Bio: Dr. Carri Drzyzga (Driz’ ga) is known as ‘The Functional Medicine Doc’ – the go-to expert on finding the root causes of health problems so you can feel normal again. She is a chiropractor and naturopathic doctor, host of the popular podcast “The Functional Medicine Radio Show”, and author of the hit book “Reclaim Your Energy and Feel Normal Again! Fixing the Root Cause of Your Fatigue with Natural Treatments”. Dr. Carri’s newest program is “Entrepreneurial Fatigue: How to Fuel Your Brain & Body for Entrepreneurial Success”. Her private practice is Functional Medicine Ontario located in Ottawa, Ontario.
Zephan: Welcome, Year of Purpose podcast viewers and listeners. I’m Zephan Blaxberg, your host, and today, I have Dr. Carri Drzyzga. She’s known as the Functional Medicine Doc, the go-to expert on finding the root causes on health problems so you can feel normal again. She’s a chiropractor, a Naturopathic doctor, host of the popular podcast, the Function Medicine Radio Show, and author of the hit book Reclaim Your Energy and Feel Normal Again: Fixing the Root Cause of your Fatigue with Natural Treatments. Dr. Carri’s newest program is Entrepreneurial Fatigue: How to Fuel your Brain and Body for Entrepreneurial Success. Her private practice is Function Medicine Ontario, located in Ottawa, Ontario. Dr. Carri, thanks so much for being here today.
Carri: Thank you so much for having me on your podcast. You know, I’ve been listening to your podcast and I love the idea of the Year of Purpose. I just love it.
Zephan: Thank you so much for listening in! I wanted to get started with functional medicine. You know, a lot of people actually haven’t really hear of it or don’t really know what it is, or why they should be looking into it. So if you don’t mind sharing with us a little bit about what is functional medicine and why is it important for us?
Carri: Sure. You’re right that people don’t really know what functional medicine is because they haven’t heard of it. So in a nutshell, it’s about finding the cause, fixing the cause, so that you can feel normal again. So by finding the cause, it’s understand that really, everything in your body’s connected. And from a purely biochemistry standpoint, and understand how the hormones interact with the brain which interacts with the digestive tract, which interacts with everything else…so to really find the root underlying cause of what the symptoms are coming from and then to fix that, which would include things like diet changes, getting the right amount of exercise and sleep to taking the right vitamins, herbs, supplements, stress management—all of those kind of things to really get the body back into balance so that you get your health back. So that you not only feel normal again but you’re at a whole new state of health. So it’s not—it’s not like band aid medicine, which is what typical medicine is these days. So that’s what it really is, find the cause, fix the cause so you can feel normal again.
Zephan: So this is really important for really anybody, because it can be anything from experiencing stress to being tired, so fatigue. Maybe there’s some chronic pain issues or inflammation. So this could really impact a whole variety of medical issues, right?
Carri: Absolutely. Yeah, anything. Any symptoms that you’re having, that’s a warning sign that something is out of balance in your body. And a lot of times, people will ignore symptoms. Like “I have some heartburn, I’ll just take some Tums” or “I didn’t eat something very good today” or they’re starting to feel tired so they blame it on alignment or stress. “I need to get more sleep.” And then they’re medicating themselves with caffeine and sugar. So symptoms come from somewhere, and when you ignore them, symptoms will get stronger and stronger and it’s like…if you don’t—if you don’t feel the pebble being thrown at you, one day you’re gonna have a brink thrown at you. And then that’s actually usually when patients come in to see me, is when they’ve had the brick thrown at them.
Zephan: Well hopefully we can give them a couple of things to day that will prevent them from having to wait til that happens.
Zephan: So there’s—low energy is kind of a big deal. Both in the entrepreneurial world and really with everyone. I’m reading here that there’s four common nutrients that some people are deficient in and that can cause that? What are those?
Carri: Yeah, absolutely, you’re right. So fatigue is very common, and I suffered with fatigue myself, so I have my own story about how fatigue affected me and how basically I had to treat myself to figure out where my fatigue was coming from. And a common story that I hear when patients come into my office is that they’ve gone to their family doctor, had some testing done to find out where their fatigue is coming from, and often the family doctor—you know, their bloodwork comes back and they’ll say like “Everything’s normal. I don’t really know what’s wrong. Maybe it’s a good time for you to take a vacation.” Or “Maybe you’re starting to burn out and you need to take three months off of work.” or “Maybe you should try some anti-depressants.”
