Longevity Through Nutrition with Amazon Bestseller Author Dr Liz Isenring
Longevity Through Nutrition with Amazon Bestseller Author Dr Liz Isenring
Felicity Cohen: Hello, I’m Felicity Cohen. I’m so excited to introduce you to my Wellness Warriors podcast. For over 20 years, I’ve been a passionate advocate for helping thousands of Australians find solutions to treating obesity and health-related complications through surgical intervention and holistic managed care.
My podcast is dedicated to all the people past, present, and future who have helped shape my journey and continue to inspire me to work consistently to achieve a healthier Australia in both adults and future generations. I hope you enjoy it. I’d like to welcome to my Wellness Warriors podcast, professor Liz Isenring, otherwise known as Dr
Liz. Welcome to the podcast today, Liz, thanks for coming
Prof. Liz Isenring: along.
Thank you so much Felicity, it’s my absolute pleasure.
Felicity Cohen: So, there’s so much that we need to dive into today and I’d love to start with where this, where your whole career journey started. Clearly, you know, you started out with dietetics and you were working in a hospital setting.
Tell me a little bit about your history and where things started for you.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Absolutely. So I’ve been a dietitian, nutritionist for over 20 years now, and you’re absolutely correct. I started as a hospital dietitian, working at the Wesley hospital in Brisbane, great private hospital. And that was a really good, experiencing, getting a range of experience with helping people.
And I naturally gravitated to helping people with cancer. So I helped to manage, the nutrition issues of the oncology wards there. And yeah, I just found it really, it was obviously challenging, but also really rewarding to see how we could help people cope better with their cancer treatment, by feeding them the rights of the nutrients for their body.
Sorry. Yeah, it all started there, but obviously there’s been a lot that I’ve done
Felicity Cohen: So much with so many different diseases, you know, chronic disease, whatever that looks like, whether it’s cancer or other diseases the impact of nutrition. And we’re going to talk about some of the other aspects of nutrition and how it impacts our lives, our wellbeing, and all sorts of things.
I’d love to get into a little bit about, talking, food and mood as we go through our conversation today.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah. That sounds fantastic.
Felicity Cohen: Right. You know, foundation for you and a starting point. And I can imagine it’s led to so much for you. And at that point in your career, that’s I believe when you first were exposed
to the world of research?
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah, absolutely. And that was it. I, I think at heart I’m probably a clinical dietitian. I love, basically helping people through, through food, but I soon realised, particularly in nutrition being quite a new science, there was a lot we didn’t know. And, you know, as a new graduate, assume everything you’re taught is gospel.
And it’s not until you want to change practice and start looking into it that you realise that some of the evidence, it just, the studies haven’t been done, or we just don’t know. And I was so lucky to have amazing mentors around me, good links with the local universities and basically be exposed to different research projects.
And then for me, who’s naturally very curious, it was just opened up this whole amazing world. So yeah, I just did a series of small projects initially just gathering data, as you would have seen seeing patients, and then saw the impact of that, and then went on to bigger and bigger studies and eventually decided, look, I need to make a difference.
And the best way at that time I thought was doing my PhD. And so then that started a couple of decades of yeah, really, I’m leading now, I’ve led some of Australasia’s largest nutrition trials, which is very exciting. Yeah.
Felicity Cohen: It’s very exciting. And a whole different scope of workspace for you. As a research professor and Dean of faculty at Bond university, leading up so many different people and projects over that time.
The volume and the number of studies that you’ve personally contributed to and being a part of is pretty astounding.
Prof. Liz Isenring: It is pretty amazing when you look back as well. I think, you know, it’s just exciting. You make the most of all these opportunities, but yeah. Now I sort of looked back particularly what I think is probably, you know, most thrilling.
If I give an example, you know, probably 10 years or so ago. Oh, it’s more than that now. But I was awarded a young investigator award, international award, which was quite prestigious and, you know, very excited about that. And then several years ago, one of my students actually got that award.
And for me, that was a beautiful, full circle moment because you know, personally, I’ve had some wonderful achievements that have led on to improve care, which I’m very proud about, but I’ve also helped lead the next generation of dietitians and nutritionists who are actually making their own waves and improving care.
And so that’s, that’s lovely, but yeah, personally, I’ve published over 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers. And I can now add to that list, an Amazon bestseller that I’ve just recently written. So now my family actually think that I’m a real author.
Felicity Cohen: I’ve bought the book, I’m still waiting
for Amazon to deliver it, I can’t wait to read it.
