So you’re doing all the “right” things but you’re still bloated? In this episode Dr. Heather will walk you through the 3 exact steps necessary to actually finding relief from your GI issues for good. When you’re only focusing on food intake for your gut symptoms its easy to feel stuck. This episode will give you a fresh perspective into how you can actually tackle your GI issues without restricting all of your favorite foods.
- Take the free quiz to identify the root causes of your bloating
- Listen to our secret podcast “Fix Your Gut and Love Food Again
- Get 1:1 support for your GI issues
Connect with Dr. Heather Finley
Connect Jess Brown:
Resources from this episode:
- LMNT: Get a free sample pack with purchase!
- Get 1:1 support from the gutTogether® team: Book a discovery call
Dr. Heather Finley and Dr. Jess Brown
Dr. Heather Finley 00:02
There is nothing in the world that can’t be solved by a walk and unlike I agree, but and then they said like, even if it can’t be solved, it’s definitely not going to make it worse. And it’s so true walking in the sunshine is just so good for your health, your mental health, and, you know, can solve lots of problems. 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.
Dr. Jess Brown 01:15
Hey there awesome friends. I’m so excited. I have a super special guest for you guys today. Her name is Dr. Heather Finley. She is a registered dietician who helps people who are struggling with bloating, constipation, IBS. I mean, we all have struggled with this at some point where she helps these folks find relief from their symptoms. And this is my favorite part feel excited about food again. Heather has struggled with her own digestive issues for nearly 20 years and understands firsthand the impact that nutrition, lifestyle and mindset can have on our digestive health, gut health should it be restrictive, stressful or all consuming, and she has developed the simple way that helps individuals reduce digestive symptoms and add foods back into their diet. Dr. Heather has a doctorate in clinical nutrition from Maryland University of Integrative Health. And her work has been featured on Good Morning Texas and in mind body green Yahoo life and very well health. Heather, welcome to the show.
Dr. Heather Finley 02:10
Thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.
Dr. Jess Brown 02:12
I am so excited to pick your brain. I actually saw you speak a couple months ago at our international symposium for eating disorder specialists. And what I loved about you is when you started off with statistics, and then you also have like dancing cartoons and your presentation.
Dr. Heather Finley 02:27
Yeah, the dancing the poop dancing through the digestive tracts.
Dr. Jess Brown 02:34
Yes. I loved it. Well, I love it because I’m like, Okay, here’s the science and some fun. So thanks for coming on the show. Now, you mentioned that you’ve struggled with digestive health for about 20 years. Tell us a little bit about your story and how you came to be a dietitian specializing in debt health.
Dr. Heather Finley 02:50
Yeah, so I always say that I was born constipated, which sounds very sad. But it’s the reality of the situation. I don’t think that I actually realized how much of a problem I had until I was a teenager, I honestly thought that everybody just felt the way that I did, because I didn’t know anything different. So I always struggled with constipation. I always had a stomach ache, I always struggled with bloating. And it just caused a lot of just conflict as a young girl really, you know, confused about why my stomach hurt all the time confused about why I couldn’t go to the bathroom. And so, you know, eventually once I realized that nobody else felt the way that I did, or other people didn’t feel the way that I did, especially in my family. I my mom took me to doctors after doctor after doctor. And pretty much their solution was well just take me relax, or you need to drink more water. And actually the digestive issues that I had, were giving me terrible headaches. I now knowing what I know. And like I know for sure that those things had to be connected. And their solution was like well just wake up and take an ibuprofen every single day. Geez. Okay, well, that’s not going to be helpful, like long term. And so anyways, it kind of sent me down this path of trying to understand my digestive issues. On the second hand, I know you were talking earlier about being a CSSD. I was a swimmer my whole life and I swam in college. And so when I was looking at what I wanted to study in college and what I wanted to do, really