01:41 Dr. Maxim’s Journey: She had expected to become a doctor, but shortly before entering medical school she decided to become a naturopath, preferring natural means of healing. As a teen, she was overweight. She took control of her diet and activity level. Her excess weight came off and her confidence increased. Her step-dad had given her an old book about weight training. Dr. Maxim did this intensely for 6 months and found great benefit.
07:43 Diet First: Diet changes are easier to implement and adjust than starting a workout routine. A highly strenuous exercise routine may cause more inflammation and damage. Taking time off for repair may make it difficult to get back to the routine. Dietary changes are about mindset. When people start to exercise, their metabolism increases and they want to eat more. About 80% of health changes we desire come from diet. The remainder come from exercise.
11:42 Tier 1, Removing Triggers: Some foods are common triggers, like gluten, egg, and dairy. Sometimes people are eating very well, but are still sick. This is often from an underlying infection. Dr. Maxim routinely tests with a GI panel or live blood analysis for parasites and yeast. Personal care products have a set of toxins that disrupt hormones. Our environment is full of stressors.
14:28 Tier 2, Detoxification: Inflammation, toxins, and unbalanced hormones are filtered through the liver to be utilized as nutrients or excreted as waste. Urination and bowel movements are elimination organs which need to be in good working order. If the liver is backed up, it can cause a toxic buildup causing headaches, chronic fatigue, skin rashes, digestive upset, or constipation. The liver detoxifies you while you sleep. If you are waking up at 1:30 or some other time in the morning, your liver may be backed up and awakening you as it works. Another sign may be waking up hot.
16:25 Tier 3, Acid/Alkaline Balance: Dr. Maxim tests urine pH on all of her patients. The more inflamed we are, the fewer reserves we have left. Chronic inflammation may appear as hot flashes, an inability to control your body temperature, or fatigue.
17:30 Tier 4, Nutrition: Flood the body with nutrients that it needs to thrive and survive.
19:44 Gluten Free/Dairy Free/Sugar Free Substitutes: Because foods lack gluten, dairy or sugar, does not mean that they are healthy. People are becoming sensitive to substitute ingredients. Sometimes the construction of these products do not work for you and your digestion.
22:35 Eat Real Food: Eat foods that you make and eat whole food. Simplistic meals are less likely to bring about a reaction. Pay attention. Keep it simple. Reduce beige foods.
26:24 Fight/Flight Stress Reponse: Fight/flight threat response was temporary and completed when the lion was no longer a threat. The focus was keeping heart, lungs and brain alive. After 2 to 4 hours the response has abated. Through our stressful modern lives, we are being bombarded with figurative lions all day long. A never ending spike in cortisol is called the resistance phase. In large amounts, cortisol is pro-inflammatory and catabolic, breaking things down. The burnout phase is where chronic illness begins to occur. This is the sympathetic response. Energy reserves are not being used properly.
28:41 Parasympathetic Response: It is your rest and digest state. You allow your body to rest, repair and digest your food. In this relaxed state, you can absorb nutrients from your food. Sleep is one of the most important things we can maximize. Most of the rest and repair happens during quality sleep. Cortisol drops and melatonin rises in the evening as part of our body’s natural circadian rhythm.
29:43 Eating in a Stress State: When we eat in a stressed state, nutrients are poorly absorbed from food. Before you eat, sit down and take a few deep breaths. In a sympathetic state, we gravitate toward sugar foods or foods that convert quickly into sugar. Quick simple sugars convert quickly to fuel. During the stressed state, our bodies do not have the time or efficiency to break down our more nutrient dense, fibrous foods, making us gassy and bloated when we eat them.
32:47 Stress Management Strategies: Dr. Maxim recommends yoga over gym memberships. Yoga is yin building, nourishing and promotes the ability to take deep breaths. One deep breath can change your stress response almost immediately. Deep belly breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system.
33:53 Supplementation for Stress Reduction: Based upon how long the stress response has been present, adaptogens are a 3 to 6 month minimum investment. They establish and nourish adrenal glands. Rescue Remedy is a quick fix. Passion flower, oat straw herb or St. John’s wart work well to calm the mood quickly. Adaptogens are more long term, helping our bodies adapt to stress.
34:34 Digestive Support: Digestive enzymes and betaine HCL taken before a meal can be helpful for digestion. With chronic stress, stomach acid is often low, forcing your body to digest bites of food instead of broken down food.
35:32 Detoxification Strategies: You are the average of the 5 people who you spend the most time with. Negative people around us are toxic. Emotional toxins can trigger our stress responses. Establish boundaries. If possible, cut yourself away from these people. Put your mental/emotional state first. Meet new people. Smile at people.
