F.E.E.L.ing your way through your symptoms, with Laura Martin
| Episode 019
The mind and body are very deeply interconnected—this is something that you hear often, but have you taken time to examine what this may mean for the symptoms you’re currently experiencing? When we are suffering from physical symptoms, addressing some of the things we’re experiencing with our mental health may not be our first inclination; but, today we’re learning why that may be a mistake!
Laura Martin is an IIN certified gut health specialist that developed Healing to Happy after her own extensive journey navigating mental and physical healing. She’s sharing steps you can take to embark on your healing journey that aren’t intimidating and allow you to meet yourself where you’re at.
Click the play button above to listen to our conversation with Dr. Laura Martin.
Highlights from Today’s Episode
- Laura’s development of Healing to Happy and the importance of understanding how unaddressed traumas can influence your physical well-being
- The F.R.E.E. Method and how it differs from other healing methods out there
- Laura’s advice for tackling gut and mental health healing for those struggling with where to start
Featured on Today’s Episode
Industry Spotlight: Dr. Martin Healing Beyond the Diagnosis
Dr Martin will help understand how to regain control over your body and mind.
- Learn More: Healing to Happy
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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Ariel: Hello, hello. Again, everybody welcome back to the “Colon Health Podcast”. This is your co-host Ariel Bridges. And today we have the lovely, incredible Laura Martin with us. Hi Laura. How’s it going?
Laura: Hello, hello. I’m doing well. How are you?
Ariel: I’m well, thank you. Laura, can you introduce yourself and share what it is that you do with our incredible listeners here?
Laura: Yes. So, I am the founder of Healing to Happy. I am an IBS anxiety specialist or IBS, and anxiety, and trauma specialists. A lot of “and’s” in there, turned nervous system rewiring mentor, helping high achieving women really understand that in order to have the health, wealth, and happiness that we desire, we need to have a regulated nervous system, which is that root of all of our health issues that set off the metabolic dysfunction and things like that. So, really making it easy, making it not so sciencey, making it feel sexy, like it’s something we actually want to do without these big labels of, “I have to redo my entire life.” Things like that. Just making it very practical for people in this modern day that we live in.
Ariel: I love that. And that’s something that I feel like is very relatable to our audience. It can be very intimidating to try and tackle a lot of the things that we’re doing, especially as busy women and human beings. You, yourself have an incredible story that I think a lot of our listeners can actually relate to. Do you mind sharing more about your background and how you came to develop Healing to Happy?
Laura: Yeah. Of course. I definitely did not grow up saying I wanted to talk about poop. That was not the thing I wanted to do. But, I was 20 years old and I was at the lowest point in my life. I was contemplating taking my life. I had a bunch of health issues. I had lost my mom unexpectedly at 22, and ran away to Asia thinking I would find myself, but if you don’t deal with your trauma, you’re just gonna find it somewhere else. And you’re really gonna just call in those circumstances around you. So, ended up getting heavily into drugs, drinking. I was in a domestically violent relationship. And I remember the moment, like specifically, like my bum sitting on the balcony, like I could hear the motorbikes going by. I was living in Thailand, I could feel the fog. I can feel it so vividly of this moment of like, “I can’t do this anymore.”
And when you’re in that moment, you have two choices. You either continue on the path that you’re on, and it has a shorter expiration date than you would choose, or you choose to do something about it, which is intimidating and scary. And you’re like, “I have no idea. This is nothing I’ve ever done,” but I decided the latter. And so, I got off the balcony. Unfortunately, still didn’t leave the relationship right away, but I did talk to a friend the next day explaining everything that was going on. And she’s like, “Okay, so why don’t you go?” Like I was teaching English at the time. I’m not an English teacher. I had no purpose, you know? And she was like, “Why don’t you go learn about nutrition? Like, you have a really messed up relationship with food. You’ve always been whatever about it. Why you go learn about nutrition?”
And so, at the time, I had IBS-C, I had hypo then hyper or hyper then hypothyroidism. I was 40 pounds underweight. I hadn’t had a cycle at that point in three years. It took me six and a half to finally get a regular cycle again, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, panic, everything. Like, everything that was happening, I was like, “What the heck? Okay, fine. I’ll go learn about food.” But again, the problem is I wasn’t regulated. So, learning about food just went that whole orthorexic thing, where I became obsessed with it. It was this whole thing where my food had to cook this way and this way, cause I wanted to heal myself. It was a fight or flight response. It did ultimately get me out of that relationship, so I see the path in why it happened, just like a self-reflecting, self-respect kind of thing, but it was also still a trauma response because I wasn’t looking at my life, I just got obsessed with something else.
