Naturopath Tabitha McIntosh joins me as we chat about common health challenges, the cues that our bodies give us and what they mean, being out of sync with the world around us and how we can all “eat the world you want” with simple and achievable tips to take control of you and your families health.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Hello and welcome to Unstress, I’m Dr. Ron Ehrlich. Today my guest is one of Australia’s leading naturopaths, Tabitha McIntosh. Tabitha has written a book, One Bite at a Time: Reduce Toxic Exposure and Eat the World You Want.
Now, one of the questions I’d love to ask my guest, and I’m going to ask people as we go along in this podcast series is, what is some of the challenges that people face on their health journey? This is from the perspective of a health practitioner. What do they think some of those health challenges are? And when you hear what Tabitha comes up with, it could well be some things that ring a bell with you, and you may be interested to see what those challenges are, and what effects they could be having on you.
We also discussed our preoccupation with a “quick fix” and how it’s affecting your approach to your own health. I mean, the question is, are you looking for that quick fix? Because if you are, I tell you what, there’s a whole industry waiting out there to embrace you with open arms, but if you’re playing the long game, you really need to be exploring what is actually going on, and Tabitha has got some terrific insights. I also ask her to give some a couple tips to make a difference in your life. I think they’re fabulous and I’m sure you will too. So, I hope you enjoy this chat that I had with Tabitha McIntosh.
Welcome to the show Tabitha!
Tabitha McIntosh: Thank you so much for having me, Ron.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Tabitha you spend so much time … Well, you’re with patients all the time. And what are some of the challenges that you see people face when they’re coming into your practice? I mean with their … Well, firstly dealing with disease or actually just wanting to be healthy. What are some of the challenges?
Tabitha McIntosh: Well, you’re right. I do see between 35 and 40 people a week and it is quite unusual for a naturopath or a clinician to be in practice 10 or 12 years and still be considered a generalist. So, I, rather than narrowing myself down to just working with digestion or just working with fertility, I like to keep things interesting and I still see everything.
The challenges that clients are suffering when they come in to see me, really if I had to sum it up, they’ve lost their sense of deep connection to nature and the natural cycles. I had a really strong and deep belief that the more synchronous with nature around us, the healthier and the more in balance we are. And obviously, you need to have that combined with health literacy and education and access to clean water and things like that.
But, the people that I am seeing are so disconnected from their own bodies and from nature around them. They seem to spend most of their day in their head and highly stressed and highly sympathetic dominant. And, that has an enormous impact on everything. That has a very dampening impact on their immune capacity. It has an awful adverse impact on the digestive comfort, and obviously dry mouth all the time, that’s going to affect things like their teeth, their bowels, their digestion.
When we’re highly stressed and strung out a lot of the time, things like reproduction, reproductive hormones, they’re certainly not a priority if we’re just trying to survive. I’m seeing all sorts of concerns in here, lots of trace mineral deficiencies, lots and lots of digestive disorders, a huge amount of infertility and subfertility, both genders, not just women, significant fertility concerns and semen analysis problems with men, as well. I’m seeing premature ovarian failure. I’m seeing thyroid disorders. I’m seeing sick kids, unfortunately.
Another sort of vibe I have from my beautiful clients is that there’s always this state of urgency and they’re wanting a quick fix. And truly, I see myself as an educator and it’s my job to hear them out and to make sure that they feel heard as they talk through their story. But also, teasing out through the information they share with me some understanding of where I can really come in because the things that are driving are peoples choices when they come to their health… It’s not all just education, the way that I can teach them the right things to do. It’s also their emotional drivers as well. So, it’s a complex picture.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, now, you hit on something there, which I think is a central problem and that is the quick fix. You know we have been kind of programmed for the quick fix and I think that must be one of the problems we all face as health practitioners, patients looking for that. Where is that coming from? I mean is that a lifestyle? What is it? What’s brought us to this point?
Tabitha McIntosh: I’m sure … Look I think we’re conditioned, I’m sure, it’s to do with … You know, we’re all so easily connected. We’re probably information overload. Sometimes, some of my advice … Obviously, it can be very complicated … Sometimes could you please have a big glass of water on waking and let’s try to double your vegetable intake. Things like that it is the case, people could actually Google, which must feel frustrating to clients, sometimes. But, really our body is not used to the quick fix. Our body takes time.
And we need to listen to our bodies’ cues. I think people forget that their body is talking to them all the time and it’s actually about finding that stillness within to hear what your body has to say to you and to respond to your bodies cues. When we work and nourish our body, it really works for us.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Give me some of those cues. Tell our listeners what some of those cues are. What should they be listening for?
