Eliminate Eating Disorders at the Root Cause

Hay House Radio Episode Recap

  • Episode Name: “Activating the Gut-Brain-Spirit Connection for Higher Consciousness”
  • Live Broadcast: August 14th, 2018 at 12:00 pm Pacific Time
Episode Replays: Tuesdays at 9:00 pm Pacific Time / 12:00 am Eastern Time, Saturdays at 2:00 pm Pacific Time / 5:00 pm Eastern Time, Sundays at 4:00 pm Pacific Time / 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Episode Summary Re-cap

Most Western medical professionals believe eating disorders are “all in your head” or purely psychological.  Binge eating, obesity, anorexia, over-exercise, bulimia and other disordered eating behaviors are much more complex. Going back in medical history, these disorders were believed to be symptoms, not disorders. On today’s show, Functional and Family Medical Doctor, Dawn DeSylvia, joins Heather to discuss the real root cause behind disordered eating and how to balance this mind-body-spirit imbalance.

Special Guest: Dr. Dawn DeSylvia

Dr. Dawn DeSylvia is a family medicine physician who served on faculty at UCLA after completing her training there in 2010.  She is the founder of Whole Life Health MD, an integrative and functional medicine center in West Los Angeles, CA, where she works with patients to identify the root causes of disease and foster optimal health.

In addition to integrating many different medical modalities, focusing on what is specifically causing inflammation (and thus disease or disease risks) in her patients, she emphasizes the importance of the mind, body and spirit integration as well.  Having practiced and studied mindfulness and yoga for 25 years herself, and through working extensively with teachers like Roshi Joan Halifax, Sharon Salzberg, and Tsyonki Rinpoche, she has cultivated a unique form of medical care for her patients.

Through understanding the connections between our nervous system, brain, gut and immune system, she works to address two underlying questions about inflammation, health, healing, and well-being:

  1. What is really making us sick and causing inflammation, which we know fosters disease to grow and develop?
  2. What does science, confirmed by direct and reproducible experience, tell us, and show us, can be done on a root (not merely symptomatic) level to facilitate and foster health and healing?

She is passionate about creating a new model of care, which integrates many different healing modalities and treatments, as well as fostering a deep integration within the patients themselves.

Dr. DeSylvia’s speaking engagements include: Live Aware Conference with Amy B. Scher, podcasts with Scott “The Better Health Guy” and Chalene Johnson, and The Thinking Mom’s Revolution Lyme Summit. Also, she has written for many online publications, including The Organic Authority.

It is her firm belief that by improving the nature of our dialogue and investigations, we

will obtain more informed and effective interventions, thus decreasing disease risks, and vastly improving the health and quality of our lives as humans.

Website | Facebook

What Are Eating Disorders?

It’s estimated that at least 70 million people worldwide, including all genders and all ages, experience eating disorders.

From a medical perspective, eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS), also referred to as Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (these last two terms include disorders that don’t fit neatly into the first three categories).

Symptoms of eating disorders vary widely from restricting food to bingeing uncontrollably on food and purging by vomiting or over-exercise. Often, body dysmorphic disorder (unrealistic body image) and mood issues like depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder co-occur with eating disorders.

Eating disorders, in recent decades, are conventionally defined as mental illnesses. This is why most doctors will tell you it’s “all in your head.” Yet those who have or recovered from an eating disorder have likely had symptoms which point to a deeper root cause.

The Real Root Cause of Eating Disorders

Now that neuroscience is finding links between the gut and the brain, experts are finally realizing that when there appears to be a “brain” or mood issue, we must begin by looking at the health of the gut.

I learned this well before the science because a renegade doctor found medical evidence that every patient he had with an eating disorder also had a diseased gallbladder. Unfortunately, this led him to believe that it was critical to remove his patients’ gallbladders in order for them to heal. For me, however, my positive test for gallbladder disease became a wakeup call and the beginning of a journey into healing my gut.

After researching, I learned that gallbladder removal surgery was the most over-performed, unnecessary surgery in the U.S., with over 60% of patients feeling exactly the same as they had before their gallbladders were removed. Afraid to lose what I felt was a vital organ for digestion (especially of fats) and adrenal health, I began looking deeper into my options. During this time, early nutrition experts were beginning to talk about the gut-brain connection and nutrition to heal your gut. This struck a chord with me because of my undergraduate studies in nutrition and the correlation between eating and pain in my body.