My gut was still a wreck, so I got specialized in gut health kind and looking at that, but everything out there, it was all elimination diets, all restrictions, all supplements, all these things of, “Here’s how to manage it, but not fix it.” And I was like, “Wait, if I’m learning about how the microbiome can change itself in four days, and I’m learning about epigenetics, and I’m learning about neuroplasticity, how is this true? Like how is this something that I can’t actually change?” And also, with a girl with it… Like it took me 10 years to get over an eating disorder. “I can’t do this. This is just an eating disorder for me. I can’t keep doing it.” And I found my way into the gut-brain connection after my naturopath was asking me.
And like, my background is psychology, like before nutrition and all that kind of stuff. So, I’ve always been fascinated with the brain. But she asked me, like, “You tried everything.” I’ve done it all…I was the gut queen. And at the point, I cut out 13 different food groups, I had, you know, was only eating soups and smoothies. Like, I couldn’t keep anything down, nothing was working. And ultimately, I sat in front of her and she was like, “Do you wanna talk about how your trauma, like all the things are responsible for what’s happening in your body?” And I was like, “Hmm. No, I really don’t.” And I took an entire year of doing… I was like, “I’m not ready.”
I took an entire year of thinking I could outdo this thing. Like, “I could outsmart her. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” Yes we do. We all take it into our own things at our own pace. And it’s fine. I give permission. I could have definitely collapsed time in the healing if I just would’ve hired someone. But, I went about this whole path. And then finally, about a year later, this rash took over my entire body. It was painful. I had no idea what it was, doctors couldn’t figure out what it was. And unfortunately, that’s what woke me up because vanity ran its course. It was fine when it was on my entire backside, but it grew into my face. And I was like, “Okay. I gotta listen now.” And that’s what led me down this whole thing.
Okay. Let’s look at the nervous system. Let’s look at epigenetics. Let’s look at what’s stored in my body. It is so much more than a low-FODMAP diet. It is so much more than following it through a T, and doing these workouts, and crushing it, and doing this kind of gut healthy lifestyle. It’s really this whole body thing in that let me down. You know, getting trauma certified and seeing how my clients are intertwined in that. And, really, like Healing to Happy, which is birthed from me saving my own life. And people saw what was happening. They wanted to pay me, universities, like speaking on stages. Like, this is all in Asia. And I was like, “Okay, let’s take this bad boy online.” And now it’s… I’d just say it saved my life. And now I’m just kind of a conduit of it. Like, it just kind of comes through me. It helps other women, like it’s at its right pace, and it just blooms, and grows as it should.
But, to really just emphasize the body as a whole unit, like if we’re just chasing one thing and we’re trying to outrun our trauma, which is exactly what I was doing. If I’m obsessing about food, I don’t have to think about the other things in my life, you know, and it takes us away of that. It distracts what’s actually going on. It takes us from not communicating with our body instead of looking at the symptoms and being like, “What are you trying to show me?” We’re always trying to outrun them. It really is this permission to just slow down, look at it. Don’t be so afraid of it. Get in your body and start to rewire the nervous system and the metabolism from there.
Ariel: Wow. First off, I’m so sorry for your loss, but everything that you have done kind of as a result in your journey has really turned into such a beautiful and helpful thing for so many other people. I think a lot of people can relate to having a lot of traumas, and having those traumas manifest in other areas in different ways in their lives. For any new listeners on the podcast, I’ve mentioned this previously, but my background is in neuroscience, that’s what I studied neuroscience and behavior. So, I really love when guests come onto the podcast and really reinforce the thought and idea that our mental and physical health is so deeply interconnected, which is such an important concept to understand on that path to healing. And something that you spoke about that made me so excited, is you epigenetics. Oh, I love epigenetics, but I think a lot of people don’t know what it is. Do you mind quickly just giving a definition of epigenetics to our audience, and how that could relate to gut health?
Laura: Yeah. In simple terms, we control what light switches get turned off and on in our body, and the whole basis around that. It’s based on our lifestyle, and our mindset, and inflammation in our body. So, even if you have a light switch on, if you change and take responsibility for your health, you can turn that off. It takes time. You have to have patience. It does not happen overnight, but we truly do get to control our life. So, even if this whole thing is like, “Oh, it runs in my family.” Like we love that phrase. We love to play the victim to it, whatever, I did it too. And we love it like, “Oh my dad has that. So I have that. So I’m gonna do this with my life.” And it’s like, “No. That’s not actually it, you just learned your habits from your family and that’s why it’s getting turned on.”
