Eating Away at Inflammation

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Helen Padarin presents her session about systemic inflammation. She outlines the link between the brain, gut and the rest of the body, and how this ties in to various chronic inflammatory disorders. She focuses on specific key foods which have advantageous anti-inflammatory benefits.

Presentation Highlights

00:30 – What is inflammation?
02:30 – Causes of chronic inflammation: Leaky gut
04:48 – Leaky gut = leaky brain
07:11 – Visceral Inflammation
08:29 – Causes of chronic inflammation: Gluten
10:15:– Inflammatory foods
14:03 – Gluten, Glutamate and GABA
16:36 – Anti-inflammatory foods
28:39 – Sleep




Helen: Today I’m presenting to you about inflammation. I didn’t hear all the speakers earlier this morning, but I’m sure Natasha and others would have touched on the significance of inflammation when we’re looking at what’s going on with the brain, and also with what’s going on with other immune and metabolic disorders.

What is inflammation?


What is inflammation first of all? Basically, it comes from the word ignite, so to set on fire. And we know the signs of acute inflammation, right? They’re normally the redness, swelling, pain, loss of movement, that kind of thing. And that’s really important, because it’s your immune system that is kicking into gear to repair damaged tissue, so you want it to happen. Inflammation is a good thing. It often gets touted as being all bad, but it’s not.


The problem arises when inflammation doesn’t turn off. When inflammation doesn’t turn off, that’s when we start getting tissue damage, because the swelling the area, the lack of movement, the loss of functioning in the area can have then long-term consequences. We want to make sure that we’ve got the right mechanisms in place, that our immune system, which is what regulates your inflammation, knows when to switch on and switch off so to speak.

The problem arises when inflammation doesn’t turn off… That’s when we start getting tissue damage”

Neuro Inflammation


When it doesn’t switch off, we can end up with any number of disorders. So whether it affects the guts like:

  • Inflammatory bowel disorders
  • Inflammatory digestive disorders
  • Immune disorders like hay fever
  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Neurological disorders like autism
  • ADHD
  • Chronic disorders like diabetes.

Type two diabetes, cancer, all these kind of things can be tied back down to chronic inflammation.

Where does it all begin? Of course, like everything that we’re learning here today, it starts in the gut. We want to have a look at how does that start, and what is that connection then with the brain.

Causes of chronic inflammation: Leaky Gut


First of all, let’s talk about leaky gut. Who here knows about leaky gut? For those who don’t, I’ll just give you a quick run-through.

It’s not someone with holes in their stomach so to speak, but if we take a step back and look at digestion, imagine your food is like a string of pearls. And when you eat, you’ve got this long string of pearls as it goes through your digestive tract. That string gets broken up into smaller and smaller strands. By the time that it is getting absorbed in your small intestine, you’re down to one or two pearls. They can fit through the very tight gaps that are between all the cells that line your intestine, and they can get into your bloodstream. And that’s fine.

The problem occurs when those tight junctions between your intestinal cells get a little bit wider, leaky. And when that happens, then maybe strands of five, or seven, or nine pearls might be able to get through. The problem is then, the immune system sees that as an invader, so your immune system goes on red alert, and that’s when inflammation begins to occur.


When your immune system is in that state of alertness, it’s going to go on a bit of a search and destroy mission. It’s going to go around the bloodstream, go around your body, and look for tissues, or look for compounds that look similar to what’s just got through the leaky gut, and it will start attacking that as well.

The problem that occurs is that some of the partially broken-down food particles have a very similar shape to some of our own tissues. So, the immune system can get confused, and rather than attacking actual foreign particles, it can attack parts of our own tissue.

For example, gluten peptides have a very similar shape and appearance to thyroid protein. So then, the immune system can start attacking your thyroid gland. And then we may end up with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune condition.

Leaky gut = leaky brain


The connection then with the brain, when we have a leaky gut we have a leaky brain. The reason being is … well, a couple of reasons actually. One is that some foods, and drugs, and environmental toxins that cause an increase in your gut permeability, so an increase in the leakiness of your gut barrier, also cause an increase in the leakiness of your blood-brain barrier. We used to think once upon a time that this is impermeable, or relatively impermeable anyway. But now we know that there are quite a few influencers that control how much can get in and out from that barrier. Things like gluten for example. We’ll get there in a moment.

First of all, let’s have a look at the relationship between the gut, the immune system and the brain. A few little bits of trivia that I always love to share is, as many of you may know and you may have already heard it today, you’ve got more brain cells in your gut than you do in your brain. This is your bigger brain.