Upon following a gut-healing diet for a month, my symptoms of debilitating pain subsided. After 6 months, my depression went away. During this time, I also felt so strong, pain-free, and satisfied that I stopped binging and purging. For the first time, I felt like eating food was actually nourishing me.

Thankfully, more doctors are recognizing that issues like leaky gut, inflammation, leaky blood-brain barrier, gut dysbiosis, and immune system problems are the real root cause of eating disorders.

Here are two excellent research papers that show these links:

Are the Gut Bacteria Telling Us to Eat or Not to Eat? Reviewing the Role of Gut Microbiota in the Etiology, Disease Progression and Treatment of Eating Disorders.

Eating Disorders, Autoimmune, and Autoinflammatory Disease.

Symptoms of Gut-Brain Disorders and Inflammation

Hippocrates, the father of Western Medicine, says “all disease begins in the gut.” 70 to 80% of the immune system and 90% of your happiness, moods, self-esteem, and decision-making is located in your gut (the brain hormone, serotonin is made in the gut and delivered to your brain).

While not all people will have pain after eating, you may have other symptoms which point to a leaky gut and immune challenges, such as:

  • Leaky Gut – In a healthy gut, the wall of the small intestine acts as a gatekeeper, letting through water and needed nutrients and keeping out harmful substances. However, poor diet, medications, and bacterial or fungal overgrowth can compromise the lining, causing leaky gut. Symptoms are varied but can include food sensitivities, allergies, bloating, abdominal pain, headaches or migraines, arthritis, eczema, hives, and chronic fatigue.
  • Leaky Brain – A leaky gut can contribute to oxidative stress or inflammation in the body, causing the blood-brain barrier to become “leaky,” whereby molecules and toxins that are not supposed to enter may get into the brain. These conditions are associated with a permeable or leaky blood-brain barrier: ADD, brain fog, memory issues, mood disorders (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.), Alzheimer’s.

Removing the Stigma from Eating Disorders and How to Heal

Dr. Dawn DeSylvia has found that most of her patients with eating disorders have the underlying conditions mentioned above. The process of healing can take time and requires self-compassion, removal of judgment, and creating new habits and mindsets.

Dawn feels that it’s critical to remove the stigma that causes people experiencing eating disorders to feel ashamed and hide the disorder. She underscored the importance of letting go of feeling like you’re a failure or the belief that your brain is broken. Instead, it’s critical to find out what your body wants you to know about your healing process.

Here’s a key question Dawn asks here patients:
“What is the story your body is trying to tell you?”

Dawn has found that asking this question helps people listen to their bodies more deeply. And since your gut has brain tissue – and it’s intuitive brain tissue – listening to your body allows you to receive signals about what your body needs to heal. The more you engage your body in this conversation, the easier it is to tune into which foods, relationships, and actions are in alignment with nourishing and healing your body.

Why does this work?

Immunology research shows us that the immune system’s job is to tell the difference between self and other. And that everyone with an immune system problem has been found to also have a leaky gut. Both Dawn and I have found that people experiencing these issues are highly sensitive and once these barriers (immune system, gut lining) become permeable, it can become difficult to tell what’s right for you and what’s not. It’s almost as if your system has been primed to constantly question your inner guidance. You may then fall into doing things that aren’t in your greatest good.

In Native American medicine, when we see this, we ask:
“What are the unfulfilled desires of your soul?”

Because in Native American medicine, we believe that everyone came in with a unique purpose or sacred path. Most of us fall off our sacred path when we start worrying about other people’s rules, or we stop taking care of ourselves because we feel responsible to take care of everything and everyone else. This often leads to losing sight of your own values and inner guidance as you work hard to please everyone else.

When I ask what your unfulfilled desired of the soul are, or what you really want to do or be, can you answer the question? Don’t worry, many people can’t. This is why indigenous healers and functional medicine doctors like Dawn know that illness is most often an invitation to come home to yourself. To answer these questions as part of your healing process, so that your healing is sustainable.

