The Role of Diet in Managing Stress, with Carly Lucchesi

| Episode 012

Carly Lucchesi

When the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March, 11 2020,  the world collectively experienced a new definition for what it means to be “stressed out.” With new levels of uncertainty and unforeseen circumstances, many people saw disruption in their diet and exercise habits that further contributed to the stress they were experiencing. 

Stress and nutrition can jointly shape our gut microbiota and overall health. Carly Lucchesi is a Registered Dietician of over ten years and Certified LEAP therapist. Carly shares more about the importance of approaching your health holistically, identifying your own unique triggers, and managing your stress for a healthier and happier life.

Click the play button above to listen to our conversation with Carly.

Highlights from Today’s Episode

  • How stress impacts our bodies and our colon health specifically. 
  • How diet can play a role in managing stress-related symptoms.
  • How people can learn what their system needs and how to build healthy habits that work for them.
  • Quick and easy changes people can make to start feeling better amidst a busy and stressful life.

Industry Spotlight: Your Living Health

Your Living Health

Carly Lucchesi is a registered dietician and certified LEAP therapist who helps women (and some brave men!) to lose weight when their stress is starting to show. She has over ten years experience as a dietitian, and a true love of helping others achieve their dreams. With her process, she can help cultivate an understanding of your brain, and how to manage it to promote actions and results in your life.

Colon Health Podcast with Dr. Dac and Ariel Bridges

About the Colon Health Podcast

Co-hosted by Dr. Dac Teoli and Ariel Bridges, the Colon Health Podcast features guest interviews with expert physicians, leading researchers, nutritional scientists, integrative health specialists, and other foremost experts in colon health.

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Episode Transcript

Ariel: Hello everybody again, this is your new co-host Ariel Bridges. I am so excited to be back here for another week on the “Colon Health Podcast.” As we are going along, I think I will just, you know, sprinkle in some little information so you can get to know me a little bit better as your new co-host. One of the things about me that you don’t know yet is that I studied neuroscience and behavior and did some research on stress and its effects on the brain. So I am especially happy for our guest this week. I’m going to throw it over to her so she can introduce herself. Hello.

Carly: Hi.

Ariel: Hi, can you tell us your name, what you do? Just Introduce yourself for the audience.

Carly: Yeah, absolutely. My name is Carly Lucchesi. I’m a registered dietician and an online health coach. And I help women to lose weight by cultivating an understanding of the effects of stress on their body. So I help primarily on a one-on-one setting, but I’m soon hoping to transition that more into a group-based focus that truly does focus on the three pillars of system-wide health, which is not only just food, but it’s also behavior and mindset.

Ariel: Yes, I love that. I am particularly passionate about women’s health, as well and especially the effects of stress on the body. And I think a lot of people think of stress as more of a feeling or a state of being, but don’t realize how it can actually manifest physically. Can you share more about how stress impacts our bodies and maybe our colon health specifically?

Carly: Yeah, absolutely. So to me stress, it can come from two different sources, and stress to me it’s not just a state of being and it’s not just one thing in our lives. And it really is kind of this double approach where it’s a physical source, as well as from an emotional source. So, when I say that stress can come from physical sources, to me that means what is the puzzle pieces of your genetics that may be causing some type of a system bottleneck, leading to potential system stress, such as toxin burden, or oxidative stress, or maybe there’s some type of nutrients which are essentially the gear oil keeping all of our systems functioning, maybe there is a bottleneck in that area that’s leading to this manifestation of a physical stress symptom, or there can be some more of that food-based approach where there may be stress coming from food triggers, where our system is identifying some food as a threat, and it is causing that cascade of an immune system response, leading to the manifestation of physical stress symptoms. And then also the other side of things is that stress can come from emotional sources. And this is when I see people, when they’re living at the mercy of their emotions, instead of understanding and thinking intentionally, because it can truly be very stressful on a body to constantly live in the weeds of emotion. And instead, I help my clients to create space for themselves, so that they can finally identify what they’re feeling, and what thoughts are generating those feelings, and truly how they’re showing up in life as a result of those thoughts and feelings. And then once we can truly understand and utilize our prefrontal cortex, that’s when you finally have the opportunity to view your life from that 30,000-foot vantage point, instead of kind of down in the weeds of making decisions from emotion. That’s when we can continue the process of thinking intentionally and choosing the way that we want to feel, and therefore actually showing up in a way in our lives that we truly want to show up. So that’s kind of when I say stress it’s definitely…to me it’s a big word that often the context isn’t quite there. So the depth that that word holds. Did that answer…

Ariel: Yeah.

