Gut Health Podcast Interview
Welcome to the Well Women Co Podcast, where we help you turn your purpose into prosperity. What would it look like to thrive in your health and relationships?
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I hope you're ready to get a little personal today. We're talking digestive issues, Bowel movements, and I'm even going to share a little bit of the behind-the-scenes of my personal health journey in the recent past, because of gut health. I mean, come on. It's a little uncomfortable to talk about because it's so uncomfortable to live with, but it's so flipping important to have good knowledge around how to care for our guts because as you're going to learn today, it really affects every other function in our bodies.
So. My hope is that you will take some practical tidbits from today's episode to apply immediately into your life, to love on your guts. And then also like if you are like me, that's experienced some discomfort, shall we say maybe some direction as far as how to remedy and get to the root issue instead of relying on quick fixes, which I'll admit is so tempting.
So sit back. Get ready to laugh a little bit. We're going to make what could be a pretty uncomfortable conversation. A lot of fun. Here we go.
Ashley Oswald, founded Oswald Digestive Clinic in 2016, after being frustrated to see people struggle with their gut health. Well, knowing that there are ways to help them improve and often resolve their bothersome symptoms. She has completed seven years of schooling and nutrition science. Including a year at Harvard Brigham and women's hospital.
And she has worked in a variety of settings in the healthcare system. So she has a unique, big-picture view of where there are gaps. With Oswald Digestive Clinic, she is working to fill these gaps, helping their clients finally go from gut struggles to gut freedom, sounds kind of like food freedom, so they can get back to living life on their own terms.
So Ashley, welcome to the Well Women Co Podcast.
Thank you, Brooke. I'm so excited to be here and you are absolutely right. I was thinking that as I was just jotting down notes before this, about your food freedom book. And I think both of us have a similar goal for people in that perspective.
Yes. Amen. Freedom in our body. So, Ashley, you are the first official guests that we have on the podcast about digestive health, you know, fun conversations like poop and tummy troubles, but this is so important. And so we're going to get into a lot of juicy dares I say questions right for Ashley.
And I want to give you chance to just share a little bit more about yourself, but I just want to start this podcast by being vulnerable and saying, ladies, this is an area in my life that I am actually currently addressing. That's changing the game for me. And why I wanted to bring you on Ashley because I know what it is like to do everything perfectly.
I am like your picture of health, I eat very clean, not out of restriction, and I genuinely love great healthy food. It's just who I am. I also move my body so regularly. I'm the first one to get up and get my 10,000 steps in during the day. I. Pray. I meditate. I get good sleep at night. Like I do all the right things.
I wrote a freaking book about all the right things, yet I still have felt frustrated in my body, yet I still feel like I'm three to six months pregnant. When I am not pregnant like something is going on.
So I have identified some underlying gut issues in my own life that after doing so have brought me freedom and I will be the first one to say, it's not an immediate fix. It is not a fast fix, but because I understand some of the underlying root issues it's brought me hope.
And I'm on the journey to a greater level of freedom in my body. And so Ashley, I just wanted to set that stage because I feel like a lot of my listeners, are healthy. They are exercising.
They know how to eat well, but sometimes that still doesn't move the needle, whether that's on the scale or helping us to reach that body, we really feel comfortable in and great about, and so I just want to say, Hey, I like right now, as just that time of recording, I'm going through this process.
I know how frustrating it can be. And Ashley, I know you probably work with these types of women all the time, which is why I want to pick your brain. Maybe it's just for me personally. but I think there are a lot of other women in my shoes. And so I just want to shed light and like bring the truth to the table. Like, let's just have some real talks.
So before I start asking you questions, Is there anything that you want to share about yourself that I missed? Like what's a day in the life of Ashley? You have a lot going on these days look like?
Yeah. I want to start by saying that that story gave me goosebumps. And that is something that I hear a lot when people come on our meet and greet calls and share their stories with me where they're at, they've done a lot. They've Googled a lot. They've put in so much great work.