I was like, Alright, I’m going to study nutrition because this will selfishly help me figure out what I can eat to swim as fast as possible, but it will also help me understand how to fix my digestive issues. And so sadly, I graduated college still just as constipated. Having stomach issues even more than I when I entered and kind of just feeling like a fraud. I thought I just spent four years and however much money You know, trying to figure out digestion and I feel more confused than ever more fearful of food than ever. And how am I maybe I picked the wrong career, honestly, like, maybe I picked the wrong career, how am I going to help other people if I can’t even help myself. And so, long story short, it kind of sent me down this journey of looking into more functional nutrition. And I was determined to figure out what was going on. And so started looking at just alternative ways to fix the gut. That’s really when the microbiome kind of started getting a little bit of its moment in the news. And it fascinated me, it was nothing that we had ever learned about in school. And so I just decided, I’m gonna keep exploring this. And so when I got my doctorate, and that’s when the huge lightbulb moments went off, and I realized that I had been approaching my gut health all wrong. I, for years thought that the reason that I was constipated was because of something I was eating. And I thought that the solution was to just keep cutting things out until I figured out what that food was. But the reality was, I was so undernourished because of the lack of variety in my diet. I was so stressed about food, which was affecting my digestion. I was overtrained from being an athlete my entire life. Even after college, I went on to do triathlons. And seriously under fueled. And so I had this huge lightbulb moment or multiple lightbulb moments, realizing, wow, my digestive health is so much more than just what I eat. And, in fact, it’s what I’m not eating, in some sense, that’s actually causing the symptoms. So I always tell people, you don’t have to go get a doctorate to figure out your digestive issues. I already did that. And so now it’s really my life’s work and mission to help as many women as possible. And really individuals as possible, find relief from digestive symptoms, without having to do these restrictive elimination diets. You know, you often hear of like low FODMAP, or whole 30, or whatever, and people saying, like, yeah, I felt great for a couple of weeks, but then the symptoms came right back. So really, my goal is, let’s figure out what’s actually at the root of your symptoms, resolve that so that you can like you said, in my bio, love food again, and enjoy food again and not be stressed about food.
Dr. Jess Brown 07:28
I love that. Okay, wait so much, right? There’s so much goodness. So like, one of the things I love that you highlighted is that it was in high school, you just kind of thought this was normal, like you had just it’s like you were the fish in water and didn’t even know you were in water. Right? It had become exactly what your life was and didn’t even know you had got issues. Now at what point in college did you realize like, that wasn’t normal, and something was wrong.
Dr. Heather Finley 07:52
So I think I realized this actually in high school. But then, because my mom had taken me to these doctors, and they really weren’t able to provide a solution. I’d kind of just lost hope and like, Okay, well, they can’t help me. So I’m gonna go to college to fix myself and then in college realized, like, I have no idea how to fix. In fact, everything I’m doing is making this worse. But I was kind of felt like I was just on this hamster wheel of like, yeah, everything’s getting worse, but I don’t really know what to do. So just kind of spinning in circles a little bit.
Dr. Jess Brown 08:28
Yeah. And what how timely that was like, then the microbiome research started coming out. It’s funny you say that? Yeah, I learned nothing about the microbiome in color. It was like for constipation, it was fiber, fluids and movement. What was the RX? For that one?
Dr. Heather Finley 08:42
Fiber fluids movements, like, Okay, if that worked, then there wouldn’t be all these people with digestive issues, you know, like fiber fluid movement, all great things, but like, it’s a lot more complex than that.
Dr. Jess Brown 08:56
Right? So you went and got your doctorate in it. And you had mentioned that you realize a lot of what was keeping you stuck was overtraining, and under fueling, so tell me a little bit about what that does to your gut health.
