Ever felt unheard at the doctor’s office? You’re not alone. Patient advocate Adrienne Nolan-Smith shares how to navigate the healthcare system or a scary diagnosis to recieve the care you deserve.
Founder of Wellbe
Adrienne is a patient advocate, speaker and the founder of WellBe @getwellbe, a media, lifestyle, and navigation company bridging the healthcare system and the wellness movement. Her mission is to help people prevent and reverse chronic health issues naturally. From her 20-year journey through the conventional healthcare system as a patient, caretaker and then technology professional working with hospitals, Adrienne has seen how empowering people through integrative health and wellness is key to preventing and reversing the chronic disease crisis. Adrienne received her BA from Johns Hopkins University, her MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University and her board certification in patient advocacy (BCPA). She lives with her husband in New York City. WellBe is her greatest passion and her life’s work.
Maria Marlowe: [00:00:34] Welcome back to the Happier and Healthier Podcast. Today’s guest is a dear friend. Her name is Adrienne Nolan-Smith and she is the founder for WellBe. Adrienne is a patient advocate. She’s a speaker. And most importantly, she has made it her mission to help you. Yes, you navigate the crazy world of health care. She wants everyone to live their healthiest life in a holistic way. But she realizes that at some point or another, you are going to come in contact with the health care system. And as I’m sure you have seen, there are some issues. Right. There are tons of issues. Insurance is really expensive. Care is not always the best that it can be. And when you’re diagnosed with something that sounds a little scary, often times you only get one or a couple choices. You’re not given your full spectrum of possibilities in terms of treating your issue in a more natural way. So as a patient advocate, Adrienne is here today to help us navigate through the health care system and even navigate through scary diagnosis. And she’s going to be sharing some tips on how we can approach our health as if we are the CEO of our body. We’re also going to touch on mental health as that is a topic near and dear to her heart. And it also happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month.
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Maria Marlowe: [00:04:08] Thanks for being here Adrienne.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:04:10] Maria, thank you so much for having me.
Maria Marlowe: [00:04:13] So let’s start with how did WellBe come to be? What inspired you to start this?
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:04:19] Well, so we had like three hours right now. So it’s been a I’d say over 20 your journey to found WellBe. And I speak about the foundation of it or that the forming of it in like three chapters. But the first of which was getting chronic Lyme disease when I was 11 years old. And when I say I got it, I mean, I was diagnosed when I was 11 years old. And from there, there were a number of other things, including getting a man. When I was in college, which is a fancy term for losing your period and having to then kind of become my own advocate and figure out what was wrong with me and get to the right people who were interested in figuring out what was wrong with me, which weren’t very many doctors, as it turns out. And then the most impactful thing that led to founding WellBe and going on this crazy journey was losing my mom in December 2010. And tomorrow actually would be her 70th birthday. So between Mother’s Day and that, it’s a very it’s an interesting week. I should say I’m just doing a lot of thinking about her. And I lost her to suicide. And May is actually also Mental Health Awareness Month. So it’s just a very interesting time for me to reflect on that and how far things have come or not come with holistic mental health or how people are thinking about mental illness. And she had actually been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which is kind of a made-up term. It’s kind of a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar, but mostly they’re just not sure what’s going on, for about three, three and a half years before she passed away.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:06:00] So when I say her death inspired me to do this, it comes from watching and being her advocate and caretaker as she went through this mental health care first episode and then journey through like at least six different facilities and in-patient programs, outpatient programs, all these different doctors and coordinating them. And then just knowing what I know now that there’s, you know, a lot of underlying causes to mental illness, none of which were really addressed or even considered, nor were any other sort of more natural or experimental treatments other than psychiatric drugs. So that was definitely the thing that changed the entire course of my career. And I switched into health and wellness during business school, which was right after her death. And that was seven years ago. And I mean, all of those experiences kind of showed me the power of natural medicine. It showed me the power of how your everyday choices really are, your health care. And then it also showed me exactly how the conventional health care system is broken and how if you are going to be in it in any way, which, you know, all of us have some sort of interaction with it. You know, whether it’s just an annual physical or more, you really have to know what you’re doing so that you don’t get into a bad situation where there’s just over-treatment, wrong treatments, misdiagnosis, etc.
Maria Marlowe: [00:07:31] Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit about that, because I think it’s pretty well known that the health care system is broken. And it is true we’re all have to go to the doctor at some point or a family member is going to be diagnosed with something. So how do we advocate for ourselves and make sure that we’re making the best decisions when it comes to our health care?