Prof. Liz Isenring: it was obviously very different to the scientific writing, but it was funny that, you know, my family and a few friends now actually recognise me as an author.
I have been trying to tell them that that’s actually what I have been doing for the past few decades, but now, now I’m a real author.
Felicity Cohen: Wow. It
took a book to get you there. Through
some of your research projects and some of the work that you have been involved with, what will be some of the standouts in terms of,
for you from your own personal, passionate kind of direction, what are some of the standout features or stand up, stand out projects that you’ve really loved and seen really great impact
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah, good question. I think there’s probably a couple that immediately come to mind. The first is in the area of supporting people through their cancer treatments and that we’ve shown that by providing a good amount of protein and a nourishing diet,
whether through food alone and or with supplements, improves body composition, quality of life and helps people tolerate their treatment better with less side effects and, less frequent admissions to hospital. And that work has actually been taken up into guidelines. And actually I was one of, well, I was the only Australian author on these international guidelines, which are now considered gold standard, and used by doctors and nurses all around the world.
And last time we, we checked, it’s accessed by over 40 countries and you know, we believe hundreds of thousands of people have had improved care as a direct result of that. So that’s, that’s very exciting and that sort of originated from my PhD project, but obviously has involved lots of people in that. So I love that that’s in the cancer area.
We’ve also done quite a lot of work with malnutrition and older adults and, you know, bits getting, it’s in the media again now with the Royal Commission into aged care, unfortunately uncovering things that we’ve known about for a long time, but the challenge is the poor quality of food in aged care.
Not all aged care, some are doing a great job, but many aren’t and they have their own unique challenges. One of my PhD students Was instrumental in finding the national data that on average, you know, spend less than $7 a day on aged care food. And that’s for three main meals, snacks, tea, and coffee.
So, you know, I don’t care how skilled chef or chef you are. It’s incredibly challenging to provide nourishing, delightful food. Would that, would that that’s such a low
Felicity Cohen: I mean, that really shocks me and it really makes me feel like they’re just missing out on fresh, healthy food and the nutrients that they need to, to function well.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Absolutely.
And considering, you know, if you’re in aged care, often the meal, well, for me as a foodie, you know, it’s a meal that breaks up your day. It’s something that you look forward. So if you can’t actually, enjoy that and it’s also not nourishing you, I think there’s some real challenges there. The good news is there is some really good work, including the Lantern Project, which is also one of my previous PhD students, Dr.
Cherie Hugo doing some amazing international work in that area. And we actually have good evidence to show that we can make a difference to quality of life and nutritional status and malnutrition rates by doing the right thing. Also some of my earlier work. What is pivotal in you in the aged care Royal Commission in terms of those rates, those horrific rates that we hear that, you know, one in two elderly people, often can be assessed are often assessed as malnourished in aged care.
Some of our earlier work, you know, demonstrated that. So, yeah, so that, that obviously is, a challenging topic, but I still obviously feel a sense of pride with myself and my team, the work we’ve done, because it’s been really instrumental in raising the awareness, raising the challenges and more recently, and will positively also showing that there’s actually a lot we can do, but it’s a complex issue.
It’s not going to be solved just by money or one discipline. We all need to work together. And, and yeah, we need to support, but I would argue having a decent food budget is a good first.
Felicity Cohen: Amazing. You’ve raised so many questions for me right now. Let me think, where do I want to start? So, first of all, on the subject of malnutrition, in an obesogenic patient population that we’re dealing with all the time, there’s this common misconception that
when I have bariatric surgery, how am I going to actually survive and get adequate nutrition? And what many people don’t understand is that an as an overweight or morbidly obese patient, the ability for the body to actually absorb good nutrition is compromised already. And that what we’re doing by achieving a healthier weight situation, a better BMI composition that patients are actually then able to
absorb better nutrition. And they’re not going to be in a situation or a state of malnutrition.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah, and have better metabolic outcomes and whatever as well. It’s yeah, I agree with that. But obviously you have the support of your expert dietitians and nurses who are also looking at that and ensuring that they’re eating the right things and appropriate supplemented, when needed and you’re absolutely right.
You know, obesity is a form of malnutrition. The challenge is that we often have though as well, is that people because they might look overweight or obese, you know, people then just assume, well, there’s no way they can be malnourished because you know, they they’ve got, but we do also have the challenge that, you know, why they might have excess fat.
