#418: Andrea Nakayama talks integrating personal tragedy; how “everything is connected, we are all unique, and all things matter;” what she’ll NEVER recommend on a podcast; trauma, weight loss physiology, what the patient-practitioner relationship SHOULD look like, and much more.
Balanced Bites Podcast #418 with Andrea Nakayama
Welcome to the new Balanced Bites Podcast! I’m your host, Liz, a nutritional therapy practitioner and best selling author bringing you candid, up-front, myth-busting and thought-provoking conversations about food, fitness, and life. Remember: The information in this podcast should not be considered personal, individual, or medical advice.
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No about today’s episode, I’m chatting with another phenomenal human being today. Not saying I’m the other phenomenal human being I’m saying I am. Chatting with yet another person who is a phenomenal human being as I do every week, almost on the podcast. I’m chatting with Andrea Nakayama, who is an internationally known functional medicine nutritionist.
Educator and speaker, who’s leading a movement to transform the health industry into a system that works. Empowering patients and practitioners alike with the systems and tools of functional nutrition. Now Andrea’s path to becoming a functional medicine. Nutritionist began when her husband was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor.
At the time she was seven weeks pregnant with their only child. They dutifully. To fully follow the cancer treatment plan. And yet Andrea also knew that there had to be more that could be done to both prolong his life and mitigate the treatment side effects.
So Andrea turned her attention to the power. Of food, how to use food as medicine to help alleviate medication induced symptoms. And potentially stave off the effects of the disease long enough for her husband to meet their baby, to be. And Andrea’s husband overcame his prognosis of six months and lived for another two years.
And the nutrition and personalized medicine that Andrea had harnessed became her full-time passion and purpose. And what she says of it is. One, you are an expert to the expert on yourself. To you are so much more than your diagnosis and three, you have more of a circle of influence. Then you think, and it’s these three principles that are the core of the work that she does. She worked with individuals and then with practitioners who are interested in learning the approaches. That were leading to successful outcomes for her clients. So she created full body systems, which is an online training program for coaches and clinicians that became the cornerstone of the functional nutrition Alliance.
And she also launched the 15 minute matrix podcast. Now in trying to come up with a title for this episode where we just go into so many nooks and crannies. What I came up with was keeping functional nutrition, functional, which is still not enough to encompass all we talked about here, but it does, I think, cover one of the themes we discussed, which really amounted to.
Functional medicine and functional nutrition are not functional. If it’s not actually meeting people’s needs, it’s not meeting people’s needs. It’s not functioning. Therefore it cannot be considered functional. Right.
And this is something I talked about Erin Holt, the functional nutritionist last week. And I highly recommend you give that a listen as well. The appearance of these two episodes right next to each other was very intentional. And there’s a progression here that I think is very worthwhile. Both Andrea and Erin talked in particular about this rush to do all the labs, all the tests to find the thing that is causing X number of problems that regular doctors just don’t know about.
And how that’s actually not serving people necessarily. Like we think it should. And Erin in her episode and on her podcast, talks about bringing women into their power, showing them their power. Andrea talks about tuning into your agency and not being stuck in the patient expert churn and bring medicine back into the hands of the patient.
She also talks briefly about genetics and epigenetics as related to events that happened prior to our birth and this alludes to some of the most mindblowing science that’s being released about how generational trauma can impact us. These are studies that are being done on obesity on autism. And while my instinct sometimes is just sort of shut down because this kind of information does sometimes make me feel a little bit helpless. There’s nobody better than Andrea to help sort through it and help us understand that we are not lost to our generational trauma or tragedy.
So just to note there about that. So Andrea talks about “Omics” and helps us recognize not just that everything is connected. We are all unique and all things matter, which is Andrea’s mantra. But also why, why is that the case? Why is it about more than just knowing about some obscure lab tests? If it’s going to solve all these medical mysteries from.
Auto-immune disease to weight loss resistance. Or maybe it’s not about more than that maybe it’s about less than that like maybe the power to make change is actually within ourselves and something that we can discover ourselves or through a functional relationship with a practitioner So this episode is just so dense from the talk about practitioners being so test happy to how we might be unintentionally shifting epigenetic factors by self prescribing supplement protocols To the kaleidoscope versus the stethoscope analogy that Andrea used that I absolutely loved And all in all I know that you will love this episode I loved talking to her and I am so thrilled to share this with you Here we go.
Andrea Nakayama: I mean I, I’m a lover of bio-individuality in every way, and I think the more resources we have as mirrors for ourselves yeah. The better we’re able to understand ourselves. And it’s never just one thing, because buying into that one thing means that we’re only looking through a limited lens. And I know we may even talk about this a little bit Yes.
In relation to Omix, but like, yeah, it’s all of the reflections.
Liz Wolfe: Ooh. Maybe we should just jump into Omix because that was the one thing, you know, I have an outline here and I wanna talk, I wanna talk about everything. I wanna talk about functional nutrition, I wanna talk about full body systems and the functional nutrition counselor designation.
I wanna talk about all that stuff. But the one thing in my notes that I was like, I have no idea what this is, was omics. I was like, is it omics? Is it omic? And I would actually just love to just go there, if you [00:06:00] can
Andrea Nakayama: explain that to. Yeah. So, um, it actually helps to understand functional nutrition in that context because with omics we can think of genomics, we can think about the microbiome, we can think about all the different omics.
