Episode #33 – Show Notes:
Beth Smith is an Integrative Health Coach who helps women with hormonal imbalances. She herself experienced negative effects that her health spiraled down for a bad turn.
The 8th Level Podcast is about being self-employed, entrepreneurship, and managing our online business. It’s also about connecting to our souls, having the right mindset, and self-care. My name is Lourdes, and I am the host of this show. Thank you for listening to this episode today!
My guest today is Beth. Beth is the founder of the Better Health by Beth. She discovered functional medicine, and began healing herself with her issues with immune system and her hormones. Beth is a certified integrative health practitioner, and helps women all over the world with their specific hormonal imbalance through functional medicine lab testing.
Lourdes: Welcome welcome, how are you?
Beth: Thanks for having me, I’m great, thank you!
Lourdes: Beth, my first question is, what is integrative health?
Beth: Yes, absolutely. So basically what that means is that we take a little bit from all different places, we look at multiple modalities. Because as human beings, we’re complex, and one single thing isn’t the answer when we’re struggling, when we have imbalances in our body, when we’re looking to optimize our health. So we look at different modalities, so obviously traditional medicine has a place, but also lifestyle medicine has a place.
And so we look at nutrition, and we look at stress management, and we look at the toxins in our environment, and all of the things in our lives that are coming at us that have an effect on our health. So that is the integrative piece of it, is really approaching each person as an individual and looking at every aspect of what is being brought into their being, what their environment is about, and really focusing on optimizing each of those areas to help them optimize their health.
Lourdes: Okay, and now, is there a difference between that and functional medicine?
Beth: So, functional medicine is part of the integrative approach. And I do use functional medicine lab testing, so I think they’re complementary. So there is a little bit of a difference, because the word “integrative” just means that you’re using multiple modalities, so I’m not just using functional medicine or functional medicine lab testing. And in functional medicine, a lot of people rely solely on supplements, which I do not do because supplements are great and they have a place, but when people are coming and looking for a more natural approach, a lot of times it’s because they are on a lot of pharmaceuticals that they don’t want to be on.
And functional medicine sometimes, not all functional medicine providers, but a lot of them rely on supplements to re-balance, which is great. They have a place, just like pharmaceuticals do, but if we’re not addressing the root cause, then the supplement is the same thing as a pharmaceutical where it’s just suppressing a symptom. So the integrative piece of it is again, really looking at your nutrition, how are you moving your body, what does your sleep look like, what is your stress like, what is your overall nervous system look like, as far as are you in a stressed state, or are you in a constant fight-or-flight state. So I think all of those things kind of play together, so that’s the integrative piece of it. The functional medicine piece of it is really looking for the root cause. So what is the root of the reason that you have whatever issue you’re dealing with, and let’s talk about why you’re having that, and then I choose the integrative piece of it to work through all the different pieces of your lifestyle to help balance in each area.
Lourdes: So it’s not just physical, such as if you do lab testing, you’re looking for physical results or some time of effect that is affecting your body. As far as stress management, what do you do for that? Do you ask a bunch of questions to someone about what their stress is?
Beth: Absolutely. Sometimes stress can show in our body. And believe it or not, with the functional medicine lab testing, a lot of the markers do indicate stress in the body. So sometimes I deal with clients that say “I don’t really think I’m stressed out.” But then we look at their results, and the markers are telling us this is elevated, and that indicates stress in the body, this is elevated and that indicated stress, and we’ll see multiple markers that are elevated. And as we talk about it, they’re like “Well yeah, I do get anxious at this, or I get that.” So there is a physical piece to stress, it’s not just the emotional mental piece of it. And of course, all of that affects you mentally and emotionally, so yes we talk through, have a very, when my clients come to me, very detailed intake, it’s like 16 pages long. So we talk about the physical piece of it, but we talk about stressors in their life, and I think one thing that people don’t realize is, even if you’re not in a current state of stress, if you’ve had stressful events in the past that you have had to deal with, even if you’ve moved past that and you don’t think it’s affecting you, it could have affected your nervous system.
