Hannah chats with Tasmanian based nutritionist Sophie Hanley about gut health and ways to embrace healthy habits in the silly season. 

Hannah:

Welcome to the Burn Pod, listeners. We’re really excited to get stuck in today’s episode, which is all about nutrition and gut health, particularly coming into that silly season. We’re very lucky to be joined by Sophie Hanley. She’s the owner of Sophie Hanley Nutrition, a Tasmanian based nutritionist that focuses on gut health and digestion using a whole food nutritional approach. Welcome, Soph.

Sophie Hanley:

Hey, Hannah. Thank you. Nice to meet you.

Hannah:

Lovely to meet you too. Now, so our listeners get to know you a little bit more, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your business? What got you started in the area, what your business is about, and if you’ve got any passions that you particularly love?

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I’m a local nutritionist down here in Hobart. I work as part of a physiotherapy clinic called Flowstate Physio, and my area in nutrition is gut health and digestive health. I kind of started on that track even before I went to school. When I was a little kid, I had a lot of my own digestive issues and I had this big bloated belly. I remember my mom taking me to the doctor and I was prescribed laxatives for kind of many, many years. I always had these digestive issues. I ate pretty well, but there was really never any solution and no one ever mentioned to me to see a nutritionist or gave me really any guidance. I struggled even up into my early 20s.

Sophie Hanley:

At a point, I was getting really into food and I was trying all these different fad diets and nothing was really working so I decided to just delve in and study nutrition myself and kind of try and understand my body.

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah, I really went back to basics, learning about nutrition and it cleared up a lot of confusion for me. Yeah, and I managed to sort things out for myself. I guess … I started a year ago now doing clinical practise with nutrition. I guess the reason behind my business is because I want to really make nutrition accessible and available to people. As I said, my only option was the doctor and I guess Dr. Google as well. There’s so much confusion out there. I see it in a lot of my clients. They’ve cut out all these different foods that Google has told them to cut out, but they still have all of these symptoms and they don’t understand. As a nutritionist, I want to offer support and advice on a really kind of individual level so people can feel better and kind of optimise their health as well. So that’s kind of about my business and how I got into it all.

Hannah:

Yeah. That’s a question, I guess I was, or something I was going to mention next, there’s so much information out there around nutrition and there’s a lot of confusion for a lot of people as to what’s the right approach or if there even is a so-called right approach. Could you tell me a bit more about your approach to nutrition, dig into a little bit more as to how you help your clients and if there’s any foundational knowledge pieces around nutrition that you like to educate your clients with?

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah. As a nutritionist, it’s all about advice and support and looking at everyone on a very individual and a holistic level. By holistic, I mean, looking at all the different facets of someone’s life that might be contributing to their health. Not only food, but their exercise, stress, their sleep, work, and the environmental toxins and things that they’re exposed to on a daily basis. Because all these things have a really big impact on our health and the way that we feel.

Sophie Hanley:

I guess, I kind of focus on digestion because I see that as a bit of a key to our health because our digestion impacts our mental health, our mood, our weight, our skin, and also our immune system as well. Lots of different parts of our body.

Sophie Hanley:

That’s where I start off with, but how I work with people. Generally, we get back to basics with nutrition and my motto is kind of that it’s less about restriction and more about putting more nutrients into people’s diets because we are kind of … we’ve all heard we are what we eat and food really is not only the fuel for our body, for energy, but it also helps us to rebuild our body as well. We need a whole lot of, we need a lot of nutrition, really. There’s a lot of things that we can’t get through, that our body can’t make itself and that we need to get through our diet, things like Vitamin C, calcium. If we’re not, for example, getting enough Vitamin C, that affects our skin health and our repair, it affects our immune system and we might see us getting sick regularly. Calcium, as we start to get into menopause age, that leads to a lot of osteoporosis in a lot of people.

Sophie Hanley:

I am looking at people’s diets and seeing where we need to add more nutrients in through the diets. Working on getting more whole foods in and looking at where there might be some deficiencies and what we can do about that as well as the basics. Yeah.

