Ep 136: Postpartum Mojo with Maraya Brown


Have you heard of postpartum thyroiditis or adrenal exhaustion? Me neither, which is why I invited Maraya Brown onto the podcast! Maraya is a certified nurse midwife turned women’s health coach who’s worked in women’s healthcare for over two decades in many different capacities. She is here to talk about many aspects of postpartum wellness which she encounters through her work, specifically thyroiditis and adrenal exhaustion. Neither one of these things are terribly common, and there’s actually some controversy as to whether adrenal exhaustion is even something that exists. However, I know that our understanding of medicine and what happens in our bodies and women’s health is always evolving. So, selfishly, I invited Maraya on because I wanted to know more about these topics and I think you will want to know more about them, too!

In this Episode, You’ll Learn About:

  • Why Maraya became a women’s health coach
  • What is functional medicine and how Maraya uses it in her work
  • What is postpartum thyroiditis and what are the symptoms
  • What adrenal exhaustion is and what causes it
  • What is toxin reduction and how to implement it in your life
  • What is oxytocin and how to maximize it in the postpartum
  • What are Maraya’s recommendations for gut, thyroid, adrenal, and liver health

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Ep 136: Postpartum Mojo with Maraya Brown

Nicole: In this episode of the podcast, we have Maraya Brown, a certified nurse midwife turned women's health coach. Welcome to the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. I'm Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins, a board certified OB GYN who's been in practice for nearly 15 years. I've had the privilege of helping over 1000 babies into this world, and I'm here to help you be calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Check out the full disclaimer at drnicolerankins.com/disclaimer. Now let's get to it.

Nicole: Hello there. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 136. Thank you. Thank you for being here with me today. In today's episode of the podcast, we have Maraya Brown. Maraya started out as a doula, and then she went on to train as a certified nurse midwife at Yale. Her work in birth spanned 21 years, took her all over the world. She then transitioned into managing women's health clinics, and she has now transitioned again into doing women's health coaching. She has a program called Help Women Move From Exhausted to Energized, Balance Their Hormones and Feel Turned on by Their Life, Their Lover and Themselves. Maraya approaches her work from a functional medicine lens and you'll learn what that means in the episode. And she also has a deep appreciation and respect for food as medicine. She's the co-creator co-founder of Beyond The right Beyond The Red Tent, which is a community of about 14,000 women to convene and connect.

Nicole: She's also a mom of three young children, eight years old and younger and wife to an amazing personal trainer and physical therapist who has heart. So in this episode, we are talking about some things that she encounters through her work that happened in the postpartum period, specifically postpartum thyroiditis and adrenal exhaustion. And neither one of these things are terribly common. And there's actually some controversy as to whether or not adrenal exhaustion is even something that exists. However, I know that our understanding of medicine and what happens in our bodies and women's health is always evolving. There was a time when people felt like chronic fatigue syndrome was a made up thing, and there's actually substantial evidence that it is a real condition. So selfishly, I kind of invited Maraya on because I wanted to know about these topics. And I think you will want to know about them too.

Nicole: So we're going to learn about thyroid thyroiditis, adrenal exhaustion, how to reduce toxins in your environment and what you put into your body, how oxytocin plays into the postpartum period, and then some recommendations for general health. Now, before you start learning about things that could happen postpartum, you got to have the baby first, and that's where the Birth Preparation Course comes in. The Birth Preparation Course is my signature online childbirth education class that gets you calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful birth. And here's the thing. If you are listening to this podcast, I know you are someone who likes to do your research. You like to get information, you like to get information from trustworthy and reliable sources. You want it to be evidence-based. You want it to be straightforward. You want it to be easy to understand, and those are all things that you're going to get inside of the Birth Preparation Course.

