Updated 18 September 2019

6 foods you are eating that can cause inflammation

You've tried everything to get rid of your chronic sinus infection but nothing seems to work. Could the foods you're eating be causing your sinusitis?

Chronic sinusitis is caused by inflammation of the sinuses or nasal passages.

Amidst growing concern, researchers have been studying how foods that cause inflammation in the body can affect the sinus membranes. 

According to a recent article from the Medical University of Warsaw, "The Western diet is also associated with a chronic inflammatory process that is involved in all stages of atherosclerosis development and is increasingly recognised as a universal mechanism of various chronic degenerative diseases."

Overindulging in inflammatory foods can contribute to global killers like obesity, cancer and diabetes and cause long-term chronic inflammation, which may also result in sinusitis.  

Health24 previously reported how a change in diet can affect your sinuses. While red wine, dairy products and sugary foods may be at the top of your comfort food list, these foods can unfortunately trigger congestion.

Here are six foods that may increase inflammation (and sinusitis) in the body:    

1. Processed sugar


Processed sugars are hidden in your favourite desserts, kids’ juices, pastries and chocolates. An article published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition indicates that a diet high in added sugar may, however, lead to low-grade inflammation and conditions like obesity and insulin resistance.

2. Trans fatty acids


Trans fats are known to trigger systemic inflammation, according to a study by the University of Washington – and are found in fast foods, fried products and frozen foods. 

3. Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Asian food,MSG

This flavour-enhancing food additive is most commonly found in Asian foods and soy sauce, but also in fast foods, prepared soups, salad dressings and deli meats. 

A study conducted by the University of Toyama reports that MSG may affect liver health and trigger chronic inflammation.

Researchers question why this chemical has not yet been withdrawn from the food chain and many demand that the safety profile of MSG be re-evaluated.

4. Omega-6 fatty acids

salad dressing

Still cooking with vegetable oil and stocking up on your mayonnaise? You may want to reconsider.

Cooking with oil is not the healthiest option for your health. A study by the Medical University of Warsaw in Poland, shows that because of their high omega-6 fatty acid content, these processed oils can promote inflammation.

5. Gluten and dairy products

dairy products,cheese,milk

Commonly used grains like wheat, barley and rye contain gluten, which cause an inflammatory reaction in many people.

While yoghurt may be associated with fighting inflammatory agents, clinical evidence reveals that dairy products in general can be a source of inflammation-inducing saturated fats.

6. Refined carbohydrates

french fries, refined carbs

Your favourite treats french fries, rolls, white potatoes, cereals etc. – are full of refined carbohydrates. The overconsumption of refined carbs encourages the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria that may put you at risk for obesity and inflammatory bowel disease

How to combat inflammation 

Tools to fight inflammation tend to come not so much from the pharmacy, but more from the grocery store. Choose a healthier diet and reduce your risk of illness by stocking up on items like garlic, ginger, turmeric, foods rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, green tea and olive oil. 

anti inflammatory

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Sinusitis Expert

Dr Gary Kroukamp MBCHB, FCORL(SA) is an ENT Specialist, practising from rooms at Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont, Cape Town. He also has a teaching sessional appointment as an ENT Consultant at the Tygerberg Hospital. He is a member of the ENT Society of South Africa and the South African Cochlear Implantation Group. His interests in the ENT field include sinusitis and sinus surgery, nasal allergy and ENT conditions in children.

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