And for some people that would've been enough. And so like the word, the root cause of what you mentioned that is so key in what we are all about at Oswald digestive clinic is looking for those root causes, and sometimes it's just things that are out of our control. Like maybe somebody has like a bacteria overgrowth from maybe a course of antibiotics when they're on when they're younger.
So I think just releasing the judgment around it is so incredibly important. I think sometimes I hear people say, oh, they have their gut issues. Cause they eat poorly and that is not always the case. And even like just saying eat poorly, like what does that even mean? That's even judgmental.
And so I want to just say thank you for sharing your story. I have my own story, which kind of can help me connect with our clients a bit better as well, going through my own gut issues from being on antibiotics for about, you know, on and off for a decade of my life. Starting when I was in sixth grade for very, very severe acne, the worst acne. My dermatologist had ever seen. And so a lot of kind of issues after that.
And I think it's just so important that we come together and we look for the root causes and we do what we can do to get our gut in a better spot because as Hippocrates says, who's the founder of modern medicine "It all starts in the gut". And we're learning that there are so many things that the gut is influencing that just 20 years ago, we, we had no idea.
Wow. And you have been at this now for a while and your clinic is a hundred percent virtual, which is really cool because you're able to help people on a broad scale, do you have other clinicians that work under you at this point?
I do I hired Marcy Vaske. She is a licensed nutritionist. Master's in human nutrition and she's seeing our new clients. So together we're really growing, expanding, and just trying to help more people because statistically, this is a very interesting study that we have from 2018, it was actually a survey on 71,000 Americans where we found that 61% of people had a bothersome gut symptom in the week prior.
And then out of every a hundred people who would diagnose with ear syndrome or IBS, 30% had considered suicide. And so this is a really, yeah I know, this is a really big deal and we know how the gut can influence the brain. Yeah. so we're just on a big mission to be able to help people and, you know, ultimately just help them get their quality of life back so they can do what they want to do.
Yeah, so good. And that's my underlying passion for health too. It's like, yes, we want to feel good in our clothes, but it's more about doing what we're called to do.
And if we don't have our health, that's hard to do. So I, you know, I mentioned my story. So maybe that includes in this question, but what are, what would you say are the top three reasons patients come to you and I'm assuming these are male and female? Patients.
Yep. Male and female. And even, kiddos, you, the youngest client I've had was six months old and the oldest in their eighties.
Okay. So what are the top, what are the top three reasons people would come to you for help?
Yeah. The top symptom that people have from the survey is acid reflux. But the top things I see on our main greet calls are IDO bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease. And then some combination of just gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, some diagnoses, maybe no diagnoses.
Maybe their doctor just suggested MIAX for constipation and sent them home, but intuitively they knew there was probably more to it and they just want to connect with us and see if maybe, maybe nutrition plays a role.
Yeah. Wow. So are those things, acid reflux, IBS, Crohn's, gastro, and bloating. I mean, I, yeah, I can identify with that and probably all the listeners, right at least. A good percentage of them are like shaking their head or raising their hands, like, yep. That's kind of me.
So let's dive into like, okay. Gut health, as you mentioned, our mood is affected by our gut, which we know, but what's the hype on our gut? What else is our gut responsible for? And why is this? Why are they finding more and more research just recently about the power of having good health and then the detriment of not?
Yeah, gut health research, believe it or not, it's not that it's very new. It started in the 1990s and then we've just been learning so much since then. And we're really seeing how this is connected to a lot of chronic inflammatory diseases because you and your listeners might know that 70% of the immune system is in the gut. we have more bacterial cells in our body than human cells in our body. And we are microbial genes.
We have a hundred times as many microbial genes as human genes. So isn't that wild and most of them they're in our large intestine, but just a hundred times the number of microbial genes as human genes. So, it makes total sense that the importance of Gut health and helping with all systemic health. w
We have more nerves in our gut than in the spinal column and we actually believe that the gut sends nine times more signals to the brain than the brain down to the gut.
