Do you have a stressful life and feel like your Gi issues are directly tied to your stress? If so, tune into this episode where Dr. Heather is interviewed by her colleagues Lindsay Mitchell and Cait Ross who discuss how the gut impacts the nervous system and the nervous system impacts the gut.
It’s impossible to get rid of all stress and some stress is good. However, chronic unresolved stress can have a significant impact on the gut and your hormones too.
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Resources from this episode:
Dr. Heather Finley and Cait Ross
Cait Ross 0:01
Because it’s not just about the food that we’re consuming, but it’s about everything else that’s going on in our lives, the thoughts that we’re thinking, the emotions that we’re feeling, or or maybe avoiding feeling. And those things all play a huge role in the nature of what’s going on in our bodies.
Heather Finley 0:21
Welcome to the love your gut podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Heather Finley, registered dietitian and gut health specialist. I understand the frustration of dealing with GI issues because I’ve been there and I spent over two decades searching for answers. For my own gut issues of constipation, bloating and stomach pain. I’ve dedicated my life to understanding and solving my own gut issues. And now I’m here to guide you. On this podcast, I’ll help you identify the true root causes of your discomfort. So you can finally ditch your symptoms. Forget, my goal is to empower you with the knowledge and tools you need, so that you can love your gut, and it will love you right back. So if you’re ready to learn a lot, gain a deeper understanding of your gut and find lasting relief, you are in the right place. Welcome to the love your gut podcast.
Cait Ross 1:15
Heather, thanks so much for being here with Lindsay and I today. I’m hoping you can start out by telling us just a little bit about why you got started in this field to begin with any pivotal moments, anything that really stands out to you as being a pivotal part of really what led you to where you are today.
Heather Finley 1:37
Oh my gosh, well, if you have a couple hours, we can do that. But I’ll make a long story short, but thank you guys both for having them. It’s an honor to be here. And I always love talking about this intersection. So when Lindsey reached out, I was really excited for this interview. But I the reason that I do what I do is because I struggled with digestive issues that felt pretty much uncurable for 20 years of my life. And for anyone listening who’s had digestive issues, you know how much it can just really disrupt every piece of your life. You’re paranoid about what to eat, what to wear, you know, social engagements, relationships, etc. And I even went to school to study nutrition to figure out my own digestive issues. And I really went through my entire undergrad being told that the reason that you have digestive issues is because of food, it’s because of something that you’re eating. And so for four years in my undergrad, I found myself going on these crazy elimination diets, you know, eliminating foods, restricting foods, and only to find myself graduating college, still bloated, still constipated and feeling kinda like a complete fraud. Honestly, I had this moment where I was like, maybe I’m just not smart enough. Or maybe I picked the entirely wrong career, because I can’t even help myself. How am I supposed to help other people? And so I went on to get my first job at a hospital. And I remember just hitting like a completely low moment where, you know, I was in the hospital helping, obviously really sick patients who were in the hospital for something and felt like, what am I doing here? Like, I can’t even I can’t even address my own symptoms. How am I supposed to help someone who’s even sicker or appear sicker than me. And at that time, in my life, I had probably the most stress I’ve ever had in my life. My dad, my senior year of college was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. And that news hit me like a ton of bricks. And now obviously, hindsight is 2020. But looking back at that time period, okay, I got that news. Like, a month or two before I graduated college, we weren’t even sure if he was going to be able to make it to my college graduation. You know, we had so many ups and downs that summer after I graduated, and then everything actually looked good, until it did it. And so, basically, that December is when things really took a turn, and my digestive symptoms were at an all time high. And so he lost his battle to colon cancer, basically a year to the day from the day that he was diagnosed. And, you know, I’m thinking, Okay, if my digestive symptoms are this bad, my dad didn’t even have any symptoms, what’s going to happen to me, you know, and so, still thinking like, okay, there must be some food there must be some thing that’s causing this and so continued kind of on the spiral of elimination diets and trying random supplements. This is going to age me but it was like, right when kombucha kind of became a thing. And I remember thinking like, Okay, everyone talks about how this thing like