My guest this week is Dr. Liz Lipski, owner of the Innovative Healing Academy, professor and Director of the Academic Development for the graduate programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health. Dr. Lipski is on faculty for The Institute for Functional Medicine, and the Metabolic Medicine Institute fellowship program. She serves on the board for the American Nutrition Association, and advisory boards for the Certified International Health Coaches, and the Autism Hope Alliance. Dr. Lipski has been a co-author in peer-reviewed papers and is the author of several books: Digestive Wellness, Digestive Wellness for Children, and Leaky Gut Syndrome, and a video course The Art of Digestive Wellness. After 30 years of clinical practice, she devotes her time to teaching, writing, and building the field of personalized nutrition.
In this episode, Dr. Lipski and I discuss the connection between digestion, mental health, and development in kids. To learn more about Liz Lipski click here.
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Why Are Food Sensitivities Increasing?
- Our food systems and agriculture have changed
- The American diet is heavy in ultra-processed foods, 71.9% of our foods are ultra-processed which lead to cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and inflammation-causing chronic illnesses
- Stress plays a huge role in affecting the immune system, neurological system, and the gut
- Our microbiome continues to be affected by antibiotic doses from infancy and on
- Pesticides are not only in our food but also in our water systems
Changing the Diet For Success
- Start eating a whole foods diet and get the inflammation down
- Prebiotic rich foods like whole grains and beans
- The colors in the food (polyphenols) are also regulators for our microbiome
- Feeding the microbiome
- cultured and fermented foods
- Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt
- Fibers in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds help with motility and the rhythmic contractions of the gut known as peristalsis
Where to learn more about Dr. Liz Lipski…
Episode Intro … 00:00:30
Dr. Lipski’s Story … 00:02:50
Digestion and the Brain… 00:06:10
Why Are Food Sensitivities Increasing? … 00:12:28
Phases of Digestion … 00:22:30
Changing the Diet For Success … 00:33:00
Small Changes … 00:42:50
Episode Wrap Up … 00:48:11
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Hi everybody, welcome to the show, I am Dr. Nicole, and on today’s episode, we’re talking about digestive health and the many connections to brain function and mental health. Looking at a person’s digestion and their overall gastrointestinal health is one of the most important things we can do when there are symptoms of things like depression, anxiety, autism, ADHD and really any developmental or mental health issue. We’ve covered topics related to gut health, the microbiome and related things on the show previously, but today is really special for me because a former instructor of mine from my graduate nutrition program is on the show. Dr. Liz Lipski has been instrumental in shaping my understanding of the digestive and mental health connection, and I’m so honored to have her here with us today to share her knowledge and insights. Let me tell you a bit about her.
Liz is a professor and director of the academic development for the graduate programs in clinical nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health, the owner of the Innovative Healing Academy, and the author of Digestive Wellness, now in its 5th edition. Dr. Lipski holds a PhD in clinical nutrition, is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition (FACN), and holds two board certifications in clinical nutrition and one in Functional Medicine (IFMCP). She is on faculty for The Institute for Functional Medicine and the Metabolic Medicine Institute’s fellowship program. She is on the board for the American Nutrition Association and advisory boards for the Certified International Health Coaches and the Autism Hope Alliance. Dr. Lipski has been a co-author in peer-reviewed papers and is the author of several books: Digestive Wellness, Digestive Wellness for Children, and Leaky Gut Syndrome, and a video course, The Art of Digestive Wellness.
After 30 years of clinical practice, she devotes her time to teaching, writing, and building the field of personalized nutrition. Liz, I’m so honored to have you here today, thank you for being on the show.
Dr. Liz Lipski:
Nicole, it’s my pleasure. So fun to be here with you!
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yes! We’ve been waiting to do this interview and I know that people are really going to benefit from this information. I’d love to have you start by saying how — you’ve got so many credentials and such a long history of work in nutrition and you have sort of a special interest in kids, in neurodevelopment, in mental health, brain function. How did you really become interested in the connections with those things?