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:07:54] Yeah, this is something I talk about a lot and it’s a topic very close to my heart. So I’ll be happy to share a lot of my different thoughts on it. But I think you have to kind of go into it thinking with a very different mindset than our parents were raised with and how most of us were raised with, which is this sort of doctor worship. Right. Dr. Kelly Brogan, who I’ve just recently interviewed, called it, you know, very similar to a religious experience. You know, you’ve got these hallowed halls and these, you know, doctors in costume with the white coats and the degrees on the wall. And everything looks very old fashioned and traditional. And it has that same feeling of really religion. And we were not taught to question and we were not taught to come in with our own information and that it wasn’t a dialogue. It was. I have no idea what’s going on in my body. You’re going to tell me and then you’re going to tell me what to do. And I might have some questions about how to do it. That’s it. I’m never gonna bring it in. You know, it could be. Try this. Can you test me for that? I frankly don’t agree. I’m going to get a couple of opinions. Thank you. For years. That was just not how we were raised or how our parents were raised. And so once we’ve sort of seen the issues that have. As you just mentioned, sort of, let’s call it health care is broken as an umbrella term. We started to realize that you have to be think of it more as you’re the CEO or the boss, right of your body, of your health.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:09:19] And all of these people that you grant power to, to interact with your body are just that. They are employees. They are contractors. They are partners, but they are not the boss. And you are. And so when you think about that, you’ve got to think about, OK, what is what is being a good boss and tell it, it’s being organized. You’ve got to have all of your information in your control. You’ve got it. Any blood-work, any paperwork, you can’t have it floating out in a variety of different specialists’ offices. You need to have all of that information yourself. So you’re getting e-mail copies of everything. You’re getting paper copies of everything. You’re understanding what’s actually written on there. So if you don’t understand it, like going back to the boss analogy, if you don’t understand the inner workings of your own business, people can take advantage of you. Right. Whether you’re hiring somebody to, you know, do the audio on your podcast and you understand that, you know, some simple fix might take a few minutes and they’re billing you for a couple hours. You know, you’re able to show like that. So same thing if you don’t understand kind of the basics of what’s going on with you and how to read your own blood-work and demand that it’s explained to you, a lot of things can kind of spiral from there as far as like treatments that are being done and things that are being suggested. And I’ll never forget, I had this experience where I had back pain for a long time.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:10:48] I have a scoliosis and I went to an orthopedist to get an X-ray because it’s been about 10 years since it had been X-rayed before. And this was actually right when I left my job in conventional health care. So one thing I forgot to mention is after business school, I ended up working with hospitals for three years on chronic disease management programs, which was really, really fascinating because I kind of knew what was wrong. And I knew that I wanted to be part of the kind of integrative medicine and wellness solution. And then I had to watch as they kind of root just handed out meds and, you know, all these people coming in with lifestyle based conditions. And I’m like, you know, beating my head against a wall. It can nobody asked this heart failure patient who’s been in here four times in four months. Like what? They’re eating like nobody, you know. And so I digress. But after my health care experience or when I decided to quit my job and found WellBe, I decided, you know how you do between jobs. OK. So I’m gonna go get a couple like doctor’s appointments, get a pedicure or whatever. So I go get this x ray and this guy tells me, you know, your curb isn’t that bad. It’s only 15 degrees and that’s not that bad. And I know people with worse curves that don’t have a lot of pain. So the fact that you have a lot of pain is really interesting. I think it might be something else. I said great. That’s great to hear. Let’s troubleshoot it. Let’s figure out which part of the body is causing the most problems.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:12:04] So we just kind of focus on the hips. And I’m like, yes, this makes sense to me. Like, I have these assigned joint issues and, you know, all this stuff. And then he says the solution is that he can burn the nerve endings off the bottom of my spine, go bad. And that was like so that I just wouldn’t feel the pain. And I looked at I thought he was joking. And I’m like, with all due respect, like, that’s actually not a solution. Like, that doesn’t help me troubleshoot what the issues are and how to work on them. That’s just like literally cuts opposite feeling. And that’s going to get worse. Whatever is causing BPA like symptoms, pain. This is a way for your body to tell you what’s going on. You know, it’s we should welcome symptoms because it’s like a cry for help. And you can do something before it becomes, you know, a chronic illness or injury. So I kind of laughed. And then I said, well, yeah. So say I do that, you know, and that doesn’t work. What then? And he said, well, OK. Then we would do this procedure called whatever the heck it’s called. And we’re gonna bolt your pelvis together with these screws and. Oh, wait, have you have children? And I said no. And he said, well you’d have to have all C-sections, but that’s OK. And. And I’m like, we’re gonna bolt my pelvis together for some mild back pain. Are you out of your mind? Like you’re not even sure that it’s my hips. My hips. You know, so I I remember kind of being shocked, but also realizing that these situations happen in health care system all the time.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:13:37] And people just kind of like, you know, when he first said the name of this procedure, he did not explain fully what it was. I pried and pried and pried until he finally said, well, we bolt your pelvis together and this and that with these screws. And I realized at that time, like a lot of people get thrown into this system and say it wasn’t the hips, say they do this nerve ending thing and then it doesn’t work and then they bolt their pelvis together and then and then they have to have a C-section for their Child and then that baby now has impaired immune system and microbiome because of the C-section. And then they have allergies and then they give those that kid allergies for steroids and they might still have pain because maybe it actually was their feet. That was the problem, not their hip that was causing this imbalance in pain like the spiral of potential problems is so massive. But you think of it as one small procedure. Oh, I’m just going to get the nerve endings off my spine so I don’t have, you know, pain. And he said that was his recommended procedure. Is a famous orthopedist connected to, you know, Northwest Health. Very reputable in York City. Did it. And you just don’t stop for a second and think like not me, keep my body intact. And I’m going to figure out every other way that I could potentially minimize pain in my body at that time. Was I doing yoga religiously? No. Was I sitting too much? Yes. Like, there are plenty of things I could have been doing more actively to try to help myself.
Maria Marlowe: [00:15:06] Right. And I think people don’t realize, you know, our parents really grew up in this time. Our parents and the generations before really grew up in this time where doctors were like God. And it’s, you know, you go to the doctor, you do whatever they tell you to do and you don’t ask questions. But our doctors are not taught at all about lifestyle medicine. I mean, the average doctor in the US gets less than 24 hours of nutrition instruction. And when you compare that to any sort of Eastern medicine, like traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurveda, those doctors, you go to them with a problem. The first thing they’re gonna look at is your diet. They’re going to say, you have to take this out. You have to add this in. And so, yeah, it’s very it’s very interesting to see that huge difference. And thankfully, I think more and more doctors are starting to learn a little bit more and be more integrative. But it’s definitely slow coming. And so, yeah, I mean, this this story is like it’s crazy, but it happens every single day, thousands and thousands of times a day to all these people. And if you’re not going to ask questions, you could end up down a very bad path.
