Eating ‘anti inflammatory’…chances are, you’ve heard of it if you know someone who struggles with thyroid health or any chronic inflammation issues. But what does it really entail? I honestly wasn’t sure what eating “anti-inflammatory” meant until I was diagnosed with Hashimotos disease and hypothyroidism. I knew that there were certain foods for better thyroid health (like seaweed and brazil nuts), but wanted to try living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
But after listening to The Skinny Confidential Him & Her podcast with guest Nutritional Coach and Chef Niki Connor, I was incredibly interested about how a diet can affect inflammation in the body. Since then, I have been following Niki as she shares her experience coaching others on their nutrition, creating the most beautiful healthy meals, and how she treats her Hashimotos by eating an anti inflammatory diet.
Niki let me interview her to share just what an anti inflammatory diet is, what to eat, what not to eat, a typical day’s meals, and her thoughts on the current diet trends. Here is what she had to say…
Hashimotos Hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your thyroid, which produces hormones. Inflammation from Hashimoto’s often leads to hypothyroidism.
To put it simply: Hypothyroidism is trying to slow things down, and hyperthyroidism is trying to speed it up. Some people go back and forth between hyper and hypo. This needs to be checked with blood tests. There are so many symptoms I could list here, so if anyone is interested in learning more, I will offer my services to your readers. I have had a number of different clients with this condition and was ignoring my own symptoms until they became too obvious to ignore, so I got tested.
Yes, yeast overgrowth and mineral deficiency play a part in thyroid health, they cause weight issues, nutrient deficiencies, acid reflux anemia, leaky gut, food allergies, hypothyroidism, and adrenal insufficiency. Once diagnosed, doctors will try to put you on multiple medications when it can actually be monitored with the correct diet. Since Hashimotos is an autoimmune disease, many people think that they lost control and have to turn to medications. When the body attacks its own tissues, it’s attacking toxicity. I never took any medications for my condition, I used to take a couple of supplements for it at first, now I only take magnesium.
Medications don’t recognize thyroid deficiency, because the treatment of clinical thyroid deficiency is with a synthetic thyroid hormone replacement. Doctors will wait until the thyroid is very low before prescribing a hormone that may shut down the body’s own thyroid-hormone making. Scary, right? This is why I prefer to monitor mine with the right diet. If I have too many of the wrong foods, I get adrenal fatigue and flare-ups, so I keep myself in check. 90% of the time, I avoid sugar, soy, and raw cruciferous vegetables.
Wheat reacts with yeast toxins, causing more reactions, so avoiding gluten helps lower thyroid antibody levels. You need cholesterol to make hormones, and in order to do that, you need to source from good fats such as olive oil and coconut oil. For non-vegans, eggs and dairy should also be avoided (dairy feeds yeast). While Vitamin C is an important vitamin, the most important minerals for managing the thyroid are selenium, zinc, molybdenum, copper, chromium, manganese, boron, and magnesium.
It isn’t a restrictive diet per se, but a way of eating as part of a healthy lifestyle to prevent and reduce inflammation. Adding more good foods and reducing the bad foods. Due to the unhealthy and over-processed lifestyle many live today, everyone needs to make the effort to have less inflammation in their bodies.
Everyone has some form of inflammation, whether it’s from over-processed foods, poor diet choices, sports, travel, stress, etc. Plus there are no downsides in avoiding disease, illness, and injury through a healthy lifestyle. That is, unless you don’t want to be healthy and happy!
No one is perfect, so I don’t like to say “always” or “never”, but adding more healthy foods and reducing consumption of harmful foods is beneficial for everyone.
YES: Dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, turmeric, sweet potatoes, blueberries, green tea, mushrooms, and garlic.
NO: Gluten, dairy, sugar, processed foods, high sodium. It is NOT true that nightshades cause inflammation for everyone, this is only evident in people who have legitimate nightshade allergies. While I avoid gluten 90% of the time, I consume real organic sourdough bread sometimes, but not often enough to ignite a flare-up.
I personally am not a big snacker, I prefer to have a large breakfast and large dinner with one snack in between, I only eat lunch if it’s social or business-related. I make sure to finish my last meal at least 3 hours before going to bed so that my body can rest properly as I sleep and digestion goes smoothly.
I’ve learned what works best for myself, and multiple snacks throughout the day or “meal prep” don’t work for me. The thought of eating the same thing every day would drive me insane, and with two jobs and multiple projects going on at once, I prefer to listen to what my body needs each day instead of plan my eating schedule like a nut. Some days I’m hungrier than others, and some days I want to treat myself.
Our body is speaking to us all day long, it’s up to us to listen to it. When you are craving something sweet or salty, you’re most likely nutrient-deficient and/or dehydrated.
I focus on bio-individuality with my clients, there is no one-size-fits all way of eating, everyone’s body responds to foods differently from allergies to sensitivities to reaching certain goals. I focus on helping someone get more in tune with themselves so that we can work on what they need to live their healthiest and happiest life through proper diet and exercise.
While I am a vegan who is mostly gluten-free and doesn’t drink or use medications, I don’t try to covert all of my clients to be a certain way, I structure their meals and nutrition plans based on their wants and needs. But, if they want to do a ridiculous popular diet that I know isn’t a wise choice, I don’t buy into that. If they come to me and tell me that they decided to cut out meat, go vegan, quit drinking, etc, I applaud them and find my job more enjoyable.
What you eat and drink has a lot to do with whether or not you exercised that day, what type of exercise you did, and what kind of job and activity level you have. The meal you eat after exercise is different than a meal you’d eat on a rest day. I’ll share a typical day for myself if that helps!
A Typical Day For Holistic Chef Niki:
I have hot water with lemon when I have enough time to drink it before running out the door, but always make sure to have a full glass of water as soon as I wake up.
