If you’re not addressing the root causes of whatever it is you’re feeling in your body, you’re not going to get anywhere in your health and wellness journey. That’s where functional medicine comes in, and functional nutrition is a big part of that. To talk about this, Pamela Wirth is joined by Samantha Lander, a functional diagnostic practitioner and nutritionist a multi-faceted background. Sam is the founder of See Fit, where she coaches people back to optimal health when they just can’t quite put their finger on why they feel bad. Sam used functional nutrition to heal herself from allergies, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, and parasites. She is very active on social media helping educate people in a fun way when it comes to being healthy. She has bi-weekly IG lives on all things health and wellness and LIFE. Join in to hear what she has to impart.
Thanks for having me.
Tell us a little about your health and wellness journey, your practice, and how you've gotten into all of this. There are so many cool things going on in health and wellness nowadays.
I know. It's great. People are really starting to look outside the box, which I love. It was not the case when I first started doing all this. I was the healthiest, sickest kid growing up. I went to all the doctors and was never diagnosed with anything but put on a lot of medications. I was a highly functioning human with a very elite athlete number one rower in the US. I excelled as far as any physical sports I was good at, but I always had chronic stomach problems. I don't remember being a kid who had weird periods of hormone problems. The stomach was my first brain. Between anxiety or anything, it was my stomach. I was sick between constipation, diarrhea, and bloating.
I eventually got where it was like inability to lose weight no matter what I did. I craved carbs. That went on until I had this little stint in my life where I was using a lot of drugs, but it was a lot of self-medicating for undiagnosed ADHD, which stemmed from my gut. I don't need to take anything now except for supplements that are natural. I felt better then, but I also wasn't very in tune with what was going on in the reality of life. Once I got through all that, I had a personal trainer. I was doing all the right things, which most of us can relate to, working out, counting calories, and doing one of the little nutrition things they tell you. I was getting progressively sicker. I have diarrhea all the time.
I felt like my skin didn't fit my body. I was retaining that much water, and it kept going. There's no way that someone who was eating so little and working out as much as I was could be gaining actual fat. My body was probably in starvation mode. I was eating, but it was to the minimum. I was working out a ton of cardio. All the trainers, I remember when I first started when they were like, "I don't get why it's not working. I don't get this." Nobody really knew functional medicine at that point. One guy went to a holistic lifestyle coach course. He is like, "I met this guy who does his food sensitivity test. How about you run it with him? Let's see what's going on." I did that, and I came back. It had so many things on it.
Within the first week, I lost twenty pounds of water due to all the inflammation from the foods that were reactive, not even addressing my hormones or anything else. That was the light bulb moment for me that there's way more than just calories, workout more, wear your Fitbit, wear your heart rate monitor, whatever it is. None of that stuff is going to help me at this point. That's when I turned to running a lot of functional labs. I work with a lot of top-notch now. They're super top-notch practitioners. It was hard. It was a rollercoaster journey.
I always tell my clients I can't promise anything because it would work and it wouldn't work, then it would work, or I'd get with a practitioner that was new enough but didn't know enough. I was always the tough case. I'm grateful for that because it makes me a way better practitioner now. If you don't address the root cause of what's going on inside the body, you're not going to get anywhere. You can take every medication, work out as much as you want, and eat as clean as you want. Those are great foundations to start, like movement and eating right, but it's more than that. That's when I started doing it myself.
What kind of tests would you suggest running on folks now that are coming to you and like, "Something's just not right. I am exercising, and I feel like I'm eating correctly." What would be the next first steps that you might take with somebody?
For me personally, the three labs that almost all my clients run out the gate are food sensitivity tests, GI panels, and comprehensive adrenal hormone panel.
What would something like that cost for folks? Is it typically cash-based? Can you run anything through insurance, too, or a combination?
You can use your HSA cards in the labs and with me. Otherwise, it's not really run by insurance. You can submit it and see if they'll cover it. Some might. I know some covers nutrition counseling, so I can label my things like that. It's all out of pocket. Those tests out the gate are $850 probably total, and a program with me or consults with me on top of that is usually a hot run. It's an investment. I probably spent over $50,000 on my health easily between supplements, doctors, and getting the run-around. It's worth it.
