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Joining us today is Maria Allerton, a Clinical Nutritionist and Functional Medicine Practitioner who loves puzzles and addressing the underlying causes of disease.

In today’s episode, Maria discusses:

  • How to identify stress with quantitative markers- using hair mineral analysis
  • looking at the underlying causes of stress beyond emotional stress: blood sugar dysregulation, nutrient deficiencies and heavy metals
  • The different stages of stress on HTMA
  • The common presentations of stress-related disorders in clinic
  •  How to identify stress-related disorders using HTMA and how to address them with the right treatments.

About Maria
Maria Allerton is a clinical nutritionist based in Sydney. She works online nationally and with international clients and has been in clinical practice since 2014. Her clinical focus is digestive health, mental health, hormones, and all conditions related to the gut-brain-immune interface. She is also passionate about addressing heavy metal toxicity and Gilbert’s syndrome.

Maria has personally experienced multiple chronic health conditions related to all of the above areas and is passionate about helping her clients rebuild their health.

Connect with Maria
True Foods Nutrition



How Stress Affects the Body _ Andrew Hayman




Andrew: This is “Wellness by Designs,” and I’m your host, Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Joining us today is Maria Allerton, a clinical Nutritionist and Functional Medicine Practitioner who loves puzzles and teasing apart the underlying conditions affecting patients’ health. Welcome to “Wellness by Designs.” Maria, how are you going?

Maria: Great. Thanks, Andrew. Good to talk to you again.

Andrew: Great to talk to you again. It’s been some time. Now, Maria, you have this real knack of sort of diving into the web and pulling things apart. Let’s talk a little bit first about what sort of quantitative assessments do you use to look at stress, and I’m gonna say that word pointedly, stress in your patients.

Maria: Well, there’s definitely a number of tools that we can use. I mean, obviously, like all clinicians, the first port of call is a really detailed intake questionnaire. So, that’s the qualitative part, and, you know, understanding where they’re at and where they’ve been also in the last 5 to 10 years because I find people are maybe not experiencing stress right now when they’re seeing me, but they’ve got a long history of stressful and traumatic events. So, that’s a really good starting point.

And then quantitatively, I usually start with a hair mineral analysis to understand where their minerals are, and that gives us a lot of information regarding their stress response and where they are in their stress response.

And then, you know, there’s lots of further tests. We can look at gut testing, organic acids testing, cortisol saliva testing, which I usually do with the DUTCH Complete test, you know, or clients might bring in already existing cortisol panels. So, yeah, a whole bunch of tools, depending on, I guess, where I feel their key issues are and how it’s affecting them.

Andrew: Right. Now, you said something very interesting there, and that was how they’re presenting with…they may not be presenting with stress now. So, you use these qualitative markers… Qualitative? Quantitative markers to assess what’s really happening. Qualitative, forgive me.

So, that’s a really good point, because how often do we see patients and you ask them how they are, and they go, “Yeah, good. Fine,” right at this second? So, it’s kind of like the car that’s got a faulty ignition, but not now, not when you take it to the mechanic. So, what sort of test do you tend to rely on to say, “Hang on, there’s something going on in the background?”

Maria: Yeah. Well, I think what you are describing, Andrew, is possibly, and we’ll probably get into different stages of stress later, but they might already be in the exhaustion stage, you know, where they’ve done all the stressing before, and now, they’re kind of just depleted and dreamily fatigued or flat, you know, or what we now call as hypothalamic dysfunction and pituitary dysfunction.

So, the testing, I think, is really helpful to understand where their adrenals are. So, I think the two main ones would be hair tissue mineral analysis and an adrenal cortisol panel because that’s giving you a really good perspective on how depleted the adrenals can be. And a lot of patients/clients can be really surprised when you show them the data and just go like, “Oh, I thought I was fine. You know, I’m functioning pretty good. What do you mean, you know, my adrenals are depleted?”

So, it’s always quite an interesting exercise. And I think that’s where quantitative data is really great because it’s evidence for them to kind of go, “Oh, hang on, actually, I think, you know, all of this has taken a toll, and I might need to make some changes.”