Maria Marlowe: [00:16:15] And even just to give you an example. On my end, my fiance, which we’ve talked about this before. He’s having some digestive issues. And the doctor said, just OK. Here, take this antibiotic for something that was not a bacterial infection. And then he took it, got better for a week, got worse after that, and then developed a new infection because of taking antibiotics. So it’s like you just get on this hamster wheel. You’re right. It’s like you make one decision and then it’s like a domino effect of, you know, not even just you, but it affects people around you can affect your children. So it’s really important that we do become our own advocate. And I really like that being the CEO of your body analogy.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:16:56] And you can be I mean, I think there’s no reason that it has to be contentious. Like I literally say respectfully, comma, before I say whatever I’m going to say in any doctor’s office, because I want them to realize that like they’re used to being worshipped. So if you sort of come at it from an antagonistic perspective, like I’m the boss, you’re going to be my partner or you’re not, like they can respond poorly to that. So I sort of always come at this from like, OK, they think they’re the boss. I think on the boss, like, how can I kind of ease them into this role as my partner and sort of, you know, I think that comes from acting respectfully, but also acting intelligently and saying like, you know, with all due respect, I’m not sure that’s the right path for me. But I so appreciate your time and your opinion. And I’ll let you know if I’d like to proceed with you later instead of like, OK, I’ll take it. Sure. Where should I pick up the script? You know, whatever.
Maria Marlowe: [00:17:52] That’s great. I love that. That’s always really nice to have like a line that you can that you can say what I say.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:17:59] And it kind of like sometimes they’re taken aback, like, well, I just told you what to do. You’re not just gonna go do it. And sometimes they’re like, OK, sure. You know, and they get it. They’re like, this is somebody who feels empowered. They’re getting my opinion. They’re getting my perspective. But that doesn’t necessarily mean, you know, they’ve chosen me as their partner in this journey of whatever they’re trying to figure out. And they’re right there. That’s just one voice. You know, you can get several if you want. Of course, that can get to be expensive, which we can talk about later. But, you know, that’s a great way to kind of always maintain control. Have a few lines that you say when you’re you know, especially if someone’s trying to be pushy. OK, so let’s set it up. Let’s just do it now. We can do the procedure in the office. Let’s just do it. And you’re like, no, I actually didn’t plan to do that today. So let me consider another time that I might come back to do that. And if I’d like to, I’ll give you a call. And then that way, it’s like totally they’re not going to follow up. You know, it’s up to you.
Maria Marlowe: [00:18:53] Right. Yes. Something I also find so interesting about health care in the U.S. in particular. It’s one of the only places where pharmaceutical companies can actually advertise. Directly to consumers. So I’m sure you’ve seen the whether it’s a magazine ad or TV commercial for X Y Z drug and, that laundry list of side effects that go ask your doctor if you should take X, Y, Z. And so when we go into the doctor’s office, you know, they’re OK with us saying like, oh, can you prescribe me this? But if you’re like, oh, do you think that if I changed my diet and I cut out sugar, right or ate more vegetables, do you think that will make a difference?
Maria Marlowe: [00:19:34] And then they’re kind of like, you know, will be like, yeah.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:19:39] Have you ever had a conventional doctor be like. You. I think that would work.
Maria Marlowe: [00:19:47] So that brings up a good question. So how do we find a doctor that is gonna be more open to a holistic way of viewing our body?
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:19:58] It’s very hard to sniff out. I mean, you seriously have to be an investigator to figure it out. And I think the best couple of ways for me have been one. You can go on their website and certain doctors that are more holistic minded will be branded that way. You know, they’ll either have training in functional medicine and they’ll say that or they say, like, I practice in a holistic way or, you know, they’ll mention certain buzzwords that relate to treating the body as a whole and nutrition and other things like that. You can also read if they don’t have a Web site, reviews on Yelp and see if anybody kind of mentions that.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:20:34] And then I think you can always call up and kind of get some more information from the desk person. Hi. I’m really interested in functional medicine or integrative approach or a holistic approach. Does this doctor consider themselves to be that way? You know, is diet a large part of the treatment? You know, things like that. And you’ll be able to get information very quickly. And even a lack of information gives you a lot of information. Right.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:20:57] So if that desk person has no idea what you’re talking about, that’s a pretty good indication. You’re not going to have that experience with that doctor. And you don’t see anything on the Web site that kind of indicates that they approach the body in the way that you’re thinking that you want it to be approached. It’s probably not going to be the case. And especially if it’s going to cost you money out of pocket. I would say move on till you find somebody that you feel like does advertise that way and does have reviews related to that. And in their front office also communicates that that’s important to them.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:21:31] Then the last thing I can say is sometimes doctors will offer phone consultations or more like a it’s like a step before an intake consultation or an intake appointment. They’ll just call it a console or, you know, sort of like it’s usually cheaper to add a little bit shorter.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:21:47] So if you’re really not sure but you really think you want to go to this doctor, you can always figure out if they have that. And then you’ll just basically be able to have a conversation with them before you have to do any blood-work or fill out any forms. And you can just say, like, here’s what I’m looking for. Here’s what I think my issues are. What can you do for me? It’s kind of like an interview. And I love that because it kind of puts the onus on the doctor to audition for the role. You know, and and show you what they can do and how they could approach it. And then it gives you also a lot more freedom to say thank you. I loved what you had to say today. I’ll consider whether or not this is the approach I like to take and I’ll come in if I choose. And it’s kind of like that’s you know, there’s no pressure.
Maria Marlowe: [00:22:28] That’s a great tip. So let’s talk a little bit about spending money on our health care, because a lot of the times these functional medicine doctors in integrative medicine, doctors are the ones that really have a specialty in something they don’t take insurance. So you’re paying out of pocket regardless. So any tips for saving money on our health care costs or any words of wisdom you want to impart about what may make sense to actually spend a little bit more money out of pocket for a specialist?