Mike Mutzel: Alright everyone. Welcome back. I am super excited for today’s show. Today, we’re going to maximize our digestion, hormone function, maximize weight loss, and maximize our health with Dr. Andrea Maxim. Dr. Maxim is Southern Ontario’s leading naturopathic doctor and creator of the Maxim Movement, and author of “MAXIMized Health: The New Intelligent System for Optimal Digestion and Hormones.” To know a little bit more about formal education and background, Dr. Maxim earned her degree in biology and pharmacology from McMaster University, and attended Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine where she became a licensed naturopathic doctor. So, Dr. Maxim, welcome.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Thank you.
Mike Mutzel: I’m very excited to have you on the show, but before we dive in to all the details of your book and what you’re doing clinically, if you can just share with our listeners your background and how you get so involved in fitness and nutrition and naturopathic medicine.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Well, ever since I can remember as young as even the age of five, I knew medicine was my calling, and it actually wasn’t until my last year at McMaster while I was doing my thesis, that I discovered how much I love the natural side of medicine and not so much the pharmaceutical side. Up until that point, exercise was a big part of who I became. I was overweight as an adolescent teen, and I decided, “You know what? Enough is enough.” I was tired of feeling so self-conscious, and I took it upon myself to take responsibility for my health, start changing up my diet, removing all the processed foods because that was basically everything that I was eating. I started a healthy exercise regime and the weight just kind of came off, and the confidence came, and that was something that I tried to maintain ever since grade 9, so I must have been 15/16 years old at the time. And that was something really became part of my lifestyle, so when I discovered that naturopathic medicine had this umbrella of treating people naturally using herbs and nutrients and acupuncture, and anything that supports the body, doesn’t necessarily suppress or palliate symptoms, resonated with me immediately. And so I sought out the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, and I only applied to that one school because that was just the one place that I wanted to go and I needed to go, and four years after that, got my degree and I’ve been practicing ever since. That was really kind of the mainstay for me, and what I have been showing and sharing with my followers and my patients is how if we can start taking responsibility for our health, it’s amazing how much better our outcomes are when it comes to quality of life.
Mike Mutzel: Yeah, you mentioned just how you feel, how you looked at yourself, and how you interacted with the world. I can really resonate with that because I myself was a little underweight when I was 14/15 and just kind of by happenstance really got into weight lifting, and it totally changed my entire life. So, let’s talk about how did you find weightlifting. Was it like a bodybuilding magazine? I know there’s a lot of fitness and fitness models from Canada and so forth, and you mentioned eating healthy foods and every time I visit Canada – my wife’s Canadian as we discussed.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Yeah.
Mike Mutzel: The availability of healthy food is a lot better up there. So, how did you find fitness and when you said you were eating these unhealthy foods, what are we talking about?
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Basically, in my household, it was kind of a single-parent household. I was living with my mom. My parents had divorced when I was younger, and that's really what started a lot of the weight gain and the unhealthy habits for me. So honestly, it was just whatever came in a box, whatever was frozen, whatever is quick and easy – that’s what we were consuming. Forget the vegetables and the healthy alternatives. It was all quick-to-make snacks, quick-to-make foods, quick-to-make meals. I mean, I remember when the first KFC’s picnic meal first came out and we were all over that as a family, so that gives you kind of an idea of where we were, and I was the only one out of my family to branch out of that and I started saying no to a lot of the processed foods, saying no to the ice creams, the chips and the cookies, and a lot of the bread products that I was over-consuming and started to have a much more nutrient-dense, but low-calorie diet. And again, this is something that I just kind of intuitively picked up on my own. My stepdad at the time knew that health was becoming a big passion of mine and gave me this really old-fashioned, like 1970s workout book with this old lady wearing those onesie-type fitness outfits.
Mike Mutzel: Right.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: And it was all about just basic weight training. It wasn’t using weights any higher than 10 pounds, but it was the repetition, it was the consistency, and I did that intensely for six months, and it was amazing how quickly the fat melted off and the muscle tone started to come up. I never really got into a lot of weightlifting, but I always promote weight training to my female patients especially because there is this stigma that if we start lifting weights, we’re automatically going to bulk up like Arnold. It’s such a miscommunication, I think, amongst the female population.
Mike Mutzel: For sure.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: That really, doing and focusing more on weights will get you that body that you want so much faster. It boosts your metabolism. It gives you that tone, and that’s what everybody wants. It’s not about lifting the 200 pounds of weight and trying to get one or two sets out of it and then powering back all the protein shakes and all those things. It’s about keeping it consistent, keeping it working for your body, and that, to me, has been the only way that I’ve seen the results consistently stay by maintaining that muscle mass, by maintaining that diet, and it doesn’t have to be intense, it just has to be consistent; that’s all I promote.
Mike Mutzel: I love how you said that. I couldn’t agree more. I think that for individuals that find weight training first, they naturally want to eat better and sleep better, avoid alcohol, and not smoke because they want to get those results from the hard work and the gym, and so I wonder – I’m just thinking about this off the cup, as you were talking – I wonder if it’s the better strategy in the sense that as healthcare practitioners and dietitians and nutritionists, the goal is to really get people off junk food.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Right.
