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April 8, 2019

Mariza Snyder on essential oils and hormones

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As we age, managing our hormones becomes more and more important and essential oils might just be a part of the solution. Our guest today is Dr. Mariza Snyder the author of the book, The Essential Oils Hormone Solution.

Allan (1:15): Dr. Snyder, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (1:19): Thank you so much for having me. How are you?

Allan (1:21): I’m doing very well. When your publicist Jimmy reached out to me any had the book, The Essential Oils Hormone Solution, I did a little bit of a double take. I was like, “Hmm, essential oils and hormones.” I want to have more conversations about hormones, because they are such an important aspect to overall wellness. If you don’t have your hormones in balance, you just aren’t going to be well. But I’d never really heard anybody talking about using the essential oils protocols or anything like that to affect hormones. I was really interested to dive into this book and get a better understanding of how essential oils can be used to help manage our hormones.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (2:03): Absolutely. I’m super excited to talk about that today and give some clarity around that topic.

Allan (2:09): The reason that this topic is so important to me is, as we get into our 50s and 60s, a lot of things are going on with our bodies, a lot of things are slowing down. For men, your testosterone’s going down; for women, your progesterone and estrogen start to decline. And that has some fundamental changes in the way that our bodies function. Not to mention, growth hormone, lower thyroid. Everything else seems to slowly be getting out of balance from what was making us feel young and vibrant. You use a term in the book, and I’ve heard this phraseology maybe not exactly this way, but I want to dive into this. You use the term “my body at war”.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (3:00): Absolutely.

Allan (3:02): Can you kind of peel the layers away from that a little bit? For someone that hasn’t experienced some of this stuff, I think it’s important for them to understand this feeling so that they recognize it. I know for men it happens kind of slowly, so I wouldn’t think of it so much as a war, as just a slow, gradual melting.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (3:25): A slow, gradual decline. I’d love to talk a little bit… When I was in practice, what I saw in practice a lot and then what I had personally experienced – as you know, we are hard wired for survival. That is the number one MO of the body. It’s how our brain functions, it’s what our metabolism is driven by. We constantly think about inside of the brain. A really important aspect of the brain, probably one of the oldest parts of the brain is the limbic brain, the limbic system. Your limbic system is driven by an autonomic response and we have two different ways that we respond. If you’re looking at it cut and dry, it’s going to be parasympathetic, which is rest, digest and reproduction. That’s really where we’re at when we are eating, we’re reproducing. Except the other MO is that not only do we have to survive, we have to survive long enough to procreate. Being evolutionary success means that we have grandchildren – that’s just how it’s defined in biological terms. So, we’ve got parasympathetic and then we’ve got sympathetic. Sympathetic nervous system can be in overdrive. We call it “sympathetic dominance”. And that is when our body is at war, if that system is constantly running on overdrive, because it’s survival. When your body is constantly running in survival mode, that’s where we kind of get in trouble. 

I always imagine a gazelle in Africa. You’ll see gazelles grazing inside of a pasture, just relaxing. They’re in parasympathetic mode; they’re just kicking it. Then someone spots a tiger lurking. Everyone gets the message, “fight or flight”, sympathetic nervous system mode kicks in and they start running like gazelles. And once they know that the danger’s gone, then they go back to grazing. Problem is that we are constantly perceiving so many of our environmental stressors as tigers behind us all the time. And when that happens, your brain and that neuroplasticity, which is driving a lot of the hormonal responses, becomes in a scenario of “my body at war”. We are in constant sympathetic nervous system mode and we drive important survival hormones like cortisol and epinephrine coursing through the system. Well, those have negative ramifications – digestive ramifications, reproductive ramifications, cognitive function ramifications. Things like even putting on weight in areas; that belly fat that we talk about. You can create a fatty liver because you’re constantly stressed. You can drive your thyroid into the ground. What I oftentimes see is that I don’t think we realize that when we fuel our life based on stress or the constant demands of everyone else’s priorities, when we’re all things to everybody else, we don’t realize that that fuel we’re running on is really lending towards chaos inside of the body.

