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ENCORE - Practical strategies for gut health, IBS, bloating and constipation with Dena Norton, RD

Picture of podcast cover art with Christa Biegler and Dena Norton: Episode 329 ENCORE - Practical strategies for gut health, IBS, bloating and constipation with Dena Norton, RD

For the next few weeks on The Less Stressed Life Podcast I will be republishing our most popular episodes. First up is with two time guest Dena Norton, MS, RD.  In this episode we discuss all things gut health, IBS, and all the symptoms that come with it. Dena shares her strategies for those looking for the basics of good gut health and also those with long-term gut problems in search of symptom relief.

Want to hear more from Dena? Check out Episode 302: Is it Perimenopause?


  • Foundations for gut health
  • Defining IBS- irritable bowel syndrome (diagnosis of exclusion)
  • Common IBS symptoms
  • Root cause approach to better gut health
  • Food gut health connection
  • Conventional vs Functional approach to IBS
  • Role of stress on the gut


  • Managing the Brain-Gut connection
  • Ensuring good digestion
  • Self-awareness
  • 10 practical strategies for gut health (how do you eat, bitter foods/teas, gut rest, breathing/stretching exercises, abdominal massage,  toilet stool)
  • Advanced strategies after trying basics- root cause approach for supporting good motility long term
  • Gut imbalances these tips will not fix
  • Finding a provider to really look at the whole picture- labs and symptoms alike


Dena Norton, MS, RD is a registered dietitian with over 15 years of experience in both the traditional medical system and the holistic health sphere. She owns Back To The Book Nutrition, a virtual practice specializing in chronic digestive symptoms and women's health.
After helping perimenopausal women for years, Dena entered her 40's and was hit with nagging symptoms like low libido, love handles, and sleep disturbance herself. This wake up call drove her to research perimenopause more deeply than ever and, after applying what she learned, has reduced her symptoms and feels back in control of her health!
Now Dena is passionate about helping fellow 40-something women navigate this topsy-turvy stage of life with proven strategies to curb nagging symptoms and to significantly reduce the risk of many chronic diseases that plague aging women.

Instagram: @backtothebooknutrition

Instagram: @anti.inflammatory.nutritionist
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[00:00:00] Christa Biegler, RD: Stress is the inflammation that robs us of life, energy, and happiness. Our typical solutions for gut health and hormone balance have let a lot of us down. We're over medicated and underserved. At The Less Stressed Life, we're a community of health savvy women exploring solutions outside of our traditional Western medicine toolbox and training to raise the bar and change our stories.

[00:00:26] Christa Biegler, RD: Each week, our hope is that you leave our sessions inspired to learn, grow, and share these stories to raise the bar in your life and home.

[00:00:45] Christa Biegler, RD: All right. Today, we're going to talk about this little topic that sometimes is not super popular, but what does it look like if we're not pooping every day? And so Dina Norton has so kindly Said I would love to talk about this topic. And so Gina is a registered dietitian and holistic nutrition coach with back to the book nutrition.

[00:01:05] Christa Biegler, RD: And she works with gut and hormone issues. She has a bachelor's and master's degree in nutrition and is currently finishing up her functional medicine certification. She faced HPA access dysfunction, otherwise more commonly known as burnout, right? Hormone imbalance and IBS symptoms that traditional medicine couldn't help her fix.

[00:01:23] Christa Biegler, RD: So she found answers in the world of holistic and functional medicine and her own dramatic recovery opened her eyes to a whole new approach of health and gave her a passion to help others find healing as well. She has 15 years of experience in both the traditional medical system and holistic health.

[00:01:36] Christa Biegler, RD: And she now combines all she's learned to leverage the best of research back and results, different approaches to help her clients optimize their health. She's been featured on Dr. Axe, prevention magazine, fitness magazine, HuffPost and others. Welcome Dina. 

[00:01:49] Dena Norton, RD: Thank you. Glad to be here. 

[00:01:50] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah. So we don't know what the title of this episode will be, but we feel like it's really practical strategies.

[00:01:55] Christa Biegler, RD: And like you were saying offline, this is the basics that need to be in place before we get into advanced stuff.

[00:02:02] Dena Norton, RD: Yeah. 

[00:02:03] Dena Norton, RD: Honestly, I think it's for anyone and everyone truly, because what we're going to talk about today is the foundations for long term gut health for optimizing digestive function.

[00:02:14] Dena Norton, RD: So whether you're like early days in your IBS or gut symptoms, or whether you're deep in the ditch and doing all the advanced stuff, the things we're going to talk about today are cheap, easy. You can do them today and they matter. They will get you more out of. Everything else you're trying to do to fix your gut.

[00:02:29] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah. Okay, cool. 

[00:02:30] Christa Biegler, RD: So practical strategies for gut health, which affects everyone. So on that note, since we've already given lip service to the term IBS, let's go ahead and just define that for clarity. Because I think if we define it, people may say, oh I might have that, garbage disposal criteria that may apply to me as well.

[00:02:47] Christa Biegler, RD: So let's define IBS first. 

[00:02:50] Dena Norton, RD: Yeah. IBS is irritable bowel syndrome. It is considered a diagnosis of exclusion. So anytime you hear the word syndrome tacked on the end of something, it's a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning it's a cluster of symptoms. We don't really call it some other definitive diagnosis.

[00:03:07] Dena Norton, RD: It's once we've ruled out everything else, we just call it this because you look like these symptoms. Maybe we don't know much else about it. Typically, there's not a whole lot we can do to effectively manage it and fix the root causes from a conventional standpoint. So they like stamp this on you and send you out the door, maybe with an antispasmodic, maybe telling you take some Miralax, but there's not a lot of clarity on what causes it, what it really is or how to fix it from a conventional 

[00:03:32] Dena Norton, RD: perspective.

