Listen to my latest podcast episode:

807: Shrink Your Fat Cells & Fix Your Metabolism – With Dr. Benjamin Bikman

TMHS 349: The Microbiome-Emotion Connection & the Truth about Antidepressants with Dr. Jillian Teta

Emerging science regarding the role of the human gut just keeps getting better and more complex. Until recently, most of us considered the digestive tract a simple means of processing food and eliminating waste. But the entirety of the digestive tract spans thirty feet long, and it turns out our amazing gut controls much more than digestion. 

The entire body is an integrated, interconnected whole, in which the gut plays a huge role. 

The gut has implications on many systems in the body—including hormones, the immune system, and even emotions. 

Today we’re joined by an expert on all things gut health, digestion, and integrative medicine. Dr. Jilian Teta is a naturopathic physician, author, and leader in the field of digestive health. She’s here to help us understand the holistic role the gut plays within our bodies and how to optimize its function. So click play, write down what resonates with you, and enjoy!

In this episode you’ll discover:

  • The link between the gut and emotions. 
  • What ENS means. 
  • The two different types of nervous systems and how they work.
  • How stress affects the digestive system (and vice-versa!) 
  • What enterochromaffin cells are, and how they’re related to serotonin levels.
  • Why low serotonin levels can lead to constipation. 
  • What sympathetic overdominance is. 
  • How SSRIs actually work within the body. 
  • The link between trauma and gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Why you should consider going on a daily walk to improve gut health.
  • What the Japanese term shinrin-yoku is, and why you should practice it.
  • The difference between movement and exercise. 
  • How to cultivate a supportive sleep environment. 
  • Simple lifestyle changes you can make to improve your digestive health.
  • The power of meditation. 
  • How orgasms can help you destress.


Items mentioned in this episode include:

Thank you so much for checking out this episode of The Model Health Show. If you haven’t done so already, please take a minute and leave a quick rating and review of the show on Apple Podcast by clicking on the link below. It will help us to keep delivering life-changing information for you every week!


Shawn Stevenson:  Welcome to The Model Health Show. This is fitness and nutrition expert, Shawn Stevenson, and I'm so grateful for you tuning in with me today.

Right now I'm on the road here in L.A. and I just finished an epic event this past weekend speaking at the Biohacking Conference sixth annual conference, and wow.

Just totally blown away with the quality of the event, the quality of people who were working behind the scenes, and the people who came out.

Thank you, and a big shout-out to everybody that came out, and all the love and the hugs, and I hope you had a great time.

And it was an incredible experience. Lots of new technology to talk about, and new stuff coming here on The Model Health Show that I'm going to be sharing with you guys.

But I just want to share this really quickly, because for so many people, including my guest today, who is amazing.

This is, I believe, her third official time on this show, but it seems like more.

We talk frequently, but this is the first time being in the studio together, so I'm really excited about that.

But she's on the east, east, east coast, alright? Easty [sic] east. And so which she travels even out here to California right now, she's doing a bunch of things as well.

You know, getting on that new sleep timing, the new sleep pattern and changing time zones can really kind of throw your body clock off.

And one of my little strategies, one of my little hacks- now there was a study and this dissuaded me early on.

So there was a study, and this was published in The Journal of Applied Psychology, that found that taking melatonin- supplemental melatonin in too high doses or too frequently can down-regulate your receptor sites for melatonin.

So what that means is even though your body can still produce melatonin, or you can take melatonin, it can't use it. It won't turn on processes and programs efficiently related to melatonin.

Now, that's scary, and that's something we really want to be more mindful of. And so getting out and popping melatonin pills just because it's out there on a store shelf and you don't need a prescription, that's hormone therapy. Alright?

It's a very strong powerful hormone related to obviously your sleep and your circadian timing system, but being that it's a regulator of your circadian timing system, it's a regulator of all your other hormones.

Alright? From human growth hormone to cortisol; melatonin plays a role. It's also related to helping your immune system.

And it has very powerful anti-cancer activity, and also it's related to- in that regulating your immune system, but also in regulating your body's fat metabolism, and the list goes on and on and on.

We want to be mindful and make sure that our body is using and producing melatonin efficiently. So we need to be careful about taking supplemental melatonin.

But in spot cases, short-term use, it can be wonderful. And so that's one of my little hacks, especially if I'm jumping time zones by a couple of hours, I definitely bring along my sprayable melatonin.

Because first of all, being that it's sprayable, it's much more bio-available. Taking a pill as far as melatonin is concerned, you're going to lose some of it via digestion.

And taking it, spraying it directly under your tongue sublingually in short-term use can be really great for getting your body to start to get on that new time schedule, if that's what you're going for.

And so I use the sprayable melatonin from Onnit because even their melatonin, they're utilizing earth-grown nutrients and not synthetic stuff to make the melatonin, or to make their other supplements like Alpha Brain, which is their nootropic product and their flagship.

And they've done double-blind placebo controlled studies. Alright? This is gold standard of study, finding that their Alpha Brain product does in fact help with things like verbal and working memory. Alright?

It actually does work, and they really stand behind what they do, and I absolutely love them.

So I carry that, literally it's in my book bag, and so if I'm jumping time zones, and it's great for a day or two, maybe even three, but you don't want to use it daily.

You don't want to use it on a consistent basis just trying to regulate your sleep. You want to take care of your sleep hygiene first.

The things that you're doing during your day-to-day life that can really help and show up for when you lay your head down on your pillow. Alright?

Because as I talk about in 'Sleep Smarter,' a great night of sleep starts the moment you wake up the morning.

And so we don't want to have our lifestyle be in a total mayhem. You know, I'm just thinking about herding cats right now. Right?

Trying to herd cats, get cats together on the same page. That's what our days look like sometimes. And then we'll try and take a supplement to battle all of that. Alright?

Battle Cat. Alright? You remember Heman? I don't know if you used to watch Heman. That was my jam.

But Heman was like- he had his little scowling, scary, whiny cat, and then he hit him with the Heman sword, and he turns into Battle Cat. Alright?

It's like herding cowering cats, and then now Battle Cat steps on the scene once we start to get our daily kind of processes together that help us to sleep. Alright?

And of course we've done masterclass episodes on what that looks like. So the word 'supplement,' it really means 'supplemental.' Right?

