Highlights from Jonathan Otto's interview with Dr. Sruti Lam, for the Depression & Anxiety Series. Dr. Lam discusses how she overcame her ulcerative colitis through lowering inflammation in her body. She gives tips on how to eat to lower inflammation.

Dr. Sruti Lam

Dr. Lam: Many of you asked questions about why and how all of this inflammation happens and how we can cure it, so I’m here to talk about a few different things that can help with healing our body and healing the inflammation in our body. One of the things that we could do for that is eating right. Eating right is one of the biggest things.

Let’s talk about a few things that I did with ulcerative colitis, and it could be anything ranging from eating whole grain foods to healthy fruits and vegetables to drinking water right to sleeping right to resting to exercising to go out and get sunlight and sunshine.

We keep hearing the word “whole grains.” What does it mean to have whole grains? Whole grains is something that you get straight from the plant, so wheat, whole wheat, rice, buckwheat, amaranth, rye, barley, millet, teff, and I can keep going on. All these are whole grains that grow out of the soil, and then we pluck it and harvest it and eat it.

What is processed food? Now, when we take the same grain, which is wheat, and then we send it through machines, and then we break it down and we grind it up and then we add things to it, we add preservatives to it, we add things that we’ve already pulled out of it, all the different vitamins that are processed and then we try to inject it back, and then we call it, “ Oh, this food now has more vitamins than it was processed before.” It’s because we are processing it too much to make breads and tortillas, and different cultures have different kinds of ways that you process your grains.

Eating whole grains by itself helps our body to break it down, to digest it in the right way, and to absorb it in the right way, so that way we’re not going through a whole process of eliminating things, adding things, and adding preservatives to our food.

Whole grains could be any kind of things and different cultures talk about different things, and then we also talk about being gluten-sensitive. There are many grains that have the gliadin, which also could be called the gluten in it, that is not really digested or absorbed in our body. We’re not able to absorb or digest that food, so it becomes a toxin in our body and it causes more inflammation in our body. The whole grains that I normally prescribe or talk about is ... Cut, cut, cut, cut. I should never use the word “prescribe.” How am I doing so far?

Some of the grains are rice. There’s different kinds of rice. Growing up, I just heard about white rice, like the basmati rice, being of an Indian origin, so I always just talked about eating rice, cooking it a certain way and eating it a certain way, but then as I learned more and researched more on what food is good for me and I looked up more things, there’s all different kinds of rice.

There is white rice. There is brown rice. It’s not dehusked and still has the brown on it, so it still has all the vitamins that are intact on it, that are not polished to become white rice. There’s red rice. There’s black rice. There’s wild rice. There are so many different kinds of rice, so it depends on how much flavor you really like. Polished white rice has a different flavor as opposed to black rice, which has a more nutty or earthy flavor. That’s one of the grains that we can incorporate into our food. When you eat rice, which is a high carb intake or more of a starchy intake, we also need to have a balanced food and to have a balanced food, you need to have vegetables and fruits.

A complete protein, as we talked about, is not just protein by itself, which is eggs or steak or chicken. A complete protein is when you’re actually combining a protein with another food, which it could be a carbohydrate, it could be a fat, and you’re combining both of them and now the body’s able to absorb both of them together and digest it well, so that way it actually releases all the different vitamins and minerals that has to be going to our body and then perform the right functions.

A few vegetables that are really high and rich in fiber is what you’re looking at, when you’re looking at autoimmune diseases, because what are we really looking at over here ... Let’s talk about the different things that we actually do to treat inflammation.

One, obviously, we’re going to be trying to decrease inflammation, so we’re going to use something that is anti- inflammatory and anti-inflammatory herbs could be, and this is in no particular order, curcumin, that many people are talking about and hear about right now. Ginger, another herb, is good. Boswellia, which is also called frankincense, that we spoke about prior. Silybum, which is milk thistle, which is actually a liver detoxifying herb.

Let me just talk about one herb right now and we will continue on that. Curcumin. Why is curcumin really useful or why has this become the superfood or this rave about everybody talking about turmeric and food doses of turmeric and supplements of turmeric?

Curcumin has been found out to inhibit something called COX inhibitors. COX inhibitors are actually produced in our body to fight any kind of inflammation that is happening in our body or to fight any kind of infection that is happening in our body. When our body is now trying to react against itself, it’s producing more COX inhibitors against itself instead of a source that is coming from outside.

Curcumin, which is a substance that is found in turmeric, which is a root or a rhizome that’s been growing for thousands and thousands of years, and it is an ethnic food or a very staple food in a lot of different countries. It’s been present in the Mediterranean for a long time, and all the Asian countries and people have been using it as food doses for all their different meals.

Now science has found out that the substance that is present in turmeric, the curcumin, is able to inhibit any kind of inflammation, and that’s why turmeric now has become the superfood that is good for all kinds of body aches, bone pains, muscle pain, inflammation anywhere in our GI, any ulcers in our body, but turmeric by itself, it’s a substance that you can actually make different things about.

One of the most common things we talk about ... Remember, we talked about ingesting turmeric, if you’re not using it in food, is something called golden milk. Golden milk is just pure turmeric in either a dairy or a non-dairy alternative that you could use, almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk, and then you add turmeric and then you can spice it up or season it with other spices.

Some of the ones that I like personally using is black pepper or cardamom or cinnamon, and then you can add coconut oil to it, which is the fat that actually helps in absorption of all these vitamins that we’re actually ingesting into our body.

When we do something like this and when we take this, say, if you have all of these ulcers in our body, what turmeric really does with the milk is as it goes and travels through the digestive system, it is coating the digestive system in a way that it is actually coating all the ulcers, the inflammation.

It’s like a soothing balm. When we get hurt and we have this open area and we put a band aid, so instead of putting a band aid, if you use an ointment or Vaseline or something like that, you’re actually using a soothing balm that will prevent external forces to come and infect it further or to abrase it any further.

It’s not something that will just last forever and ever. It’s something that you have to keep doing again and again to prevent inflammation and at the same time, it will also cause healing in the body.

Another herb that is very commonly used for inflammation is ginger. Ginger, again, has been present for thousands and thousands of years, and this is also another rhizome that grows underground, so when we purchase this, we’re not only getting the ginger by itself. It’s all the nutrients of the soils that provide with the prebiotics that you’re getting with it. All the different nutrients that are present in the soil that are being absorbed with the ginger.

Ginger has also been shown to be anti-inflammatory and ginger is not just used for inflammation, but it is used for all kinds of GI upsets, for gas, for bloating, for constipation, for heartburn, so ginger does the same thing.

You can use ginger in several different ways. You can just eat raw ginger. Many of us are familiar with eating sushi and with sushi, we’re always just using ginger with it or we’re eating raw ginger. This is a very common fruit, or, I mean, not a fruit, sorry, a vegetable that is present in all kinds of Asian ethnicities. You can either eat it raw, you can cook with it, you can make teas out of it, you can make paste out of it. Even topical ginger, when you have an abrasion or you get hurt, and you have a cut or a scrape, and you just use topical ginger on the place, it actually helps with healing of that place, so then imagine what it’s doing to us internally.