Andrew: Because I constantly get confused between qualitative and quantitative, can you take us through that differentiation, please?

Maria: Yeah, sure. All this is kind of going back to my marketing and economics career days. So, qualitative is the data that is coming from the subjective person. You know, so, that’s about I feel this and I feel that, you know, and it’s usually questionnaire identifiable.

So, you know, it’s data that the person themselves describes as is relevant to them. And quantitative is, you know, data that is done by analysis testing machines, you know, number crunching. So, all of those more empirical, I guess, data collection ways. And I think, you know, we can assess both of them are really important because qualitative information changes with time as well, right?

So, you know, if they’ve done a mood questionnaire, like, six months ago, and then we’ve done a whole bunch of treatments, they can redo the questionnaire and assess it themselves, which is helpful, but, usually, humans are just not very good at remembering how they felt several months ago and I think there’s a lot of, yeah, subjectivity that comes into the qualitative stuff that needs to be balanced with quantitative. Yeah.

Andrew: And also, when we say the word stress, I said that I said it pointedly, so, let’s go into that word stress because it’s more than as you say, that qualitative aspect. It’s quantitative as well.

Maria: Yeah, for sure. Well, I mean, we know that the body goes through many different changes when it’s under stress. So, every single system in the body will undergo a change from our breathing rate, to our digestion, to muscle contractions, everything that happens in the brain, so it’s a multi-system response.

So, stress is something that we experience, I guess, as a reaction to the environment. But what I find is really interesting is there are different causes of stress that can be quite physiological. So, when you say to someone, “Your quantitative testing is showing that you’re stressed,” and they say, “Oh, no, I’m fine. Like, I’m really fine,” I think a lot of it is about understanding what’s driving their stress. So, it might just be the obvious, you know, children, family, work, driving car in traffic, you know, all the usual stuff, but it can also be very physiological. So, a lot of the time, I look at things like blood sugar dysregulation or digestive function.

So, for example, you know, if someone is having continuously low blood glucose levels, like they’re eating two meals a day or one meal a day, or they’re just, you know, doing strange fasting schedules and things like that, that low blood sugar is going to release adrenaline in the body to get peaks back up.

So, a lot of people’s stress comes from just mismanaged blood glucose a lot of the time. And also, you know, things like caffeine, you know, quite often you see all those cortisol panels, and everyone looks okay, except for that mid-morning. And I’ll always ask, you know, “Oh, what time did you have your coffee?” And it will be, you know, “9:00 a.m, I had my coffee,” and they get this massive cortisol spike. As Andrew lifts his cup… Yeah, there’s a lot of physical factors.

Andrew: Takes a sip.

Maria: Yeah, you know, physical factors that we experience on a daily basis that are not necessarily traditionally what we call stress, but they really take their toll. Yeah, and even nutrient deficiencies, you know, I mean, everyone is nutrient deficient these days, so a lot of people are really depleted in magnesium, and zinc, and, you know, all the really important nutrients that modulate the stress response. So, they’re going to be much more susceptible to not dealing very well with stress when it does arise in their life.

Andrew: Yeah. And, like, stressors can present in so many ways. I see you right now taking a sip of water, which is, of course, what I should be doing. But anyway… But even just that, we talk about stimulants, and blood sugars, and reactions to food, but not too long ago I saw a guy; thankfully, he took a seat, because what I saw from my perspective was I was looking in his direction, and his wife was bent over talking to his ear, if you like.

So, the back of his wife was facing me, his face was towards me. And I saw him roll his eyes and I thought, “Oh, hello. They’re having a Barney. He’s fed up with something.” And then he slumped. He slumped. He went out. And I thought, “Oh, my goodness, he’s having heart attack.” So, we lay him down on the floor, and there was this real… There was some symptoms of a heart attack, but then there was some symptoms that just weren’t gelling, and I was going, “This doesn’t sound like heart attack. There’s no pain. There’s no, you know, massive unconsciousness, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

So, he was still conscious, he came out of it, if you like, to some degree, and I’m going, “That doesn’t seem like a heart attack. It seems like more low blood sugar, diabetes. What’s happening here?” And we had to call the ambulance. So, I’m thinking, “Do I give him sugar when he’s coming out of it?” So, there was this whole conundrum, you know, “Do I give him something by mouth, whereas the ambos are not gonna like that?”