So that’s a very common story when patients come to see me, that that’s been their experience but they know deep down inside that there is something out of balance. And so one of the things that I look for—you know, I’m always looking for the root of the cause of the fatigue or the insomnia, because that can also cause fatigue—so one thing that often pops up are nutrient deficiencies and a very common one is Vitamin D. and I live in Canada at this point—and anyone living in Canada pretty much has a Vitamin D deficiency. But also, if you’re living in the US. You could be living in Miami and you could still have a Vitamin D deficiency, and the only way to know is to have your blood levels checked and Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin. And so if your levels are low, it’ll be like your body has gone into hibernation mode. And that’s where the fatigue comes in.
So that’s one of the very common nutrients that I find as being deficient.
Zephan: So Vitamin D. there’s, I’m sure, tons of others that really you can to kind of take a blood test to figure out what’s going on there. But it’s important. Because a lot of people—I actually have a good friend of mine, and he’s just tired all the time. And he just kind of accepted it as being the truth in how he’s gonna live his life. And it could be, what, something as simple as taking a Vitamin D pill?
Carri: Yeah. It could be Vitamin D—the other ones that I find are B12, and magnesium, and zinc. Those are the four ones that I often find with my fatigue patients. Now that’s just part of the puzzle—that’s the thing, in fictional medicine, that it’s a puzzle that we have to put together. So nutrient deficiencies are one piece of the puzzle of fatigue and usually there’s other things going on too.
Zephan: Yeah, and so I’m sure a lot of people probably supplement with caffeine to try and counteract that and then it could cause a number of other things, like maybe heartburn, stomachaches, all sorts of issues there. So I’d imagine that you’d find of figure out one thing and it’s kind of like “Wait, well there’s this other thing that you’re doing that’s affecting three ore things.” So it definitely is a process, I guess. Right?
Carri: It is a process. I tell my patients it’s a process and a journey that we go on. And, in my role—you know, my role is like…I’m the doctor, but then I’m also the coach. And sometimes I’m the cheerleader to just try and keep them motivated, and something I’m the disciplinarian where I say “Man, you know what you should be doing. Why aren’t you doing it?” and so, you know, in my office, I play all these different roles. But really, it’s a—between me and the patient, it’s a team. It’s a team approach. Whereas—I think a lot of doctors don’t take that approach with their patients.
Zephan: Yeah. Well let me ask you this, so thinking about what you just said there, and so I know personally like I’m not the best with flossing my teeth, right. So I always go to the dentist and they’re like, you need to floss more, right. I always bush my teeth, but flossing? Not as consistent. And, you know, it’s always the dentist saying “You need to do this. You need to do this. You need to do this.” How do you hold your patients accountable to make sure that they do this? Because it’s like…if you don’t do it, obviously you’re gonna keep having the same problem, but that’s kind of what got them here in the first place. So how can we motivate people to go and actually take care of this?
Carri: That’s a really good question. So, I guess for some people, you have to hold a carrot out there. Have to dangle a carrot in front of them to motivate them. And for other patients, they need to be whipped in the behind, and that’s what motivates them. So it’s a very individual thing.
So for some patients we’ll set a goal of—okay, uh, diet. So let’s say diet, because that’s a big one. And that’s a big hurdle for a lot of people and it’s very scary for a lot of people, the thought of changing their diet. Like “Oh my god, I could never eat gluten again.” So I’ll tell them. “Okay, so, we need to get you from A to B. let’s just take one step forward.” You know, if you had to climb Mt. Everest, it would be quite a daunting task. But you can do it just by putting one step in front of the other, it’s that simple. Just step by step. So when we talk about changing the diet, I’ll start with—I’ll say like breakfast. “Okay, what can we do for your breakfast? How can we change it? Let’s just focus on breakfast. Don’t worry about lunch right now, don’t worry about dinner. Let’s just work on breakfast. And if it takes you a couple weeks to master breakfast—like a gluten free breakfast—that’s okay! But once you’ve mastered that, then we’re gonna take the next step, which is to start working on lunch.”