So, the way epigenetics works is yes, you have to have a gene predisposition, you have to have that, yes. But, then you have to have something that sets off this alarm response in your body that turns that light switch on. And then, you have to have it break this gut-brain-blood barrier that then intertwines with that gene that will then turn the light switch and you’ll start to get those autoimmune responses like that. All that is to say is, “Yeah.” Okay, you might have it in your blood, you might have it in your system. But if you live a lifestyle that doesn’t start with inflammation, and stagnation, and trauma responses in fight or flight, you can keep that in balance and you can take control of it. You know, and a lot of people can be intimidated by that, but it’s actually very, very empowering, like, “Oh, okay. So, if I do this and that I can actually live and not see what’s…” You know, we see our parents and it starts to frighten us. It’s like, “I’m so afraid of that.” And that sets off this inflammatory response in our body, in and of itself where it’s like, we can actually just do it with ease and grace and just kind of understand how the body works, so it doesn’t set off that alarm response.
Ariel: I think that’s an excellent segue into my next question, which is your healing method that you share with the people that work with you. So, I believe it’s called the F.R.E.E method. Can you share more about that and how it differs from other healing methods out there?
Laura: Yeah. So, it’s the acronym F.R.E.E, and it works for everything, whether it’s anxiety, whether it’s IBS, whether it’s trauma, so F being foundation. The problem with health is we often think the foundations is, “Let me go get my labs,” and that’s it. Which, yeah, very much important. Like, go check that out and make sure there’s no like infections and things of that nature. Definitely a thing, but also what are you doing every day that’s impacting that one thing that you wanna change? What are you doing? How is that impacting or like how often? Say it’s food, say it’s your gut, right, we have to be looking at when are you eating? How often are you eating? What are you eating? All these kind of things without this intimidation of thinking it’s a score like a grade card, you know. And so, we do this for a week because it changes.
And all this is to say it’s information. It is not just so you’re doing anything right or wrong, but if you want anything to change, it doesn’t matter what diet I give you. If you don’t understand where you’re at right now, nothing is gonna change. Why did you get here? You know, it goes even deeper than that. What’s the family history? How are you raised? What traumas are stored in that? Like, what’s going on here before we actually start to reprogram, and that’s where the outcome is, your body is reprogrammable. We just have to start to play around with things that feel safe. And everyone’s different, different thresholds, different backgrounds, different things like that. Like I can tell one person can meditate and another person will have a trauma response because meditation is too much for their nervous system. So, we have to play around with what actually works for us, not works for me, and you, and someone else. It’s like, “No, we gotta do this self-responsibility thing and look at it as opposed to outsourcing what it is.” And it really gives the power back to the individual, which a lot of people don’t like.
And I’m like, “I’m guiding you on that to really awaken your radical self-leadership within your healing, so that you have sustainable growth in that.” And then we start to reprogram just the routines and the habits and things like that, and then we start to explore. And this is where it could be food, it could be dating, it could be sleeping styles, it could be clothes. Like, what is that one thing that you’re not letting yourself have because of the sickness, or the trauma, or the anxiety? How are we gonna safely start to explore this and add more in beyond just food? Like what is that lifestyle piece that’s missing?
Because, oftentimes we get so narrow-focused on whether it’s our anxiety, our gut health, our healing that we forget to look at the broad picture. What are our relationships doing? What are other metabolic markers in our lives doing? And how is that impacted? So, how can we start to safely explore that so it doesn’t set off a nervous response in our body, but actually feels good? And then, from there we go move into a lasty [SP], which is just the evolution of our life. How do we stick with it? How do we start to evolve this? How do we integrate into daily life where it doesn’t feel like a habit? You know, like I look at my life, the things I do, it’s not like work anymore. You know, like making my bed, that’s normal, cleaning my house, that’s normal, making my food, eating in the routines like that is all normal for me it’s not this thing I have to schedule in anymore. So, it’s getting people to that part where it’s not something you think about, it just becomes integrated into who you are.
Ariel: I think the thing that I love the most post about this method, which as you said, really can apply to anything, is it really helps, and leads you to go back inward, and really think about your individual situation. I feel like it’s so easy for people to get wrapped up in either things that have worked for someone else, or things that are “supposed to work for us.” Like we had another guest on the podcast that, similarly was dealing with her own set of GI issues and she thought yoga would be something that’s good. It helps a lot of people stay centered and get in touch with their body. And it just did not work for her whatsoever. And so, she was like, “This is actually causing me more anxiety.” So, really going deep, and reflecting, following those steps outlined with each letter of F.R.E.E., and going inward and thinking about your own individual situation, so you can target your own things that you’re trying to solve and find solutions that work for you.