[00:03:33] Christa Biegler, RD: All right. Let's just back up and say people get this diagnosis or maybe they don't get this diagnosis because I think there is common but not normal symptoms. And therefore, someone may not realize that only having a bowel movement every 3 days, 1 week or. The really mortifying one every two weeks is not normal.

[00:03:54] Christa Biegler, RD: I think maybe, I don't know, I'm just probably, if you're listening to this podcast, you're going to be the more self aware person. That's the understanding. So share this with a friend who you may have found out is only pooping every once every two weeks. But the point is that, like you said, this could impact everyone.

[00:04:10] Christa Biegler, RD: So if we think about people who either have the diagnosis or do not, but are having experiencing lack of regular motility, what do you think some of the questions that we get the most before we dig into the meat, what are people thinking is the problem or what are they looking for as Hey, I've tried this, but you know, do you have any advice on this?

[00:04:28] Christa Biegler, RD: What do people ask you as a dietitian or what kind of messages do you get online from people that are dealing with gut issues first? 

[00:04:36] Dena Norton, RD: I think the obvious ones. Are around how to fix the symptoms because that's what's popping up above the surface, bothering people. I'm constipated. I have diarrhea.

[00:04:45] Dena Norton, RD: I have a lot of pain. I have all this gas I can't get rid of. So a lot of it's about like, how do you fix the constipation or how do you slow down the diarrhea or how do you fix the gas? And so those are the like symptoms on the surface. And, you and I are more interested in yeah, let's put some band aids on that and make you feel better, but let's look under the hood.

[00:05:03] Dena Norton, RD: Try to figure out how this happened in the first place, what's going on with stomach acid, what's going on with your stress levels, what's going on with all these other things that we're brewing under the surface to push you over into these symptoms of, IBS. And then I think the next kind of, the other group of questions are around foods, right?

[00:05:19] Dena Norton, RD: The obvious thoughts, where people go usually is. Something's wrong with what I'm eating. I'm either not eating enough of something or I'm eating too much of something that's triggering all these symptoms. And so they start to focus on what they can do with their food to fix the symptoms. I think these are like totally logical responses, right?

[00:05:35] Dena Norton, RD: We're like dealing with symptoms where that are bugging us every day. And we know that we eat food every day and we, a lot of times see symptoms following foods. So it makes sense that people go here first. And I actually am like one of those practitioners who's all for it. Hey, do the obvious, do a good Google search, try some things, boots on the ground every day, makes sense.

[00:05:50] Dena Norton, RD: Do the one on one things on your own. But if you're not getting traction, that's when it's time to like, Look a little deeper and try something 

[00:05:58] Dena Norton, RD: more. 

[00:05:58] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah, no, I would agree. And I would say what that was like the answer I was a bit rooting around for is that people will come to us because the.

[00:06:05] Christa Biegler, RD: Term is dietitian, but I think sometimes there is more than what meets the eye there. There's going to be a little more that we offer besides diet changes. Now on that note, I think maybe it might be useful. I don't think this fits. I think this will get lost when we get into the rest of the content.

[00:06:21] Christa Biegler, RD: So I think maybe we should actually address what is the conventional approach to IBS or constipation versus the holistic approach. And then the holistic approach will allow us to dive in. So let's just like preface, what does it conventionally look like? If someone has experienced this, they may have experienced it already, but if you haven't, we'd like to save you some time.

[00:06:39] Dena Norton, RD: Yeah. The conventional approach. This is from my own personal experience and what I hear clients being told by their doctors when they come to me is typically take some sort of over the counter product usually first to fix your diarrhea or your constipation. So like just take some Miralax.

[00:06:55] Dena Norton, RD: This is probably just IBS. Good luck. Sometimes they might prescribe something like an anti spasmodic or a prescription level anti diarrheal to help you even, more in their minds. And then the other thing that has become more mainstream with conventional recommendations in the last several years is like recommending a low FODMAP diet.

[00:07:13] Dena Norton, RD: That seems to be the, the golden boy right now of what should you do with your diet. Based on conventional medicine advice. So that's what I'm seeing doled out to people as first line recommendations when they have IBS. Now I, 

[00:07:27] Christa Biegler, RD: How do we feel? I know. How do we feel?

[00:07:32] Dena Norton, RD: I can't argue with the literature, honestly. There's great research showing that you get results when you bring in a low fat diet with a lot of people. Okay. But the way I yeah. The research is behind it short term. So I'm very like, I'm very moderate when I talk with people, I'm like, let's talk about the pros and cons.

[00:07:46] Dena Norton, RD: There's probably like some value in this and some value in that, but let's like, put it on the table and really decide like what makes sense for you. So the deal with low FODMAP or really most are all other quote unquote gut healing diets of any kind is that they're very focused on short term symptom resolution.

[00:08:02] Dena Norton, RD: And that's great. Like you might need a dash of that, but it can't be your only strategy and it can't be your forever plan. So that's all fine and good. If you're going to do it for a couple of weeks, just to test the waters and see if you get symptom improvement, but at the same time, you need to be figuring out how to get under the hood and see what caused this and how do I reverse that as well?

[00:08:20] Dena Norton, RD: Because now we're getting publications, research publications that confirm what we've been seeing as practitioners all along is that the longer and longer you persist. On these restrictive diets, the more and more dysfunction you're really just cutting your nose to spite your face.

[00:08:33] Dena Norton, RD: Basically, you're kicking the can down the road and you're getting immediate relief for the sake of long term, like setting yourself back. So I have strong concern with really making that your primary game plan. I don't think that's smart. I think it can be used in the right dose for a short period while you're exploring deeper 

[00:08:49] Dena Norton, RD: causes.

[00:08:50] Christa Biegler, RD: So if you've been doing low FODMAP and you saw benefits at the beginning, and now you realize it's one too restrictive to, it's not a long term approach. Like we are immediate gratification people. And this is getting doled out pretty commonly, but it's not, like you said, a long term solution.

