Welcome to episode #83 of the Waist Away podcast! Our guest today is Dr. Christine Maren. She is a board-certified functional medicine physician and the founder of a high-tech, innovative medical practice in Denver, CO and Detroit, MI. Dr Maren is dedicated to helping address the root cause of their symptoms in order to restore health, prevent disease, and get their lives back!
Dr. Maren’s website: https://drchristinemaren.com/
audio version: https://chantelray.podbean.com/e/wa83/
video version: https://youtu.be/6J7t8d23-KA
Chantel: Hey guys, welcome to this week’s episode, and I’m so excited. We have Dr. Christine Maren, who’s a functional medicine physician. She has her own independent practice near Boulder, Colorado, but she also has remote consultations that you can do via Skype or via phone and she’s got patients all over Colorado, Michigan and Texas. That’s where she has a medical license. So, welcome Christine.
Christine Maren: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Chantel: Walk us through your medical journey and just your own personal health journey. How did you start noticing some changes in your body as early as in college and how did you become passionate about functional medicine?
Christine Maren: Functional medicine. Well, you know, I was born and raised in Colorado, so I grew up with a very sort of holistic mindset. It was just kind of part of the culture here and part of my upbringing. I really dove into functional medicine after my own health issues came to light with pregnancies. If you rewind back to college days, I was really actually a pretty healthy kid, pretty healthy in college. In retrospect, I see that there were some warning flags that went up. Acupuncture was the thing that helped me when I was in college. I had issues with hormones and, of course, I saw an OB/GYN and they suggested going on the pill and even at that young age I just felt like that’s not really addressing my issue. What’s really my issue? Anyways, at that time in my life, acupuncture did the trick, but fast forward to pregnancies and that’s really when things started to come to light and when I started to realize I had some underlying health issues that needed to be addressed.
Chantel: What were yours?
Christine Maren: Yeah, so a lot of different things, and I always tell patients it’s like it’s usually more than one thing, but food sensitivities and really severe gluten intolerance, potentially celiac disease. My diagnosis is a little bit complicated.
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I had gestational diabetes and I felt like what’s the real underlying cause for that? There’s got to be something else. I have zero traditional risk factors for that. Before I had my second child, we had recurrent pregnancy loss, so the recurrent pregnancy loss is really when I started diving in professionally and personally to functional medicine to figure out what was really going on. I knew at that point that there was something wrong and there was a reason why I couldn’t carry a pregnancy to term. I now have three healthy kids and they’re doing great, but it was a struggle at that part of my life.
A lot of my issues go back to thyroid, digestive issues, food sensitivities and gluten intolerance. Boy, what else is in there? A lot of just hormone imbalance kind of stuff. A lot of it was digestive in nature and the root cause of that probably goes back to some issues with oral health. I had root canals placed before all of this happened, took antibiotics for that and my root canals have since been extracted, but went down the whole dental journey as well.
Chantel: I know you were speaking on the candida summit and you first kind of talked about that tie between your personal health and your gut health, and I’m super passionate about that, but how did you figure out, like what about dairy for you? Can you do okay with dairy, or what are some of the things-
Christine Maren: No. Yeah.
Christine Maren: No, I mean, for me, I figured out, like many people I started by eliminating gluten and thought I really am not sure if I have any issue with that because I’d accidentally have gluten at my daughter’s birthday party or something and for that first three months I really didn’t know. But the longer I stayed away from gluten the more crazy obvious it became. At this point, if I get gluten exposure I’m actually pretty violently ill, vomiting. It’s like a food poisoning kind of reaction. At first, it was just kind of gluten and I’ve since had to eliminate dairy. I’m really, really careful about gluten and I’m pretty careful about dairy. I did a lot of food sensitivity testing, too, and dairy has not really been one of those that has come up with me, but I can test it and I know that I have an issue. My main symptoms are bloating, so it’s pretty obvious to me.
Chantel: Gotcha. Talk more a little bit about your teeth. So when you say, because I know I’ve gotten at least one or two root canals. I can’t even remember now because it’s been a while. What did you, when you say you got it removed, talk to me about that.
Christine Maren: Yeah. It’s a pretty big deal, and I don’t encourage people to just kind of accept that without digging in. I had root canals. I had some bad dental work in med school. Once I really looked at my timeline, I realized wait, all this digestive stuff started after I got these root canals placed. I never had digestive issues as a kid. I never had digestive issues in college. This all started after my root canals. I also got antibiotics with the root canals, so it’s probably multi-factorial.
Things were just never the same for me after I got the root canals placed. I had other symptoms, too, like this recurrent cough that I would get. I never had that before and I just felt like there was something wrong with these root canal teeth. I had a little bit of pain on them, too. It wasn’t like the pain that would wake you up at night. It was super low grade, but it’s just something I could notice. At that point, I had really been doing a lot with functional medicine and I knew that root canals could potentially be an issue for people and it could pose a threat. It can be a stealth infection. You have basically, they’re dead teeth in your mouth. Nowhere else in the body do we leave something dead just sitting there. You can get a lot of infections from that.