Dr. Liz Lipski:
Well, first of all, nutrition, I think even as a little kid, I was always foraging for food and bringing dandelions and wild leeks and things like that to my mom who had no idea what to do with these things. She’d thank me and then kind of put them in the fridge and we’d never see them again. So nutrition came easily to me. My mom was a really good cook and I was fascinated by what she did. I really got into the field from foraging for wild foods from when I was in college, and that led me to study herbal medicine, which led me back into nutrition. And then, decades — you keep walking the same road for a long, long time, you end up with more and more initials after your name, as you know. The idea about digestion, I think about digestion really as the river of life and it’s almost like we have a sprinkler hose that goes through us and the whole idea is: How do we nourish every single cell in our body? So when we start with nutrition, we usually start thinking about, well, what’s somebody eating? We can talk about that, because I think that what we’re eating is pretty appalling in many cases. And then, we start having to think about how well we can actually digest that food. And I think a lot of our kids can’t do that very well. Interestingly enough, I had worked with adults with mental health issues long before I started working with kids with mental health and developmental issues.
It’s an interesting thing, I have really close family members, a stepson who has Asperger’s and a grandson who has Down syndrome, so I’m seeing this first hand as well, and it’s really heartbreaking. I’ve worked with so many parents with kids with developmental issues. As we keep diving more and more deeply into the field, we keep coming back to: Is digestion working right? Because we know so much more now about the gut-brain connection that we have to start really looking at: If the gut is not working right, then the body doesn’t work right.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah. Absolutely. And when the body is not working right and when cells throughout the body and the brain aren’t being nourished, and the brain can’t work optimally either, and I love that picture that you painted about digestion being this process of reaching and fueling every cell in the body, and that does not happen for a lot of us and for a lot of our kids. Can you talk a little bit more about that, why that digestion piece is so important? And also some of the common things that we see in kids, that are related to digestion that parents or many people in the professional community, even, keep separate, like “Oh, that’s a digestion/that’s a physical health issue, that has nothing to do with what’s going on with your child’s brain.” What are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Liz Lipski:
So I remember about 12 years ago, 10 years ago, somewhere in there, there was a paper that came out and it was — Okay, we know that these kids have autism, but that doesn’t mean that that’s the end of what’s going on with them. So we have to start looking and saying, okay, well, in the autistic community, we know that there are a lot of children who have GI issues, and the research is anywhere from about 10% all the way up to 92%. What I can say is that in my practice, it was more in the 85%. You see it really often that these kids with neurological issues, developmental issues that they end up having diarrhea, they have irritable bowel syndrome. In children, we call it recurring abdominal pain instead of IBS, and I remember listening to a neurologist once and he was saying, “You know, the kids come into my office and their parents say, ‘You know, they’re hanging over the sofa. They’re hanging over the sofa, they’re hanging over chairs, they’re hanging over tables.’”, and finally he was like, “Oh, they have GI pain.” They’ve got gas and pain and they’re putting pressure on their bellies to feel better. So he started referring to gastroenterologists to try to figure out what was going on with these kids. Sometimes, I see my own grandson. His nose just runs and runs and runs. This thick mucus, and I wonder if that’s food sensitivity. I wonder if all the gluten and dairy that he eats everyday might be affecting his runny nose. When you see kids with chronic ear infections. I learned from a pediatrician, Lendon Smith, a long time ago. He was like, “Little kids, dairy allergies, you start seeing recurring ear infections. And then they get a little bit bigger and some of them start getting strep throat, and then they get a little bit bigger and some of them start getting really bad acne or migraines or girls with really bad PMS.” He’s like, “It doesn’t really go away. And the pediatric community, they go, “Oh, they outgrow this.” But what he said is they don’t outgrow it. It just changes in nature.