Allan (6:25): Okay. I kind understood a little bit of that beforehand because I’ve gone and gotten massages, and the masseuse will occasionally use some oils or scents or something like that, have a diffuser in there. I’ve used some lavender to relax and sleep better. So I have used some essential oils. I like that your book actually has a lot of recipes, because I think that’s going to make it easy for folks to put together as a recipe to deal with various things. But before they go down that line: “I’m fatigued. I know I’m stressed. I know this is going on in my life”, it’s important for them to go get some hormones tested first to know which direction to go with this, right?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (7:12): Absolutely. I’m a big fan of knowing your numbers. I think that’s really, really important. We can make changes and make stride even without hormones if indeed it is stress-driven. We can disrupt this stress response and the resulting domino effect of that with natural solutions at your fingertips. But yes, I do recommend getting tested. If something else is going on, you want to know what’s going on in the body. Absolutely, it’s important. If you find that your hormone imbalances are being driven by a different root cause, like let’s say it is chronic stress – you could work on your hormones and your thyroid all you like, but if you’re not addressing the core root of the issue, which for some of us oftentimes can be the stress we’re dealing with on a day-to-day – our bodies go back to where they were. That was what was happening to me. I was trying to treat my stress with nutrition. I have a quote that says, “You can’t green smoothie your way out of chronic stress.” And I thought I could for many years. I thought I could exercise and green smoothie my way out of it, but it was my, I would call it the “operating system”. I was running on stress 24/7, and without changing the operating system, which I think oils can help to do, we find ourselves back in those patterns.

Allan (8:35): That’s a big driver to our move to Panama, is to kind of get into that lower gear lifestyle. I was corporate for so many years and the last few years with the layoffs and everything was really damaging to me. I knew that was the one last thing I needed to fix the puzzle. I’ve gone to doctors and the doctor will say, “We’ll do labs.” And then you get the labs and start trying to do, I guess a little bit of doctor Googling to figure out what this is actually telling you. You start doing some of that research and it’s like, “I just got this test, but this article is saying I really should have gotten a more broad panel.” Like, you got TSH, but you didn’t get T4, T3 and reverse T3. If someone’s going to go in and put together a panel for hormone testing, what would you recommend that they go get?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (9:34): Absolutely. Inside the book too, I do such a great job of really giving people all the testing that they should be asking for, because as you know, we really have to become our own advocate for our own health these days. There are a lot of different reasons why that’s the case. I would recommend if I were to go into my doctor… And your traditional doctor may even say “No” to these, and it’s really worth looking for a functional medicine doctor or a naturopath – someone who’s really willing to look at everything. Clearly the big one is a complete blood panel. I think everyone should be tested for thyroid. With the thyroid there’s so much that can go wrong there – toxic load, stress, adrenal deregulation. The thyroid tends to be one of those very delicate endocrine glands that just takes a beating. Any autoimmune or allergy issue, the immune system is like, “You know what? Let’s just go after the thyroid too. Why don’t we just knock that one out?” So, I always recommend running a thyroid panel. The thyroid stimulating hormone, free T3, free T4, reverse T3. I also want you looking at antibodies because if it’s hypo thyroid, 80% to 90% of the time it’s probably Hashimoto’s driven, meaning the immune system is causing the problem. So, TPOAb, then the antibodies as well, the antiglobins, so that is going to be the TgAb as well. Then I want you to look at the adrenals or at least look at cortisol levels, and that is throughout the day. So, morning before 9:00 AM, afternoon, evening, and before going to bed. That’s that diurnal cortisol test that I’m looking at. I also like total testosterone and DHEA levels. I think those are important. Progesterone, specifically on days 21 to 23 because that is when progesterone is at its height. That’s when we’ll really know what’s going on with progesterone. I also want to look at estrogen levels as well, see where they’re at. Fasting insulin, glucose, HDL, hemoglobin. I want to look at the growth factor of the growth hormone. And then also important – nutrients. I want to look at vitamin D, vitamin B12, folate, ferritin, iron. Those are things that I want to be looking at as well, because nutrient depletions can have a profound impact on what’s going on with those hormones. So those are the things I’m looking for in a real, comprehensive lab test. Unfortunately, right now a lot of traditional doctors are not running these levels of tests.

