704: Finding Healing and Health From a Mind Body Approach With Dr. Afrouz Demeri

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Katie: Hello and welcome to the Wellness Mama podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com. And this episode went in so many directions that I really enjoyed. It goes really through the theme of you are the medicine and finding healing and health from a mind-body approach.

And I’m here with Dr. Afrouz Demeri, who I really loved this conversation with. She is a doctor who’s been helping people with health problems for many years, practicing as a licensed naturopathic doctor and specializing in integrative functional medicine for women especially. She really looks to find the root cause for hormone imbalances, thyroid disorders, stress, weight, digestive issues, autoimmunity, depression, anxiety, and so much more.

And in this episode, we go through, I think some things that are extremely applicable to almost all of us who would be listening. We talk about her journey from wanting to do neurosurgery into the work that she does now. And then we really go deep on the mind-body connection, which I’ve gotten so many questions about since sharing more of my story on the inner healing side and how that led to physical healing. She talks about why the things people come to her for help with are often not the things they actually need to work on. She talks about the mind and body connection and how she leans on biopsychology in her practice in some ways.

We talk about modalities to help address subconscious and inner emotional aspects of health. We talk about better questions to ask yourself to get better health answers, common pitfalls that she sees women encounter when it comes to hormone health, especially. Ways to support proper hormone function as a woman, the importance of sunlight, rest, stillness, quiet, and how to incorporate those, how to approach your health from a perspective of curiosity instead of judgment, the way that she reversed her own Hashimoto’s with some unique approaches that I’ll let you hear from her in the episode, ways to support our master organ deliver in overall health and so much more. She also great book recommendations at the end. And I think, like I said, this is applicable to everyone listening and I think really touches on some valuable aspects of the mind body connection. So let’s join Dr. Demiri. Dr. Demeri, welcome and thanks for being here.

Dr. Afrouz: Thank you for having me.

Katie: Well, you are an expert in, I think, many of the things that are super applicable to our audience today from all aspects of hormones and women’s health and fertility and thyroid. And I know many of the people listening have probably some very specific questions within each of those. I’m going to try to get through as many of them as possible and glean some wisdom from you today. But before we jump into the specifics, for anybody who’s not familiar with you, can you just kind of share how your journey of how you got into this work that you’re currently doing?

Dr. Afrouz: Yes, I was very scientific and wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I always loved surgery. I knew I wanted to be a doctor to help people. But in my pre-med years, I had so many symptoms and I kept going to the doctor and I was on five different medications in my early 20s, just before I was entering medical school. And I was always that why very curious child, I was always like, why is this happening? Why is this happening? I asked a lot of why questions my dad says as a kid. And every time I would go into the doctor, I’d say, why do I keep getting yeast infections? Why do I have breast tenderness? Why am I so moody before my cycles? Why are my cycles so cloggy and heavy? Why do I have headaches? Why do I get migraines and throw up? Why do I have diarrhea before my periods? All these things were always like a question mark in my head. I wasn’t like the rest of my friends that like could care less than they were told it’s normal. It’s normal.

And the doctor kept telling me this is normal. Girls have all of these things. There’s nothing wrong. Just take this. I was put on birth control pill and I wasn’t even sexually active. I was put on migraine medication. Then I gained weight, the yeast infections didn’t go away. And at the time, I thought I was being a really good patient and I wanted to be a doctor. So I thought it was good that I was on medications that meant like I am a compliant, you know, I was doing everything right. And at the time, a boyfriend of mine was Italian, and he had an Italian doctor come in from Italy. And I guess in Europe, they study a lot more holistic other things. And that’s how I got into this medicine was really because of her. She spent an hour and a half with me, which my doctor never did and really understood my relationships, what I was eating when I was getting a headaches, how much caffeine I was having, why these infections just before my period and my hormonal imbalance. Why I was gaining weight, mainly because of the pill I was on.

And she got rid of almost everything by just getting me to understand myself more. So it was just so empowering that I was like, I want to do what she’s doing. And I had no idea what that was at the time. And I started searching and she said, look into naturopathic medicine. Never heard of it. I didn’t even know what it was. But then I flew to Toronto to study it really because I needed it for myself. And here I am today, 16 years later, practicing and so grateful for her.

Katie: That’s an amazing story. And like you, my journey into health and wellness, not into the medical side, but into health and wellness was trying to find answers for myself and then also finding a credible community within that as well. And I’m so grateful for that journey. I would guess many people listening probably have a shared experience with you of having something feel wrong and being told it was normal or it being written off, especially women I feel like have this happen more often and being told that there aren’t answers often by conventional doctors. And then I talk often about this having to shift into, which I think is a wonderful thing, becoming their own primary health care provider. And I talk about this a lot, but at the end of the day, whether we have health problems or we don’t, we are each still our own primary health care provider because I’m sure in your experience as well, the things that matter the most are the daily inputs that we’re choosing that go into our bodies that interact with our bodies, our lifestyle habits. Those things make the biggest difference.

And I think it’s, I love the naturopathic approach to this and the holistic approach because I feel like it puts the person in the driver’s seat to take full responsibility and then to partner with amazing practitioners who have the expertise they need to continue that journey in an upward way. And so it seems like you come from that very much that same ethos. And I’m curious with all the people that you work with, what are some of the most common things people are coming in with and trying to resolve in their own health?

Dr. Afrouz: I’ll tell you the most things they come in with are not what we end up working on. The first things they’ll say are symptoms based. So they’re, you know, they’re fatigued, they’re overweight, they’ve got hair loss, they have fear of certain diseases of breast cancer because they have a nodule or they have cysts. And they have all these symptoms. So I’m sure most women can relate to many of those gut issues. They’re either constipated or irritable. They’re anxious or depressed.

And then the most common feeling I end up getting from patients is that there’s this aloneness. They feel alone inside, even though they could be surrounded by family, kids, friends, so much around them. Inside they feel either alone or they feel lost. They’ve lost themselves that they’re on this like hamster wheel from the moment they get up the to do list, make the lunches for the kids, drop them off at camp like I did this morning, you know, get through that list. And then by the end of the night, it’s just all over again, the list continues and they have this feeling of what is my purpose? Like what, what am I doing all this for?

