Optimize Your Immune System


Optimize Your Immune System

You probably only think about your immune system when you’re sick…but if you want to prevent getting sick in the first place, it pays to think about and actively support your immune system all year long. In this episode, Dr. Heather Moday explains how to support your immune system and reduce your risk of illness.

What she says will probably surprise you…some of the most important things you can do for your immune system have nothing to do with food or vitamins.
Dr. Heather Moday

Dr. Heather Moday

Functional Medicine Specialist

Dr. Heather Moday is a board-certified allergist and immunologist, as well as an integrative and functional medicine physician. She is part of the Mindbodygreen “Collective”—the wellness website’s curated group of top 50 experts in the wellness space. Through her practice, The Moday Center, she works to empower people to reclaim their health through comprehensive lifestyle programs, which focus on reversing chronic disease, as well as creating optimum wellness. Dr. Moday is the author of "The Immunotype Breakthrough: Your Personalized Plan to Balance Your Immune System, Optimize Health, and Build Livelong Resilience"


Maria Marlowe: [00:00:05] Welcome back to the Glow Life. I’m your host, Maria Marlowe. On today’s episode, we’re talking all about how to support your immune system with Dr. Heather Moday. Our immune system is constantly protecting us from threats from bacteria, viruses, microbes that we’re coming into contact with all of the time. However, I feel like most of us forget about our immune system until we get sick. And of course, when we’re sick, it’s important to support the immune system. But it’s also important to support your immune system before you get sick and to hopefully prevent you from getting sick.

Maria Marlowe: [00:00:47] So in this episode, we’re talking all things immunity with Dr. Moday. She recently wrote a book called The Immunotype Breakthrough: Your Personalized Plan to Balance your Immune System, Optimize Health, and Build Lifelong Resilience. She is a board-certified allergist and immunologist, as well as an integrative and functional medicine physician. Exciting news: The Glow Life Podcast is now available on Amazon Music and Audible. You can even say, Hey Alexa, play the Glow Life with Maria Marlowe.

Maria Marlowe: [00:01:25] Dr. Moday, thanks for coming on the show.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:01:28] Thank you, Maria.

Maria Marlowe: [00:01:29] So your recently published book is all about immunotypes. What exactly is an immunotype?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:01:38] So an immunotype is really how I started seeing almost like the personalities of different immune systems. So, you know, as a functional medicine doctor, I see a lot of people who come in with all sorts of different chronic issues, but they sort of, there was a pattern of people coming in with either autoimmune issues. A lot of people would have allergies. Of course, lots of people are inflamed and lots of different sort of disease states. And, after learning a little bit more about what sort of creates inflammation, what creates an autoimmune disease, there’s actually a lot of things at the cellular level, at really at the immune cell level that create these patterns.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:02:24] So I created this idea of an immune type to maybe help people have more specific treatments or things that they could do on their own to bring their immune system back into a balance. You know, the term that I would always hear was you want to boost your immune system, which is, you know, important in certain cases. But for some people, it’s not really about making their immune system stronger, it’s sort of redirecting it or balancing it.

Maria Marlowe: [00:02:53] Interesting. And so so what are the different immunotypes?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:02:57] So we have smoldering. Weak. Basically people who maybe don’t have as active an immune response and maybe do get sick more frequently from infections, et cetera. The misguided immunotype, which is generally people who have some sort of autoimmune activity going on in their body. And then hyperactive, which is people who are responding to things that maybe aren’t helpful. And having more of the allergic-type reaction reacting to things outside of the body. So those are the four.

Maria Marlowe: [00:03:30] And then how would you… I mean, I guess you mentioned, one of them, you’re more prone to autoimmune conditions, but how would you figure out your immunotype?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:03:40] So I created a quiz or quizzes, four quizzes that people can take in the book that ask them about symptoms and also about maybe diagnoses that they have. And when they add up the scores, they’ll see that there’s usually one that’s predominant. People may have aspects of two, usually not three, but usually two that would be maybe more dominant. And the idea is that, yes, we’re not black and white, right? We can have a little bit of both, but you can sort of work to balance your most dominant immunotype first. So you know it is possible to have a smoldering immunotype and let’s just say, hyperactive. So you can have a lot of allergies and you can also have inflammatory disorders, too. But you can start working on one and oftentimes, the other one will also benefit, too. Because a lot of the concepts, even though there are specific ones for each type, a lot of the concepts are really good for everyone, too.

