I am honored to connect with Dr. Deanna Minich today! She is a pioneer in the realm of optimum nutrition, a nutrition scientist, international lecturer, educator, and author with an impressive background amassed over two decades in academia and the food and dietary supplement industry.
With six consumer books to her name, Dr. Minich has been a beacon of insight and guidance on my social media horizon. Her dedication to bio-individuality and her holistic approach have made her a prominent figure in her field and a source of inspiration for many, including me.
In today’s discussion, Dr. Minich and I dive into the intricate world of nutrition science. We delve into topics such as the unique dietary needs of women, the impact of organic foods on reproductive health, and the critical role of an anti-inflammatory diet during perimenopause and menopause. Dr. Minich emphasizes the principle of bio-individuality, pointing out that each person’s nutritional needs are as unique as their DNA. We also discuss the transformative power of quantum healing and its potential to bring about profound changes in one’s health.
Among other topics, we explore the importance of supporting circadian biology and shed light on the language of aging. Discussions on melatonin as a chronobiotic agent, distinctions between naturally-sourced and lab-created melatonin, and the crucial role of detoxification in our well-being are also included.
I am thrilled to share this enlightening conversation with you today. I am confident you’ll find it as captivating and informative as I did when recording it!
“It is just amazing how, with the power of food, you start changing your body and your mind.”
– Dr. Deanna Minich
IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:
- The unique nutritional needs women have at different stages of life, highlighting the significance of optimum nutrition
- The importance of consuming phytonutrients
- How compounds found in fruits and vegetables of various colors benefit reproductive health
- Specific strategies women should adopt during the middle-age stage of their life and beyond
- The influence of circadian rhythms on women throughout their lives
- The importance of being your own best advocate during menopause
- The distinction between plant-based melatonin and its lab-created counterpart
- Methods to support your body to ensure proper methylation
- Why sleep should be viewed as a form of detoxification.
- An introduction to quantum healing and its transformative effects on people’s lives
Dr. Deanna Minich is a nutrition scientist, international lecturer, educator, and author with over twenty years of experience in academia and the food and dietary supplement industries, currently serving as Chief Science Officer at Symphony Natural Health. She has been active as a functional medicine clinician in clinical trials and her own practice (Food & Spirit™). She is the author of six consumer books on wellness topics, four book chapters, and over fifty scientific publications. Her academic background is in nutrition science, including a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Illinois at Chicago (1995) and a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Medical Sciences from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands (1999).
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. Currently, she teaches for the Institute for Functional Medicine, the University of Western States, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and the Institute for Brain Potential. Through her talks, workshops, groups, and in-person retreats, she helps people practically and artfully transform their lives through nutrition and lifestyle.
Connect with Cynthia Thurlow
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Connect with Dr. Deanna Minich
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:00:02] Welcome to Everyday Wellness Podcast. I’m your host, Nurse Practitioner, Cynthia Thurlow. This podcast is designed to educate, empower, and inspire you to achieve your health and wellness goals. My goal and intent, is to provide you with the best content and conversations from leaders in the health and wellness industry each week and impact over a million lives.
[00:00:29] Today, I had the honor of connecting with Dr. Deanna Minich. She is a nutrition scientist, international lecturer, educator, and author with over 20 years of experience in academia and in the food and dietary supplement industry. She is the author of six consumer books and she has been someone that I’ve been watching very closely across social media. I love her content, so it’s such an honor to connect with her. Today, we dove deep into the nutrition science and dietary needs of women, the role of bio-individuality, the impact of organic foods, and reproductive health, the importance of an anti-inflammatory diet in perimenopause and menopause, as well as supporting circadian biology, the language of aging, melatonin is a chronobiotic agent, and the differences between high quality melatonin and others, the importance of detoxification, as well as the role of possibilities surrounding quantum healing. I know you will enjoy this conversation as much as I did recording it.
[00:01:32] Dr. Minich it’s so nice to have you on the podcast. I’ve been a huge admirer of your work and it’s so lovely to connect with you and discuss your amazing research and the work that you do that really, I think, is transformative for so many people’s lives.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:01:46] Well, I have to say, Cynthia that I’ve been waiting for this connection as well. I feel like we’ve been kindred spirits from afar, missing each other at meetings and yet being connected on social media. So, this is really a nice space to have together with you to have this conversation.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:02:00] Absolutely. So, let’s really start the conversation talking about the unique needs in terms of nutrition for women at different stages of their lives. So obviously, women in their peak fertile years versus perimenopause and menopause. I think, unfortunately, women are not small men. We really do have our own unique rhythms, our own unique properties to our bodies that really require us to think about nutrition a bit differently.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:02:27] Absolutely, not only are we unique from men, I think one woman is unique from another woman. So, it’s really difficult to say that this is exactly what all pre-menopausal women need to do. This is for all perimenopausal women, this is for all postmenopausal women. So, for the listeners to take that into guidance as you’re listening to a lot of these things that I’m going to talk about. I think that there’s one thing that cuts across every part of the life cycle for women and for men. I think that you probably would expect me to say this based on my content and that is it’s really important to be getting phytonutrients and that doesn’t mean that you have to be vegan, vegetarian. It really means that we need to get the complexity of nature.
[00:03:11] After studying nutrition so long and seeing so many people arm wrestle on macronutrients like protein, carbohydrate, and fats, it’s like that’s where nutrition has played for so long. I feel it’s getting old. It’s like, yeah, we know we need lean protein. This is important for women all throughout the life cycle, but especially more so in the perimenopausal phase and on, then we of course know about healthy fats. And in fact, that was what my PhD research was on, was on essential fatty acid absorption and metabolism. So, we could wax on that for a little bit.