And so, I worked with kids, and I remember a pair of brothers who each have three or four sets of tubes in their ears, and their mom was just up in arms, finally. And I said, “You know? Let’s just try this simple thing, let’s just try no dairy for the next month and let’s just see what happens.” So she did that. The family went off dairy products for about 6 months, and the kids had no more ear infections. Not only did they not have ear infections, but they felt better, their energy was better. They were sleeping better. All of these things are important and so we want to kind of look at the whole person. You don’t want to just say, “Oh, autism/attention deficit disorder. So we’re going to stop there and we don’t care that this kid has eczema or the runs all the time or is so constipated, they’re only going to the bathroom 3 times a week or less.” So we want to start looking at the whole person, and really, one of the most interesting things is I was working with a family with a son who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and I said, you know, his sister is 12, he’s 10. They’re big into science experiments. Let’s do a science experiment with the whole family, and let’s do a real elimination diet that looked like just fruits and vegetables and no gluten-containing grains, but grains like rice and buckwheat and wild rice. And let’s just have chicken and fish and really clean the diet up. There are no colors, there are no preservatives, there are no sugars, there is no dairy or gluten or eggs or soy, all the things that can most likely set kids off, and adults. I said, “If you do it as a whole family, then you can look at it as a science experiment and the kids can actually write it up for their science experiments for school.” And so they did that and the son that we were working with had good effects, but his sister benefited even more, and his dad probably benefited the most of anyone in the family. So sometimes, our children are just reflections of the genomics, the genetics and the environment that they live in and it’s a whole family issue, which is really wonderful when you can see how whole families can change.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Absolutely. I’ve seen that so often in my practice too, and in fact, I say to parents, if we’re going to make some of these changes and work on diet changes and things, you really need to do that as a whole family, especially when we’re talking about younger kids, it doesn’t work to try and change one person’s diet and still have everybody else eating the way that they used to. I love those examples. I’m going to ask you a question about this issue of food sensitivities. You gave a couple of examples of things like removing dairy and the positive impact that that can have, and you just mentioned an elimination diet. I think it begs the question of why do so many people now seem to have sensitivities to foods? Because I think back to when I was in school and we didn’t have peanut-free classrooms and we didn’t have kids having all of these sensitive or at least we weren’t aware of it at the time, so it seems like maybe that’s an increasing phenomenon. I’m just curious, from your standpoint, why do so many people seem to have these issues?
Dr. Liz Lipski:
It’s a big question and it’s one that I ask all the time because what I see is that people are narrowing their diets more and more and more. So now we have a carnivore diet, where all you eat is meat. And I’m like, why are we going to such extremes that people are narrowing what they eat down so much? Here is my big to small take on it. First of all, our lifestyles have changed so much. I’m a baby boomer, and when I was a kid, we were the first generation to have frozen pizza and tater tots and frozen egg rolls and frozen food. That was a really big deal. I remember my parents would go out for the evening, and we would get to have TV dinners and that was like a big treat. When my kids were growing up, microwave ovens were the newest thing. We know that they change the molecular way that food is, little bits, and affect immune system response. Then you add in, many of the people listening to this call, their kids in the 90s, we started getting genetically engineered foods. We also, in the 90s, started getting huge exposures to electromagnetic fields that we weren’t really exposed to before. Now when we look at the American diet, there is a recent study that looked at what we’re really eating, and we’re eating 71.9% of our foods as ultra processed foods. Things that come in packages, things that have ingredients that we would never have in our home pantries or in our kitchens. So we’re starting to see that — I just read a new research study yesterday. They just keep flooding in. We know that these diets are inflammatory, and any more than two servings a day of these ultra-processed foods lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and cancers and worse. I really believe in our kids that their bodies are growing on these inflammatory foods, and their bodies are inflamed from within.
So one of the big things that happens when we change diets is we get rid of those inflammatory foods so that the gut and the brain and the skin and nervous system can all just calm down again. Because we know that these foods produce substances like cytokines and chemokine and arachidonic acid that are very inflammatory. It reminds me too, I love your question because I keep thinking about a book that I read when I was in my formative years by Don Ardell, called High Level Wellness, and he tells this story in the book about a town, and they lived on the river and there were people floating down the river, and they got really good at rescuing people from the river, and they prided themselves in how few minutes they could get a team out there and that their rescue rate was over 97%, they prided themselves on all of this. And then somebody asked the question: Why are all these people floating down the river? And that’s the question that you asked, and that’s the really important question. Parents are more stressed, kids are more stressed right now. We are in trying times where people are getting pulled in every direction. You just told me about mosquitos in your area causing encephalitis, and in my area, we have forest fires. We have hurricanes and we have COVID and we’re all just getting stressed. We know this stress affects the immune system and the neurological system in the gut.