Brain cells in gut06:00

Not only that, but you have more immune cells in your brain than you do brain cells. They’re called your microglia. So you can imagine if anything is affecting your immune function then, it can very closely and directly have an impact on your logical function. Partly because of proximity, and partly because the immune system, the gut and the brain use many of the same chemical messengers like cytokines and neurotransmitters.

“You have more immune cells in your brain than you do brain cells… if anything is affecting your immune function then, it can very closely and directly have an impact on your logical functions

The third little interesting fact is that 80% of our immune system is in the lining of the gut wall. So whatever’s going on in the gut directly affects the immune system, directly affects the nervous system. So that’s how tightly linked the gut immune brain link is.

When we get this inflammation, that can be inflammation anywhere in the body, that can affect our brain inflammation levels. And conversely as well, it goes the other way around. If there is inflammation of the brain for whatever reason, it can also trigger inflammation in other areas of the body.

Visceral Inflammation


One thing that’s really important to consider as well is visceral inflammation and the impact that that has on different health conditions. Visceral inflammation stems from inflammation of the digestive organs and other organs in the abdominal cavity. So, whether for women, like pelvic inflammatory disease, for example, is a common one. But if you’ve got inflammation of gallbladder, liver, intestines, things like that, what happens in that situation is your stabilizing core muscles get switched off, so then you end up more prone to accidents and sore backs, slip discs and clumsiness as well, because you don’t have that same communication, neuro-muscular communication going on that you would if there was no inflammation present. So with your uncoordinated kids, for example, one important thing to have a look at is what’s going on in their guts.

Causes of chronic inflammation: Gluten


Gluten we pick on quite a bit, and part of that is because it does create a lot of problems. But one thing we know in terms of inflammation is that when you ingest gluten, in 100% of the population it increases an enzyme called zonulin, which is not from a Star Trek episode. It is an enzyme in your body. Sounds like Star Trek to me.

What zonulin does is it increases both your gut permeability and your blood-brain barrier permeability. As a result, it’s like a gateway allergen. It opens up your immune system to exposure from a whole lot of other particles that normally wouldn’t be able to get into your bloodstream. Even if you’re not having an allergic reaction to gluten per se, but you have other allergies present, it’s always a very good idea to eliminate gluten, so that you can help heal your other allergies

“When you ingest gluten, in 100% of the population it increases an enzyme called zonulin… Zonulin increases both your gut permeability and your blood-brain barrier permeability”


Other things that cause chronic inflammation other than gluten and leaky gut:

  • Having excess body fat
  • High or prolonged stress
  • Pollutant exposure
  • Lack of exercise
  • Too much exercise, so over-exercising can be as much of a problem as not enough
  • A lack of or poor-quality sleep
  • Nutrient or poor-quality diet
  • Allergies and sensitivities
  • Gut and immune disorders
  • Dysbiosis
  • Chronic infections like a root canal for example. Just one little side note from that. A root canal is heavily associated with cardiovascular disease, because of the chronic inflammatory effects that it has.
  • Chair sitting, so you should all be maybe sitting on the floor today, at least stand up a lot in between the talks.

Inflammatory Foods


If we’re looking at foods and what the most common triggers are for inflammation in the diet, this would be the top hit list:

  • Sugar, as Michelle just spoke to you about, because of its effects on insulin largely, is a very inflammatory food.
  • Gluten
  • Refined grains
  • Cooking oils because of their fatty acid rations
  • Trans fats, that’s in things like margarine, and a lot of processed foods as well
  • Grain fed meat has a very different fatty acid profile to grass-fed and finished meats
  • Alcohol
  • Allergies and sensitivities. So, anybody can pretty much be allergic or sensitive to any given things, so that’s where bio-individuality comes into the picture, and you want to be eating what’s appropriate for you
  • Juices, like shop-bought juices, they’re just acidic sugar bombs

Another thing that’s interesting about gluten is that a lot of people will say, “I’m fine with gluten. I can eat bread, I can eat pasta. I don’t get any bloating. I do perfect poos, it’s all good.” However, what they’re finding is that gluten can be purely neurological in its target tissue. So you might have perfectly fine digestion, but if there’s any depression, changes in mood, anxiety, sleep issues, problems concentrating, that as well could also be gluten. There’s a lot of links as well with autoimmune neurological conditions like MS being triggered by gluten.