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:23:01] Yeah. So this is one of the greatest problems with the health care system today. The reason that integrative or functional medicine is not just normal medicine is because of this whole insurance mess.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:23:14] And I could speak for an hour about how infuriating the lack of like a perfect economy and health care there is like totally nerding out on, you know, in a normal economic system, there’s a buyer and a seller. And when they meet the it’s like the right price for the right service or the right product. Right. Econ one, a one that I took in college was like, OK, like when the price of steel meets the demand for steel, you have like a perfect market. And there you go. That’s that’s what you’re looking for. And health care, that’s not the case. Right. The buyer of health care is not the consumer of health care. And the seller of health care doesn’t have to tell the consumer anything about the prices until after the fact. So what you have is a complete mess because the person is not empowered with their dollar to say this is a great doctor I’m going to keep giving you My money and that one wasn’t or that procedure’s too expensive. But I do want it or need it. So I’m going to shop around and see where else I can get it for cheaper or they would lower their price because no one’s buying it. You don’t know any of this information. Right. And so I think when doctors don’t take insurance, it’s often because it’s just a huge mess for them to do all of the reimbursements and they don’t want to deal with it. And also because the way that the insurance system is setup, it’s based around fee for service or fee for procedure or prescription or whatever. So the doctor wants to take two hours to hear your story because you’ve been trying to heal a chronic illness, an invisible or, you know, the challenging chronic illness for a decade. And they really want to give you their time. They can’t bill the same ways that a conventional doctor would. Who sees a patient for an average of seven minutes. So that’s often why they’re not taking it. And so I both have a tip for how to maybe get things paid for.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:25:03] And I’d also then tell you that you, at the end of the day, can see 10 doctors who take insurance. But if none of them can connect the dots between the different things going on your body, it’s not going to matter. So it might be worth your time. And, you know, for all of us, the greatest currency is time. Right. What we all want more of and which we had. You know, you just can’t you know, more times in the day is like my greatest wish. So if your time is important to you, paying for somebody that can get to the problem and actually help you heal faster, I would say is is a really important thing to think about. How much is your time worth? You know, if it’s not worth that much, fine. Try seven conventional doctors who take insurance and then see what happens. But if you really are. You know, I don’t even have the money to spend on a functional doctor that you’re talking about.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:25:51] Like if that’s the case, you can’t find it from borrow it from your parents, from friends or raise a Kickstarter campaign. If none of those things are gonna happen and there’s no savings to dip into. Having a HSA or an FSA is a great way to get things like this paid for because it’s a health savings account or a flexible spending account and you can put a certain amount from your paycheck into those each year. And it’s basically you have a credit card. So any qualified medical expense you can just swipe that card for. So I use mine constantly. I forced my husband to max ours out every year. He’s like, Oh my God. Like, why? You know, and it’s so important and it’s pre-tax. So it’s a great investment and it carries over year after year. So if you do a great job taking care of yourself, you can save by the end of our life like we might have over, you know, who knows, million dollars in there. And you can also pass it along to your spouse when you die. So it’s just a great way to kind of have savings around health and it gives you a lot more health, freedom. So what I mean by health freedom is you can see practitioners, you know, acupuncturist, herbalist, whatever, as long as they are licensed in something, then their offices or qualified medical expense. And so you can swipe your card there. So I think it’s really important if you want to use the kind of health care that we’re talking about that’s more holistic in nature to set up or to get an HSA or FSA if it’s available to you through your insurance. And that way you’re using pre-tax dollars and that money is set aside. You can’t access it for anything else. You may as well use it on this kind of thing.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:27:27] And then again, if that’s not available to you and there’s any way for you to kind of get some money from somebody to try to help solve this chronic health issue, I would say investing in a doctor who’s going to connect the dots will get you better, so much faster than one who thinks of your body and disparate systems and has a pill for an ill mentality.
Maria Marlowe: [00:27:52] Yeah, so show it. Really, all we have is our health. And if we don’t feel good every day, we don’t have the energy we’re gonna miss out on our life. So really taking the time and effort to find a doctor who’s really going to help us solve our chronic issue is definitely worth it. And spending a little bit more if we have to. It’s definitely worth it. Yeah, for sure.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:28:14] And it all goes back to this time. You know, like how much time? Not only do you want to waste seeing doctors who won’t help you, but how much time do you want to continue to, like you said, not feel great or have to lie in bed or be injured and miss out on all these things that you might want to do with your life, whether it’s sports or travel or, you know, socializing or whatever? Like how much is all that worth to you? And is it worth finding that money somehow? You know, like I think with health care especially, people understand how awful and expensive it is. Like if there’s people, anybody close to you that you can get one hundred dollars from a couple of close friends and pull it all together to go see a doctor who might take care of your issues.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:28:55] Like you’d be surprised if you just ask how many people would be willing to do that over, you know, a lot of other things that you might borrow money for.
Maria Marlowe: [00:29:02] Right. So let’s switch the conversation to Mental health, because I know this is something that you are really passionate about. So when it comes to mental health. Where are we falling short?
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:29:15] I think the number one way that we are falling short with mental health is not understanding that it is connected to every single other system in your body. Like, you obviously know this, but we are learning and more and more research is coming out about how incredibly connected that gut and the brain are together. So the diet that you eat, the amount of stress that you have, the ability of, you know, rather the amount of light that you get every day. Micronutrient deficiencies that you have, the amount of emotional traumas that you’re hanging on to your sleep, how much you move. These are all connected to aspects of mental health and they’re very rarely brought up in a mental health provider conversation. Maybe, you know, are you going through some stuff, conversations? You know, you probably would get that. But that really is the tip of the iceberg for what often causes these really intense mental illnesses. It’s not if you’re stressed right now. It’s did you go through some pretty tough stuff a long time ago that has now burrowed its way into your tissues and your fascia and whatever else and is so painful, you might not even remember it, but it is wreaking havoc on all these other systems in your body. And so that takes a while to unravel. And you’re not going to have a quick counselor session if somebody isn’t feeling great at school or at their job, whatever. And they have a little check in like this stuff takes like months or years to kind of get to the bottom of. And at the same time, your diet is hugely impactful to how you feel every day.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:30:57] And I know I can tell if I have a weekend where I’m super indulgent and I’m traveling and with friends and not really able to eat the way that I normally would or start throwing all of that to the wayside. I want to, like indulge in whatever that place has to offer. Like we were in New Orleans in April and I’m eating it all the Bengay this night. And of course, that Monday you feel terrible about your life. You just can’t help it. Like not just because you did that, but there’s just this sort of like blue cloud that hangs over you. And had I not really understood the connection, like, I might actually think either I’m depressed or I don’t like my life or I’m not happy. But I’m also fully aware that, OK, I got to eat like a lot of detoxifying foods. And today I got to drink extra water. I got to drink, you know, anti-inflammatory teas, take all my supplements, like take more than I normally would. And let’s assess how I feel tomorrow, because this could just be a blip in there. And sure enough, the next day I feel a lot better. So about my life and obviously also physically. So you’ve got to be able to take yourself out of your own emotions and your own brain to see when these other factors that greatly impact mental health are causing you to feel anxious or causing you to feel depressed or causing you to feel maybe even unstable. Right. Or suicidal. Could there be a gut parasite, bacteria or something else going on that is causing me to become so perplex and, you know, upset that I actually consider that like maybe I should go and actually get, you know, an infectious disease doctor to take a sample or to get some extensive blood-work before I jump to the conclusion that my life just sucks. Like there could be really easy things.