It's not the thing that is replacing or curing anything. It's to be a supplement to the other good stuff you're doing. Alright?

So if you are doing the good stuff for yourself, and you need it in a spot case, or a couple nights of rough sleep, stuff is going on, maybe it's stuff with the kids, or whatever the case might be.

The sprayable melatonin from Onnit is phenomenal. I always keep it with me, especially when I travel.

So pop over there, check it out, and also you could check out the Alpha Brain product as well if you're interested in nootropics, and performance, and you're doing like a lot of- you're a mental laborer. I think you might love it.

Some folks it's just like a game changer. Alright? So it just really depends on what's working for you, and what your body needs, and what it responds to. So definitely give it a shot and check it out.

And what's so crazy is now it's really kind of just taking the nation by storm, and it's becoming a household name.

So if you haven't checked it out yet, definitely pop over and check out Alpha Brain and the sprayable melatonin as well. Definitely recommend keeping that on hand when you travel. Alright?

So on that note, being here in sunny L.A. and hanging out, having an amazing time, and very, very grateful to have my guest on today.

And we're going to jump right into that. But first, I want to jump into the Apple Podcasts review of the week.

Apple Podcasts Review:  Another five-star review from Midwest to you. 'All Your Episodes Rock,' by GrandmaCat.

"Shawn, thank you for always bringing to your listening audience variety. I have read your book 'Sleep Smarter' three times, lent it to two friends to read, and I'm getting ready to give it to my daughter to read.

Yes, I am truly thankful God has given you the passion to help others. I just finished listening to your podcast with Chalene Johnson, episode number 342.

I'm also a big fan of hers. I admire the respect you have for each other. You truly want your audience to know the truth and find the one right healthy life-changing habits and lifestyle that best fits us.

I don't like the word 'diet' anymore. Keep rocking the world and love from a life listener."

Shawn Stevenson:  Oh my goodness, Kathy. That was so powerful. Thank you so much. You are a true legend. You are a superhero.

You're doing the stuff that I did and still do, and it's just like once we read something or we listen to something, we think we've got it, right?

But when you go back and you're listening with updated information, updated knowledge, you are a different person.

Literally if you go back and listen to this episode a second time, you're going to hear and pull in things that you didn't hear the first time around.

And so, same thing with books we read, or this is why we have this incredible archive of The Model Health Show episodes to listen, and to really integrate that stuff into your cellular matrix.

You know? And that's super powerful for just kind of learning, and re-learning, and rekindling that passion.

And you reading the book that many times just tells me so much about your personality, and just huge shout-out to you, and thank you for sharing that, and thank you for sharing the book and all the love with the people you care about.

And listen, if you've yet to do so, please pop over to Apple Podcasts and leave a review for the show.

It means everything to me. It really does. Like this just totally made my day, and I appreciate that so very much.

And on that note, let's get to our special guest and topic of the day.

My guest today is Dr. Jillian Teta, and she's a naturopathic physician, and an absolute leader in this field, and she's the author of 'Natural Solutions for Digestive Health,' and the creator of the Fix Your Digestion Gut Restoration Program. 

And she's been featured everywhere from Publishers Weekly to The Huffington Post to Dr. Oz Online, and the list goes on and on and on.

And she's been on the show a couple of times already because she is so brilliant, and so knowledgeable, and so fun.

And she is the past President also of the North Carolina Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and she practices at the Naturopathic Health Clinic of North Carolina.

She received her doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University, and received her bachelor's and master's degree from Boston University in biology and energy and environmental analysis respectively.

And again, I'd like to welcome back to The Model Health Show my friend, Dr. Jillian Teta. What's going on, Jillian?

Jillian Teta:  Hey, Shawn, I'm so happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me on. It's always such a pleasure to see you.

Shawn Stevenson:  I know, but this is in person.

Jillian Teta:  I know, we finally got to meet in real life.

Shawn Stevenson:  I know. It's like we've known each other for years, so this is nuts to finally get here and have you sitting in the chair across from me. Very grateful.

Jillian Teta:  I'm so appreciate and grateful.

Shawn Stevenson:  I'm getting the good feelings in my belly.

Jillian Teta:  Yeah, those good gut feelings.

Shawn Stevenson:  Right? And so this is what we're going to be talking about because you're bringing like a whole- your latest research is so fascinating, which we're talking about.

Literally this concept that we say having a gut feeling. Like there is a connection. So let's start there. What's going on?

How is our gut even- what's going on there that we can have feelings or having emotion based on things going on in our belly?

Jillian Teta:  Well it's so interesting, right? So when- everyone understands that feeling, like when you get bad news, right? That like clench in the gut.

Or when you get good news, or like your first falling in love, like how that feels in your gut, and how folks use their intuition is their gut feeling. Right?

So I really want to talk about that, like what is the second brain? Like why should we even care? And then how can we do things to destress it, like destress that second brain.

So we have an entire brain in our digestive system. So from the base of our esophagus all the way down, all through our small and large intestines, all throughout the entire GI tract is this vast network of nerve cells.

This network is so huge in number, they equal the spinal cord.

Shawn Stevenson:  Wow.

Jillian Teta:  They are second only to the brain. This brain. And so thus, it's called the second brain, and your second brain is responsible for managing and monitoring all aspects of digestion.

So it knows the volume of food, and fluid, and gases that are in your stomach, that are in one segment of your small intestine, that are in another segment of your small intestine, that it knows the pace that you're making digestive enzymes and if you need them.

Same with bile. It knows the pH of every square millimeter of your GI tract, and it regulates motility and regularity. Right?  So like how frequently we're pooping. Right?

And you know, I think a lot of your listeners might be thinking like, 'Oh yeah, when I get stressed, I don't go to the bathroom or I'm like running to the bathroom,' and that is all dependent on the second brain.

Shawn Stevenson:  That is so crazy. Like some of these things I don't even think about, and it's kind of how some people have, in a sense, a predisposition towards.

Like my wife. Sometimes- you know, I just spoke in front of 1,000 people or whatever. She was like, "If that was me, I'd be pooping my pants."

And it was just like I don't have that kind of feeling. I don't even understand, like why would you feel that way?

And for some other people, they can get a little bit backed up if they're nervous or under stress. Wow.

And this is- I think I first heard this from you, because this is like the seventeenth time I've had you on, because you're one of my favorite people. But the enteric nervous system.