[00:09:05] Christa Biegler, RD: And what it's creating is dysfunction, which creates immune dysfunction and food sensitivities that are more severe. 

[00:09:11] Dena Norton, RD: Yeah, it really breeds that stuff. 

[00:09:12] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah, it totally does. 

[00:09:14] Dena Norton, RD: That's what it does. 

[00:09:14] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah. 

[00:09:15] Christa Biegler, RD: And on that note setting the stage when we're thinking about holistic strategies, we have maybe some diet changes and that may not look like restriction.

[00:09:24] Christa Biegler, RD: It might look like stool testing. It might look like different supplement protocols to overcome, as essentially we'll call them shortcuts to the outcomes that we want. So we can talk about all of those things are like. All those things in general, but what we were just describing with people getting more and more restrictive really reminds me of this, like stress and gut connection.

[00:09:44] Christa Biegler, RD: And I think that might be where we should actually start is that's where I see things really getting spiraling out of control is that you do some food changes. Relief and then it really spirals out of control. And we just want to continue to think that food is going to be the answer.

[00:09:58] Christa Biegler, RD: The restriction of food is only going to be the answer. So let's talk about. What happens next with like stress nervous system imbalances and what's going on in the gut and how big of a part does that really play in the overall gut dysfunction, gut health, IBS, bloating, constipation picture.

[00:10:16] Dena Norton, RD: It's huge. It is a part of it for every single person dealing with gut issues, hands down. I think there are some people for whom it's a bigger part, honestly. And usually these people are somewhat aware of this, right? When work stress ramps up, my gut just gets really bad. A lot of people can make this connection at whatever level they can make it, but it's a part for everyone, whether they realize it or not.

[00:10:37] Dena Norton, RD: And so I would say it's not even like important to look at The longer and longer you go with symptoms or when diet hasn't worked. This has been going on as a piece of it from the very beginning. And that's why I say the stuff we're, going to talk about today is stuff that everybody with gut symptoms means to be tending to, because if you're not, you're skip jumping over foundations and you're setting yourself back, you're not going to get.

[00:11:00] Dena Norton, RD: as much benefit out of the other things that you're trying to do. So the brain gut connection is strong. Obviously that's something that's widely accepted even by conventional medicine at this point. And a lot of what the brain is doing for digestion has to do with. It's perception incoming of what's stressful, what's needed, what's being felt at the moment, the brain is the, receiver of all these signals from our physical senses, as well as from things that we're perceiving with, in other ways.

[00:11:29] Dena Norton, RD: And so it is like sifting through all this and deciding what's needed, are we needing to send a stress response, are we needing digestive juices, what are we needing at the moment and then it dictates down to. All these components of our digestive track, like we need you, or we don't need you. We need you to this degree.

[00:11:44] Dena Norton, RD: We need less, we need more. And so if your brain is busy sifting through things that it perceives as high importance, things like stress of whatever type things like I'm just really busy and I have a lot of tasks I need to fire off right now, it is going to downgrade digestive juices. 

[00:12:01] Dena Norton, RD: And we have definitely animal data and some human data confirming this, that stomach acid, digestive enzyme production, bile acid production, all of those drops significantly when we're under chronic stress, for sure. That's very clear in the literature. And then under acute stress, like in the moment right now, today, there appears to be this like variation.

[00:12:22] Dena Norton, RD: Person to person, there could be an excessive stomach acid in those situations, or there could be a reduction in stomach acid, but for sure, the brain is actively affecting digestive juices, and it's also affecting the muscular motility, the nerve endings that are like signaling to the gut move things along or don't move things along.

[00:12:40] Dena Norton, RD: So there's a lot of input. Chronic stress is also very involved in immune regulation. So that definitely comes in as far as can you fight off stuff in the gut that you should be fighting off parasites and pathogens and whatnot, or can you not? And are you overreacting to things that you shouldn't react to, like certain foods?

[00:12:58] Dena Norton, RD: So the brain is key in everything you want the gut to do for you. And if your gut is messed up in whatever way, you really need to be going upstream and really working top down on the brain and on the stress inputs and how it's, responding to all of those. 

[00:13:19] Christa Biegler, RD: So to add on to that, if we have stress in this moment, it's going to suppress how we digest stomach acid, digestive enzymes, bile, basically how we process and digest food, despite what it looks like on the other end, whether it looks like loose stool, whether it looks like constipation, whether you can even tell we're not because we don't have x ray vision, as I like to say to clients.

[00:13:36] Christa Biegler, RD: And so lack of digestion as I think one of the most foundational. Pillars that is essential for long term good gut health, because lack of digestion equals fermentation, overgrowth of things, gas and bloating, et cetera. If there's gas and bloating after meals, there's fermentation happening instead of digestion and absorption of nutrients.

[00:13:54] Christa Biegler, RD: And once we have less digestion absorption of nutrients, which is part of why we eat and digest and absorb nutrients, the less we have of that. And then coupled with the fact that stress depletes certain nutrients, the less resources when this happens over a long period of time. The fewer resources we have for all functions in the body to work properly.

[00:14:13] Christa Biegler, RD: And so it's just like a slow breakdown of downward spiral for sure. And usually I would say, the best case situation is when someone comes into our sphere and has pretty good self awareness of when symptoms began. And very commonly first of all, I've never ever seen an autoimmune flare up or diagnosis that wasn't prefaced by.

[00:14:34] Christa Biegler, RD: Some sort of stressful time of life, but also gut dysfunction in general, I very commonly see it happen after college after certain times of life that are more we really glamorize stress in our current world. And I, sometimes I've gotten away from even using that term because we have so much unrealized nervous system dysfunction.

[00:14:54] Christa Biegler, RD: Even myself, when I've gotten lab data back Oh, I should change how I'm doing things regardless. So anyway, 

[00:15:00] Dena Norton, RD: I thought it was managing. I'm a high functioning 

[00:15:03] Dena Norton, RD: stress. 

