Taking time to chew, with Evie Whitehead

| Episode 018

These days, it’s very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Lunch breaks aren’t just for eating, but for running errands and getting extra tasks completed. Typically, our focus is on productivity and not how this may be affecting our digestion. But, did you know that taking the time to chew your food and be mindful about eating can lead to weight loss?

In today’s episode, Evie Whitehead, a licensed Nutritional Therapist in the UK, is sharing all of the benefits of slowing down and taking time to chew your food. She’s also sharing foods we can eat to help ensure we’re giving our digestion systems the workout they need to stay healthy at all stages of life.

Click the play button above to listen to our conversation with Evie Whitehead.

Highlights from Today’s Episode

  • The role of a Nutritional Therapist and some of the tools used to assess and identify potential nutritional imbalances 
  • The biggest misconceptions about healthy eating and living a healthy life that Evie hears from clients
  • Foods that we can eat to protect and strengthen our gut
  • How gut health changes for women over 40
  • Tips for someone who is struggling to stay on track and be consistent with healthy eating

Industry Spotlight:  Evie Whitehead Healthy eating and living a healthy life

Evie Whitehead talks about how the health of our gut is vital to avoid diseases and to ensure the best outcome of our food intake.

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. Welcome back to another episode of the “Colon Health Podcast.” This is your co-host, Ariel Bridges. Today is an episode that features one of our friends from a different place than the United States. And I’m so excited to welcome our guest today, Evie Whitehead. Hi, Evie, how are you?

Evie: Hi, Ariel. I’m good. Thank you. I’ve got a bit of a croaky voice, but I think it’s that time of the year, like you said, where you got folks and things going around in the UK.

Ariel: Yes. Likewise, in the United States, and we’re towards the end of the year. I feel like we’re all just trying to make it to the finish line, but I think you sound lovely. And we’re so excited to have you here. Thank you so much for being here today.

Evie: Well, thank you so much for inviting me.

Ariel: Yes, of course. So, I want to jump off with you are a nutritional therapist. Can you just share with our listeners what the role is of a nutritional therapist, and then what are some of the tools that you use to assess and identify potential nutritional imbalances in people?

Evie: Yeah. Sure. So, I’m a registered qualified nutritional therapist. And I think it’s really important to point out the qualification side of things because there are so many people out there who are professing to be able to be in a position to advise people, but it’s important that you check their credentials. And I chose to specialize in gut health. So, it’s my passion and fascination to focus in on gut to improve people’s energy and health. But what I do is look at diet, lifestyle, and your genetic predisposition to find clues as to what might be driving the symptoms that might be bothering you or looking for underlying imbalances. So, the role of a nutritional therapist is always to dive down and find the root cause of what’s troubling you and to help you obtain your optimal health.

Ariel: Excellent. So, here in the States, we have just nutritionists or dietitians. Would you say that it’s a similar profession with just a different name?

Evie: Well, from my understanding and in the UK, a dietitian would be working alongside a medical professional, maybe like a doctor or something like that or in a hospital. If you just call yourself a nutritionist, there are other people that can call themselves that who aren’t necessarily qualified. So, make a point of just checking if you are going to work with someone that you ask them for their qualifications. I always make sure I share that with my clients before they work with me so they feel secure that they’re getting advice from the right place.

Ariel: Got it. That makes a lot of sense. And thank you for clarifying for us. So, as a nutritional therapist, you said there are some differences between just a dietician. Dietitians work alongside other professionals. So, what are some of those tools and differences that you would say that you use on your own to work with your clients and assess those different imbalances that they have?

Evie: Yeah. Great question. So, firstly, I actually just listen to the client’s story. I think by spending time with someone and asking how they’re feeling and where they’re feeling the symptom, and really finding out what their life is like, what their diet is like, and simply looking at a diet diary can tell me a ton of information. So, I can spot quite quickly if they’re maybe focusing on one macronutrient too much. Bread is a good example. People really sometimes just have too many bready things, which means that they’re not getting enough of the nutrients from other places that I would want them to be getting to get a balanced diet. So, looking at a diet diary tells me a lot, so that’s a really good tool. And other things are testing. And I use a lot of testing in my clinic, and that really, really helps me be laser targeted with the advice to really launch someone into better health quite quickly. So, at the moment, I’m using a lot of home testing kits for vitamin D deficiency, which I’m seeing a ton of. And it really upsets me because the people that are deficient, they complain of fatigue, joint pain, depression as well.