They’re not getting in enough nutrients and, and particularly, you know, certain vitamins and minerals, which can lead to a lot of problems and, it is improving, but, you know, I can remember several occasions, you know, working as a hospital dietitian where, someone who was overweight, but hadn’t been eating
very well for quite a period of time, often maybe due to throat cancer or something like that. And people think, “oh, it’s okay, they can afford to lose a little bit of weight” but not realising well that person actually has had, you know, hasn’t eaten well, you know, for weeks or months. And, and although they’ve got the excess fat, they’re not taking in the appropriate
nutrition. So, and, and some of that is also happening, in aged care. And unfortunately they’re often fed things that are easy to prepare and cheap, you know, a lot of refined starch, processed foods, which is also not what the body wants. Particularly when we want, we want some good quality protein sources that don’t necessarily have to be more expensive, but people often see that they, they are.
And that’s one of the first things to go off a food budget. If you’re only given, you know, $7 or $8 a day to spend on food.
Felicity Cohen: I think there’s so many ways that we can address this problem. Firstly, for me, I’d like to keep people out of aged care.
Prof. Liz Isenring: For as long as possible, I think.
Felicity Cohen: Yeah, that’s my absolute mission
first of all. And when we’re talking to people in their forties and fifties, they’re not often thinking about, well, where am I going to be when I’m 70, 80, and 90 and beyond. And you’ve got to have fun, good functional fitness, be healthy fit and well, and have the capacity to have a vision of what does that look like for me?
Do I want to live in my own home until I’m 95? And that’s a huge thing for me. So I think number one is let’s try and keep people out of aged care, but also I think it’s a really big, you know, community responsibility that we all need to take on board. A hundred percent agree that a collaborative approach from so many different sectors needs to be engaged to really looking at this effectively and looking for solutions because it’s not acceptable.
In my mind, that is an unacceptable situation. If it was my mother or my father, would I want them living like that? Absolutely not. You know, so really, really important work that you’re doing in that space. So, and something that I think is a bit of a wake
up call for all of us.
Prof. Liz Isenring: up call for all of us.
I think so.
So in one hand it was, you know, quite frustrating when we heard that the Royal Commission was going to be called because it’s, you know, those people who’ve worked in the area, it’s like, you know, we don’t need a Royal Commission, we know what the issues are. And more importantly, we know what some of the solutions are.
Let’s just do it. But I think perhaps for the general population, it needed awareness raising. So from that perspective, it’s important. I wanted to touch that as such a good point Felicity, that you mentioned that people really need to start thinking earlier, you know, thirties, forties, fifties, absolutely.
And what we can do in terms of taking our own personal responsibility for us, but also role modeling, healthy behaviours for our family and our loved ones, because you’re exactly right. You know, building muscle mass, developing those really healthy foundations, it’s critical. You know, I know some very motivated 70 and 80 year olds, which are doing great things now and that’s, that’s fantastic.
But if they had started, you know, in their forties or fifties, they’d actually be an even better place. So I think that’s something that we need to be aware of. And I also, you know, work in a medical clinic where I’m seeing a lot of people who are already, have a lot of chronic diseases and they’re very motivated because they already have the disease, but we think if we could actually just work a little bit earlier and help with prevention, then we can stretch out that period of really good quality of life for so much longer.
Felicity Cohen: Absolutely. And I’m a massive advocate for prevention is so much better than cure and even in our patient population, whether it’s an overweight patient or an obese or morbidly obese patient, capturing someone before they develop chronic diseases, the younger, the better, and over the last 21 years, it’s been really interesting for me because when I first started, it was always, patients were just turning 40, just turning 50 and already had one or two medical comorbidities and now we’re starting to see people value their health and wellbeing younger.
And seeing a patient population in their thirties and in their twenties, unfortunately, for many of those people, well, they’ve already got PCOS endometriosis and infertility issues at the younger end of the spectrum.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah.
Felicity Cohen: So that’s their motivation often.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah.
Felicity Cohen: How am I ever going to start a family or they can’t get on IVF programs because of the weight being an inhibiting factor.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah. Yeah.
Felicity Cohen: One of the other things that I love about what you talk about when you’re dealing with your cancer patients and offering better solutions through good nutrition, is that you have a mindset around holistic care. And I love that, you know, that really resonates with me, you know, that we are, you know, we’re all in need of managing our health and wellbeing via not just good nutrition, but how we move our
moods, mindset and all of these other aspects that manage and help us live better quality of life. But being healthier overall, tell me about how you work with your cancer patients that’s external to just their nutrition and some of the other things that you advocate for.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah, absolutely. And I can perhaps even explain a bit of the backstory.