Hannah:

Yeah. This might be a very basic question for you, I guess, but for a lot of clients, we hear that word, whole foods. As an everyday woman, what are they, firstly, and what can we do to incorporate more whole foods into our diet?

Sophie Hanley:

I guess whole foods are foods that are in closest to their natural form as possible. All of our plant foods, our whole foods, fruits and veggies, grains, nuts and seeds, our legumes, our herbs and spices, all of those things. They contain very … they’re very, very nutritious when they’re close to their whole form and they contain everything that they need to break down and absorb into our body. I guess we can look at the opposite to a whole food, which is kind of the foods that surround us a lot of the time. That’s our processed and really convenient foods.

Sophie Hanley:

Now, I guess the issue with these is, yeah, these foods don’t really resemble a natural food [inaudible 00:07:14] doesn’t resemble anything that’s grown in the wild. These foods they’re … in the processing, the issue with the processing of them is that often, all the nutrition and a lot of the fibre is taken out. They taste really good because they want to sell them. They’re adding a lot of sugar, a lot of salt, and a lot of unhealthy oils that our body doesn’t, especially our gut, doesn’t particularly like.

Sophie Hanley:

I guess to incorporate more of these things, cooking our own foods, preparing our own foods, and that doesn’t have to be complicated. Yeah, going to farmer’s markets or even just at the supermarket, just picking more whole foods and using those at home.

Hannah:

I’ve heard if you’re at the supermarket, trying to stick around the outside of the supermarket usually means you’re sticking more to those whole food areas rather than those aisles in the middle, which are all your packet stuff.

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah, and who knows when they were packaged? There’s a lot of preservatives. Yeah, no, that’s absolutely right as a general rule, sticking to the outside, I guess. But just, you can tell the difference. Go and get grains, go and get nuts and fruits and veggies and legumes. It’s about kind of learning how to put those together in kind of simple ways and cooking those simple things, rather than just going to packaged things all the time.

Hannah:

And your herbs and spices. Spice things up and make things taste even better or change what would be one meal to a completely different meal.

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah. So much flavour and so much nutrition packed into herbs and spices as well. Definitely something that we need to be adding in. Yeah.

Hannah:

Do you have any favourite meals you like to cook? Like maybe a simple, quick dinner?

Sophie Hanley:

I do, because I tend to not have … I mean, I don’t have kids, so … at the moment, so I tend to, I guess I have more time than other people, but I tend to not have loads of time. I often cook up a big pot of brown rice and roast a whole lot of veggies. Then I might cook up a whole lot of tempe or something like that and then I just add it in a bowl so I have, one part will be rice, veggies, a bit of protein, and then I put a drizzle of olive oil, herbs, and spices. You’re kind of getting everything that you need in that. Base my meals around veggies because we get a lot of fibre and nutrition through those. Yeah, I put very simple things together and I try and have a few things in the fridge to be able to do that as well.

Hannah:

If you did that on … it wouldn’t take long on a Sunday afternoon, maybe a couple of hours just to get that cooked up. Then you’ve basically got … if you’re a nine to five or in an office environment, there’s your lunches for the next three or four days all sorted.

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah, absolutely. One thing I do quite a lot in the evening when I don’t have much time to cook dinner is I love that you can get legume pasta now from the supermarket, so like chickpea pasta and green pea pasta and those sorts of things, because they’re so nutritious, they’re made from these legumes that have so much fibre and protein in them. I’m a big lover of pasta so I just cook a lot of that, add in some fresh tomatoes and some veggies and a good lot of olive oil and some spices. That kind of gets me going as well.

Hannah:

That actually sounds delicious. I can’t get enough pasta.

Sophie Hanley:

It’s a good option, yeah, because eating a big bowl of wheat pasta all the time is not always the best, especially for our digestive health.

Hannah:

And for the waistlines too.