fixes digestive symptoms, and so found myself like, drinking kombucha and like it making everything worse and wondering like, Okay, seriously, what’s wrong? wrong, you know, this is terrible. So I ended up actually going back to school to get my doctorate in functional nutrition. And it was at that moment during that program that I had, I mean, so many light bulb moments, but I had this lightbulb moment of, okay, it’s actually not the food, it’s my gut, I’ve been approaching this all wrong. And it’s not even my gut. It’s my whole body. It’s my stress that’s affecting the digestion, absorption, motility, everything in my gut. And I saw this connection between the mind and the body and realized, okay, the way that I’ve been approaching digestive health has been, from an elimination standpoint, what do I need to remove from my diet removed from my life, whatever, to improve my symptoms, to actually, what do I need to add to my life to support my gut to support my digestion and to support my body so that I can feel better. And that’s when I was first introduced to the nervous system first introduced to really, you know, what a lot of people know is like Functional Medicine and functional health, and really just saw everything through a completely new lens and went on this journey to really heal myself and eating more variety than I ever had feeling better than I’d ever had. My hormones finally, were balanced for the first time, probably in 10 years, you know, I had energy again, I didn’t have brain fog. And I also wasn’t overexercising wasn’t, you know, super stressed and burnout all the time. And obviously, there’s been periods where some of that has come back, of course, with life situations, but knowing how to manage it better, prevents me from getting stuck in a pit that I feel like I can’t get out of. And so that’s honestly kind of how I got where I am now. But now, you know, that’s the type of client that we tend to see is the client that’s like, I’ve done all the elimination diets, I’ve taken antibiotics for SIBO. I’ve done all the probiotics, like, I’ve, I’m missing something, but I kind of feel like I’ve tried everything. And what they don’t realize is okay, you can’t just focus on food. If you’re looking to fix your gut, you have to look at everything. And yes, like nervous system, regulation and nervous system support is so so helpful. But probably because of your chronic stress for years and years and years, and the way that you’ve mismanaged things, you also have some downstream gut issues. And I know that we were talking offline before we press record about how the work that you both do, and the work that I do goes so well together is you really can’t just focus on taking supplements and what foods to eat for gut health. There’s a place but if your body is in a state of chronic stress, then it’s it has to feel safe to heal. And so that’s where, really you have to look at it holistically and treat it holistically to actually get the results that you want.
Cait Ross 8:11
Absolutely. And thank you for sharing that part of your story with us. I think that is you know, why I was attracted to the information that you put out there, right. It’s like, okay, it’s not just about this supplement, or not just about this food, or specifically elimination diets. And I know, we’ll get into that a little bit later. But I think a lot of people that I work with, in particular, they may have that more perfectionistic tendency coming in to doing the nervous system regulation work. So then it’s like, okay, now I’m restricting my diet. I’m limited to eating these less than 10 foods. And we’re gonna go from here because I feel like I’ve tried every gap protocol. So I have definitely loved your approach. And going back to like, kind of some of the things you said about like kombucha making things work worse for you is like, I remember, you know, attending a this was like a, a session at like a conference I went to, and it was all about probiotics and how everyone should be taking probiotics and I’m like sitting there thinking, Yeah, but it makes things worse for some people who have gut issues. And so having, you know, saying a blanket statement like that, it can feel invalidating, right and validating to, to hear that and be like, No, it’s It’s made me worse. So I love the things that you said about it’s not the food, it’s your body. It’s more of that mind body connection, adding in support and that variety of food. I think that’s so important. As far as beliefs that you have had go, what has changed for you like to that point where you know, you felt have stuck in that chronic stress cycle, you’re having a lot of these digestive issues. And it sounds like you were feeling that sense of being a fraud, right? I know a lot of us go through that, because we have these experiences. And we’re like, we want to turn our pain into purpose. We want to do something with this, but maybe I’m not 100% yet. So can you walk us through like how some of your beliefs changed from that moment in time, to where you are now being able to manage and navigate the stress cycle, when it inevitably occurs, and the type of self talk that you have now.