From a big picture, that’s what I think is going on, and then from a smaller picture, if we look at the microbiome, people are exposed to antibiotics from an early age. If you’re not filtering your water, you’re probably getting antibiotics and other medications in your water system. We’re getting small amounts of pesticides in solvents in waters, all these things can contribute to imbalances in your microbiome, and we get dysbiosis and it goes on and on. Moms are being given antibiotics while they’re giving birth, and babies are being born in atmospheres that aren’t necessarily conducive to developing a good microbiome, which is a huge part of how our immune system develops. And as soon as a baby gets an ear infection, we give antibiotics, and we do that over and over. So this isn’t a one-factor question, this is a huge question about how we live or lives in the 21st century and how far removed we are from the way that people used to live even 100 years ago.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So true, and I think those of us who have been in the field of working with mental health or neurodevelopmental disorders or things like that have been seeing now for years that wow, there are so many more kids having issues and they’ve sort of been ringing the alarm bell, raising the red flag, like something’s going on here and it’s not just one thing, it’s lots of things. I think that’s coming to a greater realization, even with the COVID situation that we’re in with papers coming out now saying “Hey, really, at the root of this is we’ve got a population who has chronic, massive inflammation that’s really allowing this virus to be a bigger problem for us.” And to me, it’s all connected to what I’ve been seeing in this generation of kids now for over 20 years and saying, yeah, these are the same issues, the same inflammatory things that create problems for kids during their developmental phases are creating problems for us across the board at all ages with making us more susceptible to things. So I think one of the positive things or silver linings that can come out of a pandemic like this is maybe for more of us to become aware of how the choices that we make day to day with how we live our lives, how we are eating and nourishing ourselves and our family, that that makes a really profound difference in our overall health.
Dr. Liz Lipski:
I agree. I think one of the other silver linings in this is whether you’re talking about mental health issues or developmental issues or whether you’re talking about preventing heart disease and strokes or cancers or diabetes, that the fundamentals don’t change. So we can read a book on: Well, you have type 2 diabetes, here’s what you need to do, and we can read a book on kids with ADHD or people with depression or preventing or reversing Alzheimer’s, and the principles are 100% the same. So that’s the beautiful piece of it to me, is that what’s good for grandpa is good for the new baby.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I love that way of thinking about it because it’s so true. Let’s talk about some of the principles, digestively that apply to all of these things that you just mentioned, because really, there are several components or categories that go into having good, balanced, digestive health. We tend to think of it as, “Oh, we just eat something and our body uses it and then we get rid of what we don’t need. Oh, simple”, but really, there’s a lot of really important categories of things that our digestive system does. I’d love for you to talk a bit about that.
Dr. Liz Lipski:
Sure. I really think about digestion in a bunch of phases. So the first phase is: What do we eat? And the second phase is really thinking about what we’re going to eat. And so, as we start preparing food or we start smelling food that somebody else is preparing for us, and we sit down at the table and we see that food, our body starts releasing digestive enzymes and we start getting ready and prepared to digest that food. So that’s kind of what’s called the pre-cephalic, we haven’t chewed this food yet. Our brain is connecting and our saliva is getting prepared. Then, when the food is in our mouth, we have this saliva and the saliva has enzymes in it and also the act of chewing, again, sets up that information about what’s coming down the tube, literally, and what we’ll need to do to digest that food. A lot of people gulp their food down, and these teeth that we have are there specifically to masticate that food because the better it’s chewed, the less work our stomach and small intestines have to do. Then the food moves down into our stomach, and the stomach is like this pretty big muscle that’s contracting and releasing to mix up the food. It’s like a big blender in there, and in there we have some really important substances. We have gastric acid, stomach acid, which we kind of reduce down to hydrochloric acid, but the acidity starts breaking down these massive proteins into peptides that are short, that are easy to digest. We also start breaking down the food so it looks like baby food and it’s really mush, and we’re starting to kind of break down some of those components in it. And also in the stomach, we have something called intrinsic factor that allows us to actually absorb vitamin B12.
