jess wilson

The Joy Connection with Jess Wilson

jess wilson

The Joy Connection

Today we welcome back Jess Wilson, who’s a functional nutritionist who feels that we all need a little more joy in our life.

In this episode, Jess talks about the joy hormone oxytocin, the impact of gut health on our mood, and shares some ideas on how to help our clients feel more joy.

About Jess Wilson:

Hi, I’m Jess, and this is me.

I believe the reason I was put on this planet is to inspire people to live a big, healthy, joyful life. Ever since I was little, I’ve been great at two things: doing hard stuff, and inspiring others. What I didn’t realise is that these two things would eventually become my destiny.

When my children were born I was faced with the hardest challenge of my life. They were sick – very sick – and at the hands of the medical system, I found myself in a four-year-long fight for their health that would very nearly break them (and me).

In the darkest of hours, with a fire of determination burning in my belly and my ever-present there’s-always-a-way attitude, I turned to the healing power of food to help us, and our world started to turn around.

I learned that the human body is capable of incredible things. I learned that taking responsibility for your health was the most powerful choice you could ever make. I learned that we are not invincible. That we do break. But that we can fix ourselves too.  I learned that leading with love and following your heart meant learning to love yourself, too.

And that on the other side of the struggle is a big, healthy, joyful life. Now, I get to inspire others. I’m on a mission to take my story global and to lift people up.

I’m a Functional Nutritionist, Gut Health and Hormone Practitioner and All-Round Wellness Coach. I’m also a busy mum, an ocean lover and a runner… who loves to live a vibrant life (usually flying by the seat of my pants.)

My job is to help you put yourself back together, to see you happy and healthy again, And to teach you that this one big happy life we have is worth living, in the healthiest way.

Let’s work together. I want to see you win.

Connect with Jess

website: jesswilson.com

Instagram: jess_wilson_nutrition

Email: hello@jesswilson.com

Transcript

Introduction

Andrew: This is “Wellness by Designs.” And I’m your host, Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Joining us again today is Jess Wilson, who’s a functional nutritionist who feels that we all need a little more joy in our life. Welcome back to “Wellness by Designs,” Jess. How are you going?

Jess: Thank you, Andrew. You know I love talking to you about these things.

Andrew: It was fun, I got to say, our other podcast. So, first of all, joy. What exactly are we talking about here? And is there a difference between happiness and joy?

Jess: I love that you asked me that question. Happiness is a feeling. And a lot of people don’t realize this, but joy is a hormone. It’s called oxytocin. And it has a number of different functions in the human body, from nurturing and lactation and contraction of the uterus during childbirth. But the other side of oxytocin, and I want to jump into a little bit where it’s produced in a minute, but the other side of oxytocin is that it’s our calm and connected, our love hormone, our joy hormone, and who wouldn’t want a little bit more of that in their lives, right?

Andrew: Well, absolutely. And I’ve got to say, you exude this, you exude this joy. Were you always like that? Were you like as a child just this bouncing, little jumping being or surely you must have experienced sadness and despondency and that throughout your life, right?

Jess: Thank you. Yes, I try to embody joy. It’s something that I’ve worked really hard on. And, yes, I was like this as a little girl, but you really touched on something that’s important I think for all of us. I’ve had a huge amount of adversity in my life. I’ve had a huge amount of sadness and trauma. I went through a very, very difficult medical journey with my two boys. And what I’ve learned about the human body and the brain is that we can activate these systems. We can choose to perceive life in a different way. We can hack the darkness and find the light. And my purpose now in my practice is to bring this to people, to bring that energy, to bring that joy. And, like I said, I want to touch on where this oxytocin is actually produced in your body. And we’re going to talk about how you can access it.

Andrew: You know, what you’ve just said has triggered something in me, it’s a memory. I can still remember once I finished nursing and I moved up to Sydney, The Big Smoke from Wagga and, you know, my mama died previously and I was just in this quandary of not joy. I won’t say despondency but it wasn’t joy. And I remember making this weird conscious decision. I used to be a happy child. I used to be a happy teenager. What happened? It was almost a conscious snip of leaving Wagga and moving to Sydney, to say, “I’m going to go and have some fun.” But it wasn’t until I read Andrew Matthews, his book, and I’ll give this man a shout-out. So there’s “Being happy,” “Making Friends,” “Follow Your Heart.” I think there’s “Happiness in a Nutshell.” I love his books. But I totally get your point about that you’ve worked on being happy. It hasn’t been just this flick choice and everything was rosy from there on, was it?