Carly: It’s kind of a long-winded…

Ariel: No, I loved it. I think it was great, because you really did break it down. I think a lot of people don’t really understand how you really should be taking this kind of multifaceted approach to your health. I think a lot of people separate the physical from the mental, but when it really comes down to it, they both interact in a really big way. You mentioned things like how genetics and emotion play a role, and we can’t…well, we definitely can’t control the genes that we have, and it can be difficult to control our emotional states at times. So I wanted to ask you about diet. How can our diets play a role in managing some of these symptoms?

Carly: Absolutely. So diet can definitely play a role in truly reducing the physical manifestation of symptoms in our life. So when your body is exposed to a potential trigger that it doesn’t like, which oftentimes is stuff like soy, or wheat, or it could be dairy products, almonds, like, there’s a lot of different unique triggers that your body can create symptoms such as brain fog, and anxiety, and lethargy. And, you know, then there’s your classic FODMAP type foods where you’re getting more GI-related issues, such as bloating, and intestinal cramping, and constipation, diarrhea, all those things. So food can definitely play this role in creating not only system stress, but then it can manifest also with the emotional stress of having to deal with those symptoms and having to kind of mitigate what to eat in order to finally feel good. Did that answer your question?

Ariel: Yes. No, you completely answered my question. And I think you just ended on a note that is important to kind of point out, everybody is different, everybody is different. How can people learn what their system needs and how to build healthy habits that work for them?

Carly: I think a big part of this is definitely allowing yourself that phase and cultivating that curiosity to learn when your body is giving you a signal, because oftentimes, it’s like you’re walking into a noisy room, and there’s so much clutter, and noise, and chaos in the room, that all you do is feel awful, you know. And what I try to encourage my clients to do is to essentially silence the room, and to allow yourself an opportunity to eat foods that you know are not going to be triggering your system. And then to slowly reintroduce some of those with that vantage point of curiosity to truly see, how does my body respond to this? Does it actually trigger in me this sense of malaise or lethargy? Or is it affecting my sleep? I have clients where they’re blown away that, you know, their fingers will be tingly or they’ll sneeze hard after eating a certain type of food. And it’s fascinating to them because they’ve always just attributed some of these symptoms to, “Oh, I’m aging,” or, “Oh, I have this chronic disease,” or, “Oh, there’s something else going on.” But really, there’s never been that opportunity for their body to truly talk to them, to tell them, “I don’t like this,” and for them to truly be able to listen. So I utilize an oligoantigenic diet, so that’s more focusing on what is activating the immune system, and trying to start from a place where it’s the most benign foods as possible, and building up from there, but definitely still never allowing that space to grab hold where people think of foods as being good or bad. It’s more that space of curiosity of how does this affect me? And how can I be empowered to feel the way that I want to feel?

Ariel: Yeah, I think that can be really encouraging for some of our listeners to hear that maybe what you thought was just aging or something that just you…it had to be this way, then maybe there are some alternatives and things that you can change to start feeling better. I think life can get pretty busy really quickly, which can contribute to a lot of the stress that we experience on a regular basis. Do you have any quick and easy changes that people might be able to make to start feeling better?

Carly: Absolutely. So I feel that the biggest impact that somebody can take to reduce the stress that they feel during the day is to commit to becoming aware of your thoughts and aware of the emotions that are being generated because of them. So, and from that space of awareness which is the key…because oftentimes, we’re kind of just stuck in this rat race of being busy. There’s no time to do anything, there’s no time to think, be present, act, anything, and it’s leading to that state of chaos. And when you’re allowed yourself the chance to become aware, that’s when you can maybe take some time to ask yourself those high-quality questions. Like, how do I want to feel? And how can I show up for this? And when you’re faced with maybe a difficult situation, or a difficult person, you can ask, where’s the truth in this? And what can I learn from this? Or even when you are stuck in that state of chaos, and that frantic energy, holding yourself back to the moment by asking yourself, what five things can pull me back to where I’m at right now? Where you maybe, you could focus on your senses, how do I feel? How does this smell? What am I hearing right now? Just to pull back to the moment so that you’re not stuck kind of in that rat race. And I wanna mention too about just one of the biggest things that I see, because I definitely, I focus on the weight loss space, and it’s sad to me that our culture, it definitely focuses on weight loss from a very tangible and objective space. So it’s diet and exercise. Calories in, calories out. It’s kind of just this equation that it’s looked at. But, I think the fascinating thing is that without the puzzle piece of stress management, those two components, they don’t matter hardly at all, because how many women and men, but I’m mostly focused on women, do you know that they want to lose weight, but they’re stuck, they eat hardly anything, they exercise for hours each day, and they’re just at this loss, they have no idea why they can’t lose weight? But when we focus on the work to identify truly what is causing physical stress, and what’s causing emotional stress to the system as a whole, that’s when the body can almost breathe this beautiful sigh of relief. And that’s when that weight can just effortlessly be released. And that’s I think, where that true work is, because then we’re taking the system as a whole. We’re not putting Band-Aids on broken arms, we’re approaching the system the way it’s talking to us, and we’re just being that steward and that person that’s willing to listen.