Nicole: It's incredibly comprehensive. And the way that I approach childbirth education, starting at that very beginning from mindset and preparing your mind for your birth, because it's so important, making sure you have the right support, you then go on to learn all the details of labor and birth, as well as the evidence behind certain recommendations and things that happen with labor and birth, particularly in the hospital, you are going to learn about some possible things that can occur because birth is an unpredictable process and you want to be prepared to ride those unpredictable waves. And then of course, you get to learn how to get off to a great start postpartum as well as how to make birth wishes that work. So I will be delighted to have you inside of the Birth Preparation Course, and I know that you will find it useful as well. Check out all the details at drnicolerankins.com/enroll. There's a 30 day money back guarantee. So if for some reason you're not satisfied, you can just ask for your money back. No questions asked. Okay. Let's get into my conversation with Maraya Brown. Thank you so much, Maraya, for agreeing to come on to the podcast. I am excited to chat with you today.

Maraya: Absolutely. I'm thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me.

Nicole: Yeah. So why don't you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your work and even your family, if you'd like.

Maraya: Yeah. So my name is Maraya Brown. Um, I am a certified nurse midwife by training. I went to Yale and finished in 2007 and I've been working with women for 21 years now, just really passionate about, um, initially working as a doula and then a midwife. And I've spent time as a midwife in West Africa and Central America and Haiti and all over the U S and just really, really, really love midwifing women through journeys of transition. And that's not only the transition to become pregnant and give birth, but also the transitions of postpartum and then perimenopause and menopause. I'm a mom of three children. Um, they were all born at home. I've had three, honestly, ecstatic births, um, just some of the most amazing experiences of my life and my husband, who's a physical therapist and a man of heart. We live in Southern Oregon and we did reside in Hawaii for eight years. So I have a strong connection with the islands for sure.

Nicole: Nice, nice, nice. So obviously, like, you know, when people think of midwives, we think of birth, but as you said, midwives can help transition through lots of different life stages. So what led you to focus your work or shift your work to specifically more of the postpartum period and transitioning to more of a women's health coach?

Maraya: Yeah, part of it honestly boils down to sleep and time.

Maraya: You know, if I was working in a hot in the hospital unit, I would do a 24 or 48 hour shift if I was attending home birth, always as the second midwife, I'm on call 24 7, and I had three little babies. They're currently eight and younger. And so it was a quality of life piece, but then I was running the women's health in, um, local practices for the past six years. I've been with a functional medicine practice and I ran the women's health and just perpetually being reminded that women need support in all chapters of life. And one of my mottos is just midwife it. And I think of the midwife as the one that holds a woman's highest potential and is there to help a woman feel grounded and surrender and trust. And so I feel like, um, even when I worked in a planned parenthood, I mean, there, this was still the energy of midwifing it.

Maraya: And now, um, I get to at times midwife my children, you know, if they fall and and, you know, crash their bike and then becoming a women's health coach, I started an online platform that's called Beyond The Red Tent and it just grew organically it grew to 8,000 women in five weeks time, it just blew up. And for me, it was a big, ah ha that there's a, there's a big need out in the virtual world for women to have answers and have a platform to be able to ask their questions and have a safe container. And as I was running that program and also working as a women's health provider, I kept vetting experts around the world that were doing online work. And what I realized is by showing up as a women's health coach, I get to work with women all over the world.

Maraya: And I get to bring in and incorporate all the aspects of the work that I've done, whether it's energetic or mindset work, or nutrition or supplementation, and obviously the foundational education that I've had over the years of being a provider. And now I simply get to be in my craft and help a woman, not just with the education and the solutions, but also the accountability and the handholding I E the midwifing it, you know, that they're actually holding her hand and helping her breathe through the journey. And so now I'm not even seeing patients in the clinic at all anymore. All of my work is with women all around the world. Just not just profoundly showing up as a women's health coach.

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I, we all have to work and it's, it's a journey and we have to, you know, get there sometimes, but we all have to work to find the best way to use our gifts and talents and be of service to those gifts and talents, and also like live lives that are happy and fulfilling and, and where we can do the things that, that give us joy. And it sounds like you you've done that.

Maraya: Yeah. I remember reading the book, the big leap and this idea of my zone of genius. And what I realized is my zone of genius is I love reading the books and the research and taking all the information in assimilating it, digesting it and making it palpable to then convey it out to the women that I serve and helping them use that in very practical result, oriented action steps. And so then I get to be in my zone of genius, feeling really passionate about the work that I'm doing and also offering up what I think women out in the world need.

Nicole: It's beautiful. Absolutely. Absolutely. Beautiful. So you practice from what you said is functional medicine.