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

Hannah:

Yeah. Now, if we dig into a little bit of gut health, because that’s, for a lot of our listeners, probably [inaudible 00:11:14] new focus and I, to be honest, don’t have a huge amount of understanding around what gut health is all about and why it’s so important. Are you able to give us a bit of a rundown on that?

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah. It’s interesting because recently, they’ve done lots of research on gut health and we now kind of understand it a whole lot better. We know now that we have like this whole ecosystem in our gut in a way called our microbiota. There’s about one half to two kilos of bacteria in there and they play … we have bacteria all over our bodies, but we have immense amounts in our guts. They play a really pivotal role in our health. They can very easily become suppressed or imbalanced. This not only leads to kind of digestive upsets, but also have a really big impact on our mental health as well. I guess that’s something I talk quite a lot about, but in very simple terms, our microbes make serotonin from healthy foods that we eat. Serotonin is, it’s a neurotransmitter that, it’s the one that makes us feel really good and really happy. The gut and the brain are really tightly linked.

Sophie Hanley:

What causes this suppression with those gut microbes is that they actually feed on the food that we eat. They don’t like processed foods, so if we’re eating a diet full of processed foods, high sugar foods, fried foods, this doesn’t fuel them. They actually thrive off fibre. We get fibre in our plant foods. They love fibre. The more fibre we can eat really crowds out the bad bacteria and makes our gut really strong. We get fibre in all of our plant foods, but predominantly in the skins of our plant foods. Skins of fruits and veggies, on our whole grains, on our legumes, those sorts of things. They also love diversity as well. They love lots of different foods. This really nourishes our, the different microbes and creates a really diverse microbial community in there.

Hannah:

That’s why you’re better off actually eating a full apple because you’re getting the fibre in the skin of the apple rather than actually having a juice.

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah, absolutely. Because the juice is, it’s full of … it’s natural, but it’s full of, it’s condensed, all the fiber’s taken out and it’s quite high in natural sugars. I guess the issue is that a full apple has all the nutrients in there to break down the sugar slowly and for the body to absorb it. With the juice, that fiber’s not there so it, the sugar goes straight directly into our blood and creates this blood sugar spike, which causes a lot of energy initially, but then we get a big drop and that’s how, why a lot of us get sluggish after we have high sugar foods.

Hannah:

We’re coming up to Christmas very, very fast. A lot of us are fearing the gaining of the weight that usually happens or happens for a lot of us. I know that I often feel pretty … all of the food, all of the alcohol before I’ve even sort of hit Christmas Day, which should be the day that you’re celebrating and you’re sort of letting yourself indulge a bit. I guess, what are some ways that we can look after ourselves over, particularly when it comes to our food options over this time of year?

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah. Well, it’s interesting because Christmas is the time of year when people kind of stop counting calories and kind of relax and it should all be about enjoyment and food needs to be … partly, I always say, it should be firstly, about health and secondly, about enjoyment. This is the perfect time to do that.

Sophie Hanley:

I guess at Christmas, yeah, we tend to overeat and make it a lot about the food and probably drink too much. I guess, we don’t want to restrict ourselves, but I see it as kind of make … best thing to do is make better choices where you can. Some of you … we have so much beautiful fruit and vegetables available. We should be making those more of a standout in our diets and the meals that we have together.

Hannah:

So I guess using those all of that beautiful fruit, basing all of your foods around the actual, the real whole foods that you’re getting instead of going and getting the packaged stuff. It should potentially be a bit easier around this time of year to do the whole foods thing than it would be most other times, because there is such an abundance of delicious stuff.

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s very easy to go to the supermarket and buy the really cheap mince pies or really cheap version of that, which will have a lot of additives, but I guess it’s making better choices when you’re choosing those things. Maybe go to a better bakery and get something that’s more homemade or go to the farmer’s market and get some really nice, fresh, local fruit and veggies and those sorts of things, because they will be more delicious.

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah, and then I guess when it comes to Christmas time, you want to make it about enjoyment. When we’re eating, a big thing that I always talk about is enjoying our food and chewing our food also. It makes such a difference to our digestion and the way we absorb and utilise food.