Jess: Absolutely. You know, I think for all of us, there’s adversity, there’s challenges, there’s darkness, particularly, you know, at the moment in the world, there’s a real heaviness around that a lot of people are carrying and feeling. What I learned in my journey was turning bitter into better was the thing that ultimately would make me happy, and finding ways to consciously choose happiness, choose joy, and go and find it or cultivate it, but also, in a biological sense, getting my body to the point where it was strong and resilient and healthy and connected and all the systems are working properly.

And if I can, Andrew, just jump in very quickly as to this joy hormone, this oxytocin hormone, it is a hormone. So biologically we can produce it. It’s produced in the hypothalamus, which is the master controller of your brain, secreted by your pituitary gland, which is kind of the conductor of all of your hormones. And the beautiful thing about oxytocin is it goes directly into your bloodstream. It doesn’t need to go to another organ and then that organ to release it to do something else at a certain time. The minute you activate that oxytocin, it actually goes straight into your body. So finding ways that we can cultivate joy and finding ways that we can activate this oxytocin hormone can sometimes be the overriding sort of banner for people’s healing, you know?

Andrew: That offers a very important message. When we’re talking about hormones, like for instance, adrenocorticotropic hormone, which is secreted by the hypothalamus and then what goes to the adrenal glands to create the active hormone, the target organ, if you like. If we’re talking about this, the target organ of crucial importance to look after is the brain. So I’m thinking about traumatic brain injury, PTSI, not PTSD.

Jess: Absolutely. Yep.

Andrew: Yeah. So therefore, we have to play a major importance on looking after the health of our brain.

Jess: Absolutely. There’s a lot of studies now that are showing links between low oxytocin levels and autism or spectrum disorders. And you’re 100% right, Andrew, when it comes to the body, you know, I’m a gut health expert, I’m a hormone practitioner. Hormones, by the way, not just sex hormones, you know, that’s why I teach joy in my practice and adrenal hormones. But when it comes to the human body, our hormones, our brain, that’s kind of the lens that we see the world through. That’s how we perceive things. You know, when we’ve got lots of oxytocin and joy hormone kind of flooding through our body, obviously, we’re going to perceive the world as a pretty rosy place, even when things are going bad. When we have a ton of other hormones flooding through our body and our happy hormones are low, we’re going to perceive the world as a dark and difficult place. So understanding this concept and starting to really look after our brain and cultivate these happy hormones can be a very powerful shift in the way that people look at their current situation.

Andrew: Okay, so is it just a case of perception though? What’s going through my mind is here’s a whimsical thing. I like to say that I’m a glass half empty person, and there’s a reason behind that. And that is because if you’re at a party and you say your glass is half empty, you’re more likely to have it filled up. But I do take the salient points. There are those people, you are one, Liz  is another, who will take a negative or a fear-based thought, feeling, the fear of dying and she’ll turn it round and say, “Well, hang on. Isn’t that because you love life so much?” And therefore she’ll concentrate on the positive. Is that what you do in your practice or is this ingrained, or have you had to learn this?

Jess: So this is what I do in my life, and I’ve had to learn it. And it’s a daily practice. I am by no means somebody who’s got all my ducks in a row, you know, mentally, physically. You know, I’m just a real human being just like the rest of us. But you asked a question there, is this just about perception? You know, in the world at the moment, everybody understands the concept of gratitude. And many people have gone very far in their daily practice of gratitude and finding that that really brings them, you know, a sense of, “Everything is going to be okay. I actually do have a lot around me.” But I take it back a step further, as I always do in my practice, and I think that the perception comes before the gratitude. You know, how do you ask somebody to be thankful for what they’ve got in their lives if the lens that they’re looking through is dark, if they’re perceiving their life to be in tatters?