B12 is really important for energy and muscles and our ability to think clearly and to have good, red blood cells so we’re not anemic. So, very important. And then, as the food is best digested, it goes into the small intestine, and the beginning of the small intestine is called the duodenum. It’s where we start absorbing minerals. And that stomach acid, that acid that’s still in the beginning part allows us to absorb iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, they all require this acid environment for us to be able to better absorb them.
So if we don’t have that acid, sometimes we see that people don’t have good mineral balance. Then, as the food moves a little bit further down, this is where we start, the small intestines are actually going, “Okay, let’s absorb this food, let’s get it into the bloodstream, these molecules, so that we can then get these molecules of zinc or carbohydrates or amino acids. Let’s get these into the cells so that they can do cellular function, because that’s really what the whole idea is, it’s getting those building blocks to the cells. What happens in so many of our kids and adults as well is that we end up with a situation where we have what’s called leaky gut, and I’m sure you’ve talked about this before, but the small intestines have this kind of paradoxical job, and it’s to let in what we need and keep out what’s maybe toxic or poisonous to the cells, and also any molecules that are too big. So what we start seeing in leaky gut is we start seeing that people start getting skin rashes and brain fog and mental health issues and developmental issues, because what’s coming in is fungi and metals and pesticides and food molecules that are just too big, and they get into the bloodstream and the cells can’t take these up, and then the immune system starts reacting and it goes, “Oh, well, let’s get rid of these because they don’t belong here.” And the cells are going, “I am starving for these things”, but they can’t get them because they’re not in a package. It’s like, if we try to use a package of toilet paper that was still all wrapped in cellophane. It’s like “I can’t use this.” And the cells can’t break it down, because that’s the job of digestion. So that’s one of the main things that we see in developmental issues is leaky gut, all the time.
And then the other thing is that in the small intestines, we start seeing the microbiome but not huge amounts of it, but some. And that helps protect us. And then it’s all wrapped in this mucus layer, just like your nose has mucus all the time, it’s a good thing that your digestive system, the small intestine and the large intestine have this mucus as well that helps protect us. And that mucus layer can be healthy or unhealthy. We call it a biofilm. And then as we move down into the colon, our large intestine, which mean the same thing, this is where the bulk of the microbiome is that regulates metabolism and regulates whether we’re fat or thin. We’re starting to see that type 2 diabetes and fatty liver and depression and mental health issues really begin in the health of the colon.
Mostly what’s supposed to be going on here is a little bit more absorption of nutrients and getting rid of all the wastes we’re supposed to poop. So that’s supposed to come out, so elimination is kind of the last stage of digestion and we’re supposed to see everyday 1-3 bowel movements. These bowel movements: Sit down, they flop out of you with ease and it can be really frustrating. I love to read my journals in the bathroom and it’s like, “Wait, I only got to read one paragraph. That sucks! Maybe I’ll sit there a little bit longer!” Maybe this is too much information, but that’s what a good bowel movement is supposed to look like. And for so many people with developmental issues, we’re seeing constipation, we’re seeing irritable bowel syndrome, we’re seeing diarrhea. If we see diarrhea, then what’s happening is we know that there’s no absorption of nutrients, and if we see constipation, what we see is that you’re reabsorbing things that your body already tried to get rid of like hormones.
We see constipation associated with hormone-dependent cancers and other health issues. So it’s a really interesting path that’s about 24-32 feet that goes, it happens all the time, and the most interesting thing is we mostly don’t even pay attention to it unless it’s not working right. And then when it’s not working right, it shows it’s displeasure as heartburn or as gas and bloating or as bowel issues. It doesn’t have a lot of ways to tell us that it’s not happy, but when it does, it’s really significant.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Sometimes we can be having issues with digestion and it doesn’t show up primarily as those typical GI symptoms, right? Like you mentioned, like the eczema or the brain fog. I had kids come into the clinic whose bowel movements seemed fine, they didn’t seem to be having pain, there’s none of that. So parents say, “Well, there can’t be anything wrong with their digestion or gut.” But they’re having chronic infections, they have a lot of irritability, they maybe have attentiveness problems, rashes, all of those things and those can be signs that something is off in the digestive system too, right?