One thing that I really focus on is nervous system dis-regulation, and the fact that if we are having physical symptoms that indicate that our body is under stress, even if you don’t think you’re currently stressed, it could be due to a past event where your body got stuck in the On position in that fight-or-flight position, and we have to physically tell our body to shut off that fight-or-flight and move back into that rest or digest parasympathetic nervous system. So it is both, it is both physical, and there’s that questioning piece of it. So a lot of what I do with my clients, once we have that testing back, and those markers indicate that there’s stress there, and I work a lot with women with hormonal issues, and I would say 90% of my clients, the root cause is some type of stress in their body. And when we start digging a little bit deeper, they really kind of start, even if in the moment, which many women, it’s just the world that we live in, it’s just a high stress world, and so they kind of, it’s kind of like peeling the layers of an onion. We start with one piece of it, and we just kind of start peeling and are able to go deeper and deeper.
Lourdes: So this testing that you do, what does someone have to do? Is it a saliva test, what is it?
Beth: It depends on which test we do. Like I mentioned, most of my clients are women with hormonal issues, sometimes they also have some digestive or gut issues. So depending on what the specific need of the client is, we will do the testing, and it depends. So the hormone testing is saliva, and it’s a blood spot. It’s not a blood draw, so nobody has to, you don’t have to go to a lab to have blood drawn. It’s actually just a finger prick that you do at home, and you send it in to the lab, and so between the saliva and the blood, all of the hormones are tested. We also do, if we’re looking at gut issues or digestive issues, those types of things, there’s a urine test, there’s a stool test, we can also do a hair sample and that tests for minerals in the body, and kind of what your mineral levels are. And believe it or not, that even indicates if your body is under stress, and it also tests for heavy metals. So it depends on what the specific need of the client is, and that’s where we always start before we move forward with anything, is really that detailed intake helps me know what the specific need for each client is.
Lourdes: I understand you started being interested in integrative health medicine because of your own issues. So, can you share with us some of your issues, and what made you go into the route of coaching others?
Beth: Yeah absolutely, I would love to. So, my issues started as a teenager, when I started getting my cycles. It was not a pleasant experience for me, ever. It was always very painful, very heavy periods, and I just thought it was normal. It was not something that I realized everybody didn’t experience. And, as I got a little bit older and I got into my mid-twenties and I started having more issues, I was diagnosed in my mid-twenties with PCOS. And for those that don’t know what that is, that’s polycystic ovarian syndrome. And I just actually heard a statistic today that one in ten women will at some point be diagnosed with PCOS, so it’s a prevalent thing. Back when I was in my twenties, it was still pretty new. And the only thing that was given to me at the time was birth control, and I was told that would help regulate my periods, which it did. And I stayed on birth control for well over twenty years, and then a few years later, one of the side effects of PCOS is it’s very difficult to maintain a healthy weight.
And so they gave me metformin, which is a diabetic medication, but it also helps because a lot of women with PCOS have insulin resistance issues, it helps with that. So I was given two pharmaceuticals, but I was never given any education on lifestyle or nutrition or any of the things that I could do to help manage my symptoms without these medications. So the birth control would work for a few years, and then I would start having the issues again, so they would change my prescription and put me on a different kind. And this went well into my forties. In my forties, things just started falling apart. The suppressing of the symptoms no longer worked, and my body just started going haywire, I was in constant pain, and I ended up at the age of 48 with a hysterectomy.
And while at the time, I was begging for it, I wanted it, because I was in constant pain. Again, nobody ever told me that there was a root cause for the issues, and that if we addressed what was going on in my body, I could get it under control. And so I thought the hysterectomy was gonna fix everything, all my issues were gonna be over, and that was really when things started really going downhill. My body started shutting down. Over the years, my immune system had not been great, and I had been on many antibiotics. And because of the antibiotic use over the years, and the fact that my immune system was so suppressed, and they were giving me antibiotics for all of the things that were happening, I got staph infections.
Lourdes: Oh my gosh.
