Lori Esarey: Wellness is a practice, not just a word.
Kelly Engelmann: Welcome to the Synergee Podcast, where myself, Kelly Englemann and Lori Esarey shed light on powerful tools and topics that nourish your body,
Lori Esarey: And most importantly, feed your soul.
Welcome Synergee listeners, we are so excited to have Deana Minich with us today, she is a certified functional medicine practitioner and is a nutrition scientist, international lecturer, educator, and author with over 20 years of experience in academia and in the food and dietary supplement industries. Currently serving as chief science officer at symphony natural health. She is best known for her research in functional medicine clinical trials, and her own practice, food and spirit. She is the author of six consumer books on wellness topics, four book chapters and over 50 scientific publications. She has served on the nutrition advisory board, for the Institute of Functional Medicine and on the board of directors for the American Nutrition Association and teaches for the Institute for Functional Medicine. We are so excited to have you here today with us, Deanna.
Deana Minich: Wonderful to be here with both of you. I’m excited for the conversation.
Kelly Engelmann: Yeah, Deanna, I want to share a little bit of my personal story as it relates to you. As we had mentioned prior to getting on together, we met you in the functional medicine arena at IFM as we were doing our coursework early in our careers, and we really fell in love with your concept of whole food nutrition, eating the rainbow, all of those things that we were already teaching in our practices, you just brought to life in a better way.
Deana Minich: Wow.
Kelly Engelmann: Fast forward a few years, and I got really sick for a minute, and I got one of your books one of your early books, Quantum Healing. Didn’t even know what that even meant, but I felt like that’s what I needed. And I really dug into your visualizations on healing, because I felt like I was doing so many of the things, eating well, exercising my body, and I still got sick, right? And so it’s more about that stress response and really calming things down from a limbic system standpoint, right? And so I got into those visualizations of healing and recorded those in my own voice. And that was what I listened to every morning as part of my meditational visualization, so you are a big part of my healing journey, so I wanted to say thank you for that.
Deana Minich: Oh my goodness.
Kelly Engelmann: And thank you for the life that you bring in a really fun and healthy way to this world of integrative medicine.
Deana Minich: Oh my goodness, that’s so wonderful to hear and that was really my goal in writing that book. It’s like a reference book for conditions, right? So when you’ve got something going on, how do you approach it physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, all these different modalities, and I’m so glad to hear that it was helpful for you, and you actually did what I was hoping to eventually do, which was to make audio recordings of those visualizations because, if you read it, that’s one thing, but then you have to remember that and then keep playing it forward so that you can continue to visualize. I do get a lot of feedback on that book that people like it, they feel like it’s such a great reference guide for them so, in fact, I just refreshed that book version, like in terms of its look and feel not the actual content but the publisher was also getting some traction on it so anyway, great to hear and thank you for sharing that.
Kelly Engelmann: Yeah, I think there’s huge power in hearing your own voice, telling your body what to do.
Deana Minich: Yes.
Kelly Engelmann: So having those words that are just so visually stimulating. And being able to do that, I just think it was powerful. So again, thank you.
Deana Minich: You’re so welcome, and I like what you said too about it’s your own voice coming forward, it’s almost like your higher self that is commanding your physical body to come on, let’s heal and here’s how we’re going to do it, we’re going to visualize it. Yeah.
Lori Esarey: So one of the questions we wanted to dig in with you today, and I too am super excited to have you on here for, primarily the reason, we deal with so many patients in our clinics that number one they don’t like vegetables. They really are so used to the traditional model of care that’s always a pill, right? For every problem and to think about food as that solution and then we’re telling them what foods to eat and they’re like, Oh my gosh, I can’t do that, so you speak so much about color, why are colors so important in our diets nutritionally.
Deana Minich: And to clarify, when we say colors, the colors that I refer to in eating the rainbow are not the candy colors that we would find in processed food. Some people, tongue in cheek, will always make that remark to me Oh good, I get to eat colorful foods, and I say there’s a big disclaimer what we’re talking about there would be plant foods primarily, so for most people, depending on their eating style, I like to find the common denominator for most people. What can most people do? So everybody in some way, except for perhaps very strict carnivores, eat some array of plants. And the reason why it’s really important to be looking at the colors of those plants that we’re taking in is because the color denotes that plant’s phytochemicals, it says something about their phytochemical signature. So if we are eating green, colored foods like arugula, kale, spinach, broccoli, those plants have a certain color signature. They have chlorophyll, they have folate, they have vitamin K1. A plethora. We’re talking thousands of different unique phytochemicals. And similarly, with the red colored foods, if we think of things like tomatoes and watermelon, we think of the red colored carotenoid, lycopene, and lycopene is really important for cardiovascular health, prostate health in men and so each food has its own medicinal property, but then the color of each food is also connected in part to its phytochemincals, and in nutrition, and I’m sure that you see this with patients, so many people focus on protein carbohydrate and fat. And then other people get that and then they move on to thinking about vitamins and minerals, they start thinking about magnesium, calcium, zinc, and they start to expand that nutrition circle but where most people do not go is into the phytonutrients, which is like the next concentric circle out. And with the phytonutrients, these are defined as non caloric components of plants that help to essentially maintain cellular health in a variety of different ways.
So these would be things like carotenoids, and under which carotenoids we would be thinking about things like beta carotene, alpha carotene, lutein, most people have probably heard of the lycopene that I mentioned, then there’s also polyphenols, which is a buzzword right now, polyphenols is actually the largest class of phytochemicals, there are about 8, 000 phytochemicals within polyphenols, so some of us have heard of those terms that would be things like even just phenolic acid or also flavonoids, resveratrol, still beans, anthocyanins, some people have heard those and even things like catechins, those are some common terms.
