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June 8, 2022 11 mins

Understanding how nutrition plays a big role in self-care can be valuable for maintaining all types of good habits. For Dr. Monica Aggarwal, there was no choice but to alter her eating habits after arthritis drastically changed her life. By exploring both the stressors and positive resources in our lives, Dr. Aggarwal has redefined her medical practice to treat the whole patient and understand how food affects inflammation in our bodies. Touching on simple ways to improve our eating habits and how those small changes produce greater harmony in the body, she shares advice on how to take self-care to the next level. This episode is a shorter version of our conversation with Dr. Aggarwal made for a shorter walk. 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:02):
Hi everyone. I'm Holly Robinson, pete actor, author, advocate, do
it All mom, and I'm also a caregiver. And this
is care Walks, a podcast from my Heart Radio and
volterin Arthritis Pain Gel. It's a show for family caregivers
who give everything to everyone and need to make time
for themselves through movement. Every episode is designed for you

to walk as you listen, so just think of me
and my guests as your weekly walking buddies. We'll hear
stories from caregivers and gain tips and insights from health
experts and advocates who know how important it is to
take care of yourself and manage joint pain due to
arthritis that often accompanies being a caregiver. Together, we'll find

community ourselves and maybe even alleviate some joint pain in
the process as we walk together and connect to the
best parts of being a caregiver. Hello, fellow caregivers, Welcome
back to care Walks. Thanks for joining us again, and
I hope you're finding time to take care of you too.

As a reminder, right now you're listening to the abridged
version of this episode, but if you're looking to get
a little extra inspiration, don't miss a minute. Check out
the full length version of this episode in your podcast feed.
So now that's taken care of, I want to spend
this episode learning about the role diet and nutrition play
in combating joint pain and improving our quality of life.

To help us better understand how our self care can
be applied to the kitchen, I've invited Dr Monica Agarwall
to join me on today's episode. Dr Agarwall is an
adjunct clinical Associate Professor of medicine in the University of
Florida Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. She's been conducting research on
the impact of diet on everything from physical fitness to

mental health. I'm really looking for or to talking to
Dr Agarwall about her work and learning about how we
might be able to use diet to treat the symptoms
of our joint pain. But before I share today's conversation,
let's set out on today's walk. As you walk, take

some time to reflect what has brought you peace in
your body today. This moment could be anything from a
tight hug, to your morning stretch, or the taste of
a nourishing meal. Carry that piece with you through our

walk today. I want you to think about all the
aspects of our health that help us stay powerful and strong.
And as you set your pace for the duration of
the walk, we're going to dig into some comple nutrition
strategies that can go a long way in helping us

protect our joints from the inside out. Today I am
joined by Dr Monica ager Wall, an adjunct Clinical Associate
Professor of Medicine in the University of Florida Division of
Cardiovascular Medicine. Dr Agarwall's book Body on Fire, How Inflammation
Triggers chronic Illness and the Tools we have to Fight

it outlines prescriptions to help guide people to better health.
And now she has a cookbook, Body on Fire, Anti
Inflammatory Cookbook, Your Guide to eating plant foods that Fight Disease.
Dr Agarwall, thank you so much for joining us today.
It's my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
Tell me what first got you interested in studying nutrition.

You know, I am Indian by birth, so maybe my
whole life, my mom told me to eat turmeric or
you know that I would do better if I slept more,
or to you know, eat more kuman and mango powder
because it was going to help me with this or that.
And so I always sort of grew up in that
kind of space and when I was in fellowship. So
in training for cardiology, you go to medical school, and

then I also did an integrative medicine fellowship, so I
was always interested in integrative practices try to maybe I
don't know the combination of east and west, but it
really didn't kind of hit home for me until I
myself became sick. So when I finished my fellowship, I
decided to have children. And when I got pregnant, it
was the most amazing thing. But I decided that, oh

my gosh, I you know, I'm older now I want
to have all these kids. So I had three kids
within four years. Four months after I had baby number three,
I started manifesting joint pain and it started with a
finger and it migrated to my knees and my shoulders.
And within a week of my diagnosis, I was told
that I needed to stop nursing my kid and get
on these medications. And that's a humbling feeling. And I

remember this feeling of being small and being told that
there was I had an incurable illness and I needed
to get on medications. There was no way I was
going to come off. So I just needed to accept that.
And that's interesting for a doctor because I thought, you know,
it's not that I embrace medications. I was trained with medications.
But isn't there another way? Isn't there other things? Aren't
there other things that we can do to make our

bodies better? So I started on a path of learning
about how lifestyle impacts your body. I met a woman
who said, maybe your nutrition is bad, and it's ironic
because I was vegetarian. And I was probably a jerk
to her because I said, like, oh, yeah, no, I'm vegetarian.
I got this, but I was an unhealthy vegetarian as
many of us are. What does that mean? An unhealthy vegetarian?