[00:03:41] But essentially, we constantly need to be on the pulse of our inflammatory status and our fatty acid status, our balance of the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. That is so important for knowing how we’re going to stack up with inflammation and going into the perimenopause and even premenopausally. This is really important. It’s important for fertility, it’s important for mood, for menstrual cycle, so that’s key. The carbohydrates, of course, are just the mainstay. This is, I think, where people get out of whack in terms of the spectrum. Sometimes, we go a little bit too far to one side of that pendulum and we say no carbohydrates, but carbohydrates actually encompass a large array of different foods. We’re talking about prebiotic fibers, the insoluble fibers, the non-starchy vegetables. These are all important for us. But on the other side of the spectrum, we have the ultra-processed carbohydrates. The things that just ramp up our blood sugar, just create the insulin surge. This is all very inflammatory. So, we need to be even more attentive to that through the menstrual cycle, I would say, where we’re going to be a little bit more vulnerable to those shifts. During the perimenopause when things get skewed.
[00:04:56] Now the phytonutrients come in because I do think that the colors of plants coincide with the different pigments and phytochemicals that each have their own functional signature. So, if we look at red, red typically is about inflammation, immune health, keeping those things in balance. So red foods tend to be high in polyphenols and vitamin C. Orange tends to be connected to things like carotenoids, beta cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene. A lot of these are different, there are 700 different carotenoids in nature, so they’re not all orange. But there is a connection between orange foods and we’ll get into this a little bit, I think. There’s a connection between orange foods and reproductive health. So, I want to focus on orange for women, especially premenopausal women. And then yellow, I say, tracks with catalytic type of enzymes. I think of pineapple, bromelain, I think of acids from things like lemon, which actually have a bit of a pH-regulating effect in the body. And a lot of those bowel flavonoids that we find in yellow foods also help with things like liver health and we can use some of the yellow foods as cholagogues and to help with bile flow and choleretic agents.
[00:06:15] Green foods, I think of as it relates to the heart. So being full of things like folate, vitamin K1, magnesium, a whole number of things in green foods not to overlook chlorophyll, but chlorophyll is the master, I would say antioxidant in so many ways and it’s in so many foods that are from nature. And then the final one is blue purple. So, blue purple is the one that most people get too little of because it’s very rare in nature. Blue purple compounds track to the category of phytochemicals known as polyphenols. So, under polyphenols, we have 8000 different types and these for the most part, if you were just to look at them with more of a science eye and a pattern recognition, we’re looking at brain health, we’re looking at mood. So, I think it’s really important for women to ensure that they get that because for the most part throughout the whole life cycle, that’s the one that most people aren’t getting.
[00:07:12] So, yeah, I would say the macros, the micros, and these colorful compounds in food. So just getting that common denominator of eating the rainbow. And the only other thing before we get into the orange, I want to say something for premenstrual women, and that is there’s a really interesting paper that was published not too long ago and actually there are several papers on this showing how different minerals change throughout the menstrual cycle. Of course, we would think of iron because we lose blood, but there is also some flux in things like magnesium, zinc, and even copper. And those are some pretty key minerals that can be cofactors for goodness, everything from vitamin D conversion to neurotransmitters to hormones. So, if we’re constantly fluxing through the menstrual cycle and we’re not eating a very nutrient dense diet, we run the risk that we’re going to fall short in some way and then potentially have some symptoms that could be related to nutrient insufficiencies and deficiencies. I’ll stop there. I mean, there’s a lot to go down.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:08:24] Yeah, no, and I think it’s so interesting because oftentimes those cravings that we get towards the luteal phase as we’re getting close to menstruation can really be a sign that maybe our magnesium levels are deficient or perhaps there’s something that we’re missing in our diets. I think in so many ways, I think the latest statistic I read is somewhere between 60% to 70% of the standard American diet is hyper-processed foods. So, most of us are woefully deficient in these phytonutrients. And is it any wonder that we’re seeing higher levels of PMS and PMDD and seeing people that are struggling with mood disorders when in many ways we’re not getting these cofactors, these basic level nutrients that can go on to be very beneficial for building neurotransmitters, going on to create healthier hormones. You mentioned that you did your doctoral work looking at essential fatty acids.
[00:09:20] And for many people that listen to this podcast, they know that we are largely with the standard American diet, getting a predominance of omega-6 fatty acids in way too far of an imbalance to omega-3 fatty acids. Just taking a supplement of omega-3 is not enough. You really should be getting some fatty fish and concentrating on some of those things. So, in your work, when you are looking at women at these different stages of lives and you mentioned that the orange foods, which I love. Anyone that does not already follow Deanna’s work, I mean your work is so beautiful because it is these brightly pigmented images of showing your meals and helping people understand the unique characteristics to these colorful, phytonutrient dense vegetables and fruits. But the orange foods in particular that you’ve identified are so important for reproductive health. What is it about these compounds found in these fruits and vegetables that are so beneficial for us in terms of reproduction?
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:10:18] I think that there needs to be a lot more research on them, how they tie into female reproductive health. But let me tell you what I know about them just at the surface, because I would love for a researcher to put their arms around this and then take it to the finish line. I feel like we’ve only just begun, but here’s what I see out there. So, first and foremost, there was some initial research, I think two published studies showing that there are actually up to 14 different carotenoids found in the human ovary. So, just think of that, okay? The body has some reason why it’s localizing these plant compounds into certain parts of the body. Why would we have up to 14 different carotenoids in the ovary? Well, if you look at the ovary, one of the things that happens as part of going from follicle to a ripe egg is that you have the conversion that corpus luteum going into corpus albicans, that yellow body, that’s the translation of that. Why is it yellow? It’s because of those carotenoids. And it seems that those carotenoids, some of them do convert to vitamin A and vitamin A does play a role in healthy fertility, in helping that ovulatory process even at the genomics level.