So that phytochemical category, sometimes interchangeably used with the word phytonutrient, I would say is an up and coming category of very important actives within foods, and those are what connect to the color.
Kelly Engelmann: So visually, it’s easy for a person to look and see how much color are they getting in their diet and kind of strive for getting those things in, maybe not always knowing what that phytochemical is going to do for them, but knowing that they’re getting the diversity that they need.
Deana Minich: And that key word is diversity.
Kelly Engelmann: Diversity, yeah. One of the things that we do in both of our practices and a lot of functional practices have embraced, is this concept of having patients do an elimination diet. And having them do some sort of detox, and unfortunately a lot of the times patients get the message that we need to be restricting, right? That we’re pulling things away and part of that is pulling things away that are processed and allergenic and things like that, but at the end of the day, we want to encourage them to work on that diversity piece for many reasons, right?
Deana Minich: Absolutely. In fact, I have three principles when it comes to food and life, actually. So the three principles are color, creativity, and diversity. And each of them hold their own in the way of looking at our connection into food, so we just talked about color and phytonutrients. There’s also the aspect of getting creative with food, how we prepare it, how we bring certain things together into a meal and that sense of creativity is so important for not just food, but also healing, sometimes we have to get out of our own way, we’ve got to get out of the box of the rut that we have put ourselves in and we got to get creative and move into that flow. The diversity piece. Is one that speaks to looking at the variety that we get within one color. So let me just give you an example. So most people have a phytonutrient gap, meaning that they’re missing out on one of those colors. And then other people have what I call a phytonutrient rut, which means that they’re definitely getting those colors, but they’re eating the same colors every day and they’re not deviating from that. So what ends up happening is that, they don’t actually expand that universe of phytochemicals that they can access by diversification so as an example, if somebody thinks of red, and this kind of came up for me because I’ve done so many group sessions, bringing them through the whole detox experience, focusing on color. And I noticed that certain people would say, Oh, I had red today and it was always the same red food and I’m thinking to myself, Oh, I didn’t emphasize that there’s a spectrum within each color. So when I say red, I don’t just mean tomatoes. I’m talking cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, beets the whole gamut of red because even one red food compared to another can be very different in terms of its phytochemical profile, you take red apples as an example. A red delicious, a fuji apple, a pink lady apple, they’re all varying shades of red and they would go into the red category, but yet they contain different phytochemicals. When we start to diversify that intake, we get that diversification of phytochemicals, which then adds to things like our gut microbiome and a number of other functions in the body.
Lori Esarey: I once heard you say, and as I was listening to another podcast of yours, you had said that, when you go to the grocery store, one of the things, and correct me if I’m wrong, you don’t do as much by a bag of apples,
Deana Minich: Right.
Lori Esarey: You said that, right? Because you want to get the different ones, and so I started using that in my practice this week and it was really eye opening because you can really extrapolate that to a multitude of different vegetables, right? You’re not buying them in the bags, getting little bits of different things and getting diversity, but let’s be honest and I think we all can agree here is that, the art of cooking and creativity in the kitchen, I feel like it’s a lost art. How do we get this back?
Deana Minich: So one of the ways that we can do that is with spices. I feel like spices are a great, all accessible way to enable people to create more flavorful food and more healthful food and also to bring in some of that diversity. So just to give you an idea, I think that for the most part, a lot of Americans have the same spices, even it’s typically black pepper, cinnamon, dill, oregano, or maybe a ginger is in there and that kind of varies depending on where people live. There are some region specific spices, but if we look at cultures that have longevity, have good health, what do they share? One of the things that we see is that there are unique herbs and spices from around the world and there are many cultures where those are emphasized, like in the Middle East or like in India or like in Japan or, when I was in Taiwan, I was just, wow, what an explosion of flavors and it’s just so much there in terms of spice, like you can take a dish and turn it into something else using spices. So what I love about spices is that they’re fairly, inexpensive. So I always get the question about, Oh my gosh, organic is expensive. Eating healthy is expensive. You have to know the hacks. And one of them is spices can potentiate the diversification and color input of a meal and they’re not expensive, right? So as long as you’re buying good, healthy spices and glass jars, we keep them out of the light. We keep the jars closed so that we don’t get the oxygen that breaks down the spices. That’s a concentrated form of phytochemicals right there, like I have a curry powder. And I was just looking at it like a week and a half ago, because I’m always trying to gamify diversity in my everyday meal, sometimes to my husband’s dismay because it’s like sometimes he’s just Oh my gosh, this is too much diversity. But I have one curry powder, which has 11 spices in it. Most curry powders have about five, the traditional definition of curry is about five, but I have one with 11 and I really like that because then I’m giving myself again, the benefit of all of those unique plants with all of their unique phytochemicals and just adding that into, let’s just say like potatoes, like cooked potatoes, adding in spices and one of the things that we know about spices as well is that they can help to reduce the inflammatory potential of a meal.
So if we include spices into something before we cook it. What can happen is we reduce the formation of many damaging inflammatory compounds. So that’s really key. Spices of all types, I would say, is one of the best ways to amplify a meal, make it more nutrient dense, give it more color, make it more flavorful, and even more diverse.