And so that I would say the most common feeling I hear from patients is that there’s this loneliness and they may not be aware of it when they first see me. But when I ask deeper questions, they usually will say like, I just feel alone, or I feel sad, or I feel, you know, like, I have no purpose. I don’t know why I’m here. And the symptoms are just a wake up call. They’re here to like, say, pay attention to me. And when they listen, they realize there is another reason for those symptoms other than just physical, you know, things that we can test and measure in a lab. So there’s this duality, you know, is the physical symptom on its own, is a link to the person subconsciously is programmed to go go go all day and is making decisions and habits that they’re not even conscious of. And how do they link? How do we bring the balance in understanding and assessing what’s causing what?

Katie: Oh, I’m so glad we’re getting to dive in here because this has been definitely overlapped with my experience as well. And it seems like there’s often if someone comes in with a symptom and they think the symptom is the problem and they address that, it will often then pop up somewhere else unless they address the underlying emotional stuff. And that was a thing I was in denial of in a very real way for a lot of years. And then when I did address the other, the actual core parts of it, the irony was all the physical stuff that I had stopped worrying about because I was trying to fix the emotional stuff, that all resolved itself without effort. And I realized when you shift into that, when your mindset shifts, when your emotions shift and you’re in a place of self-love, all those decisions get so much easier because you’re making them from a place of supporting your body and loving your body. You’re not trying to fight a symptom and that mindset shift is so palpable. And so I love that you dive into that with all of your patients.

Dr. Afrouz: Yeah, I mean, my, I have to again, give credit to like, God or just the universe for attracting what it did in my life. I had no idea about any of this stuff. And my background in my undergrad was biopsychology. So I was very interested in the mind of how do we think our thoughts? Where do they come from? Do they come from my upbringing of my learned behavior from my parents? You know, I grew up very religious, I grew up in a Persian community, we’re always compared to other kids. We always had to be good and listen and you know, listen to authority, not talk back. So like, do those things depict my health later on? Or is it genetics? What is it? How do we think our behaviors shaped?

So I was that was my five years of undergrad. And I think that helped the psychology part helped me later on, have the confidence to not only look at evidence based in terms of randomized controlled study trials, but also just, where else can we find evidence and now with 16 years of experience, I have learned from my patients more than anyone else, not from the articles not from the peer review journals, but my patients have taught me that they are energy that their emotions have an impact on their physiology. And so I’m grateful for the thousands of patients who’ve actually taught me to help others more and myself.

Katie: Yeah, you explained it so beautifully. And you’re right. I think it’s a both/and, it’s not an either/or. And often there’s this false dichotomy, I feel like in medicine of the physical and it doesn’t always take into account the other aspects of being a human. And I also know from firsthand experience that that can be a difficult thing to learn how to access and how to integrate. And that often there are parts that are blind spots for us or that are subconscious that we are totally sort of unaware of that are still playing out in a very real way.

And like you said, there is a physical component as well. Like I can look back and say, oh, I was in sympathetic nervous system dominance for years. And then when I addressed the emotional side, I was able to actually become more parasympathetic and start to heal. But that doesn’t, even understanding that doesn’t make that process necessarily any easier. So have you found any sort of patterns or reliable ways that people can begin that journey of learning how to connect those?

Dr. Afrouz: I think I have now as a doctor when I was first practicing, I was much more science-based and I would say close-minded. Now, I would say that EMDR and the different kinds of therapies that affect the subconscious have really helped my patients. I don’t do it myself, I refer out, but the therapies that are making us think about the things that we’re not aware of. And so, I did talk therapy for 10 years myself and I realized it helps in the moment, but then you go back to life and then you get triggered again. But EMDR, is eye movement desensitization reprogramming and what it does is it reprograms the subconscious mind. So I have found that to be very effective.

And I’ve also found retreating, having silence more in women’s life so that they can reconnect with their own medicine, which is their intuition. And I think all kids have this, all kids react, they come from that gut feeling. And depending on how much that was encouraged as a young child or was it suppressed, like it wasn’t my case, not again, I’m not blaming anyone. Then in later on in life, some women will come to me and I’ll put them on hormones, for example, and they’ll be like, this doesn’t feel right. And I love that. I’m like, okay, good, we’ll come off it. But there are women that will come and I am the authority. And that often is a sign for me that something’s actually wrong where they will do anything I say or they have done everything someone else has said. They’re on 15 different supplements, they have done every test under the sun, they are so confused. They come in with I have lyme, I have mold, I have this toxicity, I have that toxicity and you know, just so many labels. That they have now been conditioned, even by the authority by the doctor to have all these things and they believe it. They believe they have all these diseases and they feel out of control. They have lost that connection to their source, which is within them. It’s not outside them.

So often what I do actually is try to encourage my patients to have that quiet time even with me so that we can go inward a little bit more and just listen and just have that time because often as moms we’re so busy. We don’t have a lot of that quiet time for ourselves. And when we do, we’re exhausted. When we’re fatigued, it’s not the best time to listen, And to have that time, especially in the morning not at night when everyone’s in bed and it’s like 8:00 PM and you’re like ready for bed and you’re yawning. But in the morning to have a little bit of quiet time to ask yourself, what does this mean? You know, what is this? This lump I’m feeling? What is it about? You know, and as a doctor, it’s hard for me to do this sometimes because there’s also that fear of like, what if this could be dangerous, and I’m going into the mental emotional side. So it takes experience to know how to balance the two and make sure we’re doing the diagnostics, the lab testing, and taking care of the physiology part, but also having that quiet time and asking the right questions. I think that’s what’s key. And that’s the art in medicine that many of my colleagues and I lost for a long time, we become so, you know, methodical about the cellular chemistry and the physiology that we forget the art in asking the right questions of, if this problem was gone, what would you be doing right now? How would you be feeling right now? If you didn’t have this issue that you’re coming in with, and I had a magic wand and I could make it all go away? What would your life look like? That’s the energy of wellness.