[00:15:04] Christa Biegler, RD: And that actually is, that is a great way to say it. Those have been some of the hardest clients because if it's unrealized.

[00:15:11] Christa Biegler, RD: Then you can't address something that's unrealized or someone doesn't think is a 

[00:15:14] Christa Biegler, RD: problem. So

[00:15:15] Dena Norton, RD: usually those folks are very unaware of the internal dialogue, the constant stress input that's coming from within, from the way that they, actively interact with themselves and their thoughts. So when you have external stress inputs, a lot of times we can remove ourselves from those or turn things off at certain times, but our internal dialogue and the way we process the world, it's huge for some people.

[00:15:36] Christa Biegler, RD: We can come back a little bit to after we get through some of these foundational principles, which I think we'll jump into now because we want to go over practical strategies that we should be considering as foundations before you get into that advanced stuff. And then we can give a little lip service, if you have tried all of these actually which doubtful.

[00:15:51] Christa Biegler, RD: Whenever someone says I've tried everything I'm like, I doubt it. Let's talk about it. I think it's admirable that you think you've tried everything and that's okay, but there is probably, my mantra is that we always have options. So let's get into some practical strategies for gut health or IBS.

[00:16:06] Christa Biegler, RD: That can be really helpful. 

[00:16:08] Dena Norton, RD: Yeah. And there are so many I have 10 on the list. I cut it down to 10, but there are so many more but I think simple things, the first few are really geared to around not what you eat, because again, there's a lot of that out there. Yeah. That could be important too, but we're talking about how do you even approach food?

[00:16:22] Dena Norton, RD: How do you eat when it's time to eat? Cause all of this is signaling to your brain. Are we digesting or are we responding to stress? So I think even before you eat taking a moment, I try to tell clients, even if it's 30 seconds, like we all have 30 seconds to take a moment and do some deep belly breathing.

[00:16:40] Dena Norton, RD: And so what this is doing, especially if we're really focusing on letting the abdomen expand and having long, slow exhales, even a few cycles of that is what it's doing is it's. It's urging the body, nudging it out of fight or flight or sympathetic dominance and into rest and digest. It's just signaling to the brain, we're done with that.

[00:17:00] Dena Norton, RD: We're setting it aside for now, we need digestion, all hands on deck. And that will start to signal down to these glands, to the musculature, to everything that we're going to digest now. You taking a few moments to do deep belly breathing is a great way to set the stage for good digestion. I think number two would be to don't just jump right into eating after you've done your breathing.

[00:17:23] Dena Norton, RD: Take a moment to observe the food and to. Smell the food. And this all sounds like so small, right? Like I roll, what's that going to do? But really, when you take in the food visually, when you smell the food that does, quote unquote, get the juices flowing. That's an old phrase, but it's very physiologically accurate.

[00:17:37] Dena Norton, RD: And if think of a time where you like walk into your favorite restaurant or bakery or home when dinner is being cooked and just that moment where you're like, Oh, it just all hits you. And it just Smells so good, and it takes you in. And if you really listen into your body you'll notice there's excess saliva being produced.

[00:17:53] Dena Norton, RD: Your mouth will actually be watering, and that is part of your body signaling digestive juices. The saliva itself, has these enzymes to break down carbs and fats. It's getting the ball rolling ready for what's about to come in. So you intentionally, even sitting down to a quick lunch, can take a minute to observe the food, to think through it visually and to smell it and to take it in with other senses before you start to eat.

[00:18:14] Dena Norton, RD: So that would be number two. And then the third would be when you're actually eating, taking your first bite, thinking slow. Most of us are wolfing food without realizing it, we give the obligatory like three chews and a swallow and onto the next bite. And we really need to be, I tell my kids all the time, I'm forever saying like half bites, double chews, half bites, double chews.

[00:18:35] Dena Norton, RD: We really need like smaller bites, lots and lots of chewing. Set your fork down, push your plate away, recline a bit, take a moment to chew that until it's pureed. Like everything you eat should be pureed or nearly so before you swallow it. And I bet you're not because I have a hard time doing it, but chewing slowly and thoroughly.

[00:18:56] Dena Norton, RD: So this manual digestion by the teeth, again, the longer it's in the mouth, the more saliva is being secreted. That's going to start some of the enzyme breakdown, but you're manually breaking down the food and that's reducing the burden on that stomach acid on the rest of the digestion so that it has less work to do.

[00:19:12] Dena Norton, RD: So you're lowering the burden of digestion, especially if you're in a position where you have disrupted gut function. Everything you can do in these ways is helping your body work less when it's burdened. So chewing. Eating slowly. I think number four would be limiting the fluid that you drink with meals.

[00:19:30] Dena Norton, RD: This would be a small way to let your body have max potency of its stomach acid. So if we're drinking. gobs and gobs of water. We're diluting the pH of our stomach acid a little bit. And that potency of acid, especially if you're someone who has depressed stomach acid output and you're just not putting out very much, you want it to be as max potency as it can be as acidic as possible.

[00:19:52] Dena Norton, RD: So don't dilute it with water. So that's going to help you, especially with protein breakdown to have max potency of your stomach acid. So maybe limiting to four ounces, three to four ounces with a meal. And I think it's easiest when you actually serve yourself that much, don't serve yourself a big glass and expect yourself to not drink at all.

[00:20:10] Dena Norton, RD: Serve yourself in a three or four ounce glass with your meal. And that's what you're going to use. So it's basically like wetting the mouth between bites when you need to, versus getting your hydration done with your meal. So limiting fluids with meals, I think would be number four. That can be helpful.

[00:20:23] Dena Norton, RD: Number five would be Trying out a digestive tea after dinner. These would be like along the lines of taking bitter. Some people take bitters in the form of supplements and people eat bitter herbs and bitter greens with their foods. And these things, the bitter flavors of them on the tongue actually send signals down to our gut to improve release of digestive juices.