And omics just helps us recognize that everything is connected. And I always like to say the mantra for the work I do is everything is connected. We are all unique and all things matter. And that relates to different areas of science and different studies of science. Whether it’s the omics for everything is connected, the epigenetics for we are all unique, or precision practices, precision medicine for all things matter.
Actually, that’s the opposite. I mixed those two up. Precision for, uh, we are all unique and the, uh, the epigenetics for all things matter. But o. Epigenetics and precision practices help us to embody that simple mantra of everything is connected. We are all unique and all things matter. [00:07:00] So with that, everything is connected.
Omics is the science of connection. We understand that the gut is connected to the brain, that we can’t talk about the hormones without talking about the liver. We can’t talk about the liver and detoxification without talking about the gut. And omics again, is about the connectome. All the things that we’re now recognizing in science can’t be looked at through a, uh, through a myo myopic lens.
We have to connect. So that’s where I think about omics in the full body systems or systems biology.
Liz Wolfe: Gosh, it’s so fascinating and I feel like just, I may be completely wrong about this, but it feels like as functional nutrition practitioners grow in their base of knowledge and all of these aspects that you’re talking about, I still feel like in many ways conventional, modern medicine is still so segmented into little [00:08:00] compartments.
This is the heart guy, this is the the GI guy, this is the brain guy, and there’s not a lot of crosstalk, and it feels like the functional nutrition practitioners are filling that gap. Yeah, yeah. Functional medicine. So how do
Andrea Nakayama: you feel about that? I think that there’s a lot of things we’re getting right in functional practices, and there are some things that I’m seeing go astray in the ways that conventional medicine has gone as we become more familiar with the term and it gets used in all different ways, and this is just capitalism and how anything gets used and reused, the more it gets into our popular culture.
So with a functional practice, I always like to say the tenants of a truly functional practice are that we’re looking for a therapeutic partnership. So there’s both people in the relationship, the expertise of the clinician, as well as the expertise of the patient, which is something I feel [00:09:00] really passionate about.
We’re looking for the root cause. And we’re, that means we’re asking why is this happening? Not just what is happening. And we’re embracing a systems-based approach. So three primary tenants of a functional practice, therapeutic partnership, looking for the roots and a systems-based approach. And for me, that systems-based approach is related to that system’s biology.
So that omix, everything is connected as well as taking a systematic way into every case. So how is it that we’re using symptom systems, like the functional nutrition matrix and the timeline and ways of thinking that help us approach the case? I love that practice and I think it is the truth. I think it brings us back to curiosity and asking the right questions and being in that relationship, that dynamic relationship with a patient.
What I’m. [00:10:00] Seeing is that functional is being connected to testing, to expensive treatments and interventions. And to me there’s a way that that could be functional if those other tenants are in place. But it seems to be overriding the foundational tenants. And I’m seeing a lot of patients who are sick and not getting better and have spent a lot of money and done all the things, and they’re still in the same state of confusion
and that doesn’t sit so well for me cuz I think a truly functional practice should be accessible to anyone and that it’s a way of thinking and practicing that I wish more people would
Liz Wolfe: embrace. I think one, it can go one of two ways. You get really overwhelmed and you start to feel alone and you give up entirely.
Or it’s like you go from one thing and you’re taking piles and piles of supplements every day and you’re doing all this expensive testing and then you’re doing IVs of [00:11:00] all kinds of different stuff. And then Exactly. I mean, it just goes on and on and on.
And it’s this never ending, of course, quest for, for wellness and to feel better and to feel good, and to untangle all of these things that have maybe happened across a lifetime, but. But it’s still, it. It’s empties your pockets. It’s exhausting and it’s so difficult. Yeah. So where, other than, I mean, you plug people and you talk about a systems-based approach, but what does that look like when somebody comes in to one of your practitioners and is like, I’ve done everything.
Andrea Nakayama: Yeah. Like that’s only that. We only see that I’ve done everything, folks, and I’m actually in the process of writing a book for that. I’ve done everything, folks, and it has to take us out of protocol and into our own introception, our own sense of who we are and what’s going on. And we’ve lost that. So the scenario you just described, Liz is a sympathetic, dominant state of seeking and questing and always [00:12:00] looking outside of ourselves.
The scale matters, the test matters. The GI map matters, the this, the that matters and we’ve lost. The ability to say, does this work for me or does this not? Where on the continuum are these recommendations? Is this an acute situation like cancer where I have to do what my provider told me? Or do I have some agency in this situation to say yes or no?
And where does that know inbreed fear in the patient? That’s adding to the scenario of, I don’t know myself. I don’t know why this is happening, and I don’t know what to do. And so this sounds corny. And it’s not a sexy area of work. I’m just gonna admit that. But I really like to bring people into their own me.
Oh, that’s, oh, that’s what’s going on. And we’ve lost that in these [00:13:00] practices. So people are still in the, why me? Why is this happening to me? Why is that not working? Why does that work for my sister? Why did that mention on that podcast? Why are they talking about protein? Why are they talking about carbs?
Why does an intermittent fasting? There’s so many things, so much noise that’s confusing. Our ability to come into the quiet place of tuning in, knowing ourselves, which is a conversation you and I were starting to have. That is about all the reflections that are more true to who we are and what’s right for us versus what everything else is telling us about ourselves, which doesn’t
Liz Wolfe: add up.
Yeah, the conversation around agency, it’s one of my favorite words. And gosh, we underestimate the power of that feeling of agency. And of course it’s not the end all be all. It’s not gonna solve all of your problems to recapture that. But I imagine that the [00:14:00] physiological response to capturing your agency, again, which many of us don’t even realize we’ve lost or we’ve given up.