Dr. Heather Finley 09:09
So we’ll talk about under fueling first, because overtraining kind of comes into play there. But you know, really, at the end of the day, your body kind of functions a little bit like an energy equation, you know, it’s, your body is really smart. So it has to decide where it’s going to give resources and if it doesn’t have enough resources, then it’s going to take resources away from things that are not essential. And, oddly enough, your gut is not essential. Because your heart, your lungs, your brain, those things are essential. Those things have to keep working for you to be alive. Your gut. I mean, like, yes, it should be working, but it can go a lot longer without fuel than your brain can And, and without you getting oxygen via your lungs. So at the end of the day when someone is under fueled and under eating, it really just comes down to that energy equation, there’s not enough energy left, we often tell our clients because this is something most of our clients struggle with is you at the end of the day, you’re just not eating enough to have a bowel movement. And so you feel really bloated and constipated because you are, but you don’t have the energy to actually push things through. And so, you know, unfortunately, you’re full of stool, but the only thing to actually get that stool out is eating more and fueling yourself appropriately. And so overtraining comes into that as well, when it’s a resource issue, you know, if you are depleting your body so much from training. I think for a lot of my life, I was very overtrained and had no idea. I was a competitive swimmer. And so I mean, our practices were like, two a day in high school 4:45am to 6:45am. And then I would go to school all day. And, you know, then I would go to practice after school. And it just says, that was my life. But I didn’t know anything different. And but looking back, I’m like, wow, I think I was severely severely overtrained. And so I mean, your body just doesn’t have enough resources to recover. And so that’s just an added stress. And really, I always tell people that stress is the number one cause of digestive issues. And everybody rolls their eyes at me until I explain. I’m not just talking about you being stressed about your job, or your relationship or being stuck in traffic. I’m talking about stress, as it pertains to, under fueling overtraining. Those are all stressors on your body, even not sleeping, enough dehydration, those are all stressors on your body. And unfortunately, and fortunately, in some sense, your body doesn’t know the difference between being under fueled and being stuck in traffic. So the stress response is the same, your body’s thinking, there’s a tiger sitting right next to me, I need to run away so I don’t need to digest a meal I need to run. And so blood flow is moving away from the gut to the muscles, so that you can run away from this tiger. And so thank goodness, your body has that response. Because if you legitimately were next to a tiger, you would need that response. But that stress response is triggered all day long when you’re under eating under fueling, etc. I don’t know if you want to get into this, but it’s kind of a catch 22 If you have really severe digestive issues, sometimes it can be hard to eat enough because you’re so uncomfortable. And so that’s where I see a lot of people get stuck is, well, I’m so bloated, and I’m so constipated. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, I’m having loose stool I’m scared to eat because I have to go out and I don’t want to have diarrhea, so it can become a really vicious cycle. 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 spark plugs 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.
Dr. Jess Brown 04:04
Yeah, wow, so much good stuff in there. I love how you said the body is like an energy equation. And it keeps what’s essential as a priority. And, you know, I think the training feeds into that though, because even though training is not essential, like you’re not giving your body the choice, so it has to allocate energy for that. But it’s just like in sports world, we talked about how your periods shuts down, like you know, your hormone system is non essential also, and so you’re gonna see that period, stop if you’re female and shut down. I love that, that look at it and then thinking of stress beyond just yeah, I’m stressed out of my job. I’m stressed out from juggling all the balls. It’s actually like all of the stressors I’m putting on my life from Yeah, amazing stuff. So so when you work with people and you know, they come to you, they roll their eyes at you because they’re like, oh, it’s stress. You know? What, how do you pull them in and talk them through really taking stress seriously and getting to some of those foundational goals of got health.
Dr. Heather Finley 15:00
So I like to explain it like a bucket. So the what I want everybody to hear from this is word, the goal is not to get rid of all the stress in your life, that’s impossible. And if you are hearing this thinking like, well, I guess I’m just going to struggle with digestive issues forever, because I can’t get rid of these stressors, like I have a high stress job that I can’t get rid of, or I have, you know, a child with special needs. And that’s stressful. Like, there’s, sometimes there’s just things in your life that are stressful. So we’re not trying to get rid of all the stress. But we are trying to drain that stress bucket. So if you think of all the things that are causing stress in your life, maybe it’s your job, maybe it’s your marriage, maybe it’s friendships, maybe it’s lack of sleep, maybe it’s under eating, overtraining, digestive issues, that’s a stress on the body. If you have bacterial overgrowth in your gut, or an infection or poor digestion, that’s a stressor, you know, lack of a period, that’s stressful. So we’re adding up all the stressors. And then what we want to do is we want to poke holes in the bottom of the bucket and see how can we drain the water out so it’s not overflowing. So you know, nourishing yourself, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, implementing stress management throughout your day, maybe that’s like taking a walk for 15 minutes between, you know, calls or on your lunch break, where you don’t take your phone and just listening to the birds. You know, trying to not scroll on your screen at night, which everybody, myself included is guilty of. So just finding ways to poke holes in the bottom of that stress bucket, and then addressing your digestive issues that will help to relieve that stress bucket as well.