[00:20:44] Dena Norton, RD: So they really are. signaling mechanisms. Some of them increase motility to some degree. So we're really trying to, again, communicate to the body what we need from it to help it do its job a little better. So there's one that Puka makes, P U K A has an organic after dinner tea. I just like the blend there.

[00:21:02] Dena Norton, RD: And I think it tastes pretty good too. So it's got fennel and licorice and anise. Some of those that are pretty common digestive aids. I think on top of the fact that the components themselves are digestive aids, just the relaxation of having a cup of tea after dinner, something about sitting with a warm beverage is just relaxing too, which a lot of us need to take a moment and not jump right up from whatever we're eating and run off to life again.

[00:21:25] Dena Norton, RD: We need to take a moment and let our body process what we just gave it. And think through, what we've just done, let things sit a bit before we jump right back into life. So I think after dinner teas can be nice after one or more of your meals during the day. And then especially if you're someone who deals with slower motility, just a hot beverage is a bowel stimulant.

[00:21:43] Dena Norton, RD: When that heat hits the body, it does send a nerve signal down to the lower bowel to encourage it to release to make room. So warm things on top of the fact that it has those digestive aids can be. Really helpful in a digestive tea. So those would be a handful of things about the moment of eating.

[00:21:59] Dena Norton, RD: How can you approach that and do that better to help your body out? I think some other things that are less focused on that would be like considering giving your gut some rest every now and then. Especially if you're someone who feels like the digestive burden is high, your gut's just not processing things.

[00:22:16] Dena Norton, RD: It's backed up. It's bloated. It's gassy. Maybe it's constipated. It's like up to its neck and stuff. It needs to process. It's like at work when the papers are piling up and you Still only have a certain number of hours in the day. There's just no way at some point you're going to finish it. There's always a breaking point where too much is too much.

[00:22:31] Dena Norton, RD: And the body's really the same, especially if it's really burdened by digestion. So I think considering maybe weekly, maybe even monthly, it doesn't have to be. Every other day or something, but taking a break from the burden of putting more and more food down and maybe doing like a liquid day where you do bone broth and electrolyte drinks and clear liquids.

[00:22:50] Dena Norton, RD: It just things that are a little gentler, a little easier on the body and see, if that helps you, if that does feel like it gives your body a breather and your symptoms wayne a little bit. And then you go back to your norm the next day and it gives you a little bit of relief.

[00:23:05] Dena Norton, RD: Maybe that's something you could rotate in. I think, fasting quote unquote, you can get definitely where you're doing too much of that and skewing things further. And we don't want to get the body. The gut specifically, but other areas of food relationship and metabolism and other things on a swinging pendulum, we want to be careful with how often and in what way we introduce something like a fasting type of thing.

[00:23:26] Dena Norton, RD: But I think, one day here and there of doing liquids, doing, caloric liquids even can be really helpful to give some people a break. So that's an idea. I think number seven and I'll, send like specifics of this to clients a lot of times, Breathing exercises that go beyond I'm still sitting at my desk.

[00:23:43] Dena Norton, RD: I'm still sitting at the table, trying to do some breathing in the right way, but taking a moment to get down on the floor, lie on your back, spread your body out, unbuckle your pants. We're really trying to give the musculature, give the gut itself, like room to expand space to do so to flop and fall open.

[00:24:00] Dena Norton, RD: If you will, that's basically what we're doing. We're trying to like, give it some space. We all spend so much time crouched over hunched over physically tense, sitting up in chairs where our physical body is compressed. Our gut is compressed. And so we're just trying to spread that out, give it some room and then do some of this deep belly breathing again, focused on long exhale.

[00:24:17] Dena Norton, RD: So methods like four, seven, eight, or similar things like that, where you're really focusing on a long, slow exhale. So we're helping the physical. Digestive tract spread out and expand, but we're also again, circling back to that nervous system and ushering it out of fight or flight and indirect rest and digest.

[00:24:36] Dena Norton, RD: Interestingly, when I was dealing with IDS years ago as like a young, high achieving dietitian, working too hard, giving too much myself, super overstressed. I would have these seemingly random. Gut cramps and it would just build and build through the workday, or it's Oh, I just need to sit down, but I couldn't.

[00:24:52] Dena Norton, RD: And the only thing I knew to relieve it was to like, just get home at the end of the day. And I would lay down on the floor in the living room and I would just do a bunch of breathing. And I didn't even understand the physiology of that at this point. I didn't know anything. I know today about the nervous system and the innervation with a gut and all of that, but I just knew that's what made me feel better.

[00:25:09] Dena Norton, RD: Finally, at the end of the day, it didn't even take it all away, but it at least took me down several notches and I could regroup. And by the next morning, I was fine after a good sleep, but this sort of laying down, letting the gut expand and doing this sort of deep breathing is really a powerful tool in your pocket to help your body unwind and relax.

[00:25:27] Dena Norton, RD: So I think that can be really helpful. You could even layer onto that something like a heating pad or something warm over the abdomen, to just push even more relaxation. Those sorts of advanced lie down on your back and breathe deeply approaches can be really helpful. And along similar lines, number eight would be like positions, like a lot of yoga positions actually, but you know, you could do this anytime.

[00:25:49] Dena Norton, RD: It doesn't have to be in a formal like yoga class or video. But a lot of the yoga positions, like there's one even called wind relieving pose, maybe you've done, but these are great ways to put the body in a position where it can expel. Trapped gas, where it can encourage freedom of movement inside the abdomen.

[00:26:05] Dena Norton, RD: So wind relieving pose is one of them. Tabletop or cat cow would be another. There's a fetal position pose. That can work quite well. The Malasana squat, which is like a super deep squat where your butt's like almost on the ground, but your knees are hiked up and you're standing on your feet, but you're like squatting down deep, that one can be really good for relieving trapped gas.