So, we sort of gave him some ice. And the short of this story is he got taken away by the ambulance, and I thought, “That wasn’t an AMI. That was more like a trans ischemic attack or something from diabetes or something like that.” Saw him a month later, purely, simply, only dehydration, just dehydration. It was amazing. Anyway, so stressors can be quite simple thing and they can have quite dramatic results, I guess, is the short story of what I should have said.

Maria: Yeah, and look, it’s those, I guess, big things that we need to look for. You know, so not necessarily trying to fix a tiny part of the problem, but, firstly, you know, that’s what I personally do in clinic, is look at the big things. So, hydration, food frequency, and intake breathing, you know, exercise versus sedentary lifestyle. So, they’re the really big things that will affect the body in massive ways. So, yeah, I find dehydration… I mean, how many people are dehydrated? Ninety percent of the population is chronically dehydrated.

And so, that’s a massive, massive factor. And it might not be always as dramatic as the example that you’ve just given, Andrew, but it could be chronically, you know, at a lower level. So, if someone’s drinking one litre, chronically instead of needing two or two and a half of their size, that’s going to take a toll on the system. And also, that’s the electrolytes, right? So, that’s where hair analysis can be really useful because you’re looking at the minerals. And that hydration or lack thereof is going to be very evident on the electrolyte balance, which is stress. You know, sodium, potassium, they’re the big ones that we look at.

Andrew: Take us through some little hints and tips with this, because, you know, if you’ve got toxic mineral overload, you know, the LEDs, the cadmium, the mercury, things like that, then, if they’re being excreted, it’s your body attempting to get rid of them, but what about nutrients when you see those in hair mineral analysis?

Maria: Yeah. Well, both the heavy metals and the nutrients are always indicative of what’s going on in their bodies. So, I guess we’re looking, not just the things that are, you know, too high or too low on hair analysis, I think one of the big things that’s important to look at is ratios.

And, you know, they need to be in a certain balance. So, minerals, like, you know, calcium, magnesium need to be in relation to each other and to all the others. And that’s where a lot of the issues actually arise, is this really dysregulated mineral ratios.

So, yeah, someone might be showing up, like, they’re excreting a lot of, say, zinc, for example, on the hair analysis, but, yeah, really, nobody is very abundant in zinc these days, you know. So, if you’re seeing that, for example, it’s more to do with their body not being able to absorb that particular mineral. So, it’s a little bit tricky. You know, it’s not like there are rules to any of this. A lot of it is interpretation and putting that together with the client in front of you.

But, yeah, we do tend to lose a lot of good minerals. And same with magnesium, you know. If you’ve seen that, for example, on the hair, really high magnesium, no one really has high magnesium unless they’re a practitioner and they supplements really probably every day. So, yeah, you know, you need to kind of think about what’s happening with the person.

A lot of people don’t absorb minerals really well, because they don’t have the cofactors, so, like, magnesium and B6, for example. Yeah, so, there’s a whole bunch of things we can look at, but it’s really those four big minerals that are really important, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, that can tell you a lot about someone’s stress levels.

Andrew: Yeah. And you said high magnesium, of course, we’d have to look at renal disease and just get that out of our concerns, area of concerns. You also said something very interesting before with… These terms roll off our tongue and we say them, but what do we mean? For instance, Dr. Brad Leach has corrected us from saying leaky gut syndrome. There is no syndrome. It’s leaky gut, whether you’ve got hyper intestinal permeability or whether you’ve just got normal intestinal permeability. There’s no syndrome to it.

And along that sort of lines, with regards to stress, when we say our adrenals are depleted, but you mentioned before, it’s really our hypothalamus that’s depleted. What’s going on here? Where do we look? What should our language be?

Maria: Well, I think it’s really…it’s hypothalamic-pituitary axis dysfunction. That’s the much more correct way of saying it. And that’s why I think mainstream medicine can be quite dismissive of the terms that are often used, you know, like adrenal fatigue, because, yeah, adrenals can’t be “tired.” So, it’s really about, you know, how much stress is the brain being exposed to and our nervous system through the brain, and how that keeps translating into the body.

