Episode 007: Six Non-Negotiable Actions for Improved Health
What do acne, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), anxiety & depression, unexplained weight gain, and inflammation, not to mention the seasonal allergies have in common?
In this episode, we're exploring Leaky Gut Syndrome: what it is, symptoms & some of the causes of it. I also take you on a time lapse, sharing what I believe were influencing milestones that contributed my poor gut health.
And I share the six non-negotiables that everyone should be doing, whether you have leaky gut-related problems, chronic disease, autoimmune disease, metabolic syndrome, or even if you aren’t necessarily suffering from anything, but just want to start trying to be a little healthier.
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Before we dive into today's show I want to let you know that my next group coaching program for the 21-Day Sugar Detox is coming up. We're going to begin on October 9, 2017. And although the actual detox itself is only three weeks, my group coaching program will be a 4-week long program. And that's because I want to help you set yourself up for success. So, my coaching begins one full week before you start detoxing.
And if you haven't heard of the 21-Day Sugar Detox, it’s a comprehensive and I feel it's a very complete, yet simple and effective program based on eating real foods. It's designed to help you break free and find freedom for the hold that sugar has on you.
The goal of the program is to help you eliminate sugar from your diet for three weeks so that you can change your palate, normalize your blood sugar and finally kick your sugar cravings to the curb.
Now I’ll go into much more detail on sugar and the 21DSD program in next week's episode. But I wanted to give you a heads up that this is coming up very soon, and I'll include a link in the show notes for this episode so you can find out more. And if you have any questions reach out to me and I'm happy to answer any questions you have about it.
Now without further ado let's get to this week's episode.
Although I shared my story with you in Episode 001 I'm often asked just how did I come to have such poor health. Obviously, this is something that I've examined many times over the years and it's slowly come together for me, and I realized my health history created the perfect storm for it. So, I'm going to take you on a bit of a time lapse of what I believe were influencing milestones in my life that may have led up to it.
And as you listen to this you'll know that there really isn't anything unusual in my story. While it is unique to me as all of our stories are to each of us, you'll hear that what I experienced are things that are common things that so many people perhaps even you experienced too. But as I like to say and you've heard me say this, “Common doesn’t mean normal.”
Okay so in Bonus Episode 005.5. I shared how I started getting zits in the 5th grade. And by the time I was 14 years old my zits had turned to full blown acne. And my Mom had taken me to see a dermatologist. And I can still hear his voice saying, “Food has nothing to do with zits.” Thanks Dr. Shapiro.
Then he prescribed erythromycin, Retin-A and tetracycline. And on top of that I also used Neutrogena, Clearasil, Oxy-5 and any other over-the-counter products I could get my hands on. And I continued with this prescriptive treatment all through high school and college.
Fast forward to 2001 when I was in my 20’s and I noticed that the outer third of both of my eyebrows disappeared. And for a long time, I blamed the lady at the Shiseido counter at Nordstrom's because she insisted on, and I let her, “cleaning up my brows” for me. Now she did over-pluck them –badly - but they've never grown back. In 16 years, they've never fully grown back.
Now, you may be wondering, “Naomi when did your eyebrows have to do it” Well if you don't know (and I didn’t know either), thinning eyebrows, in particular, the outer one-third are a sign of hypothyroidism, which is another indicator of poor health.
Okay, fast-forward a couple of more years. After finding my inner athlete (that I shared in my story), and in spite of already being below my goal weight and working out two or even three times a day, I still obsessively tracked every single calorie that I ate. I used Calorie King which was out before MyFitnessPal. I was so afraid of overeating and gaining the weight back.
But I was actually undereating and I had what I now know as Orthorexia and that's when someone is constantly after the perfect diet which we know doesn't exist. So this disordered eating kept my body in a chronic state of stress. And as we know from Episode 002 with Dr. Melissa your body doesn’t differentiate the different types of stress that it experiences. The hormonal response is the same, no matter the source of the stress.
While I had dropped the ton of weight, and seemed healthier than ever, my acne was out of control. The antibiotics that I've been on since I was 14 years old stopped working and nothing was helping. So my doctor took me off of the antibiotics and replaced it with birth control pills which I then stayed on for 10 more years. Then, on top of that she also gave me a standing prescription for Ambien because my insomnia was just as out of control as my acne. And after that, she gave me a standing prescription for Lunesta because the Ambien stopped working
Fast forward a year or two, I started a new job. And it was an awesome job; a great opportunity. But the stress level at that job was nothing that I experienced before, not even during the dotcom days - and I survived the dotcom days!
