With all of our running extra holiday running around, parties, eating out and STRESS, it can be a real gut-punch to our health and vibrancy.

Seriously–our gut needs some TLC this coming season.

In the olden days we used to think of our gut as just that place that processes the food we eat. But now we know so much more–our gut is now linked with mood, overall health and wellbeing.

I think this is a great time of year–before all of the holiday food starts getting dumped in our digestive system–to take pause and get to know this part of our body and how to care for it so it can care for us.

Health Coach Mary Welch joins us for our 88th Episode of Thin Thinking. She shares the steps we can take today to begin to improve our gut health, and beyond. Also check this episode’s show notes for Mary’s free guide to decrease inflammation!

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

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Rita Black: How is your gut? In the olden days, we used to think of our gut as just that place that processes the food we eat and digests it. But now we know so much more. Our gut is now linked with mood, our brain, overall health and wellbeing. In today's podcast, Health Coach Mary Welch walks us through steps we can take today to begin to improve our gut health and beyond. So toss that alka seltzer and come on in.

Rita Black: Did you know that our struggle with weight doesn't start with the food on your plate or get fixed in the gym? 80% of our weight struggle is mental. That's right. The key to unlocking long-term weight release and management begins in your mind. Hi there, I'm Rita Black. I'm a clinical hypnotherapist weight loss expert, bestselling author, and the creator of the Shift Weight Mastery Process. And not only have I helped thousands of people over the past 20 years achieve long-term weight mastery, I am also a former weight struggler, carb addict and binge eater. And after two decades of failed diets and fad weight loss programs, I lost 40 pounds with the help of hypnosis. Not only did I release all that weight, I have kept it off for 25 years. Enter the Thin Thinking Podcast where you too will learn how to remove the mental roadblocks that keep you struggling. I'll give you the thin thinking tools, skills, and insights to help you develop the mindset you need, not only to achieve your ideal weight, but to stay there long term and live your best life.

Rita Black: Hey there, everybody. Welcome. As I am recording this, I am looking at my calendar and seeing how many few, how few weeks are left until the end of the year. My daughter will be coming home for Thanksgiving next week. Yikes. And that time is just gonna fly by and we will be in the holidays. And I am so unprepared. I don't know about you, but it just seems, and I'm sure I'm boring you by saying this, but it just seems like the warp speed of life is faster and faster and faster since we came out of that pandemic. I don't know what it is. Are we all just on hyper drive because we were slowed down? I don't know. So many of my clients are experiencing more stress, more overwhelm. Everybody is feeling this. So let's just, take all collective breath, pause and enjoy life. Really being here, becoming so much, like so important for us just to be present to life, especially as we head into the holidays, you know. All these expectations stack up in front of us. And actually, I'm gonna be doing a podcast episode all about managing emotional eating. That's gonna be coming up.

Rita Black: So today though, and why I'm excited to announce today's guest, Mary Welch is returning to Thin Thinking. You all loved her the last time she was on, and this time she's here to discuss gut health. As we head into that time of too much food, too much drink, I thought Mary could help us avoid the excess and figure out how to sail through the holidays with our health intact. Before we head into our interview, I wanna let you know that this week's episode is sponsored by my free masterclass, How to Stop the Start Over Waste Trickle Cycle and Begin Releasing Weight for Good. The links are in the show notes. Okay, so now let's bring Maryanne. Mary is a mother, a wife, a double board certified oncology nurse, weight loss coach, community educator and passionate advocate of eating and thinking smarter. Mary's convinced that a healthy life is within reach and is spreading the message that the fastest way to change your health is to change what is on your fork. After losing 80 pounds and witnessing the consequences of lifestyle diseases like diabetes, cancer, and dementia, Mary founded Weight Loss to Wellness, to empower others to get started on their weight journey. Mary especially enjoys guiding cancer survivors along the path to better health.

Rita Black: So, welcome Mary Welch. Hello Mary. And welcome back to the Thin Thinking Podcast. It's always so great to have you on the show. You have, you are such a great energy and you always just bring such interesting information our way. So I love that we're gonna talk about gut health today. Cause I, you know, we, the, the gut is something that obviously we're all really it's a huge part of our lives, but I don't think we understand a lot about how to take care of it. And, and I'm kind of curious about how you got into being interested in the gut.