Allan (12:16): I actually have an agreement with a lab. I’ll put a link in the show notes for that. You can go and get your own tests and request what you need. And men, you’re not going to see progesterone, so that’s fine.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (12:29): You don’t need to test for that.

Allan (12:31): But you do need to check for estrogen because we can get too much estrogen and then you’ve got moobs and you’re not feeling really manly. So, you do need that. And women, it’s important for you to also test your testosterone, because women do have some and need some to have a good, solid libido. So, I like that list and that’s in your book. Just getting that list makes this book a pretty valuable resource. In the book, you go into the five pillars. Because I come from an accounting background, whenever I see a number, I’m immediately drawn to it, like, “Oh good, a list!”

Dr. Mariza Snyder (13:06): I love a list.

Allan (13:09): So, you have the five pillars of a foundational lifestyle. Do you mind going through each of those?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (13:14): Absolutely. I have, as you mentioned, five pillars, and this is what I’ve learned in practice that really moves the needle. I’m not going to lie, Allan, I feel like a lot of why we can get ourselves in trouble is lifestyle. We don’t realize the implications of lifestyle until we realize the implications of lifestyle. And usually we start to feel those things around 40 years old. I know very often when people were walking into my office, that was when they were like, “Something isn’t right.” Things start to chip away. So, number one, and this is going to be of no surprise to anybody, is nutrition. We know that nutrition is fuel, we know that nutrition is information, and our bodies are taking in that information. So you vote for what goes on and what happens in your body, the conversations and communication that goes on in the body, with every single fork. That is so important, so that’s number one. Number two is exercise, moving your body. The benefits of exercise are so far reaching, but even stress, getting your body out of that “my body at war”, reducing stress levels, supporting the cardiovascular system, helping to boost cognitive function, respiratory system, boosting mitochondrial function. Even having more receptor sites on every cell for your thyroid hormones is important and driven by movement. We are seeing those implications far and wide. Number three is stress management. Stress comes in a lot of forms. It’s perceived, it’s emotional, it’s chemical, it’s physical. But I’m really concerned with the unrelenting perceived stress that we’re dealing with every day and the repercussions that we talked about. Four Is reducing the toxic burden. Recently, in the last six months, I’ve had five friends of mine diagnosed with breast cancer or thyroid cancer under the age of 45.

Allan (15:13): We have a friend that’s going through chemo right now herself, and she’s not even 50.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (15:19): It’s insane. That’s the worst of the spectrum of what happens when toxicity or toxic burden is high in the body. But hormones can deregulate because of toxins; gut issues; even the thyroid. It’s usually a combination of things that are happening with the thyroid, and toxins do play a major role there. So looking at reducing your toxic burden. And then number five, which I think oftentimes is put to the wayside, is going to be self-care. How do we build in self-care every single day? How do we build in the breaks and the pauses so that we can manage the life that we’re living?

Allan (15:59): I just want to say, with something like these five pillars, this is not something where you say, “I’m going to fix the first pillar and I’m going to be good.” The reality is, you need to be working on all of them. They all need to be a part of what your lifestyle is going forward. Anything you can do to improve those, you need to be slowly chipping away at getting that done.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (16:20): And the beauty of it is it really is possible to do each and every one of these things every day. It’s the mindset in which we live. I think about how my day started today. I was using oils, I drank my big glass of lemon water, I made a green smoothie, I went outside and ran. I have a really big hill that I live in, so I even start my day running that hill a couple of times. I journaled in my book. Lunch was a big salad. We made this really beautiful veggie frittata and sauerkraut for gut support. I took all of my supplements. And I have little breaks built in into my phone for those moments to take a pause. So, we are hyper productive over here; yet, all of the decisions I’m making for my health or for my body are based on those five pillars.