Tabitha McIntosh: OK, well mental fatigue, often there is just dehydration, or perhaps low glycemia levels because people aren’t eating regularly or they’re not forming their meals well. Headaches, classic dehydration, or tension, or even liver overload. I’m seeing all sorts of digestion concerns. Urgency in the bowel is a problem, either with the nervous system or based on what someone’s eating.
What else can I think of? Things like twitches, eye twitches, cramps in the calves. Usually, the body is telling us that our mineral or electrolyte balance is out. So, when we’re all so highly strung and stressed we have very, very large urinary losses of magnesium. I consider things like eye twitches and cramps, and bruxism or grinding as really clear signs, to me, of magnesium deficiency.
We’re seeing immune comprised people getting recurrent sore throats. Their body is just telling them that actually, they need some rest. Problems with sleep on-set, light sleep, fatigue on waking. All of these things … Cravings, particular cravings, very, very sweet things, or things like chocolates, or very salty things, these are usually the body talking to us, saying you really need a little bit more salt or a little bit more protein to anchor you.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: What about a lot of people are on anti-acids, they heartburn, reflex, indigestion. What does that tell you is going wrong? And what … I mean I don’t want you to give a whole prescription, cause it’s a big topic, but there’s another body signal … What is that saying to people?
Tabitha McIntosh: Absolutely, well you know, the digest … When I have every client, I got through the digestive system, of course, and symptoms from the mouth right through to the tail. I’m looking at things like mouth ulcers, cold sores, breath, and how much dental work or even fillings they may have. Also, amalgams, new stuff, reflux. And the thing about reflux, is that some conventional practitioners are very quick just work a PPI on, but sometimes we can just …
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: PPI, now hang on, hang on, Tabitha. Here our audience is very … PPI, huh?
Tabitha McIntosh: Sorry, a Proton-pump Inhibitor, a medication that impacts the production of stomach acid at the stomach, just to switch it off essentially to relieve symptoms. Now some clients will come in and say, my doctor did prescribe me something, a PPI medication to stop my stomach acid, and they get no symptom release.
So, when I’m listening for symptoms of reflux or discomfort after eating or even on waking, I’m not just thinking about over acid production, I’m also thinking about under acid production, hypochloremia, and certainly even just having enough saliva in the mouth is important to gastro production and to stomach acid production. I find people aren’t so mindful even at mealtime, they’re not being aroused by their food and really encouraging that cephalic phase of digestion for all of its secretions. Reflux symptoms can obviously be mild or really compromising, but there are so many things that can be done before a medication intervention should be prescribed.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: In your … If you had to give somebody three, four, five tips, what are the main go away tips to get started on being healthier?
Tabitha McIntosh: OK, well, I think I can shoot really broadly, can’t I Ron?
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: You can, you can.
Tabitha McIntosh: Because, I would say these tips are things I’m instilling into my own children at 9 and 11. And, I think would have a beneficial impact on every single person who may be listening. So, I’m always keeping the kidneys in mind. And I think that they work so hard for us, overnight when we’re sleeping. There are so many things that we do each day that are really dehydrating, lots and lots of salt in processed foods. Most of us are on that, have a cup of coffee or some tea in the morning, have a glass of wine to wind down in the evening, sort of roller coaster. And all of these things connect as diarrhetic and dehydrate us. Just to start your day with a really large glass of water, to flush those kidneys and give them a bit of extra support, I think is a really wonderful intervention, filtered water when you can.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Just on that point, what’s the point behind putting some lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in there? Is that a good thing or is that too much?
Tabitha McIntosh: Both lemon and apple cider vinegar have a pH of around about 2. So, I consider squeezing a quarter of lemon or lime into a warm water or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. I consider them two different ways of climbing the same mountain. The advantage of putting something with a low acidic pH, like that, in your water on waking is that it’s going to help you prepare your stomach and that stomach environment to better chemically digest your food. But further to that, both of those things, lemon water and apple cider vinegar, they have a quite an alkalizing impact on the tissues of the body. Things like sugar, and stress, and grains, and alcohol, they all have a very acidic impact on the tissues of our body and the more we can be to alkalize our tissues the better.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Now, I know we’re going to go through 3 or 4 tips, but still number one about hydration, because we’re here … And this annoys me. I hope it annoys you too, maybe I shouldn’t have said that. But, anyway, it’s about alkaline water.
Tabitha McIntosh: Yes, OK. Yes.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: What do you think about alkaline water?
Tabitha McIntosh: Well, I think that our objectives should be getting adequate minerals from our diet.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yes.