And I love that your brand is called wellness mama, because I often say, stop focusing on the disease, stop focusing on what’s not working. Focus on wellness, what would you be doing? I know I’d be dancing more. I know I’d be having more quality time, just being present and not worrying. So let’s start doing that. Because that’s what medicine has shown to help. It helps when you focus on wellness, it helps when you focus on relationships and being present. It doesn’t help when you are being led by fear. And the fear of that nodule turning into cancer is why you’re seeking help. That will actually attract also the doctor to put that hat on, including myself, who’s going to be testing and testing, and it’s shown this and it’s shown that and that stress is going to cause a lot of inflammation and fatigue and all kinds of problems.

So I know I went on a tangent, but I think my two answers would be either EMDR Therapy or some sort of therapy where you’re working on the subconscious, and just having more stillness, having a sitting practice. You know, I know a lot of my moms will say, I can’t meditate. There’s a lot of thoughts. There’s a lot happening. Just sit, just sit on the ground, you know, and just, if you want to close your eyes, if it feels comfortable. Journal, garden, go for a walk. Have a pet so that you can be present, you know, with the pet. Have a tea practice in the morning where you are drinking tea. So things like that little thing simple things.

Katie: Yeah, I think of that quote that all of our problems stem from our inability to sit quietly alone in a room with ourselves. I love that you tie this in because I think also the mindset shift there, if you can step out of the fear, then even when you get the data from the lab results or whatever it is, this is now an empowering piece of information that can lead to healing, not a scary piece of information. And that is going to change how it feels in the body.

I also love that you talked about labels. This was the thing I realized the hard way in myself when I used to say things like, oh, I have Hashimoto’s or I am sick or I am overweight. I realized there’s so much power in the things that we put as labels on ourselves and the words that come after the words I am. And also to the questions that we ask ourselves and that we ask our subconscious. And when I was asking questions like, why is this so hard? Why can’t I get better? Why is my subconscious was doing its earnest best to answer them the questions I was asking like, oh, because you have six kids, because you have Thyroid issues, because this.

And when I shifted my own emotions around it and also the questions I was asking around it, my subconscious responded much better to the questions I was actually asking instead of answering the questions I really didn’t want answered in the first place. So I love that you brought that up.

And I think that’s the perfect foundational place to start into the conversation of, with a mindset and emotional first focus and making sure that that’s part of the conversation, certainly from there, what are some of the ways that women can build to help support those things through the physical aspect? Because it seems like this is also a place where there is always a feedback loop and it can be a negative feedback loop or it can be a very positive feedback loop in that when we support the body physically, often it gives us more mental and emotional energy. And when we deal with our mental health and emotions, it also can help the physical side. And to the extreme degree of that, we hear the kind of polarity of people who are told they have a cancer diagnosis, for instance, and then they die on schedule, and then the autopsy finds they never had cancer, but they believe they were going to die, so they did.

And then on the other side, you hear these miraculous spontaneous recoveries when people have these shifts and then their whole physicality changes. So understanding the importance of those being overlapped, what are some good starting points to get that body awareness to help with the physical side?

Dr. Afrouz: I think getting a proper assessment and the assessments really vary especially in our functional medicine naturopathic world you can get over tested but really go and ask yourself what are my problems right now? What are my physical symptoms? And let’s look for answers in the body in testing. So getting proper test done is super important.

So the most common one I’ll see is their Thyroid was missed. They had a TSH done and it was within range and that’s it. They were dismissed and told that their sluggishness, their brain fog, their brittle hair, their weight gain, their fatigue, their moodiness. It’s fine. It’s normal. So TSH, free T3, free T4. I’m sure your audience is very well versed in Thyroid testing.

And then just making sure their symptoms match the findings. So having a hypothesis, okay, if you’re fatigued, what does your doctor think is the cause of it? First of all, is it physical fatigue? Is a mental fatigue? Is an emotional fatigue? Because that’s one of the most common ones I’ll see or weight, you know, they’re having difficulty losing weight. Well, did they get a proper assessment? How is their blood sugar? How much are they eating? How much are they moving? And then are the organs that are supposed to help with metabolism, the liver, the thyroid, your Insulin, your blood sugar, are those all normal?

So then when you have the testing done, let’s say your lipids are high, or let’s say your blood sugar is not good during the day and it’s spiking and dropping and spiking and dropping. Have a hypothesis in place of, okay, we’re going to try to help you with this. And in three months, we’re going to reassess and see if the symptoms you came in with it has improved. Because often I see people who have been on for example, my pet peeve is probiotics, they’ve been on probiotics for like six years, same one. And I’m like, why did you go on it? Well, you know, because everyone should be on probiotics. Has it helped anything? No, I don’t think so. I haven’t nothing’s changed. Have you gone off it to see if it’s improved or anything? And so you have to have an idea in mind of like, why am I doing this? And what’s it for? And is it really helping me?

So having a proper assessment, finding out whatever is in balance is linked to your symptoms. And then how do I deal with this? What do I do about it? What am I doing about it? Usually I say you need 50-50 of the physical body needs to be supported, as well as the mental and emotional, they are linked. You can’t only focus on the mental and emotional and just leave the body and say like, you know, miraculously, I know there are cases. That’s just not how I practice. I test the body and I say, okay, your thyroid is sluggish. You have zero quarters all in the morning or very low cortisol, meaning like your body is asleep. It’s saying I am done, I am exhausted. So we cannot be going to the gym and doing a 45 minute HIT class in the morning, you are actually depleting your body. We can’t be taking all these stimulants, these vitamins, these B-12s and the Bs that are very stimulating. When you’re so adrenally exhausted, you need a little, but you need to also get the minerals up that you’re not absorbing through your gut. Why? Why are you not absorbing them in the gut?

So that why question always asked why questions, because maybe you’re on the run and you’re in sympathetic mode. And your body’s not going into releasing any digestive enzymes, you’re not even absorbing that healthy salad you just ate in the car. So it’s just going deeper and deeper asking the why questions, but making sure you get a proper assessment with the right tests, not over testing, most of these tests can be done, all covered through insurance through Lab Corporate Quest, If you’re in the United States, we’re really getting a proper assessment and then seeing what’s off. And off doesn’t have to be out of the chart. Where is it in the range? Is it in the top third? Do you want to be on the bottom third?