Maraya: Yeah. So the Institute of functional medicine, um, you can look it up, but it really it's, um, a very different approach to healthcare, you know, at Yale and my nurse practitioner training it's our training is really kind of what are the symptoms? What's the diagnosis? What tests do we want to pull? What are the differentials? And here's the solution. And often the solutions are, um, medicines or surgery in nature. I mean, obviously there's other, uh, other options in the midst of it, but that's pretty much the gist of allopathic medicine, in my opinion.

Nicole: That's just that's fact for the most.

Maraya: I'm trying to be offensive. So the functional medicine approach is really looking at foundational cause kind of looking under the hood, so to speak. So as an example, when it comes to a woman feeling like her hormones are out of balance, sure. I could prescribe you some hormone replacement therapy or put you on the pill or maybe an antidepressant, or maybe just say, oh, here take some topical da da, or eat more phyto estrogens. But from a functional perspective, we need to look at the foundational cause, which is gut health and adrenal health and liver health and thyroid health and all of that. Um, being the cause of the hormones going out of balance in the first place. So rather than putting a bandaid on a festering wound, we figure out, wait a minute, why is this wound here in the first place?

Nicole: And really that should be the approach that we have in medicine, um, for everything really is doing our best to try to figure out the underlying cause. Because a lot of times the underlying cause is not best treated by the specific medication. It's better treated by something else, but, um, it's very much so that in traditional medicine, we were sort of trained to put that bandaid on instead of dingy digging underneath. I think we're trying to get better, but we have a ways to go.

Maraya: And you know, I'm not here to judge. The reality is most mainstream providers are really crunched for time. And a lot of patients are really looking for quick fixes. They might not actually want to look under the hood and, and have to look at themselves in the mirror and do the lifestyle changes. Um, and so, you know, that is working for some, for me seeing patients in the clinic, it just never quite felt like enough. I could give them some solutions, but I never quite had the time to really help them understand why, what they were doing was creating shifts and to pull back the layers of the onion. And so working through the functional medicine lens for me has been just so enjoyable. And I feel like I get to help women create more long lasting results that aren't just while I'm taking this medication, but actually creating a new lifestyle, um, that lasts decades.

Nicole: Absolutely. And that's an excellent point also that you made is that it is true. Some people do, you know, no judgment, um, want a quick fix. Um, you know, I think in practice that doesn't necessarily tend to be the best like long, you know, approach for longevity sake, but it's true that some people do want a quicker fix and I guess it's, you know, we need to have all options and things available for folks. Yeah. Yeah. So you specifically wanted to talk about postpartum thyroiditis or you mentioned, you know, when you reached out and then adrenal exhaustion. So what is postpartum thyroiditis? Let's start with that.

Maraya: Yeah. Okay. So postpartum. So first thyroiditis, thyroid and itis is inflammation or infection, right? So we've got something going on with the thyroid and specifically in the postpartum period, women can have increased inflammation of the thyroid after the delivery of their baby. And that can sometimes result in hyperthyroidism or hypo thyroidism. Um, for me, I had, uh, a multinodular goiter, which means my, my thyroid actually became so enlarged. I could see it in the mirror. And as a practitioner, I knew what was going on. I was like, wow, let's address this. And, but for a lot of women, especially in the postpartum period, we're tired, we're sleep deprived. Our body's not our own, breastfeeding's our full-time job. Our body's adjusting. And there's so much recalibrating. And during pregnancy, the thyroid is, is working very differently. And so that recalibration in the postpartum period often can end up with the thyroid going a little out of whack and over time, if it's not addressed, it has a whole gamut of things that can show up that we really would prefer not happen. Gotcha.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. So how common does this happen and what are some of those long-term things that could show up?

Maraya: Sure, sure. So, so first, um, okay. Common. It depends on who you ask. I mean, Cleveland Clinic, they say it's about 5% of women, really hard time believing that. First of all, level thyroxine, the thyroid medication in synthetic form is the most prescribed medication for women in the United States. Women, we have, for some reason, a really big issue with thyroid, particularly in population of women. And I think part of the reason why when you look up statistics of occurrence in the postpartum period, I think it's super underdiagnosed because women are simply too busy, right. Or too busy to go seen. We're not listening to our bodies. There's so many different moving parts. It's like, oh yeah, I'm tired, but it's probably just because I didn't sleep. Right. And so what happens is I think there's a lot of thyroid conditions that go undiagnosed or underdiagnosed.

