Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger: In Conversation with Mitali Kapila, RD

Tune in to our latest podcast episode featuring Mitali Kapila from Vitality Nutrition! We’re diving into the impact of inflammation on our lives and aging parents. Discover how personalized nutrition can combat health issues and promote a healthier lifestyle. Let’s unlock the secrets to living longer, healthier lives together!

Watch Part 1 of this Podcast Episode or Read the full transcript below:

Chris: It’s my pleasure to welcome back a very special guest, Mitali Kapila, a dedicated expert in nutrition and holistic health, from Vitality Nutrition. Mitali specializes in harnessing the power of a personalized approach and combats health issues for a lot of our community members. So, today we are going to enlighten how inflammation can impact our lives, and many of our parents lives as well, too, that are aging at home. Now, there are the high risks that poses as we age and we see, and a diet and lifestyle can be a key way to be able to help manage inflammation. So, sit back and relax, and let’s get ready to learn more how we can help each other and have a healthier lifestyle.

Mitali: Absolutely.

Chris: Great. And so, Mitali, for our new friends in our audience, can we have a brief introduction of your experience in holistic nutrition and why it’s particularly crucial for our aging community.

Mitali: So, I’m a registered dietitian with extensive experience in holistic nutrition. That means we look at the root cause of the problem versus putting a band aid on the symptoms or just kind of managing the symptoms. So, we want to find out why there is a health problem, why there are symptoms, and I work on fixing that why.

So that is the whole difference between functional or integrative nutrition versus just a conventional approach. So why it is important is that because there are two aspects that I wanted to kind of bring your attention to, right? One is lifespan and one is health span. Okay? So, our seniors not only want to have a longer lifespan, but you want it to be a healthier health span, right? You want to live longer, but you want to live healthy. No one wants to check in into a nursing home, right?

So, there are certain things that are going to really really be very important in helping them keep that goal.

Chris: So, let’s start off for the listeners to help them out with. Thank you for that. I know it’s important to make sure if you’re going to live this life and love, live long, live healthy, and do everything you want to do. And I know that, you can explain to us and our listeners what inflammation is in, in simple terms.

Mitali: So, there are two kinds of inflammation. So, inflammation is a buzzword these days. It’s very important to understand there are two kinds of inflammation. One is good and one is not so good. Okay, so the good inflammation is the acute inflammation. That is, if you fall down, your skin turns red, and that’s the acute inflammation. Or you got sick, you got a virus or a bacteria that’s invading your body, or you get bronchitis that is, anything that ends with an itis, that’s acute inflammation.

So that is your body’s immune system fighting that infection. You want that process to happen that’s acute. The problem happens when that acute inflammation, that infection is over, but there is still inflammatory cells doing their thing in their body, and they’re lingering around, and that creates a chronic inflammatory condition. So that chronic inflammation then becomes the root cause of all of our disease conditions like heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, all of them. The root cause is that chronic inflammation. So, that’s why it’s very important that we address that, especially for our seniors.

Chris: Yeah, good to know. There’s two types. And so how does inflammation affect our body differently as we age versus someone that’s young versus who is aging in population.

Mitali: So, there is this term that I love to use and talk about, and that term is called inflammaging. Okay. I didn’t make it up. There is actually a term like that defined by NIH. So, NIH defines that term, inflammaging. So, it’s not about that number, that birthday, that how old you are, it’s about how old your cells are. Okay. So, the kind of lifestyle you lead really determines how old you are in terms of how inflamed your cells are. If your cells are very crusty and inflamed, you have progressed in your aging process.

And you can have a senior citizen who can still be having, has led a very healthy lifestyle, and their cells are very healthy, and they haven’t aged as much. So, they don’t have as much inflammaging going on versus somebody who’s not so old per calendar years, but their aging has progressed far more than their actual age is.

Chris: If you are at a young age and you had less inflammation and going into your aging population, probably setting your cells up. Right, or as you age, does all cells typically fail and cause inflammation that doesn’t react correctly?