Jillian Teta:  Yes, the ENS. Yes, so 'entera' just means like organs, right? So ENS is an acronym for the enteric nervous system.

And what's neat about it, there's a little bit other aspects to our guts in terms of like neurological function that I just want to make sure that I talk about.

The first is that like we are- you've heard the term neurotransmitter, right? Like serotonin. I mean, of course you have.

So these neurotransmitters, actually up to 90% of them are made, recycled, and have receptors. Their receptors are actually in the gastrointestinal tract.

Shawn Stevenson:  That's crazy.

Jillian Teta:  Like they're not made in the brain..

Shawn Stevenson:  The word 'neuro' is associated with the brain.

Jillian Teta:  Yes. So all of those- so serotonin, GABA; there's multiple feel good hormones and signaling molecules that are made, and their messages are actually heard in the gut.

So that gives like another sort of layer to those gut feelings. Right? Because these things that are supposed to be like manipulating neurological function are intimately connected to the GI tract.

I mean, they're the main- they're like the main driver of them.

Shawn Stevenson:  Also- so we've got neurotransmitters, but there's also a lot of hormonal things going on.

And I remember when I was in college and learning about this stuff, and I'm not going to say it's the wrong way, but it was the wrong way. Alright?

And I was told by my professor that- it was super brief. It was just like literally a pass over statement. You know?

But melatonin is made in the pineal gland and that was the end of the story. Well come to find out, there's like 400 times more melatonin in your gut than in your brain.

And you could even have your pineal gland removed, pinealectomy, which I don't recommend, but the levels of melatonin still stay relatively the same in the body.

So there's so much going on there, and even just calling it the second brain and the enteric nervous system in your gut, hopefully we're really making this connection, and how we feel is actually heavily influenced by what's happening in our belly.

Jillian Teta:  Yes. So that's a great segue because- so our enteric nervous system, it's fully responsible for digestion, right? It is actually independent from the brain and the spinal cord.

So it's independent from your central nervous system, and this is good because if you ever had a spinal cord injury, like you still can digest your food. Like those neurons aren't running up through the spinal cord.

However - here's the big however - even though the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system are independent of each other, they have a bi-modal two-way communication system always.

So they are in relationship with one another, and not only are they in the relationship, they're like in a second-to-second continuous conversation.

So again, that's where you get that bad news, and like you instantly feel it in your gut. Your gut doesn't have ears, like didn't hear it, right?

And so this is how, through this connection if we get chronically stressed, or we've been stressed our entire life because we have a history of trauma, or abuse, or PTSD, or we're getting ready for a show, or like some event and we're over-dieting and we're under-sleeping; all of these things imbalance the central nervous system via the sympathetic (AKA fight or flight branch) and the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.

And I know I'm getting a little science-y here, but it's really important to break this down, because I think that people hear the word 'stress,' and like they go to sleep.

Because we use stress so much as a term that it almost means nothing at all. It can feel very gratuitous, and it's also important to qualify types of stress.

So I'm not talking about a stress like, "I got a bad grade on a test." I'm talking about like real human trauma, or what have you.

So what happens with our sympathetic and our parasympathetic nervous systems - fight or flight, rest and digest - the two are going back and forth like a dance. Right?

So it's like we need times where we are like awake and alert, and we maybe need stress hormones to get through, and then we also need our rest and digest time where our body repairs itself, makes antibody, digests our food.

And the two are going back and forth like a seesaw, like a nice little dynamic dance.

When we are chronically stressed, it's like an elephant is sitting on one end of that seesaw, and a little chihuahua is sitting on another. Right? 

So we get stuck, and that's called sympathetic over-dominance. And what begins to happen then is that that sympathetic over-dominance sort of like imposes itself on the second brain. Right?

So there's not as much time for rest and digest, maybe your stomach acid production goes down, maybe your digestive enzyme production goes down, maybe you start to feel like bloated and uncomfortable in your gut all the time.

Maybe you're like, "Wow, I never had reflux before, but now like everything's repeating on me and I have heartburn." Maybe you're starting to get constipated.

Then if you're experiencing pain in your gut, that feeds back up to the central nervous system, and you experience anxiety, or unease, or disquiet, or whatever with all of those things. And this is going on constantly.

Shawn Stevenson:  This is nuts because today more than ever, this conversation about the microbiome and all the incredible, and beautiful, and mysterious, and strange things going on there.

Now you know, this is really the final frontier when we're talking about human health, and we're really just starting to understand this.

But in knowing that, and how our microbiome can affect our body fat composition, how it can affect the function of our brains, how it can affect our longevity.

For many of us, we immediately jump to, "Okay, so what can I eat? What can I take? Can I take a probiotic?" This kind of thing.

But we're not targeting this kind of mental aspect. You know? Like because it's a dual feedback mechanism. You know?

So your emotions can have a huge impact on what's happening in your gut, and vice versa is what I'm really hearing you say.

Jillian Teta:  Well and not only that, there's very interesting- this will happen in our lifetime, where there will be some type of specific probiotic that is designed for you, Shawn, that you can take to help optimize your mental emotional game. A probiotic.

And it's interesting you mention about the microbiome. Earlier we mentioned the production of serotonin, and serotonin is made by cells in the gut that are called EC cells - enterochromaffin cells.

Their activity is largely influenced by the landscape of the microbiome, specifically spore-forming bacteria like the actinobacteria genus.

They are heavily influential in our production of serotonin. Serotonin is very important for appropriate digestive mobility. Right? So low serotonin states will often create constipation. Right?

So if you have an imbalance in your microbiome, and those EC cells aren't getting the stimulation that they need to make appropriate serotonin, you're creating a motility problem in your gut, which then once you have that motility problem, you are going to be preferentially choosing for- because your bacteria are evolving and changing all the time.

They are like an ecological landscape like in a rapid evolutionary time. You are selecting for bacteria that can survive in a slow environment, they do best in a slow environment, and so then you worsen that imbalance of bacteria, and then you worsen that production of serotonin.

And that is just like a sliver of one example. And then we can even get into like dysbiosis itself can increase inflammation at the level of the lining of the gut, which is going to increase inflammation, immune activation, all of those things.

So it's this incredible interconnected interrelated symphony between like our emotions, and our gut, and our bacteria, and like our bowel movements. Like all of it. You know, all of it.