[00:11:33] So, I think just from a localization and anatomy perspective, we actually find that these are substances that track to the fat tissue. They go into the ovary. They’re in the breast, they’re in the brain, they’re in the skin. That’s why when you eat a lot of orange foods, you can actually get a little bit of an orange tinge to the skin. So, whenever I think fat, I’m thinking hormones. So, there are some studies more in animals. We don’t see these studies in humans yet, but seeing a correlation between taking in things like beta-carotene and having changes in blood levels of progesterone. So, there may be a hormone connection. I don’t understand fully the mechanism. And it’s just an association. It’s not causal, it’s not saying that the beta-carotene is causing the high progesterone, but there’s some connection there or association that we have yet to really understand.
[00:12:30] And then the two other studies that I think are important for your audience to know about is that there was a large study in which they followed people, they followed what they ate and then they followed whether or not they had endometriosis or developed it. And what they found was that higher intake of citrus fruits was associated with a decreased risk for endometriosis. And then when the researchers went further into the citrus fruits, things like oranges, they tried to figure out, well, is there a nutrient that is in these foods that is responsible for that relationship? And one of the nutrients that they called out was a carotenoid by the name of beta-cryptoxanthin. It’s kind of a mouthful, but it’s not. Most people think of beta-carotene and they don’t really get a sense of all of the other carotenoids. But beta-cryptoxanthin is a very interesting one to think that it could have some connection with reproductive health. There are some animal studies that would suggest it has to do something with metabolism and body weight even.
[00:13:37] Then there was another study looking at how women with more beta-cryptoxanthin in the diet, which is coming from orange fruits typically like persimmons, mandarins, and oranges, all the orange circular foods that look like ovaries actually. [laughs] That basically these women that were having more beta-cryptoxanthin and there was an amount proposed in the study that they had a slower ovarian decline. Now, I don’t know why that is, but I’m not going to wait to find out. I definitely want those carotenoids in my diet to help me through multiple systems. We’re just talking right now about reproductive, but I’m not even talking about the brain benefit, the skin benefit. These just even very simply are antioxidants. But I think that they’re flexing to doing a lot of other things in the body that we don’t quite understand yet.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:14:32] I think it’s really fascinating because nutritional science and a lot of the lay press lately, there have been very polarizing opinions about nutrition. You’re carnivore, you’re vegan, you’re keto, you’re low carb, you’re something in between. And obviously, I think in many ways people find solace in knowing that perhaps one nutritional paradigm heals their gut or they feel better, or they lose weight. And I think we really have forgotten about the power of these phytonutrient rich foods. We’ve gotten so far off base that I love that your work is really introducing concepts like for me, some of these are brand new concepts about some of these compounds that perhaps I’m not as familiarized with the research because of the niche that I work in. But yet it makes so much sense that these powerful plant-based compounds have really profound potential systemic effects.
[00:15:27] Now that was research looking at ovarian function in younger women. What is the research suggesting for women that are making that transition? They’re 35 and above, perimenopause and beyond, into menopause. What is the nutritional research suggesting is beneficial? What are things that we need to do differently in this middle-aged stage of our lives and beyond?
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:15:50] I would say we need to be tending to inflammation and to do that through living an anti-inflammatory life which means that we need to be quelling the inflammatory response through food and even emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I think part of my path with nutrition has taken me from nutrition into this place of looking at nourishment. I think that as women are going through the perimenopause and that includes myself as I am in month nine right now. I’m getting to the finish line. [laughs] I’ve got three more months before I’m official but I’m going through it real time and I can even see for myself because I’m doing so much more reading and doing so much more observing and talking with women and looking at what people experience. But still at the base of all of it there is inflammation. And if we didn’t tend to that inflammation in our earlier years, in our 30s and in our 20s it’s going to come rearing its head into our 40s in our perimenopausal time.
[00:16:49] Then we start to see hot flashes. Then we start to see cognitive issues. We start to see gut issues. We start to see autoimmune conditions that start to crop up or flare up. Gut health just presents itself. It’s like you got to deal with me now. So, from a nutritional standpoint, I think what’s really important here is all of the things that I just mentioned are really important. However, it’s not just the what of nutrition. It becomes the how, the when, the why, and the how much. And what do I mean by all of that? I think that bringing in circadian rhythm. One of the things that’s really beautiful as it relates to women, is that we’re very connected to rhythms and we don’t let go of those rhythms even through menopause. Just because we don’t have a menstrual period doesn’t mean that we’re not connected to a cycle.
[00:17:41] In fact, I’ve even felt like, even though I’m not having periods I still feel I have a cycle, I have an emotional cycle. I can notice better sleep at certain times of the month. I’m more creative at certain times of the month. I haven’t let go of that follicular and luteal phase. It’s just a bit more ghosted where okay, now I’m feeling them on other levels, not necessarily a physical level. So, we will always be connected to rhythms. I think that eating has a rhythm as well. So, we see that with a lot of the talk on intermittent fasting, circadian rhythm, chrononutrition is a very popular term. In fact, I would say even before that landed on social media, we were seeing articles on chrononutrition. There’s all science about the when of eating. And the when, I would say in some cases is equally important as the what.