We know in our ASD population as well that there is a particularly high proportion of children and adults who have a sensitivity to gluten. It does increase risk of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid and MS, and a lot of studies have certainly shown improvements in symptoms with the removal of gluten. And some of the most common things are normalization of pain threshold, or improved language, or eye contact, speech, concentration, focus.

“A lot of studies have shown significant improvements in symptoms with the removal of gluten. And some of the most common results are normalization of the pain threshold, improved language abilities, or eye contact, speech, concentration and focus.”

Just to give you a little insight into what you’re actually eating, there are three things coming around, and you’ll see the significance of them shortly.

You’ve got some coconut turmeric bites, which is coconut, and turmeric, and cinnamon, and pepper. Some fermented veggies from GPA Wholefoods who are downstairs, and some berry chia pudding.

One last thing on the gluten front here. As my friend Nora says, saying you’re mostly gluten-free is like saying you’re just a little bit pregnant. You either are, or you’re not. And it’s one of those things, because gluten peptides take such a long time to be removed from your system, even if you’re only having the tiniest bit of gluten every few weeks or once a month or something like that, you’re never actually giving yourself or your child the opportunity to see how you really function without gluten in your body.

Gluten, Glutamate and GABA


Gluten also ties into this, glutamate and GABA picture. Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in your brain. That’s what you need for learning, and concentration, and focus, and what you’re doing today, but you also need some GABA to balance that out. GABA’s important for rest, and mindfulness, and ability to concentrate as well. We also need it to be able to get to sleep.

So we want a balance of these. We never want to be too much one or the other. What is supposed to happen is glutamates get changed in to GABA, so that excitatory neurotransmitter gets converted into that calming neurotransmitter.

Without enough GABA, our neurons fire too frequently, and that can result in things like anxiety, panic, seizures. It can also occur in kids who are really agitated, or aggressive and have quite erratic kinds of behavior, trouble settling at night, things like that.

The effect that gluten has on this, is it affects the enzyme that is required to convert glutamates to GABA. You end up developing antibodies to it if there’s any gluten sensitivity at all. So if you develop antibodies to that enzyme, you can’t use that enzyme properly, you can’t break down your glutamate to GABA, and you end up with excess glutamate.

We also know that inflammation increases glutamates. So it’s going to have the result of affecting behavior, moods, anxiety level, sleep. We know that the more inflammation there is, the higher the glutamate level is in the brain.

“the more inflammation there is, the higher the glutamate level is in the brain.”


These are some things that can help promote GABA function. They don’t actually increase GABA, but they assist with the functioning of GABA.

  • Valerian
  • Kava
  • American ginseng, which is different from Panax ginseng
  • L-Theanine
  • Taurine
  • That’s why if you take magnesium in the evening it’s quite a good thing to help you sleep
  • Serotonin, or the precursor to serotonin which is 5-Hydroxytryptophan
  • P5P, which is active B6

Anti Inflammatory Foods


Let’s have a look at the foods that can help turn all that inflammation around, or dampen that inflammatory response. These are our top foods, which you have just been snacking on. A wide range of herbs and spices. This is what I love about using food as medicine, you’ve got a whole medicine cabinet in your kitchen. Herbs and spices are particularly nutrient dense, they have tons of phytochemicals in there. These have been studied around the world. There’s a great website, Go on there and search for your favorite spice, and you’ll no doubt come up with some studies on medicinal effects.

  • Organic blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Raspberries
  • Acai berry
  • Coconut oil
  • Green tea
  • Eggs
  • Cod liver oil
  • Caviar
  • Enzymes and probiotics, of which fermented foods, one of my favorite things
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Omega 3s found in oily fish
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia
  • Cruciferous veggies.


For the herbs and spices, as I mentioned, there’s tons of studies done on a multitude of different herbs and spices. And if we look at all the common ones used in curries for example, we have all these amazing spices that traditionally may have been used for preserving the food for the antimicrobial activity, but part of the reason that they preserve foods is because they’re also fantastic antioxidants as well.

  • Galangal
  • Anise
  • Red chili
  • Cardamom
  • Turmeric
  • Licorice
  • Fenugreek
  • Clove

I could have a list twice as long as this, but there are hundreds, if not thousands of studies. There are thousands of studies on these actually, showing their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects, so much so that in certain hospitals around the world some of these spices are actually being used in anticancer treatments as well, because of their anti-inflammatory functions.

“in certain hospitals around the world some of these spices are actually being used in anti-cancer treatments as well, because of their anti-inflammatory functions.”