Maria Marlowe: [00:04:38] It’s like healthy food, right? There’s healthy foods for certain conditions, but if it’s healthy for one condition, it’s probably healthy for a variety of conditions.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:04:47] Right. And so much of our imbalance in our immune system, for the most part, comes from chronic inflammation. And so most people, whether they’re smoldering or misguided or hyperactive, they’re going to benefit by ramping down inflammation. The weak immunotype is maybe the only one that you don’t want to be too aggressive with that because they actually need a more vigorous immune response.

Maria Marlowe: [00:05:14] Interesting. So what are some of the things perhaps across the board or maybe if there’s anything in particular for each immunotype? What are just a couple of top-level things that can be helpful for supporting our immune system? Because I know now, COVID times, this is really top of mind for everybody.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:05:30] Yeah. And so, you know, there’s a lot of things that we can do just on a basic lifestyle level. And one of the reasons I wrote this book is, we hear a lot of things like, oh, you know, eat healthy, exercise, sleep well, whatever. But I really wanted to dig in to a lot of these major lifestyle attributes and show people, No, really, we have done research. There are scientists that have done research looking at what happens to your immune system when you don’t sleep. Right? Because I think it brings the message home more like, Oh my God, I didn’t realize that when I slept, my immune system was so active. That’s a really, really, really important time.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:06:14] So I would say, obviously sleep, very top level. We know that even especially in the early part of the evening, so people who are like real night owls and stay up past like one o’clock in the morning, they’re really shortchanging themselves. Because one of our best times for immune activity is before midnight or before one a.m. or so. Because we have very high melatonin levels at that time and very low cortisol levels. So those hormones, which are directed by light, like dark and light cycles, those circadian rhythm hormones are very active in directing what our immune cells are doing.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:06:49] And so we know that when we get a lot of deep sleep, those cycles that occur earlier in the evening. We have a lot, we have a very vigorous immune response going on. So we’re making all sorts of antibodies and we’re doing a lot of repair to the brain. So that’s definitely number one. I talk a lot about stress and how it doesn’t mean that we can get rid of stress. I mean, we all have stress, but by doing things like meditation, we can actually improve our immune response. And we also know that excess chronic stress causes a poorer immune response in terms of antibody production. It can weaken certain cells like natural killer cells, which are one of our main cells that troll for cancer. So those are two major ones.

Maria Marlowe: [00:07:35] Yeah, I know. You know, I feel like food or supplements are kind of the go tos for a lot of people because it seems very tangible and just easy, like, let me pick this up and do it. But it’s interesting, right? It’s really our habits, our stress response, and our sleep, which are things that we’re doing every day that’s really setting up our immune system for success, or maybe not so much success.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:08:01] And I mean, nutrition obviously is super… I wrote an entire chapter on nutrition in terms of how certain things that we eat can be really, really helpful in balancing an immune response or so, you know, if you’re sleeping really well and you feel like you’re managing your stress really well, yes, there’s a lot of things that you can do with food, specific foods that can be really helpful. So you don’t have to necessarily take supplements. I mean, there are some supplements that can be really helpful. But I would say, start with food.

Maria Marlowe: [00:08:35] And was there anything really surprising that maybe you didn’t even think of or people wouldn’t ordinarily think of in terms of supporting the immune system beyond the sleep and stress?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:08:47] So one thing that I found really interesting was, in terms of gut bacteria or our gut immune response, many people don’t they don’t know what’s going on in their digestive tract because they may not suffer from things like IBS or some sort of acid reflux. And so they may think, hey, actually, my gut is really fine. But what we know is that a lot of skin issues, let’s just say autoimmune issues, they can stem from problems with either leaky gut or excess inflammation that occurs in the gut. But it’s going to show up somewhere else. It’s going to show up in the joints, it’s going to show up in the skin. And you don’t have to necessarily get a test, a stool test, although that can be really helpful. But you can do things like even just adding in fiber and fermented foods. You can do a tremendous service for your immune system just by doing those things.