And usually that step-by-step process is more manageable. So sometimes it’s also just figuring out how much the patient can manage, too, and still be moving forward and still motivated. It’s quite tricky because everybody’s so different.
Zephan: Right. And this probably applies to really goal setting anywhere in life, right? Like instead of looking at the Everest, let’s look at the first thousand feet. Because Everest is thousands of feet—I don’t know the exact number in my head, but I think Kilimanjaro is like 14,000, so I know Everest is much taller than that. So yeah, looking at the first part of it instead of “OH my gosh, I have to do this whole thing,” right.
Zephan: Cool. So, I also saw something about how the brain plays a pretty big role in fatigue too. So it might not just be, you know, you have a lack of going out and being in the sunlight because it’s winter time. What could also be going on inside that brain that could be affecting this?
Carri: So, some people, their fatigue really is all in their head. And I say that kind of tongue in cheek, because you r brain chemistry could be out of balance, and for my fatigue, that was a big driver of my fatigue. And once I figured out what the right amino acids I needed to take were, and the right balance, to get my serotonin and dopamine in good balance, it was like the lights turned on, and all the neurons were firing again and that happened within a week. So, for some people, the real root cause is in their brain. So it could be an imbalance between the neurotransmitters. It could be that their brain is just not getting enough oxygen. You know, people tend to breathe from their chest instead of belly breathing and they tend to hold their breath too. It could be that the brain isn’t getting enough blood.
So like, people, a lot of people have cold hands and cold feet—even a cold nose. Those are all signs of poor circulation, but that also means your brain is not getting enough circulation also and enough glucose to fuel it. So there’s many different ways that the brain can be involved in fatigue. So I find that a lot of doctors forget about the brain. They worry about from the neck down. But they kind of forget that the brain could be a factor as well.
Zephan: Yeah, I mean, that’s a pretty big deal. That’s the thing that controls the rest of this, right!
Carri: Yeah! It’s a very big deal.
Zephan: Yeah. Now you got me thinking, slash—not totally worried, but I have—just personally, I’m six foot two, I’m fairly tall. I don’t have the best circulation and actually, most of the time, either just my feet or the tips of my fingers will be cold quite often. Even if I’m in a warm room. So what sort of things are maybe steps to take to control something as simple as that?
Carri: To help that? You want some treatment options?
Zephan: Well maybe just a couple tips or little things, because I know that if—that means that maybe my brain isn’t receiving enough either. You know, maybe I’m not at full capacity. I’m a fairly creative person, but maybe I’m missing out here.
Carri: Yeah, so, for you and the other viewers and listeners out there because this is a very common scenario. So one is to make sure that you don’t have an anemia. So to check your iron levels and your B12 levels. And then two is to have your thyroid checked, because you could have a low thyroid, even if—well, the common test for thyroid is a TSH, and that could come back as normal but you could still have thyroid problems going on underneath the surface. So like really a full thyroid panel, which would include 3T3, 3T4, antibodies, reverse T3—not to get overly technical. You want to rule those things out.
And then if those come back as normal, one very simple thing that you could start doing today, and your listeners and your viewers—in traditional Chinese medicine, there are food that are considered warming foods, and there are foods that are considered cooling foods, and there are foods that are considered neutral. So Chinese medicine is all about the balance of the Yin and the Yang. So warming foods have more Yang to them—I don’t know how the Chinese ever figured all of this out—warming foods have more Yang. So you could do a very simple internet search about traditional Chinese medicine, warming foods. Find the foods that are the warming foods, eat more of those. Find the foods that are the cooling foods, eat less of those.
I’ve had patients do that, and their circulation, their hands are their feet are warm again and their nose is warm again—which means that they’re getting more oxygen and nutrients up into their brain. Just by doing that.
Zephan: And this goes without saying, because I don’t want people to go and start googling whatever disease they thing they might have—I mean, obviously this is something that you always go to a doctor for, get a blood test. Don’t start googling it and thing you have some crazy disease, because something’s it could be something much simpler, such as you’re deficient in, you know, one nutrient and you just have to take another supplement for it.