Beth: Yeah, it was terrible. And my doctors just basically said, there’s nothing we can do, take another antibiotic, that’s all that we can do. And so, I was dealing with that, my body kind of shutting down. I still, after the hysterectomy, they kept my ovaries, I had ovarian cyst burst. So just my body, still, the hysterectomy didn’t fix it, because it never addressed why the things were happening in my body. So the breaking point for me was about a year after the hysterectomy, I had gained probably 60 pounds, and my anxiety was through the roof, I was barely functioning, I was so anxious. And, I just, no matter how little I ate, I couldn’t stop gaining weight. I was exercising, I was eating 1200 calories a day or fewer. And I went to my doctor, and I was like “Something is wrong with my hormones. I cannot lose weight, I’m gaining weight no matter what I try, I’m exercising all the time.” In the job I was in at the time, I was walking maybe 4 or 5 miles a day, and I just couldn’t lose any weight. And the doctor said to me, I can still hear his voice in my head, he said “I find it hard to believe if you’re moving as much as you say you are and eating as little as you say you are, that you’re not losing weight. You need to eat less and move more.”
Beth: Ended the conversation right there. I got up and I walked out, and I made the decision that I was going to fix myself. So, that’s kind of my story, and how I ended up where I’m at now. I found the integrative health practitioner institute. I started learning really to heal myself with no intention of becoming a coach. And then 2020 happened, and as all know, the world changed, and many many people started reevaluating their lives. And so, the job I was in at the time changed. There were a lot of layoffs, and so suddenly I was doing the job of 3 people, many people were.
It was not a job I had signed up to do. What I had signed up to do no longer existed, so I was in a job that I did not enjoy, and I was speaking to a friend one night, and I said “I’ve gotta find a new passion, I can’t keep doing what I’m doing.” And she said to me, “You have a passion,” and it was this. And she said “You talk about it and share it all the time.” And so that’s when I really, this is my new path. And it did, it became, well it was already my passion, I just didn’t know it, and so that’s when I started pursuing this, and now this is what I get to do full time, is help other people that have just not found their answers anywhere else.
Lourdes: Wow, thank you for sharing that, that is so interesting, the things that you had to go through! Now, listening to that, how does someone know if it’s a hormonal imbalance or if it’s a thyroid problem? Because, I have a friend of mine who has issues similar to yours, and she thinks it’s a thyroid problem. How does one know?
Beth: Well, I think you don’t know unless you test. And that’s one thing I always say is test don’t guess. And I thought it was a thyroid problem too, because that’s what we’re told. If you gain weight for no reason it’s your thyroid. And I’ve begged them to test my thyroid, and they did, but they only test a limited amount of things, they don’t test everything that they can look at, so they don’t have the whole picture. They wouldn’t even discuss testing my hormones, they were like, there’s nothing wrong with your hormones. So when I found the functional medicine lab testing, and the one that I use, the company that I use actually looks both at your sex hormones and your thyroid hormones, so it gives you a full picture. And for me, there was absolutely nothing wrong with my thyroid, it was completely because of the PCOS, one of the symptoms or one of the things that can happen, and for me this was the case, my testosterone was through the roof. It was what a man in his early fifties would be. So, it was kind of crazy. And then my estrogen and progesterone were out of balance, so it explains so much about the anxiety and the weight gain and all of the things that I was experiencing. So, I think the only way that you really know if it’s your thyroid or your hormones is to test both. And it’s great if you have a doctor that will look at a full thyroid panel.
Because typically what they’ll look at is TSH and maybe they’ll look at T3, but you want to look at free T3 and free T4, because all of these things are going to give a full picture, and if you’re not at the whole picture, it’s going to look at TSH, but you’ve got to see how your body’s utilizing it. And if you’re not looking at these other bodies, then you don’t know how your body’s utilizing it. And kind of the same thing, they may look at estrogen, but are they looking at the estrogen and progesterone ratio? Because, yes they may look at your estrogen, or they may look at you progesterone, but if they’re not looking at both, and not just looking at both, but looking at how they are in ratio to each other, it’s not really telling you the whole story you need to know. Because if they’re out of balance, then even if your estrogen is in a normal range, you could still be presenting with estrogen dominance symptoms. So I think the only way to know for sure is to test, don’t guess.