Heather Finley 10:42
So many, the ones that come to mind immediately are on the food side of things, going from seeing food as a source of symptoms, to seeing food as a source of nourishment. I think there’s a lot of layers here. I mean, some of it is obviously because of the symptoms I was having, but some of it is cultural and the environment that we are in, right like, especially as a female living in today’s world, you’re taught to be afraid of food, you know, it’s gonna make you fat or don’t don’t eat these things. These things are, you know, quote unquote, bad for you. And there’s just so much negativity around food versus looking at these foods actually can really help you have energy, these foods can help you, you know, build strong bones, whatever it is, these foods, feed your gut bacteria. It’s been really fun. As a mom, I have a four year old and she’s very interested in the gut and food for obvious reasons. And it’s so cute, because she’ll sit down and choose like, like, for example, last night, we were having cauliflower. And she’s like, What is cauliflower do for me, like she’s just so interested in and learning about what things actually help with. And I love that because it’s giving the opportunity to see food as something that can benefit you versus like this is going to destroy your health, or this is going to make you bloated, or whatever it is. So I think that’s one big shift that I’ve had is like food gets to be fun, and food gets to be nourishing. And food doesn’t have to be boring, like you don’t have to eat chicken and rice for the rest of your life. If you want to have a healthy gut, if you fix the underlying issues, you get to have abundance. You know, the the largest studies we have on gut health to date show that the widest variety of foods you can eat, the healthier your gut is. And so that piece I think can be really confusing for people. Because all if you Google, I was working on a presentation last night. And if you Google like, what to eat for gut health, what comes up is top elimination diets for gut health, that’s bloat supplements, worse foods for your gut health, I’m like, no wonder people are so confused. Like, it’s just that’s what comes up on Google. So that’s one on like, the food side of things. The other is that going from my body’s broken to my body actually has the ability to heal, I just have to believe that it can heal. And also I have to give it the right inputs, you know, I can’t, what’s the saying like, you can’t force a square peg into a round hole or whatever that thing is, like, if you’re pushing so hard with like just taking supplements or just restricting foods, but you’re not addressing the underlying issues in your gut, regulating your nervous system, etc. Looking at your environment, you can’t force your body to do something, it literally doesn’t have the capacity or resources to do and so you know, setting yourself up for success in that way. And realizing your body is actually really strong and really smart and it can heal. You also just have to believe that that’s possible. And then I think on like the the fraud side of things is everyone feels like a fraud. Right? Like we all have moments where we feel like, I don’t know enough. I you know, I I need to know more before I can help people and I see this a lot with the practitioners that I mentor if like, I just need to do more trainings, or I need to do more things. And like yes, information is empowering and great. But like your clients are your best teachers. And so if you continue just searching for information all the time, you’ll never actually go out there and help people and you know, learn from that experience as well. So those are those are the top ones that come to mind. I’m sure there’s many more but
Cait Ross 14:28
Yeah, I love that so much. I wrote that down whether feeding body the right inputs, right, because it’s not just about the food that we’re consuming, but it’s about everything else that’s going on in our lives, the thoughts that we’re thinking the emotions that we’re feeling, or or maybe avoiding feeling. And those things all play a huge role in the nature of what’s going on in our bodies. And I don’t know if this was I mean, you would know this best because you’re the experts maybe you can even comment a bit further on this, but I don’t know if it was an actual study that was done or more of just like an analogy that kind of caught fired, and snowball, but it’s like the whole idea of if we’re eating a burger or a pizza, right, like food that probably has, for many of us we think as as like unhealthy food or food that’s maybe not so great for us because it has gluten or dairy or fat or grease, or whatever it is. But we’re eating that food, that burger or that pizza, in a state of pure joy. And our nervous system is in a state of what we would call like ventral vagal, it’s safe, we can be social, we can be connected, versus if we’re eating something that’s healthy for us, like the broccoli or the kale or the sweet potatoes. But our system is just in this state of fight or flight or freeze, and we’re in more of survival mode, and just the impact that that has on our our ability to digest and absorb those nutrients. And so I think of that, like as you’re sharing and making some of those, those comments that you just mentioned, and I think, you know, this, this topic of gut health has become very mainstream, right, like, like you said, you Google it, and you see all these different topics about it. And so I think, you know, as Lindsay mentioned, like, a lot of our listeners can probably relate with being wired for perfectionism, or achievement and just wanting to do the quote unquote, right thing, and how to have like the perfect gut or do the perfect things that are going to support a healthy gut. And so now that we have an expert like you here on the show to debunk some of those beliefs that you just started to share with us in your prior comments. I’m curious, like, from a practical day to day standpoint, how would you define gut health? Like, what does gut health really mean to you from that, like, practical modern day lens?