So up until fairly recently, I have very much focused on the nutrition side because, you know, as the science and it, and you know, it was really about looking at it from that framework. But I think what really helped encourage me to have a more holistic approach was that I actually had a couple of friends diagnosed with cancer,
a little bit over a year ago, actually. And so seeing the journey through their eyes was just like a wake up call, because obviously I’ve worked in hospitals, I’m heavily involved in the medical system. And I would have liked to have thought that, you know, I was very proactive and very aware of what was going on, but I tell you what it gives you a very different perspective when you see it through a loved one’s eyes.
And I’ve got to see the good care and rest assured there is some really excellent care in hospitals, but there’s also the bad, unfortunate, the real ugly in terms of just gaps in care. And I think what really frustrated me, so both had different types of cancers, had different types of treatments, no one spoke to them about nutrition.
And so luckily I could support them because they, you know, they came to me and I supported them, but no one mentioned nutrition and it was around a similar time where our international guidelines, you know, very highly cited, very well-regarded in the scientific literature. And so I feel, you know, one level you’re sort of patting yourself on the back “we’re making a difference”.
And yet it wasn’t getting down to the everyday person and where it really mattered. And so something about that just really made me think, ah, and rethink everything. So I basically thought, and that was actually one of the main reasons for starting Link Nutrition. I want it to be a link to help fill those gaps in care and to provide the cutting edge research that we know how nutrition can improve care for people with cancer and get it
to people now who need it now, rather than afterwards. You know, the research brain, I did a bit of investigation. And on average it does take about 15 to 17 years from when something has been published in a scientific paper, before it then gets adopted into standard care and which, you know, is, is unacceptable.
But also the older I get, the more I, you know, I’m not gonna wait 15, 17 years from when something I’ve been working on in the lab or in a clinical setting gets to improve patient care. So I thought, right, I need to be part of the solution, so yeah.
Felicity Cohen: We all need to back that philosophy for sure.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah.
Felicity Cohen: So you had this incredible academic career, high energy, incredible output and productivity that led to a moment in your life where you refer to that as academic burnout.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yes.
Felicity Cohen: And I think it was at that point in your career that you were also dealing with your friends cancer?
Prof. Liz Isenring: Exactly. Yeah, exactly right. It all, it was this, it was basically my world imploded, all these things happened at a similar time. So, you know, midlife, very, very stressed and looking back, I was absolutely heading for burnout.
I didn’t realise it though. It’s like, you know, the frog in the hot water. So looking back, I absolutely was. Then I had the, the two friends within quite a short period of time diagnosed and supporting them through their journey. You know, I’ve got elderly parents who are luckily in great health. But you’ve got that challenge.
I also have two amazing teenagers, but I’ve got that challenge. So it’s a really interesting time in life. And I thought, yeah, it just really made me sort of re assess everything and you’re right. I actually now refer to myself as a recovering academic.
Felicity Cohen: Yeah, wow.
Prof. Liz Isenring: And, so I think, like I said, you know, as a clinical dietitian, I think also I’m an academic at heart.
I’m naturally very curious. I like to work out how thing, you know, how they work, why, why things are a certain way and how we can improve things. I constantly like tinkering and seeing how we can improve things. And, you know, while universities, are an amazing setting, I do think they have their own unique challenges and keeping in mind my sort of stress and burnout happend a little bit over a year ago.
It, my understanding is it’s actually even worse in a lot of situations now because of the COVID, a lot of universities have lost a lot of their funding that they typically get from international students. So it’s, yeah, it’s quite hard. And I think if you’re wanting to research at a top international level, as well as teach as well as leader department, you know, as well as all the other things and trying to be a busy working mum then
yeah, it absolutely is. And, um, yeah, ironically being a leading nutritionist, I was not actually looking after myself and I was not prioritising my own self-care.
Felicity Cohen: And I would say that you’re not dissimilar to a lot of other professionals in their chosen, specific field that, you know, you can impart knowledge and share and mentor others.
But what you’re actually doing behind closed doors to care for yourself can often be the total opposite because you’re so focused on everybody else first.
Prof. Liz Isenring: I think it’s
exactly right. And it’s not until I’ve started talking about it.
Felicity Cohen: Yeah.
Prof. Liz Isenring: That a lot of people have approached me particularly doctors, nurses and I think any sort of high-level execs, but it’s pitch particularly the women.