So, there’s a really awesome chart that’s in the DUTCH hormone test that I always show to my clients when I get their results back. So, it’s basically about, okay, what’s the brain taking in from its environment, and how is the hypothalamus interpreting that and then sending the signals to the adrenals? And then it’s that constant, like, flogging of the adrenals, you know, make more adrenaline, make more cortisol, make more DHEA. And it’s that constant flogging by the brain for us to try and, you know, cope with whatever the brain is perceiving as a really stressful environment, and that takes its toll.

And I think it’s more about just that constant over-activation of the entire system, the entire nervous system, that’s where the issues are. So, I guess we’re looking at the end stage part of it. You know, we’re looking at the hormones, like measuring cortisol and measuring all of those things. But it’s really about, okay, how much toll has been taken on the nervous system over many, many years. So, it’s really the brain that we need to look after out of all this. Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. And now, talking about stress and stressors, we’ve got phases of stress. You’ve mentioned a couple before. Can we take our listeners, our viewers, through these…they’re not partitions, but these phases of stress, they were first elucidated by Hans Selye, but there’s work on that, correct?

Maria: Yeah, I think, you know, that was the original model many, many years ago. And a lot of research recently has been done to kind of, you know, expand on that, and also research within the psychology field, which is, you know, really fascinating.

So, traditionally, Hans Selye talked about the alarm stage, the resistance stage, and then the exhaustion stage of stress. And, you know, that humans kind of go through all those three stages in a chronic stress response rate. So, someone might just be experiencing the alarm stage of, you know, someone cut you off in traffic, you get that, you know, reaction, like your react, your heart rate goes up, you get a bit sweaty, you probably shout some obscenities at the person, and, you know, you feel a bit stressed, see, and then, hopefully, by the time you got to work, you might be feeling pretty calm, and, you know, back to your normal day.

So, what happens is, you know, if the stress is continuous and chronic and they’re much more severe than traffic, so, for example, you know, someone’s going through a long separation, or trauma, or something like that, you’re going to go through that resistance stage after the alarm. So, that’s when the body’s trying to mount all of its resources and trying to deal with what’s going on.

And then if the stress is too overwhelming, you kind of get to the exhaustion stage, which is like what we call adrenal depletion, where, you know, you’ve been fighting and fighting for so long, the body’s just had enough and it’s just gone, “Okay, well, we’re done now. We’re just gonna rest and hibernate.” So, that’s when, you know, the thyroid might kick in and put a stop to everything and you get a very slow metabolic rate, and you basically wanna kind of sleep a lot of the day.

So, I think that’s sort of been the framework for quite some time. But, you know, there’s more recent research around what they call the window of tolerance, which is about, you know, how wide is our window of tolerance and lots of therapies that are aimed at expanding that window and allowing the body and the brain to, I guess, deal more effectively with stress and process the emotions that go with it much better.

So, I think that, yeah, there’s a lot of different research that’s been, you know, built upon Selye’s original framework. And I guess for clinicians, you know, you can see on hair mineral analysis, for example, and adrenals saliva panels, you can usually tell what stage the person is at based on their adrenal hormones.

Andrew: Gotcha. I remember one of the critical things that people with chronic fatigue used to commonly talk about, and that was that, particularly up here in Queensland, where, you know, it’s a warmer climate, certainly in summer, but they would get home, they’re totally exhausted, they’re the typical people that will not learn the word or the meaning of peace. So, as soon as they get some energy, they go hell, hello, and they fall flat on their face.

And when they do fall flat on their face, a lot of them used to talk about going home and lying on the floor, like lying on a cool floor, like a tiled surface, was really interesting. I never got around to figuring out why. Like, is it purely fatigue or is it heat? Is it like dissipating heat or something like that?

Maria: Yeah, I mean, that’s interesting. I would say lying on the floor with your legs up on the wall, that would be like an even better recovery position.