Mary Welch: Sure. Thank you Rita for having me back. I'm very happy to be here. And honestly, I'm a little embarrassed to say that I didn't know very much about the gut at all until I started my weight loss journey back in 2018. It's kinda by chance that I happened to hire a coach who had expertise in gut health. And I didn't even know that my gut was part of the problem of my excess weight until she started asking me questions. And some of the signs, like I didn't realize it was abnormal not to have a bowel movement every day. So I would sometimes go three days and without eliminating helply. And it just seemed like that was how it was for me. So I wasn't really tuned into that. But -

Rita Black: It's amazing how we can be so disconnected from that part of our body in the way, isn't it?

Mary Welch: Yeah, very much so. And once it got better, I realized how uncomfortable I was, but because that's how it always had been, I didn't realize that it was even an issue. So you kind of get used to just feeling bloated and then you would suddenly, you know, there might be periods where you eliminate and then you don't. And obviously food choices can make a difference. At the time, my diet was not very good, which didn't help my gut health. I ate a lot of processed food and a lot of fast food and not a whole lot of vegetables. So as I worked with my coach, I started investigating the gut and she kept talking about the gut. I'm like, Well, what is this gut? And then I started seeing it everywhere. You know, once you start hearing something that suddenly you're like, Has it been here all the time? Now my brain is just noticing it. Or -

Rita Black: That selective. Yeah. Filtering the particular activation system or whatever it is that really refocuses our brain. Yeah. So you started seeing it everywhere. You started making healthier choices. You started noticing a difference. And that's how the you and the gut became friends.

Mary Welch: Yes. And as I started learning about it, I was fascinated because it, the, you hear gut microbiome and I'm like, well what is this? Right? And it's actually, there's trillions of bacteria that are in your gut and they can get messed up by things we do in life. Antibiotics can alter your gut microbiome or an inflammatory diet, like I was eating heavy in sugar and not having a lot of vegetables and lacking fiber would do that. The stress I was under with work and dealing with parents with dementia and a young kid, that could alter the gut toxins in the environment. All of those things can impact the gut. And the thing about the gut, it produces hormones and it helps produce vitamins and neurotransmitters even so. They consider the gut to be like the second brain.

Rita Black: Right. That's where serotonin is produced, is in the gut.

Mary Welch: Yes. And they have linked depression to poor gut health.

Rita Black: Exactly.

Mary Welch: They're looking at replacing or restoring the gut to treat depression.

Rita Black: Yeah.

Mary Welch: Which is very interesting.

Rita Black: It is interesting, you know? It's so fascinating. When I struggled with my weight and my diet was very, very poor I, I was always had depression and I thought it was, it ran in my family because my father had depression. And when I started making healthy food choices, really nourishing my body, my depression went away. I never was depressed again. And I was like, I wonder why that, like, I still didn't put the pieces of the puzzle together. I just thought, well, I'm happier too because I've lost weight and I exercise and I take good care of myself. So I understood that, but I didn't understand this piece that you're talking about, which is, is fascinating because a, a lot of the feel-good stuff is all connected to the gut.

Mary Welch: Absolutely. And not just depression, but also cardiac health and weight management for sure. It's linked to diabetes and even cancer and other things, poor gut health. And you may hear topic called leaky guts.

Rita Black: I have heard of that. What is that?

Mary Welch: So leaky gut is just what it sounds like. The lining of the gut or the intestines is just really one cell level thick and they're tight junctions where the cells are generally right up next to each other. So, and that creates a barrier where things don't pass through very easily, but when it gets leaky, there's spaces between these cells and now food particles can diffuse through to the other side. Waste and toxins can get out of the gut and into the surrounding tissue and that can result in inflammation and that can make you retain fluid and be bloated and can make you feel pretty sick and have brain fog and all kinds of things.

Rita Black: Wow. So so those are the factors. Can medications also impact the gut? Like if you're on certain, I know penicillin and things like that can, but can other medications as well?