Maria Marlowe: [00:32:39] So what would you say are some of maybe the top three or top five things that could be causing this feelings of depression or just not feeling great about your life? That may not be because your life sucks. It may just be because you’re doing something else and you’re in your life that’s causing this.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:32:56] Sure. So there’s a lot of debate about which ones are like the biggest, biggest ones. But the three that come to mind from the people that I’ve interviewed for WellBe. And from my own experience, our sleep is the first one. So when you are not repairing your body properly, then it is like a vicious cycle of ups and downs as far as how you feel. And so you can get extremely exasperated and that can feel like anxiety because your body is running on adrenaline and these other things are try to keep functioning even though it’s exhausted. So that is a big one with you are not sleeping properly and you’re also getting anxious feelings. Those are very correlated. So working on your sleep and there’s a lot of things you can do to work on your sleep, but we don’t need to get into all of them within this question. I’d say number two is a lack of healthy fats. So the brain really, really, really needs healthy fat, whether that’s plant based or animal based to function properly. It’s kind of you know, it’s a very amino acids are incredibly important in brain development as well as, you know, brain. Long term. And so if you’re eating a lot of refined foods, whether that’s processed foods or refined carbohydrates or sugar, and you’re not eating enough stabilizing things like, you know, really healthy oils and nuts and seeds and, you know, maybe even wild salmon. And, you know, if you eat eggs, things like that or grass-fed pasture raised meat, occasionally your brain essentially doesn’t have the food it wants. So it starts to freak out like any other organ. And, you know, like certain organs need vitamin C. For example, your adrenals need vitamin C. So if you’re if you’re adrenals are really fatigue, it’s craving vitamin C. So you’ve got to give it to it. So same thing when the brain is depleted. It starts. It can get really depressed and it’s craving these healthy fats.
Maria Marlowe: [00:34:55] Yeah. And just one thing I’ll add there, I have a friend who is or is vegan and spoken about this publicly who went through a depression and it turned out he was omega 3 deficient because in the vegan diet there’s really not a lot of sources of Omega 3. And the kinds that they’ll make it through that isn’t the plant based diet. It’s not the same as the Omega 3 that you’ll get from animal based. Yeah. So it’s incredible how these nutrient deficiencies can trigger real issues. And we would think in this in this day and age, like even if you’re eating a healthy diet. Right. So many of us think we’re eating like the healthiest diet, but we’re cutting out Whole Foods and things like that. It’s easy to develop deficiency in something. So it is really important to get your physical annually, get all your blood work done. Know what your nutrient levels are and just kind of stay on top of all that.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:35:49] Yeah. And isn’t it so much easier to think like, oh, I have an Omega 3 deficiency than like my life sucks and I’m the worst. Like for me that’s like so much better. Like, I can fix that. I could. I can have Massive wild salmon. I could have some auburn butter. Like I don’t have to change everything and just hate myself, like. That’s terrible. So yeah, I think that like getting that blood work and being really aware that when you do have negative mental emotion to be able to like put it in a chair next to you for a second and think about what I’m doing was I’m not moving this week like it’s my gut functioning normally, like, do I have things that would make me feel like something’s not right?
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:36:29] Like, you know, obvious ones, gas, constipation, diarrhoea, you know, any of bloating, whatever. Am I also triggered by something that I’m not even realizing is still impacting me? Like you just went home to see your family for a holiday and the next week you’re just like all out of sorts and maybe something about your past is triggered and you didn’t even realize that it was impacting you about your physical body knows it’s impacting you and it is now freaking out because it is like being riled up these emotions that were buried because they were bad, they were painful.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:37:02] So that’s something else to consider. Like, do I need to maybe, like, talk to my mother about that, you know? Like what? Like something is up or my my brother. Clearly, I have issues I need to, like, work through. I could maybe get a friend to think through, like, what could it be? Why did they trigger me? So all of these things are important. But to go back to your original question, your diet, sleep. And then I think the third biggest one right now that I’ve seen from the latest research, good research is always changing, as you know, is social isolation. So like the surgeon general in 2017 declared it a public health crisis and like the UK actually has a minister of loneliness now because it is such a problem in the UK. And it’s essentially we are so hardwired for connection and we are so lacking at these days with everybody driving around in their own cars and then sitting at their own desk and then living alone and then being on a device all the time and not cultivating any hobbies or relationships or groups and communities outside of, you know, maybe work or a small group of friends that doesn’t see each other that often. It’s really a problem.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:38:08] And so biologically, when you’re not around other people or you’re not interacting closely with others, the brain, it literally so it doesn’t know how to evolve, it doesn’t know what to do. So even just there’s a couple of amazing studies I’ve seen on if you hug somebody for six seconds, it releases like all kinds of biological chemical processes that then have this like awesome domino effect on positivity for your immune system. So you think touching another person could give you a cold, right, because your germs or you’re getting close to them. It actually reduces the chances of acquiring a cold by hugging somebody because it has such a positive effect on your immune system. Well, also lowers your blood pressure because, you know, for whatever reason. I can understand that. But it’s something to do with, you know, just the impact of that biological process once you touch. Human beings. So it’s powerful. And it matters and it’s very hard to cultivate, though. So, for example, I work from home. You know, half the week I’d say. And if I’m alone for too many days in a row or too many hours, like even if I’m working hard and being productive and there’s a reason I need to be at home and recording a podcast like this or whatever, and I don’t. I feel a little blue. That’s the first thing I think. I’m like, oh, my gosh, I just spent too much time by myself. I hate human interaction, interaction. And then I’ll get back to this feeling in like two days after I’ve had some more of it. And if it’s still there. OK, we’ll dig in. But if it was just that great. It’s very simple. I think that is one of the easiest things for people to kind of improve some of these networks. Sure. Being in connection.