Sophie Hanley:

The easiest way to chew more is to just slow down. Enjoy your friends or your family or whoever’s there. Enjoy the atmosphere and take your time and eat slowly. Therefore, we tend to not eat as much when we do that.

Sophie Hanley:

That would be one tip. Another tip would be to really fill your plate with mainly plant foods. Fill up on lots of veggies, you know, those different salads and all those sorts of things. It’s very easy to make delicious vegetables. Make some yummy roastings things and make some really good salads and make sure that they’re the majority of your plate that you’re eating. Your body will really thank you for that.

Sophie Hanley:

I guess also, we will be drinking and there will be wine flowing. Your body really wants you to hydrate. We’ve all heard, have a glass of water in between each drink. At Christmas time, that is so important. It’s hotter, we need to get hydration. Our body is predominantly water and you will feel so much better if you are having plenty of water throughout the day and throughout the evening as well.

Hannah:

Well, there’s some really good tips and tricks there, guys, to help us get through the silly season. I know this sounds silly, but if I start my plate off with the meat, usually I end up having too much meat. Or if I start my plate off with the not good options, I don’t have enough space for the healthier options which you talked about, which are the vegetables. Whenever you’re at a barbecue or at someone’s Christmas dinner or whatever, start your plate off with the vegetables and fill majority of your plate up with that, so then you actually don’t have as much space for all the other crappy stuff. Then you still feel like you’re eating a plate’s worth, which, just like a mental thing there, but hopefully you’re, you’re choosing those better options as well.

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah, absolutely. And instead of having five different types of desserts, offer some mango and some strawberries and cherries and those sorts of things along with it. Yeah, I think you’ll feel a lot better. Yeah.

Hannah:

Yeah, exactly. We’re definitely not advocating that you don’t have a good time because there’s …

Sophie Hanley:

No.

Hannah:

As I’ve said, it’s a big one that we talk about, is our whole life and our whole society is built around food. That’s how we socialise, really, and at Christmas time, it’s particularly prevalent. Just choosing those slightly better options, looking for the more vegetable, whole foods or fibres options, so your salad style stuff, is really going to help in help you coming into the end of the December period and looking forward into January and not feeling too uncomfortable in the stomach and in that gut.

Sophie Hanley:

Yeah, absolutely.

Hannah:

Sophie, are there any good resources our listeners can seek out for further education around nutrition and gut health that you know of?

Sophie Hanley:

There’s a couple of books that I really like. If anyone wants to read a bit more who’s interested in nutrition and gut health particularly, there’s a really good book called Fibre Fueled by Will Bulsiewicz. I can never say his name. Will Bulsiewicz, that’s how you say it. Fibre Fueled. Yeah, it’s a really fantastic book. There’s another book called How Not To Die by Dr. Michael Greger, and that goes over a lot of facts and a lot of research on health and nutrition as well. Both really easy books to read and really interesting.

Hannah:

Awesome. How can our listeners get in touch with you?

Sophie Hanley:

I have a website. It’s sophiehanley.com. If anyone wants to send an email it’s hello@sophiehanley.com, or you can just follow along on Instagram. I often share a lot of tips and a lot of information on there. You can find me there at sophiehanley.nutrition.

Hannah:

Awesome. Guys, we’ll be popping out links to Sophie’s Instagram bio and to her website in our show notes. Pop onto our website, burntheory.com.au/podcast, and you can access this episode, which is episode four there. Thank you so, so much for joining us, Sophie. I really appreciate your time. This is an area, and particularly that gut health area., I’d love to ask you questions and talk to you about this for hours, but until then, thanks so much for coming on board.

Sophie Hanley:

You’re welcome. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks, Hannah.

Hannah:

No worries. For all listeners, have a wonderful, fantastic, enjoyable, silly season. As you know, keep exercising, that’s going to help you feel so much better. Choose those better options, but also just enjoy yourself too. Know that we’ve got your back coming into January 2021, and hopefully a better year ahead. Thanks guys, and I’ll catch you next time.

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