And then working with your doctor or your practitioner, even yourself to kind of understand, okay, now I understand is probably my thyroid or it’s probably my adrenals. And because I’ve been so stressed for the past 20 years, 10 years, this is when it started. And I think that’s another huge key is ask yourself, when did I not feel this? When did this start? That often has a clue in why it started.

So I used to be fine in my 20s and probably around 33. This is when this started. Okay, well, ask yourself, what happened at 33? What happened at 32? What changed? Did you move? Was it a career change? Was there a loss? Did you get married? Did you have kids? Did you renovate your home? Did you move into one walled house? And often the clues are there. It’s not rocket science, I find that we are digging into like these, you know, zebras and sometimes the story of the patient and just asking the right questions will tell us what needs to be supported.

Katie: I love that. And I love even your language around that. And again, I’ve had the same inner experience that you’re explaining in that when I started shifting that and I realized I had been in sympathetic mode for so long and I actually started listening to my body, I realized it needed rest. To your point, I probably had that cortisol thing happening in the morning. I was not rested. And for a long period of time, probably almost a year, I did not do anything intense. I looked at how can I support my body, restore my body and listen to my body. And that for that year for me looked like I would walk or swim very gentle things, movement and sunlight and sleep and things that were restorative and saying no to a lot of stuff, not doing hard workouts, not going heavy at the gym every day. And I felt like my body needed that time to recalibrate.

And also that it showed me that’s what the body’s designed to do. It wants to move toward healing. I just had to figure out how to give it the tools to do that and it knew what to do. And I think that reframe for me was so valuable because now even if I start to experience something or a symptom, I can think with that mindset of what does my body need to feel supported in this moment? So I love that you use that support language.

I also learned to think of those shifts as experiments versus kind of like an all or nothing black and white that was going to be changed for the rest of my life, which felt overwhelming. And it was way more fun to think in terms of how could I experiment with this and even just give myself a time limit. I’m going to experiment for two weeks or 30 days and then I’m going to see how I feel and then I’m going to adjust versus going so deep into a really like black and white, like I said, defined thing.

Are there any patterns that you see emerge, especially for women, of things that are almost always universally supportive and beneficial or things that are almost always universally better to avoid?

Dr. Afrouz: Yeah, good question. I see a lot of women with hormonal imbalances. And the main one will be they have either too much estrogen, not enough progesterone, or just an imbalance of the progesterone. Estrogen is fine, but progesterone is low. And this is what happens in your 35 onwards 40 onwards that perimenopausal stage, which now I’m finding women are having occur much earlier. It used to be like 45 and over 20 years ago when I was in practice. Now it’s like 35 year olds will start having symptoms, you know, of their periods going off.

So one thing I see often women do is because they’ve learned now that carbs are bad, they will not eat carbs and they’ve been like keto forever, or they just don’t eat carbs and they’re eating other junk. And so their progesterone is not getting supported to be made. So now they are not sleeping well, they’re more anxious, they’re more thinking, they’re thinking, thinking, thinking, overthinking, and that which depletes nutrients. So often I ask my patients to do an experiment exactly like you said, if they’re not sleeping well, I have them have carbs right before bed just for two nights, just to see if it helps you sleep longer. Because that might be a blood sugar issue. And if you’re not eating enough carbs, and you’re having dinner like five, because you’re trying to lose that belly fat, your sugar might be dropping and waking you up in the middle of the night because your cortisol your adrenals not sufficient to keep you asleep. And you’re waking up because that blood sugar drop, because of an adrenal deficiency also because you haven’t had carbs, especially if you’re in the second half of your cycle. So from day 14 of your cycle until menstrual cycle, your first day of bleed, that’s when you actually want to have some sweet potatoes and some complex carbohydrates because it’s needed for progesterone production. So that’s one.

The second one is adrenals get your cortisol checked, use the DUTCH Test, use a regular blood test in the morning and see where your cortisol is at. It should be highest in the morning and very low at night. If your cortisol is low in the morning, you’re probably addicted to coffee, you’re probably craving something to just squeeze a little bit more cortisol out because you’re tired. You’re probably needing it for your brain function. And there’s other addictions that start happening. So like yourself, after I had my second, when I tested my adrenals, I was burnt out. And this is a common one I’ll see in practice is the adrenals are either too high in the morning or just flatlined all day. The flatlined is what we call insufficiency. And that person needs a lot of rest and support. So I was in that phase, I was addicted to my morning coffee because I was not sleeping well, with my son waking up every hour and a half. And I was having difficulty losing weight. So I was going to the gym and pushing and then being exhausted and needing to like nap after.

That’s when I said, okay, I need that one year rest. It took me one year, doesn’t mean it takes everyone else one year, cut out the coffee and I started eating more. I needed more nutrients and I needed to rest. I needed to sleep more. I did just restorative yoga and walking and that’s it. And I got sunlight in my eye first thing in the morning to tell my adrenals, wake up, it’s morning time. And I actually took Adrenal Cortex. So that really helped my brain and know that, okay, we are safe. It is calm. She is not going to use that energy in the wrong way. We can support her if we see that she can keep this up. So the brain is your friend, but it’s acting out of fear. It’s in survival mode. So it is there to make sure you’re not thriving, but just survive. And so you have to tell it, we’re okay. There’s no line in front of us. You know, we’re calm. Everything’s good.

And you need to do that through action, right? You can’t do that if you’re overthinking, having stimulants, having caffeine, running to the gym. It will keep you sleepy. It will keep that weight because it thinks something’s going to go wrong. It will not make you attracted to your mate, right? So libido will be low. It may get in the means of fertility. You may have issues having children because the body’s like, I am so stressed. We’ve got so much on our plate. The last thing we want to do is have another child. so they may have miscarriages with that Progesterone deficiency.

