Ask the Nutritionist | Shelby Hummel, MS, LN

By Shelby Olson, MS, LN
October 23, 2018

Our nutritionists get a lot of questions, and often they revolve around similar themes. We’ve captured those frequently asked questions, to help more people find relief and come to understand the power of real food. Without further ado, here are the insights that Shelby Hummel MS, LN shared on these topics: weight loss, anxiety, energy, knee and joint pain, and heartburn

What foods and supplements can help with heartburn? What foods make heartburn worse?

roastedvegetables.jpgWhat foods can help you find heartburn relief? I recommend cooked vegetables, especially ones that are easier to digest like root vegetables, spinach and cooked broccoli. Cooking those types of veggies in healthy fats, such as sautéed in butter or coconut oil or roasted in olive oil or ghee, makes them really tasty and even easier to digest.

The foods that make heartburn worse are sugar in all forms (foods with added sugar and processed carbs – pizza anyone? – that turn into sugar in your body), bread (another example of a processed carb that turns into sugar), and dairy. Surprisingly, processed corn can also be an irritant for some clients. I have a client who has been gluten free and eating less sugar for quite some time, which brought her heartburn relief. However, she occasionally has corn tortillas or corn chips and was surprised that her reflux and heartburn returned. As soon as she quit eating those items, her heartburn was gone. For some reason, these processed corn products still create inflammation and irritation for some people, even though they are marketed as gluten free.

If you’ve cut out these foods and are still having occasional problems there are a couple core supplements you can add for relief and to heal the lining of the intestinal tract. The Ultimate Acidophilus is my first recommendation for heartburn, ideally one or two capsules before bed. If you prefer a powder form, the NutriKey Dophilus Powder is a good option. I recommend ½ to 1 tsp. Finally, supplements nearly everyone can benefit from are Bifido (in capsule and powder form) and L-Glutamine (also in capsule and powder form) before meals; or whenever is easiest for you to remember to take them.

How do you respond to clients who ask “Will this help me lose weight?”

Nine times out of ten this question comes up in response to our recommendation of eating a protein, fat and carb at every meal and snack (or said another way, eating every three hours). My response is that it’s not about the number of calories you’re eating; it’s about the quality of nutrients you’re getting to support your metabolism. So while we’re recommending eating more food, it is nutrient-rich food. Changes in body weight are often a sign that the cells need more nutrients to function properly.

We recommend eating an animal protein, healthy fat and carb at every meal and snack. The combination of these foods is important; they work together.  When you cook your vegetables in fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil, bacon grease, avocado oil, etc.), you’re helping your body absorb the nutrients in those veggies, such as magnesium and calcium. When more nutrients get into your cells, they support energy production, and when you have more energy production, your cells are more efficient at everything, including breaking down fats for energy. Also, when you’re eating more vegetables, you’re supporting detoxification in the liver because veggies contain unique nutrients to help the liver get toxins out of the body. The liver plays an important role in breaking down fat and getting stored fat out of the body. 

What foods and supplements can help someone with knee or joint pain? What foods make knee and joint pain worse?

The first thing I recommend is to remove the top three inflammatory foods:  sugar, gluten and dairy. I ask people to experiment for four to six weeks to see if this makes a difference. You may not have an allergic reaction or digestive issues after eating those items, but that’s a great place to start.

Here’s a great example of how that food elimination experiment can help. I have a client who is open and honest about not being perfect, (no one is!) and since she removed the top three inflammatory foods she can go up and down the stairs without knee pain, a huge relief for her. However, on vacation after she had bread, even fish lightly battered in breadcrumbs, she had a significantly harder time going down stairs and had to take her time. Before, at home, she hardly gave the stairs a second thought. Her mobility suffered, even with a small amount of processed carbohydrates; that was a huge eye opener for her. Sometimes you have to make those connections for yourself to have them really stick. Food elimination helps people make those connections.