Turmeric is probably the most widely studied spice on the planet. There are over 3,000 studies on this one alone, and about half of those are involved in cancer studies as well. So it’s an amazing anti-inflammatory, it’s neuroprotective, it’s antioxidant, and it’s great for the liver as well. So, when there are detoxification issues going on, turmeric provides excellent support there.

Turmeric curcumin reduces arsenic in rice

That’s why I popped the turmeric in those coconut turmeric bites, because I think the more things you can get turmeric in your diet, the better. Not only that, but a lot of the active constituents in turmeric are fat-soluble. That means you want to eat it with something fatty, so that you can actually get the benefit of those compounds. And in those bites, there is also pepper, because studies also show that pepper increases the bioavailability of the active ingredients in turmeric as well.

Ginger is particularly fantastic when there’s respiratory inflammation going on. So think of things like asthma, and bronchitis, and allergies.


Vitamin D. We live in a sunny country, but it’s incredible the rate of vitamin D deficiency, if not, stark deficiency, even just the rate of sub-optimal vitamin D levels is huge in this country. Slip, slop, slap we’ve certainly taken too far. You don’t want to be out there getting singed, but we do need some good sun exposure.

We also are not getting as much vitamin D through our diets these days either, because of the recent fat-phobia in the last few decades. And we know, with low vitamin D we see increasing rates of inflammatory disorders, autoimmune disorders, gut disorders, things like that.

“with low vitamin D we see increase rates of inflammatory disorders, autoimmune disorders, gut disorders.”

Also depression, like seasonal affective disorder in countries that don’t get a lot of sunshine, very well documented. That’s because vitamin D levels start to drop.

Sources of vitamin D:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Ghee if you’re avoiding all dairy solids
  • Fats from pastured animals
  • Eggs
  • Caviar
  • Getting sunshine on your skin without sun cream, very important
  • Pork fat is the highest source of vitamin D out of pastured animals as well, so if you’ve got some grass-fed pork belly, you can get a good dose


Chia seeds. Everyone knows about chia seeds these days. You’ve got your little berry chia puddings there, so you’ve got a double hit with your anti-inflammatories in terms of the chia seeds and the berries, which we’ll touch on in a minute.

As you can see here, it’s a rich source of your Omega 3 fatty acids. It helps improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, so when there are problems with blood sugar regulation that’s incredibly important. It helps reducing the visceral adipose tissue, so that’s the fat around abdominal organs. Usually more an issue in adults than kids, but these days there’s actually quite a bit in kids as well. And reduces heart and liver inflammation.

There’s been particular studies on it in terms of things like colitis and peritonitis, which with ASD communities there’s a huge rate of inflammatory digestive issues going on, so this is potentially a therapeutic tool in those situations.



I could do a whole talk just about probiotics and inflammation. There are certain strains, particularly the Lactobacillus family, that have been very well studied and quite a lot of them have very potent anti-inflammatory activity.

So once again, really important to make sure that you have good bugs growing in your guts. Probably heard it today, but we’re outnumbered ten to one by microbes, ten times as many of them, living in you and on you as there are human cells. So you’re all more bug than human, and you want to make sure you’re playing host to the right ones. And the way you do that is much like human real estate. The better nick your body is in, the better tenants you’re going to get. So you want to create a good environment. Louis Pasteur said on his deathbed it’s all about the terrain. So we want to get the terrain in good nick, and then we’re going to get good tenants moving in.

“We’re outnumbered ten to one by microbes, ten times as many of them living in you and on you as there are human cells. So you’re all more bug than human, and you want to make sure you’re playing host to the right ones.”



As I mentioned before, are found particularly in in all fruits, but tropical fruits like papaya, pawpaw, and pineapple are particularly high, and the enzymes from those are some of the most well studied as well. That’s Papain and Bromelain.

Sauerkraut and other fermented veggies. This is one of my favorite reasons for using them, are incredibly high in enzymes. When there’s digestive issues like constipation, or diarrhea, or malabsorption, because you are unable to break down your foods better, it’s amazing how introducing, starting off with small amounts first, but introducing fermented foods in your diet can really resolve a lot of general digestive symptoms. You then may need to do some more focus work for chronic and severe conditions, but it’s a really important part of the picture.

“introducing fermented foods in your diet can really resolve a lot of general digestive symptoms.”


Coconut oil. So many people using it now, these days, which is fantastic. It’s got anti-inflammatory, anti-fever, and pain relieving properties to it. It’s also antifungal as well, so it’s good for when you’re trying to deal with yeast overgrowth, to incorporate that in your diet.