Heather Finley 17:05
That’s such a good question. And I’ve thought about this a lot. And like, honestly changed my mind on this a lot too, just because of how trendy gut health has kind of become for answer that I don’t want to forget it for anyone listening and once more info on what you just described, like eating and ventral vagal etc. Look up. It’s called the pizza and beer diet. i There’s an article in a podcast episode about it. And I’ll explain more about this as I get into gut health. But literally, it’s this article about this man who you know, was like following the protocol perfectly taking all the supplements, eating quote, unquote, correctly doing all this stuff and was like, I just need a break. Like I this is causing me so much stress, which as you guys know, is not great for your health. And literally just like told the practitioner, like I’m just going to take a break and went and like went to the beach and ate pizza and beer for like a month or something and came back and he’s like, my symptoms are gone. And the the man’s like, what do you do, and he’s like, I stopped stressing about it. And I pizza and beer and I had a great time. And so sometimes when we have these clients that are like in this perfectionist cycle, we send them that and have them listen to that episode, just because it is so true. Like, you can eat the exact same thing, but on different days. And if you are stressed, your body thinks it’s being chased by a tiger. So it really doesn’t matter what you’re eating. Digestion is a north to south process. So you can focus so much on the intestines, like, Oh, I’m bloated because I have bacterial overgrowth or, you know, I needed take probiotics or drink kombucha or whatever. But there’s like 10 steps of digestion before food ever even gets to your intestines. And if all that shut off, it really doesn’t matter. We have to look at how you’re chewing, stomach acid, bile flow, pancreatic output. And those are all the things that when people come to us with chronic GI issues, that they’re completely missing, because they’re just focused on, oh, I’m bloated in my belly. But your GI tract is an open system. So that’s a very long way of getting to the the answer to your question of what is gut health. gut health is you are able to digest and absorb food adequately. And you are also able to produce the end products that like short chain fatty acids, for example, that benefit your entire body. So what happens is when you eat foods that have fiber, your gut bacteria, so the two to five pounds of bacteria you have in your gut, which fun fact for everyone, you can use that at your next dinner party. You have trillions of friends that live inside of you. Those friends eat that fiber and they produce something called short chain fatty acids, which are really anti inflammatory to the body and the brain and everything else. And so, to me, gut health is you’re able to I enjoy your food, you’re able to digest it well absorb it well and reap the benefits of the byproducts that happen as a result of fermentation in the gut. I’m interrupting this episode really quick to tell you about our sponsor element, you know that I am a huge fan of minerals for gut health. If you struggle with constipation, bloating, acid reflux, or even poor energy, often the best place to start is by replenishing your minerals. And as we approach the summer months, this becomes even more crucial. Minerals are the sparkplugs of our body and help us to maintain adequate hydration. And that’s why I’m so excited for you to give element a try. The ultimate mineral boost for your gut packed with the perfect balance of sodium, potassium and magnesium element helps us to restore these essential electrolytes, ensuring that your gut stays happy and hydrated. It’s like giving your gut the fuel it needs to thrive. So here’s the exciting part. If you want to receive a free sample pack with purchase, be sure to check out the link, Dr. Heather finley.co, backslash element lm n t, or you can visit the link in the show notes. Now back to the episode.
Cait Ross 21:10
So talk to us a little bit about how do we know what our gut is doing? Aside from a test? Like are there particular symptoms? And if you have food sensitivities, bloat and other digestive issues? Does that mean that you have poor gut health? You know, for that person who may be listening today who’s like, I don’t know where my gut health stands, like, what are some key indicators, we can look forward to just kind of be like, Oh, this is where I’m starting from today.