And it’s so easy to fix once you know what you’re dealing with, but it does require a test to be able to give the right advice and the correct supplement and the right dose. All the tests and things that I use that I really find helpful is stool testing. Because I’m a gut health specialist, I use stool testing a lot for my clients who complain of things like bloating, anything going on in the digestive tract that doesn’t feel right to them. And that can really help give me so much information. So, from even the way that they’re breaking their food down, so I can see if they’re not absorbing their fats efficiently. So, if you think about fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, if they’re not reaching the cells, then you can actually have quite a lot of inflammation building up and things that you might notice on the outside like dry skin, dry hair because they are fat-soluble nutrients that keep everything healthy on the outside. So, testing is a really good tool for me to use. But, like I said, mostly to start with, I just listen to my client’s story, write lots of notes, and look at their diet.

Ariel: So, I feel like, with diet, there are so many misconceptions about there. We get a lot of information from a lot of different places. What are some of the biggest misconceptions that you hear from your clients that they have about healthy eating and living a healthy life?

Evie: That’s a really good question. I do get asked quite a lot, “If I work with you, is it going to be expensive? Am I gonna have to buy lots of new foods or unusual foods?” I think that’s a big misconception, that healthy eating has to be expensive or involve going to special food markets and stuff. And it really doesn’t. I mean, we’re talking about food, everyday food in supermarkets that’s widely available. And it’s about finding a diet that’s right for you because what’s right for you is not necessarily right for the next person. So, we have to be very specific about the advice that we give each person, and it’s all very individual. It’s done on a very individual basis. So, one client coming to me for headaches or fatigue or something is gonna get a very different diet plan from me than someone who’s coming to me with weight gain or sleep issues, for example.

Ariel: Yes. I love that you point that out because I feel like a lot of people when they think about healthy eating or diet, they think of all of the popular fad diets. And it’s really not a one-size-fits-all kind of situation. So, it’s great to be able to have access to nutritional therapists like yourself so people can learn about their specific needs and imbalances.

Evie: Yeah. For sure. It’s a very individual thing. And I think that’s what keeps my work so interesting because every new client gives me a new opportunity to dive down and be super targeted and specific with that person. And so it also launches me into a whole new area of research. Sometimes it will take me into research about bone health, for example, if someone comes to me and they’re menopausal, they want to take care of their bones. It’s the research that backs up and supports all of my advice, is what keeps the job so interesting.

Ariel: Yes. You’re like a detective of sorts or like a creative problem solver in that way. That’s really cool.

Evie: It’s really cool looking for clues. Your symptoms are the clues. It’s so interesting.

Ariel: So, you just mentioned menopausal women, and I saw on your site that you also specialize in working with women over 40. Can you tell us a little bit about how your gut health changes as a woman once you reach that kind of age range?

Evie: Yeah. So, my clients who come to me typically entering perimenopause, menopause phase, what I notice is they start to complain a lot about loss of energy and bloating. And from experience, what I’ve seen is that, and I know this from looking at lots and lots and lots of stool test results, is that they think they have a food intolerance. So, a lot of the time, they’re like, “Well, something’s not agreeing with me. Food doesn’t feel right anymore. When I eat, I get very uncomfortable.” So, when we do a stool test, what I’ve noticed is, with the women that are going through that phase, and generally over 40, is we’re starting to lose our digestive power. So, the enzymes that help us to break our food down right in the upper part of digestion are starting to slow down production. But we also can do things that interrupt that digestive process. So these women are also typically busy working mums. They’re not sitting down chewing their food properly. That disrupts digestion.

So, looking at the whole digestive process, it’s like a set of dominoes. And if we don’t knock over that first domino, the whole chain doesn’t seem to work properly. And I have noticed with this loss of digestive power and the loss of digestive enzymes, it leads to an inability to extract the nutrients effectively from the food. So, you’ve got the first layer of maybe the nutrients aren’t actually reaching the cells or where they need to get to. And then the second thing is our motility slows down, the whole gut seems to slow down. And that lack of motility can sometimes lead to that backing up feeling, constipation, bit of bloating, bit more gas. And, interestingly, women’s colons are 10 centimeters longer than men’s. So, we have 10 centimeters more to deal with with the breakdown of food and food moving through the colon and the extraction of water. So, I just think that was so fascinating that women have 10 centimeters longer probably to navigate around our child-bearing organs and bits inside us. So, it’s a really fascinating process. But, for me, it really starts in this upper part of digestion, and that’s where I quite often see it going wrong.

Ariel: Oh, my gosh. An extra 10 centimeters. Who knew? I had no idea. What an interesting fun fact.

Evie: It’s crazy, isn’t it?

Ariel: Yeah. That really is. So then, with all of what you said just in mind, is there anything that we can do, especially as women, when it comes to the foods that we’re eating? Is there anything that we can do to protect our gut? Some sort of proactive health measures, or is there anything that we can eat after the fact to maybe help heal our gut?