Carri: Yeah. Making those changes in your diet, that’s a pretty safe option that anybody could use. But you’re right. You could have something more serious going on.
Zephan: Yeah. So—and real quick, you know, sleep is obviously important for a lot of things. I’m very active in fitness and it helps with recovery, among other things. there’s this expression of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” and I’m sure I’ve said it tons of times, because when I was in college, I would sometimes stay awake for three days straight because I was working so much, and then pass out for like a day and a half. Why is this really harmful to our system to do this and be okay with doing this?
Carri: So, I guess, first off, we all go through periods like that. I mean, when I went back to school to get my Naturopathic degree, you know, I was a chiropractor first. And then fifteen years into practice, I decided to go back to school and get a second doctoral degree. I really had to suck it up for two years, because that was a lot of intense pressure and stress. And I was kind of like, as you said, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. I just got to suck it up during these two years.
But I find a lot of, especially, entrepreneurs have that attitude, day in and day out. And that will really start rotting your health. So some of the research that I’ve done on sleep, it’s very interesting. The Centers for Disease Control, the CDC in the US, has found that sleep deprivation is a public epidemic at this point. And so that is—they qualify that as six hours of sleep our less a night. That it’s a public epidemic, and that has multiple effects on your body that weakens your immune system, it makes you more hungry so you tend to gain weight—so maybe that’s part of the obesity epidemic as well. It puts you at more risk for having cancers and heart disease, diabetes, all kinds of stuff.
So I know a lot of people out there have trouble sleeping. It’s one of the first questions that I ask a patient when they come into my office and they have fatigue. “Okay, you have fatigue. How is your sleep? Are you having trouble falling asleep? Are you having trouble staying asleep?” Because there are obviously causes for that too. And obviously, some of those are pure lifestyle factors. Like staying up too late and night watching the TV, or worse than that is being on the computer, being on your tablet or your cellphone. Because that light from those computer screens and cellphone screens are actually much, much brighter than your typical television screen is, and what happens is you’re creating an imbalance of melatonin, which is your sleep hormone. If you’re not getting enough of your sleep hormone, you’re not gonna sleep very well.
So some things are lifestyle related, but there can be imbalances within the body, too, that is driving poor sleep. But when a person has that attitude of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” it’s like a ticking—it IS a ticking time bomb. Because something, like I said earlier, you’re gonna have pebbles thrown at you, but one day you’re gonna have a brick whap you upside your head. And that means—
Zephan: And t’s not gonna be fun.
Carri: Your health has just like tanked. Exactly.
Zephan: So that’s really interesting. I mean, I have always dealt with sleep things throughout my life. I have never bene the greatest sleeper. I’m glad you told me a little bit about the computer screens. I kind of knew a little bit about that, and it was one of those things that you kind of ignore and brush off, so maybe I’ll be a little more careful with how soon—towards when I’m doing to sleep that I am actually on the computer, on my phone. That’s a really good tip.
Carri: Yeah, I was just—when you said that, I was just thinking, I saw something yesterday on the internet about…it’s a pair of glasses that you can buy that can filter out—I guess it’s, on the visible spectrum of light, it’s the blue rays that are coming off of those screens that really messes us up. So I saw something on the internet yesterday, when you can buy these glasses that you can wear to block those blue rays so that you can read your tablet or be on your computer late at night. I don’t know if it works, but for people that have to put in long hours, when they’re in that period of time of stress, you just got to suck it up and get through it, that could be an option.
Zephan: So it’s really cool that you bring that up actually. Because I have this program that’s on my computer called Flux—F-L-U-X—and what it does is, as the day goes by, usually in the morning it’s blue, and it tints the screen. So by the time it’s night time, if I open up my laptop at like eight or nine o’clock at night, it actually is kind of like a tinted bright orange color. And it’s actually—it’s harder on your eyes. I makes me kind of want to fall asleep a little bit. So I don’t know if you’ve seen this before, but—
Carri: No. I just wrote it down, so I’m gonna look at that. Thank you for that tip!
Zephan: Yeah, it’s free for the Mac. It could be on the PC, I’m not totally sure. But F-L-U-X, Flux. It’s really neat. I downloaded it, installed it in like thirty seconds and it tints the screen as the day goes by. So something cool to check out.