Shawn Stevenson:  Wow. And I really want us to just kind of take that in, because when we hear about serotonin, it's usually in relationship to being this feel good neurotransmitter.

And really understanding like this has a lot to do with your poop moving out of your body.

Jillian Teta:  Yes.

Shawn Stevenson:  And so- and also, it's going to have a direct feedback as well. It's going to be a vicious circle.

Because when you're full of crap, you're going to probably feel like crap, you're probably going to talk crap, you're probably going to treat people like crap.

And really understanding this one point, which like a lot of anti-depressants are working on that pathway, these SSRIs - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

But the question is, is serotonin being produced by those enterochromaffin cells? And is it adequate? And is it doing its proper job?

Like the receptor sites, and all this has to do with what's going on with your bacteria. So you could take a drug, but it might not even work if the bacteria isn't right.

Jillian Teta:  Well, drugs are forceful, so they will work. What SSRIs do- and it's interesting because in off-label use for SSRIs is IBS; particularly constipation driven IBS.

Shawn Stevenson:  Wow.

Jillian Teta:  And that's because, again, serotonin is used by the body to get peristalsis started, and peristalsis is like that rhythmical muscular contraction that propels food down and out every 24 hours.

So our body requires serotonin in part to help get that going. So what SSRIs do- and this is fascinating. I know we're kind of like going on different little tangents here.

But what these drugs do, I think is important for your audience to understand this, because a lot of us go to our doctor and they're like, "Oh here, you need this. We're just putting in what you're missing."

And that is a little bit- that's not quite exactly what's going on. What SSRIs do, is they force all of the serotonin out of the nerve.

So they basically are going to make your body blow all of the serotonin that it has in the nerve, like the neuron, out into what's called the synapse.

The synapse is the space between the nerve cells, like where they're communicating. It's like where that action is happening.

So now the body is tricked into thinking that it has plenty of serotonin, because all that serotonin is out there in the synapse.

And for a little while, this is going to be great, because you might be actually feeling a little like lifted. You might actually start pooping better.

But what happens is that because- many of our body's systems are based on feedback loops, right? 

So the body says, "Oh, we have plenty of serotonin. So I'll make a little bit less. I'll make- my nerve cells will now make a little bit less. Maybe we'll start like pulling in some of the receptors off these cells because we have plenty. Like we don't need it."

So you get a downregulation of receptors, and then just like a lower level of self-production of serotonin, because this drug has forced out all of your serotonin.

And that's precisely why these medications are very difficult for some people to get off, because if you just cold turkey that, you are left in a fundamentally low serotonin environment.

You actually have lower serotonin than you did when you started the medication. So while it is accurate to say that these drugs manipulate serotonin, they are not supplemental serotonin.

You know? They are like forcing that neurotransmitter out, and they're preventing it from being taken back up. So they're leaving it in the synapse.

But again, that consequence is your body is going to be like, "Oh, we have plenty. I'm going to take out my receptors for this and I'm going to make less."

And GABA, like drugs that work on GABA are very similar, like your benzodiazepines, right? I'm sure you know lots of- like it's very hard to get off something say like a Klonopin or an Ativan, and that's precisely why.

And so then when you don't have those neurotransmitters, and then you really don't have any, like how do you feel after? You feel horrible. Like your gut shuts down all of those things.

Shawn Stevenson:  Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this because it's just we need to know. You know? A lot of this stuff is just kind of, again, happening behind the scenes. We're not asking questions.

And so I wanted to talk- and it's so crazy, like you just tapped into my mind. But I wanted to ask you about GABA, because this is really new to the relationship between GABA and the gut.

So can we talk about what is GABA even? What is it? And then what's the connection with our gut?

Jillian Teta:  Well, so I think of GABA as like our body's major inhibitory neurotransmitter. So serotonin- I'm going to contrast it to serotonin.

Serotonin has action for both inhibitory effects and excitatory effects in the nervous system. GABA is like your chill out hormone. It helps you chill.

In the gut, it helps reduce visceral hypersensitivity. Right? Which is if you have a gut all full of gas say, and because you have IBS, and you're eating foods that you're sensitive to, and all of these things.

That stretches the tube of your intestine, right? And you have pain receptors all throughout, and so you get a lowered threshold of stimulation that you need for pain.

GABA can help reverse that. Like GABA can help with pain in the gut, and also it's one of the major hormones that's released when the parasympathetic nervous system is active and doing its thing.

Shawn Stevenson:  That's so crazy.

Jillian Teta:  So see how it's all- it's like all connected. I mean, we could sit here and like go through all the hormones, and like all the connection is back to the gut, because that gut is really like the Grand Central Station of our body. Like all other systems are going through there.

Shawn Stevenson:  And I'm seeing there's a relationship between the excitatory energy pathways, and also the relaxation. Because GABA, for me, is when I hear- you know, I think of sleep immediately.

And there's supplements and drugs that are trying to manipulate that pathway for that purpose. But wow, that's so fascinating.

Jillian Teta:  Yeah, sleep, and anxiety, and like all of these things. And so the reason sort of why we should care about this, is that many chronic health disorders, whether they are- so like on the gut side, like IBS, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, inflammatory bowel disease.

These all have a component of a dysregulated enteric nervous system. That is like an underpinning component of all of it.

So we're realizing that the second brain is so important in like the pathogenesis of those things.

And people that have abuse or trauma in their history, or maybe grew up like in an addicted household, things are- like people grow up messed up.

That those folks have an increased risk for virtually all gastrointestinal disorders. Not just that, but also like cardiovascular disease, and like neurodegenerative conditions.

It's all interconnected and interrelated. So that's why we should care, because it literally increases your risk for these things.

Like it literally can threaten your life, especially in later decades. You know? Like it can shorten your life.

Shawn Stevenson:  And this is why your new research, and you've got some new work out there that people can get access to, in talking about destressing your gut.

And so, I want to talk all about that. We're going to do that right after this quick break. So sit tight, and we'll be right back.  

Alright, we're back and we're talking with one of my favorite people on the planet, Dr. Jillian Teta, and we're going through this wild connection that we have between what's going on in our gut and what's happening with our experience, and our emotions, and what's happening with our brain.

Our first brain, which I think eventually the gut might take over that role as far as how we're discussing it in culture, because it's just really, really amazing what's going on there.