Now I do a test on people through their saliva. It’s an oral DNA test and you can look at the different pathogens in the mouth and figure out if there’s dysbiosis in the mouth. Your listeners probably have heard about dysbiosis in the gut, which is just this collection of abnormal bacteria and like the bad bugs that you don’t necessarily want. You can get those same bad players in your mouth and that can cause a lot of issues. Your mouth is the first place where digestion starts. I think it’s part of the digestive tract but I’ve never met a gastroenterologist, actually, who even asks about the mouth. When people have poor dentition and root canal teeth, I always take that into account because you’re constantly swallowing saliva. It’s [inaudible 00:06:29] for sure.
Chantel: Now, I know that you live in Boulder, Colorado, or near there, and I know that you’re licensed in Colorado, Michigan and Texas, but let’s say someone lives, because we have a lot of listeners all over the country. California is actually our biggest. California and Texas are our two biggest states of listenership. If someone doesn’t, let’s say they live in California, are you able to do a phone consult with them, or how does that work?
Christine Maren: I only take patients in the states where I’m licensed, so California’s not on my list. Yeah, just Colorado, Michigan and Texas.
Chantel: Gotcha. Talk to us about working with a biological dentist.
Christine Maren: Yeah, I think that’s really important and I always tell patients, I spend a lot of time figuring out who the best dentist is. I’ve moved a lot. My husband was a military doctor. That’s why I have licenses in all these states. I’m in Colorado and back home to stay, but I have had to establish care with different dentists in many different places.
When I went to medical school, I just picked some dentist. That’s the reason I had my root canals. He did some fillings and then I had pain and I got infections. I just didn’t do my homework and now I understand how important it is to work with a really good dentist and somebody who’s reputable. I feel like a biological, holistic, integrative dentist is really important. You can find them, there’s a website called IAOMT. It stands for the International Association of Mercury-Safe Dentistry. That’s a good place to sort of look. But, yeah, you want to make sure that your dentist understands that. If somebody has a root canal and they’re thinking it might be a problem, one way they can evaluate that is by doing a cone beam CT. It’s a 3D cone beam CT and you can look and see if there’s early signs of inflammation, things that you wouldn’t see on an X-ray. Yeah, I mean, the process, if you have to actually get a root canal tooth extracted, it’s quite a process and I definitely would want to work with a biological dentist for that kind of thing.
Chantel: Awesome. Your website is absolutely fantastic, by the way.
Christine Maren: Thanks.
Chantel: I love it. I want to talk to you about supplements, because a lot of people on my show, one of the things we constantly get because so many people, they listen to all these podcasts and then one guest comes on and says, “Oh, this supplement’s good,” so they start taking that, and then someone else says, “Oh, you need this one.” And then we’ve had people that are like, “Oh, my gosh, I love this show, but now I feel like I’m taking too many supplements.”
Christine Maren: Yeah.
Chantel: Can that damage your liver? If you had to really say, okay, and you can get out of control with this, but if I had to say these three things, what would be the supplements that you would recommend?
Christine Maren: I think a multivitamin is really important. I think that’s sort of the foundational place to start. I see all these people who are taking selenium, taking zinc, taking vitamin A, taking vitamin D. There’s all these different supplements that people are taking, but they’re not getting a multivitamin and a multivitamin with methylated Bs is really important. You want to make sure that the folate is not folic acid, it’s methylcobalamin. Or, I’m sorry, that’s Vitamin B12, but it’s methylfolate or MTHF or some variation of that, of activated folate, basically. The same thing with B12, which is methylcobalamin or idenosylcobalamin or basically, stay away from the cyanocobalamin.
Generally, when you’re not using a really high quality multivitamin, they’re just not using high quality ingredients. You want activated Bs and go with a really reputable supplier. For some women, menstruating women, generally, I recommend a multi with iron, but it depends on the person, so I think it’s an important thing to have checked. And then most people need additional vitamin D. I check vitamin D on all my patients and I would say, oh, 95 plus percent need additional vitamin D, so I usually recommend a supplement that has D3 with K2. And a fish oil, usually a really good omega-3 fatty acid. I think those are foundational, and then sort of beyond that it depends on the person, sort of what’s going on. When it comes to probiotics, I like probiotics and I think most people benefit from one, but some people actually have adverse effects from it, too.
Chantel: Yeah. If you need to go to her website, everyone needs to do it, go to drchristinemaren.com and if you click on “Buy Supplements,” I love how you have it where you’ve got eight different brands that you say this is what I kind of put my seal of approval on, right?
Christine Maren: Yep. Yeah. That site is good because you can get so many low quality supplements and I think in a lot of cases you can do more damage than good, so I tell people I’d rather you not take a multivitamin than take one from a cheap drugstore. Sometimes they have all these fillers, they have dye and gluten and a bunch of junk and then what’s in there is not necessarily what they say is in there, it’s not necessarily even in there, so you want to make sure you’re using pharmaceutical grade supplements that have third party verification, so essentially, a third party has gone in, verified all their raw material, verified their final products, that there’s no contamination, what’s in there is in there. Yeah.
Chantel: Yeah. If you had to pick your top two, I love the Pure brand that you have on there. I love that one myself, personally, but if you had to pick your top two out of the different brands that you kind of give your seal of approval on, which ones kind of are your favorite?
Christine Maren: Can I have a top five?
Chantel: How about top three?