Carri: I will check that out. Thank you.
Carri: This is one of the reasons why I love doing podcasts. You know, I have my own podcast, so I have a lot of guests on, but also, when I’m being interviewed, I always get a little nugget. A nugget of a tip, something I can use in my practice with patients or with my business. I love it.
Zephan: Well, I’d be curious to see, if you do get a chance to check it out, what your opinion of it is. Because, you know, a lot of the times, some of this stuff is, not necessarily fake, but it doesn’t work as effectively as the concept is supposed to. So, I’m curious—
Carri: Of course. Buyer beware, yeah.
Zephan: I’m curious what your take is one that one once you get a chance to check that out. So something else you work on quite a lot is allergies, right?
Zephan: So I have a weird allergy—sweet potatoes. It is the only thing I am allergic to. I can’t heat them. It messes up my stomach pretty bad. I’m curious, what sort of allergy problems do you see in people? I know gluten intolerance is quite a big issue recently, right?
Carri: Yeah, gluten has gotten a lot of press over the last couple of years. And I think there’s a certain amount of people out there that think that that’s like a fad, but it’s not a fad. There are—there’s like a stack of research on how bad gluten is for the body. But food allergies and food sensitivities, very commonly undermine people’s health. And just as you said, you’re allergic to sweet potatoes. I mean, you could have a food allergy or insensitivity to anything. Even the most healthy foods.
I had—I have one patient that was coming in and she had, for four years, severe stomach pains. And she had had every test done. She was seeing a gastro neurologist. She was seeing the gynecologist. Just to make sure everything was okay, they ran every test they could. They could not find the cause. So she ended up in my office, I don’t know how, but we were going through her program and I said—we were at a point of checking for food sensitivities.
So I put her on an elimination diet, and she found out that she was sensitive to coconut. Now coconut is like the food of the year, right now.
Zephan: Yeah, I eat coconut out in everything.
Carri: Exactly. Coconut oil, coconut water, coconut milk, coconut everything. And as soon as she took coconut out of her diet, the pains we gone. Like just gone. Absolutely, completely. So we were talking a little bit earlier about fatigue. So we could take ten people and line them up, and let’s say they might have a sensitivity to eggs. Well one might have fatigue from eggs, the second might have aches and pains in their joins from eggs and think that they have arthritis when actually it’s just a good sensitivity. Another one might get migraines and headaches from eating eggs. Another one might get depression form eating eggs. The next one might have anxiety from eating eggs. The next on might have skin rashes.
So the thing with food sensitivities is they are considered the great mimicker. They can create any symptom in your body. And that’s part of what makes me so jazzed about being a functional medicine doc, because it’s really about being a health detective. To really find the root, underlying cause. So with food sensitivities, there’s the common ones like gluten and eggs and dairy. Soy and corn. But then there’s’ weird things. Like you have a—that’s a very strange sensitivity.
Zephan: Yeah, like everyone eats sweet potatoes.
Carri: Sweet potatoes, they’re so healthy. But you could be sensitive to the most healthy foods. Like my patient there who is sensitive to coconut. You just don’t know. But for the listeners out there and the viewers out there, if you’re struggling with your health, really what I want you to get out of this is to have hope. Because your symptoms are coming from somewhere and it’s just a matter of time and finding the right doctor and running the right tests and figuring out what the real cause it. So I think that’s really part of my purpose, is also to give people hope in that regards.
Zephan: And not placing a band aid over it. You know, like you said. Taking Tums doesn’t fix heartburn, it just makes it go away for the night so you can fall asleep. And same thing with Advil and Tylenol. That headache happened for a reason. Maybe you haven’t had enough water today, maybe you have lack of oxygen. But the Tylenol doesn’t give you more oxygen, it’s just—it’s making you not feel that headache.
Carri: Yeah, it’s not a Tylenol deficiency.
Zephan: Right, right. So how about—you know, not everyone listening is an entrepreneur, but everyone listening can be affected by functional medicine. Do you have maybe like your three to five best things that everyone should be practicing? Maybe you’ve seen your most common issues in everybody, whether it’s headaches or heartburn or things like that. what are your top few tips to give to people just to kind of take care of their own bodies and to make sure that at least they’re helping their body to function a little bit better than it already is?