So before the break, we talked about some of the strategies that you have, that you're putting out for people to get access to in destressing our gut.

And obviously, you've kind of laid the groundwork of how important it is, so can we talk about now, like what are some things that we need to do, or to be more mindful of to start to destress our gut?

Jillian Teta:  So with this, and I know you're all about the nuance, Shawn, so I love it, and that's why it's like perfect for us to have this conversation.

I think there's a lot of practical things that we can do, like physical things, and then there's like this more nuanced aspect of like our own inner work, and our own self-development and self-actualization.

So we'll get the practical stuff out of the way first, because that's easy. So especially if someone has been diagnosed with IBS, or IBD, or SIBO, or like they're just constipated, like they can't poop.

I'm sure you've heard from people that like they go two weeks without having a bowel movement.

Shawn Stevenson:  I have heard that before, and I know some people listening are like, "How is that possible?"

Jillian Teta:  It's possible. It's definitely possible. So I have a saying, I say movement equals movement.

And so we were talking about the walk earlier. Going for a daily walk, preferably outside, is one of the easiest, simplest, cheapest ways that you can balance your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn will have beneficial effect on your second brain, the enteric nervous system.

There is a lot of research coming out of Japan, especially for walking in the woods, they have a name for it.

They call it shinrin-yoku, which means 'forest bathing.' 

Shawn Stevenson:  Yeah, first of all the name shinrin-yoku.

Jillian Teta:  Doesn't it sound wonderful?

Shawn Stevenson:  It does.

Jillian Teta:  And then forest bathing, like I want to go do that. Like let's go do that after this.

Shawn Stevenson:  Definitely get that tattoo. You know, trying to get the little symbols or whatever. You know Ariana Grande, the singer? She recently got a tattoo of- you know it was some- I think it was like Chinese letters, and she thought it said one thing, but it ended up saying like, I don't know, 'Your feet are too big,' or some crazy thing.

Jillian Teta:  With a side a lamb or something.

Shawn Stevenson:  Yeah, something to do with some food, I think. But shinrin-yoku is pretty dope.

Jillian Teta:  Yes, I think so. I think it sounds like something I want to do all the time.

Shawn Stevenson:  Forest bathing, yeah.

Jillian Teta:  So what it does, is it helps not only increases what we call autonomic tone, which is that appropriate seesaw movement of sympathetic and parasympathetic.

But it also decreases like the harmful effects that cortisol has on the brain. I think a lot of people want to like instantly demonize cortisol like it's a bad thing.

It's not- cortisol is not a bad thing. Like no hormone is bad. We would all be dead if we didn't have cortisol.

But of course in excess, as we are like when we're under chronic stress, it can have harmful effects for us.

So walking slowly in the woods, strolling, get yourself a little dog or a big dog, and go for a walk.

You can take it a step further. I'll often coach people to use the walk as an opportunity, almost like a walking meditation, where they can fully engage their senses. You know?

We were talking earlier about like dropping into our bodies, and just like allowing your body to like actually like tap into how you feel.

And so by engaging our senses, like looking only at like what's in front of you. Look at the birds, look at the trees, look at the sidewalk, look the people, look at the cars.

Listening. Like listening to the birds, listening to whatever is there. Feeling the air or the sun on your skin. 

Breathing and like really feeling the breath through your lungs, feeling the earth through the soles of your shoes, or your flip flops, or what have you. Really engaging your senses.

And then when your mind wanders, as it's going to, just bring it right back. You know? And it's a wonderful way to slowly practice self-awareness and getting your mind still, which of course is a major avenue in towards unlocking that sympathetic over-dominance.

Shawn Stevenson:  Yeah. You know, I'm so glad that you're sharing this because- and I know that I was a big- I had an issue with this, with the walking.

You know, being in this field almost twenty years now. So it was like seventeen years ago getting into fitness and being a strength conditioning coach, and people would come in and they're like, "You know, I've been walking to lose weight."

And in my mind I'm just like, "You're going to have to walk a long time." You know? Just like it didn't register as something that was efficient or effective for any results.

Cut to today, I'm going to put this up there at the very top. I mean humans, we are designed to walk. That is the number one thing we're designed to do, and your genes do really good things when you're out there walking.

And part of that- because for me, it's just like, "Well okay, I can do that and also get some exercise in. So I'm just going to run in the woods.

Jillian Teta:  Yeah, no.

Shawn Stevenson:  That's that sympathetic. It's getting more into the sympathetic, and the great thing that you mentioned was this is a more of a parasympathetic beautiful form of exercise.

You also get some insulin sensitivity things going there as well, but it's just more relaxing for your nervous system.

Jillian Teta:  Yep. Well, and your circulatory system. Like you're getting your blood flowing.

Shawn Stevenson:  The lymphatic system.

Jillian Teta:  The lymph system. Like your body is letting go of- if you have increased blood flow to your muscles, that means you have more oxygen and nutrients delivered to your muscles, and then you have all the carbon dioxide, and the lactic acid, and all the other like metabolic byproducts that are making you feel achy, and like deconditioned, and just having knots all over you.

Like all of that helps. But you bring up a good point, like movement is different than exercise.

Shawn Stevenson:  Yeah, for sure.

Jillian Teta:  And I think a lot of people want to marry them, like they want to marry the two, and they are quite different, and they have quite different effects on the body. Like overlapping of course, but you don't want to-

Shawn Stevenson:  It's like a Venn diagram.

Jillian Teta:  Yes, like please go for the run in the woods if you want, but understand that that's not exactly what we're talking about here.

Shawn Stevenson:  And I also want to ask you about- because I would imagine as well, that going for the walk, and thinking in terms of health, and weight loss, and those kind of things; by being able to destress is going to help with that side of the equation.

Jillian Teta:  There is going to be- if you are destressed, like there is nothing that that's not going to help with. That's going to make you a better partner, that's going to make you a more present parent, like that's probably going to make you more productive and effective at work. It's probably going to help your sleep.

Sleep is another major way to increase what I'm calling autonomic tone. It's just appropriate balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

Like it's just like that touch and go that is appropriate, and like healthy, and compensated. So sleep is enormous for that.

So everybody, go get 'Sleep Smarter,' and make sure that if you are having sleeping issues, like you have to sort that out.