Christine Maren: Top three, okay. Designs For Health, Orthomolecular and Metagenics.
Chantel: Okay. All right.
Christine Maren: I used to use a lot of Pure stuff and I still use it here and there, but you know that they sold to Nestle?
Chantel: No, I didn’t know that.
Christine Maren: Yeah. That happened about a year ago and so I think quality, retrospectively, has been very good and maybe it will be going forward, but I just have a little bit of hesitation with it being under a different sort of umbrella.
Chantel: If you had to pick your number one would the Orthomolecular be your number one?
Christine Maren: I mean, I really think they’re all good and I think it depends on the thing. If you’re looking for the best herb to treat, say, SIBO, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth, I really like the Metagenics line for that. So that’s part of the reason why my dispensary has all these different brands is because I like certain brands for certain things. I really like the Metagenics multivitamin for women. I use their phytomulti with iron myself. In terms of fish oil, I like the Designs For Health one a lot.
Chantel: Say that one one more time. If someone-
Christine Maren: I use the phytomulti with iron from Metagenics. It’s called Metagenics phytomulti with iron. That’s what I give my kiddos, too. Not that particular supplement, but they have a MetaKids line that I like a lot, so they have a kids multi. But I really like their multi and I really like their pregnancy essentials packets. It just depends on what we’re going for.
Chantel: And so if someone is struggling with thyroid issues-
Christine Maren: Yeah.
Chantel: … what would be the one that would be your go-to for that?
Christine Maren: You know, I would do a multivitamin and then I would do, it depends on the person, but I try to pick a supplement that has a little bit of iodine, a little bit of some sort of adaptogen to support the adrenals, like ashwagandha and I would probably, Designs For Health has Thyroid Synergy that I use a lot. There’s some ginseng in there, too, but sometimes that could be too stimulating for people as well. That’s generally my go-to.
Chantel: Before we get started on all the listener questions, I wanted to ask you something we always ask everyone. What goes through a day in the life of what do you eat?
Christine Maren: Oh, yeah.
Chantel: What’s your different meals, what do you eat, when do you eat them?
Christine Maren: Yeah. Here’s the caveat. I’m a mom of three and my husband’s a surgeon and I don’t have a lot of time these days. I’m breastfeeding my daughter, who is 10 months, so I’m sort of just still emerging from this postpartum cloud. At this point in my life, I definitely eat more carbohydrates than normal because I’m nursing and I notice that my milk supply goes down when I don’t do that. I start my day, actually, with a smoothie. I’ve done that for years, but more recently I’ve gotten really into SmoothieBox. They deliver these little pouches and they have vegetables and fruit and pretty low sugar content, which I like, because sometimes with smoothies if you have a bunch of fruit and bananas-
Christine Maren: … [crosstalk 00:15:18] 25 or 30 grams of sugar, it’s way too much. They’re not very sweet, but they’re good. I add a little bit of coconut mile kefir and some coconut milk and collagen protein. So that’s usually my breakfast. They have three different flavors so I basically always start with a smoothie. If I don’t have that in my freezer, I’m sort of like, “What do I do?” It’s good because in between getting ready for patients and getting my kids to school, I can sort of have my breakfast on the run, which isn’t the best thing in the world, but it’s the reality of being a mom of three.
So then lunch, if it’s a clinic day where I’m really busy, it’s like quick leftovers from my dinner the night before, generally, so I try to make a really big dinner so I can eat leftovers the next day. Sometimes it’s like, let’s call it accidental fasting, since that’s trendy, right? But I don’t have a ton of time, so I try to do leftovers. I do a lot of green juice, too, for lunch when I’m at work. I try to do like a no fruit green vegetable juice during the day just so I get extra plants in. Then for dinner, I always make a really pretty good dinner at home. We all, as a family we try to eat together and generally that is, I try to sort of plan it so half of the plate is some green or low starch vegetable. Usually that’s broccoli or cauliflower or a big salad or asparagus. I try to really focus on variety, too, so we’re not eating the same thing all the time. Variety’s really important for the gut microbiome, so I just try to keep a lot of variety in it. So some sort of veggie, and I do a pretty simple preparation, like I steam it or I roast it and do like salt, olive oil, lemon juice. That’s like my go-to.
Christine Maren: And then I’ll do about a quarter of the plate with a starchy, either potato or sweet potato or beets or something like that. My husband doesn’t survive unless I have some sort of starch on the plate. And then I’ll do a quarter of that some sort of protein, like grass-federal beef or pastured chicken or something like that, sometimes wild salmon, scallops.
Christine Maren: That’s sort of like our go-to and that’s … Yeah.
Chantel: Great. Awesome.
Christine Maren: We try to keep it simple.
Chantel: Great. Let’s jump right into the listener questions. This is from Sarah in Utah. “I was talking with a few close girlfriends the other night about our stress and anxiety. Several of them are on antidepressants, antianxiety medicine, but this is something I’m not ready to explore, mostly because of the side effects and also because I hate taking medication. I focus on prayer, meditation, bubble baths, all the natural stuff, but I’ve been doing some reading and wondering if my anxiety could be hormonal. How can I recognize anxiety that’s related to my hormones and how can I regulate it without a prescription?” Sarah in Utah.