Mary Welch: Yes. Yeah. So antibiotic use for sure. Sometimes the gut, if a lot of people may take acid blocking medicine, like proton pump inhibitors or Prilosec, which alters the acid production in the stomach, which is great if you have an ulcer, but it also can inhibit digestion as, because part of digestion is using that acid to help break down food. So if you're on prolonged use of those drugs, that can cut down acid production in the stomach, you may not be digesting quite as well. And that can lead to some gut problems too.

Rita Black: Right. Wow. So if we have a gut problem, you know, like, let's say other than making you know, well obviously food choices are gonna make a difference. What are the steps to start to, like if, if you were, if you were a listener, if one of our listeners was listening today and, and she was like, Yeah, that sounds like me. I feel, I feel like, you know, I'm not making the best choices, I'm not feeling well, I'm not feeling a hundred percent. How could they start to take steps towards improving their gut health? Like what's step number one would you say?

Mary Welch: Step number one I would say would be to avoid hidden sugars because sugar feeds the bad bacteria in the gut and that causes inflammation. And then it kinda creates this vicious cycle because those bad bugs want more sugar, so it triggers cravings for more sugary foods. So sometimes your brain wants to, so I mean, I know I was there like, Oh, I wanna eat healthy and I'm gonna not eat sugar. And you feel like you're going to do great. And then before you know it, that cookie or donuts calling you, and it could be those overgrowth of the bugs in your stomach that are sending a signal that's pretty powerful.

Rita Black: And so, like even if you've eaten a meal, you might still, like, they might still be sending signals for like a sweet treat or to want more.

Mary Welch: Yes.

Rita Black: And so what would be some things that they could start to put together for themselves? Like things that they could, so you, you're saying step one, reduce any hidden sugars. Cause the, so get rid of obvious sugars, maybe step, pre step one, and then step two, hidden sugars. Where would, when you're saying that, Mary, just so that everybody understands like hidden sugars would be in things that we don't necessarily think fair sugars in.

Mary Welch: Yeah. You might not think, you might think, Oh, I'm having a pretty healthy breakfast. I have a bowl of granola cereal and some yogurt and orange juice. I had a great breakfast, but in fact, you have a lot of sugar. If you look at the granola, it often has added sugar, raisins and other things that are very concentrated in sugar. So cereals can do that often. Bread will have sugar added to it, sweetened beverages. Many people are getting their fancy coffees with a couple of pumps of syrup and it's just sitting there and they're not thinking it's sugar. They're like, I'm just having my coffee and it's loaded with sugar. Some of the sweetened coffee creamers that are out there,

Rita Black: For sure.

Mary Welch: Even sauces and salad dressings. When I started looking at labels, I was surprised. There's this healthy salad and I just poured sugar on it.

Rita Black: I know. And things like barbecue sauce and ketchup, all of those things have a lot of sugar in it. And when you don't eat sugar, where you aren't eating a diet that has it, and you go and have one at those because I remember that too, like it's ketchup and barbecue sauce, I was like, Oh, they're healthy, they're fine. There's condiments, and then you look at how much sugar is in them. Yeah. You do definitely taste the difference when you've been away for a while. So so get rid of the hidden sugars. Okay. So let's say I've gotten rid of the hidden sugars, I've gotten rid of the obvious sugars. What's something then I could, do I begin adding some stuff? Is that the next step?

Mary Welch: Sure. Yes. Yes. So you've heard of probiotics and the good bacteria, but there's also prebiotics. So,

Rita Black: So what does that do? Like what's a prebio, what does a prebiotic do for me?

Mary Welch: So a prebiotic are nondigestible fibers that kind of go through the upper GI tract and then when they get to the large intestine, the good bacteria there start fermenting that starch and turn it into something called short chain fatty acids. They're the fuel for the good bugs and the, and they also help the cells of the intestinal wall. So if you had a leaky gut, those short chain fatty acids can start repairing it as well. And you can find that in foods. So some of the foods like Jerusalem artichoke, that's something I found at a farmer's market when I was losing weight. And it actually is, looks a little bit like ginger and you can cook it up or roast it. And I think it tastes a little bit like french fries. I think it's pretty good.

Rita Black: Really? I, I've seen it. I've never cooked it myself.

Mary Welch: Yeah.

Rita Black: What else?