Lourdes: I love that, test don’t guess. So, where would we start to look for this doctor? I’ve had issues myself. Oh gosh, back in my thirties, my periods were crazy heavy. I could not leave the house, I would call in sick from work, because there was nothing I could do, so I stayed home for work. Looking for doctors that could test my hormones, and you’re right, they do TSH, your regular estrogen stuff, and they’re telling me “oh you’re fine, you’re fine.” Where would you direct a woman today who is having hormonal issues, or maybe thyroid issues, to find a doctor that does both tests?
Beth: And most primary cares are only going to do that, because that is all that insurance will cover. And it’s not necessarily their fault. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s not that they don’t know any better, but their hands are tied by what insurance companies will allow them to do. Or even the group that they work under may regulate what they are allowed to do. So I would suggest a couple of things. So first of all, if you find a primary care doctor that will do it, let us all know. [Lourdes laughs] Because they’re few and far between. Your best bet if you wanna go to a traditional medical doctor would be to find a doctor that doesn’t work under one of the big conglomerates, or that doesn’t accept insurance. There are a lot of medical doctors I know that, a practice just opened in my area, where they don’t accept insurance, they do like a payment plan, because when they accept insurance, they have to play by insurance’s rules.
Beth: And so, that would be the best bet if you want to go to a medical doctor. Honestly, if you really want to get to the root cause, and you wanna take a non-medical approach, a functional medicine provider is gonna be your best option. Most functional medicine providers are going to offer testing. You can always go the route of health coach like myself, an integrative health practitioner, or any type of functional medicine help coach will generally offer those labs as well.
Lourdes: Is a naturopathic doctor the same?
Beth: They’re a little bit different. A naturopathic doctor is gonna be much more likely to run a full panel, and so I would certainly look at a naturopathic doctor. Again, it’s gonna depend on how they’re set up. Are they set up independently outside of insurance companies, or are they working within a group that falls under accepting insurance and having to play by their rules? And it’s so, I hate that, that unfortunately there’s so many people out there that want to do the right thing, and they want to dig deeper and they want to look deeper, but they’re bound by the rules of the practice that they’re within. So, a naturopath is a good place to start. It’s not exactly the same thing as a functional medicine doctor, but it’s certainly, you may certainly get some more answers there.
Lourdes: So, are functional medicine doctors MDs, and is that what you said opened up around your house? So if I was Googling functional medicine, do I look for an MD functional medicine doctor?
Beth: So, there are some MDs that are also functional medicine doctors, there are a few. And I do believe the one that opened by me, they are both. But not always. Functional medicine doctors can be chiropractors, they can be nurse practitioners, so sometimes yes they do have that MD behind their name, or family nurse practitioner, but other times they’re not. But generally, if they are a functional medicine doctor, they have some type of medical background. You have to have that medical background to have that “Doctor” behind your name.
But again, there are people, and of course, obviously, with the “Doctor” behind their name, the price point is gonna be different, but there are lots of non-doctor, like myself. I’m not a doctor, I don’t have a medical degree of any sort, but I went through the training to learn the functional medicine piece of it and be able to offer that. So, there are a lot of people without the MD behind their name that can certainly help with this piece of it. But if you feel more comfortable with that MD behind the name, there are some, you have to search for them. And the good news is, is that not every one has to be in person. Many of them are now completely virtual, so you can search online for functional medicine and MDs and you can find someone that maybe is all virtual.
Lourdes: Beth, who is your ideal client?
Beth: So, my ideal client is women like me. Women that are in their forties and fifties that have busy lives, busy careers, and they have been failed by traditional medicine. So, they have put their faith in traditional medicine, and it’s just not working for their body. So women that feel that their bodies are betraying them, and they’re not getting any answers, they don’t recognize the body they’re in anymore, because they know that there’s a hormone imbalance there, and nobody is looking at why there’s a hormone imbalance there.
Lourdes: Do men ever contact you?
Lourdes: Okay, tell me about that.
Beth: The majority of my clients are women, but I do have male clients, and they don’t necessarily reach out, obviously, because men do have hormonal imbalances too. They just don’t show up the way they do for us women. And of course, because they don’t have periods and they’re not on the same cycle as we are, it’s not always as prevalent. I have had men reach out to me, and generally it’s because of the weight gain or low sex drive, or just the fatigue and the aching joints that’s a sign in a lot of men that they have some type of hormonal imbalance.