Maria Marlowe: [00:09:53] I love both of those things, fiber-rich foods, fermented foods. And so these are all things that we can be doing before, let’s say before someone gets sick to really make sure that our immune system is in a really good place and potentially prevents the illness. But let’s say you get sick. Let’s even just use COVID as an example. Once you’re sick, then what should we be thinking about? Is there anything in addition to kind of the things that you just mentioned that should be top of mind?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:10:25] So it’s interesting because there is sort of a functional medicine approach to COVID that I did not create but when they’ve actually looked at certain levels of vitamins and can they really help even in the acute stages of something like COVID, or really any respite, any viral disorder? And these are the things that people often do hear about, but they have looked at this now. I would say number one, of course, is vitamin D, vitamin C, and zinc. So those are three really important nutrients that you can optimize and can be really helpful in sort of improving… This is where you do want to boost an immune response, right?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:11:10] Vitamin C, because it’s an antioxidant, really important. Vitamin D as well. Zinc, because it does strengthen our antibody response. And there’s also been a lot of talk about another not as well-known antioxidant and master regulator called glutathione. Now, glutathione is expensive, it’s not something everybody has access to, but you can take the precursor to it, which is called NAC, N-acetylcysteine. And although it’s gotten very popular lately, it can be sort of hard to find, but that’s actually been shown to be really helpful, too. It’s very protective in the lungs. There’s been studies showing that they’re looking at giving this to people who are in the ICU with COVID. So these are not curative. I’m not saying that these are curative. I don’t want people to think that. Prevention is key, but they can be helpful.

Maria Marlowe: [00:12:01] Yeah, I’ve been hearing a lot about NAC now, I imagine because of this, because of COVID. And so I think it’s just like helping to fortify the body and helping the body do its job.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:12:13] Yeah, exactly. I mean, we don’t know when we get sick, what’s going to happen, right? Because we have a microscope into our immune system. But, you know, we know that this can help people. We know that there’s research showing this. And so there’s not really a downside to using it. I would never say that you should do this in lieu of getting other care or not getting a vaccine or anything. But there is some pretty good data showing it can be helpful.

Maria Marlowe: [00:12:43] And what are your thoughts on vitamin drips? Because I’ve been hearing also, that’s kind of become more popular, even doing NAC in vitamin drips. What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:12:54] So I mean, I have nothing against using intravenous vitamin C or something like that, and that’s been around for a long time. You can really flush the body with vitamins more readily if you’re taking them IV. And glutathione has been used in certain diseases, but it’s very expensive. First of all, and unless there’s a problem with absorption through your stomach or intestine, you’re better off just taking it orally. Because a vitamin C drip can cost you a hundred dollars or so. And you know you can get a bottle of vitamin C for ten dollars that you can use for a month, right? So I think that if you’re acutely ill, getting a vitamin drip is a fine thing to do. I don’t think we have a lot of data showing, though, that it’s any more beneficial than just taking it orally. But you know, if it makes you feel better, there’s no harm…

Maria Marlowe: [00:13:43] …just taking it orally.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:13:45] Yea, just taking it orally. But you know, if it makes you feel better, there’s no harm.

Maria Marlowe: [00:13:49] So the immune system is quite complex. Can you just shed a little light on exactly how it works?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:13:58] And so it is very complex, and I did not set out to make this a textbook, and I’m not qualified to write a textbook on immunology. But you know, the immune system can be sort of broken down into two aspects, and that’s our innate immunity or immune system and our adaptive. They do cross over. So certain cells obviously play a role in both. But, you know, most people can understand the concept that we have this, we have certain parts of our innate immune system that just recognize something as being harmful, but maybe don’t know specifically what to do with it. They just know this is bad.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:14:36] So for example, let’s just say we inhale a bacteria. We have a bunch of cells that are called phagocytes. So there’s part of this innate immune system that they sort of go around the body and they see things that are foreign and they gobble them up. They destroy them or they, you know. So that sort of our innate immune system, these cells, and they get rid of them, they create some inflammation and things go away. However, some of these cells can also communicate with our innate immune system, which is a little bit more specialized. I call them this sort of specialized operations. So they can actually take a piece, let’s just say of that bacteria, take it to present it to some of our what are called T-cells. They’re very, very, very important part of our immune system. There’s different types of them, but the T cell will say, Oh, I know exactly what this is, and I know exactly the kind of immune response we need to create.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:15:32] And so it can actually clone other.. It can make other T-cells that are specific to that bacteria. It can tell other cells, called B-cells, to make antibodies specific to that bacteria. So this is a more specialized nuance, what we call adaptive immune response that also creates a memory. And so you can have memory T-cells, you can have memory B-cells and you can have antibodies that when that thing comes back again, they can just bring those cells back and say, okay, we’re ready. So it’s pretty cool. So that’s sort of like the two arms. And then they communicate with this fascinating repertoire of chemicals, chemical messengers, and those are called cytokines. And a lot of people have heard about those. There’s many of them, probably a hundred or more, and we don’t need to know about that, too much more than. There’s a few that I mentioned in the book but that gets in the real nitty-gritty.