Mike Mutzel: But I wonder if getting them in the weight room, and again, not to be a bodybuilder, but to build that lean muscle mass would be a better strategy initially just to get people – they put in the work and then they want to see the results. What are your thoughts as a clinician, and have you seen the work? Or what’s better – the food first or the workout first (I guess)?
Dr. Andrea Maxim: My personal take and what I’ve seen to be the most effective, I think, is diet first. I completely agree with where you’re coming from, but I find the diet is a little bit easier for people to maintain and a little bit easier for people to adjust immediately as opposed to starting a workout routine. No. 1, when we start a workout routine coming from next to nothing, we often go so hard that we end up causing more inflammation and more damage that we then take weeks off to repair, and it’s hard to get back on that horse, whereas diet changes, and again, they don’t need to be extreme, can happen by your next meal. They are a lot more easy to understand, and I think everybody understands what they should and should not be eating, but it’s mindset. So, some people need to control their diet as a way to control their lifestyle, then I think that works awesome. If other people need to be active and doing something in order to control their lifestyle, then maybe exercise first would work for them. But there’s also this theory that when people start to exercise, naturally, their metabolism goes up; naturally, they gravitate towards eating more, because your body’s heated up, you’re using up a lot more reserves, and then there’s this mentality of, “Well, I went to the gym today. Therefore, I can have this bag of chips tonight.” And that’s not something that I like to necessarily promote. I think if we stick to the diet changes first and have them understand how important the diet is going to be with regards to exercise outcome, with regards to quality of life outcome, and get those foundational things taken care of, then once they start exercising after that hard workout, they may then reach their protein shake or protein smoothie, as opposed to a dessert or as opposed to a piece of pie because we haven’t made that connection yet. Now, what you’re saying is completely right. The more we exercise, the more we start seeing our body improve, the more motivated we are to stay there, but again, I find diet to be the foundational reason why we keep the weight off. Exercise is wonderful, but some people aren’t exercising enough; they’re not exercising right for their body type; they aren’t asking the right questions; they’re not getting personal training, for instance, to get started, so they just go to the gym, walk on the treadmill and think, “Oh well, I’m exercising today; therefore, I’m good to go.” So, it all depends, but I say, 80% of the results you’re looking for with regards to health outcome come from the diet. The last 20, even maybe 10%, will come from the gym. This is because I’m focusing on women, ages 25-50, busy moms, more middle-aged women that necessarily don’t have the mindset of an endurance athlete or someone who’s already had that exposure to the gym. And I just find if we can get their diet on track, everything else falls really nicely into place because they get the energy from their food. That energy says, “You know what? Instead of sitting on the couch, I want to go for a walk. I want to walk to the grocery store instead of take my car.” It’s kind of interesting how food can also drive better exercise and more motivation. So, for my perspective, food first.
Mike Mutzel: Yeah. I definitely agree with you. It makes a lot of sense. I’m looking at your book here, and you have your pyramid of different triggers, and as passionate as you just worry about food and food first, food is not the bottom. You talk about how you like to focus on the roots of the tree, not the leaves, and so let’s talk about – we can circle back and dive into food in much more depth, but you talk about removing triggers, detoxification, acid-alkaline imbalance, and then food. So, let’s go from the bottom up and talk about the roots of this foundation for creating maximized health.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Right. So, this is the four-tier approach that I developed and I use with all of my patients because I find it to be so effective, and it’s exactly that. If we don’t start identifying the triggers first, identifying where the disease is coming from the roots of the tree, then there’s no point in jumping right to treating the leaves because that’s not going to do much long term. So, each tier represents a different stage on how we want to understand our body. The first tier is removing the triggers, and as you said, there are foods that are very common triggers. We’re hearing more about gluten allergies or gluten sensitivities, celiac disease (which is a severe gluten sensitivity), eggs sensitivities, dairy sensitivities, and now, I’m starting to see more patients develop weird sensitivities like to chocolate or to almonds because now, more people are consuming more almond milk and almond-based products. Even some of the gluten-free starches, we’re starting to see people have sensitivities to. So, foods and identifying which foods do and do not work for you is No. 1, and is usually the easiest thing for us to identify, but I’ve also found with a number of patients, they are cleaning up their diet, they are eating a Paleo diet, they’re eating a vegetarian or a vegan diet, they’re getting all the nutrients in, and they’re just not feeling better. A lot of times, we find an underlying infection is present, and this is something that I don’t think enough naturopathic doctors investigate with regards to some of the foundational triggers to disease, and I routinely test either with a comprehensive GI panel, or what we do in my office, which is live blood analysis for parasites and yeast. If those bugs are overgrowing in the body, you will always have digestive upset, you will always be promoting inflammation, and it’s not going to give you that long-term result that you’re looking for. And then of course, we have to be thinking about what is it that we’re putting on to our skin from a personal care product perspective because those carry a whole new set of toxins that are disrupting our hormones, and then our environment, so is our environment’s stressful; that’s a huge trigger. We can’t necessarily quit your job, but we can have your body maintain or defend against your stressors so much better. Or if your home life is stressful; again, we can give you avenues to help your body respond so much stronger to those stressors. So, that’s the first tier: removing the trigger.