Heather Finley 21:48
So the first one that I think is probably the most obvious for people is, are you able to have a bowel movement? That’s Brown, by the way, not green, not yellow, not white, which is common. So are you able to have a brown, soft, well formed bowel movement one to three times a day? And then bonus on top of that is, does it feel complete, which I know this is like kind of a weird conversation to have. But you should feel relieved after you go to the bathroom. If you’re straining or feel like that’s it or there’s gotta be more, you’re not emptying correctly, and you have a lot of feet of intestines in your body. So you want to make sure that it’s not accumulating in there. But that’s sign number one. Can you have soft formed? Well, you know, well formed bowel movements that are complete. Some other signs would be, do you see undigested food in your stool? I’m not talking about like corn and quinoa. But do you see like vegetable fibers in your stool? Do you see chunks of food? Some of that can actually go back to are you chewing well, but there could be other issues like pancreatic issues or bile flow or whatever. Another sign that something could be up as if it’s consistent. Do you are you burping, bloating belching after eating? That’s more like upper GI related stuff that people can see. Sometimes again, that can be just from eating too quickly. But if you’re eating relaxed, eating slow, and you’re burping belching bloating, right after eating, we definitely want to look into that. Another thing to look at related to your bowel movements, which hopefully this is encouraging people to actually look and see what’s going on is do you see like, almost like oil droplets in this in the toilet afterwards? If you do, that could be a sign maybe we’re not digesting fat super well. So again, if it’s a one time thing, don’t stress about it. But if if it’s an everyday thing, definitely look into that. And then some other obvious things. If you’re passing blood mucus, like definitely go get that checked out. Some non stool related things to look at would be do you get headaches after you eat? Do you get skin rashes that you just cannot pinpoint where they’re coming from? Do you have itchy skin? Sometimes that can be a GI related issue. So honestly, I could go on and on with symptoms but in general, like you know, if you feel like you can’t tolerate any foods, you know what you mentioned earlier? I’m eating 10 foods yet I’m still super bloated, still super constipated. You know that kind of whole food sensitivity conversation that can be assigned as well.
Cait Ross 24:35
Yeah, that’s all really, really helpful and I think really, really tangible for us to think about if we’re not already observing what’s what’s coming out on the other end when we’re going the bathroom. So I’m curious Heather, I know we you talked a little bit earlier about elimination diets and how you had had this realization personally, that for you it was about adding more nourish men versus trying to restrict and eliminate. And yet we hear so much on social media and on the internet about elimination diets. And, oh, there’s this type of diet. And there’s this type of diet. And there’s keto. And there’s veganism. And a lot of those right are rooted in taking out either certain foods or certain whole food groups like meat in general, or, yeah, just certain certain types of foods. So can you share your perspective on these elimination diets, and maybe share with us a little bit about why they don’t work for most people in your experience? So
Heather Finley 25:41
I guess it really depends on what someone’s end goal is. So there’s two ways to approach Well, there’s not two but there’s like, if we’re thinking of it, from a food standpoint, there’s two routes you can go. First route is eliminate the food, potentially avoid some of the symptoms, you know, until they come back, but give yourself some relief that way. That’s why a lot of Gi people will talk about like the low FODMAP diet, because essentially, you’re just removing fermentable carbohydrates, so that you’re not experiencing bloat, diarrhea, whatever. So it’s like, okay, cool, this works, I just removed all these foods amazing, I feel better, well, then what happens when your symptoms start coming back, and you’ve now starved all your good gut bacteria, because you didn’t realize that that was supposed to be a four to six week thing, not a six year thing, like many of the clients that we work with, no one told them that it’s not their fault, you know, their GI doctor handed them a handout, and they’re like, Okay, this is I guess, how I have to eat for the rest of my life. So with anything like that, there’s always consequences or side effects, right, you restrict whole food group, whole food groups. So you restrict large amounts of food, you’re either cut becoming micronutrient deficient, or malnourished, even on some level, if, depending on what you’re doing, or from a gut standpoint, starving your beneficial bacteria, which do so much for you. So that’s one way is cut out the food that’s causing the symptom. And you’re good, you’re in the clear for a little bit. The other route is, let’s figure out why you’re not tolerating the food and fix that. For example, maybe the reason that you can’t tolerate FODMAP foods is because you have an imbalance of bacteria in your gut, from, you know, whatever it is, maybe you can’t digest carbohydrates, or you have, you know, low stomach acid, or you have stress or whatever it is that’s causing that downstream issue. So like, let’s fix those things, and improve your food tolerance so that you can eat really our goal with clients is let’s get you to eat the widest variety of foods with the least amount of symptoms. Because number one that helps your gut bacteria to flourish, you know, long term, but also it decreases the stress of like what happens when I go on a date, go on vacation, you know, do all of these things that I can’t control the food, that just adds more stress, and then, you know, the cycle kind of repeats itself. So all that to say elimination diets can have their time in place, if someone is really desperate for relief. But it’s definitely not something that we recommend to clients, mostly because they’ve tried them all. They’re like, Alright, I’ve done every elimination diet possible. What else do you got, like, I don’t want to do that anymore. I feel really stressed and afraid of food. And so a lot of it is like rewiring mindset about food, beliefs about food, beliefs about their body, and then giving their body the support to actually digest those foods, addressing the underlying issues and then allowing them to be able to eat again. Which is so freeing, honestly,