[00:26:26] Dena Norton, RD: And then happy baby is another one. So there are several yoga poses that you can just. Do these for a few minutes even and see if they help you. But certainly if you're dealing with these things regularly, I would try to be doing these things daily, have some time for some good abdominal relaxation deep breathing, maybe some yoga positions and see if it helps you, do it for a week or two and see if it helps.

[00:26:45] Dena Norton, RD: I think number nine would be abdominal massage. You massage. Actually massaging and some people who are tender in that area are like, Oh, I don't know. That sounds like it would feel very good. But it can really help to again, Just assist the body because you're going to use pressure. To move gas and to move stool.

[00:27:02] Dena Norton, RD: That's trapped. And so you would lie down on your back ideally for this as well. And you're basically, you can Google this on YouTube. Abdominal massage for trapped gas or IBS. But you're basically going to take your fist. or the palm of your hand and apply like medium pressure at your right hip bone, that front hip bone, right?

[00:27:20] Dena Norton, RD: So bottom of your abdomen, lower right. And you're just gonna push up and then across the abdomen under the rib cage and then down the left side and then toward the middle, toward the middle of the pelvis and out. So you're basically just tracing, you're just tracing your large intestine.

[00:27:34] Dena Norton, RD: You can use light pressure and that would actually be more for simulating lymphatic flow, which also is girding up behind, like moving moving the gut, but medium to deep pressure would be more like actually engaging that colon and nudging what's in there along. And we're simulating honestly, 

[00:27:50] Dena Norton, RD: what normal motility would be. There are multiple kind of layers of musculature in the GI tract that are always squishing and squeezing and throbbing to move things through. And so we're just like doing that from the outside by doing these, abdominal massages. So that can be helpful.

[00:28:05] Dena Norton, RD: You could layer these together, right? You could do the lay down the deep breathing, the warm heating pad, and then you could do some massage and just see what it feels like if it helps. You and I think finally, number 10 would be like using a stool, using a potty stool. These have become more popular in recent years.

[00:28:20] Dena Norton, RD: It used to be just for our toddlers to get on the toilet. But now, a lot of people are really trying this. It was the way like traditional peoples would have gone to the bathroom normally. And so we're just hiking up the knees and putting some pressure in the abdomen to help it to move things along.

[00:28:35] Dena Norton, RD: So you can get a little stool for cheap on Amazon. Or you may even have something like that would serve you at home. And that could help to position your body where it's easier to move things out. So there's not so much straining and pressure when you're having a bowel movement, if that's difficult for you.

[00:28:47] Dena Norton, RD: So those are 10 things that I think are super simple. People can try it. 

[00:28:51] Christa Biegler, RD: And I wrote, very clearly at the top of my, I always, this is my like brain. I just have to write while you're talking. I already have half of this written down. I wrote down how you eat, not what you eat. This is how you eat strategies.

[00:29:03] Christa Biegler, RD: And so we're having a little bit of a context shift in our brain that how you eat. And because we always think about Oh, stress, lifestyle, et cetera. Like these are the stressors from how we eat. Eating fast, trying to eat in, in fight or flight versus rest and digest, et cetera. Mechanical digestion. There's a lot of mechanics here, right?

[00:29:23] Christa Biegler, RD: So I know what you're talking about with the quote unquote squatty potty discussion or ancestral version of sitting like that, but can you describe that a little bit more if this is the first time someone's heard about this? 

[00:29:34] Dena Norton, RD: Yep. So these are little stools. Usually they like fit around the base of your toilet.

[00:29:38] Dena Norton, RD: So they might be elevated by six inches or nine inches. And it's just a platform for your feet to rest on. So your feet are not now on the floor when you're seated on the toilet, they're resting on this stool six or nine inches above the floor. And what that does is it, your knees are going to pop up a little higher in the air or basically just providing a little bit of compression to the abdomen. And so it naturally has a little more force on it to expel things. So the pressure isn't on you to urge and squeeze and push. Because that, too much of that can cause some problems. So this is just positioning your body where there's natural pressure and gravity working for it.

[00:30:11] Dena Norton, RD: when you move about movement. The quick and easy thing to do without buying a stool would be to you can even experiment with raising like one of your knees and hug it with your left arm, pull your knee up to your left breast or chest area and pull back on it with your arm to create that pressure on the left.

[00:30:28] Dena Norton, RD: side of your gut, even just pulling that one knee up while you're seated on the toilet to see if that helps put a little pressure on that descending colon where stool is packed up there and trying to wait to get out. That'd be a super simple thing you could do yourself. But buying the stool would be just a good, like practice, I think, to get in for people who have to push and work to expel bowel movements.

[00:30:47] Christa Biegler, RD: Perfect. All right. So you just shared 10 essentially mechanical or how you eat for the most part tools that everyone can use for improving gut health. So now let's just give a little bit of lip service to that this is a step toward trying all the things, right? Because one thing people may have done is adding things, adding something like Miralax, adding fiber.

[00:31:11] Christa Biegler, RD: Which by the way, if we add fiber too fast, we can get impacted and constipated as well, actually sad reality is we tend to go all in on something, but you can actually make it worse in the short term. So just throwing that in there really quick hydration. Some of those things can be looked at.

[00:31:24] Christa Biegler, RD: And then the next thing people will look at is there something in my diet that is creating this sometimes? These are mechanical. Again, backing up that digestion is the most important tool. So if we can do anything to help support and improve digestion, it's going to create less immune system dysfunction downstream and create less immune system chaos downstream.

[00:31:42] Christa Biegler, RD: So we've talked to now about these mechanical, how you eat things easy to do things. What kind of problems in the gut. With these 10 things now, these could be supportive for everything, but what comes after that, like in our holistic practices that may maybe an advanced strategy beyond this, that someone may need, I think we just want to spell out that, by the way, there are other things that can be going on for sure.

[00:32:08] Christa Biegler, RD: These are the DIY options that you should use, but what comes next after this for us as clinicians to help someone fix this from a real cost perspective, longer term. 