[00:18:35] So, how do you start your day and when do you stop eating? Are you restricting eating at any point? And Cynthia, quite honestly, I think that this is where there’s a lot of nuance and a lot of personalization to be had for how we do that. I think that a lot of people say things about the when of eating that feels very cut and dry. I think for women it’s not cut and dry. I think what can happen through the perimenopause is a couple of things. One is she might sleep better because she has less food that comes in closer into bedtime. So having that time-restricted feeding where she stops eating at maybe 06:00 PM and then goes to bed. But then for other women, they get erratic blood sugar at night and then they wake up at 02:00 in the morning because they didn’t have something to eat closer into bedtime. So, she needs to constantly be in check and engaged with where she’s at, because something that seems to be a premise or a paradigm may not be holding true or at least it may be fluxing for her. So, she needs to be really flexible with any kind of nutritional dogma that’s out there to know that it may not necessarily apply to her specifically.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:19:47] Well, and I love the message about not being rigid, being flexible, understanding that even if you’re no longer getting a menstrual cycle, you should still be attuned to the rhythms of your body. And it could be, I have many menopausal women that are very attuned to the lunar calendar. When there’s a full moon, they notice that their sleep may be impacted, they may have less energy. I think it’s really important for middle-aged women to be cognizant of the more proinflammatory foods. This is where I will sometimes say, “If you are still eating the way you did at 18, that’s probably not working well for you.” I went to a high school reunion a few years ago and I jokingly remember with my male and female friends, I said, “I think there are people here who are still partying like they did at 18 and [Deanna laughs] it’s just not showing up well for them.” This is just based on things they would share with me.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:20:43] Yeah.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:20:43] And I was like, I think maybe consuming a lot of alcohol, eating a lot of gluten or dairy. I think this is very bio-individual. So, for every person out there that says, yes, I don’t tolerate dairy anymore, there’s probably five other that do fine with sheep or goat’s milk dairy and that’s fine. But I find for a lot of individuals, it’s figuring out what works best for your body and that could be a little bit more simplistic and that’s totally okay. And to your point, this whole concept of being in alignment with your circadian biology for many, many women, I find that they do much better eating earlier in the day when they tend to be more insulin sensitive. Closing down that feeding window, if they’re choosing to fast or even if they’re having three meals over the course of a day that that benefits them.
[00:21:29] They have a lot more energy, they sleep better, their blood sugar regulation isn’t as problematic. So, I think that, again, those rhythms of our bodies, irrespective of where we are is so important. I think in many ways we’re taught or at least I feel like I was even as an allopathic trained provider, that we prescribe medications that shut down communication between our brain and our ovaries. How many women, myself included, were on oral contraceptives for the appropriate reasons, but not fully understanding what that represented? Do you really have bad PMS? Or is it because there’s this intrinsic connection in the body that’s been blunted or your body isn’t able to communicate effectively the way that it would? So, I love that you are encouraging women to really lean into how they feel, not feel like they have to apologize for it and to certainly be their own best advocate.
[00:22:18] Because for every person listening, it might be a little bit of a different variation. Maybe one person tolerates more protein, someone tolerates a little less, more vegetables. I think that’s an important. I grew up with an Italian mother and to this day, every time she visits, she wants my plate to be full of colorful vegetables. That is like her mantra in life. She’s way ahead of her time, [Deanna laughs] but helping her understand how important that is, that’s not just the Italian mother speaking, there’s actual real science behind that.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:22:46] Oh, definitely. Um-hm. Yeah. I love everything that you just said that we need to be our own best advocate. I think that when we come into the pause of life and I have been reflecting on this more philosophically, so thinking of the words that we use to define this transition. Perimenopause, post-menopause, even menopause, andropause it’s just like maybe we need to be in that space of pausing and reflecting and really moving into our state of intuitive wisdom. So, I think that’s really important. There’s another pause, actually melatonin pause. I’ve been doing a lot with melatonin over this past year, had a publication in the Nutrients journal. And what’s really interesting for me, even experientially, was that I was surprised, actually, because I thought that I would fare quite well going through perimenopause. And then it hit me like a wall.
[00:23:46] I realized I needed to ramp up and amp up certain things, things that I hadn’t done before. One of them was taking melatonin. I needed to have a higher dose of melatonin to help me to smooth out my sleep. We know that melatonin is not just a chronobiotic agent. It’s important as an anti-inflammatory active. It’s also a very, very important and potent antioxidant. It’s better than vitamin C. It is helpful even more than glutathione in some settings. So, I felt like I needed more. So, it’s interesting, Cynthia, because at this time of life, so I’m 52, ready to be 53. So, I am in that classic window of truly going into the menopause that day. So, we have all of these roller coaster curves of coming down. My estrogen is down, my progesterone is down, my melatonin is supplementally it’s being helped, and I’m taking other products too for the estrogen and progesterone. And then testosterone starts to change.
[00:24:55] So, I think that why does this happen to women? Like, what’s going on? And why would our biology favor us in this direction? I think for me, at least personally, I can speak to it. I really do feel like this is a time of a reset, like truly a pause where we get the time to have everything settle. For so many people, they’re empty nesters. They’re at the pinnacle of their professional lives. They could do anything. So, it’s a time of redefinition because you’re resetting so much inside you. So, that I think that if people can track to those nutritional staples of just the basics even and another thing that we probably need to talk about, and I know it’s something that you’re very much an advocate of as well, is looking at detoxification and how important that is.