Andrew: Okay, so

Maria: Yeah, really good… Yeah, yoga recovery position, and just allowing, you know, the blood to flow back to the heart. I think it’s probably to do with their blood pressure, you know, because blood pressure is gonna be quite low when your adrenally fatigued. So, you know, standing up is gonna be a challenge. And that standing up and down, that orthostatic hypotension tends to be quite a common symptom, you know, where someone stands out quickly, and they feel really dizzy.

So, I think it’s probably more to do with just laying down. I’m not sure about the temperature so much. Yeah, I think it’s just everyone feels better. And, you know, again, when you do the yoga class and at the end, you’ve got the recovery Shavasana, it just feels so refreshing. Like, it’s just so rejuvenating people stay asleep past the yoga class.

So, yeah, there’s definitely a really good way to recover your adrenals, particularly in the afternoon, where lots of people have their afternoon slump, you know, around 2:00 or 3:00 p.m., just lying down for 10, 15 minutes on the floor with your legs up on the wall is amazing. Like, I used to do that all the time. Really helpful.

Andrew: Okay, and when we’re talking about these assessments, I wanna just snip this off before we move on to treatment and how we look after people, but when you’re looking at something like hair mineral analysis, which is I guess, more of a chronic assessment, then you’re looking at something like a cortisol awakening response or daily cortisol response. And that’s looking at a day, I don’t know how you compare that every day. But, anyway. And then looking at something like a rather acute assessment like these new, continuous blood glucose monitoring patches they can wear, where do you utilize each of those?

Maria: Yeah, I love all of those. I’ve used continuous glucose monitoring with quite a few clients. You know, they’re usually the ones presenting with really obvious glucose fluctuation issues. They’re fantastic. And, you know, you get a chart that shows you 24 hours a day, where someone’s glucose is, and when they ate and, you know, middle of the night and things like that.

So, it’s usually with severe stress. What I find is people tend to get very hypoglycemic, and especially at night, they can hit, you know, yeah, 2.93 glucose on their monitor, which is very low. And that’s when they report, you know, that waking up at 3:00 a.m. startled, sweating and beating heart and not being able to go back to sleep for the rest of the night. So, stress can be incredibly…

Andrew: That’s like a Somogyi effect.

Yeah. Yeah, and it’s, you know, classic when people are going through adrenal stuff, you know, I should say, stressed after, that’s where a lot of people are really, really responding that way. And, you know, it is a really good way to look at what’s happening with their body, and when they’re eating, and drinking, and things like that. Yeah, hair analysis is useful for longer term, but I do use it, you know, for assessing where people are right now, because it can definitely change quite quickly as well, you know, within four or five weeks, you can affect a lot of change.

Yeah, but the glucose monitoring absolutely brilliant because a lot of people these days are not even realizing, you know, they’re having a panic attack when they’re hypoglycemic, and it’s got nothing to do with, you know, their world or what’s happening to them, it’s really to do with really, really low blood glucose that’s not getting corrected.

Andrew: Gotcha. Okay, so let’s go on to how we do care for these patients. What sort of nutrients and herbs and lifestyle changes and dietary changes do we employ to help our patients? So, can you maybe go through one or two, maybe three different types of case histories, recent case histories, where you’ve got differences in how you looked at these patients and how to care for them?

Maria: Yeah, sure. So, I might continue with the hypoglycaemic example. So, I was thinking about a particular patient when I was talking about that, who was a young mom, very stressed with, you know, both her kids were having various issues, developmental issues, food allergies. The younger one was still breastfeeding at night. And, you know, just the amount of stress that she was under was incredible, disrupted sleeping, you know, due to co-sleeping and breastfeeding.

And she was extremely slim, you know, almost underweight. And she started having these really high insulin and blood glucose readings on her blood tests. You know, that’s another one we forgot. Yeah, obviously, blood tests are a great way to assess some of these factors as well. So, you know, she started having elevated insulin readings.

So, we got the continuous glucose monitor. And as I would expect, she was really crushing, particularly at night, and in the early afternoon, and, yeah, having blood glucose readings of like 2.9. And she would get severe panic attacks. She’d lose her vision, and start shaking, which was really dangerous, of course, when she was looking after her small children.

