We’ve covered gut health, as well as bloating and digestion, but what about inflammation? We spoke with HUM Nutrition’s Registered Dietitian Gaby Vaca-Flores, RD, and Parsley Health’s Dr. Nisha Chellam, MD and Amanda Perin MS, RDN, to answer the most common questions regarding inflammation, including how to fight it!

What exactly is inflammation, and is it always a bad thing?

Gaby Vaca-Flores, RD:

Inflammation is actually a natural part of the body’s immune system response against threats or infections, but too much of it for too long can cause problems in the body.

External threats as simple as allergens and germs, or as serious as a wound, can trigger an inflammatory response. In some instances, signs of inflammation will be obvious such as redness or swelling that occurs after an injury. In other cases, the signs of inflammation may be invisible (i.e., the immune system fighting off a potential pathogen).

As you can see, inflammation isn’t always bad. However, when the body is constantly giving an inflammatory response, it can cause long term damage. While certain dietary and lifestyle habits may also play a role, the most common cause for ongoing inflammation are autoimmune disorders.

Gaby Vaca-Flores, RD:

Immunity and inflammation go hand-in-hand. The immune system responds to a potentially harmful threat (i.e., infection or wound) with an inflammatory response to help keep you safe and healthy.

What are some common signs of inflammation to look out for?

Dr. Nisha Chellam, MD and Amanda Perin MS, RDN:

  • Seasonal allergies
  • Mood changes, such as mild apathy or feelings of depression
  • Fluctuations in weight, weight gain despite no change in diet or movement, or difficulty losing weight
  • Digestive symptoms, such as bloating, feeling like food is sitting in stomach, heartburn, gas, diarrhea or constipation
  • Fatigue

Amanda Perin MS, RDN:

  • Skin issues like acne, eczema, psoriasis
  • Gut issues like inflammatory bowel disease or dysbiosis
  • Food sensitivity, like Celiac Disease
  • Thyroid dysfunction or Hashimoto’s Disease

What are some ways to avoid inflammation?

Dr. Nisha Chellam, MD and Amanda Perin MS, RDN:

1. Start your day by drinking room temperature water

2. Make sure you are eating consistently

  • Try to include cruciferous vegetables (cooked if you have thyroid issues). These vegetables include broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale. They help support liver detoxification.
  • Begin including more bitter greens into your diet to help support digestion. Bitter greens include arugula, dandelion greens, kale, broccoli rabe, kale, or mustard greens.
  • Include Omega-3s, an anti-inflammatory fat, like fish, nuts, and plant oils, twice a week.

3. Drink tea

  • Consider adding teas, such as green tea, ginger and turmeric tea, or holy basil to help decrease inflammation.

4. Be mindful of when you’re exercising - and having caffeine!

  • If you are experiencing a lot of stress, consider not doing cardio or having coffee first thing. Try to push those back to 30 - 45 minutes after waking. If doing cardio, try to limit to 30 minutes. When doing those things first thing in the morning, it can actually increase your cortisol response and increase inflammation.

5. Try gargling

  • Another solution for all gastrointestinal issues is gargling every morning or singing in a loud voice like a high pitched opera singer. This improves the vagal nerve – the nerve that helps with digestion.

6. Try a plant-based diet over a high-protein one

  • Diets that are too high in protein may cause kidney issues, hormonal disruption, or chronic inflammation.

Can you give us a few ways to support a strong immune system and ease inflammation that may be occurring?

Gaby Vaca-Flores, RD:

  • Researchers are still working to pinpoint the relationships between the many dietary and lifestyle factors that affect inflammation. Overall, it appears that eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can help keep unwanted inflammation at bay. My top tips for supporting a strong immune system and easing inflammation include:
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are beneficial for a variety of reasons. They also pack phytonutrients, a class of chemicals that are protective against inflammation.
  • Add more healthy fats to your diet. Healthy fats deliver omega-3 fatty acids which can help address inflammation. Examples of foods high in healthy fats include walnuts, seeds, avocados, and salmon. On the flip side, avoid fats that are saturated, such as in fried foods, as these may promote inflammation.
  • Live a well-rounded lifestyle. Making sure that you’re getting enough sleep and physical activity, plus managing stress levels can go a long way in keeping your body’s inflammatory response in check.

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