Maria Marlowe: [00:16:29] No, it’s fascinating stuff and it’s just fascinating how intricate our body is and how everything kind of works together. There’s so many moving parts. It’s really, really fascinating. So how did things like toxins and parasites, how do they affect the immune system?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:16:47] A little bit differently, right? So we are exposed to, all day long, sort of infectious agents. If we really thought about the viral particles and the things that we picked up from the ground and bacteria, we probably get really grossed out. You’ve seen those pictures and they’re like, what’s on the door handle, right?

Maria Marlowe: [00:17:09] Or the subway handle?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:17:11] Uhhh, right? You know, we’d all become major germophobes. But our immune system is there to protect us. And so its job is really to recognize things that could be dangerous and then to quietly get rid of them or create an immune response that we don’t necessarily feel in the body and make things go away. Now sometimes we do feel it like when we actually do get more infected. So, for example, when you get a cold, you feel you feel achy, you might have a fever. That’s our immune system working. Same thing is if you cut yourself, you have… Or if you have a surgery. Things are swollen and red and, you know, hot, and that’s inflammation doing its job. So, that’s great.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:17:54] But it all should resolve and go away. We should all go back to sort of a normal baseline after our immune system has created this inflammation and done the job. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen for everybody. The same thing with toxins too. Toxins, although they don’t infect us, they activate immune responses depending on the toxin. So we can have immune responses to heavy metals, to organic compounds that are found in pesticides, to things that are in our makeup. So I think that people don’t know a lot about that around toxins because there’s not a lot of data. And I think part of it is because we use toxins all the time.  They’re in a lot of our products. But I think we’re starting to really learn that our immune system has negative responses to toxins and we really need to look at that and we really need to clean up our environment for sure.

Maria Marlowe: [00:18:49] Oh, my goodness. So many things I want to ask you now. Well, talking of the fever. So fever is one way that our body fights off pathogens. It raises the temperature to try and kill off whatever pathogens might be in there. So I had to read something a few years ago that was talking about how when you get a fever, you should actually let the fever run its course as long as it’s not getting too high because your body is actually trying to kill the thing that’s making you sick. And if you lower the temperature you could be prolonging the illness because you’re taking away your body’s defense mechanism there. So can you speak to that?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:19:27] Absolutely. I mean I think that is true. It’s not exactly the same, but this is one of the reasons also that sauna seems to help. I mean, sauna does a lot of things. It helps us sweat and detoxify. But there are some studies looking at sauna and decreased infection with things like influenza virus or flu virus. And it probably is because it’s heating up our body temperature. Most saunas are starting at one hundred and thirty or so degrees. And so that’s one thing to think about. And we don’t want, like you said, your fever to get too high. That can be dangerous. And that’s like with children that are getting fevers up to one hundred and four hundred, a hundred and five, you do want to bring those down because they seem to be damaging. But if you have a fever of one hundred and one, you can sort of just let it…

Maria Marlowe: [00:20:15] You can sweat it out.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:20:16] Let it do its thing and sweat it out, because it is true, it does help. Whether or not it prolongs the issue I don’t know if there’s actually been any real data looking at that, but conceptually, yes. But fevers are uncomfortable, so people want to get rid of them, you know?