[00:25:47] I feel like the letting go-ness of this time of life is really important. We have to really show up for what we want in this next phase and start to let go. Whether physically in the way of heavy metals, plastics, and all of the things that we’re taking in and emotionally, we need to start to get really clear on that emotional buildup and congestion that we may have in the body influencing our physiological function. We need to look mentally at what thoughts are serving us, do we need to transform and start thinking different ways and change our overall operating system. I think spiritually here’s where I think that we don’t get a lot of attention with women through the perimenopause, but I see it as a very spiritual process, actually. When I think of spirituality, I think of the sense of meaning and purpose and the sense of being all connected in and being unified, being—you feel like you’re part of the great hole.
[00:26:49] So, when we go through perimenopause, I think that there is an evaluation of one’s spirituality. I think that we start to redefine our meaning and purpose in life. Is it really the same as the past 25 years? I don’t know. We may have checked a lot of boxes off, and now it’s like, “I don’t know, I feel satisfied with those things” or we might feel like, “Oh, wait a minute. I have a huge bucket list that I haven’t even tapped into yet. I need to really put myself first now.” So, I think that meaning and purpose is really big during this time. It’s like all the cards are tossed up. We’re cleaning house, so to speak. We’re cleaning out physically, emotionally, mentally, and we’re evaluating what we want to do with being in the prime of our lives, technically, in so many ways.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:27:40] Yeah, I love that. It’s finding that reframe and it’s interesting. I interviewed Dr. Louanne Brizendine last year, and she calls menopause the upgrade.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:27:49] Ooh. I like that.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:27:50] So, she said that was her reframe because she said, pause. She said, “I like the word pause.” But I feel like the upgrade is really we’re bringing ourselves to a different level of understanding of our bodies, of our relationships, how we connect with others. I feel like that loss of estrogen, the loss of estradiol. For many of us, we lose our people pleasing tendencies. I know for myself I started as a nurse. Then I became a nurse practitioner. I’m very much a people pleaser and [Deanna laughs] kind of navigating my 40s I started to realize, “You know, that doesn’t serve me very well anymore.” So really defining what is my life’s work other than being a mother, other than being a wife, what are the things I want to do? And those are the conversations that my girlfriends and I now have and I think they’re very important ones. I think that on a lot of different levels, we’re given the opportunity to redefine ourselves. How do you want to redefine your life on every level?
[00:28:47] And so to me, I think it’s such a beautiful opportunity. I like to find the reframe of we’re not losing something. We’re gaining so much more in this season of life where we don’t have to be fixated or focused on where we are in our cycle and where our hormones are at this point, unless you’re taking hormone replacement therapy at the latter stages of perimenopause and menopause, you have less circulating sex hormones. I love that you touched on melatonin, because this is one of my favorite hormones to talk about. I think it’s so important because it’s gotten– largely, I think it’s so misunderstood. I think people just think about it in the context, oh, it helps with sleep. But as you appropriately said, it’s this antioxidant piece. And it’s my understanding that you utilize a plant-based melatonin and help listeners and myself understand what is the differentiator, what is it about plant-based melatonin that is different than stuff that we make in a lab that is I’m not even sure what it’s derived from to be completely transparent, but how does it differ and what makes it more efficacious or more beneficial?
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:29:54] Wow. I’m so glad that you asked that question, because it does show that you know much more about melatonin than the average person, which just thinks, again, it’s just sleep, and it doesn’t matter how you take it. So, I take Herbatonin. So, I’m the Chief Science Officer at Symphony Natural Health and they have a product called Herbatonin, which is made from rice, chlorella, and alfalfa. So, it’s all from a plant source and it is the concentrate. So, it’s bioidentical melatonin, the same kind that’s in our bodies. And it was actually tested head-to-head with synthetic melatonin, which is the predominant form of melatonin that’s in the market. It was found to be 646% greater in its anti-inflammatory effect. So, this is in a cell model looking at COX-2, which is one of the enzymes that’s involved inflammation, up to 470% greater in free radical scavenging.
[00:30:49] Then there was a skin cell line where they tested it again, head-to-head, and they found that the Herbatonin did a 100% greater job. So, it doubled the effect of what the synthetic melatonin did in terms of the reactive oxygen species and then in terms of ORAC value, it’s greater than nine times the value of synthetic melatonin. So, we think that that is because what is in Herbatonin is a bit different than what you would find in synthetic melatonin. What you have in Herbatonin is the plant plus. So, it’s actually not just the melatonin, but also lutein, zeaxanthin, a lot of these carotenoids that I was even referring to are in there. The material is green, so it’s actually, again, from the plant. And when you look at synthetic melatonin, the reason why there’s so much synthetic melatonin on the market is because initially melatonin was isolated from the pineal gland of animals and that became very unsustainable.
[00:31:51] How do you get that small amount at a certain time of the night from all of these animals and just concentrate it? It’s just not practical. So, what ended up happening was that the processing of melatonin went into the chemical processing through a synthetic whole. If we look at the starter compounds, because you were wondering what the compounds were, they’re things like petrochemicals, different organic compounds, which then move into the process. And by way of that chemical process, you can actually see up to 13 different contaminants. And that’s not from me that’s actually from a publication from 2018. There was a published research article on melatonin, and they cited up to four different types of phthalimide types of contaminants, even some formaldehyde derivatives. So, melatonin can be toxic if it’s not made in the best way. So, if people are not taking something like an Herbatonin, which we know is clean, and it even has a value add of other things, they need to go back and ask the manufacturer about, did you test for the potential contaminants? Did you test for heavy metals?