It is in the long run. I remember the first year that we were going through this with my son. It was so many thousands of dollars that we ended up having to sell one of the nicer cars, using that money, and then getting the crappier car, which we still have for teenagers now. It's hard to make that investment initially in your health, but it really pays off in the long run.
With my backstory, I was in prison for a while. When I came out, I had nothing. I got lucky that my personal training business by the second year was six figures, and I was able to pay for it. I reached the goals that I wanted, like buying a house and things like that, but most of my money went to all of that. It was a struggle because I had nothing. It's like you want to save and do all these things that adults do at that point. It was probably the best money I've spent.
I tell this to my clients. Let's say I'm walking around with a Gucci bag. Here I am, strutting my stuff with that. If I feel like crap, it doesn't matter. I'd rather be wearing the cheapest, most homely sweatshirt in the world and feel good. If you've been sick or felt bad or been in that, "I don't know what to do," state, you know that doesn't matter. I remember that I get a lot of clients that say, "If I could have a perfect day," I'm like, "You're my person. I will work with you." I used to pray just for one good day when I wake up and feel like a normal human, whatever that meant to me.
Even if you’re strutting around with a Gucci bag, if you don’t feel good, it doesn’t matter. It’s better to be wearing the cheapest, most homely sweatshirt in the world and feel good.
When you run the test, in our experience, things don't happen overnight. You've got to be so patient with how your body starts to heal from the inside out. It can take quite a bit of time. From your experience, after you get the results back from food sensitivity, hormones, adrenals, and GI, what do you do next in terms of changing the diet changing or supplements? How long does that typically take that journey?
I would say that now, people work with me for eight months to a year, depending on what all they have going on. If it's just working with a menopausal woman who wants to balance hormones, they don't need as much. It's the 45 and below that have a lot more going on. I always address the food first. They get all the labs. They can run them at whatever pace they want to run them. It's usually at least once a month. Some people knock it out. The food I address first, and we get that going. I then address the hormones and adrenals. I get them on a good protocol for that. I won't address and start killing anything in the gut until I know that adrenals and their cortisol and all that have been at least two months in.
Going and killing some infection in your body, as we all know, can tank the body. I'm not trying to get into vaccines. A lot of people got a vaccine, or they got COVID. The stress response on the body right there is exhausting people. Imagine if you were killing something in your body. It's an overload on the system. If you're already stressed and adding more stress, I'm trying to decrease stress, not add stress. We have to change the lifestyle stuff, balance the hormones, and go and kill everything, which is typically how I run it. I don't just throw them under the bus. There are people who do not like that and will stop working with me. I'm like, "Have fun when you feel like crap."
It takes a lot of time. In our experience, it took each one of us a little over a year to start to feel right. It was frustrating.
Sometimes people do the food tests, and within a week, they're like, "I'm pooping. I feel amazing. Sleep is great." I also have others that are tougher cases. We just keep digging. We can run other labs and stuff like that. It's such a gamut. I don't put a promise on any of it.
In terms of your own health, is there a certain type of diet that you like to follow? It seems like everybody's got an opinion on this.
I'm a back-to-basics kind of girl. I've tried it all with everyone. I see what I get when I come in. For me, my diet is pretty clean. I've gotten to the point where my gut is not so sensitive. It's not as leaky. I can cheat and not feel awful. I'll get puffy like I know what to expect. Before, I used to be so scared to cheat that I thought I would die, and you're not, even living inflamed for years. I was so scared to feel that way. It was like PTSD. I eat clean. I try to follow whatever food sensitivities I have at the time. I usually can figure out pretty well what they are. I don't run that lab as much.