Maria Marlowe: [00:20:34] And what’s also interesting again, because COVID is top of mind now. There are very different responses to it. Some people obviously have terrible symptoms. Some people have very mild symptoms. Some people have no symptoms. So in terms of the immunotypes, I guess where would you kind of put each of those people and then if you don’t have symptoms, is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Is your body not responding? Can you just unpack that a little bit?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:21:05] Sure. So, you know, part of that may be genetics. So we do know that they did some interesting studies, and I don’t know if this is really panned out, but looking at blood types and how certain blood types maybe because of things like clotting, they have a tendency to get more side effects for severe disease. But also we know that there are huge risks, so people who have more smoldering immunotype or people who are more inflamed don’t do as well because they’re already so inflamed to begin with. So their immune system is a little sort of busy putting out other fires but also because some of their organs may be compromised by their diseases.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:21:51] So, for example, let’s just say you already have heart disease, we know that SARS-CoV-2 attacks heart muscle. We know what it attacks, actually, a lot of different organs, not just the lungs. But let’s just say you have heart disease or you have diabetes or lung disease already, when a virus attacks those tissues, you’re going to be compromised. Same thing with obesity. There’s just a recent study that was written about in the New York Times that I think the research hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, but they’ve shown that SARS-CoV-2 hides out in fat cells and that that may be one of the reasons why people with obesity independent of any other heart, lung issues might not do as well because the virus can hang out there.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:22:41] The fat cells actually create a lot of those inflammatory cytokines trying to clear it out, and those cytokines can then be damaging to the body if they’re in excess. So there’s different reasons why people might not do as well in terms of whether or not people actually get sick, that’s a little bit less known. Part of that again might be due to age. We know that younger people tend to have a more vigorous response than the elderly, and maybe they’re just more efficient at getting rid of it. So that might be part of it, too. But you know, part of it may be that the people that aren’t getting so sick, really just are healthier, they’re doing a lot of the things that I write about in the book.

Maria Marlowe: [00:23:20] Yeah. It’s I mean, it’s been such a whirlwind these past few years. But the great thing is that we have we’ve had time now. I feel like to get our sleep in order, get our stress in order. And if you haven’t done that already, let this be the reminder to focus on those things.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:23:39] Yeah.

Maria Marlowe: [00:23:39] What about things like breathwork, meditation? I would imagine that’s helpful for reducing stress and keeping the immune system strong.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:23:48] Absolutely. So the thing about stress and I wanted to really unpack a little bit about our stress response because I think people feel guilty a little bit about the fact that they have stress in their lives. And, you know, that’s not the case. I mean, we all have stress in our lives, and some people may be more so than others. Maybe people are under financial stress or they lost their job or someone’s sick in their family, that might be accelerated. And so you want to do as much as you can to decrease your stress exposure. And there are definitely… We all probably have done this, but we’ve gotten ourselves into situations that, Maybe we’re overworking or maybe we’re in a toxic relationship.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:24:31] There are ways that we can actually get out of stress. But if we can’t, then those things that you just mentioned, meditation, I’m a big fan of doing breathwork. I talk about the four, seven, eight breaths. Really, anything. Tapping. Anything to sort of retrain how your body responds when a stressful situation comes up. Because really, it’s our response to the stress and not necessarily the stress itself that is driving the hormones, which then can sort of say, I don’t want to say dismantle, but throw us off when it comes to our immune system. I want people to understand that you can do a lot. You really can.

Maria Marlowe: [00:25:18] I’m curious, have you done any research or have any thoughts on cold therapy? Doing the ice bath or cold showers?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:25:27] More of really how it increases something called autophagy, which I do mention. Autophagy is, I liken it to sort of like a recycling of our cells. Those cold plunges can actually increase that cellular turnover, and that can be really helpful in maintaining a streamlined and resilient immune response because we have autophagy in all of our cells. But if you think about it, our immune cells go through that, too. So cold plunges can be really, really helpful for a lot of different reasons, and that’s one of them when it comes to immunity.

Maria Marlowe: [00:26:08] It’s so interesting. I started doing them a couple of years ago, actually. I guess since COVID started, because before that, I’m like, I hate the cold. I can’t even go in like a cold pool or the cold ocean. I’d rather skip it, but I said, let me do it. I did a breathwork class that had the cold plunge and I did it. And I’m sure there are physical benefits like you talked about. But for me, the most impactful thing was that I could control my thoughts. And I felt so fearless afterward. I was like, Oh my God if I can sit in this bath for two minutes, I am unstoppable. I can do anything.