I think because that particularly they’re managing families and elderly parents and all the other challenges we do as well. We’re so good at putting out fires and solving everyone else’s problems, but not necessarily cleaning our own. Yeah. Self-care as a
Felicity Cohen: So I love some of the work that you’ve put into your Link Nutrition programs regarding how to manage burnout.
And I’ve, you know, used some of your tools myself to better manage stress and work-life balance, which I think is a, it’s a big concern for everybody. And, and I’ve actually seen not just the women, but also men who are, you know, through the COVID phase have had some pretty significant burnout kind of issues.
But definitely we need programs that in a better respond. Support people who are going through those critical
phases in life.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah. And I will add to that in my 20 years, I’ve never seen as much stress and burnout as I have in the past few months. And you’re exactly right. It is men and women and it’s people that are not, you know, pillars of the community, absolute, mentors that you think have everything together.
And you know, that under extreme situation, extreme stress. And yet there is unfortunately a lot of stress and burnout out there, but the good news is there is also quite a lot that we can do to help improve that.
Felicity Cohen: So we need better sets of, amongst our community in general, what are the support mechanisms?
What are the programs and what are the channels and opportunities for helping assist in guiding and making sure that we’re resolving some of these issues to move ahead and beyond. What are some of the features about your, the Linked Nutrition programs that you’re running that support people going through phases like this in life?
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah. So
I refer and it taps onto your question about the holistic approach. Absolutely. And that’s what I’d always focused on nutrition. Of course, that was my main interest, but made me appreciate that it’s not actually just about nutrition as important as, as that is. So for me, the three pillars of health and wellbeing I refer to as the Three M’s.
Mindset, menu, which is about nutrition and movement. And so putting all those pieces of the puzzle together is a really nice holistic approach for being healthy and being able to live an active lifestyle and some really simple things. So around mindset, I think setting boundaries, self-awareness.
Not waiting for the perfect time, I was wanting and this, you know, the ironic thing I had my gym gear in my car, it would travel back and forth every day for months.
But there was all I felt at the time that there was always a valid reason or a fire I needed to put out or why I couldn’t go to the gym. And ironically, you know, working at a fantastic university with amazing gym, you know, access at my doorstep. And yet the gym gear, still went back and forth, back and forth.
Felicity Cohen: Wow.
Prof. Liz Isenring: So I think it wasn’t until prioritising. And for me awareness was the first one. The second one was taking the first step, even though the time wasn’t right. It wasn’t a Monday, you know, all those things, putting it into my calendar for me was huge. I need to schedule time out and then it’s amazing what becomes a habit.
And then of course you feel as soon as you start feeling good, which can happen in quite a short amount of time, when you start prioritising your self care, then I think it becomes that positive cycle in that you want to do more and stretch yourself a little bit further. And so then the time I would spend on my own self-care would increase further and further.
And then the ironic thing is the productivity goes through the roof. So I felt I couldn’t take time out. You know, I had some mornings where I was so busy I felt I couldn’t actually, you know, race off to go to the toilet. Like it was hectic. I certainly couldn’t take an hour out to go to the gym. Whereas now I actually spend more than an hour on my own self-care every day.
And the productivity is even higher because I’ve managed to, to focus and prioritise. So I think there’s a lot we can do around that area. The other thing I wanted to mention is as a culture, I think particularly in a lot of competitive high-performance cultures and academia is one of those, I think some areas of business is the same, but where it’s almost the norm, it’s, you know, you’re almost, you’re wearing your busy-ness as a badge.
And, and I certainly felt that in that, you know, it’s hard to reach out and talk to others if everyone else is in the same situation as you, or in some cases, you know, they look even worse than you. So I think that’s something that we, I would personally like to see spoken more about, instead of just expecting that’s just the way it is.
Felicity Cohen: I definitely
agree. And that’s a dialogue, a conversation that needs to be more openly had and raised and awareness around, what does that look like and how do we connect better? I think across all sorts of different channels within community to support people. So, yes, I love what you’re already doing in that space.
I think it’s fantastic and very needed. I love talking to people who actually, I feel like just speak my language because everything that I do here, for me, it’s all about multidisciplinary care. And so for example, patients or people who try just to diet, but don’t do all those other important aspects of managing their health and wellbeing, whether it’s moving more.