Maraya: And so women have to really become their own self advocates to go, all right, this really feels extreme. And so what are some symptoms that women can really look for, um, circles underneath the eyes? So dark circles, um, fatigue, and you go, well, fatigue is really vague and broad, but, but really, truly once you're in the postpartum period and you're starting to get some sleep, the fatigue should not continue to be as extreme as many women experience it. Um, dif difficulty with either, um, getting the weight off or losing too much weight, women that consistently are constipated. They're losing their hair. They're losing the outside of their eyebrows. They're having increased aches and pains in their bodies. They're needing caffeine to get up and go, the there's there's some depression sneaking in, is it postpartum depression? Is it something going on with the thyroid, um, cold extremities, having a hard time, maintaining hot and cold temperatures or your hands and feet are always cold, a full feeling in the throat, change in voice, anxiety, insomnia, rashes, feeling sluggish, um, having dry skin.

Maraya: I mean, there's so many different ways, even just insomnia, not sleeping can actually go back to the thyroid. And so what happens is over time, if a woman just kind of keeps sweeping it under the rug and isn't seen, or they're seeing a provider that isn't taking it seriously, or isn't ordering the right tests, it goes under or undiagnosed. And now over time, it can actually end up being, uh, an auto-immune condition. Maybe you've heard of Hashimoto's from graves. And then the thyroid also is then communicating with the ovaries and the whole HPA axis, which, you know, we hear the adrenals, but your adrenals, your pituitary and your hypothalamus, and they're all in conjunction, working together. And so over time it just continues to get worse rather than better. And then a woman might crash, which was actually my scenario. I had the postpartum thyroiditis with just a multinodular goiter. They had the ultrasound, they said, everything's fine. Didn't really follow up with my labs because I was too busy and I was a provider. So for some reason I was, I don't know, maybe embarrassed or didn't want to go have the help. And then next thing I knew after baby, number two, I completely crashed. And I was so tired. I remember thinking, um, like something is really wrong, like am I dying.

Nicole: Right, right, right.

Maraya: And I had no libido and I had no energy and I needed to nap with the kids. And no matter how much I was sleeping, I just couldn't get up and go. And I had the aches and pains in my body and I just couldn't find my mojo. And it's for me, my thyroid and my adrenals had crashed.

Nicole: Right, right, right. And I think it's very easy or very common that we're going to say, this is because you have a new baby and you're just adjusting and you're just adjusting. You're just adjusting. But you know, I feel like after, you know, six months or so baby should start sleeping more. You should start feeling more like that. You know, you're going to be different after you have a baby, but you should start to feel more like normal. And if things are persistent, then you need to look into some other possibility

Maraya: And the filling up your own cup needs to start from the beginning. You know, I remember with my first baby, if he was showing, if he was crying and needed to be fed, I would just sit down and put him on the boob and then I'd be sitting there going, oh, no, I forgot to get my water. I need to go pee and empty my bladder first. And as we move along and have more children, or somehow we have a mentor midwife that helps us learn that we have to set boundaries and put on our own oxygen mask first. Well now, okay. He's crying. It's okay. If he cries for an extra few minutes, I'm going to go empty my bladder. I'm going to go get myself some water and a book to read, maybe get myself situated and comfortable, and now I'll let him breastfeed. So that mom is also taken care of.

Nicole: Yeah. And I say this all the time, the, in order for your, your, during your pregnancy, when you have a newborn, when you have a child, as they grow older, in order for them to be the healthiest that they can be, it requires that you, as the parent are the healthiest that you can be. Yeah. And it's, um, something that we, you know, especially in our society, we're taught a lot to kind of that sacrificial sort of approach to parent, to parenthood. And I disagree that that's the right approach. And it also teaches your children, particularly girls. And I'm getting it a little bit of a soap box here that that sacrificial approach is necessary. And it's not.