Maria Marlowe: [00:26:48] And I noticed that afterward, in the weeks afterward, even till today, I handle my stress so much better. I’m so much more calm because when you’re in the cold, obviously you’re freezing and you’re kind of just reassuring yourself you’re OK and trying to just stay calm when it’s a time where you want to jump out. But if you can train yourself to stay calm under stress, oh my God, you can do anything. You really feel unstoppable.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:27:21] And that’s a great example of being able to sort of control your body’s response. So, similarly, people like long-time meditators, so when you talk about these monks, Buddhist Tibetan monks who are able to get… This comes after obviously years of practice, but they’re able to control their bodily functions so they can lower their blood pressure. They can lower their heart rates to really low levels just by getting into a meditative state. And not that, we’re going to become Tibetan Buddhist monks, but you know, you can do even a daily, 15-minute meditation and can be really helpful.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:28:04] And then, even therapy and doing cognitive behavioral therapy, I talk about it a little bit. Being able to change your thoughts, being able to question when something comes up that’s very upsetting to you is actually thinking, is that true? Is that thought really based in reality? And when you go, oh, actually, no, it’s not. Someone looks at you on the street and they’re frowning and you think, oh, that person hates me or whatever. You can question that and say, is that really true? And it’s not. Maybe they’re just they’re having a bad day and has absolutely nothing to do with me. And that actually changes then how your body feels. And that can, of course, change your stress hormones.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:28:48] So really, you’re describing that you became really sort of present and very mindful in this practice of the cold plunge. And then that’s carried over to now. When a stressor comes up, you’re like, oh, I can handle this because I can do anything, right?

Maria Marlowe: [00:29:05] The mind is a funny thing, but it’s also a very powerful thing, and it’s just amazing once you realize the control that you have with your thoughts. I think we kind of think things just happen or we feel a certain way. We kind of think those are… our thoughts are real. But then you realize, no, they’re not and you’re in control of your thoughts. They’re not just coming. You know that you actually can control them and you can change them, which is absolutely mind-blowing.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:29:38] I know. It’s so simple. It’s such a simple concept, but most of us, we get ruled by our monkey brain. We just let it have free rein. And you know, and all of a sudden, we’re like thinking things that are completely not based in reality, and it’s making us feel horrible and that’s changing our stress response and our hormones. And then that changes our immune system.

Maria Marlowe: [00:30:00] It’s nuts and it’s crazy how…I remember many years ago when I would get really stressed, I would get this weird… My eye would swell and get crusty. I’d get this weird thing. And I noticed it would happen if I had a really stressful event and I was crying or something, the next day it would be there. And at first, I thought it was random. And then I realized, oh, this happens after a breakup or after a very stressful event. So the three times or so that it happened, I was like, Oh, I pinpointed it and said, okay, this is definitely related. And then I, really worked very heavily on managing my stress and getting that under control, and it has not happened since. So the stress piece is so, so important and it’s not something to be overlooked.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:30:54] Absolutely, and I see this all the time in my patients who have autoimmune disease or chronic gut issues, even something like IBS or just disordered gut movement, right? We all know, I mean, it’s sort of like… We know that sometimes when you get really stressed out or really nervous, what happens? Your GI tract decides to hijack you, right? You either get constipation or diarrhea or maybe you just get nauseous. That’s our stress hormones changing how our GI tract moves. But we also know that with people who have autoimmune disease, sometimes their symptoms might flare after they’re under a period of stress.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:31:35] But when I see it all the time is stress is the thing that finally brings it out. That they go through a very stressful event. They lose someone they love or they go through a bad breakup or they hate their job for years and they have a toxic boss. And all of a sudden they get sick, right? Several months later. And we know through research looking at, you know, childhood adverse events and trauma, even military history, that this can bring out an autoimmune disease later on in life. So it is really important to take your stress response very, very seriously.

Maria Marlowe: [00:32:15] Yeah, the trauma piece is quite interesting. I actually had another doctor on here who was talking about autoimmune disease and then the trauma piece of it, which is quite interesting. So I’m curious, are there any practices or anything in terms of the trauma that you think might be helpful?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:32:34] So, you can heal right from autoimmunity. You can you can heal. I think the therapy piece, so cognitive-behavioral therapy or doing, of course, I’m not a specialist in this, but, doing things like EMDR, that kind of thing can be helpful. There are programs that work with sort of retraining your vagus nerve and your, what’s called your parasympathetic response. So when you have a stress response and you get in that fight or flight mode, that is what’s called your sympathetic autonomic nervous response. It’s automatic, right? But that is what sends our stress hormones soaring, our adrenaline, et cetera.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:33:24] The parasympathetic response is the opposite. It’s sort of more soothing. It sort of shuts things down. It helps us digest. It helps us sleep and relax. But a lot of us get in sort of the state of where we’re in that fight or flight all the time and it starts to sort of unravel. And, working with a therapist or working with people that can help you sort of improve that parasympathetic response can be really helpful too, over time and very healing. And there are different programs out there for doing that.

