Welcome to Episode #19 of the Healing Pain Podcast! Today we are joined by holistic nutritionist, yoga teacher, wholefoods chef Lee Holmes.
Did you know that almost 100% of those who suffer with Fibromyalgia also have problems with their gut? Chronic widespread body pain is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia. Most people with fibromyalgia also experience extreme fatigue, sleep disturbances, sensitivity to touch, light, and sound, and brain fog. Many individuals also experience a number of other symptoms and overlapping conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, lupus and arthritis. It’s estimated that 6 – 10 percent of people in the United States have fibromyalgia. This chronic pain disorder impacts millions of men and women of all ages and ethnicities all around the world.
Lee Holmes is a holistic nutritionist, yoga teacher, wholefoods chef who healed her Fibromyalgia through diet and lifestyle interventions. Her journey takes her from being over medicated and fearful to transforming both her body and mind to live a pain-free life.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia are unpredictable and most patients are frustrated by their physical limitations. You may feel as though you have to “push yourself” to get things done. Most patients with fibromyalgia say that their muscles feel like they have been pulled or overworked, and sometimes they tighten, twitch or cramp. Even the skin may feel like it’s sunburned. To help your family and friends relate to your fibromyalgia, have them think back to the last time they had a bad flu. Every muscle and joint in their body screamed with pain. In addition, they felt robbed of energy as though someone had unplugged their power supply.
In This Episode You Will Learn:
- How healing the gut can help fibromyalgia.
- How to prevent/heal this silent inflammation.
- How to move with Fibromyalgia even when it hurts.
- The pitfalls of Fibromyalgia diagnosis and treatment.
- Mind-body approaches to healing pain.
Welcome to the Healing Pain podcast. I am your host, Dr. Joseph Tatta. It’s great to be here with you for another week to give you some tips and strategies on how to heal chronic pain naturally.
My guest on the podcast this week is Lee Holmes. She’s a holistic nutritionist and a yoga teacher, as well as a whole foods chef. She has written two books. One is called Heal Your Gut. It’s a really incredible book and I’m going to lift it up there to show you. She’s written a couple other books called Supercharged Food.
What’s really interesting about Lee is that she’s built an entire online platform, an entire community to help people heal their gut. She has her own really unique, very inspiring story about healing both autoimmune disease, and fibromyalgia through healing the gut. Stay tuned. Sit back. Grab some green tea. Grab some coffee. Enjoy the podcast, and I’ll see you next week.
Lee Holmes, welcome to the Healing Pain podcast. It’s great to have you on this week.
Thank you so much for having me.
I met Lee probably about two months ago. For those of you who follow my podcast regularly each week, you know I have a lot of friends in the nutritional functional medicine space. A mutual friend of ours, Dr. Vincent Pedre who wrote a book called The Happy Gut, had a dinner party where he was lecturing about gut health, as well as serving some wonderful food. He said, “Oh come, Joe. You’re going to have a great time. You’re going to meet some great people.” I sat at Dr. Pedre’s table, and Lee Holmes was there. Her and I just hit it off instantly, because her and I have two things in common. One is we both have had chronic pain in the past. The second is we both have healed our gut naturally, and have learned how healing the gut is the fastest way to healing your pain, and healing your health overall.
She wrote an incredible book and it’s called Heal Your Gut. I have two copies of it. It’s really wonderful book. It has an incredible healing gut protocol, as well as some wonderful anti-inflammatory recipes, which are amazing. This is the one for the hot totty, which I’ve made a couple of time. I’ve got to tell you, the combination of turmeric, cardamon, cinnamon, ginger … This is how you know that someone really knows what they’re talking about. They give you just a little tip at the bottom where it says, “By adding black pepper, it enhances the bioavailability of turmeric.”, because turmeric does not pass through the gut very well. If you add a little bit of pepper, it helps the turmeric absorb into your system. So, Lee, it’s great to have you here.
It’s so good to be here and see you again.