Tabitha McIntosh: Rather than, it is the case that we use osmosis filtration of our water, virtually everything is removed from the water. Some of it, the toxic ingredients, the pesticides, but also some of the beneficial minerals.
So, there are some companies that suggest putting an alkalizer on at the end of the osmosis, or drinking alkaline water, to then balance things out. Ultimately, water is for hydration, and our diet, and nutrient dense diet, in season vegetables, small amount of quality animal produce, and the plant foods grown in really mineral rich, well kept, full soil, this should be more than adequate to provide us the minerals that we need, to alkalize our tissues. More so than drinking alkaline water.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yes. Now, I always thought of that as just being a linear way of thinking about things. Like, my body is acidic; therefore, I’m going to drink alkaline water. It’s not quite as simple as that. Anyway, back to your … You know, love the idea of hydration in the morning and a little bit of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to get us going, great, hint number one, hydration.
Tabitha McIntosh: Wonderful, OK.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Go on.
Tabitha McIntosh: Well, actually this probably extends on from hydration. When you think about even just the NHMRC guidelines as to how all adults should be achieving somewhere between five to seven metric cups of vegetables a day, there are very few clients that I have, that come in, that can look me in the eye and say, yes I’m already keeping that goal. Some do, but certainly when we calculate our water intake for the day, if we are keeping that goal of 5 to 7 cups of vegetables, we are going to be achieving even more water than we would be, say if we had things like grains on the other side of our plate or a great deal of animal products.
So, my second tip then, and really here’s my big secret, this is what I spend all day every day doing with every single client that comes in, every opportunity, is I do a really thorough diet review with them at every opportunity if I can pull a grain out and put a vegetable in its place, we’re winning. We’re winning from an alkalizing with tissues point of view. We’re winning from a health disease risk point of view, from a digestive comfort point of view, a weight management point of view. So, really my next big tip would be, work really hard to achieve you’re 5 and 2. Often, I’m a dork and I do it as a see-saw for my clients, so your 5 to 7 sets of veggies and your 1 to 2 sets of fruit each day, and not only will you be achieving that extra water and fiber and prebiotic, for the health of your microbiota, but also you will be achieving all those beautiful anti-oxidants, the phytochemicals, the plant-based anti-oxidants that work synergistically to protect the DNA of your every cell.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Great, I love it. Go on, one more or maybe two more.
Tabitha McIntosh: Well, what I call that second point, I really call it eating the rainbow every day. And I even have a little handout that I provide, quite successfully to children and husbands, which is basically a rainbow checklist. They have to tick for me that they’ve eaten something of every color seven days a week.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Now, hang on. Why are those colors important?
Tabitha McIntosh: Those colors provide us diversity of phytochemicals, OK. So, the more diverse are diet is, the more diversely we’re nourishing and feeding a diverse range of healthy bugs throughout our digestive system, called the microbiota. And the more diversely we nourish diverse garden, the better our health.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: OK, that’s good. I mean I like that. I like colors. Now, what’s another one?
Tabitha McIntosh: Even though this isn’t necessarily in the realm of clinical nutrition, we just need to move. We’re built to move. So, I put a magic number … And then I’ll get to the environment with my fourth tip. But, I’ve got a magic number I ask of my clients or I’m looking for as I’m hearing a little about their week. I ask my clients to be getting green and blue therapy, so, again colors. That walking outdoors, soft sand running outdoors, nature walks, coast walks. If they can be 115 minutes at least a week, it’s a very small amount of exercise, it’s just three 50 minute sessions … If they can be getting some outdoor sunshine, fresh air, nature therapy whilst they’re moving their body; it’s amazing how many different ailments can turn around: period pain, delayed periods, insulin resistance, early-stage insulin resistance, or mood, the impact on mood on getting this nature therapy.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yep. This is where we started this conversation about literally being connected with the earth.
Tabitha McIntosh: Absolutely.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: We’re so much in our heads, I’ve heard the expression that sitting is the new smoking, and as I’m talking to you now I’m at a standing desk, which is what I spend a lot of time when I’m at my home office doing … So, moving is a win on every scale. Good idea, yeah, that’s great. OK, And you were going to … I know you have a whole course and program about environmental and chemical toxins, so, it would be only appropriate that you share that. But, it’s a big one.
Tabitha McIntosh: It is a big one! And it’s hard to sum up in just one point. I’m extremely aware of the impact of the environment on the health of every single one of my clients. There seems to be an enormous disconnect that’s still on for most clients. So, it’s not uncommon for me to have a woman, a female client coming in seeing me after having thyroidectomy for thyroid cancer, for example, maybe papillary cancer in one nodule, sorry one lobe, and medullary cancer in the other thyroid lobe. But, often women like who may have had that sort of experience, it doesn’t occur to them for a second, that their environment may, just may, have played a role in the epidemiology of their cancer.