So, yeah, it was a very scary experience for her. And the treatment really focused on… You know, she didn’t have a huge budget, so we only did blood and hair mineral analysis.

And she was extremely depleted in all the minerals related to insulin and glucose regulation, which is magnesium, zinc, chromium, and vanadium. And, you know, once we started correcting that, particularly with magnesium, she was doing really, really well. Chromium actually made a massive difference for her. And even her blood insulin readings improved after about one month.

And, yeah, she stopped having the really acute responses quite quickly. So, no more blanking out, you know, just staying really even. And we did a lot of lifestyle and dietary work as well, of course. And, you know, the critical thing for her was to really eat frequently, especially as she was still breastfeeding and really underweight.

So, it was about, you know, lots of protein snacks, lots of protein, smoothies, really good hearty meals, where, you know, some complex carbs and veggies. And, yeah, she’s doing much, much better. So, I think that’s been really…

Andrew: That’s really interesting. Sorry to cut you off. I said it before, but not clearly, and it smacks of a phenomenon that occurs in some, they call them more brittle diabetics, where they wake up with a high in the morning, a high blood sugar reading in the morning. And so, the endocrinologist’s GP normally puts them on higher insulin.

But when they look back, it was called the Somogyi effect. I’ll put it up in the show notes. And it was an effect whereby, as you said, in the night, they have a low, the body’s rescue mechanisms kick in, like adrenaline, which comes into play really quickly and releases blood sugar to save them from the low.

And so, they end up in the morning with a high. And, of course, that’s what they see, that’s what they treat. The treatment correctly is not to give them more insulin, but actually, they give them less insulin so they have that more even blood sugar control, but obviously look at why they’re having that issue in the nighttime. Very interesting and confounding sort of thing, quite controversial in that study. I don’t know if it’s accepted today. I’m not sure. But that smacks of that sort of scenario, doesn’t it?

Maria: Yeah. And I find, you know, even with people who are diagnosed with diabetes, it is really a lot of the time an adrenal problem. You know, it’s a gut problem and an adrenal problem where, you know, there’s just a really poor utilization of, you know, fatty acids, for example, so they usually have a mitochondrial issue actually getting the nutrients in. And that’s driven by heavy metals and stress a lot of the time.

But, yeah, it’s that sleeping through the night. And what I often recommend, which is a really simple trick and really easy for everyone to do is to eat something right before bed for people who are experiencing that. So maybe like at 9:00 or 9:30 p.m., have a protein snack. So, like, you know, an egg with a small piece of fruit or something like that. So, you need protein and a bit of natural, healthy glucose. And I find for a lot of people, that helps them sleep through the night without having that 3:00 a.m. stressy, you know, low blood sugar wake-up. That can be quite helpful until the body regulates everything itself again.

Andrew: Yup. So, what about some other case histories, maybe where, you know, cortisol awakening response or the DUTCH Test shown?

Maria: Yeah, well, quite a lot of people that I see… I can’t even think of a single one, because there’s so many people that I see with a really low cortisol showing up on those tests. So, they’re really, they’re exhausted, you know, they’re depleted, they’re exhausted, and a lot of the time, they’re people who’ve had problems with stress for most of their lives.

So, they either had a very stressful childhood or, you know, were in an abusive relationship, financial problems. You know, financial stuff tends to be extremely stressful for a lot of people. And, you know, they’re kind of stuck in this exhausted getting through on caffeine, and sugar, chocolate, alcohol, you know, whatever it is, to prop themselves up and get through their day, and then they’re just crashing, and these people usually sleep really well. So, it’s kind of fascinating.

You know, they will sleep for 10, 11, 12 hours, because they’re so, so depleted. And it’s more about actually getting them back up again. So, I find… You know, I’m not a herbalist, but for the herbalists, things like adaptogenic herbs can be extremely helpful. Herbs like Rhodiola, you know, they really help people get back up on their feet.

And from a nutritional perspective, it’s definitely more the amino acids that I find really helpful. So things like tyrosine, 5-HTP, you know, all the amino acids that help us with dopamine and serotonin production to get that motivation, that cup, you know, particularly dopamine, but they work together, just to kind of go, “Okay, I can do this, you know, then I don’t need to rely on caffeine,” slowly weaning them off their stimulants and getting that natural dopamine production back up.