So we look at testosterone, we look at DHEA, which is a precursor to that, we look at their cortisol levels, because that’s a big indicator of what type of stress your body is under. And again, with most men, if they have hormonal imbalances, it is because if dis-regulated nervous system. They’re stressed out, they’re not managing stress in their life very well, they could have out of control cortisol. With a lot of men that I see, it’s the insulin resistance. They’ve got the beer belly going on, they’ve got the low sex drive. So again, we can test to see what the imbalances are, and then once we know what the imbalances are, we can take that integrative approach and help them re balance.
Lourdes: Interesting. Yes, I know about low T with men, I think it just makes them really tired, and maybe more than what I know, but I do know it makes them tired or sleepier. They have no energy, right?
Beth: No energy, a lot of the men that I work with that have the testosterone issues, aching joints is another sign. So they’ll say my knees hurt, my elbows hurt, you know, whatever. So that’s another sign that you can be dealing with low testosterone. But again, the only way to know what your specific imbalances are is test don’t guess.
Lourdes: When you get these results, and I’m assuming that they talk to you, and then you tell them what test to get, or do you send them the test to do, or how does that work?
Beth: So what I usually do is start with what I call a case review, and that’s where they do the detailed intake, and we go through it just piece by piece and really talk about everything all the way from childhood up to the current day, and everything that has happened in their life that could contribute to where they’re at now. That gives me a full picture of what’s going on, and at that point I suggest the test that they would benefit the most from, in my opinion. So, I do offer a couple of different options, they can certainly order the test themselves and I can do a review. But generally, I don’t like to just review a test, because I can tell you what your test says and then let you go on about your way, but that’s not doing anything different than what you’d get at your doctor’s office where they say “here are your lab results,” but they don’t give you any suggestions on how to fix whatever the issue is.
Lourdes: Mhm, true.
Beth: So, generally I work with clients between 4 and 6 months, and we have a complete protocol where we go through the nutrition, the exercise. We look at things in your environment that could be contributing to your issues. We look at your sleep, your stress, all of those things, and we work together between 4 and 6 months to make these changes together. We meet between once a week to once every two to three weeks, depending on what we’re working through. And once the tests come back, I help you determine if you need any types of supplements.
Supplements are never where I jump to first, because supplements didn’t get you to where you’re at, lifestyle got you to where you’re at. And so, if we don’t make the lifestyle changes first, the supplements are just like taking a pharmaceutical pill, they’re just suppressing the symptoms. So we really work on getting to the root of what’s creating the symptoms, squashing that, and then if we need some supplements to just help you along while you’re working through the process, we might put some things in there. But yeah, the 4 to 6 months is really for us to work one-on-one with re-balancing your entire body.
Lourdes: That’s so interesting! Four to six months, and that was one of my questions is how long is a typical client work with you. And, what if somebody does have a real issue, and this is a silly question again, a real issue with hormonal imbalance like low T or women that might need estrogen? I know a friend of mine who was prescribed a cream, and she put it on, and she really hated it. She had felt worse after that. I also know a man that had to do, I think shots? So they had to do, I dunno, some kind of hormonal shots. Is this something that can be avoided, or would you ever suggest, or the tests suggest that they do these things?
Beth: So, the creams and the shots are just like taking a pill, it’s just suppressing the symptoms. Now, everybody has to decide for themselves what is right for themselves. I did estrogen patches right after my hysterectomy, because that’s what I was told would fix the issues. It did not, it made it worse. But again, you’re just suppressing symptoms. So, with my approach, what I do with my clients, your estrogen is out of balance because of some thing. It’s because of an imbalanced gut, it’s because of stress, it’s because of some viral load in your body, there’s always a root cause for why something is out of balance in your body. So that’s where the 4 to 6 months comes in, of working and finding out – And that’s what the beginning intake and the testing is for, is really looking at what are your imbalances, and what’s creating this imbalance.