Correct. It’s probably incredibly profound.
Andrea Nakayama: Yes. Yeah. Huge. And there’s practices that help us get there, whether they’re tracking or storytelling. I feel really passionate about the practices of narrative medicine in the hands of the patient. So timelining looking at what’s happened over our lives.
Possibly even prior to our birth, who, what is our lineage? What does it bring us into? What are we carrying in our cells? And I think that sense of awareness actually allows for the start of that resurgence of the agency that lets us tune in. And No, this is right or wrong. This doesn’t feel good. I know I’m supposed to be doing X, Y, Z, but that doesn’t feel right to me.
Is [00:15:00] there some help I need specifically there Verse, let’s say eating fiber, right? Like I saw an article this week where somebody was like, dissing fiber because of the negative ways it can make somebody feel. Now from a functional nutrition perspective and a health perspective, fiber is a good thing. Do we have to start low and go slow?
Yes. Is there a reason why you might not be responding to fiber? Yes. That becomes the inquiry you have with a practitioner versus, I need to fix myself because I’m broken. Those are different conversations. Oh,
Liz Wolfe: that’s so good. Well, one of the things that came to mind was, and this is not meant to put down any one thing correct, but this is just the first thing that pops into my head is the different like protocols that were floating around and it becomes this, I’m on this plan like this, this plan that you [00:16:00] can maybe pay 35 bucks for, or you buy a book and you’re, these are the yes foods and these are the no foods, and people get on these plans.
And over time what I would see, and this, this isn’t true of everyone, but I would see when I was really still working as a nutrition practitioner, people. Getting frustrated and oftentimes getting worse. And I don’t know if it was the emotional journey that they were on or if it was this one size fits all idea that I have autoimmunity and so I need to do this protocol.
And I had this conversation with Michelle Shapiro, our mutual friend. Yeah. About how difficult it is because I understand the reason for practitioners creating protocols. Yeah. They find that something helps and they wanna box it up so more people can access it. But at the same time, there are circumstances when that type of thing can sort of drive a wedge or at least delay the time between realizing you need help and actually seeking an individualized solution.
Yeah. Good point. Can you kind of toss that around with me, the, the difference [00:17:00] between doing something out of the box like that and then really looking for something individualized?
Andrea Nakayama: Yeah. I think it’s such a good conversation and. Conversations about the protocols or the practices we adopt are so nuanced, and as we put more of the practitioner hat into the hands of the patients, we’re doing an injustice.
Because as you’re saying, we need to understand the role of each individual. And when I’m training patients through my newer work and the book that I’m writing to be the best patient they could be, it’s knowing what they know best, which is themselves. And nobody else is gonna know that in the room they’re gonna be the expert in themselves.
But we now have patients who are trying to be the experts in everything that they’re doing as an intervention, which may be causing more harm than good. And this is super nuanced. As is the conversation of a healing diet. So a [00:18:00] healing diet protocol is not meant to be done for a long period of time, and it’s meant to be done at a certain time.
The body has to be ready for it. I can say this about intermittent fasting as well. People dive in thinking it’s going to be the be all, end all, but if their body isn’t physiologically ready for that stressor, which is fasting, it can cause more harm than good. And yet this is in the hands of individuals to play with on their own.
I do believe there is a time and a place for a healing protocol, and it should be a short term with a practitioner. To be able to make sure a, your body is ready for the, on ramping to that protocol. If you are using a protocol and that there is an off-ramp and that you’re learning something from the process, the removal should lead to results.
And we should be working on the internal healing [00:19:00] terrain while we’re removing things. We’re not just removing salt from the wound. We want to be able to heal the wound at the same time. So this is an important part that we’re missing when we’re adopting these protocols on our own. The other thing I wanna say about these healing diets is that, um, they can lead to defic.
That are going to lead to their own signs and symptoms. So I have a handout packet in my training called the Healing Diet’s Matrix, where we look at all the different heal healing diets that are out there, whether they’re low lectin or primal or autoimmune paleo. What are they? When are they typically used?
But what’s the but factor? And the but factor is where can these diets lead to deficiencies that can lead to further sign symptoms or diagnoses? So if we look at the autoimmune paleo protocol as an example, It can be [00:20:00] low in zinc and selenium, which are two nutrients that are critical for a lot of autoimmune uh, conditions, particularly Hashimoto, which I have.
So two nutrients that are very much needed for thyroid health. It can be low in essential fat, it can be low in B vitamins, in addition to being very stressful and hard to maintain, and having a lot of things that you’re continually buying into books, protocols, practices, so that you can maintain that diet.
So not only is somebody likely coming in with nutrient deficiencies, but then they’re further enacting nutrient deficiencies that then lead to other signs and symptoms, and we just have this cascade again, going back to potentially putting the wrong tools into the wrong hands. And that’s why I like to think outside of a pro protocol and more into principles of [00:21:00] eating and leave the protocols in the hands of working with a practitioner that truly understands not just putting you on a diet, but the reasons why you’re using that protocol, what you’re aiming to do, and what information you gather from that process so that you have more information about that person’s body that’s totally lost on the individual.
Liz Wolfe: Oh, I’m so interested in the utility of testing you. You mentioned earlier that we have this functional nutrition umbrella and there are individuals under that umbrella who are so testing happy. He said gut mapping and micronutrient testing and hormones and dutch tests and all of these different things that you can test, test, test.