But, at the same time, you know, really gentle recovery steps with exercise, like, walking and yoga. And my favourite is actually weights, you know, getting them to do some weight training in a very low impact way, you know, without high cardiovascular involvement just to get the muscles working and the mood to a better place, you know, because adrenaline-depleted people are gonna be pretty depressed. That’s a classic characteristic.

So, yeah, you know, I’m sure all the clinicians are seeing clients like that every single day, because a lot of people are very depleted, especially over the last two years. And I guess, yeah, maybe I’m just thinking of a third scenario, probably someone who’s still quite active in the stress response, you know, the really wired Insomniac-type person where, you know, they’re probably working in a corporate job, or juggling kids and family responsibilities, working longer hours or doing things for a long time at night.

And with these people, I find sleep hygiene is really, really important as a lifestyle tool. So, it’s more about, you know, getting them to wind down before bed. And, again, magnesium is the hero, but also nutrients like L-theanine, and, you know, lifestyle things like wearing orange blockers, if they’re going to be looking at screens late at night, breathing… You know, breathing is a really, really massive one where people create stress in their day because they’re not breathing properly.

So, yeah, trying to take those really long, deep breaths and make sure that, you know, their nose is not blocked at night, that they can breathe through their nose, maybe even some mouth tape to make sure that that’s happening. Yeah, so, you know, people can be…I’ve kind of lumped them into characteristics, but everyone’s very individual, but they’re probably the most common sort of presentations.

Andrew: I like that thing about mouth tape. I think my wife’s gonna suggest them for me for different reasons.

Maria: For snoring, you need mouth tape.

Andrew: Just to shut me up. Mim Beim actually took us through some very important lessons about breathing. And I am absolutely stunned, stunned by how many people, my work colleagues, how many people, and particularly women here, do not barely breathe. And when you ask them… You can even get them to put their hand on their abdomen and say, “Breathe into your hand,” and they won’t. They’ll still go up with their highlight aspects of their lungs. Amazing.

Maria: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a really common thing. And, you know, it’s tricky, I guess for clinicians as well. Like, I’m being really conscious right now. And, you know, whilst you were talking, Andrew, I was taking lots of belly breaths. And I have a tendency to speak a lot and speak quickly. And I have to kind of force myself to slow down and do those deep breaths in between.

And I find, for clinicians, it’s quite tricky because we spend a lot of our day talking. And when you spend a lot of your day talking, you’re kind of tending to mouth-breathe a lot, because that’s what you’re doing. So, you can get quite dry. So, I think it’s really important as well, yeah, just to slow yourself down and in between the conversation, really focus on the depth of the breathing because you can drive a lot of cortisol…

You know, when I didn’t know about this, and I would spend two or three hours in consultations all morning without breathing properly, I’d actually get quite sweaty, sorry to be gross. Like, you know, I’d have like sweaty underarms, and I’ll be like, “Well, I haven’t even done anything, I’m just sitting here.” But it’s a cortisol response because of the under breathing. So, it’s really, really important to pay attention to that throughout the day, you know, multiple, multiple times.

Andrew: Got it. And just the last couple of questions, you know, we’re talking about nutrients mainly, because you’re a nutritionist. Magnesium’s come up, but we forget about simple things, the old things for the adrenals. And I just wanna make a point about when we say the word adrenal exhaustion, it may not be the physiological or biochemically correct pathology, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to support the adrenals; we certainly do. But with simple nutrients, like vitamin C, you mentioned chromium. You know, what about the different forms of chromium? What about the doses of vitamin C they use, vitamin B5, and B complex? Do you utilize these as well? A

Maria: Absolutely, all the above. Yeah. Yeah. So, usually, I’ll do all of them in an adrenal protocol. Vitamin C, is fundamental; really good to get a high-quality vitamin C, a practitioner brand, definitely. And you need quite a high dosing. So, I think people don’t realize with vitamin C because they just pop one of those 500-milligram tablets daily and think that they’re doing something.