Dawn’s Steps for Shifting into Healing

#1 – Embrace That This Is NOT Your Fault

Practice removing judgment and shame about the disordered eating. Recognize that in today’s modern society, everything from our processed food system to the farming system and environmental toxins in water, air, and personal care products make it difficult to have a healthy gut. Add increasing stress levels to this and this further impairs gut health and immune function. Our ancestors didn’t face these issues because they lived slower lives, ate natural foods, were more connected to community, and were exposed to fewer toxins. In essence, our modern lives are sources of inflammation and part of healing is learning to slow down and take care of yourself. Deep nourishment often requires going out of your way a bit, to choose healthier options. The more you honor this process and recognize that you’re worth the extra time and effort, the more your body starts to heal.

To learn more about nutrition for healing your gut, read: Gut Healing Diet Do’s and Don’ts

To learn more about nutritional solutions to heal your immune system, read: The Latest All-Natural Immune Boosters Revealed 

#2 – Ask Your Body: “What Story Are You Wanting to Tell Me?”

Just listen for the answer. Work with a health practitioner or energy therapist to support you in this, if you feel guidance would be beneficial. It’s not unusual to not hear anything at first, or to just feel pain. Keep asking. Most of us have suppressed our body’s signals for decades, after being taught that the body’s language (symptoms) are unwanted. Symptoms are actually how your body speaks to you. Your intuition about how to understand this language typically grows the more you listen.

#3 – What You Focus On Grows

Your brain is a muscle, so if you want to change the way you think, believe, or feel, identify what you want your new focus to be. This is why Louise Hay taught people to say positive affirmations and do mirror work, because she taught that if you change the way you think, you can change your life. To learn more about why this works, read: Activating the Gut-Brain-Spirit Connection for Higher Consciousness.

#4 – Change an Easy Habit to Create New Brain Pathways

Dawn recommends taking something you do habitually and change it, as a way to build new neural pathways and open up your curiosity. Here are some examples she recommended: Change some of the foods you eat, use your opposite hand to eat, sit somewhere else when eating a meal (e.g., if you eat at your desk or in front of the TV, sit quietly at a table or in nature), share a meal with friends if you usually eat alone. Try a small change to a habit and pay attention to what happens. This can shift your mindset and prompt ah-ha’s.

#5 – Community is Immunity

Find a supportive community of people who will support you on your healing journey. Seek out people who encourage you to follow your inner guidance, believe in yourself, and try new things that support your wellbeing. Our caller on the show said she’d found this in a yoga class. You may find this in a book club, a group of women friends, or a support group.

Join us to learn more about using story, meditation and visualization to silence fear and support your healing journey!

In How to Heal with Meditation, Story, and Visualization, Dr. April Wilder will take us on a journey to heal the mind-body-spirit, including:
  • Identifying and Changing the Stories We Tell Ourselves – It’s natural to feel emotions like fear, anger, frustration, worry, doubt, anxiety, and depression when faced with a chronic health condition. Illness and injury are real. What isn’t real—or necessary—is the additional mind-made suffering that piles on when a frightened mind is allowed to run amok. Dr. Wilder will reveal how to spot and check patterns of negative thinking so you can minimize stress and meet your physical challenges with your strongest mind. She will also outline creative techniques for changing your story to one that promotes inspiration, motivation, joy, and healing.
  • Using Mindfulness, Meditation and Visualization – Find out how the mind works, including how chronic illness can affect your immune system, gut, and brain to create difficult emotions. Learn how to spot them, honor them, and work with them so that you can shift your mindset and feel more open to healing. Studies show that mindfulness, meditation, and visualization have real healing benefits. We’ll find out how to harness these capabilities in our own lives.
  • Q&A – It’s normal to have “yeah, but’s” or other questions that arise in this process. We’ll honestly address the real challenges and opportunities for applying these principles when dealing with chronic health issues. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and receive coaching during this class.

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Tune in Next Week

Linda-Anne KahnTune in next week to 21st Century Medicine Woman, when Linda-Anne Kahn and  I reveal the impact your lymphatic and circulatory system has on your weight, along with new findings on fat disorders that debunk the calorie theory. Learn how reducing inflammation, supporting lymph flow, and eating key nutrients support your body in reducing weight naturally. Plus, if you have painful fat, lipomas, or connective tissue disorders, find out little-known solutions to resolve them and feel better.


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As a coach, writer and recovered former executive, I understand the challenges of creating a balanced, healthy lifestyle when over-scheduled. In my journey to radiant health, I created a whole health system of eating, exercise, renewal and recharging -- a roadmap toward health & vitality. I empower clients to create their own whole health systems, in their own unique ways. I have seen amazing results in working with my clients!