And let’s work on whatever is creating the imbalance so that you don’t have to resort to creams and pills. Again, every person has to make their own choice, and I never, with my clients, am going to discount that. If they feel that that’s the choice for them, that’s the right choice. But generally, people that come to me are tired of the creams and the shots and the pills, and they want to try to figure it out in a more natural way. So with the imbalances, I kind of liken it to trimming bushes. If you have bushes in your yard, you know this very well. You can trim it back, and you can clip off those branches, and it doesn’t matter how far you trim that tree back. Those leaves are always gonna grow back, because you didn’t kill the root. The only way that bush is never gonna grow back is if you dig it up at the roots and get rid of it. And whatever symptoms you have, whatever issues you’re dealing with, estrogen dominance or estrogen imbalances, testosterone imbalances, bloating and gas, whatever your issues are, if you don’t kill it at the root, if you just keep clipping away at it and just treating the symptoms, it’s always gonna come back. So, yeah.
Lourdes: Okay, so interesting answer. And made me think about, how soon after you do the test, you have the results, you go over it with your client, and you start this need protocol or program that you guys work together in, how soon does someone see results or feel results?
Beth: So it really depends on the client. I’ve had clients that within a week or two start noticing a difference. Because when they came to me, they had a lot of inflammation and bloating, and just, their diet was not conducive to balancing their body. So within a couple of weeks, they really start to see just small changes. Just, “my back doesn’t hurt when I wake up in the morning,” or “I’m not as bloated as I was last week.” So those small changes within a month or two, they really start to see the big changes. “Gosh, I feel better.” And one thing I always do is have them in the beginning give me a list of their major complaints rated on scale of 1-10. And about 6-8 weeks into starting the protocol I have them do that again, and then I share with them what they told me in the beginning.
Because I think, you start to feel a little bit better every day very slowly, and in the beginning it’s very noticeable because you just have felt so crappy for so long. And then as we move through and we get 6-8 weeks in, the changes are still happening, and it’s happening very slowly, and you forget how bad you felt in the beginning. And so, every single time I have a client do this, and their numbers have improved, they’re like “Gosh I didn’t remember I felt that bad.” So, I love it, that’s my favorite part of doing this is just, throughout the process talking to the clients about the changes and how they feel. But, it can, depending on how bad the imbalances are, clients can start feeling better within a week.
Lourdes: Man, time is going so fast! And I can talk to you for quite some time, I have so many other questions! So Beth, what do you do to relax? I mean, I know you talk about balancing your life and all that, but what does Beth do to relax and unwind when she’s not working with clients?
Beth: So, my very two favorite things are number one, spending time with my family. Just being with the people that I love is relaxing to me, it’s my happy place. So just anything with my family, whether it’s a family get-together. My mom and my sister both actually just recently moved to my city, and I haven’t lived in the same town with them in over 30 years, so just spending time with my family brings joy to me. But I also love hiking and camping! So my husband and I will get in the truck and we will go, and we will hit the woods. And so hiking anywhere, but especially hiking around water just brings peace to my soul. So that is my relaxation, hiking, spending time just out in the woods in nature, and spending time with my family.
Lourdes: Okay, so now it’s time for me to ask you a funny or silly question. Are you ready?
Beth: I’m ready.
Lourdes: Would you rather have an amazing fast typing speed or texting speed, or be able to read ridiculously fast, and why?
Beth: Oh gosh, reading for sure! I have always been a voracious reader. I used to, when I was growing up, I used to get in trouble because my mom would think I was asleep and I’d be up half the night reading instead. [Lourdes laughs] If I could read super fast and I could get through more books, I would love that. I love to read for knowledge, I love to read for fun, so I would definitely pick reading.
Lourdes: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for joining me on my podcast today, I really enjoyed talking to you! I have so many other questions, I might have to ask you to come back another time to continue that.
Beth: I would love it, absolutely!
Lourdes: Well, you have a nice day Beth, and I’ll talk to you soon!
Beth: Thank you, thanks for having me!
Lourdes: And in next week’s episode, we’ll be talking about how to use the Law of Attraction to get what you want.
I hope that you enjoyed this podcast and please share this episode with your friends! Please subscribe, rate, and review this episode! And as always, the show notes will be available at https://8thlevelpodcast.com. Thanks for listening!
Beth’s website: https://www.betterhealthbybeth.com
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