So, you need quite high doses of vitamin C throughout the day because it’s not something we retain in the body, it gets used up quite quickly, and we don’t have a storage facility for it. So, I usually will do like two or three grams three times a day for most people with adrenal depletion. Yeah, really, really high dosing to bowel tolerance. You know, obviously, if they’re getting loose stools, you need to back off. But, they can gradually increase the vitamin C and just watch how they’re feeling.

But in most people, you can see it on the organic acids testing; most people are highly depleted in vitamin C, and, you know, they think if they ate half an orange per day, they’re doing great. So, yeah, the amounts that we need are pretty high. B vitamins, you know, every single person I see gets B vitamins, different ones, depending on what their needs are. Yeah, you mentioned B5.

There’s a lot of research around B5 and stress tolerance and stress management, but, again, the dosing you need is quite high, usually like two capsules, three times a day of the standard amounts. B6 is also really, really important for particular magnesium retention and serotonin production. And a B complex, you know, everyone pretty much these days needs a B complex, so fine because with all our various, you know, genetic variations with MTHFR, and a whole bunch of other genes, you know, B vitamins are not something that we very easily absorb or get enough of, and many people need much higher physiological doses of each individual B vitamin.

So, you know, you can see there again, and organic acids. Yeah, so it’s a whole bunch of nutrients that are really important. Chromium and vanadium are usually used together because they play close roles. So, yeah, it’s assessing, you know, doing… That’s why I like doing the testing. I guess I’m more of a, you know, like functional nutrition on that front. You know, I don’t sort of do like, you know, my gut feel is you need B5. Like, I really like testing and actually, you know, benchmarking where someone’s at last year versus this year, and I think people really like that. Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah. Good. So, I could talk all day about dosing and where we go, and how we support it, but where can people find out more, particularly about like things like hair mineral analysis? Do you give courses of them?

Maria: Yeah. Yeah, so I’ve written a practitioner course on hair mineral analysis training. And I guess, you know, it’s quite different to just learning from the testing companies themselves because it’s very practical. So, it’s all about jam-packed with case studies, nutrient usage, addressing different patterns, and very, very heavy on the tools for clinicians.

So, there’s lots of charts you can print off and have in front of you in your console so you can interpret the tests very quickly. And I find, you know, when clinicians tell me, you know, they’ve loved the course, and they’re using it, and their patients are getting a lot of buy-in into the process, so it’s very helpful to get them on board with insights that you don’t necessarily get from blood testing or any of the standard tests, that’s why I find it’s really, really useful.

And, you know, even their mental health patterns can be really evident on hair analysis. So, yeah, if you go to my website, and click under Education, you’ll be able to find the course. It’s been running for about two years now and, yeah, been getting consistently really good feedback. I’ll probably write an extension to it at some stage. Yeah, it’s on the list, but also, there’s a… Long list. There’s a practitioner Facebook group on hair mineral analysis, which is called Hair Analysis for Health Practitioners.

So, if you’re a practitioner of any kind, you don’t have to do the course to join the group. It’s just anyone welcome. And people post case studies; you get lots of input from over 1,000 different practitioners. So, yeah, that’s…

Andrew: Wonderful. We’ll put all of this up on the show notes for the podcast. Maria, thank you so much. It’s wonderful always to speak to you. Our listeners won’t understand that we were talking off-screen beforehand about your overseas holidays. And I’m so jealous and envious of you. But I’m so glad that what you bring in to your patient care is not just the care of the patient, like, you’re talking about your neuro-behavioural clients and things like that, but you’re actually caring for the family unit.

And so, I’m so impressed with how you look at stress and where we can intercede to take away stress, not just in that patient, but all those around them. And thanks so much for taking us through hair mineral analysis and other quantitative tests, and assessments that you use in looking after people’s stress today.

Maria: Brilliant. Thanks so much, Andrew. Always great to chat with you.

Andrew: And thank you, everyone, for joining us today, of course. You can catch all of the show notes, and the other podcasts on your favourite podcast app and, of course, on the Designs for Health website. I’m Andrew Whitfield-Cook. This is “Wellness by Designs.”

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