Evie: Good question. Thinking about the things that are gonna help digestion. So, in answer to your question, the first thing I think is women tend to rush around too much and do lots of things for other people and not for themselves. So, my first tip would probably be to sit down, enjoy your food and actually chew each mouthful properly. So of a digestion. You got a whole mouthful of teeth, let’s use them. Let’s mix it with the enzymes and start to get those digestive juices really going, and they are initiated by the sight of food, the thought of food, the taste of food. So, all of those things, we can skip those quite easily when we’re rushing around grabbing a bite of a sandwich in between emptying the dishwasher and loading some washing in, which is what women tend to do, right? So, lunchtime is like, “How many jobs can I get done while I’ve got my lunch?” a lot of the time.

Ariel: Yes.

Evie: So that would be my first tip. And then the other thing in answer to something you asked me was what sort of foods can we include more of, I think one of the things that I’m seeing missing from people’s diets the most is fiber. Actually, just not having enough plant-based fiber foods. So, we want fast, quick, easy food. And that tends to be a panini, a bagel, a sandwich, a wrap, it’s like anything we can just walk around eating. And I think we need to get back to having more plant-based foods and more diversity. So, brightly colored salads, chopped peppers, and cucumber, and all of the lovely green leaves that you can make these salads out of. Getting more of that diverse range of plant-based foods and fiber is amazing for your gut because it contains all the fiber that, of course, is gonna get the workout to the muscle because the gut is a muscle. So, you need to put the fiber in to give it a workout so that it starts to move everything through the gut properly. And you can start to extract your nutrients from those foods, which are obviously gonna be containing vitamins and minerals, antioxidants. So, that would be my advice, is really just get back to a diverse diet, including lots of lovely brightly colored foods. Eat a rainbow, as they say.

Ariel: Yes. It’s very interesting because it seems throughout your advice to us to make sure that we are having healthy eating, it’s more than just the food that we’re eating, it’s also all of these lifestyle choices that we make. And I think a lot of people don’t realize how much lifestyle can affect diet in the ways that you are describing.

Evie: Yeah. Absolutely. I think we’ve become like speed freaks, and we just want to get everything done and max on our time, and we’re busy, and there’s always something else to do, but we forgot to sit down and eat and look at our food and enjoy it. There’s actually some of my clients when I say, “Okay. All I want you to focus on over the next few weeks is to sit down and enjoy your food and chew it.” And they come back to me, and they’re like, “I cannot believe how much more I can taste my food.” Just sitting down and chewing it, they’re extracting more flavor and enjoying the food more. And enjoyment of food is something we forgot about, I think, along the way of getting busy and making money and running

busy homes.

Ariel: Yes. And I heard somewhere, I don’t know if this is true. Maybe you can back it up or refute it, but we have a lot of overeating here in the United States. And I think a lot of it is contributed to what you are saying where people are just constantly moving, they’re not taking time to actually chew and process what they are eating. And I’ve heard that in other places, part of the reason that they are able to eat smaller portions and stay full is because they are actually being more conscious about sitting down, really chewing their food, enjoying the taste, really having an experience. I don’t know if that’s true or if you’ve seen anything along those lines that supports that.

Evie: Absolutely true. And I don’t know if you know this because I didn’t talk about it too before, but I run a healthy eating program. It’s online, so it’s available to everyone. But part of a non-negotiable, it’s what I call a non-negotiable, is the sitting down and chewing your food and slowing down because it takes time for the message to get from your stomach back to your brain to start to say, “I’m getting full.” So, we’ve all done this, right? So, I’ve been in the cinema, and I’ve got this massive bucket of popcorn on my lap, and I’m watching the film, and I get to the end of it, and I think, “Oh, my God, I’ve eaten all of that popcorn.” And I was just , I wasn’t thinking about it because I’m watching the film. So, we all know we can overeat when we’re distracted. So, I often talk about in this first week of my healthy eating program, it’s four weeks long. The first week I’m like, “You have to nail this.” We all support each other, but I’m like you have to sit down, slow down and chew your food because that message comes from stretch receptors inside the stomach.

So, as you start to fill the stomach bag up, the food pushes on the stretch receptors, which are in the lining of the stomach. And as they start to expand, they send the message back to the brain and say, “Oh, I’m getting full.” And then when they get to a certain point of those messages being fed back to the brain, your brain recognizes that you’ve had enough. And I always find this first week of the program just amazing because people are like, “Well, I can taste my food better. I also got halfway through my plate of salad or my lunch, and I realized I couldn’t eat anymore. I was actually too full to finish it.” And so it’s an amazing experiment to do. So, everyone can try that at home, just slowing down and chewing your food properly.

Ariel: Yes. I know I’m going to try this. If anyone’s listening and you try it out, please write in and let us know how it went for you and if you’ve noticed any differences. And then also I want to make sure that I link your program that you mentioned in the show notes. So, if you’re listening now, just scroll down, and you’ll see a link where you can learn more about Evie’s program that she just outlined.