Can you tell us a little bit about your health journey? We talked a little bit about it the night you and I met. You were gracious, and very open to share some of your struggle, as well as some of the things that you have really found that have been really big needle movers as far as improving your gut health.
Yeah. Absolutely. For me, it started about seven years ago. I was working in a job at the ABC, which is like the TV network in Sydney, Australia. I was a single parent at the time, and I woke up and I literally couldn’t get out of bed. I felt like I had chronic fatigue. My hair started falling out in clumps around me. I had hives that covered my whole body. I was really tired. My gut wasn’t working properly. But, as you do, I kept on going into work, as you do as a single parent, or a parent, or anyone, and just kept on going until one day I had a monumental crash.
I went to the doctor and I tried to find out why I was feeling so tired and all these things were happening. I went through, what I found to be, in Sydney, a very complex medical system. I was going to different doctors, different specialists, more needles, more clumps of hair until eventually I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, a non-specific one, and fibromyalgia, which was giving me widespread pain throughout my whole body and muscles.
I didn’t know anything about it then. I was put on a concoction of drugs. I was put on an immunosuppressants, anti-inflammatory steroids. You name it, I was on it, about 20 pills a day I was taking. For me at the time, the side effects of the medication were so bad that they were worse than the symptoms of the autoimmune and fibromyalgia. I kind of felt like I was in a bit of a blur, bit of a haze for a while.
I spoke to my doctors, because I had previously studied food and nutrition. I had been to cooking school. I thought to myself maybe if I changed my diet a little bit that that would help me. Also, I noticed that when I ate certain things, my symptoms would really flair up. When I ate a lot of sugar the hives would come out and I’d get really itchy. When I had too much gluten my tummy would ache. Too much dairy, I’d come up in hives again through my body.
I noticed that when I was limiting those ingredients somewhat, I noticed that I felt a lot better. From there, I asked my doctors and they said, “No. No. It’s got nothing to do with diet whatsoever. Just keep on taking the drugs, and keep on eating this hospital food.” I don’t know what it’s like in America, but the hospital food in Australia is pretty bad. It’s like two pieces of stale white bread, some plastic cheese, some plastic ham, some revolting desserts full of numbers. Every number known to man. What I did was, I did a deal with my doctors. I literally said to them, “If I just change my diet a little bit, can I wean myself off the medication?” They said, “Yep. Sure, no problem. You can do that. That’s fine. You can do it.” We did together.
I did that and I noticed that when I changed ingredients that I was using, I was using more turmeric as an anti-inflammatory. I was using more garlic, instead of taking an antibiotic. I noticed that naturally I started to really heal, and heal my body. It was quite incredible. Then from there I started putting my recipes up on a blog. My blog’s superchargedfood.com, because at the time I had been out to the movies. I’d seen that movie called Julie and Julia. Have you seen that movie?
Oh yeah. Wonderful movie.
Yeah. It really inspired me to start a blog and put my recipes up. I did that, and from there I wrote my very first book. I’ve since written six cooking books. Heal Your Gut is my latest book. Yeah, from there that’s how I got really interested in recipes, and ingredients, and cooking. That’s really at the heart. I know it’s a very holistic approach. We’ve had a lot of chats about that. It’s not just about what you eat, it’s a number of things. Yeah. I love your book as well.
Thank you. What I found interesting about your story, if we go back just a couple minutes, that you said you were diagnosed with a non-specific autoimmune disease. The reason I want to talk about this is because this weekend I’m talking at a women’s health conference, and I was doing some research on autoimmune disease. One in twelve Americans will have an autoimmune disease. One in nine of those people are women.
There’s a whole bunch of autoimmune diseases, which are exactly what you said, non-specific which means it can’t be diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis. It can’t be diagnosed as scleroderma. It can’t be diagnoses as lupus. There’s still a lot of people, we say about 15 million Americans have an autoimmune disease. There’s still a lot of people who we haven’t figured a label to put on them yet, but we know that they have probably raging inflammation, and raging autoimmunity.