In fact, during the dotcom days the work was so insane I was taking meetings on Thanksgiving Day and on Christmas Day. But in this situation, it was not the work that was stressful, it was the management. It was the micromanagement and it was the personalities of the leadership team. Work stress took on a whole new meaning for me. My stomach was in knots every single day and there was no such thing as the Sunday night dread - it was the everyday dread, it was the every night dread, it was the every minute in the office dread, it was the every email read.
I was depressed and I was anxious all the time. And that's about the time that I took up long distance running. From 2010 to 2014 I finished over 20 half marathons and trained for nine full marathons and finished four of them. Now for someone who had no athletic background, to do that many races in that short period of time, that's a lot.
But only finished four of the nine marathons that I trained for because I was always injured, and I lived on NSAIDs, aka ibuprofen, aspirin, Aleve, Motrin, Tylenol - basically anything to relieve pain. And here’s a little fun fact - I was taking those things like candy. Then I found out that you could get prescription strength ibuprofen in the UK without a prescription! You could get that stuff at the drug store there. So, whenever I had friends or colleagues travel to the UK, I’d have them bring me back boxes and boxes of that stuff because not only could you get prescription strength there, you could also get it in topical form, and would lather that stuff on like lotion.
Finally, something began to click and I began to realize that my body was just a chronic mess of inflammation. I'm not talking about acute inflammation, the kind that happens when you sprain your ankle and it swells. This is low grade, chronic inflammation.
But I wasn't willing to cut back on my training or make any changes around that. But I was willing to change some things about my diet, so I cut out gluten and dairy. But my gut was still a hot mess and I shared what that was like.
And despite training for a race after race, my weight started to climb and no matter what I tried I couldn't stop it. So, you have to remember I came from an overweight background, had massive success losing weight under the mentality of “burning more calories than I ate.” So here I am working out like a maniac counting every single calorie and I'm starting to gain weight. So of course, in my mind I'm thinking well I need to exercise more and eat less.
OK I'll stop there. I realize that all of these things sound really random but I have a point to this. I mean what could acne, IBS, anxiety and depression, unexplained weight gain, inflammation - not to mention the seasonal allergies that I suffered from every Spring and Fall even though I've never had them before in my life - what do all these things have in common? Can you guess?
Well my friends, these are all signs of a leaky gut.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is also known as intestinal permeability. It’s a condition where your gut has been damaged and can no longer function properly. You see, your gut has a protective barrier that prevents bad things from entering into it. And when that barrier becomes broken, the bad things like bad bacteria, pathogens, excess hormones, toxins, undigested foods and other junk are able to break through the protective barrier and enter your intestines. And that's what makes a leaky gut.
To help further explain this, I'm going to use an analogy that was used in one of my trainings. I hope this helps paint a better picture of what's going on here.
I want you to imagine that you live in a large peaceful castle surrounded by a protective wall. I'm a big fan of the TV show “Reign” that was about Mary, Queen of Scots (it just ended this past summer). So when I share this analogy, this is what I'm picturing my mind. So, we have a very large castle that surrounded by a tall protective wall. And on top of the wall are knights, and they are the protectors of the castle. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder and their main purpose is to make sure that anybody coming into the castle is not going to disrupt the peace and harmony of it. And anybody going out of the castle knows where to go. They know how to get there and they know how to conduct themselves if they encounter anything that's problematic. They are the keepers of law and order.
Now there are always invaders trying to get into the castle. But if the knights aren’t properly fed and supported, and given the proper tools that they need to defend the castle, then the invaders will eventually wear them down, break through the protective wall, wreak havoc, and cause chaos disrupting the peace and harmony of the castle.
So now let's make some connections here:
The castle is your small intestines. The protective wall surrounding it is the villi that surrounds your intestines. And the Knights are the good bacteria that each one of us needs to protect the health of our gut. They keep the ecosystem functioning and the way that it's supposed to. But when the invaders - the bad bacteria, toxins, excess hormones, pathogens, undigested food, etc. - when they break through your security system, then you have a leaky gut.
And then when those invaders move into the castle, bad things move into your bloodstream and it not only causes havoc in your gut, but also in your immune system. Because, as we know, upwards of 70% of our immune system resides in our digestive system. And on top of that, because your brain and your gut are intricately connected (in fact the gut is referred to as the second brain of the body), it also affects your brain function and that's how it can affect your moods and your emotions.