Maria Marlowe: [00:39:55] Yeah. And those are like it feels so good to do that. Right. So why not? But something I bring up a lot on the podcast is the book The Blue Zones. Basically, it talks about I think it’s like seven different places all over the world where people routinely live past 100. And yes, they all have a healthy diet. It’s mostly vegetable based and some healthy fats. Just good real Whole Foods. But one of the overarching factors that also connects all of these places is that they have very strong relationships. They are close to their family. They’re close to their friends. They eat with them. They eat meals together. And they make time for those relationships. And even like I I’ve traveled a lot in Europe and stuff a lot of time there. And like, people have just these really, really close relationships where in the US it is more solitary. Like, yes, people go out and meet for dinner and stuff. But I do feel like especially in these big cities like New York and L.A., like you can get really caught up in doing your own thing, going to work, coming home or if you’re working from home. I know that life drives me crazy, too. So I recently started working out of a co-working space like we need these human interactions.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:41:06] Yeah. And you’re actually right. We are. What, like a hundred years into the technological revolution. Right. And the Internet is like 50 years old, not even. Right. We are up against thousands of years of evolutionary behavior and understanding. And so when you all of a sudden are like, nope, we’re not going to talk to anybody today. We’re just going to like stare at the screen. And also, like a lot of that means not moving. Right. So it’s a combination of also like not moving at all, which makes your body very confused and down. And then also this not interacting with anybody. That’s instead, we’re going to turn everything that we’ve ever understood about human behavior, which is all like where you come from. Another we all have families become, you know, two parents, friends, villagers, everybody around taking care of one another and interacting with one another to like nothing. It’s so confusing. Your body has no idea how to deal with it. So things must be bad like nobody will. I’m a social pariah. Nobody has come around me.
Maria Marlowe: [00:42:10] Well, you know, I think we sometimes tell ourselves like, oh, like I’m a solitary person, like I like to be alone or, you know. And some people enjoy like an introvert extrovert. Oh, I’m introverted. So, like, I enjoy my alone time. But it’s like I mean, yes, you can enjoy your alone time. Of course, you should enjoy your long time. But we do need social interaction. So don’t trick yourself or fool yourself into thinking you can go, you know, days or weeks, months without contacting other humans. We really need to bring back that social circle that we’ve had for thousands and thousands a year.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:42:42] And like, it doesn’t have to. There’s no one way to do it. You know, it could be, you know, if you’re not into actually like socializing all the time, which I know can be exhausting for people like it can just be a shared yoga class. It can be, you know, go start playing like pickup basketball, you know, whatever it is like. It doesn’t always have to be something that’s just like talking to others. It could be just the physical nature of being around others like you’re talking about. The co-working space can be better than just being alone. And yeah. I hear that a lot now with all the self-care focused. And like needing I just stay in and be alone and all that. And I get that. I mean, especially if you have like you can say I’ve I’ve a husband, like if I have not really been alone at all for a couple weeks and I get like a night to myself or a day to myself, it’s like, yes, all these things I would do. This is great. I don’t want to talk to anybody.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:43:33] But I mean, it’s kind of a once in a blue moon thing. And I’m like, we should be doing that all the time. And I think a lot of people do convince themselves that they don’t. Oh, yeah.
Maria Marlowe: [00:43:42] I mean, I feel like I convince myself that because when I was living in New York, I was living by myself and I was working from home most of the time. And I would go out like I’d have meetings and stuff. So I’d have like social interaction. So it wasn’t like that. But I think I convinced myself that, like, oh, I really enjoyed being alone. But then now that I’m living with my fiance and he’s very social and his whole family’s very social. So I’m like in a social situation, like. Ten times a day. Now that I’m like back in L.A. and I’m staying by myself, I’m like, oh, my God. I’m literally feeling like every hour I’m with people and I actually love it and it’s really fun.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:44:15] So it’s almost like you didn’t realize like that you needed to kind of be part of a pack who you are. And then you’re like, it feels more natural because it is, right?
