The Stress Hormone Connection with Dr Mandy Marziaz
In this interview, Laurie and Dr. Mandy Marziaz discuss The Stress Hormone connection, types of traumas and how you can destress your life.
This is a transcription of an Instagram live conversation. You can find the full video on Laurie’s IGTV tab on Instagram and on soon on YouTube.
Today I have Dr. Mandy Marziaz joining me. She’s a neuro-endocrine expert and she’s also a chiropractor. She works in women’s health and we’re going to be talking about the stress hormone connection.
As you’ve probably heard, stress and hormones are very closely related. Stress can impact our health in so many ways. But I think today we’re going to get into some of the subtleties of stress. Maybe the stress that we’re not even thinking about that’s going on in our bodies.
So in many ways it goes far beyond working too hard, emotional stress, financial stress or some of those stressors that we often think about.
Stress is so important to how it plays up in our health and our hormones. When we talk about stress like that, a couple of the main hormones that come to my mind and may come to your mind, is cortisol and adrenaline. But insulin is another one I love talking about. Insulin has a lot to do with blood sugar.
Here’s Mandy. I just let you introduce yourself. I’d love to know, tell us about your work background and what you do now.
I’m Dr. Mandy Marziaz and I’m located here in Colorado in the United States. I started off in biomedical research and saw a real failure in the system. It was a lot of drugs being pushed to market and not so much looking at lifestyle and things like that.
So I got out of biomedical research and became a chiropractor. Ironically, I went to school because I wanted to work with endurance athletes. I’m an ultra runner myself and I had my own health crisis following chiropractic school during my late thirties.
My adrenals completely crashed. I had no energy, no memory. Every run was painful. I was in chronic pain from my adrenals crashing and all of it. So throughout my own health journey, women’s health kind of found me.
I’m super passionate about helping women become more resilient to be able to navigate those pesky hormonal symptoms. I see women all the time going to the doctor and being told it’s just part of aging. It’s just normal. Or that there’s a pill for every ill.
I really wanted to provide something more holistic, more nurturing, and just like sometimes the simple stuff. It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy for us to change certain things, but sometimes that is so much more powerful than all the pills in the world.
So now I have a chiropractic business where I really specialize with people with neurological issues, auto-immune conditions and things like that. I have a tele-health portion, where I work with women with gut hormonal challenges, auto-immune issues and all of those things that we can do online.
Wow. That’s great. The conversation today is about stressing the hormone connection, but you were also bringing up that a lot of this comes down to lifestyle and nutrition, but these things are hard and are not always easy to change.
I also love talking about the things that we don’t know aren’t really good for us, because when it comes to health and wellness, there’s so much stuff being thrown out there and people are just grabbing, trying, doing and thinking, “This is for me,” although it might not be.
You also come from an athlete background and seeing athletes that maybe are working really hard and not eating enough, because of what they’ve been told about exercising more and eating less.
There’s all of the different ways that we can actually be stressing our body out, although we think we’re doing something healthy. So sometimes it’s not a matter of, “Oh, I need to eat healthy.” It’s a matter of maybe you think you’re being healthy, but it’s not what’s right for you. So it’s not healthy for you. What’s healthy for someone else is not necessarily what’s healthy for you. There’s all these little hidden intricacies, these little nuances and once we understand those a little bit better and what works for us we can help bring better health in our bodies.
So I fell on my head snowboarding a few years back and it took me two years to figure out that that had some relationship with all the symptoms that were accumulating from there on out.
It wasn’t until I started studying functional nutrition that people started asking me about head trauma. Then making the connection that, when I fell on my head things actually changed in my body, that eventually changed my hormones and that eventually made me crash.
Those aren’t the things that we think about as stressors, the stress that you experience when you fall, that’s trauma, but that can impact you long-term if you don’t do anything about it.
So let’s start with foundations. I’d also love to know a little bit about the hidden stressors, the things that we don’t think about that are actually causing us stress and how that’s connected to our hormones. What’s going on there?