Exactly. The doctor said to me that they said it was a bit of a few things. That’s why they called it non-specific as well. It kind of was a bit of Crohns, it could have been a bit of lupus, and it could have been fibromyalgia, which is not really autoimmune, but they kind of just said non-specific to make me feel better I think.
Tell us about some of the … Obviously, you’ve had this blog up for a while. You’ve written a number of books. Tell us about some of the success stories. What are people’s reactions been? Sometimes when you put a blog up initially you think, “I’m going to put a blog up because I want to get this information out there. I want to get it off my chest. I want my friends and family to read it.” All of a sudden, the blog goes boom. What are some of the reactions that you’ve heard from your followers, the people in your programs, who have read your books?
It’s interesting actually. When I first started I didn’t think I was going to reach anyone. Face Book wasn’t even going I don’t think. I started when Face Book started. I started to sort of build my community and meet amazing people through Face Book, that was sort of the first one that we did. It was amazing how many people connected with me. They just emailed me, and said, “That was my story. You’re not alone. I took all of these steroids. I blew like the Michelin man.” They all said the same thing, and it was really nice to be able to identify with so many other people, and take comfort.
I feel like with my blog, and my blog post, a lot have areas of interest in that, especially the gut. That’s a very big area of interest for people. I think that getting to the root cause of what the problem is, through the gut and through other ways as well, is a good way to look at things. A lot of people are very, very interested when I talk about how to heal the gut, the four phases of gut healing. I’ve got an online program as well, all about healing the gut.
Tell us about the four phases in your book that you talk about, with regard to healing the gut.
Yeah. The four phases that I talk about in the book and the online program is, number one phase is for the first four weeks, you have a very easy to digest diet. It’s very digestible foods. It’s things like bone broths, it’s soups, it’s mashes, it’s smoothie bowls, it’s smoothies. It’s things that are so easy on the body to allow your body and your tummy, and the cells in your tummy to give it a rest, so that you’re just really working on the inflammation. It’s an anti-inlfammatory diet as well. Things that are really yummy. You don’t have to go hungry. It’s not a smoothie, or a juice cleanse. It’s really yummy food that gives you energy. I’m a nutritionist so it’s across all the nutritional components in there as well.
It’s that for the first four weeks. You’re resting the gut. Then phase two is all about detoxing and cleansing the body. Once you’ve rested the gut, you start to put in natural practices to do that. You can do that with things like the diet still, or garlic. You can have Epsom salts baths. You can do dry body brushing, Ayurvedic techniques like tongue scraping and those kinds of things. You just cleanse the body really gently, and really naturally for the next four weeks.
Phase three is all about re-population. I find that doing that in this sequence really works well. You’re resting the gut. You’re cleansing. Then you’re repopulating. You repopulate the flora in your gut with good, probiotic rich foods, but also you can use supplements if you want to, like a probiotic if you want to do it quicker.
Then phase four is really looking at your life as a whole. It’s detoxing your life. The gut … Actually, stress strips the gut of good bacteria. Stress can do incredible things to your body. It’s really about looking at your life as a whole and saying, “Am I in a job I don’t enjoy? Is that stressing me out? Am I living somewhere I don’t want to live?” Not changing things dramatically, but just thinking about those things and maybe instilling some more meditative, and yoga type practices to help you deal with stress. That’s kind of the four phases that I go through.
I feel like the gut is like a garden. Whatever you put into it, it’s got to grow. You’ve got to have great soil. You’ve got to plant the seeds, and you’ve got to grow it naturally.
The gut is like a garden. That’s a great tweetable for our podcast listeners. You mentioned probiotics. They’re enormously beneficial for re-populating your gut. What are some of the probiotic foods that you like the most, that you work into your diet? How do you do that? Some people find them to be difficult to work into their diet on a daily, or weekly basis.