Ariel: I love that. I literally was going to bring out that Band-Aid metaphor as I was listening to you explain that. I think it’s so helpful for people to hear that there’s options and there’s new approaches to things because I do think a lot of people start feeling stuck, they’re thinking that they’ve tried everything to make these changes, and they’re not seeing the results that they would like to see. So I think this is really encouraging. Carly, I’d also love to ask you, how did you get into relating stress and diet? And how did you decide that you wanted this to be your focus within your practice?

Carly: I have always had a passion for GI health. I always felt like they were a forgotten population, where if they had symptoms, it was just go eliminate some foods, go figure out your triggers. And then they were kind of just like, sent off on their merry way. And then they came out with the FODMAP diet, and they came out with a few other approaches, but I’ve always had a broken heart for this population. So that’s what dug me into opening up my own business and truly figuring out, “Okay, how can I serve this population?” And the more I dug into it, the more I understood that diet was just a Band-Aid. That I can come at them with as much science and food elimination as possible, and it’s truly not the whole puzzle. It’s only half the puzzle. And that’s when that final piece came together. It was like that aha moment when I started pulling emotional health into the picture. And then that’s when just that magic moment happened where I was finally able to serve a population that I don’t feel has been served as well as they could be.

Ariel: Yes. I know back when I was first kind of getting all of my GI issues looked into, I really did feel like there weren’t a lot of answers. I got the diagnosis of IBS but at the time it felt like that was just sort of a blanket diagnosis that wasn’t addressing all of, kind of, the other things that were going on. So it’s, over time, having more people like you step onto the scene and really be able to approach things in this multifaceted new way has been awesome, awesome for me and I’m sure for other patients, too, to know that you have options and different things that you can try to start trying to feel better.

Carly: Yeah. No, I totally agree.

Ariel: If some of our listeners want to learn more about what you do or what it would be like to work with you, how can they find you? How can they get in touch?

Carly: So, I’m on…my website is, my company, Your Living Health, and I’m also present on Facebook or Instagram. I often try to come out with podcasts or live trainings within a Facebook group, so that I can truly reach that space of working on emotional health. And then, hopefully, having clients work with me so that we can truly work together to figure out what food triggers, what genetic triggers, what system triggers are going on underneath the surface. So that’s when I work either one-on-one, and then I’m coming out with more of a group-based style coaching.

Ariel: Awesome, very cool. And I will be sure to link some of those specific things that you mentioned in our show notes. So if you’re listening right now you can easily access and click those resources. And as we are just kind of finishing up here, are there any parting thoughts or things you’d like to share with our listeners today?

Carly: I think I covered it. I definitely encourage anybody out there to reach out and just to understand that you’re not alone in this. There’s so many people that I found that just feel lost and kind of at the mercy of their symptoms. And it doesn’t have to be like that. Once you pull these different areas into the main picture, you truly can be empowered to live intentionally and to live the way you wanna live. And I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways I can offer.

Ariel: Awesome. Well, thank you, Carly, so, so much for being here. I loved learning more about the work that you’re doing to help people understand about the ties between our mental, our physical health, how stress can play such a big role on all aspects of our life really, but particularly, our mental health and the physical manifestations that we experience on a regular basis. And everybody, like Carly was just mentioning, don’t be afraid to reach out for help, for resources to learn more. We all have colons, so let’s just take care of them, all right? Thanks again, Carly.

Carly: Thank you.

Ariel: Bye, everybody. All right, thank you so much, Carly. That was amazing.

Carly: I hope that’s what you were looking for. I didn’t expect to actually be recording for anything today. Hopefully, I wasn’t scattered.

Ariel: No, our apologies. Everything was very cohesive. It made a lot of sense. And we really appreciate you, yeah, being here and just sharing. We’re just trying to get some information out to our listeners.

Carly: Yeah, absolutely. And if ever, any questions in the future, don’t hesitate to reach out. Obviously, businesses and the more clients you have, the more you get to grow and learn and develop different programs and different approaches. So yeah, if ever there is a need in the future, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Ariel: Amazing. Thank you so much.