Right now I see a lot of women in perimenopause with too much estrogen and they’re getting hot flushes or they’re getting, you know, different cycles and all over the place, their mood, their energy is very different. They are getting breast cysts and their breasts, they’re going to get mammograms and something’s going on with the breasts and they’re all in like this anxious fear mode of what is happening, fix me, give me something. They’re on Ozempic now, that’s the new trend, you know, they’re on all these things. It’s like they completely lost. that, you know, sisterhood that like calm energy of like, we’re going through a transition. But let’s do it with balance.

So sometimes I will use hormones, I’ll use wild yam or extracts from certain plants and herbs to help support bring that progesterone back up to help them sleep, to keep them calm, right? That’s the parasympathetic hormone to keep them ZEN. It’s the ZEN hormone. And we’ll use things like Calcium D-Glucarate or fiber or flaxseeds to get that Estrogen pooped out. We’ll use things like sauna or dry skin brushing or hydrotherapy, you know, hot and cold showers, or if they have a cold plunge or something hot, to alternate, to help their circulation, to help things move. So there’s a lot of basic things people can do. And those are my top, I would say, is using water, using your breath, breathing deeply using your diaphragm to tell your brain, I am calm. When the belly moves, your brain’s like, okay, she’s okay. When your chest only moves, it thinks you’re running away from a lion and it’s not going to circulate that blood. It’s going to keep it all here for the vital organs. It’s not going to help you remember where you parked your car. So memory starts going down because you’re stressed. But a lot of women think they’re going to get Alzheimer’s and dementia, and I’m like, no, your body is just stressed. It doesn’t care what you ate yesterday or where you parked. It’s not important for survival. You need to slow down.

Katie: Yeah, this seems like a key that runs through, I would guess, most of the things that you encounter when people come to you for help. And so I love that you tied it all in so well there. Like you, you touched on two of my favorite kind of soapbox topics right now that I also learned the hard way, but especially when it came to you said you had to eat more. I think this is hard for a lot of women. So anytime I get a chance to talk about this, I love it because I realized also I had been super undernourished for a long time, especially in trying to lost weight. I had been chronically restricting and I was inadvertently sending to my body the signal that food was scarce, things were not safe. It was a dangerous time and my body was super stressed and it was doing its absolute best to support me and keep me safe in what it thought was a survival situation.

And so like you in that year, I really focused on how do I maximally nourish myself in whatever food I’m going to eat today? How do I get the most, the widest range of nutrients? How do I nourish my body the best way possible? What does it actually need? And then how do I nourish it with rest? And then I love that you mentioned sunlight as well. I think this is another, we’ve kind of maybe come to fear some of our greatest assets in health, whether it was the low salt movement and fearing minerals, whether we got scared of skin cancer and started completely avoiding the sun when we got so busy and we don’t get enough sleep. I feel like our biggest free tools that are available to all of us, we’ve come to have a complicated relationship with.

And I think also these things can be so easily overlooked because of their simplicity. But also that in the long term, it seems like often it’s those simple foundational things that actually do make the biggest difference. And I would guess for you as a doctor, you would say even if people do need those additional things, whether it be the supplements that help process excess estrogen or the progesterone support or even full on hormone support or a particular medication, those things are all going to work better if we have those foundational things so that we’re not sending our body stress signals and having it think we’re in a famine or we’re in a war when we’re not.

Dr. Afrouz: Absolutely. Absolutely. So we got to do both and that’s what I’m loving that you’re also reminding patients that there are answers. There are the quick fixes. So when I put someone on Calcium D-Glucarate, it’s amazing, in two weeks, they’ll say my breasts were so sore and they’re not anymore. So there are things you can use. There are even medications. I’m not against medications, but I will only use them as an experiment.

So if I have a patient who’s not sleeping, Sometimes I’ll go and take a Benadryl and that tells me, okay, did it help? Yes, I can sleep with an antihistamine. So we have a histamine problem, right? When I’m going to continue the medication, we’re going to try and figure out why do you have a histamine problem? Is it an immune problem or are you eating a lot of high histamine foods? So just you kind of have to be a detective, but not one that overdoes it. That also comes back to just being present and being still. And remembering, like, I always like channel the monk energy, you know, or like the Dalai Lama or like Mother Teresa or like Gandhi. They didn’t have functional medicine doctors. They didn’t do all these tests we’re doing, right? They lived a purposeful life. They probably thought less about themselves.

And that’s that fine balance as women. Sometimes we don’t think about ourselves. We’re last on the list. And sometimes we’re so stressed now because we’re living in fear mode and survival mode. And it’s all about me, me, me, me, me. So it’s like, okay, how do we find a balance of life of work of the spiritual health of the mental work of the physical. And I think the physical is probably the easiest. So women will attach to like, okay, let me control this, let me try and fix this, because I can’t fix everything else in my life. So I will go to the doctor and at least they can fix this for me, right? So they’ll come in, cholesterol is one I see a lot where women like get really scared that they have high cholesterol. Why do I have high cholesterol? I shouldn’t have high cholesterol. You know, I’m like, cholesterol is not the problem here. Right, 50% of heart attacks happen with completely normal cholesterol levels. So let’s go a little deeper and let’s understand, right? Are you at risk for heart disease? Have you had no period and your estrogen is zero? That puts you at risk. What about your family history? What’s your waist to hip ratio, right? If you’ve got the skinny legs and you’ve got that belly fat, you are at increased risk because now you have fat around organs, that visceral fat. So I will call my patients out where they need to do the work as a doctor. You know, I don’t give them false hope, but I will say, yeah, we’ve got to lose that belly fat. Physically, yes, we need to tackle that.

And often when you are focused on this, you’ll, when I work on patients, I find they are overeating. So there’s this fine balance with you and me when we were adrenally exhausted, that we were undernourished and then we needed to eat more. But when people are very in tune with why are they eating? Are they full? What was the cause? Was it emotional? Women, I see a lot will eat because of emotions. And often they are truly full, but they are still eating. And so I have them ask themselves questions before they’re about to eat on a scale of one to ten. Ten is like, I’m starving. Zero is I’m not hungry. Where are you at? Okay, if you’re at a six or higher, eat, nourish yourself. No guilt. You are not allowed to eat, even if you’re having ice cream and cookies, no guilt, right? But as you’re eating, you can check in with yourself and say, okay, where am I at now? Am I like full? And when you’re at an eight or nine, stop, right? Make sure you drink water before often we’re thirsty or not hydrated enough. And that will help.

