Ask the expert: How does your gut shape your health?

Interview with Danna Levy Hoffmann

Danna Levy Hoffmann is a certified IIN (Institute of Integrative nutrition) Health Coach specializing in gut health, passionate about helping people everywhere heal their relationship with their food, their health, and their bodies.

We spoke to her about her journey to become a health coach, the importance of gut health, tips on where to start and much more.

To take care of your health NOW, find out more about Danna's Urban Cleanse program here which helps those looking to cleanse their bodies but need it to fit their urban life:

Check out our other women's health products here


Sanjana from Miyara Women 0:00

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Miyara channel. Today we have an expert interview with Danna Levy Hoffman, who's a certified health and lifestyle coach based in Switzerland. She's also a busy mom of two and the founder of Organilicious, and we're very happy to have her with us this morning. Welcome. Danna.

Danna Levy Hoffmann 0:25

Thank you for having me.

Sanjana from Miyara Women 0:28

I just would like love to hear about your story. And your journey to become a health coach in the first place is like, please tell us about it.

Danna Levy Hoffmann 0:37

Sure, um, wow, you know, I consider every single part of my life to be the journey to take me where I am today. But I think the main couple of things that happened in my life were my own health journey, as well as the family involved. And my older business that I started, which kind of led me to Organilicious. So I grew up with a family who was overweight, I saw my grandmother pass away from cancer, my mom has cancer now, you know, when dad was obese for a very long time and has diabetes and high blood pressure. So for me, it was always somehow clear that there has to be a connection with what we're doing, how we're eating, and how we're living our life and only when I experienced it for myself, after I gave birth to my second son, and I was I had postpartum depression, I was 20 plus kilos, overweight. And, you know, I was just experiencing everything. And I said, I don't, I don't know what to do, like, I'm not sure what's going on, tried different diets, which obviously didn't work, because diets don't work. And, and that kind of started me off on this journey to figure out what's going on, you know, why am I losing loved ones to cancer and other illnesses? Why am I feeling out of control of my own body. And so that kind of led me to to start my own journey with, with health healthy lifestyle. I then started a business called me so cute cooking, which was healthy cooking classes for kids, basically, age one and upwards. And, and the courses were for kids and their parents. And so I was cooking with the kids. And meanwhile, kind of talking to the parents saying, maybe replace this with that, or try this and try that. And so the parents actually asked me to come back to their home or to give them courses for adults. And, and then I realised how important it is, you know, I wanted the kids to understand what a carrot looks like before it's cooked and roasted and stuff. But I realised that the parents are actually nowadays lacking a lot of these same basic skills and understanding. And so that basically led me to what I do today, I started my, you know, certification and moved on to this to specialise in gut health. And which, you know, to me was just the the basics, basically. And, yeah, I've been doing that happily for quite a few years now. And that's really

Sanjana from Miyara Women 3:23

Interesting that your journey led you to this path. So, you one of the things I noticed in your, in your CV, you're passionate about gut health. There's a lot of research going on about gut health, and the links to various things. So could you explain why gut health is important for a person and what contributes to good or bad gut health?

Danna Levy Hoffmann 3:48

Sure, for sure. Yes, it is a very hot topic nowadays. We're slowly but surely starting to understand that the, the, you know, we used to think that the brain was like the computer of the of the body, and it was shooting all the information. Nowadays, we're realising more and more that the gut is actually the one responsible for everything. Our immune system is based in the gut, the brain-gut communication, or brain-gut axis, as some people might have heard, is a fluent communication between the gut and the brain. But what's funny is that 90% of that is the gut talking to the brain and only 10% is the brain communicating back to the gut. So I found that to be super fascinating because we then understand that we really are what we eat. I mean the information that we are giving to our body is through the food through our emotions and thoughts. And when we have a poor diet or a diet that does not support our health of course our everything is going to look differently right from our emotional states to our mental state, to our actual health. So gut health is is just super duper important. We really do need to understand that the, the main health aspects of our life, if if your little toe hurts in your leg, it is most, most likely it has to do with something in the guts usually starts and ends with the gut. And so when we heal the gut, most people do see huge improvement in everything else that they were suffering from.

Sanjana from Miyara Women 5:29

Right. That's really interesting that the gut is kind of linked to all sorts of diseases but what contributes to good gut health, like, what, specifically apart from your diet, of course, what else could contribute to your gut health?