Laura: Exactly. And that’s the thing, because we all… And same for me, and like, I can’t do yoga, or I couldn’t do yoga. I couldn’t do meditation. Still I struggle with meditation, but that’s because I have a monkey brain, like, “Instead of fighting that, can I just sit with it and find something else that would downregulate my nervous system without actually putting it into this? Like, I’m doing something wrong, da da, da, da.” Just because it works for one person, we just have to be honest with ourselves of where we’re at. And like, now it’s like my gateway drug list. Like I love Pilates now. I still can’t do yoga, but I love Pilates. Like we’re off [inaudible 00:14:36] workouts and we’re like moving our way there. And really just understanding like it takes time. What can we explore within ourselves that feels safe, feels doable, without feeling like we’re passing and we’re failing? Life is just a series of lessons and tests. What are you learning here or what are you experimenting with? It doesn’t mean you’re failing at this whole life game, it’s just, we like learned like a kid learning to walk. It’s like, “They don’t like that. They don’t like this da, da da.” That’s how we have to go about this whole journey of healing.
Ariel: Yes. I love that. I don’t know why it’s so hard for us, but we need to be much gentler and kinder with ourselves and meet ourselves where we’re at. Which brings me to my next question, because I feel like tackling gut and mental health, healing can be a really overwhelming process. I don’t even know where to begin or what to start trying. What advice do you have for anyone who’s struggling with where to start?
Laura: Stay away from Google. Really, it’s kind of understanding the gut-brain connection. Understanding that it’s a duo approach. You gotta be looking at like the gut is in contact with the brain, the brain is in contact with the gut via the gut-brain access. When I first got diagnosed with depression and IBS, like I was 13 years old, whatever. But when I actually started looking at it when I was 24, it was looking at it and all I saw, like I Googled it, and all I saw was slow FODMAP diet, eliminate this, cut this out, all those kinda things. And I still see that. Like, that is what all you see if you Google it, that’s what you get. And if that doesn’t sit right with you and you feel your body go, like you feel your body tense up, dive a little bit deeper. Look at what feels right. Which one do you want to start with first? You do not have to start with both, if you want to, sure, whatever, but what will make you feel safe? Is it tackling the food thing?
Like, “Okay, so what can I clean up in my diet a little bit more? What routines can I really start to implement cause really at the end of the day IBS is caused by routines. It is not low FODMAP diet. That is just not my vibe. It’s routines in restoring the metabolism. Why can’t you digest? How do we start to dive into that? How do we break that down, or if it’s anxiety, what’s causing that, where did that start, what’s making this whole sense of future thinking and tripping your body out, like what’s happening? Because at the end of the day, anxiety is just neuroinflammation, that’s the symptom, anxiety and IBS they’re symptoms.
So, we dive a little bit deeper as to what’s going on and looking at, “Why is my metabolism spazzing out right now? What’s going on? How long has this been going on? What are my habits that are impacting this?” And just kind of taking this self-inquiry. And that’s where this whole track… I hate saying tracking, because that gives people this whole, “Oh,” kind of feeling and like little turkeys go off in their brain. Like it doesn’t need to be so MyFitnessPal track calories things, like that’s not what we’re looking for here. It’s just being aware of what we’re doing.
You know, if I ask you what you did yesterday, do you have a clue? If I ask you what times do you eat, do you have a clue? You know, if I ask you how much water do you drink, do you have a clue? If I ask you what you ate yesterday, do you have a clue? Like being aware of these things. Like I can tell you what times I eat every single day cause, my body will tell me what times she wants to eat. Like I’m very much aware. It’s always on the same hour of every single day because I’ve trained my body to do that. And that will help to alleviate things. And so, it’s really paying attention to our routines is the first place to start. And if the routines you have those set in place and you’re still having symptoms, that’s where we wanna start to dive in a little bit more. And where do we need to make some course correcting thing. But the first place to start is, what are you doing every single day that’s impacting this?
Ariel: Yeah, that’s a really solid point. I’m trying to think now too about, if I’m really conscious about the things that I’m doing when I am doing them in a day to day basis, I think we all get caught up in what we see is like our schedules, like our work schedule or I go to work, I wake up at this time and then I do this. But, I think there’s actually… If we take time to actually really think about it, there’s a lot of stuff that gets foggy in between there.