Allan (17:11): Yes. I think you have to do that at some level, but they do snowball. That’s one of the cool things about this. If you’re eating higher quality food, you’re going to have more energy. And when you have more energy and you’re moving around, your lymphatic system is functioning better, you’re getting rid of toxins easier. When you get rid of the toxins, you’re sleeping better. And as you start feeling better about yourself, the self-care and the reduction of stress become easier. So, it’s a self-fulfilling, self-building kind of thing here when you are taking the time to make sure you’re focused on these.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (17:48): Absolutely. And I think when you start to feel great and you start to feel good, you really don’t want to regress back. And you’ll notice when you start to not… I know if we’ve taken on a big project or we’re working harder than normal, there are signs and we’re really mindful of those things. So, I’m quick to get right back on track, knowing what it feels like to not be on track. I think sometimes we don’t necessarily know what it feels like to feel really great all the time, or at least a good chunk of the time. But I promise once you get to that place, you’re going to want to sustain it because you’re not going to want to feel anything different than that.

Allan (18:28): I completely agree. As people are getting into essential oils, you’re the second guest. Of 374 episodes, this is the second episode that we’ve had on essential oils. It was really because of the compelling nature of the hormone and essential oils, and I really want to dive into that a little bit. But before we get there, one of the things that I do know from my previous guest is that it’s very important for you to focus on the quality of your essential oils. This is not just to go find a scented candle from Walmart, light it and sit in the bathtub. There are some quality issues from some manufacturers and you really have to know your product. Can you talk a little bit about what makes an essential oil high quality?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (19:18): Absolutely. So, an essential oil once upon a time was a plant. And just like we’re concerned about the plants that we consume, like the blueberries, the kale and the carrots, it’s really important if you want to use these for therapeutic benefits, you have to be really mindful of where these plants come from. You want plants coming from their indigenous location. So for instance, frankincense should come from Somalia or Oman, cardamom should come from Guatemala or the Middle East, melaleuca, tea tree should come from Australia. The province of France and Bulgaria is where lavender should come from. It’s important that there are different parts of the world that only grow these very specific plants. Anywhere else you’re losing the chemical constituents. Let’s give an example of myrrh. A high quality myrrh oil, the sesquiterpene content on that needs to be above 60%. That’s going to be a high quality. Where are we going to get myrrh with a 60% chemical constituent content of sesquiterpenes? That’s the level of research that needs to go into these oils. Same thing with frankincense – the monoterpene content needs to be above 35%. So that’s what I’m usually looking for. If they’re disclosing where the plants come from, how are these plants treated, are these local farmers? It really matters how these plants are grown. Then on top of that, after these plants are grown and harvested in a sustainable and beautiful way and they’re distilled for their benefits, how are they being tested? We’ve got testing like gas chromatography, mass spectroscopy, chirality testing, microbial testing. As a biochemist for many, many years before I became a practitioner, this is where I was really fascinated. I always recommend that people do their due diligence and make sure that you just go and look them up. If you’re buying from a company, you want to make sure that they are disclosing where their oils come from and they’re disclosing the type of testing that they are doing on their oils.

Allan (21:18): And not just the oils. Each oil typically isn’t just the oil. Isn’t there’s typically a base oil?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (21:27): It depends. No, not normally. If there is a base oil in it, like let’s say a fractionated coconut oil – that must be disclosed as well. What we call oils that have extra stuff in them besides the pure version of it – they are adulterated. That means they’ve been tainted. I’ll give you an example. A 5ml bottle of rose oil takes about 8,000 rose petals. Those roses are grown in Bulgaria most of the time. A 5ml bottle of rose oil is about $800, give or take; $500 to $800. But there are companies that will dilute pure rose oil in fractionated coconut oil or something like that, and they have to say that. And that oil may only cost $75 or $100, but they’ve got to disclose that information. But a pure oil, unless you’re dealing with a rose or a jasmine or a neroli, where it would be hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to get that bottle of oil – they should normally be just literally that essential oil, that chemical constituent.