What that, okay. That's a big deal. 70%. First of all, our immune system isn't our gut. So that means that if people are dealing with gut issues, their immunity is down to chronic inflammation, right? That's, that's a huge cause root cause of the disease. Right. I know in our five-month program, we talk a lot about the anti-inflammatory diet as another practical way to help with these things, but again, it goes back to our gut, which is just so fascinating to me.
So let's talk a little bit about and again, this is just off the cuff, as I'm thinking about it, but mood, you know, I think of, even in this, the time of recording we're doing a lot of conversations about pivoting Ashley and with the current state of what's happening globally because of this virus, but this will always be relevant because it's gut health, but especially in a time of crisis uncertainty.
So I feel like that how much more is gut health even important then? Right. And so in some of your patients or clients, have you seen some before and after of even with mood and kind of mental health after working with them and addressing some of this issue?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. This is a really fitting story of a woman. I talked to you last week. We've been working together for I think a bit over a year and she came having severe anxiety. So this was in a pre before COVID, she had severe anxiety where sometimes she just couldn't even get herself to leave the house.
And now. During COVID talking to her last week. She doesn't have anxiety. She put it as a one out of five on her symptom questionnaire.
It was just such an incredible transformation. So life-changing, we did a few things to help with that, and actually, on my YouTube channel, I'm going to start pulling together some of these stories cause I think it's so important to show what's possible to people to give back hope. So, keep your listeners can keep an eye on those. I'm going to definitely do one for her.
But one of the biggest things that we found is we did micronutrient testing. So these are like vitamins and minerals and amino acids, like these small nutrients that we eat from food. And so she had deficiencies in micronutrients that are tied to anxiety-like Syrian, like so one component and what really helped her just replacing those nutrients.
Wow. And did she do that with food or was it more of a supplemental dose?
Such a great question. Yeah. A lot of people will say, you know, we can get all of our needs from food and there's a lot of things that we can discuss around that. But when somebody has a true deficiency of a certain nutrient. It's usually really hard to replace that, just using food.
I'm not going to say impossible cause I think a lot of times, a lot of things aren't impossible, but it's very hard. So usually in our clinic, we'll take six months and have mega-dose supplement replacements. And then after six months, we switch over to food to maintain that store.
Yep. Okay. So let's talk to about, Someone who's listening and they're like, okay, is my underlying issue, a gut issue? And I kind of shared, you know, a little bit of mind of. Well, I'll share a little bit of mind, like gas, bloating, like unexplained, weight gain, you know, everything I'm doing is not helping and you talked earlier about gas and bloating or acid reflux.
But what are some other telltale signs of people you talk to that they might not know it's a gut issue, but after talking with you, they're like, oh my gosh, I had no idea. This might be a route in my gut. Does that make sense? Like how to Identify maybe what they're dealing with.
Yeah, it's such a great conversation, cause things like even asthma and acne and insulin resistance, and like weighing it, and so much more do have ties to the gut. And I think for. People coming through our clinic.
We, I focus on the symptoms that are bothering them the most. It's usually like the gas and the bloating, and what's using a questionnaire. So And if your, listeners aren't familiar with the "my symptom questionnaire", they can just Google it and they'll see that there are all these different categories.
It asks to number it one to five based upon how often it's happening, and how severe it's. And then we get a number at the bottom. So then I can go in, pull the data, and see what percent improvement people are getting after a few months after, you know, whatever amount of time. And so what's fun to see is as they're gas and bloating in these symptoms that are the most bother.
Some of them are improving a lot times these other things, and these other categories start to improve as well. So to go to your question, you know, how, what are some things that people can think about to see if they're having a gut issue?
I mean, outside of, kind of the diagnoses that they might be getting from their doctor, like the autoimmune issue is just, you know, just gut issues in general also thinking about like what their Bowel habits look like some people don't even know what's normal, so I can share that with you right now to help people better to the conversation.
OK. Let's go there.
Okay, well go there. Yes. so healthy digestion. It is having one to three bowel movements a day that is formed, but soft brown and easy to pass. So there's a thing called the Bristol stool chart. And I have a video on the Bristol stool chart on my YouTube channel, where we actually walk through all the different numbers. And if you just do a quick Google search, you'll see what I mean, but do you want to have a number three or four? Most of the time...