Danna Levy Hoffmann 5:48

When we give birth, vaginal birth, basically during our pregnancy, we collect gut bacteria for our baby in our vaginal pass. And so when the baby comes out, as you might remember, from birthing classes, right, the baby lifts their head up, and so they're their mouth opens naturally and they gulp down this gut bacteria.. So the, when we are born, when a baby is born c section like I was, and there wasn't the knowledge or there isn't the knowledge to do a swab, which basically, is to take that gut bacteria, there's a swab it and then the baby's mouth, the baby has less gut bacteria to deal with.We cannot avoid sometimes getting a C section and that's okay. But there is a way if we have that knowledge to say to the doctor, please give them a you know, swab them with my with the gut bacteria, then we're giving them a better chance. Yeah, same Of course goes for for breastfeeding. So it does definitely contribute to better gut health. I am not saying the bottle feeding is a bad thing, you know, feed your baby whichever way you can. But you do need to understand that does play a role in their gut health. And then of course, there's Stress, Stress is a huge one. And a lot of people don't understand that they think that they're just going to eat healthy and exercise like crazy. And they'll be fine. But exercise can actually put even more stress on the body and so when we look at kind of life, and the first thing that I talked to my clients about as well, is stress. That's a big one. So huge.

Sanjana from Miyara Women 6:12

Yeah, that's true. So what is your method? Like when people come to you people normally come to you with problems? Or you know, they want to lose weight? Or is it a health issue? So what is your method when you talk to people, or your clients?

Danna Levy Hoffmann 7:44

I mean, clients do come to me for different reasons. I mean, those who really do understand the power of stress over life will come for stress. But a lot of people do come to me either for weight loss, weight gain, or just general kind of health that they tried everything and they can only kind of link it to the food that they eat by now. Because everything else just did not work. And so my method is to look at all aspects of life, we're doing a holistic view of everything. So we're talking about, we're looking at the food, but it's usually kind of further down the line that we actually even talked about the food, we'll look at sleep, we'll look at stress, we'll look at relationships and career and so we're looking at what we call in functional medicine, the primary foods, which are these energies that we're getting from, you know, from everything around us. And then we'll also look at the secondary food, which is what we eat. So basically everything that we digest, right, in terms of energy in terms of power, and everything like that.

Sanjana from Miyara Women 8:50

That's really interesting. So what kind of small lifestyle changes can people start already, like people, you know, can incorporate into their everyday modern lifestyle?

Danna Levy Hoffmann 9:06

Yeah, it's, you know, it's a question that everyone asks me because everyone wants that kind of quick fix. There is no such thing. But at the same time, I do find that a lot of people don't put priority over their sleep. So people walk around really sleep deprived, Oh, yeah, I mean, a new moms, you know, I remember that. I remember I have my boys are 15 months apart. So life was rough for a good few years. But I remember wanting to do things while the baby was asleep. Right? I think that's flaw number one of new moms is that we we look at the house and it's a mess, or we want to have to watch something we want to talk to them and we want to do because we're women, and we're doers. Right? And so we're missing a lot of sleep and then at night, the husband comes back from work and you're like, I want to spend time with my husband. Yeah, it's we're missing the point here. Because then the next day, we're miserable. Yeah, we are not focused, we are depressed, you know, postpartum depression and sleep have really huge links. And also the fact that we will then choose, our food choices will be different when we're tired. Also think about what our bodies usually ask for when we're tired. We're asking for sugar and carbs. Right? Because those are the ones that will give us energy. That's how our brain translates to energy. And so when we're tired, we don't say, Oh, we should take a nap, we should say we say like, give me some chocolate, or give me like a piece of bread, or give me something that will give me energy. So instead of actually going to sleep, we're giving ourselves second wind, with that little boost of energy, that's not necessarily a healthier version of the energy that we need and then that vicious cycle continues, and the older the kids get the grumpier you get as a mom, you know, it's just a vicious cycle, the first thing that I usually look at with my clients asleep, get sufficient sleep, get good quality sleep, leave out your phone and iPad and TV and things like that from the bedroom, get proper sleep especially if you're not getting a full night's sleep. So if it is interrupted, you want to make sure that you're getting those little nuggets of sleep or naps during the day as well, and look into stress. So those two things are definitely the ones that I would say are like my little nuggets of, wisdom. And then the next thing would be just look at the ingredients of the food that you're buying. Most often we're buying food and we're looking at these beautiful promises on the box, you know, low fat or no sugar or this or that and when you look at the actual ingredients, most of them you won't be able to pronounce, you wouldn't know what they are their chemicals, they are fats that are unhealthy and things like that. So you want to know what you've put in your body as well. And you want to start making the good decisions that will support your health that will support your energy levels will support your hormones, you know, everything like that.

Sanjana fromMiyara Women 12:18

Yeah. But one thing you mentioned is like women or people come to you with wanting to lose weight and fad diets and things like that, could you like, give us your take on these fad diets and what you think of them?