The second tier is detoxification. When it comes to anything we’re being exposed to, if you’re being exposed to toxins, if your body is inflamed, if your hormones are out of whack – all those things have to be filtered through the liver in order to either be utilized as nutrients or excreted as waste. And the two major elimination organs we have are urine and our bowel movements. So again, those two things have to be working. But if the liver is backed up – and I like to give the analogy of the liver as kind of like a huge boiling pot, and the more water we put in there, the more it’s likely to boil over. So, we have to find ways of managing what’s going into that liver and what is coming out, and it’s more what’s coming out that a lot of people have deficiencies in, which means they’re creating this toxic buildup; that toxic buildup then reflects on a lot of the symptoms patients and people are experiencing like headaches, chronic fatigue, skin rashes, digestive upset, constipation. A lot of these things boil down to the liver being backed up. A really simple one at just the patient I had this morning said, “I started taking all these medications, and now, I’m waking up in the middle of the night.” Well, the liver is actually detoxifying you while you sleep, so if you’re waking up between 1:30, 3:30 in the afternoon or in the morning, the liver is probably so backed up that it’s working so hard for you that it’s waking you up. And that can often then lead to inability to fall back to sleep, or if you wake up feeling incredibly hot, that’s another sign that your liver, just like an engine overheating, is working too hard for you. Something you’re exposing your body to is not necessarily working. So, that’s the next tier.
Now, the big one is the third one, which is acid-alkaline balance. So, every single patient that comes in to my office will always get their urine PH levels tested – always. And we do this by doing urine PH strips. The more inflamed your body is, just like throwing a log on a campfire; the more inflamed you are, the less reserves you’re going to have left to give you what you need to get through the day. So, the longer we let a log burn in the fire, the more it just turns to ash, and it’s the same thing that’s happening inside the body. If we have that sense of chronic inflammation and you may not feel it as pain, but you may feel it as hot flushes or inability to control your body temperature, or fatigue, again, is a great sign if there’s inflammation, because your energy levels, your hormones aren’t working; everything is being eaten up and consumed by this raging fire that is going on in so many of us. So, we always monitor urine PH, and then finally, and pretty much where this started and you’re absolutely right; finally, we want to make sure the body is being flooded with all of the food and nutrients that it needs to thrive and survive. And there are protocols that I do with patients where we’re establishing all four tiers at once sometimes, where we have to start very slowly with others and identify the triggers first and then make sure that the body is healing itself. But if we don’t go through those tiers in that stepwise fashion, we’re skipping steps, and we’re not, again, going to be establishing all those foundations of health that we need to establish long-term health. We don’t want quick fixed anymore; we have to start from the root, and work our way up. If we don’t do that, you’ll feel better for a little while and you’ll fall back, and that’s not what we’re aiming for when it comes to treating the body, treating the system and allowing the body to heal.
Mike Mutzel: Well said. And this model can be applied to many conditions. I mean, you talked about a patient that you saw this morning that had sleep issues, this could be applied to sleep, weight loss, diabetes, anxiety, depression, many different issues, and so when it comes to – I’m involved in kind of the metabolic weight loss area having written a book on it.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Yeah.
Mike Mutzel: And so many people just want a quick fix. “Just tell me the diet.” There’s much more than that. We can even get into the gut microflora and so forth, but I want to paint the picture just so people understand when we say “in your approach,” we’re treating from the ground up, not the leaves. For example, treating the leaf will be like giving a sleeping pill to your patient this morning that had trouble sleeping. That would be the knee-jerk reaction of a traditional allopathic doctor. Would it not?
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Correct.