Dr. Liz Lipski:
Absolutely. With people who have complex health issues, and these kids have complex health issues, you need to always start with the gut. And how many of them have been put on different medications for their behavior or for their infections, and the medications change the gut microbiome as well, and living in their own bodies is stressful. If you’re nonverbal, that can be very, very stressful. Or if you’re always getting told you’re wrong because of your behavior, this is very stressful, and that also changes the gut function. So you know we always want to start with the gut first. How many of these kids were colicky as babies? Again, you might not see, “Oh well, recurring strep throat.” But what does that have to do with the gut? Well, you know? The throat is part of the respiratory system, but also the digestive system. So always, you want to start with the gut. It sounds simple, but I can’t tell you how often I see depression lift in kids and adults or how often I see behavior change or kids becoming verbal who were nonverbal, when you change their diet. You see this all the time.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, it’s so important and I really appreciate you taking all of us through that journey that food makes. It’s important for parents to understand that process, to understand how if your child is having chronic diarrhea or constipation or those things, how that is inevitably influencing their body’s ability to make use of food that we’re eating. But you know, we’ve talked a bit throughout this conversation about the role of food. And so, I would like to have you touch on the role that diet and food plays in balancing and having a healthy, not only digestive system, but overall health because I think that when we start looking at food and what we’re putting in our bodies or putting in our kids’ bodies, that’s one of the tangible things that we have control over that we should start to look at.
Dr. Liz Lipski:
Yeah. One of the things I love is that it’s one of the things we can change. It’s hard to change because we are wrapped up in our habits and we’re also wrapped up in things we ate as a child that, to us, are important and we don’t want to let go of those. Bread. Oh my gosh, bread is the staff of life. But if bread is making your family ill, then it has to go or you substitute it with a gluten-free kind of bread. I think personally that things made with almond flour are totally delicious. Anyway, food, why is it so important? Again, it can be very inflammatory. So what we want to do is really start eating a whole foods diet. Is it going to help every single child? No. But it’s a beginning place where you need to see. So the way that we eat and the way that we feed our kids is “What will they eat?” I look at my grandson, and he, with Down syndrome, he had — I’m not going to go into them, but a lot of digestive issues. And he wasn’t gaining weight, he had blockages in his intestine. He wasn’t gaining weight, and so now it’s like, whatever he’ll eat, let’s give him that because he needs the calories. And now that he is out of that crisis time and he’s growing well and he’s doing really well, it’s time not to give him brownies with lunch.
So you start looking at that and you go, “Maybe my child had issues before that I was just willing to give them whatever.” Parents will say, “If I put my child on an elimination diet or paleo immune diet or ketogenic diet, they’ll starve.” I’ve had parents say that to me, and I go, “You know, eventually, your son or daughter is going to get hungry, and they’re going to start eating.” And two of the kind of interesting factors, I think that are so important for digestion is that it’s the life in food that gives us life. So what we’re finding is there’s this whole category of food called a prebiotic rich food. These prebiotics are soluble fibers mostly that are in food that are the food for the microbiota. They help keep it running just right. These foods are starchy vegetables and whole grains and beans. So we want to start thinking about adding those foods in. The other piece of this is that we had a consensus statement that came out a couple of years ago, showing that not only it’s the fibers in the food, but it’s the colors in the food. So it’s the polyphenols. So when you give your child some tea, some peppermint tea that soothes their tummy or chamomile tea that soothes their tummy or helps them go to sleep better — it’s also the colors and the chemicals in those that are going to help. When we make our kids eat blueberries and plums and prunes and apricots and carrots and broccoli, those colors are helping regulate the microbiome, and also reducing inflammation in the body.