2) Exercise (I exercise on an empty stomach unless I’m lifting weights or hiking)
3) Breakfast: Smoothie OR oatmeal
4) Smoothie: Spinach, banana, raw vegan protein powder (only organic with zero added sugar), raw cacao, 2 dates, water, cinnamon, almond milk.
Oatmeal: Gluten-free rolled oats with unsweetened almond milk, chopped walnuts, blueberries, cinnamon, and a touch of pure maple syrup or organic stevia. I often like to make this using the liquid from chai tea.
5) Snack: Apple with almond butter, guacamole with crudite’ or green juice
6) Dinner: Mixed greens salad with sunflower seeds and lemon-dijon vinaigrette
Quinoa pasta with homemade tomato sauce and fresh basil or one of my herbed sweet potato-based meals.
Water with lemon and peppermint tea
7) Dessert: Raw cacao bar
8) Drink before bed: Valerian root tea
I don’t eat the same thing every day, routine not only bores me, but it isn’t necessarily beneficial to our health and doesn’t keep your metabolism and energy levels up.
I almost always have avocados, bananas, berries, sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa, unsweetened nut milk (usually homemade), rolled oats, nuts, seeds, spinach, garlic, onions, raw cacao, fresh herbs, homemade condiments, and other seasonal fruits and veggies readily available at home.
I don’t eat as many nuts and beans and people think I do. While few people don’t digest rice well, I was born and partially-raised in Japan (though I’m American), so my body loves rice. The Japanese are still the healthiest and longest living people in the World, after all!
Travel certainly makes it more difficult! This is actually one of the top concerns clients have when they come to me, especially busy business executives who are constantly on-the-go.
What I also find is that many people feel embarrassed or that they’re being“high-maintenance” when they are particular about how they order at a restaurant. But, here’s the thing: When you dine out or stay at a hotel, you are paying for a service. With that, your requests should be respected, especially when it comes to eating. If you’re worried that a waiter will mess up your order, say you have an allergy so that you know they will respect your request. If the bread is whole wheat or white and not organic grain or real sourdough, say “no bread at the table”, then you won’t be tempted to eat it.
“Going with the flow” is something I like to do in my personal life, but when it comes to meeting nutritional needs, I make sure those needs are fulfilled, no matter where I am.
We can all slack here and there and sometimes all you have nearby is a janky market, but the most important part is making your best effort to stay on the right path to health and wellness. It can be hard to stock up on fruits and vegetables while traveling, so I like to bring organic raw smoothie packets (Amazing Grass and Garden of Life make good ones) with me when I travel so that I can make a smoothie with a shaker bottle.
The main reason people have trouble with digestion and inflammation when they travel is because they often eat completely different foods and are on a different eating schedule than at home. I will not go a day without a probiotic/prebiotic combination supplement and recommend the same to clients.
It was a transition process because I didn’t go vegan for the same reasons most vegans do, I did it for my health first. I’m casein-intolerance, my body started rejecting red meat in 2009, and I was never a fan of eggs, so going vegan food-wise was easy. I went through a period while living in New York years ago where I’d eat fish here and there, but then I went completely vegan. Leather was honestly the hardest thing for me to part with, now there are so many well-made faux leather items, it’s been an easier transition. It was when I became emotionally connected to veganism that it all became easier for me, starting and ending each day knowing that I didn’t harm my health, animals, or our planet makes me feel incredible.
While I support those who stand up for their beliefs, I myself am not an activist. I find aggressive behavior in politics and the food industry to be very negative and prefer to practice love and kindness towards all beings in a more gentle manner. I do what I can to be a positive influence for others by living a healthy and cruelty-free lifestyle.
The diet industry isn’t designed for a lifestyle improvement, it’s designed as a quick-fix so that you go back to using the diet again. It’s a marketing schedule to make money, there is no one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone, and while a plant-based lifestyle benefits everyone, the real health and nutrition professionals – doctors and holistic practitioners – are those who are helping you live a healthy lifestyle, not sell you a diet.
The whole low-carb craze is so ridiculous, I eat more carbs than any woman I know and maintain very low body fat.
Some people digest carbs and fats differently than others, which is why I focus on bio-individuality with clients rather than selling a diet. I can’t believe that there’s a company that is trying to sell vegansim as a short-term diet, too. That’s not the way to go about living a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to make a long-term lifestyle improvement in all aspects of your life (including diet), not yo-yo diet.
I like to live a lifestyle that makes me happy and healthy where I don’t need to “detox” or “go on a diet”
My new-and-improved website is going live soon, and I’ll have recipes on there that I’ve created. For more personalized recipes, I share plenty of that with my clients.
I provide service and pricing information as well as a complimentary consultation for all prospective clients. As both a health and nutrition counselor and chef, I can combine or separate both jobs, so with clients I don’t cook for, I provide recipes in addition to nutritional advice based on their individual needs.
Meet Niki Connor:
Holistic Chef Niki was founded by Niki Connor, a certified Health and Nutrition Counselor, Nutrition Consultant, and professional chef specializing in plant-based cuisine. Parlaying her formal health, nutrition and culinary education, athletic background, International upbringing, extensive travels, vegan lifestyle, and passion for improving the lives of others, Connor has created a viable socially responsible enterprise. Her experience as both a chef and health and nutrition counselor ranges from cooking to prevent and fight diseases to working with models, athletes, entertainment industry professionals, and Fortune 500 executives.
Connor focuses on the mind-body-spirit connection in her work to enable her clients to achieve long-term results. After studying and working in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area as a personal chef, private chef, and health and nutrition counselor, Connor returned to Los Angeles to follow her passion for healing others and the culinary arts working throughout Southern California as well as working remotely.