Lori Esarey: And our palates need that. Our palates need to be spiced up. What do they say it takes two weeks, really, to change your taste buds and so if we don’t like it, not only change the recipe, but
Deana Minich: Keep trying that’s right, and in each of their spices has their individual merit, like cinnamon helps with insulin sensitization, curry, turmeric helps with inflammation, ginger with inflammation. Like those are like little medicines in our cabinets at home in our kitchen, or on the counter in one of those spice racks, it truly when people go out and buy supplements, many times what they’re buying is actually what you would find in a spice powder. It’s just that what they’re buying in the supplement it’s been tested for quality in a different way and perhaps standardized to certain compounds.
Kelly Engelmann: That’s a great life hack, right there spices, just think spices and, herbs too are easy to grow.
Deana Minich: Yes.
Kelly Engelmann: I think herbs and microgreens are easy to pull off for most people, and have available to slide into dishes and change the color profile and the nutrient value of that dish so phenomenal.
Deana Minich: And some of those herbs are so resilient, so I have a little garden and I always like to observe, what are the hardiest of the plants? Because to me, that tells me that whatever medicine they have inside, it’s going to be hardy for me potentially. So the one that catches my eye all the time is Thyme. T H Y M E. First of all, it’s so cute. It has all those little, very intense leaflets. And then it has sometimes when it flowers, it’s got the small flower, but the leaflets are dense. So just like microgreens as the smaller part of a larger leaf of a salad green. The time is so dense and it has oil, that essential oil in time. So time is one of those, in fact I just had it for breakfast this morning, I went out on my deck and I have it just like a pot of time and I just cut off a couple of the stems and brought in that and wove that into the meal but thyme is really it has eugenol and eugenol is a compound. It’s helpful for the gut. There are so many ways and I know we’re going to get to talking about detoxification. I think that one of the ways to help better detoxify is to bring in some of these plant compounds that have this very intense flavor profile because that flavor profile often coincides with essential oils and other actives that are pungent, bitter, or have some other characteristic that actually is fueling metabolic processes.
Lori Esarey: Yeah, I’ve heard you say that breakfast, I believe, is your biggest meal. Is that correct?
Deana Minich: Wow, you have really listened in to a number of my podcasts.
Lori Esarey: And the reason I was so attracted to that and so interested in that, yes, of course I have, is because I have to be honest so many people, including myself, have a hard time doing that in the morning. But if we could just start out our day with those kind of flavors and that kind of spice and food, what an incredible start to the day. So did you always do that? I have to ask.
Deana Minich: I think that the pandemic ramped it up for me because my life changed during the pandemic, so I was working from home more, my husband and I were actually sitting down to a meal on a daily basis, whereas before I was traveling and speaking and all over the world and I didn’t really have a set routine or ritual. So the pandemic really solidified that for me and I realized, Oh my gosh, like my early part of the day, sets the tone for the rest of the day. And I need to have that healthy start and I am just naturally a morning person my husband is not, so I think that for some people, you have to go with your rhythm as well. One thing he mentioned to me today is that when he eats my large breakfast, even though he’s not entirely hungry like I am. I’m ravenous in the morning. I go for my walk. It’s Oh my gosh, my stomach is just ready to just take in that food and burn it up for energy. But one of the things he mentioned to me is when he has that large breakfast, he doesn’t feel the need to eat lunch. It really holds him. So I think that a breakfast can get us off to a good start and it can keep our satiety, can keep our energy high. And when I think of hormones, I think of what hormones are high in the morning, cortisol and testosterone. which are two very young, active hormones, they’re what get us out of bed in the morning, if we have a flat line on cortisol and testosterone, we’ve got no motivation or drive to get up and go and enjoy life. Like we just flatline and stay in bed. So that if we parallel our hormonal rhythm with our metabolic rhythm, we’re actually raring to go, for the most part everybody obviously has their unique rhythms. But in general, I do think that front loading breakfast when we have exposure to bright light and our circadian rhythm is syncing up, now we bring in a breakfast to act as that zeitgeiber, that time giver that punctuates our day and then we set it forth. But if we start to get skewed and we oversleep or we don’t eat, it’s like the rest of the day loses its structure a bit, it can. So that’s why I think that morning time, whatever you do in the morning is really key. I would say that the rest of the day probably has a lot more wiggle room, but that morning time, if people can anchor in and ground into a set ritual that gives them energy that can help to sustain them for the rest of the day,
Kelly Engelmann: I think you just said. So much that we need to dig in and unpack because we’re fighting an uphill battle right now with intermittent fasting. It’s become the thing and I believe in fasting and I think fasting is an incredible tool to use to help someone get metabolically reset and help promote longevity, I’m all about it. But the timing of the intermittent fasting is what I’m challenged with, right? I totally agree with what you’re saying in the morning, setting yourself up for success and how you start your day, having the largest meal of the day in the morning, I think, is ideal. I don’t see many people pulling that off right now and I would love to be part of the conversation and helping that happen, because I do think it’s profound. Especially when we think about those key hormones.
Deana Minich: Yes.
Kelly Engelmann: That are being, automatically, circadianly produce first thing in the morning. We want to do everything we can to support that. So that we’re not having that afternoon slump and that we don’t give out of brain energy by two o’clock in the afternoon and have decision fatigue creep up on us as well, right?