Mary Welch: Garlic and onions are really good. Bananas, especially not overly ripe bananas, more towards the greeners type of banana or plantains. Asparagus. And they have dandelion greens and chicky root. Those are not things I typically eat, but leaks also, jicama also is a very good prebiotic food.

Rita Black: Oh, interesting.

Mary Welch: Jicama is something you could cut up and dip and actually have as a crunchy snack. So that's,

Rita Black: Yeah. But you know, in Trader Joe's, my husband has come home with jicama like tortillas. Like the.

Mary Welch: Wraps?

Rita Black: Yeah. The wraps. Which I think are really interesting. I, he loves them. I haven't really used them, but now that I know that they're prebiotic, maybe I'll show some interest in them.

Mary Welch: Yeah. A few of my clients had found those and liked them and thought it was a good substitute when they were trying to cut down, get rid of the carbs a little bit. Yeah.

Rita Black: Yeah.

Mary Welch: Or eat more whole foods. So that's one way. So those prebiotics help feed the good bugs. And then eating cultured food is really helpful. So fermented foods have lots of healthy bacteria and they're basically edible probiotics, so it helps boost the good bugs and even a little goes a long way. So I find I really enjoy sauerkraut, and that's not something I ate much at all, but I can put it on a salad. I can warm it up and eat it with a meal. The great thing is it has very low calories. It has a wonderful flavor and it kinda adds nice tank to food. And then

Rita Black: What do you, where do you, what kind of sauerkraut do you get? Do you buy in a jar? Do you get it?

Mary Welch: I get a big jar it at Costco. They have a pretty good one. But you can make your own too. It's apparently not that hard. I haven't tried to do that, but I know it's pretty easy. You just cut up cabbage, but I've found it at Sprouts and Costco and Whole Foods.

Rita Black: Okay.

Mary Welch: Lots of places have it. Yeah. Often it's in the deli section.

Rita Black: Oh.

Mary Welch: At the grocery store in the refrigerated section. Other cultured foods, things like kimchi

Rita Black: Yeah.

Mary Welch: And they quite taste good.

Rita Black: Yeah, no, it's very big. I live in near Koreatown in LA so kimchi is very big around here. And you go into the stores here, you get huge mondo jars of kimchi. My husband loves it. So I know that's a great health provider. What else might be something?

Mary Welch: Yeah. And then you have the kombucha, which I really like. To me that feels like a good substitute. It's a sparkly fermented tea. I like to pour some in a wine glass and drink it almost like a mocktail. You could put a little wine in there and there's some good kombuchas and they're kind of bubbly. And to me they are quite nice to drink.

Rita Black: So that might be a great substitute if you come home and have a glass of wine at night, to have a glass of that instead probably lower in calories doesn't, you know, harm you. It actually helps your body. So yes, that sounds like a great idea.

Mary Welch: Yeah. So I love that.

Rita Black: And then, so well now if we've avoided the hidden sugars and we've worked on our prebiotics, are there some things that we should do, you know, in our life as well to support our gut?

Mary Welch: Oh, absolutely. And what I've learned on this journey, as, you know, a busy person on the go, I would often be eating, going through the drive through or just standing at the counter scarfing food down. And that is not a good way to support your digestion because there's either two ways. You have your sympathetic nervous system and your parasympathetic nervous system, and you're either in your sympathetic nervous system, which is the fight or flight where that's where a lot of us are. When you're in a hurry and you're just trying eating on the run, you're in fight or flight. Well, when you're there, when you're running away from a bear or a lion, your body is shunting your blood to your legs and your arms and it's not sending it to your stomach to digest the food because that's the last thing that needs to happen when you're in that stressed out state. So if you shift into the parasympathetic now, that blood that would've been shunted to your legs and arms, you could run away, can be diverted to the stomach so that you can digest food. So slowing down, even taking breaths before you eat and sitting down and looking at the food and giving your brain that signal that you're actually eating, smell the food, be grateful for the food. And then

Rita Black: I love that.

Mary Welch: Chew your food.

Rita Black: I know chewing the food. That's what we've gotten out of the habit of doing in our busy, busy lives. So I remember I used to watch my grandfather, he would chew his food like 35 times. I was like always amazed. It took him the longest to eat of all of us. We were scarfing our food down.