So with the belly fat, I will help them lose the fat because that does increase, you know, risk. But we have to do it in a loving, gentle way, the way we would do it with our daughters and son, sons, you know, I wouldn’t tell my daughter, the things women tell themselves, we’re mean, the things we tell ourselves only will continue to attract that in our life. So if you’re very focused on weight, and being overweight, you are telling the universe I’m fat, and you will keep that vibration and that energy. So that’s when I shift the energy and stop focusing on the weight. Let’s focus on something else. Let’s focus on something that will make you feel light? What makes you feel light? Right? So let’s do that thing. Because why do you want to lose the weight? Right? Is it is it the confidence? Is it the is it the attention? Is it the you want your husband to say you’re beautiful? Is it for you? You know, often women think that they want something for a reason. But when they go deeper, I say, Okay, let’s let’s do that now. Right. But I do think that women often are not conscious of what they’re putting in their mouth, why they’re putting it in their mouth. just say I’m an emotional eater. I’m like, No, you’re not. You don’t have to believe that label. That label does not help you. Stop saying you’re an emotional eater because you will continue being an emotional eater. Right?

Let’s just check in. I, for example, when I’m really stressed, sometimes I crave sugar. Sometimes I want salty things. Just like a kid. If my kid says, Mom, I want something salty. I’m not going to judge and be like, are you feeling sad today? Why are you feeling sad? You shouldn’t have, you know, all these chips. But it’s just curiosity like a six year old. Having a six year old around is so useful because they are just curious without judgment. And I encourage my moms to touch base. Here’s my phone. It’s on. Let me let me show you what I have as my backdrop. It’s a picture of me myself when I was around five and I have this as a reminder daily to check in with that inner girl and me so I don’t judge so I don’t have that negative thought with myself because I know I wouldn’t say that if that was my niece or my daughter, I’d be very nice to her.

But often the things we tell ourselves are the reason why we keep going down and not being able to find the answers within, because we’re not nice, we’re not being nice to ourselves. So that’s when I say, okay, if you’re craving it, eat it, enjoy it the way you would tell your daughter to if you’re tired, you would tell her go take a nap, honey, take a rest. You wouldn’t say how come you didn’t get through that list? How come you haven’t done your laundry? How come you didn’t go wash the car? You wouldn’t say that to her. So we need that compassion and that loving kindness. When we are more of that energy, it’s amazing the things we can manifest.

Katie: Yeah, and kids, I feel like pick up on our energy so much that even if we were never saying those things to them, they would understand that we were saying those things to ourselves. And I love you use the word curiosity. It made me think of that Walt Whitman quote that was quoted in one of my favorite shows, Ted Lasso, where he talks about be curious, not judgmental. And there’s a beautiful scene there. But I think that’s perhaps the most relevant when it comes to ourselves and that we perhaps have the tendency to be the most judgmental and the least curious in our inner experience than we would ever be with our best friends or our kids or someone we cared about. And so I love that you tied that in as well. And all of that I think also contributes whether it’s eating out of alignment, whether it’s eating too much of what we don’t need, whether it’s not eating enough, whether the body feels overfed or undernourished or whatever it is. Like you’ve talked about, all of these factors together relate to so much of the physicality.

And especially I want to touch on fertility a little bit. I know fertility, it is also very linked to Thyroid. So even the people listening who maybe are not like, I’m trying to have a baby, this is relevant because it can also be connected to the Thyroid. But it seems like when any of these are out of alignment, like we talked about, you’re sending the survival signal to the body and the body in its wisdom goes, this is not a good time to have a baby. Things are not safe. But also fertility, I look at it as a metric because I’m also not trying to have a baby right now. But I look at it as a metric of when we are fertile, that shows us that our body feels safe, that we’re in a good place of health. So I think it’s a very valuable tool, even if we’re not using it as a tool to have a baby in the moment. So what are some of the other things that come into play here and how can we, anything do to send our body signals that help contribute to thyroid health, fertility and safety?

Dr. Afrouz: Yeah, the first question is, what were your cycles like? Were they regular? Did you know they were coming? You shouldn’t really know they’re coming with symptoms. You shouldn’t kind of have this like, completely different wife as my husband as the husband say, in my practice that I have two wives, I have the one in the first two cycles for first two weeks, and then another one in the other two weeks. Right? That tells me there’s a big shift in progesterone that’s dropping in that second half. Did you have clots and you know, lots of stringy pieces of blood on those first couple of days. That means that there’s this congestion of blood, right? So there’s a lot of symptoms wasn’t dark, was it bright red, it should be bright red, no spotting, it lasts four or five days. And then maybe as you get older, it lessens, shouldn’t be seven days long.

So your period is super vital. It’s a vital force. It really is. It’s like taking your blood pressure. It tells me so much. So looking at that, and then asking yourself, okay, they’re getting shorter and shorter, that progesterone is probably going down. So that needs to be fixed, that needs to be addressed.

The other thing I see commonly is free T3 is low, or it’s on the bottom third. This is active thyroid hormone that is made by your liver from what your thyroid makes. We need enough zinc. You need enough Vitamin A. Things like Rosemary help. You need antioxidants, you need your liver to be working well to make this hormone that every single cell of your body uses. There’s not that many things that every single cell needs. But T3 thyroid hormone is one of them. So vitamin D. So these two things need to be optimal. And by optimal, I mean, like top third, you don’t want to be at the bottom of the range. And sometimes people are like, I don’t have time or I don’t want to do the like deeper work of do I need more Iodine? Do I have Hashimoto’s? And I say, it’s okay, let’s just take some thyroid hormone and see if you feel better. Let’s do an experiment. And they’ll take in, they’ll be like, wow, the clumps of hair that were coming out have stopped. And now I’m eating the same, but I’ve lost a couple of pounds and I feel a little bit more energized, right? So, okay, so the free T3 was causing issues and even a miscarriage or helping you not get pregnant, right?