One of the things that I love about that relationship is that the colors in our food, which we call polyphenols, what they are is plant bioactives, and they come into our body and they’re not active. They get gobbled and eaten up and changed by the gut microbiome. And as they get eaten up, they get activated so that they can do all these anti-inflammatory things in our body and regulate genetic function and regulate the microbiome. So it’s pretty cool, the relationship. So I think that’s a really important factor: how do we feed our microbiome? The other way that we feed our microbiome is with cultured and fermented foods. So when you give your child some buttermilk or you give them yoghurt, whether that’s a dairy yoghurt or almond yoghurt or a coconut yoghurt, or you give them little bits of pickles or kimchi or sauerkraut, it’s amazing how many little kids really like sauerkraut. They love the sour saltiness of it. Or pickles or pickle juice, when you make homemade pickles, it’s the life in these, because they’re loaded with probiotic microbes.
So again, cultures all over the world have had these, but we Americans were kind of like bah humbug. And so even giving your kids something like miso soup, it has 150 different microbes in it. It tastes so delicious! Nobody doesn’t like miso soup, right? Or I remember my sons used to eat tofu. They would just eat it raw. They really liked it. Tofu is technically a fermented food, but it is kind of cured a little bit, which brings out some of these prebiotic and probiotic properties. When we put honey in tea, honey has prebiotic and probiotic properties. And then finally — well, I shouldn’t say finally, but fibers in foods are so important. So it’s the fibers again that we find in fruits and vegetables and beans and nuts and seeds that help with motility so that we’re not constipated. But they also help with preventing diarrhea because they regulate the rhythmic contractions of the gut called peristalsis.
So I think feeding your gut is important. One of the things I think can change the conversation about nutrition is really thinking about food as information. It’s like what kind of information do you want your cells to have? I have to say, last night my husband had bought one of those frozen apple pies, not from a good brand. And he made it because to him, apple pie is like this nurture. And he was feeling stressed. And so he had an apple pie. The nurture effect of that sometimes can outweigh the fact that it was a really crummy quality apple pie, right? But for the biggest amount of time, I think it’s really important that 90% of our food is really food that talks to our genes, talks to our microbiome in a way that is helpful and healthful. As I said before, almost 82% of what we’re eating isn’t. I understand. We want food that’s convenient, we want food that’s inexpensive. We want food that’s familiar. But these foods aren’t nurturing our body, and they’re giving us the wrong information. And with that information, we’re inflamed and then our brains are inflamed and everything else is inflamed.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I love that way of thinking about it and it’s such a great way to talk to kids about it too and help them understand that, that the food you put in your body is information. What kind of information do you want your body to have? It’s a really helpful reframe, I think for all of us as parents too, to be thinking about the kind of information I want to give my child’s body today, and give their brain? Even making small shifts — If you are falling into that category, you’re listening to us talking, and you’re thinking, “Oh my Gosh, I think we had at least 80% ultra-processed foods in our diets!” That’s okay! Awareness now can start to spur some action, and you don’t necessarily go from a very heavily ultra-processed food diet to a whole food diet overnight. Nobody really does that. So you say what change can I make today? What change can we make as a family this week? How can we start making some small shifts in what we have in our to start putting more things into the pantry and into our bodies that have the kind of information that we want our body to have? I always feel like any shift that families are willing or able to make for that has benefits.
Dr. Liz Lipski:
It does. I see my own students, and they shift over time. Their diets shift dramatically. I’ve seen students come in as vegans and then halfway through their studies, they’re now eating meat because they realized they feel better. I’ve seen meat eaters move more towards a more vegetarian diet because they found they feel better. This is a process, it’s not a quick fix. That said, I think sometimes with our kids, because they’re so disordered and they’re so out of balance, even though they’re adorable and amazing in every other way, their bodies are not working optimally, and sometimes we have to do 100%, at least for a short amount of time to see what the real triggers are. That’s hard. I remember meeting this man, him and his wife had 4 kids who were all on the autistic spectrum in various aspects. It was almost impossible for them to manage and cope, let alone figure out what diet was going to work for each of their children. So I totally understand, but if you’ve got a child who has gluten sensitivity and they get even a smidge of gluten in their diet, what you can see is that can knock them off-course for even two weeks.