And I know with like our Internet age, like all of our phones are on us all the time, and a lot of people are on their phone like until 2:00 in the morning just because- they're not being productive, like they're just scrolling on Instagram.

And there's no judgment there because certainly I've done it too, but you really, really want to sleep. It's like being productive about like your sleep times, your wake up times, sleeping where it's dark in your bedroom, maybe some white noise.

Don't have like unpaid bills, or like unfinished projects like stacked up on your table like stressing you out. Like you really want to create like a really wonderful dark cool calm sleep environment and go to sleep.

Shawn Stevenson:  I love that so much. When you were talking about it, it made me think about like even a few decades ago, we just didn't have- even with television, we didn't have that access for this like entertainment that's like shooting at you.

It's like shooting into your optical receptors, like you're pulling this thing in. Like for entertainment, you might go to a live play or something, you know?

But you're not going to get access to that kind of stuff. It's just a lot more time to just be with yourself to relax, and these things are hyper stimulating as well. It's like a little slot machine in your pocket.

Jillian Teta:  It is. Well, and talking about neurotransmitters, that like lights up all your reward centers, and all your dopamine, and all of those types of things, and it just creates for so much over-stimulation, and that type of sensory over-stimulation further will disrupt that autonomic balance.

So over-stimulation of any type of sensory input, whether it's like blue light, or light, or what have you, can also disrupt.

So another very easy hack, and I know you heard this at the Biohacking Conference, is blocking the blue light from our phones and our screens at night.

Like that's a very easy practical thing that people can do, whether they put their phone in night mode. All the smartphones have a night mode where after sunset it removes the blue light.

So your screen looks a little orange-y, but whatever. And then you can get a pair of blue light blocking glasses on Amazon for like $15.

Shawn Stevenson:  The designs are so much better now. There's different ones. I literally- again, I was doing this seven years ago, eight years ago, it's getting close to a decade now.

And so I ordered me some blue light blocking glasses, and I just can't believe my wife even still liked me. They were so big and goofy looking.

But there are some cool designs now, and so at minimum we can have those little 'hacks.'

Jillian Teta:  Yes.

Shawn Stevenson:  But let's just kind of evolve beyond that a little bit, which it's crazy we have to say this, to where we just give ourselves a little bit of time to be screen-free. You know? Especially before bed.

And my advocation, honestly it would ideally be- you know, just Harvard researchers found that every hour you're on your device at night- and it didn't matter during the day, but every hour you're on your device at night resulted in melatonin being suppressed for thirty minutes.

So each hour you're on your device, thirty minutes of suppression. So you can go to bed and be physically unconscious, but that doesn't mean you're going through your sleep cycles correctly. You know?

So some people, they're doing these little apps and stuff, and monitoring their sleep, they're like, "Is fifteen minutes of deep sleep good? Is that okay?"

No, that's not. You know, there's something going on with what's happening with the signaling.

And by the way, some of these apps out there guys, I just want you to be aware, you don't want to get hyper connected to them because the science is not 120 yet.

So something could be off there, so you're okay, but I really want- this is why I point people more towards- instead of self-quantifying with these devices, like let's pay attention to how you feel.

Jillian Teta:  Yes.

Shawn Stevenson:  Let's pay attention to how you look. Like look at yourself in the mirror. Pay attention to how you perform. You know?

And when I say how you look in the mirror, not like you look like Captain America or something, but just like paying attention to what's going on with your eyes.

Jillian Teta:  Is your face puffy? Do you have bags under your eyes? Like Is your skin getting solid? Like all of those things.

Shawn Stevenson:  Simple stuff.

Jillian Teta:  Very, very simple stuff.

Shawn Stevenson:  I love it. I mean the other day- and I shared a story on the show, but I had this little issue with my son.

Which he's been- he's seven now, he's been sleeping through the night 95% of nights, ever since he was eight weeks old.

And he called me in the middle of night- or he calls his mom or me. Like I know he knows- he kind of just knows who he can get, you know?

And so I came in there, it was like 2:00 in the morning, and I was like, "What is it, bud?" And he was like, "My leg itches." I know, right?

Like, "Okay, just scratch it. Alright? You know, go back to sleep." And so I had disrupted sleep, and I had to get up super early, I was like putting stress on myself.

Which that's another thing, to not put so much stress on yourself. You know? Because you can- at the end of the day too, we also have to understand the human body is very resilient.

You know, if you've got a night or two of crappy sleep, you're going to be okay. You could pay back that 'sleep debt.' But once it becomes chronic is the thing.

And so my eyes were like a little red that morning, which I don't normally see that. I was like, "Wow. Okay, this got to me a little bit." You know? So just paying attention to those small things.

Jillian Teta:  Did throw your hunger off?

Shawn Stevenson:  I was hungry first thing.

Jillian Teta:  So I flew out here, so like time differences, and when I travel across time zones, for whatever reason I just stay on East Coast time.

So no matter what time we go to bed, if we go to bed at 8:00 PM or 3:00 AM, like I am getting up. And so I have a difficult time sleeping when I travel sometimes.

And so I've been a little under-slept, and I'm noticing that my hunger greatly, greatly increases. So tuning into your intrinsic cues that your body is giving you is a major way to develop that self-awareness that we're talking about.

Right? Which is so crucially important, like not just for maintaining your body, and like managing your energy and managing your health, but I would also argue like managing all of your mental and emotional narratives that set up to help drive some of this chronic stress as well.

Shawn Stevenson:  Yeah. I'm so glad that you said this, because that's tuning back into how you feel.

Jillian Teta:  Yes.

Shawn Stevenson:  And that was the biggest thing that I noticed when I got up that morning, I was hungry, which I'm usually not hungry for hours.

Jillian Teta:  I'm the same way.

Shawn Stevenson:  And I was hungry, I was like, "Oh man, like I'm really hungry." And the thing is also, I have the opportunity of, "Okay, let me feed into this feeling, and kind of pacify myself."

Or just kind of realize like, "Oh, this is what this is," and just kind of continue. Because it did disappear, kind of progressed, and it went away, and then just got back on my pattern the next day.

And so thank you for sharing that. That's really, really good stuff. And you know, for us, in talking about destressing, I want to go back a little bit because the walking aspect.