Mike Mutzel: Yeah. Okay, what is going on? Is the liver hot? You mentioned waking up sweaty, and is there toxins? Is there acid-alkaline imbalance? So, I really like how you go through this from this functional medicine perspective and everything is building on one another. I took some notes when you’re diving in there. The circleback, and you mentioned gluten-free foods. Most people think, “Oh, my gosh. What’s gluten-free? It’s going to be good for me.” But you mentioned that individuals are having sensitivities to this different flours. So, let’s explore that a little bit more and help educate our listeners more about that.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Sure. Just because something is dairy-free or gluten-free, or we can even go as far as saying sugar-free, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is healthy for every single person. These are generic labels that, for the most part, are used to sell products because everybody’s looking for that. But sometimes, the construction of those products does not necessarily work for you and your digestion. So, I can say from personal experience that I don’t have a severe sensitivity to gluten, but if I have it too many days in a row, I’ll definitely feel a lot more irritable; I won’t be having regular bowel movements; I just won’t be feeling quite right; I’ll be a lot more tired. And there’s been experiences where have gone to all-natural bakeries or gone to places that promote gluten-free foods, and I’ve had severe digestive upset after having some of their breads or cupcakes or what have you, because instead of using the gluten-rich flours, they’re using potato starch and tapioca starch, and all these other things. Well, I have found that consistently with other people as well, where they would eat these alternative foods, but they still have elements in them that the body may not work well with. So, for instance, if we go back to the potato starch, I feel that I have a small sensitivity to nightshade vegetables. Nightshade vegetables include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. So, even that small amount of potato starch can actually be triggering me even though it’s a gluten-free product. So, these are things that not everybody thinks about necessarily. They’re like, “Okay, I’m going gluten-free, but the gluten-free products still bother me,” or “I’m going dairy-free, but there's still an element of that dairy-free product,” like an almond sensitivity, and they’re having almonds milk all the time. That we have to step outside even just the top three major food allergens – gluten, dairy and eggs – and think about the other ones that aren’t as common, but for your body, may not necessarily work. So, these are just some elements that people need to be very aware of, is that there’s no one-diet-fits-all, no one-food-type that fits all, and you really have to pay attention to how your body was going into it, because of course, if you’re stress-eating, you’re not instigating that parasympathetic, that rest-and-digest response, so you automatically may get gassy and bloated no matter what you eat because you’re in a rush, you’re not fight-or-flight state, just have to get food in. So, it doesn’t matter what you eat that point, but then, there are other times where you will be in that perfect parasympathetic state and you’ll still react to a component of that food. So, I try to tell patients as much as you can put the ingredients together yourself and as much as you can get used to eating just real food, just whole food – meat and potatoes, or lentils, beans and veggies – as long as you’re sticking to very simplistic meals, the reactions aren’t as likely as when we get into the baked goods or when there’s a lot of complexity into making these meals. So, you just have to continue to pay attention.
Mike Mutzel: Couldn’t agree more. And I have a personal experience along these lines. I generally follow, just as you mentioned, Dr. Maxim, and eat just real food.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Right.
Mike Mutzel: We cook a lot of our own food, we grow our vegetables, we shop at Farmer’s Market, and so forth, but I was on a road trip and there was kind of a food stand, and so I went over there and they have these natural beef turkey. It said right on, “Natural – no artificial sweeteners and all that?” Normally, I’m a label reader, but I had my daughter screaming in the car, I’m like, “I’m just going to grab this, whatever,” but it says “natural, gluten-free.” So, I just assumed it would be good for me. So anyway, I’m giving my daughter an apple she’s chewing in the back, and I’m eating this beef jerky, and I’m like, “Man, this stuff tastes good. What the heck is in here?” so I look at the label. There was 9 grams of sugar per serving, and I just – you know, I’m driving, and I’m trying not to like crash my car. Okay, this means 9 grams of sugar per package. And then I looked at how many servings per container, and there was four servings per container, so this thing had just a ton of sugar. I couldn’t believe it, and so I think we need to reinforce this. Go back to real food, even if it’s some trusted organic, gluten-free organic brand. The food companies know that consumers are so used to eating sugar or artificial sweeteners, and so if they don’t make this very, very tasty, people are not going to buy it. So, just go back to the basics. Cook your food from scratch. There are a lot of resources online. I would love to hear books and resources that you recommend for eating and changing diet around. Do you have any favorites?
Dr. Andrea Maxim: I personally don’t, and maybe it’s because you know what – I will be honest with everyone. Cooking is not something that I love to do. I personally stick to very basic things like barbecuing, chicken and fish, and then having it alongside some steamed vegetables. I don’t have the most exciting palettes, so I’m not the best person to ask about food. But with the advent of the internet and with the amount of resources that you can look up, sometimes, what I even do, is I just take a look at what’s in my fridge, and then I literally just Google all of those foods and see what recipes come up, and kind of throw it together that way. I just try to get patients to keep it very simple, so you don’t need to make elaborate 12-ingredient meals to have a good and healthy well-balanced meal. Focus on the color, focus on reducing the amount of beige foods, make sure you’re getting your protein in, and you will be just fine. It doesn’t matter how you do it. If it’s just eating six stalks of celery, and that’s a great way of getting your veggies in; perfect. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate. So, unfortunately, I don’t have any key resources to offer you, simply because I just kind of type it into Google and see what comes up.
Mike Mutzel: That’s perfect. That’s very practical and something everyone has access to the internet now.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Yeah.
Mike Mutzel: Yeah. I’m with you, too. My wife loves to cook, prepare everything and measure everything out, and I’m kind of one of these guys where I have some curry, some olive oil, some sea salt, and that pretty much goes with everything that I eat.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Right.
Mike Mutzel: But we know, Dr. Maxim, it’s not just what you eat, it’s how you eat it. And I loved how you hinted at the parasympathetic nervous system and its role in digestion. So, let’s talk about that. What is the parasympathetic nervous system? Why is it so important and why should we not eat when we’re very stressed?