So not a number two, like everyone else says I'm going, number two. Should, should we start saying I'm going number three or four...
Oh yeah, that would make more sense. funny story I was working at, Regents hospital and have a long issue with the kind of working there. And in one of the bathrooms, the nurses, one of the staff bathrooms, the nurses had a Bristol stool chart and everybody was telling what number they were after they went to those bathrooms...
That is amazing. I can teach my four-year-old, that her bowel movement should be looking like
.... totally. so the people shouldn't be having this discomfort or pain or cramping or an urge to go, and they should feel relief when finished. So if somebody's having excessive gas, a really odorous dual, like a lot of bloating, that's getting worse during the day and their stomach is expanding more than like an inch or two.
They're having constipation, diarrhea, pain, all that. That's not normal. And that's something that we'll want to kind of dig deeper in to figure out the root causes. But I also don't want your listeners to freak out. Cause a lot of times those things can be improved.
Mm-hmm so let's, let's talk a little bit about that. That's great, super practical. I'm sure if you were to go on Instagram too, and like the hashtag Bristol stool chart, you could find it, but for sure, we'll link to Ashley's YouTube video. So you can get an, a, well educated, perspective on this to assess. Okay. Like where, you know, where am I, and could issues be going on?
So let's just talk about Ashley, the people that come to you and including myself, if I were, if I were to come to your clinic, I know. You know, you and I have talked offline. This is not a one-size fits. I know that even as I'm, you know, working with a functional medicine doctor, it's so individualized, which is why they need, someone like you, right?
To walk them through this process. If they're dealing with something that they're not able to remedy on their own, what are just some standard foundations for good gut health?
Yes. It's a Great question. I'm glad that you did that little disclaimer because there's kind of, I see it as tears. And so certainly in the first tier, which we kind of alluded to is like eating nutrient-dense foods, real foods, kind of what you were doing. Right.
But still have issues. And so then we go up to the next tier and we think through those root causes. So, we've, I've had clients where. Just supporting their stomach acid, trying to get as upstream as possible, right?
Like chewing well. First line esophagus, kind of just a food shoot into our stomach. And our stomachs are supposed to be very acidic to start breaking down these foods, especially the proteins. And so if our stomach isn't acidic enough.
And maybe it's because we were put on, a proton pump inhibitor for acid reflux, or maybe somebody has a lot of chronic stress and that's decreasing their stomach acid, or several other things could be going on there.
But if we don't have enough stomach acid, then that's really kind of upstream and issues. So we want to support that. And I've had a handful of clients that got rid of 90 plus percent of their gas and bloating by just supporting stomach acid. It's like, it's amazing. so it's really like step by step, right? Some people might not be appropriate for it, but then we kind of look at the small intestine.
I, we have a full intake form. We take on every client, it takes them about an hour to fill out, but then we can really look at the labs. They've already had to review everything, look at what supplements they're on, what medications they're on, and really try to connect some dots to figure out what might be the source for them these symptoms, which could be a wide variety of things.
Okay. So we got the number one, nutrient-dense food, in your opinion. I know there are a lot of opinions about this topic.
Is there a premier diet or way of eating other than? Less processed, you know, whole foods that you prefer for gut health. Are you more on the plant-based spectrum? More of the, you know, higher protein, good fat spectrum. Like where do you fall on that?
So it's this kind of ties back to the food freedom conversation. And so where I fall is really working with our clients to figure out what's going to be best for them. And thinking through like, how do our genetics kind of effect what type of eating we're going to feel best doing?
And I've been such a supporter of like mindful, intuitive eating for really since I became a dietitian back in 2012, and I just think it's so important that we tune into our, our gut feelings, fun intended and thinking about like, what makes us feel the best once we kind of get rid of those issues causing symptoms for us.
So. Overall, I do encourage, like, thinking about how your grandparents ate it. Think about the density of the nutrient density of our foods using the farmer's markets or growing your food. Cause we know that when food is picked When it's ripe and eaten the same day, the day after it's more nutrient sounds.