• WellWithYael

The Inflammation Series: Part 2


In my last post, we covered the basics of inflammation. Ultimately, you want to prevent inflammation from exacerbating to a point that you are diagnosed with an illness. Think of it like healing a small leak in your basement instead of dealing with a full gut renovation post-flood. So if you’re experiencing any symptoms {frequent headaches, brain fog, acne, bloating}, as small as they may be, why not start making the daily choices that will strengthen your system from within? Saddle up your inner healing warriors with the equipment they need so that your body can do the reparations for you! FYI — even if you are currently diagnosed with an illness, it is possible to return to a healthy state. There are many individuals who have reversed their illnesses and autoimmune disorders through a functional medicine approach. Find inspiration in Cavin Balaster or Dr. Terry Wahls’ stories.

In managing inflammation, it’s important to understand the gut-brain axis. Let’s dive into how this works… Ever heard the expression “happy wife, happy life?” Well in this case it’s “happy gut, happy brain, happy life” *yes, I am indeed coining this phrase.* You would think that most neurotransmitters (the chemicals that affect our physical and mental health) reside in your brain, right? Well here’s a wild fact: most of them, including serotonin (regulates mood, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire) and dopamine (regulates emotions and movement) actually live in your gut (Neurotransmitters: The critical Modulators Regulating Gut-Brain Axis). *Ever wonder why they tell you to trust your gut-instinct?* “It is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. In fact, altered levels of this peripheral serotonin have been linked to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis” (Microbes Help Produce Serotonin in Gut). Are we seeing the direct link between food, mood, and health here?

As we know, the brain is the MVP in managing your inflammation signal and response system. It controls communication throughout the body — specifically knowing when, how, and where to unleash cytokines *your inner healing warriors.* Now stick with me… The gut feeds your brain the nutrients it needs in order to function properly *nerd fact: there are over 400 miles of microvasculature in the brain.* That’s 400+ miles of blood vessels, all of which are fueled by the food you choose to eat.

Since we want the gut and brain to be in good communication, let’s talk relationship therapy. *Boys, you know when you get chocolates and flowers to appease an upset girlfriend? Time to whip out the tools you need to appease an upset gut — or better yet, to keep the gut happy. And no, chocolate is not the answer — unless its 80% cacao, organic, and sugar-free.* If your brain is not receiving the nutrients it needs in order to stay on its a-game, then it can’t send healing warriors to your pain-points. We want to prevent this from happening, so let’s start incorporating some gut-brain-happy foods into our daily meals.

A few suggestions from my last post included dark leafy greens, fermented foods, and bone broth. Some friends reached out to me asking for accessible product recommendations within these categories, so I’m including them below along with additional pro-gut-brain practical food recs.

P.S. I curated an ‘anti-inflammatory essentials’ pantry list — if you want to try any suggestions below, you can email me at joannabenadrete@gmail.com and I can send them directly to your door!

  • Dark leafy greens. Okay. I’m aware that they’re not everyone’s thing, but there’s so much more here than your average lettuce. There’s bok choy, collard greens, arugula, dandelion greens, mesclun, mustard greens, chard…dare I say kale? *I can feel your eyes rolling.* Seriously, get creative and try out different green species — you may just grow to love them! It doesn’t have to be a basic salad — it can be steamed, sautéed, grilled, or pureed. You can add cayenne pepper for a little spice, mustard for taste, or turmeric for an anti-inflammatory kick. You can even make mock “chips” or purchase them ready-made from Lydia’s Foods, Brad’s Raw Foods, and Moon Juice (included in the anti-inflammatory essentials pantry list). Experiment, play around, and find the flavors you love.

  • Fermented foods. Fermented foods contain live probiotics that aid digestion, AKA bloat-relief. Kombucha is a great source of probiotics, but be wary of imposter kombuchas *yes, they exist!* A couple signs to look out for include: 1) It must be refrigerated, if not, it’s a sparkling tea posing as a kombucha *no one likes a poser* 2) It must be raw 3) Check the nutrition label for unnecessary additives. Many brands add unnatural powders, sugars, and supplements that aren’t bioavailable, meaning you can’t properly digest them. My go-to trustworthy kombucha brand is GT’s Living Foods.

  • Bone broth. Your gut’s best friend. If you can’t stop by Brodo or Springbone Kitchen in NYC, you can order online from Kettle and Fire or Kol Foods.

  • Sugar alternatives. Refined sugar is simply a no-no. As Elsa chants, LET IT GO *any Frozen aficionados?* There’s an abundance of sweet replacements to refined sugar that you can indulge guilt-free, including coconut sugar, monkfruit, stevia, cacao pulp, raw manuka honey, and good ol’ bananas. Zucchini and pumpkin puree also make for sweet substitutes when baking *sounds strange but try it before you nix it!* If you prefer to bypass the DIY route, checkout Fresh from the Heart. Shoot me an email and I can send their goods directly to your home! Pro tip: pop their chocolate chip cookies in the oven for a couple minutes for a warm, crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside bite — caution: they’re addictive! Another favorite is Lazeez bakers. My sis melts for their honey tahini cookies. The gist is that baked goods and sweets can taste just as good, if not better, than the processed products. Try them out and see for yourself!