And I think there’s an expression somebody use with me, don’t, don’t guess, test or something like that. Test don’t
Andrea Nakayama: guess. Or test, don’t guess. Yes.
Liz Wolfe: And I’m, as you’re talking about what you just said about the, [00:22:00] the protocols that people put themselves on, they oftentimes are doing that with absolutely no knowledge of what their tests might say and how maybe a diet might affect whatever biomarker they might need to keep an eye on.
But then on the other side of that, it’s like it can’t just all be in the testing. It can’t all be right there. So where’s
Andrea Nakayama: the balance there? Yeah. Uh, this is a topic I feel really passionate about, and what I’m gonna say is not, again, it’s just not a sexy lens because I’m talking about the simplicity on the other side of complexity.
We’ve made things really complex that don’t need to be this complex. So I’m a fan of all that fancy testing when I need more information about that client or patient to help them. And oftentimes we don’t need that information for quite a long time because there’s a lot we can be working on based on their tracking, based on how they feel.
That gives us plenty of [00:23:00] time to avoid those tests. There’s so much we can do before we even get there. I love regular old serum. I think there’s a ton of information that that gives us about whether a person’s hydrating or not looking at their red blood cell function and their iron levels. There’s so much information that we can get in a complete blood count looking at our white blood count, our red blood count, our iron levels, our thyroid markers, our lipid markers, a lot of information that brings us back to what I think of as the three roots, which are is our genes, our digestion and our inflammation.
And if we can look at those labs and not bypass them, we start to tweak things that bring other downstream factors. Into balance. And what’s happening a lot is we’re bypassing somebody’s sodium, potassium balance, the the body can’t function, and we’re bypassing that critical [00:24:00] information in favor of their micronutrient testing.
We don’t even know if their kidneys are function or if their digestion is functioning or what if they’re sleeping. I like to say sleep poop, blood sugar balance. That’s our non-negotiable trifecta. We start to bring that into balance, we have lots of benefits that come from that. So again, I like the fancy testing – some of it, not all of it – when we need it for another clue.
In our practice, we rarely need it.
Liz Wolfe: Oh, that’s fascinating. This reminded me of this idea of agency and also talking about empowering people. What they need to see and what they need to do is, is to track. You have them tracking certain things that they can do without getting blood drawn or without having to poop into a little vial, which I think is wonderful.
And I was trying to think of something analogous in my own life, and this popped up. Some folks know that I have been doing the training for the c [00:25:00] Creighton model of fertility tracking. It’s, it’s just an, somebody would come from that organization would come kill me if I said it was like natural fertility planning, cuz it’s not national family planning.
It’s not that it’s a lot more detailed. But the reason I decided to do that was because I was. I could go do a Dutch test. Yeah. Or I could figure out exactly how to recognize and track and put some pieces together without any of those tools. Totally. And that’s been really empowering. So that’s, that’s really
Andrea Nakayama: interesting to me.
I love that you said this, Liz, because I think of my fertility journey, and this is over 23 years ago. As my first touchpoint with a functional way of thinking in my own self, and so I didn’t yet know my husband wasn’t diagnosed with a brain tumor. I didn’t make this huge career change. I wasn’t in the position I’m in.
I didn’t work in nutrition. I worked in book publishing, but we spent a year trying to get [00:26:00] pregnant. And we weren’t getting pregnant, and I was serious. What was going on in back in the day? All the things weren’t available to us. There weren’t phone trackers, there weren’t all of these things. But the book, taking Charge of Your Fertility by Tony Wexler did exist.
And I decided to read that book and I started tracking literally, and this is laughable now, but like with a spreadsheet I made in Excel and tacked to the bathroom door with a red pen hanging from it. And my, oh my gosh, vaginal thermometer that I’d use every day. And I. Got pregnant because I was looking at what’s going on in my body and learning about the internal physiology and using a measurement or a marker to look at that kind of relationship versus one marker that’s one point in time and not looking at, uh, the, in the intricacies of the every day.
So for me, [00:27:00] when I look back at that, I was like, oh, I was thinking functionally and that was inviting me to do that, but I didn’t know it yet. And I say thinking functionally because for me it’s about what’s going on in the body and how do we understand or use our understanding of physiology to help guide our decisions.
Some of those things can be in the hands of the individual and some may be in the therapeutic partnership. Yeah.
Liz Wolfe: Yeah. I think one of the things, one of the steps I always missed and that many people miss, is that we can play that bit of a role before and ahead of that practitioner relationship. Exactly.
We control what we can. Right. And oftentimes we feel like we can’t control anything. Exactly. There are things that we can control and, and look at, and that that data that we can gather about ourselves in a very non-invasive way, which is nice.
Andrea Nakayama: Yeah, and I like to even think of it as influence versus control.
So with my three roots model, [00:28:00] again, the genes, digestion and inflammation, there’s a Venn diagram there. Each of those roots has a circle of influence. And that circle of influence is a model that I borrow from Stephen Covey, right? So if we stay in the center, we’re in the control area; and if we go out in the wide area, we are in anxiety.
But the circle of influence helps us say: I can’t control this factor, but I can influence it. So let’s say for genes, like, I can’t control my genes, but I can influence my genes. That’s epigenetics. Food movement, environment and mindset are ways that I can, I. My genes, cuz those are epigenetic influencers.
