For 20 years I have struggled with gut health and now thanks to the lessons this has taught me I see an incredible correlation between what I eat and how I feel both mentally and emotionally. Food has the power to transform our energy levels, our happiness and our family dynamics however the supermarket shelves and the advertising world seem to push food which is the wrong kind of energy. I reached out to Rest & Digest specialist Daniela Lawler to find out how we can take charge of our own health.
Hi Daniela, welcome to No Mum Is An Island. I am a great believer that no mum (or dad) should have to do everything herself, we can’t possibly know it all, and we need all the support we can get, there is a wealth of information out there to help us upgrade our parenting experience, to make our lives easier and this website is a hub for just that! I love to see that you have taken your study and your own experiences as a mum and combined those to help others.
You studied five years at The College of Naturopathic Medicine what was your biggest discovery in this time and how has that affected your family?
My journey at The College of Naturopathic Medicine was truly enlightening and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. I guess what I expected when I studied here was to be turned into a raw vegan, but actually, the opposite happened. I learned how the nutrients in animal foods are so easily absorbed.
Vitamins & minerals from animal foods come in their bioavailable forms so require no additional conversions by the body, which can be tricky for some people. An example of this is Vitamin A. True vitamin A is Retinol but in plants this comes in the form of Beta-carotene and requires additional conversions in order to be utilised by the body.
You need a good healthy gut for this conversion to happen, so robust bile salts supplied by the gall bladder, and specific enzymes to convert Carotene to Retinol which a lot of people don’t have these days due to damage to the gut from junk foods, pharmaceutical medications, alcohol, antibiotics and environmental toxins.
I believe today’s farming has made food harmful, so when choosing animal foods and vegetables we need to buy direct from the source so you know the journey of your food and stay clear of supermarkets if this can be helped. Also opting for high welfare, organic foods. Supermarket organic isn’t the same, just because it is an organic chicken for instance can just mean that the animal has eaten organic feed, but it can still have had a inhumane life indoors and have been injected with growth hormones and antibiotics.
The same can also be applied to organic vegetables in a supermarket. If you look at where the fruit and vegetables originated from, they are usually outside of the UK – we then do not know the organic standards of that particular country. Also shop local where possible, this ensures optimum nutritional value, as the vitamins and minerals in your produce decline with every hour and day since this plant was picked.
Many mums are exhausted and don’t realise what they eat plays a huge part in this. How do you support mums to realise their health potential?
As a mum myself I know all too well how easy it is to neglect ourselves, like grabbing a piece of toast for lunch and using coffee as an energy crutch. By treating ourselves this way we are saying we are not worth very much. We are the glue that holds the family together, without us the family would fall apart, so looking after ‘mum’ is paramount.
I always start with education, how can you expect to make healthy food choices when you don’t even know what they are? We are surrounded with mis-information about our health so I help to set the record straight. I aim to nourish the mother inside out, so you realise actually, healthy food can be comforting, nourishing, easy, and goes way beyond the salad bowl. As a mother we are also a leading example to our children, we need to teach our children the importance of eating for health, so if we can’t do it for ourselves do it for your children.
As a nutritionist targeting my efforts on mothers, I use my own experience to help guide mothers on their health journeys. I give time saving tips, like making double portions for dinner and freezing the extra batch in labeled portions. This helps to build a frozen food bank that you have access to when time is in short supply or you simply cannot be bothered. These are your ready made meals.
Smoothies and juices are my sparkle go to’s, my recipes are nourishing, time saving and pack a nutrient punch and they guarantee sparkly eyes and fresh looking skin.
As well as education I delve deep into your health. I use top labs in the UK, state side and Germany to conduct what we call ‘functional testing’. Rather than being diagnostic, functional testing looks at how well the body is functioning. I also like to use comprehensive stool test, because the gut is the gate way into the body. It also houses 80% of the immune system, so having a good look at this area of the body and how well it is functioning can make a dramatic difference to someones health.
I look at the microbiome (beneficial bacteria) and how balanced it is, and I look for certain bacterias that maybe causing a problem and that are linked to certain autoimmune diseases. I like to look at how well your microbiome are performing too, as they have different jobs, they help to clear hormones, they help to make vitamins, as well as select what type of nutrients pass into the blood stream. Usually when the body has become dysfunctional working on the gut health is always an important start.
I like to focus on the mind as well as the body because this makes up our entire being. It shouldn’t be separated. I have an index of mind therapists that I call on to help with specific cases, whether it is dealing with past traumas or addictions, healing the mind is just as important, or even more important than the food we put into our bodies. This is an area I always delve deep into.