Allan (22:35): Okay. As I was going through I wanted to figure out how this is affecting my hormones and how we are going to use essential oils to help heal ourselves. I liked that you did this kind of walk across where you talked emotion, hormones and essential oils. Particularly I like the way you told your story about the first time you used wild orange. Do you mind telling that story and explaining from that context how all this works?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (23:09): Yes. So, wild orange was one of the first oils that I met and that I fell in love with. Actually, wild orange is sitting right here next to me in this interview. We’re kind of best buds; we hang out a lot. Wild orange and most citrus oils, like grapefruit, lemon and lime – each and every one of those have different chemical constituents. For the most part, what we’re looking at is a limonene content, which is in a family of monoterpenes. Limonene in wild orange runs about 85% to 90%. That’s what we’re normally looking for. And wild orange is known as the oil of abundance, but what we can demonstrate is when you breathe in the chemical constituents of wild orange, these chemical constituents have a no holds barred directly into the limbic system. What a lot of people don’t know is that our sense of smell is hardwired to our sense of survival. So if you smell a fire, you run, or you smell gas, you run. Our sense of smell has always been tied into that wiring. So we are leveraging the power of these chemical constituents. They bind to the olfactory bulb, then they’re binding to other receptors that send messages to the limbic brain. But what we know about limonene content is that it boosts serotonin and dopamine production in a really balanced way. So it has a profound impact on our neurochemistry, specifically on those neurotransmitters. We also know that serotonin is a hormone, so it’s got two different properties. And we can actually shift the way the limbic brain and the limbic system is working by merely breathing in this oil. I always say you cannot stay angry or mad breathing in wild orange. It literally shifts the chemistry in the brain to go from an angered state to a much more… I wouldn’t say that you’re going to be happy, but you’re at least not going to be feeling super, super angry. You’re going to feel more neutral after breathing in this oil.

Allan (25:04): Okay. And as I said, I’ve had exposure to lavender oil, primarily to sleep. It’ll help you sleep kind of thing. Can you talk through how some of these oils work? You’re throwing a lot of terms out there that I know as a biochemist you love.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (25:24): I can break it down to simpler terms. Let’s give lavender a go. I think, Allan, what I want people to understand is that a lot of people are like, “Oh, it’s woo woo. If you have good intention, it’s kind of calming, but I don’t know what it is.” The cool thing about it is there’s a lot of science that backs all this up. And as you saw in my book, I have 40 pages of bibliography.