So there’s a lot of things you can do, but I would say start with T3, thyroid hormone, making sure you’re in remission with Hashimoto’s and most doctors and endocrinologists will tell you that Hashimoto’s is for life. I’ve had it. I’ve been in remission now for eight years, I stopped testing my TPL, I had nodules, and I got rid of mine with Iodine and also crying. I had not cried, I had suppressed sadness, I hold I used to hold a lot of energy here. I didn’t voice up, I didn’t speak up. And so I saw a elder endocrinologist who was like in his seventies in Toronto. And he taught me so much when it comes to Thyroid health and he was a regular MD endocrinologist.

And first he said, you know, like, take some Iodine. And I was like, well, I thought you’re not supposed to take Iodine with Hashimoto’s. It’s contraindicated. But he had had so much experience that he said, no, you need Iodine because I didn’t eat a lot of sea vegetables. And I wasn’t into sushi, or I was not getting any Iodine. And I, so I experimented, I was the guinea pig number one, and it goes one, and I needed more Iodine in my diet, which I wasn’t getting. So I took Iodine and the nodules went away, and my Hashimoto’s didn’t worsen. So with some people it will. And so you test it, you’re doing an experiment. If you take Iodine and your TPA goes up, don’t do it. Then you know it’s making things worse. But also I was holding so much energy here, because the question is, why do I even have a Thyroid problem to begin with, right? Why, why did I have a virus that the body now is trying to attack and by mistake, it triggered an autoimmune disease. Is it mental emotional?

For me, it definitely was also mental emotional. So who knows which one really helped, but I haven’t had my TPO over 30 now for years. And in my women, I don’t care if you’re trying to get pregnant or not, you should not think that you have this label for life. Nothing can be for life. You can heal everything that you have. So if you’re in Hashimoto’s and your TPO is high, you are in chronic inflammation and your brain is inflamed. So get those numbers down and treat it and go into remission. You absolutely will try. I will try everything to get my patients in remission before they conceive because they are at increased risk of miscarriage if they have Hashimoto’s and even just taking a levothyroxine medication has been shown to help at 25 micrograms. So getting that Thyroid level to go higher so that before you conceive, when that sperm and egg meet, things can replicate in the cells. That’s what that Thyroid hormone is doing is helping the metabolism, helping things move so that the DNA can replicate. If things are sluggish in the cell, you’re going to also feel sluggish. That things are not going to be made properly when fertility needs to happen, when conception happens.

Katie: Like you, I also now say I used to have Hashimoto’s and I’m also in remission and I’m not needing to take anything anymore. So I echo that it is possible and I get so many questions about that. So I love that you addressed it so directly.

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I also love that you brought up the voice aspect and holding things in the throat. This seems like also a very common theme, especially for women with finding our voice and all of the energetic things that go along with that. It’s certainly been part of my journey and continued journey as well. So I love that you touched on that too.

You mentioned the liver and I know the liver is kind of the master organ for a lot of things in the body. Certainly it’s very active when we sleep. It helps with detoxification. Are there any other general things we can do to support liver health? Because I know that contributes to everything.

Dr. Afrouz: I would say instead of focusing on taking things to support your liver, say the no’s that you said, you started saying no. What am I doing currently that’s not helping my liver? I always say remove the obstacles to cure first. So if I am drinking alcohol, if I am smoking, if I am using bleach and toxins and things that I’m breathing in, everything you breathe in goes to the liver and it’s to be broken down.

So if there’s a lot of chemicals and manmade stuff that the liver is like, what is this? I don’t even know what to do with this. Do you pee it out? Do you poop it out? Do you sweat it out? Do you breathe it out? Help your liver by taking the burden off it.

And I always use the example of like, if you have a grandmother that’s elderly, if you have a mom that’s not doing well and is in the hospital, what are you going to do to support her? Think of your liver as that person. You’re not just going to go and give your grandma and your mom a whole bunch of take milk thistle, take turmeric, again, those are all great things to do, but you’re going to help her by cooking for her, making sure you get her mail. You do things to take the burden off that person. And that’s the first step. I always say, take the burden off the liver, clean out your house, clean out the chemicals, don’t drink alcohol. I haven’t touched alcohol now and I don’t miss it. You know, it’s just a choice I made, but at least if you are, lessen that. Things that don’t support the organ are the best things to do first.

Then you can add the antioxidants, making sure you’re eating greens, right? The liver loves greens, the liver loves bitter foods like radicchio, Arugula, the things that actually taste bitter. That liver makes bile and it’s stored in the gallbladder and a lot of my women have gallbladder issues. But the mother of the gallbladder is the liver. And so you always want to support the liver and say, what things can I remove? What things can I add in? So getting the colorful vegetables, the carrots, the greens, the wild blueberries, you know, and just eating simple, just simplify life, adding lemon to things sour and bitter in Chinese medicine are very supportive of the liver. So things that we can add that are a bit more sour, a bit more bitter and again, keeping it simple.

I’m not going to add a whole bunch of other supplements and recommendations because I find when I say those things, people go and like rush and they start buying those on Amazon and I’m like, wait, but there’s a lot of other simpler things we could have done and do you really want to take this for the rest of your life? But if your liver enzymes are high, so if your ALT and AST is over 20, you are at increased risk of fatty liver in the next 10 years. And in those patients, I do recommend Silymarin, which is an extract of milk thistle. This has been scientifically shown to support the damage that’s been done to the liver cells. We want those hepatocytes not to break and release those proteins, the ALT and AST. So when you take Silymarin, it protects that cell that is damaging right now.

