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Do Grains Cause Inflammation in the Body?

author image M. Gideon Hoyle
M. Gideon Hoyle is a writer living outside of Houston. Previously, he produced brochures and a wide variety of other materials for a nonprofit educational foundation. He now specializes in topics related to health, exercise and nutrition, publishing for various websites.
Do Grains Cause Inflammation in the Body?
Whole grains reduce your body's inflammation levels. Photo Credit Pavel Timofeyev/iStock/Getty Images

Inflammation is a body response produced by activation of certain parts of your immune system. In its chronic form, it can contribute to a variety of significant health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. Consumption of whole grains can reduce your levels of a main indicator of body inflammation called C-reactive protein.

Inflammation Basics

Inflammation appears in two basic forms. Acute inflammation is a normal, short-term immune system reaction that appears in response to an infection or injury. During an acute inflammatory response, blood flow increases at the site of the problem and your immune system sends white blood cells, or leukocytes, to surround and kill any invading micro-organisms. Chronic inflammation is an abnormal, long-term activation of your immune system that can last for anywhere from days to years. During a chronic inflammatory response, your immune system tries unsuccessfully to deal with an infection, injury or other disease process. Damage to the tissues in your body frequently occurs during this type of inflammation.

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C-reactive Protein

Your doctor can potentially uncover the presence of inflammation with tests that include a white blood cell count, measurement of your blood levels of a protein called albumin and a procedure called an erythrocyte sedimentation rate test. However, abnormal results from these tests can also appear in individuals who don’t have inflammation. For this reason, doctors also diagnose inflammation by measuring your blood levels of C-reactive protein, which is a biochemical marker of both generalized body inflammation and the specific form of inflammation associated with heart-related illness.

Whole Grain's Effects

Whole grains contain a fiber-rich outer coating called the bran, as well as a nutrient-rich middle layer called the germ and a starch-rich inner layer called the endosperm. According to a study published in 2008 in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” obese people who eat a low-calorie diet rich in whole grains can substantially reduce their blood levels of inflammation-related C-reactive protein. Consumption of whole grains also reduces C-reactive protein levels in postmenopausal women and women still in their reproductive years. Additionally, diabetics who eat healthy carbohydrates in general, and whole grains in particular, may be able to protect themselves from some of the effects of chronic, systemic inflammation.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an immune condition that results from eating gluten, found in many types of grain. Over time, gluten consumption will lead to inflammation in your small intestine. Symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, joint pain and acid reflux. To determine if you have celiac disease, your doctor can perform a blood test, and, if necessary she will perform a scope procedure to look at the walls of your small intestine.Common grains that cause this condition are wheat, rye and barley. Many foods contain gluten, so you will need to read labels carefully.


Consumption of refined grains does not reduce your body’s levels of C-reactive protein, the authors of the study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” report. During processing, refined grains lose many of their key nutrients, as well as their fiber content. Loss of vitamin E, in particular, can lower refined grain’s anti-inflammatory benefits. Common dietary whole grains include buckwheat, wheat, brown rice, bulgur, amaranth, millet, wild rice, barley, spelt and oats. To get the health benefits of these grains, eat at least three servings a day of products that contain them in whole form.

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