Maria Marlowe: [00:44:25] Yeah. And you say you grown up movement. So I just want to talk about that for a second. I think movement is so important. And again, we’re sitting majority of the day. Most of us. One thing that I found really interesting, I love Tony Robbins and I’ve been to his seminars a few times. The first time I went, I thought he was just going to be speaking for, you know, twelve hours a day. But for 12 hours a day, you’re jumping up and down, your dad seeing you’re moving around. And his whole thing is that your physicality or your physiology can change your basically change your mood. So I’d love for you to speak a little bit about the importance of movement.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:45:02] Yeah, so I am a natural house cat. Like my default is just curled up somewhere warm. Not moving. I certainly am not the kind of person that’s just going to sit here and tell you, I just love to work out like that’s not me. So I hope anybody who can relate to that, trust me what I say, it’s hard for me, too. But the more I understand about it and the more research that I read and the more I do it myself, the more I realize that. Think about when you are sitting on an airplane for a long time. Right. You end up in pain just from not moving. Do you ever end up in pain from moving too much? Like walking? No. You have to walk like 20 miles in terrible shoes or something to actually be in physical pain. Maybe your feet could hurt a little bit, but your body is actually meant to be in motion more that it is not meant to be in motion. So when you are sitting especially, everything gets so compressed as far as your muscles and your bones and your ligaments and your joints that the oxygen that happens when you’re moving between all of those things. That is also circulating to your brain. And it’s like a self fulfilling, beautiful prophecy.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:46:13] So, for example, in yoga. Right. So I go to go sometimes. Have you ever noticed that you start yawning constantly when you start stretching your hamstrings? Like in the first couple of minutes, it’s because your oxygenating them and that’s like coming up into your lungs and into your brain and everything’s starting to get this oxygen in it, which is oxygen’s life. Right? That’s what we need to live in. The same is true for when it gets into these deeper spots in your body. So movement, if you think about it, it starts the same way that hugging somebody starts a biological process that’s positive and like a domino effect. The same is true for movement. So I’ve had to keep you know, I remind myself of that when I don’t want to exercise at all. It’s the middle of January in New York. It’s freezing. All I want to do is just sit. And I remind myself that if you don’t start that biological process, you can’t get any of the benefits that come from it. And you can get a lot of the negatives of not doing it, which is, like I said, a lot of mental illness, a lot of pain.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:47:12] And so there’s an amazing book. There’s also a documentary called All the Rage. Have you heard of it? And it’s that this NYU orthopedist who is named Dr. Sarno. He recently passed away, but he wrote this book called Healing Back Pain. And it’s basically his entire hypothesis. And what he does for all of his patients is that it’s all about the mind body connection and that the pain is really just emotional trauma that’s existing in your physicality, in your body. And it’s amazing. Like they interviewed Howard Stern, Larry David. Like in the thing, because they had been healed by this doctor. And at the end of the day, one of his principles is keep moving. I don’t care how much it hurts. I don’t care if you have, you know, a torn ligament. I’m not saying go run a marathon or whatever it is, but keep moving. Because when you stop moving is when mental health derails dramatically. And so I just always think about that when I think about whether or not I should get up and move in again. Yeah. And to go run five miles.
Maria Marlowe: [00:48:17] But why not even walking? Walking is totally good. Or even just one thing that I said I was going to implement after 20 Robbins, which I don’t do consistently, but it is just simply training on your favorite song and dancing for five minutes, which it seems so silly when you’re dancing to your favorite song. It’s like screaming at the top of your lungs like you can’t help but be happy and be in a better mood.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:48:41] Definitely. Yes. Yeah. I definitely turn on Music. That I feel like dancing to and singing along. Like when I start cooking every night for dinner because it just changes everything. It’s like my body, like, oh, the workday is over. Like we’re going to enjoy, like making and then eating this delicious meal like with, you know, my husband, which is like we’re gonna connect it just like it’s so powerful how the music starts to change everything about how I’m feeling. And it makes me want to move and it just everything becomes more positive. So I think that’s a great one. I also like we’ll just get it up and do a downward dog like randomly and just kind of run through a few like sort of sun salutations or whatever they’re called.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:49:23] Also, this is a funny one because I lived in China off and on for two years, so I used to see them doing all the time, but like kind of like a squat on the ground, like taking your elbows and kind of pushing your knees opened as like a hip opener from sitting is really impacts or hips more than anything else. And your hips are kind of like the core of your whole body, right? It connects the top and the bottom. So if you can get your hips oxygenated and open, it sends oxygen and positivity through everywhere. So that’s another great one. And it just kind of funny. You literally just it’s not hard. You like you don’t score or for 30 seconds, then end up again. Yeah.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:50:02] There’s just lots of great so many so many ways to move on. I also want to ask you, you mentioned fascia a few times and that how when we have stress or emotional trauma and things, it gets stored in our fascia. So could you talk a little bit about that and then how do we get it out of there?
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:50:19] Sure. So fascia is around your muscles. It’s kind of like a layer between muscles and and bone and it’s like the connective tissue. And so basically, if you have you know, this is something that I’ve read a lot about, but I couldn’t say that I’ve seen actual research on it, so don’t quote me on it. But when you have emotional trauma, they say and this is what Dr. Sarno’s book says as well, and you know, he’s an M.D.. So I trust that there was some research done to inform his hypothesis, but it’s stored in this in this fascia and it’s very hard to get to. And so I actually see a myofascial missus because it’s really, really, really helped my back pain. And I’m sure that has a lot to do with kind of getting out stuff that I have dealt with in the past and maybe haven’t really fully released. And Sasha, you know, it’s it can be kind of painful, right, because it’s it just feels like sore muscles. But you basically try to get that open as much as you can. And sometimes just the opening of the fascia helps whatever you’re dealing with, kind of let go as well.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:51:32] So it’s kind of like a chicken and the egg, like you’ve got these emotional issues and releasing them helps to release that tension from your fascia, which then can alleviate pain. So that’s the connection between pain and emotions and stress at the same time. If you have a really, really tight tension filled Fascia and you can get a body worker or my Old-Fashioned missus, for example, or even a foam roller. Right. That helps to massage fascia to help kind of keep at it, to kind of open it up and release it. Maybe that makes your stress able to, you know, dissipate a little bit faster. Maybe that makes that emotion that you didn’t realize was affecting you so much, kind of come to the surface more and maybe you can release it easier. So it kind of goes both ways, which is really interesting and is doctors thought, oh, stress can impact pain, like if your stress. It can create pain. But they’ve never really thought like if you have structural issues and pain cannot kind of keep repressed emotions and stress in your body in a more tight grip than it would otherwise.