Stop right there? Yeah, yes, a good question. I feel
seen right now. So tell me what that tell me
what that means? Well, that's a that's a good question.
And so there are many people who call themselves vegan
or vegetarian that eat a lot of unhealthy foods. And
to be fair, veganism is often an ethical choice and
not necessarily a health choice. But we have to remember

that there any vegetarian and vegan foods that are not
super healthy. Doctors actually get very little education and nutrition,
so it took me years of training after my training
to learn how to educate people and how to heal
my BWn body. And so I had to learn a
lot about the impact of what we eat, how dairy
infects your body, how fats affect your body, how all

of this stuff triggers inflammation, How inflammation triggers illness. So
let's talk inflammation, because I know you know a lot
about that. What exactly is inflammation? How does food contribute
to or combat it? Yeah, so inflammation. I always described
to people that inflammations like your body is mad at you.

That's why the title of the book is called Body
on Fire. And I always describe it to people as
that your life is full of stresses and resources. And
just think about the stresses in your life. Well, there
are lots of them, but then they are all these
resources too, and that's something that we forget. And there's
all these resources like how the clean eating, there's sleep,
there's movement, there's gratitude, journaling. You brought up nutrition, and

so what we're focused on in terms of nutrition. Gosh,
there's so many things you can do with your diet
and people don't realize, like, wait, what, there's so much
you can do absolutely. So there's all these toxins we
put in our body right now, and some of those
toxins are things like refined foods and processed foods. And
what happens with all those refined foods is that they
go inside your body and they activate your insulin, your

sugar levels go up, and they process really fast, and
they're actually the foods that give you the high and low.
So if just think about, for instance, you worked all
day and then at midday whatever, you go to lunch
with your friends, you go to Olive Garden or something
like that, and maybe I shouldn't have said all of
garden by some restaurant like that, and then I know.
And then you you eat like a pasta meal which

has no fiber in it and it's loaded in cheese
and fat, and you eat the bread that comes with it.
And so people are like, oh my gosh, I'm so tired,
I'm not getting enough sleep. I know what I need.
I need more protein. Well, actually that's not the case
at all. Most of the time, it's neither of those
things that they just need to cut out their sugar.
So a lot of those refined foods and sugars are
source of inflammation. Another big sources animal fat unfortunately, and

mostly fried animal fat. Really, the foods that we want
people to eat our anti inflammatory. There are fruits that
are antioxidants, like blueberries and berries in general. There are
spices like turmeric that are super potent in anti inflammatory.
So all these things that you can do to combat
to take out those inflammatory foods, and you add back
some of that anti inflammatory food and boy, there you go.

You know, when you say refined sugars, it sounds a
lot like that is also carbohydrates. Is that accurate? So
our carves something that we should widely avoid. Oh, I'm
so glad you asked that because there's such a fear
of carbs and I kind of added to that just now,
and I appreciate you bringing that up. So, you know,
I think the thing that people need to realize is

that carbohydrates are this humongous bad of different things. And
there's complex caubohydrates and then they're simple carbohydrates. Well, complex
cobohydrates or foods that when you eat them you feel
full longer and you don't feel hungry. Well, those are
complex carbs like beans and keenoa and whole whole, whole
grains that don't have other additives in them. And so

when we tell people we want to avoid cobohydrates, we
want them to avoid those simple carbohydrates and refined carbohydrates.
Then those are things like your candies and your cookies
and your crackers and your sodas. Those are the foods
that we want people to avoid. Yes, a lot of
our audience are caregivers, and self love and self care

can just be such a challenge for many of them.
How do you approach nutrition with time boundaries? Like finding
fresh veggies, cooking whole really good meals, snacks on the go.
That's something that I know I struggled with. So a
couple of things you can do is pre cooking I'm
a huge fan of, So don't be embarrassed used frozen

food first of all, like embrace frozen foods, and then
batch cook like cook ahead of times. And the other
thing for snacks. You know, I carry those baby carrot
bags around, and I carry tubs of hummus around, and
I carry peanut butters or almond butters, which are really
good ways to get snacks. Those are sort of clever
ways to get them in very clever. Dr Monica Agarwalla

has been so awesome speaking with you. I have been
taking notes, but boy, this has this been very, very enlightening.
So I really appreciate talking to you today. Thank you
so much for joining us on care Walks and that
was an honor. Thank you so much, appreciate you having me.

I want to thank Dr agarwall again for being my
guest today. You know, I'm constantly learning about my own
habits and routine with each episode of this show, and
I hope you will take away some valuable lessons about
nutrition and for you and your family, and remember keep
walking and don't forget to take care of yourself too.

That's it for today's episode. Don't forget to join me
next week, when we talked to family caregiver Lakida Casting
about the importance of finding community to fend off isolation
when you're a caregiver. Care Walks is produced by I
Heart Radio and partnership with vol Teren Arthritis Pain Jael
and hosted by me Holly Robinson Pete. Our executive producer

is Molly Sosha. Our head engineer is Matt Stillo. This
episode was written and produced by Sierra Kaiser. With special
thanks to our partners at g s K Platform, GSK, Weber,
Shandwick and Edelman.
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