Yeah. I totally agree with that. I think, especially for people if they’re suffering from histamine intolerance, some of those foods, the fermented foods like kimchi, those kinds of foods, kombucha, quite high in histamines. They’re actually really detrimental for people who have histamine intolerance. It’s really about finding out the foods that work for you. Some of the foods are things like yogurt, it’s obviously probiotic, kimchi. There’s so many of them.
There’s also prebiotic rich foods. There’s things like bok choy, green beans are one, asparagus is one, artichoke is one. Even chocolate has … not the chocolate with all the sugar and the diary in it, but really good quality chocolate has beneficial ways to actually proliferate the gut flora in your gut. Chocolate is a good one as well, in small doses.
It definitely is. I recommend people can have chocolate, I usually say about twice a week, you take one or two squares of something that’s obviously very dark, very rich chocolate. 60% or more, if you mix it with some nuts I find it to be a little easier on the stomach for some people. Tell us, if someone picks up your book and they’re looking through. They see these wonderful, incredible recipes in here, great pictures, which are really incredible. What’s the first place that someone really should start, or what’s the most important thing that someone should do with regard to healing their gut?
I think one of the most important things is really start to listen to their body, just tune in with themselves before they even look at my book and just go, “Okay. So am I suffering from any of those symptoms that come along with gut issues?” For example, it could be constipation, it could be diarrhea, could be bloating. People suffer every day and they think it’s normal. They think it’s normal to just have those symptoms. Really just check in, listen to your internal intelligence and say, “How do I feel? Is there something going on down there?” Sometimes it’s not just in your gut. Sometimes it’s your skin. You could break out in hives, or rashes, and that’s sort of a reaction to your gut as well.
Just figure out what it is that you’re feeling, then go to the book and maybe read a little bit about the history of how the gut can affect the different systems and parts of your body. Then flip through the recipes. Just don’t read all the stuff in the middle. Flip through and just go, “Okay. That looks really good. Maybe I’ll try and make that.” Maybe just make one recipe a day, or a week to start with. Slowly just sit with it and do it very gently. I don’t recommend any really full on practices to start with. You don’t want to do that because it’s too hard, don’t you think? You just want to make it easy and gentle on your body.
Yeah. I mean, there’s definitely a point where too much change, or rapid change can really throw people. It can also at times throw your body, where all of a sudden you’re putting in foods, or taking foods out that you’re so used to, all of a sudden things are kind of in a flux basically.
Can we shift gears and talk about movement for a minute?
Movement is so important, obviously, for almost every system in your body. It’s also important for your gut health, and relaxing your gut at times. What kind of movement do you work into your life?
Yeah. For me, I love walking. I’m a really big walker. I’ve just actually taken up hiking. I never thought I was going to be able to do it. I went to New Zealand last year and I didn’t realize, I didn’t read a lot of the information before I went. Then when I got there, I realized that it was all these hikes uphill. I was halfway up the hill. My jelly legs were shaking like crazy. I was crying thinking, “How am I going to get through this with fibro?” I did and I made it. I found that walking is really, really good. I don’t really suffer from fibro anymore at all. Some days when it’s cold or rainy, I kind of feel a little bit achey. I find that stretching, some yoga poses, and walking for me, and swimming, gentle kind of exercises works really well for me.
Yeah. That’s true. Definitely for people who have fibromyalgia, obviously you want to start out slow. That can be anything from starting with your physical therapist, to doing a gentle, restorative yoga class, to Pilates, [inaudible 00:15:32], or walking, or water-type aerobic classes, they’re all wonderful.
You mentioned you don’t have pain anymore. You mentioned this whole journey of yours started about seven years ago. How long did it take you to, let’s say, get to the point where you only had like a one out of ten pain, where the pain was there but it just wasn’t really bothering you at all?
Yeah, for me it took a few years to get to that stage. It wasn’t an overnight thing. It’s not like people are selling snake oil, and all those southern “you’re better”. It did take time. I had to work on my mind as well. Okay? I had to do meditation, and yoga. I had to work on my mind and change the way that I thought about pain as well. That’s why I love your book so much, because it goes through all of that and how to do it. It makes it really simple, and practical, and easy. I love that about your book.