Christine Maren: Okay. That’s a good question. With mood, I always talk to my patients and I say mood is really a symptom. It’s a very real problem, but it’s not like a disease. It’s a symptom of something else going wrong. If we suspect that potentially it’s a hormone symptom, then the most common one I would see with anxiety is low progesterone or estrogen dominance. So estrogen/progesterone balance is very important and sometimes I see people with just very low progesterone and tons of estrogen. I would say if it’s a cyclical thing that you’re noticing and you’re getting more anxiety around the time of your period or around the time of ovulation, that’s when I would sort of have more suspicion there, and especially if there’s other symptoms to suggest hormone imbalances. That might be estrogen-dominant kind of symptoms, where there’s a lot of breast tenderness or fibroids or really heavy, painful periods. And then it could also be low progesterone symptoms, which could be weight gain and anxiety and fatigue, trouble sleeping as well.
Chantel: Now, are you a fan of progesterone cream? Like for people who have hormone-
Christine Maren: I am. I generally, it depends on my patients. To try to increase progesterone, a lot of times I’ll use Chaste Tree or Vitex. It’s the same product, different name. I’ll use that. Sometimes I’ll use some topical progesterone and in a lot of my patients, depending on where they are in life and depending on their hormone testing, I look at what’s called the Dutch test, which is dried urine test for complete hormones. If I see that they have a very low progesterone but a preference for the metabolite called alpha-pregnanediol, I’ll sometimes use an oral progesterone, which can help a lot, just sort of depending on where they are and if they’re really struggling with anxiety and depression. Sometimes it’s like progesterone might work better than an antianxiety medication with less side effects.
Chantel: Awesome. Pam in Houston. “I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with me. Who isn’t? Smiley face. Because if feel like I haven’t been well in several months, but I can’t determine the cause. I thought it could be a candida issue, but I had a stool test done and it looked normal. Should I rule out candida altogether, or is there another way I could test it?”
Christine Maren: Oh, yeah. Totally not. A stool test that’s negative for candida does definitely not rule out candida. If you have a stool test that’s positive for candida, usually that rules it in and you know exactly what’s going on in there, but there are different varieties of yeast, and oftentimes a stool test is a false negative test. My favorite way to look for candida is an organic acid test. Great Plains has something called a MOAT or an OAT. A MOAT is just the microbial organic acid test. It’s the first page of that test and there’s nine fungal markers. That’s the most comprehensive way to look for it. And then, you know, just pay attention if there are symptoms that seem very candida specific. That tends to be like people with itchy ears, anal itching, carb cravings. There’s non-specific symptoms, too, of course, like brain fog and fatigue and things like that, but yeah. Definitely stool test is actually not my favorite way to look for candida. You can also test for it in the blood, but I don’t really think that that is the best way to look for it. You can do candida antibodies.
Chantel: So if somebody isn’t in one of the states that you talked about but they want to get a stool test, is that something they can do online, and is there one that you say, hey, you can go to this site and get this [crosstalk 00:21:40]?
Christine Maren: For candida specifically, or like an OAT test or a stool test?
Chantel: [crosstalk 00:21:44].
Christine Maren: There are some places where, if you google, you can buy them for, I mean, they’re usually more expensive when you do it that way, but there are some clinicians who sell them online. I’m not sure how they do it or how the legal aspect is. It’s so tricky with doing virtual care and telemedicine. The laws are very, from state to state totally vary. Anyways, I’m not sure really how they do it, but I know you can buy them through people online. Nobody’s going to help you interpret them, and then the question is how useful is that?
Chantel: Gotcha. This next one is Alyssa in Chesapeake. “One of my friends, who is a health nut, recently had her feces sampled to check her gut microbiome. This is something that I never heard of and it just sounded a little extreme. I’ve heard a lot about gut health lately. My Instagram feed has tons of people selling products to increase gut health. When I was growing up, my grandmother always told me to eat yogurt for a healthy stomach, but I don’t prefer dairy products and try to limit my carbs. What are some other things I could be doing, drinking, or taking to encourage a healthy gut without going too overboard like my friend?”
Christine Maren: It’s a good question. I’ve definitely gone too overboard over here. Okay. One of my favorite things for gut health is called resistant starch. Resistant starch you can prepare lots of foods to encourage them to have more resistant starch and it’s resist digestion in the small intestine and preferentially feeds the good guys in your large intestine, especially something called butyrate. Butyrate’s a short-chain fatty acid. It’s been studied, actually associated with weight loss, colon cancer reduction, inflammatory bowel disease. It has a ton of really beneficial properties. You want to encourage production of this short-chain fatty acid butyrate by feeding it resistant starch. Resistant starch foods are cooked and cooled sweet potatoes, cooked and cooled rice, cooked and cooled potatoes and grains, actually, so if it’s somebody who eats grains you can prepare it that way. Beans actually have some resistant starch, too, so it just depends. If somebody’s paleo you can totally get resistant starch through other kinds of things [crosstalk 00:24:06].
Chantel: Sweet potatoes.
Christine Maren: Yeah, sweet potatoes.
Chantel: You can do it through sweet potatoes.