Can you tell us why your “Rest, Digest & Heal” mantra is so important?
The end of the last question leads nicely into this question, where my mantra comes from “Rest, Digest & Heal”.
I firmly believe for optimum healing and to be the best you, it is so important to heal the mind. As a mother, we deal with so much stress and I know from myself, can be the catalyst to failing health. You can throw all the supplements and healthy food down your throat but if you are stressed and living on high alert, your body isn’t going to assimilate those nutrients correctly.
In order to “ Digest” you must “ Rest” in order for your body to “Heal”. This was the birth of HRV testing for me.
What is HRV testing and what can it support?
HRV stands for Heart Rate Variability Testing. HRV testing looks at your Autonomic Nervous System, this is your body performing functions without you thinking about them, such as your heart beating or your digestion working and can tell you what dominance you are prevailing in. You can be tipped into two directions. Sympathetic dominance is “Fight or Flight” or Parasympathetic which is “Rest & Digest”.
If your Autonomic Nervous System is prevailing in Sympathetic Dominance your body is in a state of stress, it is not pumping blood to your digestion, it is helping you prepare to run from that tiger, the stressor, so energy is being pumped to your extremities, your arms and legs to run.
This is why chronic stress (ongoing stress) is bad, because long term your body isn’t working how it was intended to and things can start to go wrong. Impaired digestion, poor communication between glands, blood sugar imbalances are all signs of a stressed out body. Vice versa if you are in Parasympathetic Dominance, your body is digesting well, you have good communication between your glands (happy hormones), your blood sugar is well balanced.
You can be sat in a chair completely relaxed but underlying your body can be in a stressed out state.
HRV Testing is evidence based and endorsed by Harvard Medical School. It is a very simple procedure and you can have your results within 3 minutes. It is very much like an ECG, you have clips placed on your ankles and your wrists, you sit back and relax whilst a reading is taken. Those results are then interpreted and explained to you.
My very first test was shocking, I was very heavily prevailing in a “Sympathetic” state. If I would have continued down this path I could have expected adverse health effects down the line. I ate very well and exercised, but the stress of motherhood and thinking I could do it all was stressing my body out. For me I needed to start a self-care routine which included regular yoga practice, meditation, and mindful chanting. Exercise especially running outdoors in the country helps me to feel free from stress. Distressing is all about connecting to your passions and what makes YOU feel free and lifts your spirit.
I help my clients to find balance in their lives through exercise, mind therapies such as EFT, Reiki, mindfulness and meditation exercises, reconnecting to past passions or hobbies, or discovering new ones, and helping them to see the importance of self-care. This isn’t an easy journey, and everyone is so individual in terms of what they can and cannot do or incorporate into their lives, so I offer great support with a weekly 30 minute call and an app where you can journal daily, track & share food, mood and your stool type with me so you are always accountable.
Tell us about your FREE 14 Day Health Kick Program?
This 14 day free kick start program is a group mentoring class. I take 20 individuals at a time and they are provided with a document to lead them through the 14 days. The group meets on Zoom on the Wednesday prior to the 14 day plan starting the following Monday. On this call I will introduce myself to the group, find out what each person wants to achieve then I talk them through the plan. The plan includes health education, I will go through health myths, food groups and quality, what a healthy plate looks like and how you should balance your meals.
I provide recipes, shopping lists and a meal planner too and I give tips on individual goals. Each member is also given access to a PT portal which is usually a paid platform, but for my members during this 14 day period, is absolutely free. On here they will find lots of exercise recordings by a Personal Trainer that they can do in the comfort of their own home without the need for equipment. I have also teamed up with Yoga Haven where they are kindly giving each member 2 complimentary group Zoom yoga classes per week during this 14 day period.
This is to help with both the mind and body side of this program, to get people moving and to assist in achieving more of a positive mindset. Each member will also be added to a Facebook accountability group where they can ask questions throughout their experience where I can answer directly. They will also make new friends with other members of the group which will help to keep them accountable and on track to their goals.
A follow-up Zoom group session will happen at the end of week one which will give everyone a chance to share their progress and ask questions directly to me, and then a final group Zoom session will happen on day 14 of the program to share their experience and achievements during this time and discuss how they will move forward and carry on with what they have learned into their lives.
Visit Daniela’s website site HERE Follow her on Instagram and on Facebook.