And the mindfulness, I think breath work, we’re becoming more and more aware of things like yoga or other aspects of how do we better support ourselves through a completely holistic managed care approach. And it’s, you know, it’s everybody, it’s not just me or you, or, you know, someone who’s overweight or morbidly obese, it’s actually a concept that
I think going to better allow you to get the best out of everyday life and be more productive every day and feel better. And, you know, if we can teach more and more people, all of those pillars of wellness and how to actually explore them and incorporate them into everyday life, they’re going to live so
Prof. Liz Isenring: Same thing, and absolutely agree.
I think it’s lovely to know that we do speak the same language because I think so. And I think unfortunately, organisations don’t see it as a way of increasing staff morale and productivity. And in fact, it’s, it’s ironic to me that, you know, we have to have all these health and safety things as part of an organisation, but yet, you know, staff wellbeing, whether it be mental or physical wellbeing is not necessarily,
I believe captured as well as it could be supported as well as it could be in that setting. And time and time again, the studies that have been done, I think there need to be more studies. You might need to plan a study on that, but have shown that wellbeing programs, whether it’s nutrition, physical activity, have led to less staff turnover and greater staff morale, retention, all those sorts of important things, which at the end of the day, do I actually save, save doors, for a big organisation.
So again, I agree a lot of amazing stuff we can do in that.
Felicity Cohen: Absolutely.
So we’re both very passionate about research and evidence-based medicine and, you know, you know, looking at opportunities where we can actually demonstrate, you know, from results, how we can actually improve all so many different things across the board, especially when it comes to nutrition.
We’ve had the opportunity to collaborate in the first instance on a couple of exciting research projects. We first worked on a project which was on the endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty that was our first opportunity to, to meet and get some research going. One of the other things that I’m really passionate about is kids.
And I feel like that’s something that really does need a lot more work, because we know that the rate of increase in childhood and the adolescent obesity continues to increase. And along with that, you know, the type two diabetes figures are pretty shocking and scary. We want to take that burden away from our health system, but we want our children to be able to function well, to grow into healthy adults,
to perform better at school and to have better self esteem, you know, we’re both moms, we both, you know, in the process of, you know, for you still raising children, mine are a little bit older, but you know, still going. And I just it’s so important for us to actually think about, you know, kids, kids, nutrition, kids health and wellbeing.
What are some of the things that you think are important around what do we need to do as a society, as a society to better care for our children?
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah. I think a lot of our personal responsibility needs to come into play, but it needs to be supported by the community and also organisations. And I must admit, you know, one of my bugbears is that
the fast food and the, you know, the sodas and the chips appear to be the cheapest food. You go open up any supermarket brochure, what’s on sale, it’s always the soft drink and the chips and healthier food does appear to be more expensive. Now I always challenge people on that because I do believe you can make yummy, healthy food that is still economical, but unless you have that knowledge or that awareness
it doesn’t appear to be the case. And so I, because I also work in the medical clinic, you know, I see families living on absolute rubbish because they feel that’s all they can afford. So I, I think there’s gotta be something done about that. I think that’s, you know, that that’s horrendous, but that’s why I love, you know, the Grit program that we sort of worked on, which once again was multidisciplinary, because absolutely agree.
Yes, health is important about health, but I think the confidence. And, and, you know, you see the kids working together in a group, they’re building up the thickness, they’re becoming more confident. They’re interacting, they’re working on their social skills. I think that’s so powerful. And I think we need to target it.
Well, I think, yeah, we should target as young as possible, but it’s a perfect age to target because then we don’t want to see these people in their twenties, thirties, forties, already coming in with significant chronic disease, which when I trained a few decades ago was unheard of, we wouldn’t think of,
certainly wouldn’t think of children or teenagers having type 2 diabetes, like that was unheard of. Whereas unfortunately now, as you would know, you know, it’s, it’s actually not that unusual. So now I think, and I think it has to be, it’s not, you know, people are worried about the big brother approach or, you know, giving people complexes or eating disorders and whatever.
And I think it’s absolutely not about that. It’s about doing it in a supportive multidisciplinary environment that’s fun, that’s encouraging, that helps with confidence, it helps with social interaction and can lead to lifelong benefits. I think there needs to be more done about that and while we’re talking about this, I would love for the government medical insurance and health system to invest in that because you just think about it,
we tackle it at that age, how much money are they going to save by addressing it then than waiting until, you know, someone hits 40, 50 with five chronic conditions.
Felicity Cohen: Absolutely. And that’s really the foundation those years where we do need to start with looking after children and what worries me more than anything, not just with the increasing chronic disease that is resulting from poor diet and excess weight, but also results at school.