And then each of those has a way we can break them down and say, well what about my food? How do I influence my food? I can think about quality, quantity, diversity, and timing. Where’s my [00:29:00] road in? What can I do in this moment if I don’t know what’s right for me? And I’m gonna say, start with diversity. Like there’s a way that we can say, what am I eating?
Am I eating enough diversity? How does that look in terms of color? Can I get playful for this? There’s much easier ways in than we are making them. I’d rather someone eat all the colors of the rainbow than go on a autoimmune paleo, low lectin, low FOD map diet without knowing what’s going on. Again, sometimes we need help figuring out why can’t I?
But we know that information going in. I notice when I eat X, Y, Z I get bloated. That’s a much better conversation to have with an appropriate practitioner than test my stool and tell me what’s wrong with me. Hmm.
Liz Wolfe: Test my stool and tell me what my intolerances are.
Andrea Nakayama: [00:30:00] Yes. Because I don’t know,
Liz Wolfe: because, I dunno.
I have no idea so many things. One of the, so you said genes, digestion and inflammation. You know, for a while in Paleo we were all about the food and then it was like, yeah, but you need to sleep and you need to, you know, lower your stress. And if you’re not doing that, then you’re not gonna get all the mileage out of everything else.
But people are still like, yeah, but what can I take totally? What can I inject?
There are times when I’m like, well, I’d rather not get more detailed on this level and the level of the food and the exercise. Maybe I’d like to take this supplement . Is there any disconnect in your observation between these things that we know are important?
Like you were saying, mindset and sleep and stress and people’s actual willingness to adopt better habits?
Andrea Nakayama: Yeah, there’s a huge disconnect, and this is what I call the quick fix trap. So I’m all for a quick. If it, if there is a quick fix, like if there actually is a quick fix.
Brilliant. That’s awesome. [00:31:00] Most of the time when we’re talking about chronic and unresolved health issues, there is not a quick fix or we would’ve found it already. There’s enough information out there that we would’ve found it. We’re. Seeing enough providers, they would’ve found it, and it means that the deeper work is going to help us to get there.
Even mindset, I feel like is a trap in terms of how we think about like, oh, I just need to think positive about the It’s another becomes another should. Yeah. Like if I could just see the benefit of this symptom that I’m experiencing, then everything would shift, but that becomes another should where I’d rather invite people into What are the things you’re experiencing?
Shame, guilt, what are those? Where do they show up? How do we become aware of them, be with them? I notice in this moment, this is what I’m feeling. This isn’t helping me. This is why I’m feeling that this is the roots [00:32:00] of that shame, that guilt, whatever it might be, and I need to sit with that as opposed to.
Shifting our mindset, we should be able to think positively. This isn’t about a toxic positivity, it’s about a self-awareness journey. So I think that there’s a horrible, uh, it’s, it’s really gotten outta control. Again, a lot of noise out there. In terms of, take this, do the,
You will never hear me recommend a supplement or a diet in any interview, on any summit, on any podcast, because I believe in Bioindividuality and I believe we are shifting our epigenetic factors by taking a lot of the wrong stuff.
That isn’t appropriate for us because we are not only self prescribing diets, we are self prescribing supplements and other interventions that may not be appropriate for [00:33:00] us. There are simple things we can do that are neutral, like, you know, Eating certain ways or eating more diversely or even certain nutrients that could be more bland and supportive in the body.
But there are others that could be specific and targeting the wrong specific thing within us. So I think we have to be wary of the quick fixes. Everything has a risk and a reward. You may receive a reward from taking that thing, but you don’t know what the risk is and there might be a risk to your internal terrain.
So again, I would love people to come back to the simplicity of what we can do and what we can measure to be the best patients we can be. And I’m gonna say that universally cuz we’re all patients and we all fall into this trap. I do it too like this. I’m experiencing this. What do I need to take? Wait a minute.[00:34:00]
Is there another way in This isn’t a quick fix situation. How can I shift my mindset and go. Marathon towards this result. Did
Liz Wolfe: that make sense? Absolutely. And I know I started out there with a question about digestion. I have no idea how I ended up wearing it. That’s it. It’s my podcast. So I can
Andrea Nakayama: do whatever I want.
You can, and your questions are great. I absolutely
Liz Wolfe: can. Well, this reminds me of an experience I had, and I’ve talked about this on my podcast before where after my first was born, I was experiencing like constant heart palpitations and it was really, really frightening. And I went to the doctor, they put, I went to the cardiologist, they put this heart event monitor on me, and I had to track every time I had a heart palpitation so they could record it and the doctor could look at my charts and all this.
And I became so stressed out. About the sheer act of monitoring that in myself, that the palpitation started to become more frequent and almost, almost constant had a total breakdown about it. And then a friend of mine actually recommended a book called Back in [00:35:00] Control, which was written by a spine surgeon who does not do spinal surgery until he puts his people through this protocol that includes forgiveness and play, and a tool called expressive writing.
And now for me, going through all of that physiologically and seeking a medical. And then having someone say, here’s this. You know, you just write down your feelings and then you rip ’em up and throw ’em away. And I was so reluctant to engage in that process because I was just like, yes, I know it’s, I’m sure that’s so important, but seriously, like that’s, that’s not gonna solve my problem.
But I was so desperate that one night I did sit down and I did that and I just wrote, I did the expressive writing exercise. I tore up, I threw it away, and I kid you not by the next day. Mm. Palpitations had decreased by. At least half, if not significantly more than that. So I had that experience where I was like, yes, but, but I just, need a, a medical solution or some kind of take this, swallow it, call me in the morning [00:36:00] type of thing.