Cait Ross 28:51
That’s an amazing explanation. And absolutely food is freedom. Like, that’s something that I’ve worked with a lot of my clients on is reframing food is freedom. People who have removed food, have gone through traumatic experiences of removing safety because you know, your daughter who is learning about food, she’s wondering, okay, like, what does cauliflower do to my body? Like, what it how is this good for me? Most people when they come to you, I imagine are those people who are like, I have eliminated absolutely everything. But what they don’t realize is the trauma that they have experienced. When you get that food sensitivity test back or another test that has diagnosed you with SIBO or whatever it is, then you get that diagnosis and it’s like, your brain can immediately go to I am broken, I’m not healthy. I’m not good enough. You know, whatever it is these kinds of subconscious beliefs that get on Earth. But now, they circulate around food itself when food was meant to represent nourishment and safety, and perhaps at a young age, it was that that is what it represented. So a lot of what you are doing is, is this work around beliefs when it comes to food and looking and reframing food as freedom food as nourishment. So I’m wondering if we can just stay on this subject for another moment in time, you know, the work that I’ve done with people around food, it can be so simple and silly, like making your kitchen beautiful, like a place that you want to come to putting your favorite things in your kitchen, putting like a smiley face picture or picture that makes you laugh on the refrigerator. And every time one of your family members points at it, everyone has to start laughing. And it’s like uncomfortable at first. But it actually what it does is allows you to access like turn on your mirror neurons of mirroring the person, you know, releasing dopamine in this kitchen in this place where you’re cooking food. A lot of times food is represented in community, it’s cultural, it represents love. So do you have some other tips like that, that are pretty tangible, that we can use to just start reframing? Our, you know, thoughts on food as like food as nourishment, food as love food is freedom, if we have been on kind of all of these different diets and all of these different restrictions when it comes to food?
Heather Finley 31:39
Yeah, um, one thing that we this is a bit blunt, but sometimes helpful for people, you know, when they come to us, they’re like, I’m only eating 10 foods, I can’t possibly restrict myself more, I’m going to, I don’t know how I’ll live, you know, I’m already feeling so miserable. And I’ll look at them and be like, but how’s that working for you? You know, you’re eating 10 foods, and you’re so miserable. What if the mindset shift here is, maybe the reason I feel miserable is because I’m only eating 10 foods, you know, maybe your body is lacking so much that it needs more. And like they look at me like, Whoa, I you know, like, we’ve never thought of that before because of cultural wiring and all the stuff. But some silly things that we have our clients do. One of the first steps in our program is something called meal hygiene. And I’m sure that you guys are familiar with this. But we’re not talking at all, like I wouldn’t even talk to someone at all about what they’re eating until we talk about how they’re eating. And so how are we setting up your environment for success, eating away from your desk, eating away from the couch, sitting at a table, setting it really beautifully, like a lot of the stuff that you just said. And then engaging the whole family in this. We see a lot of young moms in our program, and they’re like, how am I supposed to eat a relaxing meal, I have a two year old that’s throwing food at me and I’m like, I get it, I have that too. And like it’s just sometimes a hot mess. And that’s okay, like you just gotta roll with it. But finding ways to get your kids engaged as well. So we’ll have people have Happy Birthday twice before a meal. And kids love that. So that can be a way to engage everyone praying before a meal, deep breathing before a meal, something that’s going to calm and settle your nervous system. And then just really focusing on okay, if I’m having any intrusive thoughts about I’m going to be bloated or this is going to cause this symptom like trying to reframe those thoughts because the second thought your mind goes there, it’s shutting down that digestive process again, your body’s thinking there’s a tiger sitting right next to me at this table, I gotta run away. So turn off digestion, you know, take blood away from the gut, stop stomach acid production, stop bile flow, stop everything because we got to get out of here. So how can you create safety of No, my body’s got what it needs. And if taking an enzyme helps you to feel safe of like, oh, and I have support for my digestion from this thing. That’s fine in the moment, that’s fine to take temporarily to help as well even if it’s a placebo effect great. There’s things that we