Catechins are compounds found in quite a range of plants. From green tea to cacao. Cacao I don’t recommend for kids. Far too stimulating, particularly if they’re already a bit too stimulated.

  • Garlic
  • Red grape skins
  • Berries
  • Cherries and their similar compounds.

Many of you would have heard about resveratrol, which is why you have your glass of wine each evening.

Quercetin as well, found in things like onions and a lot of other fruits and veggies is an important anti-inflammatory.

More phytochemicals, so plant chemicals basically. There’s polyphenols found in a lot of fruits, veggies, barks, roots, and teas. These are things that can actually help with mitochondrial function as well, so all the little energy organs in each of your cells. We often see problems with mitochondrial function in ASD, in digestive disorders, or under-methylators, so having lots of these polyphenols in your diet is a really important support for your mitochondria as well. Also, to help regulate your glutamate uptake, so that you’re not getting overly stimulated. So lots of plants in your diet.

Blueberries amongst the berries. Blueberries are probably king of the lot. There’s an incredible wealth of research on these being neuro-protective, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, and helping to slow down age-related neuronal decline. Good for all of us to be having plenty of.

“There’s an incredible wealth of research on Blueberries being neuro-protective, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation”

Blueberries - neuro-protective

Tart cherries as well have actually been shown to be as effective as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory when the juice or extract has been used.


Ghee is a fantastic source of a fatty acid called butyric acid. And butyric acid is what’s in a normal, healthy functioning bowel. It’s produced by E-coli. We often hear about bad E-coli a lot of the times, but there’s also good E-coli as well, and it makes up a large proportion of the bacteria in the bowel. It produces short chain fatty acids such as butyric acid for us, and that butyric acid then feeds all the cells that line the colon, keeping them nice and healthy, and keeping those junctions nice and tight. So In terms of reducing inflammation in the gut, it’s actually a really useful tool, especially if you do a stool sample for example, and the results come back with low E-coli. It’s one of the ways to up the butyric acid, to be able to feed the colonocytes, the colon cells.

Camu-camu and gubinge are two incredibly high sources of vitamin C. Most commonly found in powdered form, although depending on where you are, you may find fresh or frozen gubinge, which is kakadu plum. So it’s Australian native, and it’s the highest source of vitamin C that we know of at this point in time on the planet.

“(Gubinge is an) Australian native, and it’s the highest source of vitamin C that we know of at this point of time on the planet.”

This is one of the beauties of using plants for medicine as well, or food for medicine for that matter. We’re not using isolated ingredients. Things come in packages. They’ve got related compounds, and they work in synergy with each other. So rather than just having vitamin C, you’re getting vitamin C plus bioflavonoids, plus polyphenols, and everything working nicely together. As a result, you get a much higher therapeutic effect from a much smaller dose when you’re using the real food, rather than an isolated substance.



And finally, sleep. This is all about eating away inflammation, but something that often gets forgotten is how important sleep is. And if we’re not getting adequate sleep, then that just sets us up for all sorts of inflammatory disarray. Get your GABA up, you know how to now, and have a good night’s sleep.

What to eat, in summary

Fresh live foods, so you don’t get much more alive than your fermented foods, so I highly encourage including those in your diet.

Antioxidant-rich food, which are your brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Of course, if there salicylate sensitivities, that can pose a problem. You’ve got to do a bunch of microbe and liver work first before you can start upping those. Wonderful things like the camu-camu and gubinge. Your herb and spice cabinet. Use them prolifically. Blueberries, cherries, and raspberries.

And then we’ve got the coconut oil, the ghee, the chia seeds, the fish. All those beautiful nice fatty foods. Your vitamins, A, C, E and D. Green tea and polyphenols. And start playing around with herb teas a little bit as well. I encourage you to get really beautiful good quality dried herbs from places like Highland Herbs. They’ve got a website. And Southern Light Herbs, rather than teabags. It’s totally different having good quality herbs as opposed to teabags. When people say, “I don’t like herb teas,” and they’ve only tasted teabags, I’ll say, “I don’t blame you.”

Then we want to make sure other things that are outside of food, improving your insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon is fantastic for that, as well as the chia seeds. Sit less and play more. Address any organ dysfunction going on. And breathe deeply, meditate, and sleep.

And a big thank you to GPA Wholefoods who made your fermented veggies today. And thank you very much.

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