When really it was actually the thing that I thought was so hokey and so, yeah. But was actually a quick
Andrea Nakayama: fix, which is just wild. Yes. Yeah. I mean, a quick fix and a different way in. And I, I think this is what leads to our confusion too, about where we do need medical intervention because there’s a continuum.
Something’s going on with your heart. We do need to seek medical attention. Mm-hmm. Sometimes they’re looking and looking and don’t find something, and it is something. So there’s that world of medical gaslighting where you know something’s wrong and you’re not getting the help you need. And then there’s this whole other world where maybe we don’t need the intervention and there is something we can do to influence the outcomes with a different method or approach.
And I guess I believe in all of it, like I’m a scientist, I’m not a [00:37:00] mindset coach. I’m looking at people with complex chronic health issues. What led me into this work in this practice was my husband’s diagnosis and death from a brain tumor. Like I’m in for the down, deep, physiological, dirty stuff. And that doesn’t mean we don’t.
Influence over it in our everyday practices. For me, it’s a yes and, and I find that continuum one of the hardest things for us as patients, all of us to navigate. Where do I need help? Where do I need to push for an intervention? Where am I being gaslit about signs and symptoms I have and what else can I be doing at the same time as waiting and seeking?
And that’s where I think we’re just in this very nuanced and complicated place of confusion [00:38:00] in this current terrain.
Liz Wolfe: I’d love to ask you a question that centers around the experience that you just mentioned, if that’s okay with you? Yeah, of course. Yeah. One of the topics that. Really part of the, the conversation today centers around trauma and how that can impact our bodily systems.
Yeah. Having been through such a, I don’t wanna label it for you, but such an intense, consuming experience with your husband and, and knowing that you did not, you know, sit idly by and say, yes, we’ll do this, that and the other, whatever the doctor says. You actually, I mean, made it your purpose to dig as deep as you possibly could to, to help prolong his life.
Yes. Having experienced that. Do you have a perspective on trauma and health and how you approach those things?
Andrea Nakayama: Yeah, I [00:39:00] think that trauma is up right now in our awareness of healthcare, and that’s a great thing. I think all practices should be trauma informed. I believe the way I teach and practice is a trauma informed methodology because it really embraces listening to the patient, hearing them, understanding what they bring to the table, and making sh room for cultural competency as well.
So I think that trauma is a piece of the puzzle. When we look at everything is connected, we are all unique and all things matter. The. Part that relates to that personal piece of the equation. In functional medicine and functional nutrition, we call those the ATMs, the antecedents, the triggers, and the mediators.
And we should never be overlooking [00:40:00] the triggers in somebody’s life. And those triggers are gonna be the social and psychological traumas as well as the physiological traumas. So for me, it’s a big breath of embracing it all and it all lives within us, in our cells. So my grief lives within me and I live with it.
And it certainly was a hu, his diagnosis was a trigger. It happened. Early in my pregnancy, making it an extra trigger, cuz pregnancy in itself is a trigger. And then the entire experience of being with somebody who you don’t, what does dying from a brain tumor look like? When’s it gonna happen? Living in that sustained situation for me is a huge trigger in my health history.
And so for me, [00:41:00] there’s the recognition in others as well that there are these moments throughout our lives that impact our health outcomes there. The health outcomes become downstream to those upstream issues and just putting a big hold around it all and helping people to understand that. It doesn’t mean we have to fixate on their trauma, but we have to recognize the traumas in life as part of.
What led them here? Again, bringing them back to that O Me equation, and this is where I love the tools that I use because it helps people to see themselves as a whole, not a microbial dysfunction or a hormone dysfunction, but make those connections that I think help us to integrate and be more in the kaleidoscope versus the stethoscope [00:42:00] realm.
Mm-hmm. That’s, does that make sense? Yes. I feel like I’m big, big picture, Michelle and I joke about this. I tend to be in theory a bit the
Liz Wolfe: kaleidoscope. No, that was beautiful and I appreciate you answering that for me. Cause I do think it’s something that’s coming up so, so much lately and the trauma informed, not therapy, but trauma informed approach, is this a.
Is this a uniform? Standard I, I don’t know what might exactly how to phrase that. Yeah. Once one can say one is trauma informed, what exactly does that that mean? I mean, everything you just said is what it means. Yeah. Yes.
Andrea Nakayama: Yeah. I mean, I think it means different things for different practices. Mm-hmm.
Depending on where they’re coming from. So again, like I said, I’m not a mindset coach, I’m not a therapist. I’m coming from the functional physiological nutrition space. And so for [00:43:00] me it’s about being able to hold and see the whole, and working with what I call functional empathy, which is recognizing that a lot of other factors matter other than what I.
See in them physiologically, such as their situation that they’re in at the moment, what their cultural context is, how their uh, habits work for them, and how habit has impacted them. All of these factors, and I have a matrix for that because I love seeing that everything is a kaleidoscope. But for me and those who I train, I’m hopeful that they’re seeing a person as a whole and recognizing that whole instead of being myopic with care.
That’s what trauma informed means to me and for me personally. The story of the individual is a huge part of that trauma informed care, [00:44:00] embracing their history, the stories they tell themselves as well as the stories they’ve interpreted through their lives. And, , it’s gonna mean something different for somebody who works in more of a mental health arena where they may be actually addressing the traumas through somatic therapies or talk therapies that aren’t part of my practice, but would be part of an integrative practice where different, , clinicians are supporting one individual.