What about folks that are listening right now, they're like- you know because first of all, if you've got access, a neighborhood, especially a forest or some nature to go to.

But shout-out to everybody listening in NYC. You know, what if you're in NYC and you're just like, "There's just buildings around here. Like what do I do?"

Jillian Teta:  Yep, I would say just still go. Still go. You just do the best that you can, right? So in NYC they have a beautiful park called Central Park in downtown.

Well, and we could even say like some people live in Minnesota. And when it's February and there's eight feet of snow on the ground, like these people are not going to go for a nature stroll.

So using treadmills is fine, like doing the best that we absolutely can. And for folks that perhaps can't walk in the wintertime or whatever, or maybe because they're- well, maybe they're wheelchair bound.

That is when I would suggest like meditating actually as a substitute. It's a good substitute.

Shawn Stevenson:  That's a good segue. Segue alert. Let's talk about how does meditation relate to this.  I'm fascinated to hear about this.

Jillian Teta:  Well, so meditation fundamentally just helps our- well, it helps us train ourselves to be able to watch our thoughts. Right?

So the point about meditation is not to just like blank out and become like a blank drooling void, or something like this.

Shawn Stevenson:  One with oxygen. I am one with oxygen.

Jillian Teta:  It helps us to watch our thoughts, which in turn helps us to slow down our thoughts, if we're willing to have that reflection and invite that stillness.

And that's a very hard transition for most people coming out of our modern lifestyle. Right? Everything is frenetic. We've got to be on the grind. We have all the stimulation constantly.

And so I do think that there is a rather large barrier of entry for most people. But if you are listening, and you're someone who has like heard this message over and over from different experts to begin introducing mindfulness and meditation into your life, I think that that is really, really important.

So what this does, as our thoughts slow down, and we're allowed to just be in space, like create that space, even having little gaps of space, then our thoughts are not actively instigating and triggering our autonomic nervous system which is that- or the sympathetic branch of that, which is like fight or flight.

So you're not getting that alarm response, right? Because if our inner narrative is like, "Oh my God, I can't believe she did this. I can believe she said that. Like why is my mom like that?".

It's mostly like this long line of complaining. That actually is not good for autonomic balance.

Shawn Stevenson:  And it's just continuous, just happening all the time, especially if you're unaware. And I remember when I first started meditating, the first thing that happened- well first of all, my teacher, it was my mother-in-law was teaching a class.

And because I'm kind of analytical, so she kind of gave me some of the reasons why this will work, and I was like, "Okay, I'll give it a try."

And so when I did, and I fully participated, and when I was done, I realized that I hadn't really had any conscious thoughts my entire life, if that makes sense.

I realized that there was all this thinking going on, but I wasn't aware of it, it was just happening. You know? It was just happening.

And I realized like there's a separation there between the thoughts and the presence that's like monitoring all of it.

And one of the other benefits is, as you mentioned, to being able to witness and to see your thoughts, potentially slow them down.

You can also- and from that place, be able to transplant your thoughts, you know? Like you can catch a thought, "Oh wait a minute, I'm thinking this really terrible or ignorant thing that just has no relevance in my life or any importance. Let me just put something positive there."

And these are skills that you develop by having the practice of meditation.

Jillian Teta:  Yeah, you can begin to rewrite those stories. Right? An expert, I don't remember who it was, I don't remember if it was Eckhart Tolle or who; they likened it to watching your thoughts, it's like watching a movie. Okay?

So you're in a movie theater and you're watching the screen. On the screen are like your thoughts and your life, your whole life, and the committee, right? Like the inner judge, the inner critic, like all of those things.

The difference between someone who has even like a modicum of self-awareness, and those that do not, are that the person who has the self-awareness realizes that they are in a movie theater watching a movie.

And the person that doesn't quite realize it yet has fully invested that that movie is their life. Like that is their identity. Right?

When we link our identity with our thinking, we're on a slippery slope because it means you can be controlled, it means you can be provoked, it means you can be taught to think a certain way. It basically means that you can be manipulated.

Shawn Stevenson:  This is so good, and I like Eckhart Tolle. I like how does his hands. "The ego is coming up," you know? I love it.

Jillian Teta:  Oh my God, the pain body. I love that. I'm just like, "Oh my God, I can feel my pain body right now."

Shawn Stevenson:  Thank you so much for sharing that. And you know, I want to ask you about so many things. And you know, I know that there are many other strategies for destressing our gut.

But I would love if we can, let's just share one more before I let you go. And I don't want to, but I'll let you go.

Jillian Teta:  Alright, it'll be a practical one. I know, I'm going to have to come back on the show. I'm going to have to come back again.  

So another wonderful way to balance your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system is orgasm.

Shawn Stevenson:  Hello. Alright.

Jillian Teta:  It works on the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, whether you're a man or a woman. And I actually think orgasms are like an underutilized approach.

Shawn Stevenson:  You don't say.

Jillian Teta:  For stress reduction. Yeah.

Shawn Stevenson:  Tell me more.

Jillian Teta:  With your partner, without your partner, whatever. So the act of orgasm is activating both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and having that appropriate action fosters more appropriate action.

And orgasm releases all kinds of feel good hormones, right? PDA, oxytocin, anandamide, like all of those things. And it just bathes your brain in good feelings.

Shawn Stevenson:  And your second brain.

Jillian Teta:  And your second brain.

Shawn Stevenson:  Yeah.

Jillian Teta:  It benefits from that.

Shawn Stevenson:  One of those- I liken it to a cocktail of chemicals, like oxytocin, which has been found to have a direct influence on cortisol.

Jillian Teta:  Yes.

Shawn Stevenson:  And helping to balance that out. Which again- and I love that you just said that there's sympathetic and parasympathetic aspects to it.

Jillian Teta:  Yes.

Shawn Stevenson:  One of them is norepinephrine, which even though it sounds like this is a stimulant in a sense, or noradrenaline, that is actually related to your REM sleep.

Jillian Teta:  Yes.

Shawn Stevenson:  So improvement in that. 

Jillian Teta:  And I'm glad that you're qualifying that, because I think for consumers and for listeners, it's very easy for us to like pigeonhole.

Like, "Oh the sympathetic nervous system is bad, like adrenaline is bad, cortisol is bad. Parasympathetic is good." We need both.

We need the appropriate balance, and like the appropriate movement of those two nervous systems.