And to them, that’s real, maybe it is. So holding those feelings, acknowledging those feelings, but then finding ways to put that different spin on it, often has to come long before we can be journaling, you know, what we’re finding good in our day. So the perception for me I think really comes first. So I say to my clients…I’ll give you an example, Andrew, of how this would look sort of in a nutrition practice. I do weekly coaching with my clients on nutrition. That’s one of the many services that I offer. And I say to my clients, “This is not about me, monitoring what you’re eating, or expecting you to be perfect. It’s a learning journey for you and I over the coming weeks to see what your patterns are, what your behaviours are. We’ll go through all the ups and downs together and we’ll unpack it along the way.”

So here’s an example of what we’re talking about. If somebody comes to me and says, “Look, I’ve fallen off the wagon. You know, Friday night is I ate all the pizza and I’m so disappointed in myself and my gut’s a mess now, and I’m bloated, and haven’t I undone all the hard work that I’ve put in?” And I say to them, “This is great. I’m so proud of you. This is amazing. Now we have information. We know what your body is trying to tell us. We can definitively say you do not agree with bread. This is a great moment.” And they sort of look at me and they go, “You know, what are you talking about?” It’s all about the perception. And I go, “That’s great because now we can learn from this. We can do better. We can acknowledge.” So that’s just a very small example of how you could put that into your daily life. As long as we are not being blind to these things, as long as we’re learning from them, as long as there are silver linings somewhere along the way, we can shift our perception and activate that joy at any point.

Andrew: I’m just overjoyed that you’ve said this because it conjures up so many memories. But also important points of what you say, one of the things that you said there was telling, I think, as to why your client would love you so much. And that is that you go through that journey together. Is this a big lesson that we all need to make about walking alongside people and being their advocate, you know, their best supporter, their best cheerleader for their journey?

Jess: Yep. And therein lies this concept of human connection and the village, Andrew. You know, we were born to be connected to people, and I believe it is a basic human need. We all need help. We all have different skillsets. We all have something to offer people; why should we have to go it alone? You know, why should we have to try to figure this out on our own? I think you’re 100% right. Being able to connect with other people who understand, who are just there to walk beside you and go, “Okay, what are we learning from this?” You know, ultimately, you’re still doing the work as a client but as a practitioner to be there alongside that person and be guiding them into that brain space of, “How is your body feeling? What are we learning? You know, what is it trying to tell you?” Ultimately, that’s where people will do the work.

Andrew: There’s so many things going round in my head. There’s so many messages. Like if this is the case, and what you said about, you know, I went off the wag, and I ate all the bad foods and now I feel rotten and disappointed. We’ve all been there. We go and we have a spark out moment and we go and eat some junk food. And the classic one is the takeaway burgers, and you think you’re enjoying it, you eat it too fast, and it’s not very long, 10 minutes before you go, “Ah, that was a real mistake.” Like, “Oh, my God, like, that’s horrible. I just feel horrible now.” Yet we do it again. So we need to really think about, “Well, that’s what happened last time. What do you think is going to be

different next time you do it?” You know, like, how do you address the old habits die hard thing with your clients?

Jess: Look, I think ultimately, if we’re talking in a clinical sense, you have to get people to the point with their nutrition and their health where they’re actually feeling good. So that when they feel bad, they realize that they don’t want to feel like that anymore. So what I say to people in those moments, we’ve probably gone through two weeks of nutrition coaching, you know, they’ve done really well, energy is coming back, they’re starting to feel really good, and then they have that moment. And they go, “Oh, I just feel so awful and I’m so bloated.” And the thing that I say to people is, remember that you used to feel like that all the time. You used to feel like that every day because you were eating like this every day and now you felt like that once and we’re going to get over it. I’ll give you a bit of a rescue strategy. We’ll do the work. We’ll get back on the wagon. But can you see now how much better you can feel?

Because people don’t know how good their body is designed to feel. When we say to them, “What if I said to you to wake up in the morning, bouncing out of bed, you could go all day do all the things, feel absolutely amazing and sleep like a baby at night, not have any pain, no bloating, no problems with your menstrual cycles, you know, your life pretty much every day and you’re happy?” And they go, “Oh, I don’t know if this feels, you know, on the same planet.” But that’s our default mode, right? Our default mode is health and happiness. So, it’s not unrealistic to assume that we could get back to a factory standard, right?