Deana Minich: Yes, absolutely. So what you mentioned about intermittent fasting, I think it’s true, we have so many trends right now that are coming up. I think right now dietary protein is hot. I think fasting is hot, I think circadian rhythm is hot. And it’s like a hot potato within nutrition, there’s always something to look at, right? And people reevaluate their lives, the trend, how it fits for them, and I think intermittent fasting is one that needs a lot of nuance. And typically the phrase intermittent fasting doesn’t really mean much, you have to actually qualify and say, okay, are we talking about time restricted feeding, meaning that we have a set window of the day that we are engaged in feeding behaviors. So some people will do like a 9 a. m. to a 6 p. m. and then they won’t eat before or after those times. You have other people who do like a five plus two type of configuration where they eat whatever they want for those five days and then for two days they do a more stringent fast, there are all kinds of variations on this and then you have other people doing more of a fasting mimicking diet where there are certain foods to get a similar cellular response as it relates to a fasting response, if that person had no food.
So I would say there’s a rainbow of different kinds of fasts and what that implies exactly, but I think that for most people, best practice is not to be going to bed on a full stomach. And the reason why I would say that is because, by the time it’s nighttime, It’s dim, it’s dark outside. Our digestive fire is not as robust like it is in the morning when we’re raring to go sympathetic nervous system is peaking, by noon we’re at this peak. And then we start that decline. As We make our way into the night, we move more into the parasympathetic which is, it’s just not going to be as helpful for things like digestion and sleeping. We need about four to six hours to fully digest and, have that nice postprandial response of glucose and insulin, so if we’re interfering and now we go to bed on a full stomach, so I think from a just a good sleep hygiene perspective it’s good to be thinking about not eating too close to bedtime for the sake of healthy digestion. You know for me personally what I have tried is a variety of things, and what I feel like most works for me is to eat, I usually eat breakfast between Oh, I don’t know, like seven and eight in the morning, and then I stop eating at, I would say, about 6 p. m.
Now, I’m a person where I’ve actually worn a continuous glucose monitor just to track my blood sugar and see how I do and see how different things help to improve that. And so I’m a person that can go pretty low in my blood sugar, so at night. I’m not a person who needs extended fasts. So for some people, they can handle a very long fast, like a 16 hour fast. Not everybody can, so you watch your blood sugar and your own metabolic flux and see how that works for you, right?
Lori Esarey: Definitely, yes, and you’re in great company because both of us wear CGMs and use the aura ring and really have worked diligently to use what we have available to us now that for years we didn’t have, which was great data to get that individualized feedback and that’s what I hear you saying too, is it really is individual, right? What works for the body and what doesn’t and three different seasons of our lives too.
Deana Minich: That’s an excellent point, I was just going to say that if you weren’t going to that. Who we are at let’s just say, I’m 52. So who I am at 52 is very different than when I was at 32. What my metabolic needs were, this is where we have to, especially for women going through the perimenopause, which can consume like 10 to 15 years of their lives, which, for some women, they’re going through it even earlier in their thirties. So sometimes you have to pivot. What worked back then doesn’t always work where you are with your life now, and that could be dependent on not just age, but also stress, hormone levels, toxic load, like the environmental factors that surround us, whether it’s family, community, financial. So we constantly have to reevaluate those things, I think. I always come back to food because that is my training. And that’s where I feel like we have the greatest locus of control in so many ways.
Lori Esarey: Absolutely. It’s foundational, we say, right?
Deana Minich: Yes, that’s a great word.
Kelly Engelmann: Yeah, 90 percent of our inflammatory burden is really coming from what we’re eating. So to your point, food has the potential to make the biggest difference in how we make those changes. So let’s think of a detox.
Deana Minich: Let’s do that, let’s go into detox. I would like to just say one thing based on what you just said, which was a great point about how you said the majority of our inflammatory responses is gauged by food. I would also add to that, that it’s also gauged about with mindset. So our thoughts about eating, the thoughts about the food that we are about to eat. With a detoxification, I like to be thinking of, one of my books is called Whole Detox because it’s really about the whole of you, it’s not just the liver and the gut and getting things out and purging and cleansing. It’s emotional detox, it is thought detox, it is spiritual detoxification, it’s looking at your relationships, your partnerships, your community. It’s really doing an overhaul on the whole of you, if you’re going to do a detox.
Kelly Engelmann: Yeah, so in that book, Whole Detox, you really redefine what toxin means. You dug into all those things with it being mental, emotional, spiritual, the environmental things that we’re exposed to. You really did a great job of helping us understand not only how to define a toxin, but also the implications of having those things in our lives and having lack of congruence in the way that we’re living our lives for hormone balance.
Deana Minich: Yes, I hope to have done that with the book. Essentially, I define a toxin as anything that stands in the way of your optimal health and wellness. So that could be a lot of things. That could be a heavy metal, that could be a plastic, that could be a toxic relationship, that could be smoke in the environment, goodness it has so many different connotations. It could be a lack of meaning and purpose in one’s life. It could be poor sleep. So what stands in the way, what blocks one from achieving their highest potential? Is it an inflammatory thought? An inflammatory food? An inflammatory emotion? I think emotions are big drivers of behavior. And in fact there was a statistic many years ago that stated that over 75 percent of overeating is due to emotional reasons. And the gut is emotional, it responds to emotion. We are emotional beings, but for many people, they like to focus on the physical and the physical is actually very important because you need the structure, you need the framework, you need, just like what you said about food being the foundation and that has to be in place. The emotions, I think, connect to what are we doing as a pattern? What are we doing ongoing? What’s the behavior? Because most people know what they need to do, but they can’t get to the point of changing it. And I’m sure that you see that with your patients.
Lori Esarey: Absolutely. Definitely.
Kelly Engelmann: And we see that a lot, and a lot of what we work on is helping them identify that, so identifying patterns. So if there’s a pattern that emerges, what’s the emotion behind that pattern? And then what are they really trying to accomplish, right? What emotion are they not feeding maybe? Or that they’re putting in time out and not acknowledging?