  • Lean meats. They are highly beneficial to gut and brain health (research to back this here). Next time you plan on grilling, try ordering your meat from Butcher Box or Grow and Behold. They’re certified organic, 100% grass-fed, free-range, antibiotic-free… All the good stuff you’ll hear me probing the waiter about at our next dinner.

  • Dark chocolate. YES, it is gut-brain-approved — nay, endorsed! No need to investigate any further, but for the science-nerd in you, dark chocolate contains polyphenols, which are super-antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that improve communication signals between the gut and brain. Satisfy your next sweet tooth craving with Honey Mama’s bars (use code MAMAS15 for 15% off), Fine and Raw chocolate, Elements Truffles, Hu Dark Chocolate Gems (JOANNAB15 for 15% off), or Pure 7. Note: When reading the ingredient label of your go-to chocolate bars, be wary of soy lecithin, glucose syrup, cane sugar, emulsifier, and corn syrup. These additives are solid rejects for your gut *swipe LEFT.*

  • High quality fats & oils. Fats in food do not equate to “fat” as in the unwanted love-handle or belly-pooch. Our bodies actually thrive off of quality fats. Here’s a fun anecdote: “Back in the 1970s, Danish researchers discovered something curious about the Inuits of Greenland. Despite eating a high-fat diet (about 40% of their daily calories came from fat), the Inuits had far lower rates of heart disease and heart attacks than people in Western nations. When the researchers delved deeper, they discovered one reason for the Inuits’ low rates of heart disease: a seafood-heavy diet rich in the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Since then, investigators have homed in on omega-3s — not just for their cardiovascular benefits, but also for their potential effects on thinking ability, vision, and inflammation” (Omega-3-rich Foods: Good for your Heart, Harvard Health). Coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and foods high in omega 3s like walnuts, ground flax or chia seeds, mackerel, salmon, caviar, and cod liver oil are all sources of good fats that you want to add to your plate.

  • Nuts. Especially almonds, but that’s old news. My current routine is ‘one brazil nut a day to keep the doctor away’ *yes, I can be more cheesy.* Brazil nuts contain the highest concentrated form of selenium, which contribute to a strong immune system. But it’s always good to mix it up. Seek out sprouted nuts and seeds. Sprouting nuts removes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, meaning you’ll be able to easily digest them and absorb their nutrients *geek out over sprouting-science here.* You can bring sprouted nuts to work as an easy, filling snack. Throw in some Hu dark chocolate gems and you’ve got yourself a sweet and salty trail-mix *who’s as excited as I am?!* My favorite nuts are from Healthy Truth — they have funky flavors like pizza almonds and salt & vinegar nut clusters.

  • Mineral salt. I know. Salt has a bad rep. And by all means avoid the conventional table salt because it is indeed no-good. But good salt does exist — learn more from Dr. Chris Kresser on debunking the salt-myth here. You actually need the minerals from the good salts, i.e. natural sea salt or pink Himalayan salt. So don’t be afraid to grind some into your next dish. Better yet, try adding a dash of sea salt to your next glass of water and squeeze a lemon in there too — the mix makes for a gut-cleansing elixir first thing in the morning. It’s a natural wake-up jolt to you and your digestive tract.

  • Avocados. The avo-toast addiction is real, just forget the toast part *who saw that coming?* If you’re ordering guac in a restaurant, they almost always have a crudites *pronounced CREW-DEE-TEH for my non-Frenchies* option — and the veggies happen to be more filling than the tortilla chips.

  • Mixed berries. They are loaded with fiber and antioxidants like anthocyanins, which are found in most bright-colored orange, red, purple and blue fruits and veggies. Berries are the ultimate “brain-candy.” Mix them with your trail-mix and pop’em like M&Ms for an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich dessert.

  • Roasted dandelion root tea. If you struggle with bloating, this is your saving grace. Let the tea bag sit in boiling water for 10 minutes, drink up, and it’ll work wonders to alleviate an upset stomach. My sister and I are junkies over this and often enjoy a cup before bed…it’s an acquired taste, like beer, except this one is actually worth it ;) Curious to hear if you like it — let me know your thoughts!


Note: Food is not everything. If you’re eating all the “right” things but not enjoying it, or you’re in a toxic environment (quite literally surrounded by toxins like mold) or under constant stress, those environmental factors will impact your inflammation levels. More to come on how to manage these external factors, but remember to enjoy life. Smile. Take it one step at a time. One positive action at a time, whether it be a kind gesture to a friend, taking time for yourself, or popping that blueberry like an M&M and truly enjoying it for dessert!

*Photo credit: @DilaraOztemir. If you have a landscape photo you’d like me to feature in my next post, please send it my way.*


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