[00:33:01] All of the same things that we would want to know from supplements in general, but added ones that can incur from the processing to make melatonin. I think, another thing Cynthia, that most people don’t realize is that melatonin, because it is very antioxidant in its action, it can degrade with air and with light. So, the packaging of melatonin is also really key. And for the most part, what I see is that people put melatonin into bottles, they put it into chewable, gummies, all kinds of preparations for delayed entry into the body, which could have different toxicants actually. So, we want to be looking at that. So that’s just another thing to be thinking about. I’ve been in the supplement industry for a long time and I just see that in general, that we have to look at not just the active, the quality, but the long-term stability of a lot of these different agents.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:33:57] It’s really interesting because for me this is new information and I’m always very transparent with my listeners. I always say, know better, do better. I hadn’t even considered that some of these synthetic options have petrochemicals or other types of contaminants. And this is why quality of supplements, if you’re choosing to take them, is so important. This is why sorry, I don’t mean to knock on Costco, but we don’t go to Costco and buy supplements. We don’t just buy supplements anywhere. You do need to use reputable companies and certainly we’ll provide links to your products. And you touched on a very important concept, the concept of detoxification, the concept of exposure to toxins and our personal care products, our environment, and our food. So, if someone’s listening and perhaps, they don’t fully appreciate or understand why detoxification is so important. If you are a middle-aged person, it is super important. It’s almost like our toxin bucket over the course of a lifetime really starts to get filled by the time we’re in our 40s and 50s. This is sometimes where I will see clinically people that start to struggle, as well as just the genetics. Like, “I’m a poor methylator, I’ve got MTHFR, I’ve got two copies.” There’s a lot of extra things I have to do to support my body to make sure it’s methylating properly. But I’d love to pivot and talk a little bit about this because it is such an important topic. You do such a nice job of discussing this in your books.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:35:21] Yeah. Goodness. For as long, I think as humans have been in existence, we’ve always felt the need to cleanse. Before we start talking about detoxification, which is more of the modern-day term, if we look at medical disciplines, if we look at spiritual practices, one of the things that both medicine and spirituality have in common is the cleansing aspect. So, in medicine, purging, bloodletting, even way back when taking things out of the body, the humors of the body, the bilious humor, right. And then even in spirituality, there’s this need to let go. I grew up Catholic, so it was Lent, you give up something, fish Friday, whatever it is, there’s this practice of, you are giving up something. And I think it’s just a practice of that learning to let go and to have that clear so that you actually get spiritually more clear.
[00:36:20] So, fast forward now into the 21st century. How has that made its way into medicine and science and even spirituality? Yeah, we toss out this term detoxification and really what it means, it’s a very sophisticated word for the processes within the body to do that. And I tend to think in terms of organ systems. I think of the liver. The liver is like the general of the detox army. It’s shepherding different compounds through and saying, march along, we’re going to go through this phase. I’m going to make you more soluble and then we’re going to package you up and then we’re going to release you through the bile, you’re going to go out through the intestines, you’re going to be excreted in the stool. So, the gut is part of that process. The gut is pretty active in helping the liver. They’re a strong duo when it comes to detoxification.
[00:37:08] Then I think of the skin. The skin is one of our largest organs, and we’re constantly sweating. We get oil through the skin. We get sweat through the skin. There have been some really elegant studies looking at the excretion of things like heavy metals and different plastic compounds through even the sweat. So, when you think of getting toxins out of the body, things like the metals and the plastics and perfluorinated compounds and things like that, it doesn’t always have to be a very pricey supplement. What you can do is pooping, peeing, and perspiring. These types of things are just going to move things out of the body. And even crying, even within tears, if we think of emotional detoxification, tears can release things like inflammatory cytokines and chemokines that store up in the body. So, I think of liver, gut, skin. I think of the lungs.
[00:38:09] We’ve had a lot of attention on the lungs over the past years. So deep breathing and grief, but air particles and pollution, all of the things that store up in the lungs. I also think about the kidneys, of course, because of the urine and the alkalinization. I used to work with Dr. Jeffrey Bland and we published an article many years ago on metabolic detoxification talking about pH and how important that is. So again, just to pivot back to what we were saying about women going through the perimenopause, eating a lot of whole foods, this will actually help us to just naturally balance all of those inner pH compartments. There are some parts of the body where it has to be really a narrow range. So, sometimes it’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul. We pull from the bone in order to make sure that the blood has that very tight window of its pH range.
[00:39:05] So that’s really important for the excretion and resorption of certain things. I think of the brain also at night when we sleep, when melatonin is peaking at about 02:00 to 04:00 AM. We have other things in the body that are peaking, like glutathione and some of the other antioxidant defense enzymes. So, they’re like this whole brigade of getting in and working together to use the glymphatic fluid which is this like a fluid compartment around the brain. So, the brain cells are shrinking while we have greater convection into that lymphatic space. It’s very specific to the brain and we can only do that when we’re sleeping or under anesthesia. So, as we’re sleeping and we’re allowing that detoxification to occur, as it turns out, what we see is that melatonin seems to be playing a role in being that shepherd of whether it’s amyloid metabolites or hypothal phosphorylated proteins, different things that need to come out of the brain and get out of there.
[00:40:15] Melatonin seems to be playing a role. Now, there may be other things that could be playing a role there, but I do think we need to be thinking about sleep as a form of detoxification to really get at the brain. That’s the time that we’re rejuvenating and resetting for the day and if we don’t give our time to that process the next day is completely distorted. And it’s like, “We don’t eat well, our appetite signals are off, our thinking is off, our metabolism is off.” So that detoxifying process that we go through and as it turns out, melatonin may have some other application for other types of toxicity too, is being shown in cell studies and animal studies, which is exciting. But if we’re not keeping our house clean, in other words, our vessel and I hearken back to again, religions and spiritual practices, this is a very important vessel.