It's all relevant and contextual to like what is going on in your life right now. So you're exactly right, like adrenaline or noradrenaline doesn't just get your heart rate up, and like get your muscles moving. Like it plays a role even when you're sleeping, so it's heavily nuanced.

Shawn Stevenson:  Wow. And I think that in speaking about orgasm, it's something that feeds into everything else too. Because I know some people listening are like- I mean seriously.

Which for me, it's just like, "What?" But I posted something the other day, a study, because I did an episode recently on the connection between sex and lifespan.

And I'll put that in the show notes. If you missed it, it's so good. It's so good. It's just shocking all of these different studies that I came across.

But you know, I posted some pieces of it on social media, and a lot of people- like 90% of people were like, "Yes, sign me up, I get it. I feel you on this."

But some people were like, "Twice a week? Are you serious?" You know, just like can't even conceive of that.

And so let's speak a little bit to that because I think in relationship to you feeling better because of your sleep quality, in relationship to your relationships, and stress in your life, it all feeds into you even wanting to have sex.

Jillian Teta:  Well, and that's a great point because some folks might be like, "I don't even- like my libido is completely shot. Like I'm not even awake enough, like I'm too tired to even think about that."

Or you know, some people can't have orgasms, like they physically cannot, and there are very valid reasons for that.

And so what I would say, is that if that doesn't resonate for listeners, like to not do it, and maybe to go for the walk.

Shawn Stevenson:  Yeah, don't put stress on that.

Jillian Teta:  Yeah, don't put additional pressure on yourself like, "Oh my God, now I have to have an orgasm twice a week, and I don't want to." Like that's not what we're talking about. That's not what we're going for.

It is a tool that we can use, and you might notice that as you sleep better, move a little bit more, calm your central and enteric nervous systems, destress your gut a little bit, and increase your self-awareness, and tune into your body a little bit more, eventually you might be more open to having more orgasms.

But yeah, I don't want that to be- that's not like a line in the sand for me, where like people have to do this, and like put it on the protocol. You know, we definitely don't need to do that.

Shawn Stevenson:  Awesome. Thank you so much. This is so cool. So the new information that you have out there, new research, new protocols, Destress Your Gut.

Jillian Teta:  Yes.

Shawn Stevenson:  Can you talk a little bit about that?

Jillian Teta:  So Destress Your Gut Academy is my newest free educational sequence, and it is all about the gut-brain connection. So a lot of what we just covered, where we do this deep dive into like what is that connection?

Like literally, what is it? And then how that in turn influences digestive health, and how that plays a role in multiple digestive disorders.

And then of course, how to destress your gut. Some of the practical things that we've talked about, and then some of the intangibles, more esoteric that are highly personal and related to like our personal history, and our personal stories, and like our own self-narratives, and like unpacking all of that, and rewriting it to basically make our- increase our inner ease.

Shawn Stevenson:  Yeah.

Jillian Teta:  So it's on my website along with tons of other like free education programs and stuff like that.

Shawn Stevenson:  So what's the URL?

Jillian Teta:  My website is Everything is there; my book, my social, e-mail me. I love hearing from people.

Shawn Stevenson:  And I reference your book, I go back to it, and everything you do is just like world class, so I'm really excited about the new academy.

So definitely everybody go pick it up, and I appreciate you for taking the time to come and hang out with me face-to-face, and also I appreciate you just continuing to push the envelope, packaging up new information, and learning, and sharing with all of us. It's just the best.

Jillian Teta:  Oh Shawn, I appreciate everything that you're doing. All these people you're reaching is just- can't mimic that, can't fake that.

Shawn Stevenson:  Thank you so much. You're the best.

Jillian Teta:  You're the best.

Shawn Stevenson:  Everybody, thank you so much for tuning into the show today. I hope you got a lot of value out of this.

And definitely, definitely check out the new academy Destress Your Gut. I think this is going to be a huge conversation moving forward, and Jillian has been at the forefront, and just really getting this information out.

Like she's one of the first people to put out a book on gut wellness, before microbiome became a huge catchword, which it's more than that.

This is not just a trend, but this is really where science is moving towards like everything. It's going to change the books, it's going to change the way that we're taught in schools.

But as you know, sometimes especially with conventional education, change takes time. Especially if people have been bought in, and kind of indoctrinated in things that don't work. You know?

As crazy as it sounds, if you take really smart people and you teach them to do the wrong thing, they become world class at doing the wrong thing.

And so it can take time for this process to happen, but trust and believe, learning about the microbiome and all the different ways that it relates to your life.

You know, we think that our consciousness even is just like located up here because we have eyes and ears are up here. But there's a lot going on with what's happening in your belly, and today is just a little piece of that thanks to Dr. Jillian Teta's work.

So I appreciate you so much for tuning in. If you got a lot of value out of this episode, please share it out with your friends and family on social media.

And of course tag me, and you can tag Jillian as well. What's your Instagram?

Jillian Teta:  It's Jillian Teta.

Shawn Stevenson:  Jillian Teta on Instagram. Let her know what you thought of the episode, and I appreciate that so very much as well. 

We've got some powerhouse episodes coming soon, so make sure to stay tuned. Take care, have an amazing day, and I'll talk with you soon.

And for more after the show, make sure to head over to That's where you can find all of the show notes, you can find transcriptions, videos for each episode, and if you've got a comment you can leave me a comment there as well. 

And please make sure to head over to iTunes and leave us a rating to let everybody know that the show is awesome, and I appreciate that so much. 

And take care, I promise to keep giving you more powerful, empowering, great content to help you transform your life. Thanks for tuning in.

Maximize Your Energy

Get the Free Checklist: “5 Keys That Could Radically Improve Your Energy Levels and Quality of Life”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

0 comments. Be the first to leave a comment.


The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Family is Health

When you gather your family around the table to share nutritious food, you’re not only spending quality time with them - you’re setting them up for success in all areas of their lives.

The Eat Smarter Family Cookbook is filled with 100 delicious recipes, plus the latest science to support the mental, physical and social health of your loved ones.

Eat Smarter Family Cookbook


The Eat Smarter Family Cookbook is filled with 100 delicious recipes + the latest science to support your family’s mental, physical, and social health all in one place.

A family that eats together, thrives together.

Order the cookbook and get an amazing bonus today!