Laura: It’s just living with a little bit more intentionality. Something my mentor has really…she vocalizes a lot better where’s like, “Life is a series of memories, lessons or stuff. And at the end of our life, we only get the lessons and the memories like, that’s it. So, how can we add more of that? Otherwise we’re gonna get to the end of our life and we’re gonna be sitting there.” And it’s like, “What the heck did I do for 87 years?” Like, “What was I doing?” And like, “If we can just slow it down, even if it is at work, can you tap into…” I heard it on Jay Shady one time and I love it is, “Can you tap in your five senses when you’re sitting down? What can you see, taste, feel, touch,” like all these kind of things just to bring you in.
It’s okay if you’re going with the flow, but can we bring a little bit more consciousness, and intentionality to our day-to-day living? Because as you do that, your nervous system is going to unravel the knotsthat it’s stuck inside of. But if we’re just consciously hopping from meeting to meeting, to Zoom meeting, to computers, to home television, to doing a HIIT workout, to not even realizing when we finished our food, of course you’re inflamed, of course your body is having reactions. We’re not paying attention to it. So, we can’t even pinpoint what arena is going wrong here. So, if we just spend a week being aware, and of course, you might be sitting there being like, “I don’t have time for that.” Like I get you, but you do. It’s either you choose to be intentional for a week or you go the extension of your life being inflamed, because you don’t wanna take the time to pinpoint what’s going on.
And so, if we can just get down to, “Okay, so what’s going on? Where am I… What’s the missing link?” And I still do it, you know, just because I’m knowing what I’m eating, I still eat like with the in five minutes.” And I’m like, “That was too quick, slow it down girlfriend.” But like it still happens. But if we can just bring it down and be aware of it, to take responsibility in that, our body will respond. You know, it’s just if we’re moving too fast, our body is a mirror of what’s happening inside of our internal ecosystem based on our external environment. So, if we can just look at our external environment, how is that relating to my internal ecosystem? And then we’re able to kind of play that puzzle piece game. And then from there, we get to narrow it down.
Ariel: Yeah. To me that makes so much sense. It’s like, how can we expect to hear and recognize the signals our body is giving us, and understand what’s going on without actually making the time, and taking the effort to pause and hear and see what those signals might actually be?
Ariel: So, we are unfortunately moving to the end of our time together, but I wanted you to share how you work with people, how can people work with you if they’re looking to have your support on their journeys?
Laura: So, I help women one on one. I have masterminds. I have group programs. I have master classes. I have free trainings. It just depends what level you’re at. What do you need? Are you more of a self-learner? Are you more of a group learner? Are you more of a one-to-one kind of person? I have everything in those arenas and just moving from there. And if you guys like, if anywhere of what’s being launched or what’s going on, like that’s always over on our Instagram, you’ll hear me proudly talking about it. So, you’ll always know.
Ariel: Amazing. I’ll link everything that you are mentioning down blue in the show notes. So, if you’re listen, be sure you scroll on down, check out everything that’s linked there. And I know that you said you proudly shout out things going on in Instagram. Is there anything that we should be especially looking out for in the near future?
Laura: Coming into the New Year, we have a lot of fun programs and group things going on, like the masterminds, like we have this fun one unbreakably bold coming out. And expanding on the extension of healing beyond just let’s follow this food to restore our metabolism. I’m so excited to expand our community and connect other women with other women, because I know for me, I always thought I was alone in this. I didn’t wanna talk about it with people. The people that I did talk about it with, they never got it. And so, instead of feeling like you’re not belonging, it’s really kind of overcoming these hurdles, healing those sisterhood wounds, expanding into community, so that we can have this domino effect. Like, 2022 is about to be I think our best year yet, like I’m so excited for it.
Ariel: Ooh, I love that energy. I’m believing that too for us and for everybody that’s listening. And personally I love community. I think it’s so important for so many reasons in all areas of life. And that seems like an excellent way to start off the new year. So, again, I’ll link everything down in the show notes below for those of you that are searching and wanting to be involved. But Laura, thank you so, so much again for being here. This was incredible with so many helpful tips and things to keep in mind. I know I’m going to live moving a bit slower, and being a lot more intentional with how I’m moving through my day.
Laura: Oh, I’m so happy to hear that. Thank you so so much for having me and thank you for all that you’re doing, creating this awareness around this topic. So, I’m excited to see what you guys have got coming into the future.
Ariel: Yes. And, like, Laura and I were just discussing the importance of community and knowing that you are not alone. You are not alone. We all have colons. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, chat with a friend, do some research. Let’s all take care of our colons together. All right. Thanks everybody. See you next time.