[00:41:10] Which is why, growing up and then later in life, I would think why is it when you go to church there’s no discussion of body as temple in the way of eating good foods. Like, we talk so much about giving up things, letting go of things. I think what we need to do is start bringing science and spirituality together in the way of saying, “You know what? This is our temple. This is our sacred vessel. So, we need to be taking care of it. We need to clean it out as much as we need to look at what is going in. It’s a two-part process.” So, yeah, detoxification is a modern-day word for something that is ancient, something that has been used in medicine, spiritual practices over the millennia quite honestly.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:41:57] It’s really interesting because I find the whole glymphatic system absolutely fascinating. And so, is it any surprise as women are navigating these hormonal changes, this transitional period in their lives, that many women really struggle with deep sleep? And deep sleep is when the glymphatic system really starts working with greater frequency. I didn’t realize that melatonin played a role in the glymphatic system. So, it makes sense that as women are getting older and they’re struggling more with deep sleep metrics.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:42:26] Right.
Cynthia Thurlow: If anyone has a WHOOP or an Oura, like I wear an Oura and love to track my metrics, you start to struggle more and more with that deep sleep piece. Whether it’s the time spent in deep sleep or just not feeling rested when you wake up. So, I’m curious, was it the impact on deep sleep or what was changing for you that identified you needed a bit more melatonin to help support sleep as you were in the latter stages of perimenopause? I’m just curious.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:42:52] I would wake up at 02:00 AM and then it shifted to 03:00 AM. It was like clockwork. I could look at my phone and say, “Oh my gosh, it must be 02:00 AM.” I would look and it was, it was like and I’m not the only one in that. I hear that so commonly from women going through perimenopause that it’s like the 02:00 AM wake up call. And it’s like, I’m too tired and unmotivated to get out of bed, but I’m too awake to fall back asleep, so I would just lay there. So, I realized that, well, two things. One is exactly what you just said, that I thought that a higher dose of melatonin would suit me. So, I moved my dose up from 0.3 mg, which is just your basic physiologic dose that you need to fill the potholes of aging. I went up to 3 mg, I needed more, and plus I’m a fast metabolizer. So, melatonin gets metabolized by the same enzyme in the liver that caffeine does. I metabolize caffeine quickly.
[00:43:47] So, I already knew that I was a fast metabolizer of melatonin. As long as you don’t mix the two, because then you get delayed breakdown of melatonin right then that completely. So anyway, I started taking more melatonin, which helped me, and I started to work on my liver detoxification. I started to take other products during the day because I was realizing, you know what, I’m probably not very efficient for as good as I think I am, I think I’m needing more help now during this time of my life. I’m married to an acupuncturist, and one of the things he and I were talking about is how in Chinese medicine, liver time is between 01:00 and 03:00. [laughs]
[00:44:27] [laughs] And isn’t it funny that I would wake up at 02:00 AM and then at 03:00 AM and I said, “Mark, there’s no accident here that it’s like the liver-brain interface, there’s something awry in my detoxification ability.” Now, Cynthia there’s that. But then I was also wearing an Oura Ring, and I was noting that I would have very, very low blood sugar at about that time as well. Like, it would go down to 40.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:44:54] Oh, wow.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:44:54] 40! I was wearing a CGM. I was wearing my Oura Ring and tracking everything of like, when I was waking up, and it seemed to sync with my blood sugar. So, I don’t want to discount and just say it’s, just chalking it only up to detox. I think that metabolically, there can be some changes happening in those very wee hours of the morning when there’s a lot of activity actually. So, if that activity isn’t harmonized and streamlined, it’s like woo, your physiology is waking up, so then your psychology and your brain starts to wake up. So, I think for me and I’m only speaking to me, but I do think it’s valid for some women, we need to be looking at our blood sugar. Like, “I’m a highly metabolic, I’m a [unintelligible 00:45:38] type, so I need a lot of food.” And I run through my food, I digest quickly, and it’s like, “I’m hungry again.”
[00:45:43] So, I just know that I’m not a person who does well with extended bouts of fasting. I just sink, I drop and it’s like, for a while I thought, “Well, I’m just supposed to go through that?” And I’m like, “No, I just highly– everybody has a different body type in that way and you just have to know your body.” So, I had to adjust that. I had to adjust the melatonin. I’m also taking another product called Femmenessence, which also helped me significantly, because not only was it helping– Now, what is Femmenessence just so people know? it’s this very specific blend of maca phenotypes. So, not all maca is created equal. When, I go to Whole Foods and just buy a big thing of maca, you don’t really know what that is. I mean, there are 17 different colors of maca and much like I was talking about with the colors of plants, they have different functions.
[00:46:33] So, I could be taking a form of maca that could give me acne or hair loss because it’s a more androgenic type of maca. So, the one that I take is not the androgenic, it’s very much primed for me as a perimenopausal woman and will help to optimize and harmonize my endocrine circuit so that my pituitary can just naturally help my ovaries to make whatever they can so I can get that increased estrogen, increased progesterone. It has modified my levels just naturally like not bringing in any bioidentical hormones. What I also like about the maca phenotypes is that it also has glucosinolates. And for your listeners, glucosinolates are detoxifying compounds. [laughs] So not only am I getting the synthesis piece and getting my body just to prime its production in whatever way it can at the stage of my life, it’s also helping me to metabolize and transform hormones so that they’re not problematic or even cancer causing in my body.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:47:37] I think it’s so important. I love that you brought in maca because it’s one of my favorite adaptogenic herbs. And you’re absolutely correct that quality is important. I think most people don’t realize there are that many varieties. I know several of my physician friends have brought up Femmenessence when they’ve been on the podcast. And so, from my perspective, I’m so glad that you mentioned that because there are probably people out there that would really benefit from looking into that and knowing that it’s a particularly well regulated as well as evaluated, more safety and efficacy is utilized in that product then if you get on Amazon I don’t mean to pick on Amazon or you go to Costco, you’re probably going to get a better product. I would love to wrap up the conversation, touching on something that you bring up in one of your other books. The book, we could have a whole separate conversation about Quantum Healing.