Maria Marlowe: [00:34:00] So you mentioned something that I want to kind of call out because I feel like autoimmune disease is really on the rise. It’s very prevalent. I think we all know so many people that have it. You said you could heal autoimmune. So I think traditionally that thought has in conventional medicine has been, oh, if you have autoimmune, you have it for the rest of your life. There’s really not much that you can do. So can you, first of all, explain what an autoimmune condition is like, what exactly is happening, and then talk about, how do we heal it?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:34:39] So that’s going to be very specific based on where someone is, obviously what kind of disease, how long they’ve had it, et cetera. Because I also don’t want to be the person who goes around saying, oh, everyone should be able to cure their autoimmune disease. That is not true because it really depends, of course, on severity and that kind of thing. And I’m not against people using medications. They can be very lifesaving, obviously, and managing of the symptoms. But the idea that you cannot change your immune response and you cannot improve autoimmunity or even reverse it is definitely not true because I’ve seen it so specifically with autoimmune disease. And it obviously changes from disease to disease.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:35:28] But the premise is that we get into a immune response that is directed and destructive against our own tissue. And there’s many, there’s 100 plus autoimmune diseases. So just to say rheumatoid arthritis. It’s attacking mostly joint tissues but can attack the skin. Obviously, if you have something like multiple sclerosis, you’re attacking the myelin sheath, the white matter of your brain and your spinal cord. So they’re very different tissues. But the idea is that there are destructive antibodies that are made against the tissue and often destructive what are called T-cells against those tissues. So, looking at what may be caused that so you can do things like if you have a massive amount of stress in your life when you’re not managing it, you can start with that.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:36:18] If you have tremendous leaky gut problems, you can address that. If you’re exposed to a lot of toxins in your life, you can remove that. Because those are going to continue to be triggers for you. So in functional medicine, we’d like to call those mediators. So there’s antecedents which might have happened in the past and there’s mediators that are still going on. So you can remove those and you might find that many symptoms go away. There’s less flare-ups. People may need less medication. These are all really wonderful things. Maybe the biomarkers start to go down, and I have seen this with many clients.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:36:57] But then you can really get specific and actually get testing done and say, what is going on in my gut? Am I eating foods that are causing this to flare? Do I have nutrient problems? Do I have an infection? Am I harboring something that is constantly triggering me? So you can get very specific with autoimmune disease? And I’m a big advocate of people with autoimmune disease advocating for themselves and finding someone to work with because you shouldn’t take that no for an answer. You should not have to listen to a doctor saying you have no other course than to do what I’m telling you to do.

Maria Marlowe: [00:37:36] I think that’s really important and I’m so glad you said that because sometimes I think people lose hope and they feel this is just the cards that I’ve been dealt. And there’s nothing that I can do about it. Because that kind of was the notion, maybe in previous years, but it’s absolutely not true. And there’s plenty of cases of, like you said, even with your own patients, having significant improvements. So it’s really important to also keep that hope and then find that practitioner who will help you figure out exactly what you need to do.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:38:08] And, you know, and we’re out there. And I always say that. I mean, I think that I mean, I’m conventionally trained at my background. So I grew up in the halls of conventional medicine and it has tremendous value. I mean, that’s how I learned so much. But there’s definitely holes. There’s, you know, there’s not a lot of curiosity and creativity in medicine anymore. And I think that the power of the human body’s ability to heal has been pushed out of the way in preference of using extremely strong drugs. And I don’t think it’s an either-or. I think that you need to sort of look at both and say, wow, you know, we’ve got some powerful drugs that we could use, but we also need to work on other systems.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:38:59] You need to look at what you’re doing in your life and how can you do a lot of your own healing. I think when you add those two things together, it’s very, very powerful. And I don’t understand sometimes why certain doctors feel very threatened by a patient who says, I want to try this, this or this. If it’s not harmful and they’re not being boondoggled into some expensive alternative therapy, there’s nothing alternative about sleeping and managing your stress and eating well. That is not alternative, right? It’s just common sense.