Christine Maren: You can use green banana flour. I use green bananas. I used to use them in my smoothies all the time, so I’d buy green bananas and cut them up and put them in the freezer when they’re green and then you put it into your smoothie and you’ve got resistant starch. Resistant starch is a really good way. There are other prebiotic foods, so basically eating a lot of plants, especially things like leeks and onions have a lot of prebiotics. So prebiotics are the things that feed the healthy bugs in your gut.
You can also use probiotics. Probiotic foods, you mentioned yogurt. I avoid dairy as well but I do a nondairy kefir, which is through Forager brand. It’s a cashew kefir. You can incorporate other types of fermented foods like that or there are gut shots and things like that. You’ve seen with the sauerkraut and kimchi and pickled kind of vegetables. You want to make sure they’re lacto fermented things that you get out of the refrigerator section and not the sauerkraut in a jar that’s on the shelf. Those are all good things that you can eat to feed your gut microbiome.
Chantel: Now, why does it have to be cooked and cooled? Explain that part. [crosstalk 00:25:23].
Christine Maren: It’s just part of how it forms resistant starch. It’s just, I don’t know. That’s just how the resistant starch is formed.
Christine Maren: Go ahead.
Chantel: [crosstalk 00:25:32] explain that a little more. So like if I was going to do it, I’d bake the sweet potato and then how long would I have to wait for it to cool to [crosstalk 00:25:43]?
Christine Maren: I usually say bring it back to room temperature or just stick it in your fridge. What I do is I cook a big sheet of sweet potatoes and we eat some of them for dinner and then the rest of them I stick in the fridge and then eat the next day. The same thing if you’re doing rice. If somebody was to eat rice, you cook an extra batch or whatever, stick it in your fridge and then you could use it to make fried rice. I don’t, I mean, and then how much can you, you can’t heat it up too much, either, so you have to be careful. If you’re going to reheat sweet potatoes, you can reheat them, but you can’t, if you really zap them they lose some of that. You just have to lightly, gently heat them kind of quickly or just eat them cold.
Christine Maren: But I think back to that question, the other side of that is what you’re not eating. That’s really important for your gut microbiome and probably more important is what you’re avoiding. So, pesticides are really antibiotics in our gut. Staying away from more conventional products that are sprayed with pesticides because those kill the bugs in our gut. It’s essentially like an antibiotic. And then sugar can feed a lot of the candida, so eating a lot of refined sugar products, and processed foods. Yeah.
Chantel: Awesome. Terry in [Fluvana 00:27:05], which I have no idea where Fluvana is.
Christine Maren: Me neither.
Chantel: It says, “I had a radical hysterectomy in my early 50s because of a cancerous cyst. At the time, my doctor didn’t want me to take any hormones because of the cancer scare. It’s been seven to eight years since the surgery and I haven’t found any good alternatives to use as a natural hormone replacement. What would you recommend?”
Christine Maren: You know, it really depends on symptoms. Seven to eight years afterward, if somebody is still having a lot of hot flashes or anxiety or trouble sleeping, I think, number one, I like to get data, so rather than, I say don’t guess, test. I like to do that Dutch test and really see is it estrogen or is it estrogen and progesterone or is it just something else entirely? So I look at all those things.
If it’s hot flashes, one of the big things I consider is adrenal health. So adrenals are what produce cortisol, so if someone’s having a lot of hot flashes I really think about supporting the adrenals and regulating blood sugar really tightly. In terms of supporting the adrenals, some of my favorites are ashwagandha or rhodiola. I like one from Designs For Health called adrenotone. Sleep is really important but, of course, it’s this vicious cycle where if people aren’t getting sleep, that’s really bad for their adrenals, but if they’re having adrenal dysfunction they can’t really sleep very well so you kind of have to get it from both ends.
Progesterone cream, as you mentioned before, is an option. You can use different types of topical progesterone and things like Vitex to try to increase them or just use oral progesterone. It could be that the doctor might not want to use estrogen but they would be willing to use progesterone.
Chantel: Awesome. Connie in Concord. “I have had the worst heartburn lately, especially in the middle of the night. Sometimes it wakes me up. Do you think that this is caused by something I’m eating? I never eat right before bed and I usually have my last meal before 6:00 p.m. Are there foods that I should not be eating or any natural remedies?”
Christine Maren: Yeah. So, yes, I think it’s because something you’re eating. Often this is the case, and I find that people are sometimes, they think that they have reflux and they have too much stomach acid and so they try to bring it down with a proton pump inhibitor to stop the stomach acid and then you digest your food less, and that’s actually associated with more food sensitivities and SIBO, small intestine bacterial overgrowth and all these issues with your gut microbiome. So I really try to avoid proton pump inhibitors if at all possible. If you have to use them, I say use them really short term.
That said, natural remedies would be, you could use DGL licorice and zinc carnosine. Those can be helpful for gastritis. The other thing I like to do is to test people’s stomach acid. If you want to go really easy, you could just trying doing like a shot of apple cider vinegar with meals and see if that helps you feel better. Sometimes when people get GERD a shot of apple cider vinegar does the trick. But you could also test your stomach acid using this supplement called betaine HCL. You have to be careful with this. It’s definitely not something you want to open and chew or split in half or anything like that because it is acid. It’s a replacement for stomach acid. You can start with one per meal and see how you feel. If you don’t feel anything, I tell my patients to take two with the next meal. If they still don’t feel anything they can go up to three with the next meal. With three, if they feel something with three I say bump back down to two. Some of my patients, and I was like this, can get up to six or eight and you never feel a thing. That tells me somebody has hypochlorhydria, or low stomach acid. Often GERD is associated with that hypochlorhydria and then really getting to the root cause of that is another question.