Because of the low self esteem, that performance is important, the bullying that goes with it in schools, and there’s all these other factors to consider. I hope that we can actually challenge our government to support. I love what we’ve already achieved with Project GRIT and hope we can take that to the next stage and support kids so that they don’t end up being the future generations of patients in this clinic.
And so I feel like it’s, our responsibility as health practitioners and in a space where we’ve got such incredible resources that we address it and help and support and do something that’s going to impact change. So hopefully that’s a project that I’ll
continue with and hopefully we’ll work together on it.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah, I would love to and very worthwhile and I agree and you know, what I’ve seen from some of the kids then have that increased confidence and then participating for the first time ever in their sports at school, whereas before they would have been the ones hiding or missing sports carnivals or whatever, and now they’ve got that increased confidence in their actually
benefiting and some of the things cause schools of course, are trying to address it as well. So yeah, we need to work together and a lot of work needs to be done and of course it always needs funding, so.
Felicity Cohen: Definitely. So what’s next for Link Nutrition? Tell us all about what is that pathway now you’ve developed this incredible new business approach.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah, it’s exciting. I’ve got, yeah, I’ve got two, so myself and two, others are part of the dream team so far, which is great. So as I’m sure you can identify as a very busy, amazing business woman, I also do have my fingers in quite a few pies. But probably one of my recent ones that I really like to talk about is the path to a stronger immune system.
Because obviously with, you know, the pandemic and, and also the challenges, as I mentioned with stress and burnout, I’ve seen so many people with emotional eating and drinking. So basically I have developed a program and actually we can have the gut map. We can perhaps include that as a link that people can download.
Felicity Cohen: So, I mean, I’m just kind of all of a sudden sitting on the edge of my chair because I just so relate to listening to these kinds of issues that people are facing. And it’s what I’m hearing all the time, so it’s fascinating.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah. So basically I took all the science, the complex science and develop the gut map, which is a super super simple, fun, easy infographic that you can just print out, stick on the fridge, stick on, you know, the pantry shelf.
And it does focus on the 3 M’s, so mindset, menu and movement. All things that we can do to improve our gut health, to improve our overall, immune health. And I mean, people are starting to learn now because of we’re talking about it more during COVID, but a lot of people didn’t realise that 70% of our immune tissue is actually located around our gut.
So it’s important that we have good gut health to strengthen our immune system. And, and there’s actually quite a lot we can do from a nutrition point of view. So things focusing on whole unprocessed foods, because basically if we eat crap, unfortunately, we feel like crap and we get that cycle. Whereas if we’re nourishing our good gut bacteria, they actually send signals to our brain and it can influence our mood, food cravings, how well we sleep.
So basically by encouraging, the growth of good bacteria. And so a lot of prebiotics, a lot of fruit and veggies, berries, little bit of whole grain, omega three fatty acids, which I know, you know, you’re a big believer in as well as important to our oily fish, algae for vegetarian sources. I like spices,
things like tumeric and ginger are so powerful they’ve been used in traditional medicine, you know, for thousands of years, with good reason are very high in phytochemicals, which are powerful anti-inflammatories, which is good for both gut and brain health. Hydration of course is important. And, and then putting it all together with movement.
So we’ve got good evidence now that what we eat can actually influence our mood, which is so important.
Felicity Cohen: You only have to test it out yourself. I know if I have a bad day and I’m really busy and I don’t have time to, if I’m not organised or eat the wrong foods, I’m probably gonna end up in a bad mood. And I love the whole concept of talking about mood and food and the impact that it has on our, how we function.
I’m familiar with the Smile Study, that’s kind of a fascinating research study that’s been, you know, it’s talked a lot about, food and mood. It can tell me more about some of the things that are important to understand around food and mood?
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah. Well, I think it’s, overall knowing that basically our brain and our gut talk to one another. And so we’ve known that what we think can influence our gut for a little while. And you think about it, if you put it on the spot, you need to give a talk, often we get those butterflies in our stomach or might need to race off to the toilet. But yeah, you’re exactly right that, our gut can influence our, our mood is much newer knowledge and it’s sort of, coming it’s flourishing because of our knowledge around gut microbiome, the gut bacteria.