Evie: Yeah. Fabulous. It starts on the 10th of January, and it’s so much fun. Everyone really supports each other, and it’s just a really buzzy community. It’s really, really good. And I always enjoy it. But I’m human too, so I use it as an excuse to get back on the healthy track myself, especially after Christmas. We all go off track a little bit, but I think it’s important to remember that food is supposed to be enjoyable. And by making some really simple healthy changes to your diet, you can really reap the rewards of being more energetic, having more hormone balance. Sleeping better is a big outcome of this program as well, which surprised me. Well, I didn’t do it for that reason, but lots of people say by the end of it, they’re actually sleeping better. And weight loss, of course. I definitely will need to be getting back on the healthy back and myself and lose a couple of pounds after Christmas. So, I’ll be right there with you all.

Ariel: Yeah. Yeah. Some weight loss, better sleep, feeling more energized, making some new friends. I personally can’t think of a better way to start off the new year. So, I think, everybody, if you’re listening, make sure that you check that out. I have one final question for you. We’ve discussed a lot about how it can be difficult to eat healthy, whether it’s because we’re living busy lives or there are misunderstandings about what healthy eating actually is. What tips do you have for someone who’s struggling to stay on track with a healthier eating and healthy lifestyle?

Evie: Yeah. Good question. I think a really good place to start is to write it down. So, keep a food diary because I think we’re really good at lying to ourselves and sneaking in that biscuit between meals or having that extra serving. And I think when you write it all down, you can also see the composition of your diet. When it’s all written down on paper in front of you, there’s no hiding from it. And no one else needs to see it, it’s just for you. But you can start eating enough vegetables, you having one to two servings of fruit and a really, really easy swap that everyone can make that’s gonna support your gut health, which is what I’m all about, is swapping to whole grains. So, just make sure you swap to whole grain bread, whole grain rice, whole grain pasta. All of that extra fiber can help to make you feel full so you don’t overeat. But also it provides really important nutrients that are gonna give you more energy. And because they’re in that brown husky exterior on the outside of the grain that most manufacturers will haul off, they take it off, and they just leave you with the white bit, which is super tasty and sweet, but it doesn’t give you the fiber and doesn’t give your gut the workout that you need. So, my tips would be swap to whole grains, keep a food diary, and plan ahead so you’re not caught out. So, just write down what you’re gonna have, plan ahead for the next few days. There’s a free meal planner and food diary on my website. You’re welcome to help yourself to that. And there’s a load of recipes on my website as well. So, you can just help yourself to that to get started.

Ariel: Perfect. And I will link to all of those things too. So, you have a food diary example on your website. Amazing. I was going to ask because I feel like people can get confused about what to include. Would you say it’s just important to just write down the foods that you’re eating? Should people be writing down the quantities? Or what should be included in that food diary?

Evie: Yeah. Good question. Everything. Write down everything, the food, the drink, the timings, because what I have noticed is that the snacks between meals, they’re just like… I don’t know if you remember, we used to go to your mom’s house or something, and we would have breakfast, lunch, dinner there. There was no snacks in between and no drinks even between. It was just three meals, maybe a bit of a supper before bed. We’re just oversnacking. So, I think maybe writing it all down can just give you some fresh eyes to really assess what’s really going on in your diet.

Ariel: That is such a good point that I have never thought about. I remember, yes, being younger, and it really was, okay, you have these main meals, and that’s it. You need to eat at these meals so you aren’t hungry until your next meal. And these days, yes, the amount of times that I’m snacking throughout the day I know is a lot. So, that’s very interesting. Okay. So [crosstalk 00:22:22] a food diary. Yes. More self-aware. So, we’re keeping food diaries with everything included. And then, lastly, we have your course that’s coming up, which we’re excited about, in January. Is there anything else that you are working on or exciting things we should be looking out for?

Evie: Well, if you want to take a deeper dive into gut health and find out what’s going on inside your gut, I offer a gut transformation package. So, I work with my clients very closely to understand what’s really going on inside their gut and obviously work through their diet and their lifestyle. And by the end of the program, by working with me one to one, your gut should be in the best health. We can possibly get there. And it includes a stool test. So, we can really take a look at what’s going on inside there. And you’d be surprised. There’s things like parasites are more common than you think. And bacteria, we can look at the balance of the bacteria and inflammation markers. And all of that information is captured. It’s just so helpful. So, working with me one to one to really transform your gut from the inside out is a great place to really supercharge your health.

Ariel: Excellent. Amazing. Evie, you’ve shared so many gems, fun facts, helpful information today. Thank you so, so much again for being here.

Evie: Thanks so much for inviting me. I’m always up for a chat about gut health anytime.

Ariel: Yes. And, like Evie, chat about your health, ask questions, do research. Don’t be afraid because we all have colons. So, let’s all take care of them together. All right? Okay, everybody. Thank you so much. We’ll see you next time. Bye.