For me, it was kind of a really gradual sort of thing. As I said, I operate now at 90%. I feel fantastic. I’m not worried about the 10% that sometimes I wake up, and I feel a bit fibro-ish. I just get on with it, just go with it, and roll with the punches. I find if you get head up about it, and you want to put a name to it, and categorize it, and live in it, then that just makes it a lot worse and it can grow, I feel. So, there’s a big mental side of it as well. Yeah, the pain now, sometimes I just get it in the morning occasionally. Yeah. I just get on with my day.
Right. Yeah, I love your point about not labeling it, or not talking about it, or at time’s not giving it attention. I think in our system, I’m obviously United States, but it sounds like it’s similar in Australia, that we’ve done a really good job about labeling what’s wrong, but we haven’t done such a good job at helping people, supporting them, or educating them about what can be done to reverse it.
Yeah. Absolutely. That’s why your book is so important. I just can not wait for it to be released in [inaudible 00:17:28]. I hope it’s come [inaudible 00:17:30] to Australia.
It’s coming to Australia. So, Lee Holmes is wonderful. She’s talking about my book. It’s called Heal Your Pain Now. It is available on Amazon. You can Google my name and the title, Heal Your Pain Now. It’s a book about healing chronic pain naturally, which is obviously one of the reasons why I have amazing guests like Lee on, and why I have created the whole platform around chronic pain is to really help all the people who are in pain.
The other reason why I have Lee on is because pain is not just … We talk about pain, or I talk about pain, a lot as referred to the United States, but chronic pain is a global epidemic that affects every country, whether it’s a western country or an eastern country. It affects everyone equally, no matter what you race, your gender, your age, your socioeconomic status. The things that Lee and I are talking about are all meant to help you recover from that chronic pain.
Now, you mentioned the brain, so you might [inaudible 00:18:24] a little bit about meditation. Meditation can be really tough, especially when you’ve had pain. When you have pain, a lot of times you have all these thoughts flying through your head. “What is this pain? What am I feeling? Am I hurting myself? Am I damaging myself? Is this pain ever going to go away? Who can help me with this pain?” How did you start to implement meditation into your life. Just talk about how those thoughts slowly started to dissolve.
Yeah. Well, when I was in hospital, I actually did some EFT, and CBT, and I worked with the doctors there. I found that really helpful, and they’re used to sending me. I got to a stage where I was really worried about what I should be eating and not eating, because I would eat something and then I would flare up. That would worry me. I did a lot of that. They said to me that, “What is the chances of you having a flair up if you eat something?” The chances were probably like 10%, but I was focusing on the 90%. I was focusing on the 10%, not the 90% chance that it wouldn’t happen. It’s changing the way that you think about pain. I found that really helpful as well.
Then, a couple of years ago, about three years ago, I actually became a yoga and meditation teacher. I teach in Sydney every week. I have a regular class in Sydney. I found that teaching was a really good way for me to sort of learn more about it as well.
I also found some other really great ways to meditate. If I’m tired, I’ll lie down on my bed, and I’ll listen to the free YouTube videos of meditation, which is so easy, and handy. There’s beautiful music in the background. Someone’s doing a guided meditation, and you actually start to feel your whole body and muscles relax. That’s a really quick and easy thing to do I think, if it’s too hard mentally for you to sort of get your head around in the beginning meditating, yoga.
Yeah. I think it’s a great point. I mean obviously there are classes, like you teach, but you can go on YouTube and find a really simple, free guided meditation. It could be someone talking through meditation, or it could just be the sound of birds, or the ocean. Things that will relax your entire brain and nervous system so that the tension dissolves, the muscle tightness dissolves, and some of the stress hormones and chemicals start to come down in your blood stream, which not only helps with your pain levels, but also helps heal your gut as well. So, Lee tell us –
I also found for pain levels [inaudible 00:20:52]Oh sorry. I was going to say that I also found that having a bath with Epsom salts, and maybe some lavender, or something nice that smelled really nice, especially the Epsom salts, the magnesium. I found that really started to help relax my muscles as well with the fibro, so that was a good thing that I used to do too a lot.