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Yeah. Stressors, I call them traumas, thoughts, toxins, and I add technology in there. I’m not paranoid about technology, but the EMFs do affect our bodies. So trauma can be physical traumas. For example you fell or you ran a marathon.
Stress can be good and bad for the body. I like the analogy of having a stress bucket inside of you and it can only get filled a certain amount. If your job is crazy stressful, and your home life is crazy stressful, and maybe you just had a baby or whatever, your bucket is full. If then you’re like, “Hey, I wanna run a marathon.” Well, that might tip the scales. So you kind of have to look at the whole picture.
So there’s the physical traumas, obviously emotional traumas, which is the trauma we usually think about. There’s even chemical traumas. Maybe you ate some gluten and I’m not saying you can never have gluten, but gluten triggers a reaction in the body. Sometimes that can tip those stress scales.
We also have traumatic thoughts. I always ask women, “What are you saying to yourself every day? Who are the people you’re surrounding yourself with?” If you’re in a positive environment, that’s gonna change your brain chemistry, which changes your physiology and your body.
Toxins are in food, the air we breathe and water. I don’t want to make anybody paranoid and say that there’s toxins all over, but there’s more toxins in our world today than ever before.
Then a lot of us have a liver, that’s not working very well to process those toxins. So we have to have practices in place to detox. I’m not saying you have to do some crazy starving detox every month, but just things to help push those things through.
Then technology and the EMFs, if we’re sleeping next to the wireless devices, doing simple things like putting your phone in airplane mode every night when you go to sleep is important. So you’re not getting those EMFs in, but you can still use your phone as an alarm clock in the morning.
But we have those stressors, there’s lots of things that we don’t think about. The thing with stressors is we’re designed to handle stress as human beings. The goal is not to live a stress free life. That’s never going to happen. But the body produces a physiological response to stressors and the body really doesn’t know the difference between running from a lion or work is just crazy stressful.
Once in a while back in the hunter-gatherer days, they had to run from lions, bears and whatever and the body would elicit a response and then you’d calm back down and everything would be fine.
Today many of us have stressful work every single day, day in and day out. We have kids, relationships, home lifes and are trying to juggle it all and on top of that trying to fit in your workouts and your healthy eating and all these things.
When we’re exposed to those stressors every day, we’re having those physiological responses all the time and that’s actually not so good for the body.
Your body thinks it’s in danger every single day and you’re doing things like storing fat, because your body wants to have the energy to run away from the lions and tigers. We get that fat around the middle, which I always say is cortisol right there. We’re not sleeping as well.
We just have all of these things and then not sleeping well is just an added stressor on top of that pile. So you end up with more stressors or you stress eat and we eat more garbage, because we’re tired or drained from our day at work.
There are just more stressors on top of the pile. Which leads to your body living in a chronic state of stress.
When my adrenals crashed in my late thirties, it started when I went to chiropractic school. I was a marathon runner. I was sleeping four hours a night. Most of my life before that, I had been super laid back. So when my adrenals crashed, I was just so tired. I was falling asleep on the lecture room floor and dirty carpet every day. I was always just down for a nap, because I just couldn’t stay awake. After that I had to do a lot of self care. I had to make a lot of lifestyle changes, but I did them, because I didn’t want to feel that way. So that’s an example of how these stressors can accumulate and add up over time.
Then we hit perimenopause and age. I always tell women that estrogen can be your best friend and your worst friend. When you’re younger in your twenties, you’re like, “Oh, estrogen causes me all these things. I get cramps and I get all these things I don’t want.” But when we’re in our forties estrogen is actually your best friend and she keeps that cortisol in check. She keeps your histamines in check. Histamines are connected to allergies and things like that.
So estrogen was kind of a buffer for all these things and in perimenopause or menopause you just don’t have that anymore. Estrogen helps build muscle. So now we have to work harder to build muscle. We have to change things, because we’ve lost this protective buffer of estrogen. So perimenopause is also a time in our life when all of the years and years of stress catch up with us. It’s kind of a double whammy there.