Danna Levy Hoffmann 12:31

They do not work. A lot of people will come to you and say I went on an Atkins diet and it worked. You know, I lost 30 kilos, I went on the Keto diet, I went on this diet and I went and that. The only reason that those diets will work momentarily. And that's the most important part here. It's that it's not sustainable, it will work because all of those diets will tell you to eat more veggies, to leave out the sugar and the and the you know, processed foods. So if you already do that, you're already at a better place. Now, when you start a diet, and when you say okay, I'm going to deprive myself from x, y, and z, what's happening is that it is not sustainable. So you're not really healing your relationship with food, you're rather even more more so damaging that relationship and you're saying I'm going to be super strict and I'm going to do it right for a certain amount of time and then you hit that number on the scale that you want it to hit or you fit into the jeans that you want to fit into and then you go cool. Let's order pizza. Yeah. All right. And then you go back to the same way, and it just doesn't work. It's not sustainable. So my idea of a healthy lifestyle is deliciously sustainable lifestyle changes. It's what we're we're doing should be long lasting, it should last all our whole lifetime. So we want to heal the relationship with food, meaning we want to know why we're emotionally eating. We want to know why we're reaching out for certain things. And we want the higher quality of those foods. So instead of empty carbs, you want whole grains, you want beautiful, you know, sources of carbs. Instead of harmful fats and oils that are they're super high in Omega six and are highly inflammatory and will make you sick. You want to go for the healthier fats. So there are a lot of factors. And of course, the factor of your gut and your individuality is also super duper important. But fad diets, I mean, unless you love I don't know, being deprived and miserable for months on end. I would say it's not the way to go.

Sanjana from Miyara Women 14:53

Okay. No, but I think what you're saying is that there has to be this lifestyle and this change in mindset. You also have to give your clients a lot of emotional support in that sense, because people are just brought up in a certain way, and with certain mindsets and certain food, relationships with food, so, so it's a lot of that as well that you do.

Danna Levy Hoffmann 15:18

100% 100% I have some some background in psychology as well, which was playing my passion and in previous life. But yes, it is, it's very much. You know, a lot of people are looking for accountability partners, and a lot of people are looking for a person to, again, not only tell them eat this, don't eat that, but rather like, again, explain why they emotionally eat and how we can kind of deal with those aspects of life.

Sanjana from Miyara Women 15:47

So another question that I had is, could you kind of walk us through a problem that a client has come to you with? And how you went about, you know, helping them through that?

Danna Levy Hoffmann 16:03

I mean, why there's so many. There's so many in there, and they differ, but the one that I love talking about is actually my dad, because as we know, convincing your own family of anything, practically, is really, really, really hard. And I know that you know, from where I come from, and I definitely know where you come from, we have that same kind of idea of like the parents know, best then and Stop talking nonsense. Yeah. And it's kind of that idea. So what happened was my dad, literally ever since I was maybe three, he had high cholesterol, and diabetes and years and years later, about 26 years after he was diagnosed with all of those things he got. He basically he wounded his foot, which as we know, with diabetes is super, super dangerous, couldn't even feel it, it got really bad. He came to visit, it was still in a bad shape. And I just said, Dude, they will cut your foot off. I mean, come on. And so we started, I kind of started incorporating him in the kitchen, he's a very picky eater, he usually doesn't eat many vegetables. You know, he's, he's been harming himself since he was a child. And because of his background, I never blame anyone, you know, we can definitely see links to that long story short, we changed his diet. So we definitely incorporated more vegetables, we definitely incorporated more whole grains. We shifted a lot of things and tried to help him with that. And about a month after he came back home from visiting me, he had a blood test. So he was here for quite for a while, not even a month. And then he went home and continued for about a month and then he did a blood test with his doctor and the doctors email, I still have that email somewhere. She wrote three lines, you said, you know, your your bad cholesterol is good. Your diabetes is not existing, keep listening to your daughter, and that was a doctor that's been treating him for almost 20 years. . And so you know, for me, that was first of all, my pride is to say, look, if even my dad could do it, and he was soon 60. And he was just, you know, couch potato, he was used to his ways, so hard to change the mindset of older generation as well. That was, that's pretty much you know, something that I will always be super proud of his change and the fact that he was able to do that.

Sanjana from Miyara Women 18:41

That's really interesting. I think we covered quite a lot of different topics. And I would just love to ask you if you had any parting words for our audience?

Danna Levy Hoffmann 18:52

Yeah, I mean, I think the one important thing that I say that can that a lot of people do resonate with is the fact that when we you know, when you think about your car, for example, we will never dare to give our car the wrong oil or the wrong gasoline because we want it to run smoothly and for a long time. A car we usually have maybe 10 years, I don't know, you know, a good case scenario, we can we keep it for 10 years, our bodies, we want them to function properly for 90 plus years, right? And yet we knowingly or unknowingly kind of give the body the wrong fuel every single day. Okay, so if we start kind of looking at our body, the way that we look at our cars or any loved you know, machinery in your household, start looking at it that way, because there are no replacement parts for your body. You can't take a body for on a lease for three years or five years, and then get another one. So we really do want to make sure that when we age, we age well and that we're able to continue high quality of life. So I would definitely say start thinking about that. And I'm sure that that will start bringing small changes hopefully that some of the ones that we discussed today.