Carri: So that’s a big question that you want me to answer. So I guess the first thing is that—the first and the most important is the mindset that your health really is your most precious asset, and for business owners out there, I tell them “Your most precious business asset is your health.” And to really understand that with your mindset and to put your health first, to make it a priority and to take responsibility for your own health, so that—right there. That’s a big one right there. Just number one off the list.
Number two, diet and food. Food really is your medicine. Food was the first medicine, it continues to be the most important thing that you can have an impact on your body with. So for the viewers out there, and the listeners, you know what you should be eating and what you should not be eating. So take small steps. Starting today, take some small steps. Have an extra serving of vegetables on your plate. If that’s the small step that you take, that’s perfect because you’re going in a better direction with your health.
And then the third, I guess, would be getting back to sleep. We were talking about that earlier, to really try and get good sleep. So the research on sleep says that the ideal about of sleep is between seven and a half to nine hours of sleep. And one thing that I find that has helped me immensely, and has helped the majority of my patients, is very simply wearing an eye mask when you sleep at night. Because that eye mask will help block out any little bits of light that are creeping in around your window blinds, light from your alarm clock, from your electronic devices. All of those light bits of light will blind your melatonin production. So simply wearing an eye mask, I’ve had like eighty percent of the time, that gets more people—they might not sleep more hours, but they’ll sleep. They’ll get deeper sleep and they’ll wake up feeling more rested.
So those are three things that everybody could start doing.
Zephan: Nice. Very cool. It’s funny that you say that about the sleep thing, because it’s—my room’s fairly dark at night, but I don’t have blackout shades. Like you can see I have these type of blinds, so if the neighbor’s light in their backyard comes on, you can see it through the window. And something goes for event he little stuff. Like, you know, I’m a videographer, so often times I’ll be charging batteries overnight and stuff like that, and on the charger there’s a pretty bright green light that’s blinking, and sure enough, when I close my eyes, I can tell if there’s a little light in my room. So that’s really good to know that it makes a big difference to do that.
Carri: It’s just simple little things can make the biggest impact.
Zephan: Yeah. Well, it’s been really great to have you her today. What do you recommend as far as, you know, if someone listening right now wants to get checked out, what’s the first step in the process for them to find someone to work with?
Carri: Well, I guess the best resource they can use to find a functional medicine doctor is do an internet search for the Institute for Functional Medicine. I think their website is functionalmedicine.org. I’m not really sure. But if you find their website for the Institute for Functional Medicine, they have a link on there to find a doctor. So that’s a way. And then if they want to learn more about me, I guess the best place that they could go, because I’ve got a lot of—I’ve got my private practice website and my book website and all kinds of websites now. My home base would be at drcarri.com, spelled D-R-C-A-R-R-I.com, and that’s where they can find my podcast, the Fictional Medicine Radio Show, and then my blogs, and then soon will be coming Dr. Carri TV as well.
Zephan: Very nice. Well that’s really exciting. When that gets started, definitely let me know. I’m happy to help you out with any video needs there.
Carri: Oh, thank you. Yeah, you would be a good resource.
Zephan: And what was the—remind me the name of the book again, so people can check it out if they’re looking for it.
Carri: Oh, yeah. My book is called Reclaim Your Energy and Feel Normal Again: Fixing the Root Causes of your Fatigue with Natural Treatments. And you can find it at my website, or you can find it on Amazon. It’s available in paperback and Kindle forms.
Zephan: Perfect, and just for everybody listening or watching, we have this podcast both on iTunes and Stitcher Radio and YouTube and a million other places.
Zephan: But there is video and audio, and there are show notes that go with this. So for everyone listening or watching, on www.yearofpurpose.com, we actually have some links to the things that we mentioned here in this episode. So you guys can check that out too.
Thanks so much for being here today, Carri. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day and I will be talking to you soon. Definitely let me know how that Flux goes if you get to use that out. Let me know what you think of it.
Carri: I will. Thank you so much for having me on the show today.
Zephan: Alright, talk to you soon.