[00:48:29] Let’s at least introduce the concept of what this represents and some of the benefits, and then perhaps we can have a second conversation. Because the affirmations in that book I thought were so beautiful. I actually recommended the book to several friends because they’re struggling with different diagnoses, different problems. I gave them a screenshot and I said, “This might be a really good book for you to be able to work on that mindset piece surrounding this healing aspects of the quantum.”
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:48:58] Wow. We definitely need to have a separate conversation. [laughs] That’s a whole other realm.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:49:03] [laughs] Yes.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:49:01] But what I would say here is when I was in clinical practice, one of the things I would notice is that when I would work with people on their nutrition, other things in their lives would shift. Their emotions would change, their thoughts would change, they’d want to quit their jobs, potentially, if they were in a toxic job, they would want to end relationships, they would maybe even want to change their location. It’s just amazing how the power of food, you start changing your body, you start changing your mind. When you get into the mind and into the emotional space, I feel like sometimes we move faster in those places. And what is quantum healing? It’s any small step that we could make towards that shift. And what I really love about this day and age is that we’re getting more people to talk about quantum biology, quantum healing. It’s almost physics is now blending together with biology and chemistry in layered unique ways.
[00:49:58] So, we see people like Dr. Bruce Lipton, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Dr. Caroline Myss has been talking about this for some time. Dr. Candace Pert, who wrote The Molecules of Emotion. When I think of quantum healing in the way that I’m referring to it here, and using the mind to heal, using the emotions as a metaphor for healing. Sometimes, I think we need to even look at what is the bigger lesson of why I have a certain body part being very painful or speaking, if you will. And so often, as I would work with clients, what I would say to them is, okay, you have this pain in your neck area, so we’re going to work on an anti-inflammatory approach. You’re going to bring down your anti-inflammatory potential through your food.
[00:50:42] But I want to ask you, what’s a pain in your neck right now? Metaphorically, let’s zoom out of your body and just look at your life. I often feel that physical diagnoses represent symbolic, spiritual lessons in the making. So, one of them would be leaky gut. When I think of leaky gut, I often will ask people, where is your life leaky? Where are you draining your energy? What are you saying yes to that you really want to say no to? Or vice versa. So, to me, this is more of the, I would call it the literal aspects of healing versus the symbolic meaning of illness. And there, again, are so many people that perceive this conversation in terms of their work and they’ve really been the groundbreakers in this area.
[00:51:32] So, the Quantum Healing book is I’m so practical, it’s a reference book. So, I was like, “How do I give people this information?” So, it’s a book with 100 different conditions. You open it up to that condition and you’re going to get nutrition, you’re going to see a potential emotional pattern that may be at play there, and of course, there’s a lot of personalization here. You’re going to see a visualization. You’re going to see a meditation. You’re going to see some more esoteric type of modalities. So, things like flower essences. I studied with a shamanic woman and so I brought in a bit of that as well. I would say it’s a menu of healing and for people to decide what they want to take from that menu. Because for some people and Cynthia, we know this that they’ve done all the nutrition, and they keep going after the next supplement. It’s like, okay, we keep hammering on the same physical messages.
[00:52:27] I think we’re getting stuck here. How about we look to creativity to help you to deal with your reproductive issues? Maybe you need to sign up for an art class, maybe you need to unlock those stuck emotions and to have them come out onto paper. That actually happened for me. That’s why I’m speaking to that one. [laughs] But the quantum is the arena of possibilities. It is where there are no limitations and it’s also reflected in science, the placebo effect. Why do we need placebos in clinical trials? To control for the power of the mind. That tells you how powerful the mind is. That we actually need to put an arm in a study to control for the power of the mind. So that’s what I’m getting at when I talk about quantum healing, that it can occur from all different angles.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:53:18] Well, I think it’s such a beautiful message and I absolutely love to have you back. It was one of those things, it was almost like I was competing interest which direction to take the conversation in. So, [Deanna laughs] thank you for honoring my ability to at least tie that in. Please let listeners know how to connect with you, how to work with you, how to purchase your books, how to find you online.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:53:36] I make it easy. There’s one path and it’s through my website, [laughs] which is deannaminich.com. So, it’s deannaminich.com and on there, if you’re a sciency nerd where you like to know the studies, we have a pretty robust blog section. We put a lot of energy into those blogs and doing deep dives on things. So that would be for the nerd head aspect. If you want more of the arty, practical, creative, like, just give me the things I need to know. Then there’s a resources tab where people can just go download a bunch of things like an Eat the Rainbow Toolkit or Food and Mood Tracker, things like that. And then all of my social media handles are on there so that’s where you can find me.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:54:20] Well, this has been a wonderful conversation. I’d love to have you back in 2024.
Dr. Deanna Minich: [00:54:23] Let’s do it for sure. It’s been great. Nice talking with you.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:54:29] If you love this podcast episode, please leave a rating and review, subscribe and tell a friend.