It might be a thyroid issue. A lot of times we’re in this very sympathetic dominant state in our culture, meaning there’s a lot of stress. There’s the sympathetic nervous system, parasympathetics. When your sympathetics are on fire that is not a place to rest and digest. That’s all about parasympathetic. So really, trying to bring back that parasympathetic tone with meditation and relaxation and stuff is important and not eating on the run like I do with my breakfast every morning. Just trying to really sit down and digest your food helps, but I think, too, it’s just getting down to that root cause of is there a food that you’re eating? It’s usually not the tomato that’s causing the problem. Sometimes that can be a symptom of your underlying inflammation, but what is it that you’re eating that’s causing the issue? For somebody with GERD, I would recommend really doing an elimination diet just short term. One that I like is the Whole 30, or something like that, where you just take out the more inflammatory foods for at least 30 days and then add them back and see if any of those trigger the symptoms.
Chantel: Awesome. This next one is from Heather in City Park. “I’m so thankful for your podcasts. You’ve really helped me feel like I’m not alone with my struggles with autoimmune issues. My son is five and he suffers from eczema. I’m so sad for him that he inherited this from me. I have found that fasting has really helped with my eczema. Unfortunately, this is not an option for a five-year-old. LOL. Are there any natural creams or remedies that you recommend that are child-friendly and safe for the whole family?”
Christine Maren: Yeah. Good question. I have kiddos at home, as well. One of mine has eczema, my three-year-old. Yeah, and hangry is not something you want with a five-year-old. I get it.
Christine Maren: One thing I like is actually called Mother Dirt. It is a spray that you can put on to help with the skin microbiome. We talk about the gut microbiome and that collection of organisms in your gut and all these bugs. You have one on your skin as well. You have one in your mouth, like we talked about earlier. All of that is important. Anyways, you can use Mother Dirt to spray that on and then cover it with an emollient cream. That’s one remedy.
And then just be really, I don’t know, I’m guessing your listener is probably pretty careful about the kind of products she’s using, but I would make sure that they’re EWG Skin Deep approved kind of products, so meaning the Environmental Working Group has a data base called Skin Deep, where you can look up the products and see if they have certain toxins in them or not, so just being careful about that.
And then really diving into gut health. Food sensitivities, it’s interesting because the more recent literature is actually suggesting that things like peanut allergies could be caused by an issue with skin barrier. So, in other words, kids with eczema are getting peanut allergies because they’re getting exposure to those antigens in the air, through peanut dust, through their skin. So it has to do with skin barrier function. We talk about gut barrier function and leaky gut, but there’s also this leaky skin thing that I think is an important component. So I think that’s an important thing to know just because I think treating eczema pretty aggressively is important to prevent food allergies, especially in kiddos. I would really look at gut health with kids. When there is eczema, I go straight to the gut and that’s when I really like to do stool testing and organic acid testing. Of course, that’s something she’d need a holistic functional medicine practitioner for. Where is she located?
Chantel: Let’s see. She was in, Heather in Park City. See, that’s the thing. I’m telling you, I made straight As in school but the only class I didn’t do well in was geography. It’s coming back to haunt me because people write me things and say where they’re from. I’m like, “Park City? Where is that?” If they don’t put the state-
Christine Maren: That’s Utah, I know that.
Chantel: Park City is Utah?
Christine Maren: Park City, Utah, but I don’t know a functional medicine practitioner with kids off the top of my head there. That’s where I would look. You know, probiotics can be helpful but it’s like really, if there’s a pathogen in the gut that you need to sort of treat or remove, I think you kind of have to start there.
Chantel: There is a lotion, you can buy it on Amazon. One of my friends actually owns it here in Virginia Beach and she has a thing called The Farm Life.
Christine Maren: Oh, yeah. I feel like I’ve seen that.
Chantel: Yeah. That’s the brand. It’s called The Farm Life, so you enter in The Farm Life, but it’s called Renewing Night Cream. It’s supposed to be just a night cream for your face but it’s very emollient and, for me, I have found it really, really helps with psoriasis and eczema. [inaudible 00:35:48].
Christine Maren: Oh, cool. Okay. I’m going to [crosstalk 00:35:50] that and try it on [crosstalk 00:35:51].
Chantel: Yeah, it’s really good.
Christine Maren: Cool.
Chantel: And it smells delicious, too.
Christine Maren: Okay. Awesome. That’s Farm Life Renewing Night Cream.
Chantel: This is Jen. Yes.
Christine Maren: Okay.
Chantel: This next one is Jen in Virginia. It says, “I was on a road trip with my friends and she kept lecturing me because every time I picked up my phone while it was charging, I had to use it for my GPS. She’s always buying into all this hippie stuff and lecturing me about it. LOL. But she got me thinking that there really could be something behind holding an electric current in your hands. Do you buy into this? What about wifi? Do you think we’re poisoning ourselves with all the wifi floating around in the air?” Jen in Virginia.