Liz Wolfe: Understood. On, on this note, one of the things that you talk about is just the sheer human potential for healing. And I would love for you to address that a little bit because I know so many people feel like they are dealing with something that. Is without hand that yes. That they will not be able to overcome or heal from.
And I would love for you just to discuss the human potential for healing.
Andrea Nakayama: Yeah, I mean that’s such a great question and I, I think there’s [00:45:00] so much capacity within us, and I do think that if we can break it down for ourselves, there’s more opportunity for health. Again, coming back to those influences and tapping into the body as a vessel that actually is more functional than not.
So one of the things that I like to remind people is what actually is working for them? When we look at labs together, if I’m looking at their serum labs, I’ll highlight for them in green what’s working. So we can first have a conversation of, look what your body is doing for you. Most of us walking around, even if we’re in pain or we’re struggling with signs and symptoms, We are functional, we are working beings.
We are not broken. And the body is designed to try to heal and be in a homeodynamic space to find its balance and equilibrium. So [00:46:00] it’s been really interesting to me to recognize how much people need that and how broken people feel like they are. And just being reminded not just of human potential, but physiological potential is a part of healing.
Like, let me just be grateful, not as a practice, but even just as a recognition of what my body is doing for me. It’s doing it all the time. There’s so many things that we overcomplicate, so inviting people into the fact that human potential means that your body’s working for you. And when we’re on the road to healing, the more that we can find that harmony within, the more we can realize other parts of ourselves.
If all of our energy is going towards trying to adhere to that protocol or get into all these appointments, we kinda [00:47:00] lose the other part of our human potential, which is our spirit and our purpose. And sometimes tapping into those things and making time for them is also a spark that allows for other physiological healing.
Liz Wolfe: One of the questions I wanted to ask is a little bit more, a little bit more general and maybe a little bit more surface level, but I think it’s something people want to know and want to hear addressed, and always will.
There are, there’s a movement now towards body acceptance and health at every size with which Michelle and I talk about, or have talked about multiple times in our chats on this podcast. But I’d like to throw a bone to the folks who are like, yes, I love myself. Yes, I accept myself, but why can’t I lose weight?
I’m doing all of these things and I still don’t feel that my body is responding in the way that I want it to, and everybody knows all the caveats and all the, you [00:48:00] know, quote in quotes that I need to put around these things. So I’m not gonna do that today, but I would just love to hear a little bit about that for those folks who are like, I’m doing all the things, but yes, the way to staying on, I have no energy.
I’m, maybe I’m in pain. All of that. Yes. Where do you look? Yeah, so
Andrea Nakayama: this is really, really important for us, again, in a nuanced conversation as you’re bringing up and as you’ve discussed with Michelle, and I think that we should and could, there’s no shoulds, but you know, there is always opportunity to feel good in our body unless we don’t.
Yeah. And that’s my realm of the conversation. I do think it’s important that we’re having all these other conversations around weight and body acceptance and body positivity and health at every size. And if that is true, that is true. And if it’s not, it’s not. And so when we’re looking at weight and we’re looking to.
Lose weight or it’s [00:49:00] not coming off, what is that telling us and is that a place we might need help to understand what’s going on in the body? So there are people who ha are retaining weight for various physiological reasons that are not just about the food they consume or how their clothes fits, but is something going on in the digestive system, in the immune system, in the hormonal system with oxidative stress with uh, toxicities.
Because we hold our toxic stores in our fat with exposures to chemicals that our body is retaining and protecting us from. These are places where that weight retention are just a sign or a symptom that helps us to ask more questions and uncover more. And the body is complex. Like I said, it’s more functional than not, but it is complicated.[00:50:00]
As somebody who’s post-menopausal, one of the things that drives me crazy is all this stuff on social media right now about taking bioidenticals as if it’s. The be all, end all cure for dealing with all the symptoms that we experience at this stage in life. Hint, it’s not, and you know, hint, hormone therapies can make you gain weight, not lose weight.
They may be needed for other reasons, and we have to take that complex physiology and factors we’re bringing in into consideration. So first place I’m looking is always going back to those three routes, the genes, digestion and inflammation. Is there someplace we could be looking at with food? Is it quality, quantity, diversity, and timing?
If you can’t talk about food, because that’s a truth too. Do we need to be looking somewhere else physiologically first, like at sleep and [00:51:00] at movement and making sure that’s appropriate for you as we gain some trust with what your body can do and how it can heal. Digestion is key. We can’t talk about nutrition without talking about digestion, and that’s again, goes back to your previous question of people adopting diets without realizing that.
The food meets the body in a certain place and does a certain thing and that might need some optimization and inflammation is huge when it comes to weight retention, hormones, detoxification, what do we need to be looking at? All of those things are critical. So I’m thinking through the kaleidoscope when I see somebody who comes in with a concern about weight that isn’t budging, but I’m starting with the simplicity again, sleep, poop, blood sugar balance are places I would ask somebody to track [00:52:00] so they can bring me back their information, and I’m not going into a protocol without that.
Reality and understanding of
Liz Wolfe: inform. Absolutely. Now with gathering all of this information, with that in mind, I’d like to spend the last like five minutes that I have you to talk about the Functional Nutrition Alliance. And this probably could have been a whole hour show, but talking about the Functional Nutrition Alliance, the Functional Nutrition Counselor course, which is called Full Body Systems, and everything that you do professionally to actually plug people in, plug practitioners into this matrix, this amazing system that you have developed to evaluate and walk people through all of this.
