Naturally Empowered: Managing Inflammation the Healthy Way

Naturally Empowered: Managing Inflammation the Healthy Way

VJ Hamilton is a functional medicine and nutritional therapy specialist in autoimmune conditions, inflammatory symptoms and chronic fatigue.

VJ:  My journey started when I was a child. I developed a circular patch of hair loss when I was just seven years old, and that area was diagnosed as an alopecia area. At the time, my parents really didn't know what to do. As my mom was training as a nurse at the time, she already had some knowledge about health and nutrition and tried to change my breakfast. I remember going from cereal to having eggs in the morning, and just eating more fruit and again getting more vitamin C. My hair did grow back, but over the years it would fall out and grow back again, and then I developed psoriasis. Because disease was such a big part of my life along with health and nutrition, I decided to go on to study immunology at university and learned all about the science behind the immune system and why this is happening to my body. I did focus specifically on autoimmune nutrition through classes in chronic fatigue. I haven't had symptoms for eight years, which has been life-changing. 

Leslie:  I know when we talked originally, you had mentioned inflammation. It kind of came up in your story. And I think you said, most ailments come down to inflammation. I think that inflammation is a buzzword that is thrown around a lot; but can you explain that to us?

VJ: We hear a lot about inflammation especially when it comes to autoimmune disease. But, inflammation isn't always bad when we get injured or we have an illness-- we need the inflammatory response to help defenders against pathogens, and help us against the infection. But what can happen in these more chronic conditions, or even conditions like heart disease and diabetes, is that we can have chronic inflammation. So we have that initial spike of inflammation, but it stays in the body and the inflammatory response defends against it. But while it is defending, it can then damage us and specifically, in autoimmune disease, you have antibodies to your own tissue.

Leslie: What do people do that makes this happen?

VJ: I think in the world that we're living in, diet plays a big part in that, and we're eating our process fees. There are certain foods that are more inflammatory, and such as the ultra process foods that have a lot of different types of fats in them that can be inflammatory in the body. We also have high sugar foods. And, there's a lot of refined sugar in those processed foods as well. And the people can have specific food sensitivity to things like gluten and dairy and spike inflammation. They can fire up the immune system, but there are other things in our environment such as environmental toxins, which we might get from eating foods in plastic or using different types of plastics in our environment, even things that smell nice. They can have different chemicals in them that can lead to inflammation. 

Leslie: What's the difference between a little bit of inflammation and chronic inflammation? Is it just that it can't go away? It just keeps going on and on?

VJ: When we have imbalances in our immune system, due to those other factors like eating a poor diet or having a lot of stress in our lives. That can cause that system that helps keep everything in check not work as effectively, and then we can just end up with chronic information.


Leslie: Where do you practice? 

VJ: My clinic is called the autoimmunity nutritionist.

Leslie: What sorts of issues might someone be having where they think this could be an inflammation issue or an autoimmune related issue?

VJ: It can affect their daily life, and they might have brain fog at work or anxiety. And these are all links to inflammation. They're almost hidden signs of inflammation that people don't know about.

Leslie: Previously, you had mentioned gut health is very connected because these immune health live in your guts. Talk to us about gut health and inflammation. What is that link?

VJ: A lot of the time when we're not eating a very good diet, we're not eating a lot of plant-based foods. We can have imbalances in our gut microbiome and that can lead to the condition called dysbiosis. So we may have a buildup of different types of bacteria, and the bacteria in our gut all have a different job to play for our health. And when we don't have the right levels of certain bacteria that can cause dysbiosis, this dysbiosis can lead to a thing called leaky gut syndrome or increased intestinal permeability. 

Leslie: So how does that lead to inflammation?

VJ: So the gaps in our digestive system become larger, and what happens with that is that when we eat food, or we come into contact with bacteria or viruses, it gets into the bloodstream and the immune system doesn't know what it is. So it's trying to protect it. It's trying to do the right thing but it fires up that inflammatory response, causing inflammation, and on top of that, a lot of the immune cells are in the guts. And if they come into contact with something that might be bad, the imbalance in the gut which means that it’s much more likely to flare up against different food particles and toxins that are produced by some of the bacteria in the gut. And that again can cause an inflammatory response because 70% of the immune cells are in the guts.

Leslie: You mentioned that imbalances cause dysbiosis and the leaky gut syndrome. How do people work on imbalances? How do you fix this issue?

VJ:  These gut bacteria feed on different types of feeds. So, fermented foods are absolutely key to keeping those gut bacteria thriving, that's probiotic foods and fruits and vegetables that have those colorful pigments. There are lots of products like yours, and some really great powders out there which are rich in polyphenol so we can add those to the jazz well and they can be really helpful for the gut. The other thing that feeds the gut bacteria is enough protein in the diet. Different types of collagen can be helpful, and bone broth because they're providing amino acids which are really important to connect the tissue.

Leslie: How do people fix these issues? Are there ways people can get ahead of it? Maybe they feel fine, they don't have a problem, but they want to make sure they're keeping inflammation in check. What would you recommend on that front?

VJ: Firstly eat as many whole foods as you can cooking from scratch, making sure to diet as well. And it's important to eat the same thing every day. It's very easy to get into that routine of having the same thing for breakfast and lunch or maybe something different for dinner, but if you can have at least a go-to breakfast, that's gonna be helpful. So you're bringing in different varieties, but lifestyle factors play a key role as well, in managing our information and so making sure that we are scheduling time for rest. 

Leslie: Thank you so much. We've talked about so many great things. I'm sure there's something for everyone on this discussion, but where can people find you if they want to follow up?

VJ:  If you want to follow up, you can pop over to my website which is And there's all my links and everything on there. I also have a free guide called “The Autoimmunity.”

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