So, I’m talking about things like smelling candles at home, fragranced plug-ins for the car. I’m talking about perfumes, I’m talking about personal care products. My motto when it comes to this sort of thing is just to keep it really simple. Have a look at your morning routine, getting ready. Have a look at those ingredients on the things like the creams, and the hair products, and the lip glosses, and things like that you might be using. If you can’t pronounce those ingredients, you really want to think twice about how necessary it is.
When people can, it comes down to clinical questioning, doesn’t it Ron, when you’re with people. I have had to change my clinic questioning over the years. I have to ask when I’m doing a diet review. And how are you heating that dinner up? It’s not in a microwaving plastic, is it? What are you using? Tell me about the vessel that you have your water in each day. So, I’m constantly trying to gently, and in a collaborative way, to educate my clients that the environment has such a big impact on their health. You’ve heard this expression, genetics loads the gun, but the environment often pulls the trigger. I’m trying to keep plastics down. I’m trying to keep personal care products down or advocating for those brands that are using nature’s bounty of ingredients.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: It often surprises me, when I talk about this publicly, that you know, you get up in the morning, you go into the bathroom, you do what … You shave. You shampoo. You do this. You put underarm deodorant. By the time you’ve walked out of that bathroom, you may have been exposed to 200 different chemicals, or more, before …
Tabitha McIntosh: Before, your sip of coffee.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: It’s an extraordinary thing. Which, kind of segues into my next question to you, because I know you’ve written a book, and the book is called One Bite at a Time, which certainly got my attention being a dentist, Reduce Toxic Exposure and Eat the World You Want. Tell us about the book.
Tabitha McIntosh: Eat the World You Want, the subtitle, is meant to be really empowering in so far that it’s just a reminder that every single one of us has the ability to change the world. Even, some of these problems that we read about, the impact of environmental chemicals, even things like the old school organochlorine pesticides, and the absolute nightmare of health effects that they’ve created for us, reproduction, neurodevelopment. Then the switch now to the organic, phosphate pesticides, that are also shown to be neurotoxic, and a couple of the endocrine disrupting chemicals.
These are such big issues, and they’re daunting, and they’re scary. But, the solutions to these problems are the grassroots, small, everyday decisions that we’re making. So, that subtitle is around the fact that it does make an impact. Not just for yourself and the people around you that you love, but also for the environment when you decide to say no to that plastic bag. Or you decide to pay a little bit extra for your organic celery or your organic apples. Or you decide to start doing your grocery shopping predominantly at the farmer’s markets on the weekend, and you engage with the people that are growing your produce, and you ask them questions. This for me this is a really important thing.
And, I guess, my motivation in this area, environmental medicine, really kicked into gear once I became a mom, and I realized that the only thing protecting my kids from the plethora of environmental chemicals, that could adversely impact health, was my awareness and the decisions that I made. It wasn’t necessarily that I could lean on policy to protect me, or the objectives of manufacturers of putting things on shelves. I had to be well informed and I had to become conscious consumer to protect the health of my kids.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Fantastic. Look, this is actually what this podcast is all about it. It’s about empowering individuals to take control, to build resilience, to make those … To vote every single day with the choices they make. So, listen, we’re going to have links to your website, your book. It’s been fantastic talking to you.
Tabitha McIntosh: Thank you.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Australia is leading now … Naturopath, well you’re up there and it’s been terrific to talk to you. So, thank you so much.
Tabitha McIntosh: Thank you.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: So, are you listening to your body? Are you in a hurry? Are you looking for the quick fix? I’m sure you’re not because otherwise, you wouldn’t be listening to this podcast, but if you are, as I said, the whole industry waiting to embrace you. Play the long game, and the long game is living a long and healthy life with minimal intervention from medicine or medications. And now, if you needed a reason, jeez, she outlined quite a few, and the other ones about colors as well.
If you missed that, go back and have a read of the show notes. The show notes provide you with a great resource and a great reference source. And, we’re going to have links to other references as well.
So, Tabitha is such a great … Her message is so great, eat the world you want. Which, is a message we kind of … I’m always pushing on this podcast and my book. Take control; vote with your money. You know money, if money talks, well make your money talk each and every day. And not only for your own good but for the good of the planet, the two as we know are inseparable. So, until next week, this is Dr. Ron Ehrlich. Be well.
This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you, or any other person, has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.