Christine Maren: There’s so many good questions. I love your listeners. That’s great. Yeah. This is a really crazy one. This is EMFs, so electromagnetic frequencies. We’ve been surrounded by them forever because they’re in microwaves and refrigerators and stuff like that but now we are literally bombarded with EMFs because we have wifi, we have smart TVs, we have wifi speakers, we have wifi printers. We have all these wireless devices all over our house, so I think it’s a really important thing to think about. We can’t escape it. We can’t turn off. For people who are truly EMF sensitive, they hard wire their home and use ethernet and things like that.
I think it’s a really good idea to mitigate wifi at home and especially at night and especially in the bedrooms. I’m really cognizant in my kids’ rooms that I don’t have things that plug into the wall near their bed. Sounds super crazy but, yes, I think it’s a thing. Especially iPad devices, no iPads in the room, especially for kids. They don’t really have their own iPad anyways, but if your kids have an iPad, don’t put it in the room and keep it on airplane mode as much as possible. Also, if your kids have an iPad like on the plane, I try to download it and then put it on airplane mode so it’s not like this wifi device sitting in their lap all day. Kids are definitely more vulnerable to it.
With the cellphone, Environmental Working Group has this whole helpful infographic on sort of the healthy ways to use a cellphone, or the less harmful ways, rather. Some things that you can do in terms of cellphones, so texting is better than calling. If you’re calling, use a not wireless headset like this one. Keep your phone off your face. Talk like this, rather than this. There’s actually studies looking at increased rates of brain tumor and they’re suggesting that potentially wifi and wireless phones play a role in that. It’s really not as hippie as it might sound.
There are ways that you can measure it in your home. I think they’re called gauss meters and you can go and actually detect if there’s high frequency in certain rooms, and there are actually people you can hire to come to your house and assess electromagnetic frequencies. If you live in a home and there’s giant electrical poles outside of that home, that’s sometimes an issue in certain homes. It really just depends on the surroundings. Some of the stuff that you’d never know, so hiring people is sometimes helpful with that if you really want to take it far.
If you want to just keep it simple, keep the cellphone off your head. Put it in airplane mode, keep it away from the head of your bed, unplug your wifi at night, keep your wireless printer unplugged, just plug it in when you need to use it, don’t put wireless speakers in your bedroom, things like that.
Chantel: Awesome. Okay, this is from Rachel in Flower Mound. Where is Flower Mound?
Christine Maren: Texas. That’s Texas.
Chantel: Oh, really?
Christine Maren: Yeah.
Chantel: Awesome. Okay. “A couple of episodes back, when one of the doctors was thinking about …” Okay. “A couple episodes back, one of the doctors was talking about taking an HCL supplement and how it really helped with digestion because your stomach needs to have acid. This got me thinking. I have an alkaline water machine that I spent $5,000 on. Now, I’m starting to second-guess it because it makes sense that your body would need some sort of acid to digest your food. Why would I want to drink alkaline water to remove all the acid I need for digestion? What is your opinion on alkaline water, specifically as it’s related to digestion and did I just waste $5,000?” Rachel in Flower Mound.
Christine Maren: Okay, good question. I will tell you I do not have alkaline water myself. I don’t tell patients to buy it. I don’t know, there might be something to it, but there really has not been any convincing literature to suggest that the acid alkaline myth is real. I do think, though, acidic foods like grains and meat and sugar, obviously those are not great for us, so I don’t know. There might be something to it.
Now, when it comes to stomach acid, I just mentioned a little bit ago about taking an HCL supplement, how your stomach is designed to be highly acidic and that’s important. The question of taking alkaline water, I think it can interfere because it’s a high pH, so it can interfere with your stomach acid. I think what I would say is don’t drink a lot of alkaline water with your meals, which is what I tell people anyways. If you drink a ton of water with your meals, you’re diluting your digestive juices. So drink your water in between meals. Have just a small amount of water with your meal, preferably something that’s warm and soothing and really encourages your digestive juices to get going, like I talk about Asian cultures, you have a little glass of tea with your meal. That’s really the way to help encourage digestion. So I don’t know if you wasted $5,000. I would make sure that alkaline water filter filters out the impurities. That’s the most important thing, I think, with water, making sure you’re not getting heavy metals and chlorine and fluoride in your water and try to not drink a ton during your meal.
Chantel: Yeah. I agree 100%. My opinion, I have an alkaline water machine at my house, and I actually never drink it on the alkaline water. I just drink it on the, when it has the H2O regular because it does a great job of purifying the water and it’s really clean water. I suggest drinking no water. If you have any kind of digestion issues at all, it helps my digestion immensely, not just have a little bit of water. You have to train yourself to not drink, to really drink water way before, 20 minutes to an hour before and at least 20 minutes to an hour after. It has made such a big impact on my digestion that I say, now I get to the point where when someone says, “What can I get you to drink,” when I go to a restaurant, I just say, “Nothing, thank you.” Because if it’s in front of me, I’ll just sit there and drink it.
Christine Maren: Yeah, I know.
Chantel: Because I’m so used to doing it.