[00:32:19] Dena Norton, RD: Yeah. I think what you build on top of this stuff is especially if you've had symptoms for longer or they're pretty severe, you want to be trying to get to what caused them in the first place.

[00:32:29] Dena Norton, RD: And so our investigation would usually be like, are you really making enough stomach acid? It might go beyond. thE strategies that we've talked about, there may be a reason for that. Maybe you have H. pylori, maybe you have nutritional deficiencies that don't allow you to make stomach acid. We need to figure that out.

[00:32:47] Dena Norton, RD: We need to test for those things. We need to bring in, supplemental health or, killing agents or whatever to fix that. That would be one example. Another example would be like, if you're suffering from these symptoms and you have a really entrenched microbial imbalance lower in the gut, in the small intestine or in the large intestine, like a bacterial overgrowth.

[00:33:03] Dena Norton, RD: Like a yeast overgrowth, like undergrowth of good bacteria, a highly under recognized cause for IBS symptoms in my experience, but if you have these imbalances, the strategies we're talking about today are not enough, very likely. And so we need to test for and understand what specific imbalance you have so that we can then layer on top of these things, a more targeted approach, whether it's supplements, medications, food changes.

[00:33:27] Dena Norton, RD: All of that to effectively head on, tackle the imbalance and write that ship. So that would be examples or, if you have a leaky gut, that's really driving part of your IBS, part of your food sensitivities, we need to shore that up, we need to lower chronic stress. We need to lower things that we know disrupt the gut lining.

[00:33:44] Dena Norton, RD: We need to bring in supplements that actively rebuild it. We need to do any and all of that to, address that directly. And so usually we're adding on something like. Testing I do comprehensive stool testing for so many people and it's really helpful. And that can be your next level of naming the specific imbalances that are going on so that you can add a more targeted approach to address those while you're also tending to these foundations.

[00:34:10] Dena Norton, RD: But I don't know if you've seen this person, but like the longer and longer, the deeper and deeper I go into gut work, and then usually the more and more people you help, the more and more complex people come to you. And I mostly see at this point, like really complex long term gut cases.

[00:34:23] Dena Norton, RD: So they're way beyond, Hey, buy a potty stool and, everything will be fixed for you. But. The more of that work I do, the more I actually appreciate how important these foundations are because so many people are desperate and in pain and they want relief from something big. And it's important to go there and have someone who can guide you through those more advanced tests and protocols and all of that.

[00:34:46] Dena Norton, RD: That's really critical. But if you're skip jumping over this stuff because it does not seem that important or because it takes, a few extra minutes of your time throughout the day. You are not going to get as much out of those other things, because the things we've talked about today are the long term strategy to help your body do what it was designed to do well.

[00:35:05] Dena Norton, RD: And if you're just ignoring that and looking to some medication or supplement protocol to get you out of the ditch, you're calling in the toe, but then, you're trying to run on four flat tires and you're just not going to get very far basically. 

[00:35:17] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah. I want to mention something that I'm seeing.

[00:35:21] Christa Biegler, RD: That kind of piggybacks on you saying I'm seeing more complex issues. And I appreciate that. You didn't mention, you didn't name comprehensive stool testing. 1 thing I'm hesitant to do at this point, because this is what I'm seeing in practice is name the, what I might use. I'm happy to tell people what I use in practice.

[00:35:38] Christa Biegler, RD: I have no problem with that. What I think is the issue is that people go and pursue these tests or maybe get different tests and some of them are not very good. Sometimes they get a good test, but the interpretation and intervention is poor. And so I get. On my doorstep is I've done, they truly have done the right things, but didn't get the right things.

[00:35:59] Christa Biegler, RD: They were definitely on the right track, but did not get results. And my conversation that I'd like to bring to this is that is an unfortunate. Problem. And I have a lot of empathy for it. And I think all failures are lessons. And so we can only take why that didn't work unravel it and go through it.

[00:36:15] Christa Biegler, RD: So usually in that case, I'm like, please send me those results before we talk about this, then tell me what you did. And then hopefully I can see the holes in what you did very quickly. That's what I want to do for someone like, Oh, you had an ineffective protocol. That's a really common situation or someone is just treated by the test.

[00:36:32] Christa Biegler, RD: That's so inappropriate, right? And that's what happens conventionally all the time. I'm not trying to pick on anyone, but that's what it is. That's the reason that people have normal test results and don't feel good, right? Is because the test says it's fine, but the symptoms clearly do not display that things are fine.

[00:36:46] Christa Biegler, RD: And so that's the epidemic. That's the gray area epidemic that we have now. So I just want to mention that. People could be doing holistic type strategies. They can be taking the right tests if they're not being successful. It's not okay. I'm sorry that it hasn't been successful, but unfortunately as more and more people adopt these things in practice there's going to be a gap in how everyone practices and experience matters.

[00:37:10] Christa Biegler, RD: And you want to just make sure that you're being treated by your symptoms and not just your test and you want to make sure you have effective protocols. And so all's we can take from every experience is that if something doesn't work. Let's make sure we do something different next time and do a better job next time to get results.

[00:37:23] Christa Biegler, RD: And so I just want to mention that because I'm sure that it applies to some people listening to this. And we did some marketing recently for our food sensitivity program, and I just could not believe the number of people that had this exact experience that kind of landed on my doorstep.

[00:37:39] Christa Biegler, RD: And so just wanted to mention it 

[00:37:41] Dena Norton, RD: 1000%. Agree. And I think years ago, like when I started this kind of work, it was like I was getting people on my doorstep, as you say, from conventional medicine who had been burned that way. And the longer and longer I go on and the more complexity I see now I'm getting them like you're saying from more like a functional medicine or holistic approach they're falling on my doorstep too.