Andrew: I love your language. I love the way that you think. I had to write this down “bitter into better.” It’s perfect. But also your default mode, getting things back to factory standard. It’s a wonderful language that gels with everybody. How though do we activate oxytocin and experience joy? How do we even get to that?

Jess: Okay, so here’s the kicker, right? It’s not complicated. There are simple things that you can do in your daily life that will literally activate this hormone. So it’s not like some special thing that you have to do. There are simple daily practices. And, Andrew, when I talk about this, I know that you’re going to go, “Hang on, this is just normal stuff and somehow we’re missing it.” So for example, things like natural light. Now, this sounds really funny, you think, “How is natural light going to make me happy?” Remember, we’re talking about a biological process in the brain, getting exposure, particularly to morning light, to feel the sun on your face, to understand what time of day it is, you know, have your cup of coffee as you walk around the garden, that activates oxytocin, it activates your calm and connected system, which is really where oxytocin sits. It’s the part of your body that feels safe, secure, connected to your environment and to other people. You trust where you are. You’re not in fight or flight, right? So exposure to natural light is a big one. And how many of us are spending 8, 9, 10, 16 hours a day under artificial light? So that’s a super simple one that everybody can do. Just spend 10 minutes outside in your garden during the day. And, obviously, there’s things like… You go.

Andrew: I was just going to ask there, you said morning light and you see many people, you know, taking their dog for a walk in the morning and doing their morning walk along the beach, that sort of thing. And then it’s quick get home or get to work so that you can spend the rest of the day inside. And there’s an important point just about, forgive me, to segue, welcome to my mind, about vitamin D. And that is we know that a huge proportion of even Australians, but particularly those at the lower latitudes, so Melbourne, Tasmania, even Perth, that we have insufficient vitamin D. And the quickest way that you can do that is not sunbaking, the quickest, safest way is to get outside during lunchtime on a sunny day for 5 to 10 minutes. That’s it. That’s all you need to do. Just 5 to 10 minutes. Anyway, that’s my segue for vitamin D. Back to you, Jess.

Jess: No, you’re 100% right, Andrew. And on the handout, on the adrenal protocols that I do with my clients and on the handouts that they get, sunshine is always there. It’s natural light and sunshine. I’m pretty convinced that my spirit animal is some sort of rock lizard. I am a total sun bunny, you know, I love the summer. Winter does not agree with me. I’ve made my peace with it. But really, by this stage of winter, I’m counting down the weeks. So you’re 100% right about sunshine and vitamin D. Just get out there, you know, hang out the washing in your underwear for 5 to 10 minutes. Exactly right. So light is a big one. Obviously things like movement and exercise, but movement’s got to be…I call it movement because it has to be what you enjoy. There’s no point going to a high intensity training class at the gym and absolutely hating it and expecting that that’s going to activate, you know, your endorphins and your oxytocin. So you’ve got to be moving in ways that you enjoy.

One of the ones that I really love that I adopted many years ago is lying flat on the floor. A lot of my clients think I’m crazy when I say this, but there’s an instant parasympathetic drop that you get when you actually lay down flat on the floor, particularly with your legs raised in the air. So in the evening, you don’t have to do it in a woo-woo sense, you know, in front of all your work colleagues, but in the evening as you’re winding down for bed and you’ve got your nice red lights on, you know, you just lay down on the floor and put your legs up. These simple things really start to activate that parasympathetic side of our nervous system where you can access things like oxytocin.

Some of my other favourites in here, Andrew, music, you know, we’ve forgotten to sing and dance. I’ve always got music going on in my house. You know, there’s running music and there’s evening music and there’s wake up and go music and there’s…but music is such a great tool that somebody else is providing that can make you feel good, right? We all know about crying through the sad songs but what about having a happy playlist that makes you feel good? These are subconscious messenger systems that can help you to start producing that joy. You’re having a really bad day, you know, everything is going bad, and you put on your favourite song and how do you feel, right?

