NEW HAVEN, Conn (WTNH) — Inflammation is a hot topic these days, but do we really understand what it means to be inflamed and its effect on our overall health? Two experts from POP Weight Loss in Old Saybrook help us understand nutrition’s impact on inflammation.

Joining us Saturday on Good Morning Connecticut, Donna Nucci, the owner of Pop Weight Loss and Kara Ganssle, the director of nutrition, talk to us all about anti-inflammatory foods and their health benefits.

When we think of inflammation we think of that time we sprained our ankle playing basketball. Our ankle turned red, began to swell and feel hot, we had a hard time moving it because of the pain. These symptoms are our body’s response to injury. The inflammatory response is meant to repair and heal.  There is a fine balance with inflammation.  It is meant to heal, but it can also become chronic and lead to disease.

Many factors can cause inflammation. The food we eat, the air we breathe, and our emotions can cause inflammation.  Prolonged exposure to toxins, allergens, and a poor diet are all factors.  Some foods can irritate the lining of our digestive tract and trigger GI disorders.  Lastly, chronic stress is big cause. When we are continually in the fight or flight response, stress hormones are being pumped through the bloodstream.  The body does not like having these hormones present at high levels, and the body can begin to fight against itself.

There are a few ways to know if you are inflamed. You have to take a minute to ask yourself a few questions: Are you stressed? Do you sleep enough? Are you an anxious person that can’t seem to calm down? Do you drink enough water? Are you eating enough during the day? Do you eat a lot of high sugar or carbohydrate laden meals? Many people will answer yes to all of these questions. At POP, they stress the importance of avoiding foods that will trigger inflammation and promoting foods that help it.

There are foods that should be either avoided or limited because of their effect on inflammation. One of the top foods is sugar.  Excess sugar intake will contribute to inflammation.  It’s not just the obvious sugar but also the hidden sugars. When we eat something that spikes our blood sugar the body has to produce more insulin which throws the body off balance and adds to inflammation.

The next is alcohol. The acid found in alcohol can cause inflammation of the esophagus.  The yeast found in alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach and the GI tract.  Repeated alcohol overuse can result in chronic inflammation and give rise to illness and cancers.

Refined grains should also be avoided. Studies have shown that high carbohydrate intake leads to greater inflammation risks and that goes back to the insulin response.  Avoiding anything white such as white bread, pasta, noodles, and pastries will help.

Anti-inflammatory foods promote a balanced body. As we mentioned earlier, inflammation is only bad when it gets out of control.  Certain foods can help keep the body balanced so inflammation can do its job, and then stop when it’s done.

Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation. To get the benefits, however, you need to eat fish several times a week, and it should be cooked in healthy ways.  If you don’t like fish, try supplementing with a high quality fish-oil supplement.

Another source of inflammation-fighting healthy fats is nuts-particularly almonds, which are rich in fiber, calcium, and vitamin E, and walnuts, which have high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat. All nuts, though, are packed with antioxidants, which can help your body fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation.

Extra virgin olive oil is also used to treat inflammation.  To reap the benefits, use olive oil as a condiment with your meals.

All fruits can help fight inflammation, because they’re low in fat and calories and high in antioxidants. But berries, especially, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties-possibly because of anthocyanins, the powerful chemicals that gives them their rich color.

Ginger and turmeric have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.  Both spices can add a lot of dimension to meals.

To watch the full interview, click on the video above. For more information, you an visit their website