I usually come back with seven things I'm reactive to at this point. Even if I eat them, I don't notice anything. Usually for me, when I am not feeling right, it's my hormones. I eat clean. I wake up and try to eat within 30 minutes. Some days, I might do what someone might consider intermittent fasting, but I don't know. I eat clean, more paleo, and a lot of protein vegetables. I don't do a ton of carbs. I have a polycystic ovarian syndrome. I do a lot of blood sugar balancing, but I'm not as focused on it as I was before.
What about a handful of supplements that are your go-to that everybody should take a look at these type? Are there any ingredients or anything particular that you're like, "This is a no-brainer, and everybody needs this stuff because of diet nowadays?"
The stuff that I could say to anyone, in general, is taking this because there are a lot of things I won't do until I run the labs. It's not going to hurt you to take fish oil, a good probiotic, a multivitamin, and vitamin D with K2. Vitamin C will not hurt you. Gut healing stuff won't hurt you, but you should probably figure out what's going on first. A lot of people put on something called MTHFR, like a supplement for that, even if they are not tested for genetic snips or any of that gene mutation. I'll put them on the B vitamins for that and the folate methylate. B12 shots I think are great. It goes in better that way. That's the foundation. I know people like to do adrenal support and thyroid, but I have to see where their cortisol is at.
That's the second time you've mentioned cortisol. What is cortisol, whether it's too high or too low, what's good, and what's bad?
Cortisol is your stress hormone. When your body is having a stress response, you're going to release cortisol to react, like fight or flight. If a lot of people think that they're stressed out like, "My cortisol is all messed up," that's their go-to. It's like, "It's so high." Honestly, with the labs I get, it's very rare that it's actually high. Cortisol is a bell curve. When it's super high, that's at acute state, and you're still producing it, that's amazing. I like to see that you can still produce your own cortisol, but you're starting to get the symptoms that come with it, like adrenal dysfunction. Over time, you'll stay in that state because a lot of us don't ever come down from that high-stress state.
We keep working. We keep busting our asses at the gym. We're cutting calories. We're not sleeping. We're working. We have our kids. We have all this stuff now, like our electronics alone. We're exposed to way more stress than decades ago. We stay in that high cortisol output, and eventually, we run out. We only have so much cortisol reserve. That's the misnomer. We actually run out. When we run out, our body is naturally going to steal from our other hormones or start to take from other areas.
I know the bell curve. I do a 24-hour sample. That's why it's important because you can see the whole curve. When it's flatlined, and you're highly symptomatic, it's brain fog, constipation, GI, and eczema. All these things start happening to your body. If you have low cortisol, that's a bad state. If you come to me and your cortisol is fairly normal, yet you are not symptomatic, you could be okay, but it's rare.
That's super cool to think about because I hadn't thought of cortisol that way in terms of you've got reserve, and you're keeping yourself so stressed out. If your body takes from other hormones, what types of hormones would potentially be affected by that?
It's your estrogen, testosterone, and DHEA. Your cortisone is a big one. Cortisol is a precursor for cortisone. Many of you guys have probably heard the cortisone shot you get in your arm. It helps with the inflammation of an injury or whatever. It's the same thing. Your body makes cortisone. It's your natural anti-inflammatory. When you're running out of cortisol, you're not going to have any cortisone, and you're not going to find any inflammation. Let's say you fall and cut your knee. All of a sudden, it's like, "Why isn't this healing? Why is this not getting better? Why is this taking so long? Why is this broken bone taking way longer than the doctor said?" It's because you don't have any cortisone in your body. Your body got that imbalance because the cortisol has taken everything, so everything starts to tank.
That's interesting and cool to think about. In a scenario like that, do you recommend that folks start taking some hormones to start to backfill? Do you actually take cortisol? What do you do?
There are situations where you can take cortex or hydrocortisone therapy in small doses. It's very regulated. That's typically, too, like if you have like Addison's, which is an autoimmune condition where you can't produce cortisol at all. That can be something you use. I barely rarely do it, but there are supplements that can help increase the half-life of your cortisol and get you producing it again. If you are estrogen or progesterone is low, we can do bioidentical with that.