Allan (25:48): That’s the thing I was going to say at the end. The bibliography is there, so there are studies after studies. You can just go down that rabbit hole and spend a long, long time reading about how they’ve proven a lot of good qualities from these oils.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (26:04): Right. What’s so cool is that Europe’s a little bit more ahead of us than we’d like, in terms of holistic medicine, and lavender is one of the number one recommended solutions for anxiety in a lot Europe. They take it orally in a little capsule. And oftentimes naturopaths and functional practitioners here in the States will also literally in a prescription form. They are these little teeny capsules, like you would get in a prescription, and people take them for lowering anxiety levels. It’s because we know that there are properties in lavender that will calm down an overactive limbic brain when we’re having that anxiety or we’re feeling really overwhelmed. In a nutshell, lavender is all things calming. It’s designed to calm the brain, it’s designed to shut off the mental chatter. It’s even calming for a mosquito bite. It’s great for a sunburn – a really minor sunburn. Lavender is just very soothing to the body. But lavender is very deceptive. It’s a deceptive woman, a deceptive flower. She is very powerful, she’s very potent, and sometimes she knocks people on their butts. So I always tell people to be really mindful. I love the potency of oils, but every oil is going to be a little bit different for you. For some people, lavender is the bee’s knees. Other times lavender may be a little much. You may want to soften it up with Roman chamomile or cedarwood, something that lavender is very complimentary to. But yes, ultimately lavender is designed to shut down those worries and those anxiousness and that mental chatter that could be happening when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Allan (27:43): Okay. And there are lots of others. You had multiple recipes. Can you go through a few more to kind of give us some ideas, particularly those ones that are directly related to hormones and health?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (27:55): Absolutely. We’re talking about stress levels. My go-to stress blend – I call it “stress be gone blend” – it’s a combination of two oils. I’m going to keep it simple on the podcast. Some of my recipes get a little bit more complex, but I love simplicity. So, it’s just a drop of lavender, a drop of bergamot. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, just by rubbing those two oils together, rubbing your palms together and taking some deep belly breaths, you’re going to reset that system. You’re going to disrupt the stress response. Another blend that I talk a lot about – people are concerned about brain fog and cognitive function, working memory and alertness. Rosemary has been researched over and over and over again for boosting working memory by 75% by simply breathing it in. I love a combination of wild orange, peppermint, rosemary and frankincense. You could do a drop of each or you could do it in a roller. I don’t have the exact blend in front of me. It would be, let’s say, 8 drops of each of those oils – frankincense, wild orange, peppermint and rosemary. And that is what I call the “get it done blend” or the cognitive boosting blend. So if things aren’t firing 100%, you’re not feeling like you’re on top of your game – you just breathe that blend in and it’s profoundly incredible for that. Now, for hormones, my go-to hormone oil for regulating testosterone and estrogen is going to be clary sage. Lots of research there, because it helps to bind two receptor sites in the adrenals and beta cells, it helps to get rid of xenoestrogens and false estrogens inside of the system by cleaning up receptor sites. I have a hormone blend that is a combination. It’s called “my hormone synergy” blend. I’m going to pull it up for you guys right now. And that is in a 10ml roller – 10 drops of clary sage, 8 drops of lavender, 8 drops of geranium, because also geranium is great at helping the liver detoxify excess hormone metabolites; 4 drops of bergamot and 4 drops of ylang-ylang. Ylang-ylang is the ultimate libido booster. It has profound benefits on testosterone. I really love this blend because it does tackle a lot of the hormone systems that we’re looking at in the reproductive system.

Allan (30:21): Cool. And the book even goes into how to make your own roller. This is a great resource for someone that wants to learn more about essential oils and actually get into using them. I guess we’ll go ahead and close out with my last question. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (30:44): I love it. So, the first tactic I think is a must, must, must, is you’ve got to have a morning ritual. Set the tone for your day. It can be 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, where you are on your own agenda and not somebody else’s agenda. Strategy number two – use your oils for those emergency moments. You need more energy – grab an oil. You need to win the staredown with that cupcake or that stale donut – get peppermint out. It’s a powerful craving suppressant. And then number three is, also have a wind-down routine. It is so important to rest and shut down the brain, get decent sleep. The reason why so many of us are just slogging through the day like zombies is we’re not getting enough sleep. We’re working overtime or we’re choosing that last episode on Netflix. When you set an intention for an evening routine, using calming oils or reading a book before bed, shutting off the computer at 9:00 PM – you will recharge and that missing energy will come back for you.

Allan (31:51): Cool. I like those. Dr. Snyder, if someone wanted to learn more about you and what you’re doing or the book, The Essential Oils Hormone Solution, where would you like for me to send them?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (32:06): I think you have the link for this. I have an amazing cravings, fatigue and stress cheat sheet that we’ll make sure we get the link for you. You guys can go and check out. I do have a podcast myself. It’s called The Essentially You Podcast and it’s all about helping you to become the CEO of your health. I know I spotted off a lot of recipes and I know there are a lot of recipes in the book, but sometimes just having that little cheat sheet to address those core issues that I see so often, is a step in the right direction. I can get that for the listeners so that you guys have that and start making some amazing progress.

Allan (32:45): Okay, cool. This is episode 376, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/376 and I’ll be sure to have that link there. Dr. Snyder, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (32:59): Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

Allan (33:07): Are you stuck with your health and fitness journey and just need a little push? Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Consult, and that will take you to a link on my calendar where you can schedule a free 15-minute session with me. We can discuss your goals, we can talk about what you want to accomplish, how you can accomplish it, and a lot more. So if you need a little push, maybe a little bit of accountability, please go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Consult for your free consultation today.

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