Freya Lawler is a Melbourne-based naturopath, nutritionist and natural fertility educator. Taking a holistic and integrated approach to wellness, she has helped to transform the lives of her patients by getting to the underlying cause of issues such as fertility, hormone imbalances (including polycystic ovary syndrome), acne, digestive problems and even trauma. Embracing natural therapies, pathology and clinical symptomology, Freya’s practice aims to honour the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those she works with. A big believer in the connection between gut health and overall health, we spoke to Freya about the role that collagen plays in whole-body wellbeing.
Can you please tell us a little about yourself and what drew you to
I am thankful to say natural medicine has been the default medicine for my family whilst growing up. It was this early exposure combined with the very holistic surrounds of southern Tasmania that inspired me to begin my career in natural medicine. My first job was at an iconic organic wholefoods cafe in the small town I grew up in. It was here that my appreciation for seasonal, local and organic foods really began. It was 10 years later that I started my naturopathy degree.
What would you consider to be the highlights of naturopathy?
Doing this work is life changing in so many ways and I feel so incredibly grateful to genuinely adore my work so much. For me the highlight is definitely being able to facilitate, and be a part of, the transformational changes that take place when patients are ready to take control of their health. That could be when a patient has been told they are infertile and won’t conceive, and after our work they go on to achieve and maintain a flourishing pregnancy and bouncing new baby. Relieving chronic skin conditions, managing endometriosis and eliminating chronic gastrointestinal complaints. It feels so special to play a role in this picture, and I get to do it as a job! Although, it doesn’t feel like work.
What is your experience with gut health? Do you have a personal
journey you can share with us?
Absolutely! I experienced bloating and a ‘funny tummy’ for years and thought it was normal. It wasn’t until I saw a naturopath for the first time when I was 23 that she highlighted to me that my symptoms were, in fact, not normal. We did a microbiome test and after working on gut healing for at least a year, I found I could tolerate foods far better, I had better regularity, less bloating and surprisingly was so much clearer in my mind. This is something so many people I work with report: a significant reduction in brain fog and lethargy. It’s such a pleasant surprise and it just goes to show that every system in the body is completely connected.
What has been your experience so far with collagen?
I am a huge fan! I have been incorporating collagen into my daily routine on
and off for about two years now. The most notable benefits I have
experienced are in the strength and quality of my fingernails (they used to
be so brittle), hydration in my skin, and the quality and volume of my hair.
Additionally, I use collagen as a way to increase my protein intake for the
day. We should ideally be consuming a palm-sized portion of protein with
each meal, which is actually quite hard to achieve. So on days when I
haven’t had enough, I’ll have an extra scoop of collagen in my tea or water
and immediately feel more balanced with less cravings.
Can you explain how and why collagen assists gut health?
Collagen is a natural protein formula, composed of many amino acids. These amino acids act as building blocks and fuel for our intestinal lining. Because our intestinal lining (epithelial cells) are so vulnerable to damage from the outside world, it is essential that they continue to frequently renew and replenish. When we don’t consume enough protein, have nutritional deficiencies, or when we have a parasite or bacterial overgrowth, often this renewal process is impaired and damage to the epithelial lining will take place. By ensuring there are no parasites or bacterial imbalances, your nutritional status is sound and you’re consuming collagen, you’re in a fantastic position to enjoy great gut health and glowing skin as a result.
Would you consider the quality of the collagen to be important for
100%. Grass-fed and pasture-raised Australian cattle is absolutely essential. It is so important to understand that if you are purchasing a collagen supplement from the US or China even if it states it is grass-fed or pasture-raised, the laws vary greatly from country to country and are often a lot more relaxed than here in Australia. Purity of the product is essential to its efficacy, very much the same as the nutrient content of local, seasonal and, where possible, organic produce.
As a naturopath, what recommendations do you have for people
wanting to maximise the benefits of collagen for gut health?
I tend to recommend quite robust doses of collagen to really reap the
benefits, however this really depends on the concern. I will often prescribe 2
tablespoons morning and night for best results.
How do you incorporate collagen into your daily routine and do you
have any secrets you could share with us?
I am quite well known for sneaking collagen into everything! I took a little bag of collagen with me on a 3 day hike over the summer to ensure we were meeting our protein needs as we were travelling very light. I’ll often spike it in dinners to give my partner a secret boost – in a curry, soup or stew. The options are endless! When it's warmer I’ll enjoy collagen in a smoothie. In the colder months I’ll usually enjoy it in my cup of tea as you can’t taste it. If I’m drinking coffee I’ll boost my coffee with collagen and medicinal mushrooms. Or I might make a 3pm hot cacao with collagen, freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, really fatty coconut cream and hot water, and quickly blitz in the Nutribullet. It feels like such an indulgent afternoon treat, but is full of goodness. I encourage you to get creative!
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