Mitali: Correct. So, we have to start this at a very. As early as possible. And even if you are a senior citizen and you can still start it, you can catch it, you can empower yourself with knowledge and do whatever the best you can. I think anybody can start this lifestyle at any time.

Chris: So, no matter what, even if inflammation is not good at all, but if you try to start young and control your inflammation, it’s better for when you age.

Mitali: Exactly. Yes. Then you will not. You will be whatever that age that you are, but you are going to be much younger.

Chris: I’m learning something today as you know, as Mitali is my dietitian as well, too. So, I learn as I interact with our power partners. And so, could you break down the types of diseases linked to chronic inflammation?

Mitali: Yes. So, all of our preventable diseases, chronic conditions that you are going to the doctor for – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, prediabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, any gut related issues like irritable bowel or ulcerative colitis, then we have dementia, Alzheimer’s, all of them are linked to MS. MS, yes. Fibromyalgia, MS, all of the autoimmune conditions as well. So, they are all linked to this chronic inflammation and inflammaging.

Chris: Yeah.

Mitali: So, someone can be, like I said, they may not be old or have an advanced age, they are younger. But if they are very inflamed, their inflammaging years are further more than somebody who’s older but is doing really good with their lifestyle.

Chris: And so, diet, I’m assuming, is something that we’re going to say that we need to measure and scale to control… Our inflammation, I’m assuming.

Mitali: Diet and Lifestyle, top two!

Chris: And so, diet and lifestyle, top two. And so how does diet contribute to the level of our inflammation? You said that it’s strong. Right. And so is your lifestyle. But what you eat is how you feel, you’re saying.

Mitali: What you eat is how you age, and how your lifespan is, how your health span is. So, the lifespan is very much, we can say, to a large extent, is controlled by genetics. But health span is something that’s controlled by your lifestyle.

So, genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.

Chris: Very well said. And so, now, let’s talk about our aging parents. And so, a lot of our aging parents can say, oh, I am achy, I’m in pain all the time. How can I control that? We are going to talk to them, first thing is about their lifestyle, and let’s talk about their nutrition. Right. And so, if they can get that in order, maybe we can say inflammation can decrease.

Mitali: Yes, absolutely. So, when we talk about diet and lifestyle, we’ll start with the diet first. So, with the diet, you want to take kind of like a deep dive into what you are eating and consuming and what you have been doing historically and how you feel. So, you’re achy and all of this. These are all telltale signs and symptoms of lot of chronic inflammation going on, whether you have chronic conditions already that have been diagnosed or they are not diagnosed, but you could be on the spectrum. Like, you feel like you have all the symptoms, but you don’t have a full-blown diagnosis yet. That is really is the best time to kind of just get started, do an evaluation of what is it that you are putting into your body on a consistent basis.

Chris: That’s exactly what next we wanted to dive into. What are the particular fruit groups that are known to cause lots of inflammation?

Mitali: Yes. So, I’m going to talk about those key things that you are putting in your body consistently that are kind of feeding that bucket or filling up that inflammatory bucket. So those foods are called pro inflammatory foods. Okay. So, we’re going to talk about what those pro inflammatory foods.

Chris: It’s the peanuts I ate last night.

Mitali: The peanuts and the processed bar.

Chris: She got mad at me last night. I got into trouble; she said stop eating the peanuts.

Mitali: You saw a little. I checked it out. Not a thumbs up.

Chris: Not good. You weren’t happy.

Mitali: Yes, exactly. So those are the kind of foods that you’re putting in because those peanuts are usually not just peanut, they are fried in some kind of an oil. So deep fried foods.

So those would be a pro inflammatory food. Deep fried foods like French fries. And eating animal products that are not grass fed or pasture raised. Because if the animal had an inflammatory feed, then you’re going to eat that inflammation from that meat. So, it’s very important to be aware of that. So, when you’re going out to eat and you’re eating out all the time at a restaurant, you may feel that you’re ordering something healthy like a chicken salad. But if that chicken is not …

Chris: Do many restaurants have grass fed, though? Is that very… it’s very common.