can do for that and just creating these mental cues as well. So some of our clients will use like digestive bitters to help stimulate digestion and that almost cues to their nervous system. Okay, hey, we got to relax we got to to we got to sit at this table. So like engaging the senses that way or maybe it’s a certain tea or drink or something that you have simple things like that humming Happy Birthday focusing on chewing we always tell our clients to to applesauce consistency. You know, not always perfect and I’m guilty of this too, but trying to not eat well on your phone, distracted, whatever. And then trying to just relax before you eat so that alone can take a lot of time. Time to work on. But it makes a huge difference. And we always find when our clients get away from those habits, they’re like, Oh, my symptoms are coming back. And I’m like, how’s your meal hygiene? And they’re like, Oh, well, I’ve been eating in my car a lot. You know, all this stuff. I’m like, it really does work. You know, and we all have to be reminded to take the time and be consistent with it. Yeah,
Cait Ross 35:22
I love that. You mentioned that Heather, like how before what is so important, right? And I think in our especially in the Western world, we tend to focus so much on the like, the tangible what the specific foods, as we’ve been talking about pretty much this entire episode, but yeah, it’s like, well, what is the energy behind that? Like, what are you feeling emotionally and in your body? And how can we cue those, those cues of safety in our nervous system before we we go ahead and put the food in our mouth. So you’ve already shared a bunch of really awesome ideas, the humming, Happy Birthday twice, and the chewing and just some of those other really beautiful examples of ways to incorporate the nervous system component and to support regulation in our bodies, and the work you do with your clients. And so you kind of already went there. But my next question was going to be just that, like, how, how do you recommend implementing nervous system regulation, if there’s any other things that that that come up for you beyond what you just shared? And maybe even if you’re open to it, like sharing a little bit for our listeners of what, what do you see happen with your clients like what becomes possible for them, when they start to really embrace the nervous system piece of things, in addition to, you know, the Gup protocols that you put together for them.
Heather Finley 36:47
So some other just easy things that we’ll recommend to our clients throughout the day is gratitude journaling. I think that that’s really helpful. As you know, shifting mindset to focus on what you’re grateful for neuroplasticity journaling, specifically, is one that we really love, what else we give them I mean, a lot of it is because they get access to Lindsay’s programs. So they’ll use the tools that she teaches them as well, you know, throughout the day for regulation, you know, doing a brain dump writing things down reaching out for support, calling a friend taking a bath, I mean, so many different things, it doesn’t have to be time consuming or or take a long time. What else taking cold showers for some people can be really helpful. gargling humming singing like all of that can be really helpful as well. So depending on the person, obviously will recommend different things. But what we see happen when someone is in tune with their nervous system, and they’re actively supporting their nervous system, is that they actually can respond to the protocols a lot better. It’s pretty common that we get clients that feel like they’ve tried everything, you know, they’ve done multiple rounds of SIBO treatment they’ve done, you know, they’ve seen naturopath, they’ve seen functional medicine, doctors, probably other dieticians. And they’re like, I’ve done all of this, like, I’ve done this protocol, or I’ve taken that thing or whatever. And I’m like, Yeah, but your body was in a completely different state, it didn’t feel safe. And so when your body has safety, it can actually respond then to the interventions because the effect of chronic stress or chronic dysregulation, whatever you want to call it, is that yes, you can have, you know, bacterial imbalances in your gut, you can have an effect on certain digestive markers. And so it’s a both and situation, right, like you need the nervous system support. And you also might need the gut protocols. And you know, keeping in mind that these like kind of cookie cutter gut protocols of like, everyone needs to be gluten and dairy free. Everyone needs to take this probiotic everyone needs to take this probiotic. It just doesn’t work. Because you are a very unique individual. And your gut is as unique as a fingerprint, which is so so cool. And so we’re not going to just hand people a list of like do’s and don’ts because it just doesn’t work. And there’s no universal truth. Maybe a couple but there’s really none. When it comes to gut health, like I guess the universal truth would be like prebiotic fiber is good for people, but it’s like, okay, what specific one you know, so it’s just, there’s so much bio individuality that you know, when your nervous system feels safe, and when you are regulated, you can actually heal. And so, you know, sometimes I’ll have discovery calls with people and I’m like, I just don’t think that now’s the time. Like I can just tell based on their demeanor on the call and I’m like, I’m not gonna, you know, have you do a program knowing that like, you need something else first like you need to go do This first and then come back. And what happens is sometimes they come back, and sometimes they don’t. But like, ethically, I’m not gonna just be like, Okay, I’ll put you through another protocol and like, cross my fingers that this is gonna work this time, when there’s clearly, you know, some very missing pieces.