Deana Minich: Yeah.
Kelly Engelmann: And then they wind up feeding it food, inflammatory food to pacify or alcohol, some of those other habits that sometimes we pick up but yeah to your point, it’s the whole body. It’s a way of looking at the whole body and that book, if you guys haven’t seen that book, I do highly recommend that book and it’s more than just what you eat, it’s what you’re thinking, what you’re putting in front of yourself, who you surround yourself with. So many different aspects come out in that book.
Lori Esarey: And let’s be honest. May I say that, when I hear you guys, us talking about that, right? And I’ve been doing this, it’s been a work in progress for many years, I have to say that even I have been in it, it can sound so overwhelming, right? And I know that we have a lot of listeners that are new to this so what kind of advice would you give for a person that’s really just they’re new to all of this? Like, where do you start in that whole, like that whole. part of detox.
Deana Minich: I think it’s really important to start with a community or at least with a group of people that you feel connected to. And I’m saying that more from my clinical experience where I would sit down with somebody and go through this elimination diet or detox food plan or something like that and then they would be all inspired to go home and to put it into motion, and then they’d come back in three weeks and they hadn’t done a thing. And they felt that their family was not in support of it and then it became a burden, it was a time suck, and so I think in the way that I began to pivot was I then started to ask people to bring in their partners with them when they would come in to talk about the food piece of it. So the spouse would come along or the partner would come along. Whoever they lived with started to come along because I realized that I can’t just talk with one person and then put the onus on them to make that happen. Then eventually I moved into doing groups. I felt that the group healed the group. The group worked with the group. It was almost like the group would bring up to the surface, things that everybody would be experiencing like maybe somebody like, Oh, I had dairy today, I wasn’t supposed to do it and then somebody else would say, Oh, I know exactly how that feels and here’s how to get yourself back on track. Like it puts the group is such a powerful dynamic and if it is a group that is a supportive group, where they’re all aligned to a common goal of being healthy and they want to make this change, then they all support each other, even irrespective of their families. Like many times that’s where they can succeed, I had one woman who I won’t disclose her name, but this woman she saw me in the clinic for some time and she had an autoimmune condition. And basically, one of her biggest issues was gluten. First of all, she did the elimination diet. Gluten was a problem. She didn’t have celiac disease. She had rheumatoid arthritis, but she just had this thing with gluten. Once she was done, and started to feel so much better. She actually started a community group that focused on going gluten free, and it was the best thing ever because then she brought in speakers, she brought in education, and I began to watch that group grow over time. Eventually she wasn’t able to sustain it for various reasons and she had retired and done she did different things but it was so beautiful to witness how that community grew together, they would share products together. So I think that we all need that even for the healthy of the healthiest, you need your tribe. You need to find that vibe, which speaks to where you want to live, right? It’s so hard to be like a fish swimming upstream when it comes to doing things that are different. I remember back in the 1970s, my mom got into Adele Davis and Richard Simmons, like those health nuts out there, right? She would buy the Adele Davis bread, she would watch Richard Simmons, who was really into exercise. That was fringe and she was really the outcast. And I have to say, I admire my mom in so many ways because she defied so many criticisms and comments, if I think about it now, where we are in the 21st century, it’s almost like hip and cool to be healthy. If you’re not healthy, you’re on the out. And so in some circles, but what my mom had to go through then versus what people have to go through now, it’s like apples and oranges. There are so many opportunities, we have social media groups, we have, this is how most people learn these days they go on Instagram and they start looking at hashtags and they become self educated based on all of the influencers out there, so we live in a different milieu, we live in a different situation where people can actually find this support system these days, I think.
Lori Esarey: We do. We do. And you said so much there one of the things that I caught in what you said is that, sometimes it starts with hearing it, then applying it and changing it and there’s a lot to be said about turning around and teaching it.
Deana Minich: Yes.
Lori Esarey: Because in that teaching oftentimes there’s stability and sustainability in it, so I completely agree. I wish that group would have kept on but, I also have found, and I don’t know if everyone here can relate is that, groups really did change with COVID in so many ways to, it just did and I am a firm believer and we as Synergy, Kelly and I and our practices too, is we believe truly that you heal in community, I love what you said about healing in community, but how that community looks and how that community relates and how that community meets has become very different, and in some ways very good. You know that we do have the ability now through zoom and through virtual like type settings. But what I am facing or what we’re probably all facing this is that people’s bandwidths are very limited these days, so getting them to show up to classes or group, are you guys experiencing that?
Deana Minich: Definitely. First of all, because there are so many different things out there, it’s like there’s information overload, right? So people are taking from little bits of everything. So now it’s almost like all these pixels of information and we can go with one of them and then shift to another. So yeah, I think that because the options are so many that people their attention we’ll go from one to the other with ease, even if we look at functional medicine. It used to be IFM, but now we have all these other functional medicine groups cropping up doing different things with functional medicine, right? There’s a lot of diversity in different approaches, different people teaching and I think that has led to people not being as connected in to the community for the long haul. So it’s what I would call the shiny object syndrome, where people are like, Oh, yeah, it looks interesting let me just go and then everything else drops, right? And we do that sometimes with foods, with food trends, we can do it also with courses. I sometimes see it with health practitioners with certifications, there’s this not enough syndrome and then there’s the shiny object syndrome where it’s like, Oh, that must be the certification that I need and I have a certification myself and I’m often discouraging people from taking it I said don’t take this certification, you already have five different things that you’ve done. Why do you need this? So I think we just need to, everybody’s different and we’re different in our process, some people are in that state of like absorption. They just need to gather the information and then other people are more into that stage of applying. So they need to make that transition.