So, a leaky gut is related to a myriad of problems like IBS (irritable syndrome), SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), skin conditions like acne and eczema, seasonal allergies, poor liver, function food sensitivities and intolerances, chemical sensitivities (that's what we talked about in Episode 003) and mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. It also can cause things like asthma, arthritis, autoimmune-like symptoms, as well as autoimmune diseases. And this is why you hear a lot of talk these days on why gut health is essential for wellness.
So how does one’s gut become leaky? Well there's a number of things that can cause it. Some of them are:
Frequent use of antibiotics A poor diet Eating a lot of grains Gluten Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc) Birth control pills Endocrine disruptors (Episode 003) Excessive stress or trauma
And these are just a few of the things that can cause it - there are many more.
So, anything sound familiar?
As I've compiled and documented my own personal health history, I started to connect the dots and it became really easy for me to see how I ended up with a leaky gut – decades-long use of antibiotics and birth control pills, a poor diet, eating a lot of grains and gluten especially when carb-loading, excessive use of NSAIDs, environmental toxins we’re all exposed to just living in our modern world, the stress from work, from overtraining, from not enough sleep, from sitting in traffic every day, from eating foods that I'm intolerant of - and the list goes on.
It’s no wonder that I had acne, nexplained weight gain, fatigue, SIBO, thyroid issues, food intolerances, anxiety and depression. Basically, I was a mess.
And I was also confused, because as you know, there are protocols for everything.
There is the adrenal fatigue diet, the thyroid diet, Low FODMAPS (the recommended diet for SIBO) – and, well, what do you do when you have all these things?! Where do you even start? And to be honest, that’s actually why I worked with a couple of health coaches, because I was so confused.
And that's what I want to talk to you about today.
Because once I understood what was leaky gut was, and how all these issues that I had were related, the thing that I struggled the most with was, “Where do I start? I have all these things, and there's all these different protocols. Where do I even start?” And that is the question I’m most often asked, “What should I do? Where do I start?”
So today I'm going to share with you The Non-Negotiables - six things that you should do, no matter what issues you have, whether they be leaky gut-related or not. It doesn't matter if you're suffering from a chronic disease, an autoimmune disease, metabolic syndrome or something else. Or if you aren't even necessarily suffering from anything at all but you just want to start trying to be a little bit healthier. These six things are things that everyone should be doing whether you have health issues or not.
And it's super important to do these things first before trying to do more advanced things like supplements, herbs and restrictive diets. Well actually, those things can probably be done in parallel to these non-negotiables, but these non-negotiables have to be addressed. They cannot be ignored.
I'm in a lot of Facebook groups for things like adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism and SIBO. And these groups have massive memberships, and we're talking tens of thousands of people. And there's a lot of discussions on what supplements and herbs to take, what diet to follow, what lab tests should they do. And those are all very valuable very useful discussions to have, don't get me wrong those are very important, but a lot of that could be moot points if you're not already taking care of the basics and doing these six non-negotiable things.
So, let's dive in.
If you remember back in Episode 002, I asked Dr. Melissa what's the first thing someone should do. And she said to always start with food. So, the first non-negotiable is to remove the most inflammatory foods - and that’s sugar, gluten and dairy. This is what is known as a Basic Elimination Diet.
These are the foods most irritating to the gut. Now they may not be the only irritating foods but when you're dealing with any of the symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome this is where you start.
Now you might be thinking, “Well fruit is sugar, do I have to eliminate that too?” That depends on the current terrain of your gut; i.e., the current state of it. You might have to avoid sugar for a little while, and that's something that I'll talk more about in the next episode.
Now as for gluten and dairy, everyone will have their own opinions of this. My personal opinion is that there is no nutritional value in gluten. Personally, I think everyone should avoid it.
I think there are many people who think they are able to tolerate gluten, but they might be missing some of the ways they're are actually reacting to it. I realize that not everyone will agree with this, but this is my personal stance.
As for dairy, I know that personally, I’m intolerant of it; I've tested and validated this. I also know that many people are also intolerant of it, but there are some people who are able to tolerate dairy.
But before anyone makes any assumptions of tolerance I personally feel that if you've never eliminated something before and if you’re experiencing symptoms of poor health, it would behoove you to try an elimination diet and experiment with it. Give your body a break for 2-3 weeks from something that could potentially be causing it stress and inflammation, then reintroduce it and see how you feel. Because of a lot of times if you've never eliminated something before, you really don't know how you feel without it.