We can put you on something called pregnenolone, which is your mothership hormone, which can help with all of them. It depends on the person. With some people, you got to be careful, like if their testosterone is high because you can convert hormones more than the other hormones. It's case by case. I'm always learning more about it. I took another course to have a little refresher on the specifics of people with PCOS and hormones and stuff. I was like, "I feel like I learned a whole another gamut of things."
Let's dive into that. You've got a bunch of certifications. Tell us where you've learned and been certified by all these different things folks are constantly learning more about.
The best way I've learned is by going through it. My experience was working with good practitioners because then I learned like, "This is wrong. This is why we're doing this." I am a functional diagnostic nutritionist CHEK Level 3 holistic lifestyle coach. I've taken extensive courses on parasites and parapsychology and the gut and SIBO. I've taken a lot of them through various things. Emma Lane is my go-to and guru for any of that. It's like you get the best carrot cake you've ever had, and you can never have the same one again.
She is so knowledged on the gut. It's insane. It's all backed up. She's so good. She's taken me to the next level as far as parasites, gut, leaky gut, SIBO, and any fungal thing. I could take her courses twelve times over and learn something new every time. I've taken mold courses and metal toxicity courses. I just finished a PCOS course. I always have a podcast in my ear, trying to learn something new or hear what's going on in other practices. We all have different opinions about a little bit of something, so there's always a golden nugget and a lot of stuff about running the business.
There are so many things that you have to think about when it comes to managing the inflammation in your body. In lifestyle or anything, you talked about heavy metals. Is there anything in terms of lifestyle that you're like, "This is a no-brainer that everybody should watch out for that causes major inflammation and things that should be thought about?"
Your food. That's the number one thing. If you're broke and can't afford testing or whatever it is, change your diet and lift weights. Don't go bust and do hours of cardio. Lift weights and look at your diet. If you can't pronounce something on a box or whatever, don't eat it. There's so much information from functional practitioners out on the internet. I know it can be a little dangerous, but there's enough to get the basics.
There's so much information from functional practitioners out on the internet. There's enough to get the basics.
Rotate your foods and try to do a four-day rotation on all your foods. Don't eat the same thing every day. You can do something like the Whole30. I don't do fad diets, but Whole30 takes away the foods that are almost not every one of my client's food sensitivity tests. Granted, they have things like spinach and all these other things you would never expect, but it's not going to hurt to take that stuff out. That's all free. With the Dirty Dozen, if you can't afford all organic, pick the cleanest and dirtiest to buy organic. I believe that for eggs, milk, dairy products, and meat products, you should focus on trying to do organic and clean with that and then the Dirty Dozen with the cleanest vegetables and fruits.
It's because of the hormones that they're putting in the non-organic.
Don't burn a bunch of candles and fragrances in your house. Do homemade cleaners you can make, like vinegar and things like that, instead of buying chemical-filled sprays and stuff. I know we got real happy with all the antibacterial and bleach products during COVID. We'll see how sick we all get this 2022.
Is there anything else that comes to mind that I forgot to bring up?
If anyone's curious about learning more about what would be the next step for them to optimize their health if they're being stuck like their doctor isn't listening to them or whether maybe their practitioner isn't listening, I am perfectly happy to do a 45-minute discovery call with them and talk all about their health. We do a whole health history. It doesn't cost them a thing. I love to hear about people's health journeys.
I wish I could write a book with everyone. I probably could. That's a good idea. I'll put that on my vision board. I'm trying to get rid of this stuff. I'm trying to knock it out. It's on my shower wall, and I'm like, "I got to get some stuff done in the next month and a half." I'm happy to do a free call or complimentary, whatever you want to call it, talk about it, and tell you a little bit about what program I think would be fitting for you and answer any questions.
Health and wellness are the way to go. It's hard to scale, but it's so important. How do folks find you, Sam?
You can go to Instagram. I am all over that bad boy. It's @SeeFitLiving and then Samantha Lander. You can google me and probably find a lot. On Facebook, it's Samantha Lander and See Fit. My website is SeeFitPT.com.
Thank you so much, Sam. We appreciate having you here.
No problem. Thanks for having me.