Dr. Jess Brown 16:47
I love that you say that? Because you’re right. We can’t get rid of the stress that I know. Like a lot of the clients when we talk about gut health, and they get their gut in a healthy spot. You know, we I talked about poop all the time. I’m sure you do. But they’re like I had like healthy poop this week. And we’re all excited. And then next week, something happens and it’s messed up again, you know, they get so discouraged. Like how am I supposed to maintain this and I love how you make that really tangible for people and reachable. It’s like, okay, I can reduce it in these areas. So you said nourish like, even Neph? Get some sleep get on a I’m guessing like sleep hygiene, a regular schedule, stress management, was it those three? Or did I miss one?
Dr. Heather Finley 17:28
What did I say? Yeah, eating enough stress management, sleep, hydration duration. And then, you know, if you are experiencing digestive issues that are really severe addressing those, like if you have SIBO, or you have, you know, dysbiosis in your large intestine, or you have H Pylori, or maybe you’re not making enough stomach acid or pancreatic enzymes, whatever it is addressing that is going to reduce a lot of stress on your body too. Because if you’re actually digesting and absorbing the food that you’re eating, you’re getting the benefit of all the minerals in the food and the macronutrients. And so overall, it’s nourishing your body even more.
Dr. Jess Brown 18:06
I love that. So I have a question. How do you talk people through some of this transition period? Because it sounds like you said earlier that if people are struggling with constipation, they’re so constipated, that sometimes the remedy is to actually eat more. And I know like, people get really nervous about that. It’s like they’re so bloated, they don’t want to be any more bloated, but I’m guessing there’s like a transition period. Like we see that and folks with eating disorders, there is a transition period where we say like, okay, as we start the refeeding process, there will be this time period where it’s a little bit uncomfortable, like, how do you talk people through that and convince them to like, go through the bloat?
Dr. Heather Finley 18:43
Well, I mean, this sounds like really, I don’t know, not severe. I don’t know what the word is, but like what you’re doing right now is not working, obviously. So like, we’re not going to keep what’s the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again. So like, why don’t we give this a try to see if this helps. Because you don’t want to be stuck where you are forever? If you’re not feeling good right now, much easier said than done, of course. So there’s lots of things that you can do to make that transition period easier. You know, there’s different remedies that you can use to help with the bloating help with the constipation, different things we can use to get your bowels moving a bit better, that aren’t like, overly complicated and even just different ways that we can cook your food like probably eating huge, large raw salads, not a great option if you’re really constipated and bloated, but really well cooked soft foods. Definitely a great option. So sometimes it’s just looking at okay, what are you eating on a daily basis? How can we optimize this and how can we maybe change the form of the food that you’re having? So you’re still potentially having the things that you like, but maybe instead of a raw salad you’re having, like cooked a troubles with whatever else you’re having.
Dr. Jess Brown 20:03
So good, such helpful tips there. Now, when you work with clients and patients, how do you actually get to the root cause of digestive issues?