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Okay, so let’s start at the very basics. We have two types of neurological responses. One is the fight-or-flight – go, go, go, run away from a threat – and a long time ago, we would just be running away from bears, tigers, and arrows if we can go away far back then. So, that threat response would last maybe two hours, and then that’s when the adrenalin kicks in, all your body wants to do is run, so all of your energy goes to focusing on keeping your brain, your heart, and your lungs alive because that’s the only way you’re going to escape the threat. And then after about two to four hours, the adrenalin response goes away, and then we have cortisol, which is our natural stress hormone kicking a little bit just to maintain us through the rest of the stressors of the day. What’s happening now is our threats are continuously being bombarded from all different angles all day long, so we are being instigated by our family; we’re being instigated by deadlines at work, by angry bosses, by bad traffic, by not meeting deadlines, you name it. Even some of the things that we watch on TV or hear about can trigger stress responses based on the quality of the information being provided. So, most of us are chronically in this state of acute fight-or-flight, which becomes what we call either the resistant phase where it’s just a chronic never-ending spike in cortisol. Again, cortisol is, at small doses, excellent for our body, but at larger doses, very pro-inflammatory – what we call very catabolic, meaning it breaks things down, so it’s working against you, but it’s the only thing your body can do to survive your threats that are in your daily lifestyle. If that continues to happen, you reach what we call kind of the burnout phase, and this is really where chronic illnesses start to happen. So, that is more of that fight-or-flight sympathetic response: go, go, go; can’t relax; your body is focused only on breathing and your heart rate, which means that the energy reserves are not being utilized properly for your parasympathetic, your rest-and-digest state, where it’s doing exactly what we just said. You are allowing your body to rest, to repair, and therefore, to digest our food and absorb the nutrients it needs to to rest and repair. This is why sleep is probably one of the most important things that we need to maximize on, if I can say that, because that’s where a lot of the rest and repair is happening. Most of us are disturbed sleepers – can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep. Why is that? Because we’re chronically in that sympathetic state. We are not allowing our body to relax; we’re not allowing that cortisol level to drop as the sun goes down and our rest-and-digest hormones like melatonin to rise as the moon comes up; that’s the natural circadian rhythm that our body should be following. So, when we’re eating in this stressed state, you can imagine how beneficial that’s going to be for your body. If the body isn’t tuned to getting the absorption and the nutrients from your food, then what is it that you’re actually doing? You’re just kind of settling a craving and moving on with your day. So, it’s really important for people, right before they eat, to maybe sit down, take a few deep breaths for a minute or two, and then go into eating, as opposed to eating in the car, eating while they’re walking, eating while they’re going in between meetings. Mind you, starving is no place to be either, but we just need to be very cognizant and very aware of what type of state it is that our bodies are in when we are trying to feed it with nourishing foods. So, if I can elaborate on this a little bit more, what type of foods do we tend to gravitate towards when we’re in that sympathetic state? It tends to be the quick sugar, quick satisfying foods like sweets, cookies, and chips because they convert to sugar or to carbohydrates very, very quickly. And what type of fuel that our body need to use to drive that sympathetic response all day? It’s the quick simple sugars that convert very quickly to fuel because our body runs off of glucose that its fuel. So again, it kind of goes back to “What foods am I eating?” Most of us are eating the beige, carbs, quick to consume foods because when we go for the heavier meats, proteins, legumes, lentils, we get immediate gas and bloating because our bodies do not have the time and efficiency to break those foods down, and yet, those are the foods that we need the most. So, it’s all about controlling that stress response and giving your body the ability to calm down so that it can work for you instead of work against you.
Mike Mutzel: Well said. You’ve mentioned something that I’ve never even thought about, but just as you finished off there. The beige foods that are sugar-based, quick to digest, and as you started out with the overview of the sympathetic nervous system, the GI tract’s not being innervated when you’re in that fight-or-flight mode, so it’s a perfect nutrient, almost like fueling the fire, if you will, to drive more stress.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Absolutely. Because what did I say cortisol does? It’s catabolic; it’s pro-inflammatory. We’ve heard from people all over the place talk about how sugar is toxic and what are these simple carbs turning into? Just turning into sugar. Exactly – fuel for that fire, promoting more of that inflammatory response. This is not a good place for us to be long term.
Mike Mutzel: So, you mentioned being mindful and grateful and sitting down, taking a couple of deep breaths before people eat, but what are some other strategies that you found to be effective overall in someone’s life and maybe this is from a nutritional standpoint, a supplement standpoint, yoga, HeartMath, meditation. What are some things you find to be most effective?
Dr. Andrea Maxim: If patients are willing, I always recommend yoga over any gym membership. I find yoga to be so yin-building; it’s so nourishing; it’s promoting the ability to take deep breaths in. One deep breath can change your stress response almost immediately because the deep belly breathing, that we fail to do because we’re all shallow breathers, because that’s what we do when we’re running. The deep belly breaths initially and immediately trigger the parasympathetic; they immediately calm you down. If everyone listening were to just put their feet on the ground and take one deep belly breath right now, I can almost guarantee it, by the time they’ve done that breath, they almost reset their system completely. So, I love that with yoga. But as I said, even before meal, taking one deep belly breath would be wonderful for you to do. And I've kind of forgotten the other aspect of your question.