Lori Esarey: Yeah when we talk about detox as a group, because I think that you had said, one of your strategies and encouragements for people maybe just starting is to get with a group, in that inside of that group I think I heard you say earlier, starting with food, right? Starting with food is foundation, right? Adding diversity and thinking about those three principles of life that you talked about as well earlier color, creativity and probably diversity, correct?
Deana Minich: Yeah, you got it. Yeah, absolutely.
Kelly Engelmann: Yeah. How does this whole concept of detoxification play into hormone balance? How do we bridge that gap for people?
Deana Minich: Yeah, so hormones are the communicators in the body. So hormones can be made in the body by the endocrine circuit. They can be transported in the body. They can be activated. Then they can be metabolized and then excreted. So that’s the stages of hormones and how we metabolize hormones? Many times determines the outcomes and whether or not we get symptoms from those particular hormones. So metabolism of hormones, the way that the liver, primarily the liver, processes them is really important. So we can take something like estrogen, which can come in three different forms, and we can run it through the liver, and the liver can give us a form of estrogen that looks more carcinogenic, then another form of an estrogen. Many times it’s not just the total amount of estrogen, it’s how our bodies are uniquely processing that form of that hormone through the liver. There are certain things that can get in there and help us to create a pathway that would be better. One example would be cruciferous vegetables.
So things like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, even microgreens like broccoli sprouts would be fabulous for helping to better, better shepherd those hormones through the liver in order to metabolize them for a better outcome. So even though we may have certain genetics that lead to the production of certain metabolites that aren’t so great, we can help to buffer that somewhat by the foods that we take in. So when I think of detoxification from a metabolic perspective and just looking at metabolism, I think of kind of a two prong approach. I think of protein, I think that protein is really pivotal because protein forms the basis for things like neurotransmitters, enzymes, like our basic foundation, our skin, our so many things in the body are run by protein. So we better have good quality protein in the body. Case in point, melatonin synthesis, which we need melatonin for the sleep wake cycle for circadian rhythm. Melatonin is actually produced from the amino acid tryptophan, and amino acid is a building block of protein and so that’s an essential amino acid, which then converts into serotonin, which then converts into melatonin. So you get the neurotransmitter and you get the hormone from that protein. So even our stress hormones are derived from protein so we really have to, I think that there’s so much focus on protein lately from the aspect of skeletal muscle but then I also think that there’s an important teaching piece there as it relates to protein for the enzymes involved in detoxification, and for a lot of those cofactors.
And then the second prong is more plants. Everything that we were talking about when we first started the conversation, because a lot of what plants can supply would be the fiber, the vitamins, the minerals, the phytonutrients, which in some of those phytonutrients act as antioxidants, which can be helpful for that process of detoxification. My mantra when it comes to more of the diet aspects of detoxification is always protein plus plants.
Kelly Engelmann: Yes. Absolutely. Let’s dig into melatonin because I know you wrote an article. And I want to myth bust a little bit about melatonin, and I’ll have to say I’ve been guilty of telling patients myself, I would be concerned about you taking melatonin because I don’t want to decrease your own production of melatonin. So I know you have a different opinion about that, so tell us your state of melatonin, what did you learn from all the research that you did? And melatonin is so important, right?
Deana Minich: Yeah and first of all, what is melatonin? Melatonin is a hormone that is released by the pineal gland, which is in the brain during darkness. So there is a connection to the eyes. Like when your eyes perceive light, especially blue light, it prevents the pineal gland from making melatonin. So when we are in darkness, as it starts to get dimmer and dimmer, and then finally into darkness, we start to make more and more melatonin and that’s telling the body that it’s time to go to sleep. The core body temperature changes. So all around, melatonin is used for that. Melatonin has a lot of other functions however that most people don’t realize. It is a potent antioxidant, even more so than vitamin c. It’s a very strong anti inflammatory. It’s helpful for brain detoxification, mitochondrial regulation, and even plays a role in our immune system, which is both of you probably know during the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about melatonin and having melatonin and protocols to help with COVID. And even now talking about long haulers and incorporating that in. Yeah, most people don’t they’re not aware of all of the science of melatonin, how it’s been around for a really long time. And there’s a lot of question about supplemental melatonin, how do you use it? And I think that what you just mentioned about, this premise of don’t take melatonin because it will stop your body from making it. One of the things that we see, much like the other hormones is that melatonin production goes down with age. By the time somebody is in their fifties, they’re pretty much bottomed out on melatonin and it just continues to go to the very small amount from the pineal gland. So in general, like even if they were taking a melatonin supplement, they’re already not making so much, so there would be no real concern about stopping endogenous production. That said, now let’s imagine somebody’s in their 30s and maybe they’re at instead of producing the 0. 9 milligrams, they’re at like 0. 3, so they’re not bottomed out yet they’re still producing some. What I would say there is that, there have been some studies looking at melatonin supplementation and whether or not, endogenous production actually decreases. So at least in my mind, in my recollection, there are at least four different studies that set out to answer that question. And what they found, the researchers basically did not find that there was any kind of negative feedback loop, maybe in terms of saturating receptors if the melatonin is too high, that might be one thing, but you don’t actually stop endogenous production and aside from that, we have many different kinds of melatonin in the body. I’ve just been talking about the pineal melatonin, and that’s a true endocrine type of hormone that is released under certain conditions but then you also have the melatonin that is produced in all the different cell types in the body, especially those with mitochondria. The mitochondria makes melatonin. The gut makes 400 times more melatonin than even the pineal gland. And that’s not in response to darkness, that’s more in response to a meal. Both of most of the neurotransmitters and hormones, most of them are produced in the gut in higher amounts than we even see in the brain. So there are many kinds of melatonin, many different circumstances where we get different amounts of melatonin produced after different kinds of triggers. And sometimes it’s just used locally. Like we would call that autocrine or paracrine, when a hormone is used just within the cell itself or within neighboring cells. So I think that melatonin is much more complex than we realize, it’s in plants, it’s in animals, it’s in our bodies, we make it, but our ability to make it, at least from the pineal gland starts to decline with age, and some people have suggested that in part that’s related to sleep disturbance that we see as we get older. And potentially can tie into things like greater risk for dementia. So there’s that whole connection between sleep, helping with neuroinflammation, having better brain detoxification at night and now we disrupt that process, so now we start to see more amyloid aggregation, we see more problems with things that would involve the brain and the nervous system.