Dr. Heather Finley 20:10
Yeah. So I like to see it in three steps. Number one is let’s look at your medical history. So when did you start? You know, Are you like me? And you were born constipated? So like, what was your mom’s pregnancy? Like, did you know were you born via C section? Were you breastfed like let’s look at like the beginning of everything. You know, if you aren’t, and it was like, Maybe we hear this all the time, I went to Mexico, I drink the water, I got sick. And I’ve never been the same sense. We actually recently had a client and she’s like, I know it was from this watermelon that I ate at the Fourth of July barbecue. And no, it was bad. And I got really sick. And I’ve never been the same. And so sometimes there’s like a very distinct event like it happened. You know, when I got food poisoning, or it happened when I went through a divorce It happened when I you know, after I had babies, etc. So looking at your medical history, when did these symptoms start? How have they progressed? When were they better? When were they worse? Then we also step two is let’s just look at the day to day pattern. So are you waking up bloated? Are you not bloated? When you wake up? And maybe you get progressively more bloated throughout the day? Are you having a bowel movement every day? Or are you having too many bowel movements every day? Are you burping after meals are you bloating after meals? So just the day to day patterns can actually tell us a lot about why. For example, if you’re waking up bloated, you definitely most likely are constipated. If you’re not clearing your bowels every day, you’re probably going to wake up bloated so that in my mind, you know it’s like okay, let’s explore motility How can we get gut motility moving? And then step three is oftentimes we’ll use some testing. So we’ll look at blood values on labs or we’ll look at minerals. We’ll also look at potentially some functional stool testing to look at. Okay, what is your good bacteria look like? What does your bad bacteria look like? Do you have H Pylori? Do you have you know? Are you actually digesting your food? Do you have adequate pancreatic output? Do you have fat in your stool? That’s something that we can look at on a stool test. So the testing can definitely be helpful. But you really need step one and two, before you even decide, okay, what testing would be appropriate.
Dr. Jess Brown 22:34
I love that you put testing there, because I think so many people want to jump to the testing, when there are so many other things that can come prior to that, like looking at the history and then looking at the patterns. I love that. Well, I have to like I have to sing your praises and share with you some things after I saw you speak. And it’s all related to like the build up of how important those steps one and two are. But after I saw you speak, you talked about something called meal hygiene. And looking at like the patterns of your day and making sure your meal hygiene is is squared away, you’re eating your food, you’re chewing your food, like thoroughly, you’re calm, you know you’re actually in a space that doesn’t cause stress, if possible, or reducing stress when possible. So I had, I have two boys as we were talking about earlier. And I realized the other day this was after the conference after I saw you speak I was like I am so gassy after dinner. Like what the heck, I have a stressful day. I do a lot in the day. But I don’t have gas but it’s like I get home I eat dinner and I’m like I stink. What is wrong with me. I was like I’m worse than my boys. And I started thinking about it about my meal hygiene. And what I realized is that dinner time, I am playing referee with my boys. You know, I’m like sound don’t hit your brother eat your food. And I am just cramming food in my mouth at dinner. Even though we’re trying to have a family dinner. We’re really in this season of life where it is very chaotic. You know, he’s like, my oldest is leaning back on the chair. And I’m like, please don’t crack your head. Oh my gosh. Oh, it’s just madness. So anyways, after you talk about meal hygiene, I’m looking at some of these day to day patterns, and started observing how I was eating. And I was going oh my gosh, I need to slow down and taste my food and to my food made me not swallow so much air. Just take a minute. And literally whether that’s all I did, and it was I digested my food completely different. And oh, it was incredible. I’m like, Oh no, I don’t stink after dinner. I’m actually pleasant to be around.