Mitali: It’s not very common. So, the bottom line is you got to buy pasture raised, grass fed meat and then cook it at home.

Chris: So don’t eat meat from out.

Mitali: That’s a good rule of thumb if you have all that inflammation going on.

Chris: Same for fish?

Mitali: Fish should be wild cod. So go for a vegetarian option if you’re eating out.

Because cod would need to be wild cod.

Chris: Is there a specific type of fish you recommend when eating out?

Mitali: Wild caught salmon. And if you go to…

Chris: Can they have fried, anything?

Mitali: Yes. So deep fried foods, those are pro inflammatory oils. So, then they are frying that same food in that same oil over and over again. That oil reaches a temperature, and it starts producing something called free radicals. Okay? So that free radicals, when you are consuming those, they cause something called oxidative damage in your arteries. That oxidative damage is again, the precursor to that inflammation.

Chris: So bad.

Mitali: So let me just go ahead and list out those foods that are pro inflammatory. Ultra processed foods that are incoming in package, when you look at the ingredients, it’s got like very chemically sounding names, right? For example, a prime, very common example is peanut butter, because we might think that peanut butter is very healthy. But when you were buying a peanut butter from a grocery store, look at the label. And even sometimes organic peanut butter, look at the label. If it’s got peanut butter, it’s got peanut oil, it’s got salt, it’s got sugar, it’s got palm oil, it’s got high fructose corn syrup. All these words. So peanut butter should be peanut butter only, maybe a little bit of salt. None of those added ingredients.

Chris: So, when we are searching for peanut butter at whole foods, you want zero all across the board, nothing in it.

Mitali: But peanuts.

Chris: Just peanuts.

Mitali: Exactly. Right.

Chris: Is there such a thing?

Mitali: Yes. There is such a thing. You want to stay away from ultra processed foods. Right. So, you want to stay away from the ultra processed foods. You want to stay away from. Sugar is a big one. Added sugar. Added sugar, refined sugar in all forms, especially the high fructose corn syrup. The poor-quality fats, the high omega six fats, and then trans fats are a big no no. So those industrially processed fats, they do sneak in into a lot of packaged foods. Again, so those omega six.

Chris: And if someone wants a guide, they can reach out to you to get all the list of things to avoid.

Mitali: So, our toolkit has that entire list.

Chris: You have a toolkit, yeah, exactly. So that’s kind of what we’ll dive into another time. But we can always reach out to Mitali about.

So how significant is the role of hydration? Drinking water, in Inflammation. Does that help?

Mitali: Absolutely. So, you want to drink at least eight to ten cups of water, and anything that’s non caffeinated will also contribute towards your total hydration for the day. So, for example …

Chris: Black Coffee…

Mitali: Black coffee is out. Black coffee is not non caffeinated. I said non caffeinated. So, like your herbal teas. If you’re drinking herbal tea, that will count towards the hydration. If you’re doing electrolytes, that will count towards hydration plus water. So, I always have a water bottle going with me. I never leave the house without my stainless-steel water bottle. So, you want to keep sipping on a lot of water all day. Why that is important for inflammation is because it flushes the toxins out. It flushes those pro inflammatory materials and toxins out of your body. So that’s why hydration is important.

Chris: Okay. Yeah. And so, lifestyle. Let’s talk about that. So, you said the combination of food and lifestyle, it matters.

Mitali: So, I’m going to talk about top two things that are important for lifestyle. Number one is stress. So, I’m not saying that you just kind of live in an igloo or move to the Himalayas and kind of make yourself …

Chris: Get rid of all the things that happen in the world.

Mitali: Yes, you can get rid of your situation and circumstances, but you can, what’s in your control is to regulate that stress response. That’s totally in your control. And in my toolkit, I have listed those very simple things that you can do in your life. For example, get up and do a simple five-minute breathing, breath work, exercise, okay? That will help you regulate your stress response. You cannot control what’s not in your control, but you can do what’s in your control, and that is to regulate your stress response. So that is one, you’ve got to regulate your stress response. We are all surrounded with chronic stress and that chronic stress is feeding the chronic inflammation. It’s an epidemic. So that’s one. The number two lifestyle factor is sleep, right. We cannot be sleep deprived. Sleep for just under 5 hours and call it a night. Because if you don’t sleep, that is, sleep is when your body is resetting itself. You do want to have …

Chris: What’s the average?