Andrea Nakayama: Hmm. Thank you for asking. So Functional Nutrition Alliance is the company that I’ve founded back in 20 or 2009. I started Full Body Systems in 2012. We’ve now trained over 8,000 practitioners in over 68 countries in the methodologies. [00:53:00] And these methodologies are meant to fill the gap. In healthcare, they’re not meant to replace our medical intervention, our functional medicine doctors, we’re not playing doctor.
We’re sitting in the place between where the medicine sits and where the patient sits. So I like to think of it like a triangle with even a functional or integrative or holistic or naturopathic doctor sitting at the top of that pyramid. They may know that diet and lifestyle modification matter, but they don’t have time for it, and they actually aren’t well-versed in it.
Many of them have. You know, 17 hours of training and nutrition in their 70,000 hours of medical school. So even if they recognize it, they don’t really know how to dive into the, the nuances with a patient who’s often stuck in the weeds as we’re talking about. So a functional nutrition counselor, I’m training them to understand the full body [00:54:00] systems, that systems biology, what’s going on in the body, what is physiologically sound.
So we can take our understanding of that level of science and evidence and use it as clues for what might be happening with an individual and where we might need to make. Or recommendations. So it really is, uh, you know, it’s, it’s not a coach because we’re not coaching the person. It is a counselor. We are making recommendations.
We don’t diagnose, we don’t prescribe. We are instead assessing, recommending, and tracking. So again, that’s the training that I have at the Functional Nutrition Alliance. It’s called Full Body Systems. It’s a 10 month program in the science and art of the functional nutrition practice. And I, I love it. I love the work.
And then simultaneously I’m turning a bit of my attention back to the patient realm, not in a [00:55:00] clinical setting, but in the teaching arena like we’re talking about, of how can we be better patients using the same tools that I designed for functional nutrition counselors, translating them and putting them into the hands of the individual.
I love that.
Liz Wolfe: When can we expect this book that you’re writing? Are you ready to
Andrea Nakayama: talk about it yet? I’ll be back in a few years, but yeah, there’s definitely some work to be done there. Um, and it really does, it’s a confluence of functional nutrition and narrative medicine and bringing those two
Liz Wolfe: fields together.
Oh, that’s amazing. This is the first I’ve ever heard the term narrative medicine, and I think that is so phenomenal. Can you, can you define that quickly because I think I know what it means, but let’s, let’s.
Andrea Nakayama: Yeah, it, it is a body of work that, um, isn’t very old. It’s about 20 years old and, um, it’s, uh, it comes out of a body of work of Dr.
Rita [00:56:00] Sharon, who really is one of the founding mothers of the practice. And it helps us to slow things down by tuning into story, by tuning into the nuances. So I almost like to think of it as actually teaching us. Sit in empathy. So it’s something that more and more doctors are getting trained in, but I’m really interested in putting those practices into the hands of the patient so they can be in their story, like we’ve been talking about their timeline and develop this deeper sense of empathy for their own situation.
And I’ll give you an example if an example helps, cuz I know we’ve been talking really theoretically, but in my case study group that I’m working on for the book, there’s one woman who’s in her seventies who says, I’ve had troubles with sleep for as long as I can remember. So that’s the story she’s telling [00:57:00] herself.
What I can ask her is tell me the first time you remember struggling with. And she told a story about being in her bedroom when she was seven years old and the placement of the window, nothing bad happened. She didn’t like where the window was, it was too close to the neighbor. It always made her uncomfortable.
She’d wake up in the middle of the night, her parents would come in and console her, but she developed this response that made her fearful of sleeping and likely physiologically waking up so that she couldn’t get into a restful state. That story helps us to see her road to recovery more clearly because we can recognize the entire nervous system and the way it stays in a jacked up place.
And when I reflected this to her through her story, she said, that’s exactly how I feel in the passenger seat of the car right now. And so she could make a [00:58:00] connection where she can’t relax cuz she’s not in control. It’s a different conversation than melatonin or the C P A P. Oh my gosh.
Liz Wolfe: That and your case studies that you’re working through, they’re all centered around the book that you’re writing then?
Andrea Nakayama: we’re working through the models and how they translate. So I’m very fortunate that they’re in this process with me because how I translate what I know works in the hands of the clinician to the patient is, uh, something I believe in and I’m seeing work. But how and where does that translation happen?
Because they’re, they’re adaptations of the tools, like we’ve been talking about. Putting the protocol that a clinician uses in the patient’s hand isn’t the best iteration. Where’s that Transla? Hmm. Oh,
Liz Wolfe: so good. All right, well I’ve kept you for an hour, so I’ll wrap it up. Can you let folks know where the best place is to find you?
And may I also recommend everybody [00:59:00] listens to the 15 minute matrix? Can you recommend that? Can you touch on that as well?
Andrea Nakayama: Yeah, thank you. So if you head over to andrea nakiyama.com, that will lead you back to the Functional Nutrition Alliance, to the 15 minute matrix, to any of the other podcasts and my writing.
So all of that can be firstname.lastname@example.org. And um, thank you for having me and for asking that question. Oh
Liz Wolfe: my gosh, thank you so much. I, I’ll have you on again many, many times between you when the book comes up, when the book comes out. I’m for sure going to beg you to come back on. Thank you so much.
Andrea Nakayama: Thank you.
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