Christine Maren: Yeah. I mean, it’s really crazy, because when you go to this restaurant, you have this giant thing of ice water in front of you and it’s the worst thing for digestion-
Christine Maren: … but it’s an American thing. You go to Europe, they don’t ever do that. Yeah.
Chantel: It’s a huge thing. Yeah, I’ve just gotten into the habit that I just say, “Thank you very much, but I will have nothing.” And then they look at you like you’re cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, you know? That’s okay. All right. Pamela in Virginia Beach. “Influenza,” normally people don’t say influenza, “The flu is running rampant in Virginia and I have three school age kids at all different schools, so I feel like there’s a big bullseye on our family. Is there anything I can do to prevent the flu in my family and if it hits, how can we expedite the process?” That’s a great question because-
Christine Maren: It is.
Chantel: … we are having the flu like crazy around here.
Christine Maren: That is actually one of my most popular blog posts is all of the stuff to take for the flu. I did this post when my daughter got the flu last year, and I say just keep your medicine cabinet stocked with these natural remedies so you’re ready to go, because if you’ve got the flu or you’ve got any symptoms of it, you need to start it like ASAP. Yeah.
There’s a lot that you can do for prevention. For school age kids it’s really important to have an optimized vitamin D level. Vitamin D is really important for the immune system, so give your kids a vitamin D supplement and a good multivitamin throughout the year, but make sure, if you could ask their pediatrician to check a vitamin D level I think that’s a good idea, to see it around 50 to 70. That will help prevent things. One of my favorite supplements is something called monolaurin lauricidin. Lauricidin is the brand. Monolaurin is the supplement, but that particular brand I really like. It’s these little tiny pellets and kids can actually take it, small kids. You don’t chew it, you just swallow it, but they’re tiny, tiny, like maybe a third of the size of a Tic Tac kind of thing. That is actually a great antiviral. It’s sort of like the same idea as Tamiflu where it unwraps the envelope around the virus, so it works for lots of different things as long as it’s an enveloped virus, so Epstein Barr virus or mono is one of them and so is influenza virus. So one of those is my favorite. Elderberry is another favorite, so you want to keep elderberry syrup stocked. That, in studies, has been shown just to be as effective as Tamiflu. What were you going to say?
Chantel: Yeah, I was going to say that there is, my friend that I had that I told you about that she makes that-
Christine Maren: Oh, yeah, The Farm Life?
Chantel: … skin product. Yeah, The Farm Life. Well, they do a product called elderberry that you make at home.
Christine Maren: Oh, cool.
Chantel: It’s so awesome.
Christine Maren: Is there a bunch of sugar in it?
Chantel: No. And you make it yourself and you can add your own organic honey, but even some of the elderberry gummy, but it’s called the Elderberry Herbal Syrup kit by The Farm Life.
Christine Maren: Oh, cool.
Chantel: It is fantastic. It is really good.
Christine Maren: I’ll have to try that one. I’ll check it out. What are my other favorites? Vitamin C, I mean, that’s a pretty well known one and you can go pretty high doses on vitamin C. You just have to watch for any GI distress. Probiotics are a big one. I give extra probiotics whenever my kids are about to get sick. I give them tons of probiotics. I like the chewable ones from Metagenics, MetaKids ones. Klaire Labs also has some good chewable kids probiotics and then I take my probiotics. They’re a different story.
Let’s see. What else is on there? There’s the oscillococcinum. That’s the homeopathic one. You’ve probably seen it in Whole Foods or the grocery store, that crazy OCC one. So that homeopathic remedy I like. I also do a lot of nasal irrigation, especially in the winter months. This isn’t so good for kids, but it is for mom. So nasal irrigation with something called Xlear. Actually, it’s X-L-E-A-R. You can buy it at Target, but it’s a xylitol saline nasal rinse and that helps to just sort of rinse all the viruses out of your nose. Not all, but, you know.
Christine Maren: Helps to keep you from getting sick. But, yeah, look at my blog post because there’s more. I think there’s 12 different things on there, or maybe 10. I don’t remember. All my stuff’s on there.
Chantel: Well, Christine, this has been an absolute pleasure. Everyone, go to drchristinemaren.com. It has such valuable resources. She’s got amazing articles on there and it’s just a really pretty site. You’ve done a great job with it.
Christine Maren: Thank you.
Chantel: We always ask everyone, we will do a kind of a giveaway. Is there anything you’d like to do as a fun giveaway for our listeners?
Christine Maren: Yeah. How about my favorite multivitamin?
Christine Maren: My phytomulti with iron.
Christine Maren: So make sure a menstruating female if this is your giveaway.
Christine Maren: And that you don’t have iron overload.
Chantel: Then we’ll say that. We’ll be like, that will be a funny tag line right in the front. It will say, “Are you menstruating?”
Christine Maren: Are you menstruating?
Chantel: Are you menstruating? Are you a menstruating woman? Read on. That will be fun. Well, thank you so much and thanks for being on the show. You were an amazing guest.
Christine Maren: Yeah. Super fun. Your listeners have great questions. That’s awesome.
Chantel: They do. They’re really smart. I feel like all the questions we get are just super, super smart.
Christine Maren: Yeah.