Lori Esarey: And we know how important sleep is for sure on just recovery and restoration of the body. Taking melatonin in some cases may be very beneficial, but is there a specific type of melatonin that you recommend?
Deana Minich: I specifically like Erbitonin, which is a plant melatonin. I’m also chief science officer at the company that makes Erbitonin, so it’s called Symphony Natural Health. And the reason why I like Erbitonin is a plant melatonin is because it was tested side by side with a synthetic melatonin, and found to be 646 percent more anti inflammatory, it had up to 470 percent greater free radical scavenging, it was also they tested it in a skin cell line and found it to be more than double the effect of quenching reactive oxygen species there compared to the synthetic melatonin and the ORAC is greater than nine times that of synthetic melatonin.
So when we have a plant melatonin, it is the same melatonin that’s in our bodies, but the herbitonin that I’m specifically referring to has other things in there from the plant. Like it’s really the plant concentrate. So that those plants, the rice, alfalfa, and chlorella were optimized in their respective environments to have high melatonin. Certain times of the day are primed to helping that plant to produce more melatonin. So there’s been a lot of brain trust in the way of trying to figure out when these particular plants are producing more melatonin, concentrating them and so now we have the full cell matrix from the plant. It’s not an extract, so it doesn’t involve alcohol or other types of excipients, there are no fillers, it’s just like the green plant material itself. And with Herbitonin 2 what makes it unique is the dose. So many people, I think where melatonin supplements go wrong is when, in fact, somebody was asking me about this on social media this morning about, certain impacts of melatonin on even things like blood sugar. And I think that when we start to get into the double digits, where these are not physiological doses, they’re supra physiological doses, these are doses that haven’t been used in a wide array of different populations for an extended period of time. So if we stay closer to what is normal, natural, and what the body normally produces, then I feel like that’s more of a safe zone. Now there might be certain cases where we need a little bit more, if we’re jet lagged and we really need to get in there and reset our circadian rhythm. For something like that, there are sleep protocols where you would take something on the order of three to six milligrams of melatonin once you’re at your location for three days thereafter or until symptoms resolve and you’re sleeping better. But I think for the normal everyday dose of melatonin, that a very modest amount would be required just to fill the gaps of what your body is not able to make anymore. So I think that, so many things here as we have this supplement discussion, I think that it’s very personalized. We have to look at somebody’s lifestyle. Are they exposed to artificial blue light at night? Are they on computers late into the evening? Because that’s going to distort their melatonin production. Even being on their phone and scrolling, here’s where we need to dim the lights, we need to wear the blue light blocking glasses, let our bodies be optimized in terms of what it can normally produce under situations that would be conducive to melatonin production by the pineal gland. And then as we get older and we’re just not able to produce melatonin at that same level and maybe there could be other issues there like pineal gland calcification. That’s a whole other topic but, there are so many different things that can lead to the dysfunction of the pineal gland where we now don’t get that optimal production. And sometimes that’s, connected to stress, diet, aging, genetics. There can be a whole hodgepodge of different things there, but for the most part, people decline in their 40s and then on into the 50s so they need sometimes a little bit more support and I do think that’s the case especially with the perimenopausal period where there is outright sleep disturbance. These women have inflammation many times. They have the night sweats. They have the hot flashes. Their core body temperature needs to come down, so for this particular case, there’s such a wonderful place to be bringing in something like Erbitonin to help to better regulate sleep wake, inflammation, and even something like core body temperature as it connects to sleep.
Kelly Engelmann: I agree there’s so much magic that happens while we’re sleeping, especially for that female in that perimenopausal time and oftentimes that’s a time in life where we’re sacrificing sleep for said productivity, right? And so we may be getting in bed late or waking up early to get things done before the family is up and out, and so I think anything that we can do to support a natural circadian rhythm that promotes healing and repair is on point.
Deana Minich: Absolutely. And I think that the biggest message here is being aligned to darkness as much as we’re aligned to the sunlight. During the pandemic, there was so much visibility into, Oh my goodness, we don’t get out in the sun enough, we need our Vitamin D, stop wearing so much sunscreen, go outside it’s anti viral. Don’t you remember that? It was like a huge momentum and effort to get this communication out at the public health level. Now I think we need a parallel track to say, no more light pollution, we need darkness. We need darkness at night just like we need sunlight during the day, we need them both it’s not just one or the other and I think that, like you said we have used electricity to be more productive and that’s all great, but we’re doing it at a price. We’re doing it at a price to rob ourselves of good self care, good healthy sleep, sound sleep. Circadian rhythm, and having that proper darkness, if we look at people who have distorted circadian rhythm, what happens to them, we start to see increased rates of breast cancer, we see increased rates of cardiometabolic issues. When we’re not in alignment with our circadian tone and allowing our systems to all synchronize to those clock genes. It can cause a lot of health issues. So let’s not forget that as we part from this podcast, I really want to get that message out that having darkness is just as important as having that exposure to sunlight.