And so if you are doing things like drinking, smoking, taking medication, then you might want to consider silymarin or talk to your doctor about taking a silymarin extract to help support those liver cells. Because yes, your liver cells are everything. It is the most important organ to support, not only for thyroid, for aging, it’s the one that when you cut an apple, it goes brown. That’s what your liver does. Do you age quickly? Do you oxidize and go brown and get wrinkles and age fast? Or are you healthy? Are you full of antioxidants? Is your liver able to function? Because all the cells in the liver are working well.

And ultrasound now, I just did on a 22 year old who was not obese, doesn’t drink fatty liver. Fatty liver is on the rise. When you’ve got fat deposits in your liver, your liver is not going to work well. And often it’s not because you have a fat issue, you have a sugar issue. So watching the sugar intake and making sure you’re not having processed sugar, you know, if you’re craving sugar, my favorites are dates, you know, have some have a few dates in a week. Have more fruits. People are so afraid of fruit because of sugar and they’ll only eat blueberries and that’s it. They don’t touch fruit anymore. And I’m against that because my ancestors ate a lot of fruit. They ate good fruit. Yes, they were more nutrient dense than they are today. But I grow my own fruit, you know, and I’ll have whatever is wild and local and organic. There’s nothing wrong with fruit.

Katie: Yeah, I think such important themes have emerged in this episode and I love that we’ve gotten to tie them all together. I love that we started with and wove through the entire episode bringing that cohesion between the mind and the body and how, especially for women, I feel like this can often be the missing piece that’s so pivotal for whatever the symptoms that are expressing. I feel like this is the vein that runs below all of that. And so I love that you take that into account and then merge that with the best of the data that we’re seeing in the science in that whole body approach. I think this is so needed. And like I said at the beginning, I think the best outcomes happen when you have a patient who’s willing to be their own primary healthcare provider, working with a healthcare provider who’s willing to be a partner. I think that’s when we see the real change and the real healing. And I love that you are one of those people that really partners with people for the lasting change, not for the symptom relief. And a few questions I love to ask at the end of interviews, the first being if there’s a book or number of books that have profoundly impacted you personally, and if so, what they are and why.

Dr. Afrouz: It was so many. Where do I start the first book, I think that kind of made me more open minded because I was in neuroscience and I came from a very scientific background where Candace Pert’s Molecules of Emotion, I think it’s called. And that was the first book that I read in school, which made me realize, wow, there’s a connection between the mind and the body. So anything that she’s written, Joe Dispenza’s You Are the Placebo. Bruce Lipton’s books on The Biology of Belief, you know, I obviously I’m biased because that’s my background. But I love learning Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin that again, talks about what you said if you tell a patient with pancreatic cancer, they have three months left to live and you look and you tell someone else you have six months and then you see the outcomes, it is profound.

There’s another, I don’t think it’s behind me. It’s called Cured. And it’s a recent one I read a couple of years ago on cancer patients that cured miraculously on their own. It’s written by an MD. And it’s just profound. I couldn’t put the book down. I read it on a plane, for four hours straight, because it just made me go wow, even though I do this, it is still sometimes mind boggling of how how is this happening, right? Because I am a scientist in my core heart, and I want to measure, I want to see I want to see that lab tests go down. And then I’m like, oh, that’s why. But sometimes things happen that we cannot see there’s energy that we cannot still measure this quantum physics that we are still learning in people and these healings that happen in that book Cured is such an amazing book, especially if someone has a chronic disease, or they have cancer, and they’re afraid or they believe what the authority is telling them, which is You are not going to get better. You know, this is stage four. I’m so sorry. You have three months left. Read that book. Life changing.

Katie: I love it. I will link to those all in the show notes as well. I’m familiar with a couple of them, but I’ve also just added a couple to my reading list as well. So thank you for the recommendations. Where can people find you online to keep learning from you after this episode?

Dr. Afrouz: I’m pretty active on social media on Instagram. My handle’s @drdemeri. You can find me there. I do a whole bunch of other stuff. So I’m a mama. I love to dance and teach fitness and Zumba. So I’m also a Zumba instructor and I’ve been using music and dance as my passion to also channel that creative, feminine energy. I also host a lot of retreats. So you can go to my website, drdemeri.com or on Instagram and join one of my women’s wellness retreats.

Katie: And lastly, any parting advice for the listeners that could be related to the things we’ve talked about or entirely unrelated advice that you find helpful.

Dr. Afrouz: You are the medicine. Every single female here has this intuition and wisdom within them that I don’t know honestly, if men have the same. And from all these years of practicing, there is such a wisdom in our cycles in our in the lunar cycle and the feminine energy, which is often the Yin and the yang. If you think about it, the yang is the daytime, it’s the doer, it’s the summer energy, it’s the go, it’s the making the list, it’s the one that says, I meditated, I walked, I did this, I did this, I did that. The Yin is the it’s the nighttime, it’s the quiet one, it’s the listener, it’s the stillness, and it’s hidden, the feminine energy, the Yin is hidden. So it’s not the one that goes on social media and says, I did this and no, that’s yang energy. And often I find women nowadays, they’re working, they’re running a business, they’re running their family, they’re doing so much, they’re volunteering, they’re going to their church, and it’s a lot of yang excess, it’s a lot of that summer doer.

And my advice, and I give myself this advice almost daily, which is why I probably tell my patients, I always say you are, you’re teaching your patients what you need to learn most. So I need to also listen to just be more of that be’er, the Yin energy, that then the quiet to the hidden, the one that goes within. And I invite us women as a whole to find other sisters to find other women who also help you do that, who help you feel better about who you are at your core inside that not a lot of people maybe know or even you’re not in touch with right now. But that that is where that love and that source of energy and that healer within is and I’ve learned this again from my patients. This is not something I learned in medical school. This is something I’ve witnessed and seen 16 years of treating thousands of women that they have this power within and I hope no one feels lost. No one gives their power away to an authority figure and believes that the answers are outside. They’re all within you.

Katie: I love it. I think that’s the perfect place to wrap up for this episode. I’m so grateful we got to have a conversation and so grateful for all the directions that we got to go. Thank you so much for your time and for everything you shared today.

Dr. Afrouz: Thank you for all that you’re doing and for spreading our message.

Katie: And thanks as always to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the Wellness Mama Podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.