Dr. Heather Finley 24:30
Awesome. And I totally relate. I mean Mealtime at my house. I have a four year old and a one year old. It is not necessarily relaxing. I mean, sometimes I’m just like, I can’t do it today. I am not eating with the two of you hooligans, I’m waiting to go to bed. Like, I am not going to try to eat this in five minutes. I mean, like last night, my son, he’s one and he’s like rocking back and forth in his highchair and like he’s gonna tip it over. We had the five pound weight under his highchair to keep it down because I’m like, same thing you’re gonna crack your head open. So I totally relate to you on that. One thing that has actually been really helpful is my daughter, she’s four and a half, she is very into meal hygiene because I’ve like made it such a thing. But every night before dinner, she is in charge of deciding who the prayer helper is and who the breathing helper is. And so she’ll, she’ll say, Mom, you’re the prayer helper, Dad, you’re the breathing helper. And so someone says the prayer, and someone does the breathing. And now my son, it’s pretty funny. He’s one he knows, like, what we’re about to do, and he just laughs so like, that’s, that’s good. He’s, you know, all those endorphins. It’s improving his digestion. But anyways, I think even if your meals are chaotic, trying to get your kids involved and doing something silly like that, I’ve had some families that we’ve worked with where they’ll sing, or they’ll hum Happy Birthday twice before eating, maybe for older kids, that would be better. And they’re like, it helps so much. So I don’t know,
Dr. Jess Brown 26:03
I love that I think I could probably get their buy in if I’m like, let’s like hum, happy birthday and fart noises or something they like.
Dr. Heather Finley 26:11
Do like a body shake out. And my daughter loves that as well. So we just tried to make it fun. And that way, everybody’s just kind of relaxing before we eat. And you know, some days it works. And some days it’s just complete chaos. But you know, I’m like, hey, if sometimes it’s working, that’s good. That’s all like.
Dr. Jess Brown 26:29
Oh,yeah, it’ll stick. I mean, they’ll remember that. And that’s, that’s a very cool thing. You’re teaching them. I’m gonna have to try that. So I’ll keep you posted on the Happy Birthday Songs and get them to buy in. Now I have one last question for you, Heather, because this is the fueler awesome show. What is the number one way you like to feel? You’re awesome.
Dr. Heather Finley 26:48
I was trying to think about this question beforehand, because I saw it when you sent it to me. And I’m like, man, there’s so many things. But I think right now, because it’s springtime in Texas, it’s not quite the misery of summer yet. It’s walks outside walks outside. I actually heard something the other day that’s like, there is nothing in the world that can’t be solved by a walk. And I’m like, I agree. But and then they said like, even if it can’t be solved, it’s definitely not going to make it worse. And it’s so true. Walking in the sunshine is just so good for your health, your mental health, and, you know, can solve lots of problems. So that’s what I would say right now.
Dr. Jess Brown 27:29
I love that. I’m gonna take a walk today. You just inspired me.
Dr. Heather Finley 27:34
So nice, because you know, once it hits summer here, I’m not walking outside. It’s way too hot.
Dr. Jess Brown 27:38
I can’t imagine you guys get the humidity too, don’t you? Yeah. Oh, oh. Well, Heather, I’m so grateful for you on the show. Today, I’m gonna link all of your information in the show notes. But for those that are listening, how can they find you and learn more about what you
Dr. Heather Finley 27:53
So one thing that is super fun, if anybody’s listening and you’re thinking I want to know what’s causing my digestive issues, I actually have a really cool, fun quiz. So the quiz is called which popular song describes your digestive issues so you can find out if you are Evanescence, or Miley Cyrus. So it’s a really fun quiz. Anyways, if you just go to Dr. Heather finley.co backslash quiz, you can take that quiz, or you can connect with me on Instagram at Dr. Heather Finley.
Dr. Jess Brown 28:25
I love it. Well, it’s so great to chat with you. Thank you so much for coming here today and doing what you’re doing. I know you’re you’re changing lives by changing debts and it’s awesome.
Dr. Heather Finley 28:33
Thank you as well. 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. I’m giving you a thumbs up because you just finished another episode of the love of God podcast. I am so excited because Black Friday is just around the corner and honestly, Thanksgiving and Black Friday are some of my favorite days of the year. The buzz on Instagram has been wild with questions about our Black Friday specials and guess what? The answer is a resounding yes. So make sure that you’re part of our email list to be the very first in the know about our fantastic Black Friday deals on htma or hair mineral testing and our Cyber Monday special for our membership. You do not want to miss out on these gems I promise. The link to join our email list is in the show notes below. And as always remember that when you love your gut, it’ll love you back and that’s what we’re all about.