Tahlia Swartz, bachelor-qualified naturopath with a specialisation in hormone and gut health and all-new 8-Week Program expert, joins the Unprocessed podcast to bust some dangerous myths around gut health, along with sharing her best tips for nurturing hormone balance and fertility.
After years of poor gut health, low immunity and long-term antibiotic use, it was an appointment with a naturopath that first sparked Tahlia’s interest in the wellness industry – along with setting her on her own path of healing.
“I went from being too scared to leave the house because I thought I'd get IBS to then feeling so good, so much more energetic I could eat all of the foods I was avoiding,” she says. “It really changed my life.”
“I dropped out of uni and started studying naturopathy and here I am.”
It was Tahlia’s own experience with the pill that led her to hone in on women’s hormones and discuss topics that had been swept under the rug.
“I went through a bit of an experience when I decided to come off birth control in like my early twenties and got post pill amenorrhea, which is absent period for about nine or 10 months, and that really opened my eyes to the contraceptive pill, women's hormones.
“I started to learn a lot about that and I've really focused on that in my clinic as well as how gut health, how our diet will also then influence our hormones.”
Tahlia Unpacks the Link Between the Gut and Hormones
“Our gut is linked to so many areas of the body,” Tahlia says. “Bacteria within the gut help our body to eliminate excess oestrogen, but when we have the too much bad bacteria in the gut, what actually happens is this oestrogen kind of ends up recirculating and that leads to hormonal imbalances.”
The naturopath unveils the intricate connection between the gastrointestinal (GI) system and various hormones in the body, particularly those that influence appetite, digestion, and metabolism. Several key hormones play crucial roles in regulating these processes, and the gut, often referred to as the "second brain" or the enteric nervous system, communicates bidirectionally with the central nervous system and various organs. Here are some of the main hormones involved in the gut-hormone link.
Ghrelin: Produced in the stomach, ghrelin is often referred to as the "hunger hormone." It signals hunger to the brain and promotes the intake of food. Ghrelin levels typically rise before meals and decrease after eating.
Leptin: Released by fat cells, leptin acts as a satiety hormone. It signals to the brain when the body has had enough food, helping regulate energy balance. Leptin resistance can occur, leading to difficulties in appetite control.
Insulin: While primarily known for its role in glucose metabolism, insulin also influences appetite and plays a role in signalling satiety to the brain.
Peptide YY (PYY): Produced in the small intestine, PYY is released after meals and contributes to feelings of fullness. It helps regulate food intake and slows down the emptying of the stomach.
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1): Released from the intestines, GLP-1 helps regulate insulin release, slows stomach emptying, and promotes satiety. GLP-1 agonists are medications used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity.
CCK (Cholecystokinin): Produced in the small intestine, CCK is released in response to the presence of food. It stimulates the release of digestive enzymes and bile, contributing to the feeling of fullness.
Gastrointestinal Peptides: Various other hormones, such as motilin, somatostatin, and neurotensin, are produced in the GI tract and contribute to the regulation of digestion, gut motility, and overall metabolic processes.
The Signs of a Hormone Imbalance
Tahlia dives into the major signs to look out for when it comes to hormone chaos, noting that it can look vastly different from woman to woman.
“The main red flags to look out for are things like PMS, feeling really, really emotional, getting really angry, bloating, things like painful periods, things like heavy periods, irregular cycles, migraines,” she says. “The list really goes on and a lot of those symptoms we have really been told are normal and just part of being a woman, and in actual fact, they're not normal at all.
“They're just incredibly common and it is completely possible to have a cycle where you're not experiencing any of those symptoms.”
Oestrogen dominance is a common contributor to these effects, leading to bloating and water retention, especially around your abdomen and lower body, can be a sign of oestrogen dominance. Elevated oestrogen levels can disrupt fluid balance in the body, leading to the sensation of constant bloating and puffiness. This symptom often worsens in the days leading up to your menstrual period. Many women notice excess body fat, particularly around the hips and buttocks. This pattern of weight gain is often referred to as "pear-shaped." Oestrogen dominance can promote fat storage in these areas, making it challenging to shed the weight.
Tahlia also reveals that nutritional imbalances are common among women on the pill, furthering hormonal imbalances and gut issues.
“Some in particular are magnesium, zinc, which are so crucial for women's hormones,” she says. “And there's actually been some stuff I was looking into something recently around being on the oral contraceptive pill, actually increasing your risk of irritable bowel diseases.”
Tahlia also highlights a number of other risk factors for haywire hormones, listing stress and endocrine-disrupting ingredients in our environment and household products – think microplastics and harsh chemicals! – as major offenders.
“This is a particularly big issue because we get exposed to so much every day,” she says. “These are chemicals that are commonly found in our skincare.”
One of her tips to getting your hormone balance back is to keep it simple.
“I always say to my clients like go back to basics, like eat good quality meat, eggs, fruit, good quality dairy, like try and limit stuff you're getting from packets that's processed,” she says.
Want to learn more about your hormone health and its link to your gut? Plus get answers and simple tips to manage these symptoms? Check out the full episode for everything you need to know HERE, and learn more about Tahlia HERE.
The exciting news? Tahlia is joining us for the Beat the Bloat 8-Week Program as one of our passionate expert panelists. Get ready for her professional guidance, firsthand knowledge of hormone and digestive issues, along with her wealth of experience in gut health.