Yeah, I mean, some people take magnesium supplements, but I think your point is well taken. A lot of times, if you work that into a daily or weekly self-care routine, taking modestly hot bath with some Epsom salts, is a wonderful way to relax and some of that magnesium actually gets in through the skin, into the muscles, and helps you relax, which is really wonderful.
I know you have an online program where you help people heal their gut. Can you tell us about it?
Yeah, sure. It’s an online program. It’s a four week program. I have one four week program, but I also have just launched a two day program. They do it two days a week. People who finish the four week program, they feel amazing. We go through those four phases of gut healing. They feel amazing, and then they’re like, “What do we do now?” So, there’s a two day program as well, or for anyone that just can’t commit to four weeks of gut healing, they can do it two days a week. It’s like intermittent fasting, but for gut health.
There’s lots of videos. There’s lots of content. I have a whole team of doctors as well. Doctors, psychotherapists, even hypnotists, you name it, they’re all on there, really amazing yoga and meditation teachers. They all get input into the program as well. There’s lot of videos. They get daily emails, and heaps, and heaps of recipes. Yeah. It’s really fun. People do it together as a group, and they really help each other. It’s really nice to see them kind of bonding, and helping each other through the process. We’ve had some amazing, amazing results as well.
So you see them bonding, do you have a common Face Book group, or do you have a portal in the program that people communicate through?
Yeah. There’s a portal that they communicate, and a private Face Book group. It’s superchargedfood.com and then you can just find the Heal Your Gut program on there.
Excellent. I think the point, you have really built a community around gut healing that is not only online, you have free information on your website, your blog, but its also in the program itself.
Yeah. Absolutely. There are plenty of extra recipes, that you can also find for free on my blog if you want to just make a few recipes, see how it goes, see how you like it. Then you can take it further if you want to.
Great. I want to thank Lee Holmes for being on the Healing Pain podcast this week, and sharing her story about autoimmunity, fibromyalgia. Make sure you check out her book. I love this book, it’s called Heal Your Gut. It’s got some awesome recipes in here, as well as a great program. You can check her out online at superchargedfood.com. Is that correct? Yes, superchargedfood.com, or just google Lee Holmes, superchargedfood.com and she will come up in your browser in Google.
I want to thank everyone for being on the Healing Pain podcast. Make sure to stay tuned each week by logging onto the podcast at www.drjoetatta.com and we’ll see you next week on the Healing Pain podcast.
About Lee Holmes
Lee Holmes is a holistic nutritionist, yoga teacher, wholefoods chef, Lifestyle Food Channel’s Healthy Eating Expert and author of the best selling books Supercharged Food: Eat Your Way to Health, Supercharged Food: Eat Yourself Beautiful, Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian, Heal your Gut. Eat Right for Your Shape and Supercharged Food for Kids. Lee also runs a four-week online ‘Heal Your Gut’ program. She is a columnist with Wellbeing and Danny Seo’s Naturally Magazine and her articles have appeared in leading Australian newspapers and journals, as well as The Times and The Telegraph, The Daily Express in the UK and The Huffington Post in the US. Lee’s entrepreneurial spirit saw her appearing on Network Ten’s Shark Tank Australia, securing a deal to further spread the Supercharged Food message. Lee’s blog won the overall award at the Bupa Health Influencer Awards in 2013 as well as the best blog in the Healthy Eating Category. You can find Lee blogging over at www.superchargedfood.com a website which encourages S.O.L.E food: sustainable, organic, local and ethical. It features delicious recipes, information, news, reviews and menu planning ideas to make it easy for people to enjoy a satisfying, wholesome and nourishing diet.
Learn more about Lee Holmes at www.superchargedfood.com.
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