I know many people who thought they were fine with gluten until they actually did take up the challenge and eliminated it for 2-3 weeks. When they tried to reintroduce it, they realized just reactive they are to it, never realizing it before.
So if you've never tried an elimination diet, and you’re struggling with any of the issues related to Leaky Gut Syndrome, it would behoove you to give it a try.
Now as for reintroduction, there is a systematic, a methodical approach for reintroduction. So, you want to make sure that you're able to follow it so that you get accurate results, and aren't only seeing what you want to see. I do have a future episode planned on elimination diets.
But what I want you to remember right now is that taking all of the supplements and pharmaceuticals in the world is not going to be as effective or address the underlying causes if your body still has to battle the sources of inflammation.
In addition, you can be eating the healthiest foods in the world but if your gut health is compromised, if it may not be able to absorb the nutrients from the foods that you're eating, and you can still be nutrient-deficient.
The bottom line is, you can't retake the castle if the invaders are still there. You need to clear the terrain and rebuild it.
Okay, non-negotiable number two is sleep. And sleep could really be number one, it’s a tossup here because while we can function on a poor diet, and we can function with limited exercise - we may not function well but we can function - we absolutely cannot function without sleep.
So many of us simply do not get enough sleep, and not only that we don't get enough quality sleep.
Let’s face it - in this modern world that we live in, sleep has become devalued. And taking Ambien or Lunesta or any other sleep aid is not the answer.
We need quality restful natural sleep.
If you haven't had that in a long time, it’s not easy to get a good night's sleep. We don't make it easy on ourselves but we have to, especially if we're dealing with compromised health.
Just last week I was listening to a lecture on an on the Endocrine system and we talked about how the best thing you can do to rebalance your hormones is to sleep.
Now we all know how good it feels to get a good night's sleep, it can make you feel like a brand-new person. Our goal should be for this to happen every night!
And if that's something you struggle with, I have a free resource for you, “10 Strategies To Get A Good Night's Sleep.” You can find this at www.livefablife.com/beatinsomnia.
I’ve struggled with sleep so I know how debilitating insomnia is, and I know how hard it can be to get a good night's sleep. It’s is something that we really need to work on, make it a priority and put effort into. It is possible, the strategies that I’ve used has helped me tremendously and I know that it can help you too. So, make sure you download it here: www.livefablife.com/beatinsomnia.
Non-negotiable is to have tools in your arsenal to manage stress. Stress is unavoidable, we know this, and the stress I'm mostly talking about here is emotional stress.
Earlier this year I did a project called, “The 100 Conversations Project” were I set out to interview 100 women (and men too) on how they experienced stress and what they do about it.
Every single person that I spoke with upwards of 30 people) identified work as their number one source of stress.
Isn't that crazy?
Now we can't go all out and quit our jobs tomorrow. That's just not practical and that is not what I'm telling you to do.
But you have to have ways to manage it. Some ways to manage stress can be meditation, yoga, Tai-Chi, moderate exercise, acupuncture or even something that I recently discovered - Reiki. Find something that works for you, or find a lot of things that work for you, so, like I said earlier, you have an arsenal of tools in your tool belt available to you.
(By the way, I clearly haven't reached my goal of 100 conversations yet, so if you’re interested in being a part of the 100 Conversations Project, reach out to me and I'd love to have a chat with you).
The fourth non-negotiable goes hand-in-hand with number three, and that is to allow time for relaxation. Between work, chores and other obligations and responsibilities, we just don't get a lot of downtime yet downtime is essential.
After my 9-5 ends, I still put in a good 2-3 hours a day working on my coaching practice, whether that be coaching clients, Beautycounter work, or producing this podcast. And I've been doing this for a year and a half now.
Last summer I forgot that relaxation is important thing and it wasn't until I took a few days off to go to Tahoe with my family, did I truly realize just how burnt out I was. It’s hard because I love both my jobs, and I don't view it as work, but it does take brain power and mental capacity, and that can be exhausting. Just those 2-3 days away from my home office, away from my computer, away from my daily routine, just being in a new relaxing space in a beautiful area like Lake Tahoe, that gave my brain a much-needed break that I just didn't know that it needed.
