Beauty expert Dr Amy Shah on how to beat bloating and keep the extra weight off
This New York-based immunologist's holistic methods involve clean eating and intermittent fasting
BY Trisha Chawla | August 16th, 2018
If you’ve been struggling to achieve your health goals, follow Dr Amy Shah on Instagram (@dramyshah) for some honest advice. The New York-based immunologist’s holistic methods involve clean eating and intermittent fasting to balance hormones, strengthen the gut, and reach peak mind and body health. After years of practicing nutrition and immunology, it was a personal scare in 2012 that made Shah turn to Ayurveda. She has since become a renowned wellness expert, and last year, even partnered with pro make-up artist Bobbi Brown to create a wellness supplement line, Evolution_18. Here, Shah shares her top advice.
ELLE: What are the signs of an unhealthy body?
Amy Shah: Bad gut and hormonal health, weight or sleep issues all have two indicators: bloating and fatigue.
ELLE: What lifestyle changes do you suggest?
AS: When the mind is constantly active, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, which accelerates the heart rate. But a few minutes of meditation will relax your muscles, improve digestion and help your body repair itself. You can also try intermittent fasting about twice a week to give your cells a break, and to slow down the ageing process.
ELLE: What about the diet?
AS: Eliminate sugar, dairy, refined flour, soya flour, nuts and wheat from your diet for one month, and introduce them back slowly to understand what’s bothering you. And add fibre-rich foods like sweet potato that restore both gut and hormonal balance.
Recipe for gut health
Dr Shah’s roasted cauliflower soup is high in fibre, curbs inflammation, and packs in a vital amount of vitamins C and K1.
1. Coat small florets of cauliflower with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, pepper and coconut oil. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes at 350F.
2. Blend the cauliflower on medium-high. Add four cups of boiled water and stir till it’s silky. To make it creamy, add a teaspoon of coconut milk.
3. Heat on a low flame and season with cayenne pepper, thyme, paprika and turmeric. Serve with a side salad.
Naturally healing foods to add to your diet
How it heals: Remember learning about fibre as a kid? Well, chia seeds are loaded with it, along with essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, and can absorb up to 12 times their weight in water. And while the superfood may not treat a specific health ailment, we all know prevention is better than a cure. “Chia seeds are one of only a few plant sources of omega-3 fats, which can help protect the cardiovascular system. Chia seeds are also a dense source of fibre, which can help with digestion and lowering the risk of intestinal cancers. A high-fibre diet can also help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes,” says Chambers. “Chia seeds are [also] great for mood support,” adds Jessica Sepel, clinical nutritionist, author of The Healthy Life and wellness coach.
How to use it: Soak the seeds overnight in nut milk and wake from your slumber to a deliciously gooey chia pudding. “Soaked overnight helps to make some of the nutrients more available to the body,” explains Jeffries. Chia seeds are also a great alternative to eggs in baked treats ranging from cakes to loaves and muffins (hello vegan pancakes), working as a similar binding agent to that of eggs when added to liquid.
How it heals: Honey has been hailed for years as a natural healer–and for good reason. It’s a superhero against the common cold and flu as it strengthens the body’s white blood cells so they can better fight off disease. “Raw honey has wonderful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties to help support the overall health and wellbeing of the body. It is a great way to boost the immune system, and can also promote a restful sleep. A little bit of honey before bedtime can increase the amino acid tryptophan, which then converts to serotonin (happy hormone), and then to melatonin (sleep-promoting hormone),” explains Callaghan. “Manuka honey in particular has been shown to have antibacterial effects, which is thought to be due to its low pH level and high sugar content that hinders the growth of microbes. Raw honey also contains certain phytochemicals which reduce inflammation,” reveals Chambers.
How to use it: Enjoy a teaspoon before bed if you’re a struggling insomniac, drizzle some on your bland-tasting oats if that bout of the flu has killed your tastebuds, or make an immunity-boosting tonic of fresh ginger, lemon and honey to combat said flu.
How it heals: Adaptogens are at the forefront of most conversations on wellness trends, with maca taking the cake. Extracted from the root of the Peruvian lepidium meyenii plant and consumed in powder form, the ancient herb is a great hormone balancer, helping to ease PMS and research has shown it can even regulate common menopause symptoms. I’ll be honest; you have to build a tolerance to its flavour, much like green tea or beer. But hey, if Miranda Kerr swears by it, it’s well and truly worth a (not so tasty) shot. “I treat a lot of women for menopause symptoms and I always recommend dietary changes to help with reducing hot flushes and night sweats. There are quite a few foods that can be eaten at menopause to reduce symptoms: maca powder has been historically used,” explains Jeffries.
How to use it: “The general recommendations are around 1-2 teaspoons per day,” says Chambers. Add a teaspoon (perhaps start with half) to a bliss balls mixture before you pulse and roll, or to other sweet treats like slices. For an AM kickstart when there’s a hot flush on its way, blend some into your smoothie or if you’re riding the crimson wave, mix some maca into your morning oats to help regulate the dreaded symptoms. And if you just can’t tolerate the taste, “maca is also available in capsules,” adds Chambers.
How it heals: Battling chronic inflammation (read: pesky pimples, brain fog, poor memory, digestive issues) or other serious health conditions? Try some of the Ayurvedic-favourite turmeric. “Turmeric has been used for centuries for the prevention and treatment of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and autoimmune conditions,” says Jeffries. Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin, which is the anti-inflammatory powerhouse that is extracted and put into supplements. “There is good research to support the ability of curcumin to reduce cellular damage and risk of chronic disease; decrease pain and inflammation (effects have been shown to be similar to paracetamol); [and] it may reduce the risk of heart disease. Curcumin intake is also associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer and reduced symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis,” says Callaghan. And the most effective way to take it for medicinal purposes? “Supplementation is best, however consuming it regularly through turmeric is a wonderful way to obtain the healing properties,” continues Callaghan. “It may also help to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” adds Jaime Rose Chambers, accredited practising dietitian and nutritionist.
How to use it: “Turmeric is most commonly used as a powder or fresh (it looks a bit like ginger) in Indian cooking,” explains Chambers. But if curry isn’t your cup of tea, add it to your omelette or scrambled eggs, as well as your roast vegies. Trying to wean off coffee? Next time you need your fix, grab a golden latte (blend of turmeric, nut milk and other spices) instead, which is refreshingly without the energy slump. “Be sure to pair turmeric with black pepper to enhance the absorption of curcumin within the body,” adds Callaghan. “If you find it hard to get into your diet, it can also be taken in a capsule,” continues Chambers.
How it heals: Now there’s even more reasons to tuck into that tasty garlic naan with your turmeric curry, as according to Sepel, “garlic is an amazing natural antibiotic”. And the humble plant bulb is equally loved by Jeffries. “Garlic is an antimicrobial herb, which means it can kill off the bugs that cause colds and flus. If you feel you are coming down with a cold, garlic is a powerful remedy, especially raw,” says Jeffries.
How to use it: Add a few cloves to your Sunday roast, or use it as a base for soups, stews and sauces. And if you’re brave enough for the strong stuff, raw is best. “Cook up a batch of chicken or vegetable soup and then add a couple of cloves of raw garlic to the soup just before blending and eating. Try broccoli and garlic soup when you’re sick,” advises Jeffries.