Mary Welch: Yeah. And I think, I know we were talking about traveling earlier and I think here in the US, we're in a hurry and you get this feeling that tables are turning over at restaurants.

Rita Black: Oh yeah.

Mary Welch: And when you're in Europe, they kind of leave you alone and it's almost like, well someone coming or

Rita Black: I know! You were in Europe this summer, right?

Mary Welch: Yeah.

Rita Black: And I, and we were both in Europe, not together at different times, but yeah, I mean I think there were understaffed too, but I I, we went to one dinner at a place. We were there for three and a half hours. I mean, Yeah. And in United States that's unheard of. After an hour, they're kind of coming by and giving you the eye to get going. So yeah, that definitely -

Mary Welch: They savor their food. They, it's a, you know, slower process. It's more relaxed. The, so you chew your food carefully because guess what? Your stomach doesn't have teeth. So if you don't chew well then your stomach has more work to do.

Rita Black: Yeah.

Mary Welch: You wanna chew till foods that the consistency of the smoothie or baby food. And then swallow it on down. That helps you absorb the nutrients from the food a little more and get the vitamins. And it's less, you know, more likely to lower indigestion too, because if you eat too fast, then you have this food that's sitting there, it can't kinda move through easily.

Rita Black: And it also gives your satiety hormones time to kick in and let you know that you're full. Right. Because often we're, we're waiting for those by the time our satiety hormones kick in, we've overeaten the amount that we should be eating for our Bodies.

Mary Welch: I believe, and I may not be correct here, I remember hearing something about 20 minutes for the signal.

Rita Black: Yes.

Mary Welch: So if you scarf down a meal in 10 minutes, you may not have that feeling until later.

Rita Black: Right. y.

Mary Welch: Slowing down can certainly help.

Rita Black: Yeah. Avoid it. Oh, I'm sorry. I was just gonna say it may avoid your wanting to feel like you need to have seconds cuz you don't feel full yet.

Mary Welch: The other thing that I was surprised about, because I always thought drinking lots of water is great and I'm the person at the restaurant that they keep filling up the water glass during the meal, and I actually learned that drinking water is great, but during the meal you should try not to drink more than about eight ounces with meals because you dilute that stomach acid and that can inhibit digestion. So try to cut down on fluid intake about 20 minutes before a meal and then only about eight ounces during the meal and then about 20 minutes after you can up your fluid intake a little bit and that will help make your gastric acid a little more concentrated so that you can break the food down more easily.

Rita Black: Mm. And then and so the, there's the upper intestine, the lower intestine and the prebiotic is basically sending, going through the upper intestine to the lower intestine to create this really wonderful place of good gut health. And then, then we're eating the cultured foods that are going to one that are also going to that same place and promoting the good gut bugs. Right. Like the in the larger intestines. And so chewing foods, slowing down, limiting waters, not overeating. Is there anything else like as a daily practice like that you might recommend?

Mary Welch: Well I think eating the best quality food you can have. Many of the foods that are processed tend to be inflammatory. Doing your best to avoid inflammatory oils. So often at restaurants, unfortunately, they tend to use the more economical oils that tend to be more inflammatory. So they cook with the canola oils or vegetable oils versus the avocado oil or coconut oils that may be a little better for your gut. So if you don't cook, I would recommend learning some simple recipes that you can throw together easily once you get the hang of it. Preparing from your own kitchen would be the best. You control the food and the quality and you know where it came from, you know, if it's organic or if it has or not because organic food can help lower your intake of toxins and other things that could cause inflammation.

Mary Welch: So that's that. But food quality matters. What else? Other things that can impact sleep though you wouldn't, or your gut health is sleep. So you wouldn't think sleep and gut health would be related, but when you don't get enough sleep, it impacts hormones. So your satiety hormone actually is altered so you don't feel as satisfied when you eat. And you're also gonna be craving things a little more like the hunger hormone's gonna be off balance. So if you ever haven't had a good sleep, you may notice that you are more hungry and you might not feel as full as quickly. And that's because your leptin and growlin have been impacted From that.

Rita Black: Right. Wow, that's so fascinating.