And when I came back I felt so refreshed and had so much more clarity and energy, that I was able to produce better work, than had I not taken the time for relaxation and rejuvenation. Now you don't need to go on an extended trip. You can simply fit in a couple of 20 minute walks in your work day to just get outside. Leave your phone at your desk and just allow your body and your brain the opportunity to relax.
But if you can schedule extended time on a regular basis, by all means do it!
Non-negotiable number five is to stay hydrated.
I'm a big baseball fan. Like huge. I love my San Francisco Giants. And one summer I went to 40 home games. That's a lot of ballgames. And because we always sat in the same seats we knew the ushers who worked our section. There was this one kid, a college student, and that was his summer job. I mean what a great summer job right?! And he used to walk up and down the aisles selling bottled water yelling, “Water, it’s the source of life!”
And that would always make us laugh, but it's true, right?! Water is the source of life. And let's be honest, how many of us drink enough water every day? I know for me, there are days when the meetings are back-to-back, or I'm engrossed in my work and my hydroflask runs empty, and sometimes they just forget to, or I don't want to break my train of thought and to get up and refill it. And then before I know it, hours or even the entire day has passed by and I haven't had anything to drink all day.
Now while staying hydrated sounds very basic, it's really important to do this to do all of these things, especially when we're dealing with less than optimal health. I really want to ptovide that context here.
When you're dealing with compromised our health, these basic things become all the much more magnified, all the more important. The last non-negotiable may quite possibly be the most important one - and it’s community. This is an interesting one because in today's modern world, through our devices and social media, we are more connected now than ever before.
I’m listening to the audio version of Brene Brown's newest book, “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest For True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.” It’s a conversation that is so needed right now. Now if you're not familiar with Brene Brown, she’s a researcher in social work meaning, she studies how people interact with each other (and she's given probably the most popular TED talk ever).
Anyway, in her new book she talks about how although we are more connected than ever before, there are also more lonely people now than there has been in the past because it's really easy to isolate ourselves.
We all have a lot going on, and knowing this, we may feel less inclined to reach out to others. And while it's great to spend time alone, and believe me I'm an introvert so alone time is a necessity for me., it's also essential for our well-being to be connected with others -- to feel like we belong, that we're a part of a community, that we have a support network for when times are tough and we’re feeling down or stressed. It's important to have some things a group or someone that we can call or meet up with when we are feeling down, even if it’s for a short period of time.
On some level, whether you're single or married or whatever your status is, I think everyone struggles with loneliness. And this is why it’s so important to make the effort to see each other in person and not just comment on each other's posts. But to make the time to spend time with the people who are important to you. And alone can improve our health and wellness. This may not be what we normally think of, like what supplement should I be taking, or what diet should I be on, or how many calories should I be eating or what should my workout be. But I think that community is just as, if not more important than all of those things. I truly do. And some might think that this really “woo-woo.” But I don't think there's anything wrong with “woo-woo.” And, I don't think this is “woo-woo” at all.
It’s so important to make the effort to stay connected. It could even just be 20 seconds to send a text message to someone and say, “Hey I know it's been awhile since we connected, but I just wanted to let you know that I'm thinking about you and I hope you're doing well.” I try to do this and I always appreciate it when others do this for me. It doesn't take a lot of effort to build a supportive community but that's a whole other topic that I could get into because I a lot of thoughts on that.
In fact, I think I could probably do an episode of each non-negotiable - and I just might! We'll see.
To recap because this is getting quite long, the six non-negotiables are:
Eliminate inflammatory foods Make sleep a priority Have tools in your arsenal to manage your stress Make time for relaxation Stay hydrated. Have community connection.
There will be other non-negotiables that are specific to each individual person - that's the power of bioindividuality. It can be further dietary elimination protocols or other hobbies and routines - all of those things will take some time to uncover and figure out. But these six things are where you should start, especially if you're unsure where to begin. Please do not underestimate the power of each one of these things!
Now I want to hear from you. I’d love to hear how you are doing with any of these six non-negotiables or, if you've uncovered any other non-negotiables for youreslf. As always you can contact me on social media or over on the show notes for this episode where you can leave a comment or reach out through the Contact page on my web site. You can also get my free download on the 10 Strategies that I use for a better night's sleep: www.livefablife.com/beatinsomnia
And if you're enjoying the show, and we're seven episodes in, I'd love for you to share it with someone who you know would find it helpful and would enjoy it too.
That's all that I have for you this week. I'll catch you next week on the next episode of the live fab life podcast. As always. Thanks so much for listening.
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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.