Maria Marlowe: [00:39:37] And I think that we’ve kind of forgotten that our body wants to heal. Our body is always sort of moving. When you get a cut, it heals right when you get a bruise, right? It also heals. And it’s like our body is constantly trying to move us in that direction of good health. We just kind of have to get out of our own way sometimes and stop bombarding our body with the things that are impairing our immune system, impairing our body, and giving it more of the good stuff that’s going to support it.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:40:08] Exactly. I want people to feel empowered that their body can do amazing things. And, as long as they treat it well, you can really, really do a lot without having to take a lot of medications. But there’s nothing wrong with taking medications when you need to.

Maria Marlowe: [00:40:28] But important to remember, the body is resilient. Very resilient. So are there any things that you do day to day, or any routines or anything that you try to add into your day to make sure that you’re really supporting your immune system?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:40:44] Yes, I do. Now it’s funny because of course, as a functional medicine doctor, I’m reading all this stuff all the time and studying. And so, I do take quite a few supplements, but I would say my diet is… I really try to focus on getting really good things in my diet. I’m not a person who is super restrictive. For one thing, I don’t eat a lot of sugar. I do remove that and I don’t eat things like industrial seed oils, fried foods. I really try to limit any of that. Can be hard when you go out to dinner, but you can make good choices. Snack food, fast food, anything like that. And I really try to eat a lot of vegetables and fruits that have a lot of polyphenols in it. I try to eat sort of superfoods, lots of cruciferous vegetables and I will add things like green tea. I try to get turmeric now.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:41:40] Some things I will supplement with. So obviously I stay inside a lot during the winter and we don’t get a lot of vitamin D from the Sun. So I do take vitamin D. I take extra vitamin C. I do take probiotics and I try as much as I can to eat fermented foods. I’m not a huge fan of sauerkraut, but I really try to find other options. I try to eat a lot of fiber, so I would say I concentrate a lot on my nutrition and trying to get many different nutrients through that. And then I am pretty religious about my sleep, and it can be a little hard because women, when they get older, when they’re approaching their forties and fifties, sometimes our sleep gets a little not as great as it used to be when I was in my twenties, right? So I’m pretty disciplined about sleep, getting to bed early, trying to really hit the eight hours limiting that screen time and blue light exposure. So those are big things that I do.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:42:39] And then movement, I mean, I think just getting outside in nature and really trying to prioritize getting away from technology because I think that that is very healing too. And so, that’s something I try to do as much as I can.

Maria Marlowe: [00:42:53] Well, thank you. This has been so, so informative. And if you guys want to learn more about the book, you can check out the Immunotype Breakthrough: Your Personalized Plan to Balance Your Immune System, Optimize Health & Build Lifelong Resilience. And where else can people find you?

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:43:13] So the best place to find me is on Instagram. I tend to be most active there. We do have a Facebook page as well for my practice, but that’s usually where I am most of the time.

Maria Marlowe: [00:43:23] And because people are always looking for functional medicine doctors, so do you practice nationwide or in certain states

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:43:32] So I practice in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Virginia. We do have programs that are run by my nutritionist that people can do regardless of where they live and a lot of the same tests. So that’s always an option. And we hope to be rolling out some other sort of group courses soon. So that would also be an option for people who maybe couldn’t commit to working one on one or couldn’t because of where they live.

Maria Marlowe: [00:44:01] So got it. Well, thank you so much, and I will put the links to your book and to your website and all the social media links in the show notes.

Dr. Heather Moday: [00:44:11] Great. Thanks, Maria. This was really awesome. Thanks for having me on.

Maria Marlowe: [00:44:16] Thanks for listening to the Glow Life. If you have questions, comments or topic ideas, head over to Instagram @mariamarlowe and drop me a line. If you enjoy the show and think others might too, please share this episode and take just one minute to leave a review on iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify or whatever platform you listen on. Your review truly helps the podcast grow, reach more people and bring on incredible guests. As a thank you, send a screenshot of the review to [email protected], and you’ll get a free copy of Glow From Within, a three-day reset plan to nourish your body, calm your mind and ignite your soul. It comes with a delicious three-day meal plan to help you bring out your inner glow. P.s. You can listen to the podcast on iTunes, Amazon Music, Audible, Spotify, and even watch the video interviews on YouTube.

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