Mike Mutzel: Oh, maybe supplements. So, do you have any adaptogens that you find very effective?
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Yes, absolutely. Now, the other thing I will say about adaptogens is based on how long the stress response has been present, you’re looking at a good three- to six-month minimum investment to really reestablish and renourish those adrenal glands. If you need something more quick fix, I find things like Rescue Remedy to be wonderful; anything with passion flower or oatstraw as an herb, or even St. John’s Wort to work very, very well at calming the mood more on an immediate response. But we want to use more of the adaptogens long term to help our body adapt to stress. And with regards to people that have difficulty digesting their food and they may not necessarily have the time to wait three to six months before their digestion comes back to normal, digestive enzymes are wonderful to take right before meal. I certainly recommend digestive enzymes with a little bit of bile because that bile helps to break down your fat; it helps to support your gallbladder; and with a little bit of stomach acid in it, so betaine HCL. Because with chronic stress, we often find that the stomach acid becomes very low, and when that happens, you’re not melting your food down appropriately, so therefore, you’re now forcing your body to digest huge bites of food as opposed to kind of having it melt down and have it more nutrient-friendly. So, I would definitely take a digestive enzyme before meal.
Mike Mutzel: That’s great. Perfect strategies there. I know you have to run shortly, but if we could finish up on detoxification.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Yeah.
Mike Mutzel: In your book, I want to quote you: “You’re the average of the five people who you spend the most time with.” So, when people hear about detox or detoxification or toxins in general, we think like industrial chemicals, but these can be individuals that we live and work with. So, let’s talk about both – the chemicals and then the emotional and personalities that may be toxic.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: The chemicals – I kind of touched on it at the very beginning. So, what we’re being exposed to in our air, what we put on to our skin, the types of foods that we’re eating. Very logical; it makes a lot of sense when we think about physical toxins and measuring our body on how that can cause toxicity. From a mental-emotional perspective, we know the difference between entering a room where there’s tension, where people are fighting, or if there’s been some sort of disagreement, you can feel it in the air. You immediately absorb it and you either will naturally refrain from entering that room or you just kind of try to survive that versus entering a room where there’s been an amazing party going on, with high energy, everyone’s having a great time, they’re smiling, they’re laughing, and you feed off that energy, you absorb it in a positive way, you want more of it because it lifts you up. So, when we’re being exposed to naysayers, to people that are always angry like those irritable or angry bosses, that you have to survive somehow, but as soon as they walk in the door, you immediately get your guard up and you immediately get tensed. These are the types of emotional toxins that can really start to, again, trigger that stress response, that can start to put you into more of that sympathetic fight-or-flight state as opposed to that nice rest-and-digest state. It starts triggering negative thoughts within yourself: “This person makes me always feel like I’m lesser than them,” “This person always makes me feel I’m not capable of being who I want to be,” “This person is always shutting me down,” “This person is always commenting negatively about anything that I wear, anything that I do.” These negative thoughts constantly get cycled in the back of our heads, and they create negative habits, which then creates negative energy within ourselves and can create toxicity. Everybody knows what I’m talking about, who’s listening today. We all have that one person who we hesitate to pick up the phone to call because we know the conversation is going to be bit of a downer, or we hesitate to go to events where this particular person’s going to be because they consume the room with their negativity and you don’t want to be around that, and what that may require you to do is find simple ways to put up your boundaries, put up your walls, so that whatever type of energy these people are forcing on to you, you bounce it right back. As a practitioner, every single person I see is not feeling well initially until we start treating them and peeling away those layers. And if I absorbed all of that negativity and that negative energy, I would be spent by the end of the day. So, it’s about finding ways around that, putting yourself into timelines. Okay, from this time to this time, I will talk to my aunt who I know is suffering from a loss in her family, but you establish those boundaries. When the phone call starts, I’m totally in best when the phone call ends. I’m going to take myself out of her shoes and continue on my day without absorbing that energy. If it’s not something that you can protect yourself against, these people may be people you want to cut yourself off of, and for anybody who has a Facebook account, I can’t tell you the number of times where I have seen posts of people saying, “If you don’t like something that I’m writing, I’m going to defriend you because I don’t need to have that sort of negativity on my wall.” And it’s the same sort of thing that happens in our personal lives. If there is somebody who is in your life – a friend, a family member, what have you – and they don’t necessarily need to be or they don’t need to be there as much, it’s up to you, and it’s a good thing for you to do is to put yourself first and your mental-emotional state first and try to sever those ties a little bit, because those people are not going to bring you the success that you need. And I can think of one patient I have right now who admittedly said, “Every time I talk to you, my family members – I tell them what I’m doing with regards to making my health better, getting my diet back on track, and losing weight. They always say, ‘Oh well, you’re never going to be able to do that,’ ‘You’re never going to be able to stick to it,” whatever sort of comments you can imagine, and I say, “Well, those are the people that are going to make this journey for you almost impossible because the fact that you’re remembering every word that they’ve said to you and you’re able to relate it to me shows me that you’re carrying those words around with you,” and these are the types of things and the types of people that we need to be severing ties with as soon as possible, so that the five people we surround ourselves with are positive, energetic, like-minded, very motivating, and you feel lifted up, you feel inspired, you feel engaged when you’re with them, you enjoy spending that time with them. And this is something we have to allow ourselves to be a part of because you will always be, as you quoted, the average of the people you surround yourself with. So, if you surround yourself with negative people that eat nothing but junk food and always talk about how crappy their day is and never have anything positive or nice to say, that’s going to be you, whether you realize it or not. You need to develop and gather the strength to change your life around and change your exposure, so that that negative toxicity will immediately start to dissipate.