So if we think of sunlight, vitamin D, think of darkness, melatonin. And if we think of just even back to the Victorian Era, or when people, they used to read by candlelight or they used to sit around the fireplace now, that kind of light is red. It’s not like the blue white enriched light that we find with fluorescent lights, computer lights, phone lights. If we can just tune, dial that light down at night and even change the color spectrum to go more into the red and less into the blue, that’s more in alignment with what our nature is, that corresponds to the external nature.
Kelly Engelmann: Sweet. Thank you so much for being so generous with your time and your talent and all of your knowledge. I can’t wait to get this out there to our community. Are there any parting things that you would say as we help others build this lifestyle around promoting detoxification? We’ve talked about protein, we’ve talked about plant nutrients, we’ve talked about sunlight, we’ve talked about sleep. Are there any other things that you’re like, oh gosh, we need to make sure we include that on the list?
Deana Minich: I think just to do a quick recap, again, color, creativity, diversity. So that’s one message. The second one is taking a physical, emotional, mental, spiritual take to one’s health, enter in the quantum healing book and, again not just focusing on physical, but really looking at the emotional side of things, the mental side of things, even spiritual, like what is my sense of meaning and purpose? Cause that’s going to change throughout one’s life. So I think those two is the cornerstones are essential, I think number three, the personalization and moving through the lifespan in a unique way for the individual and making sure that you’re tailoring your foods, your lifestyle, everything to where you are in that moment. I think personalization is part of one of the cornerstone messages within functional medicine, and we need to continue to honor that. That we’re all unique. We’re all different, yet we’re all united and connected. And we do have individual differences and we really need to figure that out in the way of fasting and different types of foods that different kinds of just throughout the day. I think the only final thing, those are big broad messages, the only smaller little thing that we didn’t really talk about, but I do think it’s important is that of water, believe it or not. Hydration. Hydration. And the reason why I bring up hydration is because it’s important for hormones. It’s important for detoxification. Most of our body composition is water, just even small amounts of dehydration have been associated with things like cognitive impairment. So water I think is a big thing and I think it’s an undervalued, underestimated contributor to health. Sometimes we get appetite signals mixed up with water and dehydration signals. So to feel your best, I think that you need all of the things that I’ve just been talking about with you ladies, but I think also some of the more obvious things of just making sure that we’re adequately hydrated so that we can perform our best and if we think of a detoxification approach to water, making sure that we do have purified water, we have trace minerals added to the water, there are different ways that you can do that, you can things like adding himalayan crystal salt as an example, where you add back a little bit of minerals. I would say pay attention to water. Water is such a, out of all the elements, you have earth, air, water, and fire and they’re all important, air is breath, fire can be digestion, anything that transforms, the earth is the food, the soil, the microbiome and then when I think of water, it’s integral. And it is what we shower and bathe in, it’s how we clean things, it’s what we drink. And it is the majority of our physical structure, so I would say to be really attentive to water and hydration.
Kelly Engelmann: So how can people find you? I’m in love with your social media. It is so colorful and so engaging. You want to give us that information so we can have that out there?
Deana Minich: Sure, I would say that the best way to find me is just through my website, which is DeanaMinich. com. So it’s D E A N A M I N I C H. That’s where I house everything. I would say, like blogs, resources, I have one if you go to the website and you look up at the top and that resources tab, if you click on that, you’re going to see that I have a number of different free downloads that people can access and they can just get whether it’s the Eat the Rainbow Toolkit, the Food and Mood Tracker. I have even a whole thing about how to cook your food for better health. A bunch of different things are up there. So I would say check that out a lot of goodies. The Herbatonin that I mentioned, that you can find on a different website. That would be symphonynaturalhealth. com. So people can look at that. But yeah, I would say keep in touch with me through social media. Instagram is much more pictorial. My Facebook page, Deana Minich PhD is a bit more sciency and I like to upload my pictures of food. And then I have a facebook group, and that’s called the Spectrum of Science and Art of Healing with Deana Minich. So you can find that on Facebook and join that group, that has been in existence for years since 2014. So that’s a group where sometimes I actually do group type of programs for fun. Even my whole detox program, we do that every March in that group.
Lori Esarey: Oh, that’s wonderful. That’s a great resource. Absolutely. I just want to say thank you so much for so many things, not only taking your time today and being so gracious, as Kelly said, with your time, his time is a precious commodity and you’re sharing it with us and we really appreciate that, and I also want to say thank you so much for your passion. It’s obvious. It speaks very loudly, and for the commitment that you have to share your resources with us and with others I am deeply grateful.
Deana Minich: Oh, thank you so much. It was really delighted to connect with you through some fellow colleagues, and so I love how you two are just putting out your good energy into the world and bringing forth all of the pearls of functional medicine. Thank you for what you are both doing with your patients and also with the podcast.
Lori Esarey: I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day.
Thank you so much for listening to today’s episode. You can find more information about Synergee at Synergee for Life. That’s S Y N E R G E E, the number for life. com.
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Lori Esarey: The purpose of our synergy podcast is to educate. It does not constitute medical advice. By listening to this podcast you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or others, including, but not limited to patients that you are treating. Please consult your own physician for any medical issues you may be having.
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