Andrew: It’s interesting you say that because talking about happy playlists, there’s a few songs that I love to listen to. And forgive me, I’m an old, wannabe drummer. So I just bash the hell out of my steering wheel while I’m driving. But there’s the happy playlists but also the sad playlists. And I guess I’m of the mind about how do you know what happiness is if you don’t know what sadness is? And then I was thinking while you were talking about the sunshine, and I was thinking about how gorgeous the garden looks on a rainy day because the greens are so much greener. When the orchids are blooming. I love my orchids. I might go into it, but I just threw them into the garden and they’ve blossomed. And the purples are so much richer. So it’s actually an appreciation, as you say, even on a rainy day. There’s no such thing as bad weather. It’s just the wrong clothes. Is that the right thing? You know, kids love rainy days. It’s like puddles. So, yeah, even in a somewhat despondent mood or a sad mood or a down mood, you can even find some joy in that. Like even sad songs can evoke a release.

Jess: Of course, absolutely. And sometimes you have to do that and you’ve got to clean the pipes before you can get happy. What do they say? You’ve got to sit with it and you’ve got to go through it. So, absolutely, I agree with you. And I think it’s important at this point to acknowledge for people, we’re not talking about everybody being happy all the time. You know that’s unrealistic. Part of our human experience is going through that full spectrum of emotions. And like you said, going through the lowest of lows to have the highest of highs. It’s all very, very important. This is more about when we’re stuck in that rut and we can’t get out of it, what are some physical things that we can do to activate this master controller Joy hormone in our body to help us out of it, right?

A couple of the other things that I’d put in here that are really important for us to touch on, grounding. Having your feet in the grass or the sand, you know, how beautiful does it feel to go for a walk on the beach? How much better do you feel after that fresh air and having your toes in the sand? So grounding is a very, very important part of activating oxytocin. And human connection. We talked about that just previously, Andrew, we are wired to be around people who lift us up. We’re wired to be part of a village. And I think loneliness is a huge perpetrator of poor mental health. Even for people who are surrounded by people all day, every day, when they’re not feeling connected, when they’re not feeling like that’s their tribe, when they’re not resonating with that energy, that can really put a dark spin on things. So human connection, physical touch. And I think everybody can relate in our current situation how much that’s been taken away from us, or how much that’s been not available to us at times, and the impact that that’s had on our mental and our physical health.

Andrew: Absolutely. You know, you remind me of a trial that was done at…it was done by Endeavour College of Natural Medicine at The Alfred Hospital in Victoria. And it was on cardiovascular patients…forgive me, heart surgery patients. So valve replacements and coronary artery bypass graft, CABGs. And one of the arms of this study was looking at pain relief. And the only intervention was a massage. They couldn’t do a chest massage or a shoulder massage because some of these patients, many of them had had their sternum cracked open to do a coronary artery bypass graft. And so they had to think, “Well, what is an appropriate massage that isn’t going to be invasive or confrontational to people?” The only thing that they did was a foot massage. And yet, just that human touch, that sense of connection and of care, decreased pain medications by 50% and inotropes by 30%. I think that was how they judged it. That is, forget how nice it is; let’s be really mercenary about it. That’s a cost-saving for the healthcare system. Why is massage not offered to every single patient in every single hospital for every single patient episode? It’s insane.

Jess: Because the mainstream medical model doesn’t believe what we’re saying, but it’s not a…

Andrew: Yet I’ll bet you any money, these doctors go for a massage.

Jess: Yeah, of course. But that connection, you know, we’ve talked about disconnect before, like the penny is not dropping there somehow, Andrew, but you’re 100%. And what I was thinking about as you were saying that because you said it was the reduction in pain medication by 50%, and the first thing that comes up for me is what is the real pain then for people? Is it the physical pain of the surgery, or what’s the pain that we’re talking about? And perhaps the reason the pain medication doesn’t work as a pill is because it’s not that kind of pain?

Andrew: Oh, you’re a good thinker. Oh, my goodness. I mean, that’s a whole angle of research. Forgive me; I’m bringing this back to practical guidelines. I’m bringing this back to what we found out now. You know, paracetamol was the drug that was proven to help lower back pain. Now it’s not. So I get your point. What else is there with increased stressors in daily life? Is that what’s really driving that pain if we took that away or if we address that and listened to you to turn our life around, our viewpoint around? Oh, my goodness, you could be a healthcare saver of millions. Yes?