Mitali: 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. You must aim for that and have a really good sleep routine, so you are able to get that good sleep. Okay. So, if you have disturbed sleep, that’s another whole topic of that could be like a high cortisol waking you up in the middle of the night. Stress is one thing, sleep. And the third most modifiable lifestyle factor is movement.

So, exercise and movement. It does not mean that you have to over exercise. There is some such thing as over exercise. If you over exercise, it’s actually pro inflammatory. But you have to see what is that best kind of a middle ground for you?

Chris: Something that you enjoy to stay active.

Mitali: You enjoy, you stay active.

Chris: It could be pickleball, it could be going outside, or walking around the neighborhood or spending that half an hour going to the gym.

Mitali: You got to move. Right, exactly. Whatever that is.

Chris: It doesn’t have to be the gym though.

Mitali: No, you can take your dog for a walk. You can walk around your house, whatever it is, weather permitting, that you can do. There are lots of at home exercises you can do. There’s a lot of resources. I’m sure you know those resources and you share that a lot about the resources that people can do as at home activity as well.

Chris: So, lifestyle, eating, hydration. Right? How about modifications in the diet? Now we have to make changes. Right? So, what are you suggesting for someone to right now to make a change today?

Mitali: So, change today would be like, we already discussed the things that cause that inflammation. So right now, we’re going to talk about few things that you should start incorporating in your diet that is anti inflammatory.

This whole thing is about anti inflammation, not pro inflammation.

So, things that you can start doing today is start cooking at home. Okay. So, we got to have that cooking at home, because going out to eat or grabbing out or unplanned meals is going to lead to pro inflammatory foods going into you, right. So, start cooking at home. So, focus on omega three rich foods versus omega six rich foods. So, omega three rich foods would be things like walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, salmon, cod, tuna, right. Pasture raised; grass fed animal proteins. Eggs. So, these are all omega three sources of omega three. And then avocados, avocado oil, olives, olive oils, these are all sources of omega three fats. So, you want to start incorporating these versus the deep fried and high omega six or trans fat rich foods, right.

Chris: Love it.

Mitali: So that is one. Secondly, start using herbs and spices in your meals. Like herbs and spices. Like, the number one is turmeric. Turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, oregano, rosemary, all of these. Cumin.

Chris: Is there a bad spice or all good?

Mitali: They’re all good, but the source matters, right. Because sometimes, again …

Chris: You don’t want to have too much salt though in the spice.

Mitali: So, the spices and herbs are spices and herbs. Now, if you buy a blend like a taco seasoning, it may be loaded with sodium. So, you do want to see where you’re purchasing. You want to read the label. Again, we have all of this in our toolkit, like, listed exactly what you should be getting.

We talked about the healthy fats. So, incorporating healthy fats, like the omega three rich fats, we talked about herbs and spices. Then we want to talk about leafy greens like phytonutrient rich fruits and vegetables. Very important because they have all those anti-inflammatory properties.

Chris: All vegetables are good?

Mitali: All vegetables, all fruits, so, get them in.

Chris: Coz sometimes we hear like, oh, you should limit your fruit because it has sugar in it. Is that a myth? How do you feel about that comment that people say that fruit is, too much fruit is not good.

Mitali: Too much fruit is not good. You cannot be eating too. There can be too much fruit. A lot of people find, like, they don’t like vegetables or making vegetables or their access to vegetables is limited. So, they turn to eating fruit all the time. That can lead to insulin resistance and the sugar issues. So, we can’t do like fruit all the time. But again, is fruit better than doing that sugar laden candy or the candy that you’re eating? Yes, that’s a natural sugar.

Chris: That’s a good supplement if you had to have something and you have sweet tooth, have an apple.

Mitali: Have a fresh fruit. Yes.

Part 2 of this episode releases next Friday!