So sometimes just doing a little bit, I think overall in our lifestyle, that’s how we do it. But when we’re working with these kids, sometimes we have to be really strict and say “I’m sorry. Let’s just do this overnight and let’s pick a good couple of weeks to jump into this.” What I’ll ask parents to do is to start 100% for two weeks, and then we come back in, we reevaluate, we regroup, we talk about what’s working, what’s not working, and most of all, we talk about what actually happened with your child. Did you see any improvement? So often, more than half the time that parents come in, they go, “Oh my gosh, I’m noticing these things and I’m so excited! My son didn’t pee in the middle of the night/My daughter slept through the night/We have fewer tantrums, better behavior/Their bowels are better/They’re in less pain/They’re less itching.” You know, whatever has been going on, more than half the time you’re going to see these amazing, dramatic results, which then are so motivating for parents. They go, “Okay, let’s do this another two weeks,” right?
And we know that it takes at least 3 weeks to really dampen down the food sensitivities. So I start with two weeks, but then my goal is really — Well, as long as you’re getting improvement, let’s just keep going for a while. Then let’s start adding these foods in, one at a time and see what the triggers are. And again, I’ve seen children who have just one cookie and they’re set off for weeks. Or they have a cup of yoghurt, which doesn’t seem like any bad thing, or they have a grilled cheese sandwich, and the next thing you know, they can’t think straight. So you know, sometimes we have to go to pretty extreme links to figure it out.
It’s not digestion, but so often when I’m working with these kids, we start with food, we start with digestion, we start with the basic lifestyle and we see how far we can get. And then we may need to do food sensitivity testing or we may want to do nutrient testing. So often, and we haven’t talked about this, these kids benefit from taking digestive enzymes. So almost as a rule, it’s really a great idea to get some powdered digestive enzymes and just kind of mix a little bit in your kids’ meals. A pinch. It doesn’t have to be a lot. A pinch or two, just put that in your kids’ meals every time that they eat something, because with that alone you might start seeing really big benefits. This is all a process and your child is different than every other child. So working with a good clinician who can help you, hold your hand and walk you through these changes, I think can be really important.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Absolutely. And I know that in your books, you cover these topics in a lot of detail for people who want to delve into this and understand more about the process of an elimination diet or these different things. So I want to make sure as we’re wrapping up here that you have a chance to tell people where they can find more information about your work and where they can find your books because Digestive Wellness, 5th Edition, that book’s been around for a while, you continue to update it, it’s very popular, it’s one that I refer to often on my shelf.
Dr. Liz Lipski:
So my books, Digestive Wellness, Digestive Wellness for Children, which is kind of getting old, but still really useful — you can find them wherever books are sold. If they don’t have it on the shelf, then they can order it for you and have it in a couple of days. Amazon, Barnes & Noble carry them also as eBooks. If you want to find more about me, you can go to innovativehealing.com. If there are any professionals or parents who are at their wits’ end, I also have an online course called The Art of Digestive Wellness that’s about 10 hours, there are 28 different videos of me talking about all of this in great detail. I spend a lot of time talking about food sensitivities and different diets, one where you try a low-FODMAP diet versus a specific carbohydrate diet, versus just an elimination diet and who benefits. There are tons of handouts, there is a health questionnaire and there are also videos of cooking demos. 9 cooking demos: Dairy-free, gluten-free, delicious, easy things to make in your house like chia pudding, or how to make a dairy-free kefir that’s delicious and your kids will just drink all the time. So that’s The Art of Digestive Wellness, and then finally, I have a digestive health appraisal questionnaire and you can find that dhaq.info, and then if you want to further your education and you want to come back to school to get a certificate or you want to know more about nutrition, come to Maryland University of integrative health, muih.edu.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Such great resources. I can certainly put a plugin for MUIH’s programs where I got my Master’s degree in Nutrition and Integrative Health, such a fantastic program. All of those resources that Liz mentioned, we’ll have all of the links with the show notes on the website so that you can easily click on those. Fantastic resources, I highly recommended, whether you’re a parent or professional listening, that you check those out. Liz, I really appreciate you being here today, sharing all of this really helpful, practical, just wonderful information with us. Thank you so much.
Dr. Liz Lipski:
Thanks, Nicole! It was my pleasure to be here.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And thanks to all of you for listening, we will see you back here next time for our next episode of The Better Behavior Show.