Mike Mutzel: Yeah, and that can be scary for a lot of people, I think. Forming new friends and being vulnerable and getting out there.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: No doubt.
Mike Mutzel: But I’ve been practicing this in my own life, too. When I’m at a coffee shop or at the gym or whatever, just shake hands with someone or meet someone every single day is not scary; it’s not challenging, and friends come and go. Like you said, people in different places in their life, and if they’re negative and bringing you down, why would you want to be friends with them anyway? And family members and spouses, obviously, is a little bit more challenging, but I really like your advice and I hope you agree with me, this is what I would recommend, is just be vulnerable. Meet someone new, do something different, do something that makes you feel scared or uncomfortable. We really grow during those circumstances.
Dr, Andrea Maxim: Absolutely, and even I find when somebody smiles at you, you can’t help but smile back. Or if you smile outwards, that person you’re smiling can't help but smile back. It’s a natural response that I think we as humans have is to feel welcomed and feel accepted, and how quickly a smile can give us that sense of acceptance is pretty remarkable. But it’s even hard for people to smile at strangers because again, you’re making yourself vulnerable. What if they don’t smile back? But you have to remember that you have to live your life unconditionally. You cannot have people conditionally love you or conditionally like you or conditionally smile back at you. If you genuinely want for that out into the universe, do it, and whatever they respond with is up to them, but you never know what’s going on with the people around you either. Maybe they’ll remember, “Oh, you know what? It was so nice to meet that nice man at the coffee shop who shook my hand. That was really cool. I felt a little bit awkward at the time. I didn’t know what to do,” but afterwards, it’s amazing how you contemplate those interactions in your life. “You know what? That was really kind of nice.”
Mike Mutzel: Yeah, and there’s deeper meaning that we may not know from an energetic standpoint or synchronicity these people that show up in their life. So, I think the biggest thing – the take-home message here is whether or not you have amazing relationships or toxic relationships, be vulnerable, meet people, and good things will happen. So, really well said. I had a lot of fun during this interview, Dr. Maxim. So, how can we follow your work and anything new and exciting you want to share before we part ways?
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Sure. So again, the book is brand new. It just got launched in May of this year. It’s my first major project, and I’m so pleased that now, everybody can start maximizing their health along with me. So definitely, if you want to look up more information about the book, it’s at www.themaximmovement.com. If you ever have questions or concerns, or have anything you want to ask me personally about, I’m always accepting emails and you can definitely find that on my website. I’m on social media, as well as YouTube. My YouTube channel is Naturopathic Healing, where I’m trying to post a video once a week or once every other week that’s completely free. Just offering you different tips and tricks on how you can maximize your health in different ways. But really, there are a lot of new and exciting things to come. I’m currently working on creating more Maximize Your Health and 30-day programs and along with my seven-day detox, which a lot of my patients love as a good reset. We’re trying to make a complete automated program on that, which will help patients get started, get their life kind of back on track – hit that reset button and move forward. So, if anybody listening wants to be in touch with me on that, certainly subscribe to my newsletter, and the link, of course, is on my website for that. But for the most part, I hope, and we’ve touched on so many wonderful things here that I hope people will even take one small thing away from this interview and start making that change immediately, whether it be taking a deep breath or trying to eat more color in their next meal. These are the small little things that have huge impacts in the long run, and then of course, if you need extra help, talking to Mike or myself on a more personal level, or any other healthcare practitioner that you have contact with, use these people and create that help team, because you do not need to do this all on your own. Even I have a health team that I see myself, so never feel like you have to go alone. Please use your resources. And I just wanted to thank you again, Mike, for having me on the show. This was so wonderful, and I hope that everybody listening continues to follow you with your podcast because I think you’re doing a really, really wonderful thing here.
Mike Mutzel: Oh, thank you so much. Had a great time. Again, I’ll post all the links that you mentioned at highintensityhealth.com/maxim. So, all your videos and links to your books and website and social media channels and so forth. So, hope you have a wonderful day and thanks again for joining us.
Dr. Andrea Maxim: Bye.