GettingSmartAboutFats_HealthyFats.jpgAs for what foods can help bring relief, I’d say healthy fats. Knees, ankles and hips are weight bearing so fats have a lubricating and supportive effect in keeping those joints hydrated. They also help prevent inflammation for people.

The first supplement I’d recommend is Kaprex, a great medicine-cabinet item for temporary pain relief for achy knees or feet. Use Kaprex instead of an Advil or ibuprofen, because many over-the- counter pain medications have side effects like damage to the stomach, esophagus, and small intestine; for example, GI [gastrointestinal] bleeding and ulcers. When used long term for pain relief, they can also set the stage for liver and kidney damage. Kaprex is a natural product made from the hops plant, so it is a safer choice for pain management.  Osteovantiv is another supplement that many of my clients with joint pain take. It includes the anti-inflammatory Kaprex, along with collagen that helps to support the bone-on-bone pain that people are experiencing. My clients with hip osteoarthritis love that product because it helps them feel better.

What foods and supplements can help curb anxiety?

eggs-spinnach-avacado-breakfast-640313216.jpgFirst, eating more frequently is key. I’ve found that many of my clients with anxiety tend to skip breakfast or just have a cup of coffee. That seems to set them up for an anxiety spiral later in the day. So a balanced breakfast of protein, fat and carbs is a great start.

For people with a busy, anxious brain, I love the product Calm Eze from NutriDyn.  It’s a combination of GABA and the amino acid called L-theanine, which helps with focus, calm and relaxation. I took it before giving blood, and it was just enough to help me take a deep breath and relax. A client of mine with a demanding job shared how much Calm Eze helped her go into a stressful day and keep her cool. Anyone taking a prescription sedative or anti-depressant should consult with their doctor before adding amino acid supplements.  

What can you eat (and not eat) to improve your energy?

DefiantChild_DeviledEggs.jpgFor energy, I recommend eating more protein throughout the day, not just at lunch or dinner. Most people have a dip in energy mid-afternoon, which is a great time to add more protein. One of my favorite snacks is deviled eggs and fruit, or a small apple with nut butter and a cheese stick. When energy dips mid-afternoon most people tend to grab caffeine or caffeine and sugar (latte, soda or something from the vending machine); these give a quick pick up but result in a bigger crash on the drive home from work or right before dinner. This means a groggy afternoon leads to a groggy night; not ideal. In addition to protein, it’s important to drink more water, because a dehydrated brain is a brain with poor energy.

I have a client who is a night nurse, a demanding and tiring job. She found that when she was eating more frequently, she didn’t experience those high and low energy waves. Having consistent nutrients coming from meals and snacks helped her energy stabilize.

For more FAQ nutritionist questions like “What’s your favorite client success story” and “What’s an easy meal when you’re in a pinch?” read Ask the Nutritionist | Melanie Beasley, RD, LD.

If you have your own question to ask our nutritionists, we invite you to schedule a phone or in-person consultation for one-on-one personalized support.

About the author

Shelby is a licensed nutritionist at Nutritional Weight & Wellness. Shelby grew up in the kitchen, surrounded by her mother's good food and a love for feeding others. After finding out she was gluten sensitive in her early 20's and paired with the stress and anxiety of college, Shelby was motivated to learn about nutrition. After feeding her body with real foods not only did her wavering moods and low energy improve, but her hormonal acne and rashes cleared up as well. Shelby is a licensed nutritionist through the Minnesota Board of Nutrition and Dietetics. She received her B.S. in Kinesiology & Health, specializing in exercise science from Iowa State University. Most recently she completed her M.S. in Applied Clinical Nutrition from New York Chiropractic College.

View all posts by Shelby Olson, MS, LN


How can I get 100g of protein daily on a vegan diet?
November 1, 2018 at 7:39 am


That can be a challenge unless you are working alongside a nutrition professional that knows and understands your unique needs. Plant proteins need to be combined in the proper ratio because individually they do not offer the complete amino acid profile; in contrast to eggs, fish, and other sources of animal proteins.

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