Maria Marlowe: [00:52:42] It’s so fascinating. And I just had Emily on from Ziva Meditation. Emily Fletcher. And she was talking about how meditation when you’re really meditating on a regular basis, your body starts dealing and processing. Some of this stress is deep rooted stress that you don’t even realize that you have and it helps to release it and it releases it in a different way than, say, exercise, because exercise. Yeah. It helps reduce stress for a lot of people. But meditation is actually even more powerful for helping people reduce stress. So it’s just it’s so interesting how all of these things are so interconnected. And even though they’re invisible. Right. Or it kind of seems strange that they’d be connected, it actually makes sense. And that’s why we really need to treat the body very holistically and not just focus on our supplements, our focus on exercise. We need like stress reduction as one of the most important things that we can do for our health.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:53:35] Yeah, I think one kind of overarching tip that I have with regard to cultivating mental wellness or positive mental health is the ability to kind of check in with yourself in a very honest way, in a routine way to see how you’re doing, what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling. And like I said, if you’ve just, you know, had a bender of a weekend or you haven’t moved in a while, like you might not feel your best. But that’s why I said regularly, because over time you can start to see patterns and being in full sort of acceptance of who you are and kind of where you are. And if things don’t feel quite right, doing something about it, because I think a lot of people go through modern life with our devices and you know that right to their phone and they wake up. I mean, I’m guilty of this sometimes, too, for sure. Then you’re late, right? So you’re running out the door and you’re or you’re rushing to start working or whatever. Then you’re just fully in that. And then you’re sort of the end of the day you’re running to, you know, whether it’s an appointment or exercise class or you’re meeting friends or whatever. And then you’re sort of like rushing to get dinner on the table and then you’re, you know, cleaning up and then you’re sort of you’re there you go, brush your teeth and then you sort of have the phone in bed and then you you’re asleep again and then rinse and repeat, rinse, repeat. And there’s very little time to actually be like, OK, it’s meh, whatever date. You know, this is my life. This is where I am right now. This is what I’m doing. This is what I’m feeling.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:55:01] Like, how does that all sound? Is that like no time for self reflection? No time. And he’s like the greatest. It’s like the canary in the coal mine. When you check in yourself and it’s a dark, scary place and tension filled and with fear and with all these other things, like it’s a pretty good indication that mental illness is perhaps in your future. Right. Like some sort of a condition. But if you can kind of see that and have that awareness and like we said, go through a sort of checklist of things that could be and then hopefully make changes. And if it persists, it’s a lot easier to fix a problem before it’s a chronic illness, like when it’s still just a little health issue or a set of symptoms. Then when you have a full diagnosis and you’ve got doctors pushing pills and all these other things or, you know, God, you think you might even need those pills, et cetera. So I think that for me is like something that is I had to really learn because it’s so much easier to reach for your phone.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:55:58] It’s so much easier to reach for a magazine or rush to your next thing or keep working or, you know, whatever it is, watch TV.
Maria Marlowe: [00:56:05] So they have to make time to self-reflect. Yes.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:56:09] It’s, you know, right before bed. But when you wake up to kind of like, you know, and I’ve had friends say to me, like, I don’t want to go in there. That’s terrifying in there. But you have to do it for longer if you think it’s terrifying and that, you know, it’s like that quote, like if you don’t have five minutes to meditate, then you should meditate for 20 minutes. Like. Right. The more you think I can’t do that is the more you need it.
Maria Marlowe: [00:56:35] So this brings us to my favorite and last question that I asked. Everyone said maybe it’s the same as you just said or maybe it’s something different. But if there’s just one tip or piece of advice that you can leave our listeners with to live a happier and healthier life, what would that be?
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:56:52] Well, I think what I just mentioned is kind of part of it. I think that’s the easy way to see that things are either going in a great direction or not. And right the ship before it’s any kind of a chronic health issue or disease. But I would say being empowered in your own life and in your own health is kind of the only way that you can make the changes that you need to make to make it happier and healthier and also to get people around you who are going to be really great partners in that endeavor. If things should be going in a direction that you don’t like. So if you kind of give away your power to other people and just assume that things are gonna be fine, whether it’s the food system, the health care system, you know, the consumer product system, what you’ll find is no one’s looking out for you but you.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:57:42] And so you really have to understand everything that you’re putting in your mouth and understand everything that you’re putting on your body and every single provider that you might see and test, they might not be doing and should be or procedures you might not need that they’re pushing or, you know, like your fiance, an antibiotic that might lead to other things that they maybe shouldn’t be taking or don’t need. All of that comes back to this idea of being like your you’re going to take the control. And I think part of that is that self reflection. So when you’re standing up for yourself and doing what your body needs you to do, and it’s because you’ve had some time to check in with it and see not only physically what it might need, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually how we do it. You know do I need to go for a walk right now? Do I need to eat more healthy fats? Do I need to hang out with some people who love me or whatever it might be and not kind of going blindly through any process?
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:58:36] I think when you get on autopilot, I always go back to the healthcare system because that’s my greatest mission as far as what I’m trying to change with WellBe, but also because it’s been some of my largest regrets with what happened with my mom. I’ll relate to not taking enough control and not having enough confidence in my own abilities to research and stand up for her and the other things like that to save her life. So if you think about it like that, that things can go, you know, in a bad direction, and the best way for you to keep them happy and healthy is to really stay empowered and stay confident in your own ability to change your life in whatever way needs to be changed if you know, if it’s not going well and also to accept what’s going well. You know, you don’t always need to be doing more. Like, if you’re feeling great and you’re happy and you’re healthy, you like honor that and be excited about that because there’s so many people in the world that don’t feel that way.
Maria Marlowe: [00:59:29] And we need to celebrate that. Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you so much. Adrienne for being here. Feeling very inspired. You guys should definitely check out Adrienne’s site. It’s getwellbe.com. She interviews all different experts from all different areas of healthcare. It’s super interesting. And she also has a podcast as well. You can also find her on Instagram that @getwellbe. Well, thank you so much, Adrienne.
Adrienne Nolan-Smith: [00:59:55] Thank you so much for having me. Maria, you’ve been great today. I really enjoyed it.