chronic pain and other degenerative diseases? - (
  2. 8 Food Ingredients That Can Cause Inflammation - (
  3. RA Inflammatory Foods: What Foods Cause Flare-Ups? - (
  4. What is an inflammation? - (
  5. Foods that fight inflammation - (

Latest Publications and Research on Top Ten Foods That Trigger Inflammation

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