Cait Ross 40:16
Yeah, it’s, it’s amazing to have that kind of honest approach as a practitioner, because it’s hard because you know, you want them to succeed, and you know, that this can be good for them. But if someone’s not in that place, or they may need something else first, you know, it’s important to have that honesty. So I definitely appreciate that as a practitioner myself, but it has been, you know, such a joy working side by side with you with clients who are addressing that gut protocol, and also addressing nervous system regulation. And I know, we have touched on it quite a bit of how these two coincide. They’re not like do one separately from the other. Because the gut, and the nervous system, it’s a constant communication. I mean, the gut is known as the second brain. And all of the nerve endings that we have in the gut, it’s the second most place, most populated place in the body that has those nerve endings, the first being the brain. So when people say gut health, it is nervous system health, and nervous system health is gut health. I mean, most of our serotonin production that feel good neuro chemical, you know, comes from the gut. So can you expand on this a little bit more? Because I think a lot of people may be, you know, at that place where they’re like, Okay, yes, like that help. Sounds amazing. But I don’t understand how that directly connects with the nervous system, like how do those two connect? Can you kind of put it in your own words?
Heather Finley 41:56
Yeah. So I guess one way to describe it would be nothing in the body works in isolation, right? Like your body is very, very smart. And so just building off of what you just described, your nervous system and your gut health are so intricately connected, because your body’s trying to decide what to do at all times, right? Am I resting and digesting, or am I fighting, fighting, whatever you want to call it, and you can’t rest and digest if there is a threat. And so that’s, that’s one way that the nervous system and the gut are so connected is, when you’re in a regulated state, you’re in that parasympathetic state, you can rest and digest your food appropriately. But if you’re in chronic fight, flight, freeze, whatever it is, your body is more worried about protecting you than it is about digesting a meal. And then you know, the downstream effects that can come from that. And so it’s not to say that all day, every day, you need to be in rest and digest. That’s not it at all. It’s how quickly can you bounce back from stress? How stress resilient, are you? And, you know, you get an angry email. Okay, great. Got the angry email? And how long does it take you to recover from that so that it doesn’t affect your gut health for three weeks, because you’re so stressed about it, or whatever it might be. That’s probably a silly example, but maybe really relevant to the people that are listening. Your body doesn’t know the difference between being stressed about food, sitting in traffic, you know, whatever the stressor is, it just knows I’m not digesting right now. And so it’s constantly making decisions about what it’s doing. Yeah.
Cait Ross 43:46
So, so helpful. Heather, thank you so much for being here with us today. Are there any final words or anything that you didn’t get a chance to share with us today and with our listeners that that maybe you feel called in these last few moments,
Heather Finley 44:00
I would just say if you’re in a place where you know, you’re having bloating, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, whatever it is any kind of Gi related symptom or even non gi but you think it’s related to your gut, histamine issues, rashes, brain fog, etc. Like, you’re not too far gone to heal. I mean, so many of the clients we work with, including myself, have had symptoms for 1020 30 however many years, and it’s not that what they’ve done in the past was wrong. It was just incomplete. And so you can do all the right protocols, all the right things. But if you’re missing some pieces, it could be why you’re stuck. And so it’s not that you need to try harder or go more extreme or take more supplements. You need to find the right things for you in the right combination. So your puzzle piece, or your puzzle is complete and not missing pieces.
Cait Ross 44:58
Thank you so much. each other beautiful, beautiful, final words. Well, Heather, thank you so much for being here with us today and helping to really take the fear out of gut health and really help us add in more nourishment.
Heather Finley 45:12
As always, please note that this episode or anything discussed on this podcast is not a substitution for medical advice and you should always consult your health practitioner before trying anything new. Thanks so much for tuning into this episode of the love your podcast. I love to help you understand why you’re bloated and so that is why I have created my free quiz. Why am I bloated? In this quiz, you will learn what could potentially be causing your bloat and what you can actually do to fix it. So if you want to learn why are bloated and how to fix it, visit Dr. Heather finley.co backslash quiz, or visit the link in the show notes. I’ll see you next time.