Jess: Thanks, Andrew. I’m just going to sit in my corner and do my little thing and hopefully reach a bunch of people. But I really think that this is important because the things that we’ve talked about today, you know, human connection, having a coffee with a friend, I know it’s difficult sometimes in the current climate, and getting exposure to natural light, you know, putting your feet in the grass or the sand, laying down on the floor for a bit, playing your favourite music, you know, these are not difficult things that are out of reach. These are part of a healthy, normal human experience. And we have to start raising the question, this disease of busyness that we have, or this rut that we’ve become stuck in, how have we allowed these basic human needs to fall by the wayside. And that’s the moment where people really look at their lives and go, “I’m chasing these dollars in this big job that I’ve got,” you know, or whatever it is, “I’m giving to my family, and my husband and everybody else and I’m forgetting about myself.” But it doesn’t take a lot to bring you back. You know, a favourite song, put your face to the sun, a bit of vitamin D. These little things that you can do.

Andrew: Do you choose certain interventions, these free interventions, lying on your back on a hard floor rather than a mattress? I think there’s an interesting difference there. You know, playing music, choosing music. I’ll give you an example and two. Do you almost prescribe certain things, or do you search for a more positive note to these things with patients who are in that dark and gloomy place who can’t at the moment see the light at the end of the tunnel because it’s just around that corner? And I guess where I’m going here is I remembered speaking to a cancer patient, and I said, “You need some joy, you need some happiness, something that floats your boat that gets your mind active.” And I said, “What’s your favourite music?” And I was thinking about the peaceful type. “What’s your favourite peaceful type of music?” And she said, “Boot schooling music.” And I went, “Whatever floats your boat,” the best I could do. Do you prescribe certain types of music? No?

Jess: No. I absolutely don’t. The way that I view my role in all of this is to provide the tools. So I’ll give people literally my list, and I’ll go, “You don’t have to do everything. Just pick something that resonates with you.” I think as practitioners, we have to be very careful not to be always giving the answers or always intervening. Our role here is to facilitate healing. So the way that I look at that is, “Hey, I’m going to provide the tools, but you do have to do the work. I don’t want you to do everything on the list, but I want you to pick something.” And it’s got to be the thing that resonates with people. It’s got to be the one thing that they see on that list that they go, “I could just really use a hug.” Or, “Ah, a walk on the beach would be amazing.” Or, “Ah, yes, I always used to play music, and now I don’t do it anymore.” So an answer to your question, I don’t actively go looking for those things with my clients, but I have the conversation, and I provide the tools. And from there on, there’s a part of the health journey whereas a client, we need to invest ourselves and start to do some of that work because me telling them what song to listen to is not going to activate anything in their brain.

Andrew: No, I just didn’t have anything for this, but it’s good, and I thought it was hilarious. I want to ask you a question in a second, but just before I get to that, you held up a handout. Do these things that you’re talking about, lying on the floor, choosing some music, walking in the sunlight, walking barefoot, are they in a handout? Yeah?

Jess: Yeah.

Andrew: I’m so impressed because these seemingly simple things that are second nature to us that we go, “Of course.” These aren’t second nature to so many people. And what you’re doing is you’re giving a hard copy, “Here, when you forget, here it is.” I love it.

Jess: Yeah, I suppose in a sense it’s… Thanks. I’ll put it on the List Editor. I think, in a sense, for me, it’s really just about supplying those tools for people. And when people come to my practice, I like to be able to give handouts because I talk in a very kind of casual way. And so it’s a much more professional and succinct way of me narrowing down at what we were talking about. But it’s kind of like a life Bible. So the handout that we’ve talked about today is part of my adrenal protocols when I do adrenal templates and healing with people. You know, life Bibles, this is what a healthy diet looks like. This is how to activate your joy hormones. This is how to sleep. I have sleep tips. This is how to heal your relationship with food. These are the things that I like to provide to people because like you say, that’s so simple but we’ve lost that connection. And that’s okay. We just need somebody to help us with the, you know, how do I get it back? Give me some active things that I can do so that I can actually start to put myself back together.