[00:38:02] Dena Norton, RD: And I think it's just like you're saying, I think the downside of the availability and the number of practitioners who are doing this kind of advanced work is that they're not looking at it. From an experienced view of understanding the whole picture and gluing it back into the puzzle of the whole person and their symptom picture.

[00:38:21] Dena Norton, RD: They're just looking at the values on the readouts and, I call it big box functional medicine, but I think it's starting to fail more and more people where they're like, Oh, it's H. pylori. This is our protocol for that. Take these things. Good luck. Oh, you also have this. Then we'll add on these four supplements.

[00:38:36] Dena Norton, RD: That should totally do it. Hope that works for you. And You don't heal that way. You kill things that way. And that's a piece of it. But it cannot be about just that, or you're going to end up in this spot again. You just don't know how long it's going to take you to end up there.

[00:38:49] Dena Norton, RD: And I think that kind of approach is why like SIBO treatment and other things are, have such terrible recurrence rate. I don't think it's because they're necessarily using all the wrong agents. I think it's because they're looking at the whole thing wrong.

[00:39:01] Dena Norton, RD: They're like zooming in and finding a problem, naming it one thing and doing a certain thing just for that problem, forgetting that problem developed in the context of the entire gut. And not only that, the entire person and their life and everything that was going on. And if you don't roll it back and look at all of those inputs from a 360 view, you're only going to get them a few steps down the road.

[00:39:21] Dena Norton, RD: Okay. And that's where you get the cyclical recurrence. And I won't say like I bet a thousand and everybody who comes to me in that situation, I know exactly how to fix them. But I do my very best as I know you do to like really time out, zoom out and look at the whole picture. And that's the emphasis of what we talked about today.

[00:39:36] Dena Norton, RD: These things that seem simple and seem small. They're really not, I know they're not sexy, but they are. Critical to how you approach eating and your interactions with your gut and with your whole health. And if you don't really work on that thoughtful, mindful approach, you're not going to get past this stuff if you don't retrain some of these behaviors.

[00:39:58] Dena Norton, RD: So yeah, totally. That was my little soapbox. But yeah, totally with you. 

[00:40:03] Christa Biegler, RD: And I, as we back up and move on and practice, I'm aware that maybe there's opportunities to provide mentorship, to try to do what we can in the world to support people because. The more longer I've been doing this, the longer I think everyone needs help and support and a holistic strategy.

[00:40:19] Christa Biegler, RD: sometimes you have to have some failures to be ready to be all in on all the things. Unfortunately that's human behavior. Inspiration versus desperation we're usually desperate before we change. Anyway it was so good to talk through all of this with you.

[00:40:32] Christa Biegler, RD: So just to recap, because I have some notes from before. And so recapping we have these basic cheap and easy practical strategies that are going to basically be those, what you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while type approach things, that will compound over time.

[00:40:49] Christa Biegler, RD: And these are all wonderful things and it would be good to have a list and to dedicate some time on assessing these in our own personal lives. And then some of the things beyond this that this episode does not cover is those significant bug problems like imbalance of the bacteria, yeast, parasites, et cetera, which we've.

[00:41:03] Christa Biegler, RD: Talked about already those like longer term gut dysfunction stuff where there's enzyme insufficiencies or gut permeability and all of those things and what needs to be done to support and heal that. And then the mechanical issues that you listed, which were hernia, et cetera or essentially resection colon and all types of different things.

[00:41:21] Christa Biegler, RD: There's a lot to gut health, right? That's all we have to 

[00:41:23] Christa Biegler, RD: say. 

[00:41:24] Christa Biegler, RD: There's a lot to gut health. So I think it's exciting. There's so much opportunity when we think about it that way. It's not Oh my gosh, there's so much to do. It's there's a lot of opportunity to improve. If you feel like you've addressed one area or a couple facets, there's still a lot of opportunity for things to do and the right combination of So true.

[00:41:44] Christa Biegler, RD: So Dina, if you could leave people with one statement today or like party and thoughts, what would you want to tell them? And then where can people find you 

[00:41:54] Christa Biegler, RD: online? 

[00:41:55] Dena Norton, RD: Yeah, I think it's just what you said, Christo, which is there's so much opportunity here and so many people are suffering from IBS and really in pain and do feel desperate.

[00:42:05] Dena Norton, RD: But there are a lot of tools in your hand that don't cost much and that you can do if you'll take the time to do them and commit to the discipline of rethinking your approach to your gut health. So there's a lot of hope here, I think. And I'll also share with you in case you want to include it in the show notes.

[00:42:20] Dena Norton, RD: I have a couple of articles about these things. So one is about root causes of IBS. I think it's more than 15 on our list of helping people think through what could be the real cause of some of my symptoms. And then an IBS tips article with a lot of these and more and a free download called the mealtime checklist that I share with clients sometimes to just things you want to check through and think about as you're approaching food, some of which we talked about and a few others.

[00:42:43] Dena Norton, RD: So I'll include those links for you in case you want to share those with people, just more free resources where to find me online. I'm back to the book at back to the book nutrition on Instagram and Facebook. And then my website is back to the book. Nutrition. com. And if people are interested in one on one work, I offer a free 10 minute discovery call.

[00:43:00] Dena Norton, RD: You can sign up for that in my social profiles or from any page on my website. And that just lets me hear a little more of your story and give you a really good, honest read on whether I think I can help. 

[00:43:10] Christa Biegler, RD: Perfect. Thanks so much for coming on today. 

[00:43:12] Dena Norton, RD: Yeah. 

[00:43:12] Dena Norton, RD: Thanks for having me.

[00:43:13] Christa Biegler, RD: Sharing and reviewing this podcast is the best way to help us succeed with our mission to help integrate the best of East and West and empower you to raise the bar on your health story. Just go to review this podcast. com forward slash less stressed life. That's review this podcast. com forward slash less stressed life.

[00:43:35] Christa Biegler, RD: And you'll be taken directly to a page where you can insert your review and hit post. 

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