Mary Welch: So really working on sleep and I've been working on sleep because you know, it's easy to keep doing stuff and it's like, now you need to get to bed.

Rita Black: A descent hour. And don't you have to, I've heard some from like a sleep specialist go to bed at the same time every night. That was like the regular schedule is really, really important to get set within your body's response.

Mary Welch: Yeah. So absolutely the, so if you work Monday through Friday, sleeping in on the weekend can mess up your regular schedule. So they recommend still sort of waking up at the regular time. And getting sunlight can help you. So in the morning when you wake up, if you can get morning sun right away on your face, midday sun and even light at the end of the day, that helps your brain shift into these circadian rhythms. And then really watching your lighting at night if you're having trouble sleeping, trying not to have bright lights on, you wanna use dimmer lights and avoid screens an hour or two before bed or where the blue light blockers or nighttime mode on your devices or do different things like journaling, which is great because that will help lower stress stress can mess up the gut.

Rita Black: Oh wow. I know there's a lot to this. Well this is is really, really fascinating, Mary. I mean, I appreciate, these are all really doable things. That's the great thing is this is stuff that people can take and start to make a difference. I know you've created a quick start guide for people to decrease inflammation easily. I'm gonna have that link for everybody. It's free. Right. And it's in the show notes, it's a guide. So you're kind of guiding them through like you did today.

Mary Welch: Yes. And it has six easy steps in there. We probably covered some of them like sleep and water and all of that. So check it out, you'll a couple of things you can implement right away because every habit stacks up and you build one thing on the other. So as you improve your gut health, other things improve and inflammation decreases and that's great. Then it helps your brain and lowers blood pressure and all kinds of stuff. So

Rita Black: Yeah. That, this is great. This is a great tool if you guys are interested, you know, if you're like, Wow, I wish I had written those things down, it's just get this guide. It looks like it's gonna be, have everything in there. And Mary, you are also you also help people reset their health, like their gut health. You have a course, right? Tell us about that. Yes.

Mary Welch: Yeah, so I have been launched just recently, a 12 week beta program and it's a metabolic reset where we work on eliminating the common foods that can trigger inflammation and irritate the gut. So for a short time you get off of things like gluten and dairy and other foods and really focus on eating a very nourishing healing whole food diet where you get healthy proteins, lots of vegetables, healthy fruits and work not only on the food intake, but also things like optimizing sleep, getting joyful movement and getting rest and really shifting out of that fight or flight that I talked about. And trying to get more into a sympathetic by not over exercising, but doing some gentle yoga and being mindful and looking at yourself as a whole person. And as you start eating high quality food that your body likes, you start feeling better. And weight loss is a nice side effect of all of that because as the inflammation goes away and the gut heals, you magically drop inches and I have my first group going through and they're already drop in 10 or 15 pounds and the first few weeks by just getting rid of those foods that cause inflammation.

Rita Black: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Getting rid of that inflammation drops weight quick. Yeah. Well that's fantastic Mary. Well it's great, great work that you're doing out there helping people. I know so many people are struggling with this and probably don't even know that they're struggling with it. So I hope today if you have been struggling with your gut or had thoughts about you know, needing something but wasn't quite sure, I hope today's episode was helpful for you. Thank you so much for coming on, Mary. It's always such, like I said, joy to have you on. And we'll look forward to having you on again soon.

Mary Welch: Oh great. Thanks for having me. Until next time.

Rita Black: Until next time.

Rita Black: All right. Thank you Mary. Isn't she amazing? I love her energy. And she always gives so much. So just a reminder too, Mary has a special freebie for you in the show notes. Go grab that and it's all about getting healthy gut health and also you'll see my offer there as well for my master class. So check out those show notes folks and have amazing week.

Rita Black: And remember that the key and probably the only key to unlocking the door, the weight struggles is inside you. So keep listening and find it. You wanna dive deeper into the mindset of long-term weight release, head on over to www shift weight mastery.com. That's www shift weight mastery.com, where you'll find numerous tools and resources to help you unlock your mind for permanent weight release tips, strategies, and more. And be sure to check the show notes to learn more about my book From Fat to Thin Thinking, Unlock Your Mind for Permanent Weight Loss.