That’s so true. I also call it the stress bucket, because it’s a good way to explain that stress is not bad for us. We need it. But how helpful is our bucket with all those stressors? Do we ever take a moment to drain the bucket? Do we reduce the stress to a point where we can recover and then we can add more back in?
So when it comes to strategies, you had to drastically change your lifestyle. When it comes to strategies, what are the main shifts that are important?
I like to see people work on their sleep and improving their breathing. You have to make sure you’re getting oxygen throughout your body.
Also work on your mindset and work on lowering that stress. Try getting more into our parasympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of our sympathetic fight or flight nervous system.
For me to recover I had to give up running for a while. Evaluate this for yourself, maybe your exercise is just overboard and too much. You can try more calming types of exercise like restorative yoga.
I also had to cut out coffee for a while. I drink coffee every day now, but I had to give it up for a couple of years just to get back into balance again.
I had to really heal my gut and I started meditating and just doing things that prioritize self care. I could no longer keep pushing myseIf. I had to learn to really tune in and listen to my body.
Today I still run marathons, but I listen to my body when it’s tired. I don’t push it further and sometimes I run less. When I need to do a restorative yoga session, I do it. I do the things that help restore me, when I need then and stop pushing myself.
That’s so helpful. A lot of daily activities like walking to the shops and carrying the groceries up the stairs can add to your daily stress bucket. We have to recharge and restore on a daily basis, as well as weekly and monthly basis. We need to be adding practices into our life that help support the stress that’s in our life.
Right. On planes they say that you’ve got to put your mask on first. It’s totally true if you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to show up for your job or your family or your friends.
I think most of the women I serve are sick and tired of feeling disconnected, because they’re just going through the motions every day. So getting some of that spark back in your life is so important and one of the ways you do it is by restoring.
It’s not about doing more. It’s about doing less.
Exactly, less is more. Do you have any further tips, strategies or tools?
Yeah. I would tell people, “First, what can you realistically do?” For some people adding a self-care practice every single day is going to stress them out. Sometimes I tell the new moms or someone that they gotta pick something this weekend. I don’t care if you sit outside on your patio and drink a cup of tea, but you have to ask yourself what fills your bucket, because what fills your bucket may not be the same that fills mine.
What do you enjoy? What makes you feel restored and reconnected?
I have a favorite practice that I love to give people. Again, if you can’t do it every day, three days a week or something like that is enough, but I call it the daily unpacking practice. You can add something like a legs up the wall pose, which is super restorative to your body or add a little yoga.
But just create a grounding cord, like from your center down into the earth and just let all your cares, worries and stresses, flow back to mama earth.
I always tell people, mother earth can handle it. She’s got broad shoulders. So just give them back to the earth. It’s a great practice to do before you go to bed. So you’re not up with the worry machine all night.
Those things can just take it down a notch. Advocate for yourself, if you’re like, “I’m going to take two hours on Sunday morning for myself,” tell your family that that is going to be your you-time.
Thank you for all those wonderful tips and this chat today.
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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, manage, or treat disease or serious conditions. Always check with your doctor before making any changes. It’s important to consult a well-informed health practitioner for personal advice about your situation before relying on general information — we’re all wonderfully unique.
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Laurie Villarreal, FNLP, CHWC, FNS, LMC, CPT, RYT
Hi, I'm Laurie, a functional nutritionist and health coach, athlete, dog-mom, and biohacking adventure-lover. After having struggled for years to find lasting solutions for my own debilitating hormone-related symptoms, I created my online practice to begin helping other active, driven women get the support they need. I now help women around the world elevate their health, energy, business and life by optimizing their hormones with personalized nutrition and lifestyle tweaks. Together, we discover new tools and strategies that keep you showing up at your best so you can play even bigger in your life and work.
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