And so it’s actually chemicals that our good gut bacteria make can send signals and influence how we feel. And of course you think about it, our gut bacteria are used to living on things that are found in nature. So things like junk food, you know, that’s new to them, they don’t recognise that. And it can lead to a lot of problems and including the overgrowth of not so beneficial bacteria that can actually send signals to our brain,
wanting more of a particular food. And so that can link to the food cravings, but likewise, it can lead to the decrease of our good, healthy bacteria that our guts are use too. And, and that can dampen our mood. And so things like too much coffee, too much alcohol, too much processed food, high sugar, fat foods all of that can actually depress our mood.
So people are becoming more aware of it, even our doctors are becoming more aware of it, which is great. But if people are experiencing a low mood or anxiety and depression, nutrition is a key part. I mean, some people will need to go onto medication, but I would always argue, look at the basics, get the foundation, right.
Get the nutrition right. Make sure they’re sleeping well, combining it with a healthy mindset and movement. Getting a bit of sunlight and fresh air, is so key. And unfortunately you hear those stories of someone going in and automatically being prescribed an antidepressant without actually trying to tackle some of those basics ones first.
Felicity Cohen: A hundred
percent and you know, in this patient population in here as well, depression and anxiety, really are these comorbidities that we see in many, many of our patients, we’re lucky that we’ve got this incredible team. So the psychologists obviously help with managing a lot of those issues, but food, you know, the nutritional factor is so vital and putting all the pieces to the puzzle together, I think is key in making sure that we’re creating some kind of impact and change.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah, absolutely.
Absolutely. And, and it’s only going to be a growing area in terms of gut health and prebiotics and postbiotics and symbiotics and making sure we’ve got the good fibers and the good gut bacteria that we feed ourselves regularly is really important. And that’s one concern about processed food.
So even, you know, a lot of people are either going vegan or plant-based, which of course is great, we know there’s good health benefits with eating more plant-based foods. But I have to say, I have a concern with some of this manufactured vegan meats and things, because it’s still processed.
Now we don’t, we don’t actually know enough, I mean, it might be fine, but it’s still processed. And from our existing research, any time we, man, you know, stuff’s around with things, we tend to get good evidence at down the track it doesn’t necessarily lead to benefits for our health. So I’d still like people are plant-based and vegan is a lovely way to go if that’s what people want to do, but still, you know, try and include lots of food found in nature there.
Felicity Cohen: Totally agree.
We need to go with the lowest possible human intervention. I really am a great believer in that and you know, that everything in moderation, you know, that was the philosophy that I grew up with in a family that there’s no bad foods, only bad eating habits. Everything in moderation is a really good concept to live by.
And yeah, definitely lower human intervention when it comes to looking at maybe, you know, cutting out some of those processed foods, that’s a really good concept.
Prof. Liz Isenring: Yeah. And I also, with the 80, 80, 20 rule and I’m, you know, an absolute foodie, so it’s interesting often with dietitians , people think, oh, you’re going to make me live on and you’d have this I’m sure with your organisation,
people are just going to put me on lettuce and I have to live on rabbit food, but no food is such an important part of our culture, our community, you know, sharing it with loved ones.
Felicity Cohen: Hundred percent and it should be. And we love our dietitians, they are definitely not the food police. And you know, we love to be able to give back that enjoyment of food, you know, that, the pleasure of the table should still be critical with family, with friends and entertaining.
You know, we bring in chefs who do some amazing things here as well, so I love, all of that. I would love to keep talking forever. I’ve got so many topics. Can we save chapter two for another podcast, that will be fun. One question I like to ask all of my guests is, Liz for you, describe what does wellness mean for you?
Prof. Liz Isenring: Wellness for me is, having enough energy to do everything I want to do and still be the best version of myself and my loved ones. And, and it’s, it’s very much that just being passionate about life, engaging and yeah, for me, it’s very much from the inside out. So it’s nourishing mind, body and spirit, but really being able to embrace life.
So it’s not, you know, just about how good you’re looking at bikini or any of that’s the very superficial stuff. It’s really being able to have the energy, the strength, the confidence to do what you want to do.
Felicity Cohen: I love that. Thank you very, very much. I’m going to make sure that we do share some information so that people could connect and learn from you.
And some of the things you’re publishing through Linked Nutrition. So thank you so much for sharing, please thank Dr Liz for joining me today.
Prof. Liz Isenring: My pleasure, thank you.
Felicity Cohen: Thank you for joining the Wellness Warriors podcast. It’s been a pleasure to have you online with us. If you enjoyed the series, please leave your review, subscribe and follow.
And we look forward to sharing many more stories with you in the future.