Andrew: Okay, so you mentioned there, your gut. And obviously, our mind and our gut is a superhighway. We definitely know that, you know, depending on the textbook or the person you’re talking to, it’s like between 90% and 95% of your serotonin is made in your gut by your gut cells. But we’ve also recently elucidated dopamine receptors…not dopamine receptors, forgive me. Was it dopamine receptors? In your gut. And this was previously challenged. Now they’ve found them. So we now know that the brain hormones, the neurotransmitters in the brain also has had activities in our gut. So this follows on with not just serotonin, which is like alertness, but also dopamine. So how do we therefore make the link between joy and a healthy gut? How important is it?

Jess: I think the easiest way to explain that is to give a scenario, right? So remember that time that you went and you ate that burger, and 20 minutes later, it was feeling heavy, and you’re going, “Oh I don’t know if that was such a good idea.” The next morning you wake up, your gut is heavy and you’re constipated. And the resultant brain activity from that is that you’re forgetful and you’re brain foggy and you feel a bit sad and depressed and blue. That’s the best kind of explanation for people to go, “Oh, yeah, that’s definitely me. Every time I eat bread, you know, I feel like I’m sad for three days.” How that kind of works in the body is exactly what you said in terms of our information highway, the vagus nerve, right? So everything is traveling up and down between the gut and the brain.

And something that bears talking about is the fact that when your gut is inflamed, not only are you potentially not secreting those happy hormones, those neurotransmitters but if your brain is inflamed and your body is in pain and there’s something wrong, you’re going to be in a fight or flight situation. You’re not in your calm and connected state. So remember that oxytocin is one of many hormones that’s produced in the body, but it’s only produced when we can access that calm and connected state. So I think that there’s a real correlation there between inflammation, Andrew, and how many of us are walking around with inflammatory diseases, the gut just being one of many.

But when there’s high levels of inflammation in the body, we know that that drives cortisol levels up and your body is going to preferentially be heading down that fight or flight pathway. So the gut-brain connection comes down to the ability to make those happy hormones, it comes down to the messenger signals that are going up and down, the communication that’s happening between the gut and the brain, it comes down to those levels of inflammation in there. There are so many things that go into it. And so in that case, the biology, fixing the gut health is certainly just as important, if not more important at times, than the psychology of activating this joy hormone. Because until we can lower those levels of inflammation in the body, we’re going to have a really hard time making those other hormones and neurotransmitters.

Andrew: Jess, I got to say, I love your messaging because I’ve spoken to excellent people. One of the people that just came up in my mind then when you mentioned the vagus nerve was Emrys Goldsworthy, one of my fav people. Mind-blowing what he taught me. But we can go through the science of each of these things, if you like, or even the practice of them. Vagal nerve stimulation, singing, gargling, you know, auricle, part of the ear stimulation, direct stimulation, electrical stimulation there. We can go through that. But then you’ve got a patient in front of you who is a human, as you say and wants to connect, and you are this brilliant connector. As I said to you later, I really think you have this brilliant, positive, glowing messaging that obviously, people would want to come along with you on the journey.

I can’t thank you enough. You’ve enlightened me to so much more, so many options about how instead of just going, “No, no, no, no,” a process. You now actually are engaging with people on a positive note and showing them that there’s more light at the end of the tunnel and, you know, that we can get away from the disease of busyness. I love how you said that. I can’t thank you enough for joining us today on “Wellness by Designs.” It’s been rather enlightening for me.

Jess: Thank you so much, Andrew. I hope more than anything, it just brings a different spin on things, you know, looking at the body as a whole, looking at the body and the brain and how it’s connected. And ultimately, the end goal for all of us is not eating more kale, right? It’s not eating more Brussels sprout chips as you and I were talking about before. The end goal is living a happy life in a body that loves you back. That’s what we’re going for here, right? No point in having a healthy body if you’re not happy, no point being happy if you’re not healthy. We’ve got to be looking at the whole picture. So thank you so much. I’m very grateful to you guys for having me on.

Andrew: I love your messaging. And as I said, thank you for enlightening me. Thank you for enlightening us. You are brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Thanks, Jess, for joining us on “Wellness by Designs” today. And of course, thank you, everyone, for joining us. You can catch up with all of the other podcasts, including this one on the designsforhealth.com.au website, as well as all the other show notes. And I’d like to thank you for joining us today on “Wellness by Designs.” I’m Andrew Whitfield-Cook.