In this episode I get to speak with Dawn Swann, a certified integrative health coach, about the importance of gut health.
Dawn shares her personal journey of healing her gut and gives tips on making simple changes in diet to improve overall health. She emphasizes that the key to optimal health is a process of continual learning and small steps. We also discuss the impact of food on overall health and how the gut microbiome affects the immune system.
A few recommendations include:
The conversation then moves on to misconceptions about healthy eating, with a focus on the hidden sugars and corn syrup found in many processed foods, and the importance of individualized nutrition guidance from a qualified practitioner.
Connect with Dawn on her website:
Suggested Resource Links:
RECIPE - Chocolate Almond Butter Yogurt Bark:
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, then mix first 3 ingredients in a bowl. Spread yogurt mixture onto sheet pan.
Melt chocolate chips in microwave 20 second intervals to avoid burning or in a double boiler, then drizzle onto yogurt mixture and swirl with a knife.
Freeze for about 4 hours then break into bark and enjoy! Store in freezer.
Optional add ons: shredded coconut, pumpkin seeds or berries.
Hi, I'm Ivelisse Page and thanks for listening to the Believe Big podcast, the show where we take a deep dive into your healing with health experts, integrative practitioners, biblical faith leaders, and cancer thrivers from around the globe. Welcome to today's episode on the Believe Big podcast. My name is Ivelisse Page, and I am so honored to be able to spend this time with you. The best way to stop cancer is to prevent it in the first place. Did you know that 70% of cancer is diet related? Yes, 70%. A poor diet and a compromised gut are the biggest cancer risks, and one of my closest friends, Dawn Swann, is here today to talk about how we can make simple changes in the food we consume that will impact our overall health. Dawn is a certified integrative health coach who has been thriving on an optimal health regimen since early 2020 when her journey began to heal her gut from many lifelong issues, including gerd, reflux, and joint pain. She is passionate to help others heal their gut without feeling overwhelmed about where to begin, instead giving them tools to succeed. She desires to help each individual learn to listen to their own body and make changes that are sustainable for a lifetime. Dawn lives on the East Coast with her husband Dave, and enjoys spending her spare time with her beautiful children and eight grandchildren. Wow. Welcomed Dawn to the show.Dawn Swann:
Thank you. Thanks. I appreciate that so much.Ivelisse Page:
We're so glad that you're here with us today. And to start us off, I know you have several, but we always love to hear what our guest's favorite health tip is. So can you share one of yours with us?Dawn Swann:
Yes, of course. And you're right, there's so many, and it's hard to narrow down. But I think my favorite health tip is honestly that this whole health thing is a journey. It's a lifelong journey, and it's a process. And we need to just really remember that a process is a series of small steps and that we are continually able to learn and change and tweak and improve our gut health, and that will improve our overall health. It doesn't need to be done quickly or in a day, but just continual learning and working at it.Ivelisse Page:
I love that. I know because so many of us can get overwhelmed with so much that has to be done and we may all wanna have to do it all at one time and it can be overwhelming, so that is such a great tip. One step at a time gets you closer to where you need to be. And especially if you're not in a cancering process, you do have time to really take steps in order to heal it. So that's such great advice. Thank you. I know that you know what it's like to juggle home and family job all while serving our community, and men and women are running hard these days and many times we end up putting ourselves last. And you have shared how our bodies and minds end up paying the price. I know that your health journey didn't begin until a few years ago. Can you share with us what you were feeling and how things changed for you?Dawn Swann:
Yes. So I think for probably over 20 years I've had stomach issues or did have, off and on, lots of inflammation. I was told that I had reflux and joint pain, just general stomach discomfort, indigestion all the time, and I noticed it was gradually getting worse as I got older. And also as our family got busier and I'm sure that there was less time that I was paying attention to anything regarding my own health. So in early 2020, there was a lot of transition in our life, some new stressors, things that really affected, I believe my, my stomach health and my emotional health. And I was going to several doctors who were just putting me through a few more tests and suggesting another prescription or so, and I actually on the advice of a very dear friend, consulted some wonderful naturopaths who helped me begin a healing journey, to learn about how I could heal through my gut, and it's been amazing, just life changing for sure.Ivelisse Page:
Wow. What do you think were the top three things that you did to turn that around?Dawn Swann:
Changing the way that I looked at food, and changing my thought process behind that. Not looking at what is a calorie or do I wanna lose weight, but I wanna feel better. I want to grow in health and I want to learn how to solve these problems through nutrition. And that was huge. And in turn, as my nutrition knowledge increased and I went back to school and learned about it, my sleep got better, my emotional health improved. So I think the top three for sure was diet and sleep and just knowledge of how I approached food.Ivelisse Page:
I love that. How does the food we eat affect our overall health, and what are some of those most important nutrients we need to consume for optimal health?Dawn Swann:
So I'm sure, we may have heard this before, but really over 70% of our immune system is found in our gut. And if it is imbalanced or there's some dysbiosis, which is just a lot of unsettled, microbiome inside of our stomach, and if the, if that is unbalanced or imbalanced and we will feel sick in so many ways, we will not sleep as well. We will probably, have some type of intestinal issue and I think that will just spill out into all other areas of our life. So our nutrients, we have to really look at nutrients, dense foods and really concentrate on where we can improve those. What does that look like? And so I think something most of us don't think about, honestly, when we shop or eat are what are the nutrient dense foods, what does that look like? And we need to concentrate on thinking about things that are higher in proteins such as fatty fish, eggs, good nuts. I tend to stay away from peanuts, but, look at other, nuts such as walnuts, almonds, macadamia, seeds. There's so many things that we can add there. And then also healthy fats, good oils are really important and really a lot of carbs we can get through our vegetables and, we don't, and whole grains. There should be good whole grains too, as far as things like quinoa and farro, there's just other, sometimes oats for some people work well.Ivelisse Page:
Yeah, I've heard the same thing with peanuts. I avoid them as well cuz they said they have a high mold content, so they're not one of the ones that I typically use. And you're absolutely right with the good oils. I was surprised that even at Whole Foods, like the healthy salad dressings, have the canola, sunflower, all those oils that we shouldn't be consuming. And so it's really hard to find ones that have the olive oil to use or coconut oil or things like that, that are the healthy oils that we should be eating. So now I just make my own.Dawn Swann:
You know, a label reader is something I never paid that much attention to, but if you're going to, first of all, it's funny and it sounds simple, but if it has a label, it's not a whole From the beginning it may have whole foods present, but there's other things put in there as well, because whole foods obviously, like vegetables and meats and things like that, found around the perimeter of our store don't typically have a label, quote unquote. But if we, learn to read labels and that's something I used to think I didn't have time to do, but I had time to go get a cup of coffee or I had time to read a book. So I've learned that sometimes we just have to shift our perspective and where we want to spend that time too.Ivelisse Page:
Good points. And I feel that same way too. That's a good way of saying it, is if it has a label, it's not a whole food. My grandmother taught me that. I always say she was my first naturopath because if I had an upset stomach she'd go to her backyard and get orange leaves and make me a tea. If I had a sore throat, she'd cut a lemon and squeeze half of it in my throat. And, I always felt so, so good. And even with salad dressing, she would just squeeze lemon juice, a little bit of olive oil and a little salt and pepper, and that was our dressing. We need to go back to that. So that's a great tip. If it has a label it is not a whole food. What are some of the most common nutritional deficiencies that people are experiencing today and how can we address them through diet and supplementation?Dawn Swann:
So first of all, I definitely need to preface this with, I'd really encourage each individual to seek blood work through their provider and really find out for their own bodies where they're deficient because each person will vary individually. But, just as a whole in our nation, we are really, there's a few that came to mind right away. We are really deficient typically in vitamin D. That's one of the big ones. It's very hard, even nutrient wise for us to get enough of that because the majority of it does come from the sun. It is found in a few foods, but most of us are not going to eat enough of that. So just being aware of our vitamin D levels is really important. That also will help our immune system. And then also magnesium. Magnesium is a huge one, and that's the majority of the population, which some people recognize magnesium if they had migraines or for something like that. But magnesium is used for so many more things and most of us are deficient in that. We can find our magnesium. in various foods and we also may need supplementation. Again, that your provider could encourage you the right amounts for your body. The right amount of magnesium helps with brain fog and memory, and it helps with overall joint pain, inflammation, helps people sleep. So magnesium's a huge one. And then I think the other one that came right to mind is zinc. Zinc is something more of us have heard about since covid. A lot more people take it when they get a cold but if we have enough of it in our system, we can actually lower our chances of even getting a cold. and also it's good for balancing out our glucose levels, it helps our hair, our nails. There's a lot of things that zinc can do.Ivelisse Page:
I've heard a lot about vitamin D and magnesium and zinc for colds, but not for the other things that you mentioned. So maybe I need to be taking a little more zinc. I need to check that out and see for sure. That's awesome. How do we use food to support our mental health? I know you touched on that a little bit, but how do we use food to support our mental health and what are some of the best foods to eat for a healthy brain and our nervous system?Dawn Swann:
So I think again, if we look you know, our healthy gut, our gut needs to stay balanced and we need to really pay attention to putting in those healthy foods. It's really an overall picture that connects to our emotional health. Something I never would've thought of, many of us wouldn't have thought of, we hear people say all the time, oh, I have butterflies in my stomach, or my stomach's bothering me a little bit when there's something that makes them feel anxious or a big change. But actually, you can feel that sometimes just with the fact that you aren't eating the right things and taking care of your body. When we don't do that, our emotional health will definitely suffer. Our anxiety may increase, we will sleep less. There's a lot of things that we need to really think about with that. And some foods as far as that, again, leafy greens, they're really important and they will help emotional health, which sounds funny, and leafy greens in large amounts. If you say to most people, oh, let's put some vegetables on our plate, people put this small little scoop like in the one corner, and I'd encourage you to think about having that be more than half to two thirds of your plate. And I add them in everything. I'll cook some in eggs in the morning, or anytime in the day, throw them in a smoothie, eat them raw in salads. So anytime you can add those. And another really good one, that's a fun one, promotes your health is dark chocolate.Ivelisse Page:
Ooh, I like that.Dawn Swann:
And I would just encourage you, again, people to look for the source of their dark chocolate and look for as dark as possible, very low in sugar, maybe trying to avoid, cane sugar, but looking for a different type of way it was sweetened. Maybe coconut sugar, coconut oil, and that dark chocolate is actually really good for us. So those are a couple of things. Again, walnuts, macadamia nuts, any of the nuts that have a higher fat content will also help with emotional health.Ivelisse Page:
That's awesome. It's funny cuz when someone's sad they immediately go for the processed sugary foods and that just makes things worse. But if you do want that chocolate, I like the tip about the dark chocolate because you can get that sweetness, but also it's actually good for you and it doesn't cause your glucose levels to go crazy. Yeah, I'm with you too. I throw in leafy greens into my smoothies in the mornings. I know Jimmy, we eat a lot of vegetables, but Jimmy also does AG-1 he loves that gets some more greens into his system. If you're not able to eat them all, it's great to have a really clean source of a supplement that you can add into a shake or into a drink in the morning to get them in. Those are some great tips Dawn. And what are some of the most common misconceptions people have about nutrition and health? And how can we better educate ourselves about the science of food and health?Dawn Swann:
I'm trying to think even a few years ago for me, a couple of the biggest misconceptions that came to mind are if you ask a lot of people, they'll say, I eat healthy, I eat very little sugar. Those are like some of the most common statements that I hear. And if you were to ask me three or four years ago, I may have said, I eat pretty healthy. And then when you really start looking at how many processed foods that you have in your pantry or that you have packed in a day, or that you pack for your kids because they're easy versus fresh foods. It's better I think to have some frozen vegetables that we use. And just really trying to look at labels because there's hidden sugar and corn syrup and fructose in everything. It's in ketchup. It's in your dressings. It's in pretty much anything people are gonna pick up. Even supplements, even people will pick up supplements at the store and not be aware, as I would've been, you know for sure what to look for in those. And then you realize that they've added sugar, and they've added whatever. They've put it into a gummy and then they're not healthy anymore. So that's definitely the biggest misconception is what does I eat healthy actually mean? What does that look like?Ivelisse Page:
A hundred percent. And I was one of them too, because before I got sick, Jimmy was in the health and wellness industry and people were like, Ivelisse, how did you get cancer? You guys eat healthy. Now I have an integrative practitioner and that's why I really encourage people to have an integrative practitioner or someone like Dawn, who's a health coach that can really guide you into what's best for you as an individual. It really goes into when you're doing your blood work seeing what I was deficient in. And then my doctor will give me whole foods to help my blood work be better. For example, for me, I thought I was having a smoothie with all these fruits and vegetables, and it was making me crash because I was having too much even natural sugar. So I had to eliminate everything but the blueberries from the shake so that I would have a consistent energy level. I was having dairy, I was having, even though it was organic beef, it, it was having too much for me personally. So there's so much about our diets that we assume are healthy, and until we dive deep into our individual body chemistry, it's really an unknown factor that really needs to be addressed. So I'm glad that you mentioned that.Dawn Swann:
Yes, I like this part of the story when I was first at the beginning of my journey in talking to our naturopath, and she was suggesting that I really limit fruits again, like you were saying in your smoothie. And I was thinking, oh, she probably just doesn't want me to eat this or this. And then when she named the fruits initially, now also we have to keep in mind this was to heal my gut, not just lifelong, fruitless but she said I could do lemons, limes, and avocados. And I remember thinking, aren't they condiments? So that was the beginning of a journey, but really just learning again, like where the low glycemic fruits are and how even those can impact your health, where, not that you can't have some of the others, but what time of day, what are you pairing it with, and what are you eating, as a whole is what makes the difference.Ivelisse Page:
Yes. I know that must have been a chuckle. I wouldn't have thought the same thing. Lemon, limes are the fruits I can eat, an avocado, hey! I've been told by practitioners that people really need to focus on eliminating and reducing the starch also and the sugar because it produces insulin resistance, diabetes, and more. And we know that things like pancreatic cancer, breast, colon, prostate, and others are linked to insulin resistance, which comes from the starch and the sugar in our diets. If you type in cancer and insulin resistance in PubMed, you will find over 15,000 publications on it. So I wanted to address that and ask you what are some practical ways that you helped your clients get off of refined sugar?Dawn Swann:
So I think, one of the biggest things that was really helpful to clients for me, again, I wasn't feeling well when I began my journey. So if you're not feeling well, I feel like it, it helps you a little quicker because you're just really trying to seek that better health and you wanna feel better. But in general, if you think you feel well, but you really wanna improve your health by eliminating sugar, then I think the best thing we can do right away is start crowding it out. Instead of eliminating, we can look at it as, what can I add in that will taste good to me and give me a little taste of sweetness. Something I can have if I'm at work as a snack, something when I'm out with friends where I won't feel like I'm not able to participate in something sweet. And some examples of that at home might be, there's some really great simple mousse recipes or chia puddings. There's things we can make with three or four ingredients most of us may even have in our pantry if we just bought the chia seeds, if we don't have that. And those are so easy and quick. And there again are some good chocolate brands, dark chocolate where we can have a little bit of that I've even encouraged a few clients to break up a couple of pieces of that, like ounce of dark chocolate in with some fresh berries and healthy nuts and have that in a little snack bag. So there's just different ways that we can add in some snacks that will satisfy that sweet tooth, but really crowding it out, by adding in, if that makes sense, will help us. And also making sure we eat enough. I think that's a big part of it, is sometimes cravings come because our body's actually craving food, not necessarily sugar, because we right away think, oh, I have to cut calories and I have to cut food. Instead of looking at what I can keep in that gives me enough food to stay satisfied.Ivelisse Page:
Yeah, I agree. And a lot of people are also under the misconception that if it says sugar-free, then I'm good. But actually sugar-free is actually worse for you and it also gives you more cravings, so it actually makes you gain weight. And so it's really important for people to realize, just because it says sugar free does not mean that it's good for you. I would stay even more away from those things. And I would love for you to share with us one or two recipes and we can add it in the show notes of some of your favorite treats. I know one of Jimmy and mine is the chia pudding and it's just great. Just a touch of honey we put in it, but it's made with coconut milk and, it's delicious and it satisfies that sweetness that we long for. So it's great.Dawn Swann:
One of the other things I think to go along with that is that consistency over perfection because we have to give ourself grace and realize it's not gonna happen again, this is a process. We may be doing great without the sugar for a little bit, and then we have to connect other things too in our health as to why we may lean towards sugar at a certain cycle period or season of our life. So it's just definitely continuing to be as consistent as possible.Ivelisse Page:
Yes. Yeah, definitely. What are some of the best foods to eat before and after exercise?Dawn Swann:
Okay. So I would say before, I would encourage if you're gonna do a heavier workout for it to also be a time period about an hour and a half to two hours prior. Something that's easy to digest and low carbs, but also maybe has some good proteins. One of my favorites so simple, anybody can have it handy, are just apples with a good nut butter. And even looking for a nut butter, again, that can be a source of hidden sugar. Things you people don't think, they go, oh, I'm gonna try almond butter this time. But then you get home and realize that sugar's actually been added. So check your label. Even scrambled eggs like they're a great option for people before hard boiled egg. Before exercise, hummus with some grain-free crackers. There's a lot of choices there. So I would keep it simple. Definitely again, easy to digest so that you can work out, and not feel a little bit of that, or have a little bit of indigestion. So that would be good before, and then after, I would say really look at protein. How can we do some muscle recovery, through a protein smoothie. And I love when you said you even changed things out from your smoothie, adding in maybe a non-dairy, but a high-fat milk like coconut milk and the protein powder. Typically most people can do some berries and they're usually low in glycemic index for most people. So that's a good option. Throw that handful of spinach in that smoothie. And also a good protein meal. Like you may have salmon and sweet potatoes or something like that, to really replenish the fats that you need and the protein afterwards.Ivelisse Page:
Okay, those are great tips. Great, options. Those are all things I love too. So in closing, I would love to know how we can make healthier food choices in today's fast paced world. I think that's something that, it's hard for us, and I think you touched on it a little bit ago, but, what are some strategies for overcoming common obstacles to healthy eating when we're on the run?Dawn Swann:
So I think being on the run is one of the hardest parts, and I think that makes it so difficult for people. In general, I would say, one of the tips would be to prepare ahead a little bit, whether it be the night before, whether it be on Sundays for the week ahead, but really think through how can I add more vegetables this week? How can I, you know, maybe pack some herbal tea bags. Those are an easy thing if you're sitting at work, that are really good for your gut. Just pack in some herbal tea and those vegetables, raw vegetables, are always good if people can manage to eat those. And I would say also for your kids, we can change out the way that we pack their lunches, just buy a simple thing as let's just encourage them to drink water. Fruit juice is really just a dessert. It's really filled with so much sugar. So even if we can look at those simple tips, when we're on the run, if we eat out, that week, or most people do eat out during the week, think ahead what a substitution could be. Most restaurants, are good with substitutions if you stop in a fast food, really think about what those ingredients are and try and look for a fast food that actually makes some of their food. And what could you eliminate out of that fast food bowl? If you take a bar, read ingredients, really look for things that you recognize. If you don't recognize the name on the label in the ingredient list, we probably shouldn't eat it.Ivelisse Page:
Yes. Yes. I know. I was surprised. I always had given my kids juice boxes and things when they're little. And then if you look at the sugar content in the back, it has more sugar than so. Yes. And I'm like, oh my goodness. That is a big source of hidden sugar for kids. And so just alternating with water is huge and giving them some good whole food snacks like apples with, like you were saying, the nut butter, then they can get it naturally without it being over the amount of sugar that they need to consume in one meal. Those are great tips. Dawn, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today for your amazing tips, and we're so grateful for all that you do, for those who reach out to you. I'm excited about your new health journey and all that you've been able to thrive through these years and how you're helping other people now do it. So thank you so much for being with us today.Dawn Swann:
Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it and appreciate you as a friend so much. Thank you.Ivelisse Page:
If you enjoyed this episode and you'd like to help support our podcast, please subscribe and share it with others. Be sure to visit believebig.org to access the show notes and discover our bonus content. Thanks again and keep Believing Big!