Maraya: No, you're, you're, you're preaching to the choir. I'm in total agreement. Women innately, we want to give. And part of that is, is instinctive and physiological. But the, the permission giving ourselves permission to set boundaries and literally put on our own oxygen mask first helps us be a fuller version of those that we are loving and giving too. And we also give our children permission to do the same, particularly our daughters. I love what Louise hay says. In regard to the thyroid conversation, she's explained that many women feel torn by the pressure to be all things. And their creative self gets blocked. They stop expressing themselves. And that expresses itself in the body as the thyroid being out of balance, you know, the thyroid is in the throat. That's the place of us speaking our truth, right? Allowing the creativity to surge, allowing the, um, giving ourselves permission to ensure that we're cared for. And so many women say, oh, there's not enough time in the day. Well, we have to make the time we prioritize the time and allow others to wait just a little bit longer so that I get to heat up my cup of tea. So when I sit down, I drink it when it's hot, not, not like, just go, oh, well at least I have tea. It's cold now, but oh, well.

Nicole: Exactly. Exactly. So now let's talk about adrenal exhaustion. This may be a little bit more controversial in terms of, uh, is that some of the, to adrenal fatigue or what is that?

Maraya: It is fascinating in the mainstream world. We know exhaustion, adrenal fatigue. Um, there are places, you know, I was even looking on something on Harvard, on their website and they were saying, there's no such thing. It's all in the functional. I mean, come on. You can, the adrenals of course get exhausted, particularly for women. Um, just based on, so the adrenals are the, that place where it's going to respond to a need for fight flight or freeze. Okay. Uh, a wildebeast is coming and I need to run. Okay. The adrenals are what pump out the cortisol and other hormones. Cortisol is the one we know the best, to prepare to flee, right? We have to survive. And the reality is we're not living in a time where we have to worry about a lion or a wildebeast, but we are dealing with the onslaught of pressure.

Maraya: All of the time, we worry about our finances. We worry about our safety. We worry about in today's world, stepping outside and feeling judged or misunderstood and in a pandemic, is it safe for me to be near and under another individual? We are bombarded with toxins in the environment. I mean, newborn babies now looking at cord blood, they've found as many as 250 toxins in the cord blood of newborn babies. We just have toxins in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, and that is throwing an onslaught to the body where the body goes oh I need to either fight flight or freeze. If we've got the news playing in the background, we're watching a scary movie. There's a reason why, when you're watching that scary movie, your palms are sweating and your heart is racing. Your body is having the same physiological response.

Maraya: And so over time, the adrenals get taxed and they go ope I'm done. Okay. So mainstream medicine is going to go, well, maybe there's no such thing, but I think one are they testing it correctly. So to really look at your adrenals, it's gotta be through urine or saliva for the testing. Number one, but also just based on how is a woman presenting with their symptoms, you know, can we let go of what we've been taught as true or untrue and trust a woman in her place of self-advocacy she's tired. She has insomnia. She's suffering with IBS. She has memory impairment and brain fog. She's feeling tired, anxious, irritable. Her sex drive is gone. All of a sudden experiencing hot flashes. Hormones are out of balance. She's having water retention, weight gain, constipation, diarrhea, chronic migraines, loss of appetite, salt, cravings, allergies, skin rashes. I mean, all of this stuff can go back to the adrenals.

Maraya: And so how common is it? Um, I think it depends on who you ask, but the particularly for those postpartum moms, it might necessarily be diagnosed early on, but I promise you that your adrenals are, are working on overdrive. Cause now all of a sudden you are eating for yourself and your breastfeeding baby, and you are caring for so many and sleep deprived and all of the pressures of am I doing it right? And now there might be new stresses that are financial in nature. And you're looking at your checking statement and that feeling of once again, heart rate, going up, respiratory palms, palms sweating, feeling that nervous feeling. That's your adrenals kicking into action. And when your adrenals are doing what they're supposed to be doing, go back to the example of I'm being chased by a lion, and I'm either going to be eaten or survive.

Maraya: It's going to spike cortisol. But the other thing, the body's really smart in that scenario. Your digestion is shut off because you don't need to have a great bowel movement or a great, or really do a good job at absorbing the food that you just ate. If you're about to be eaten by a lion that becomes secondary, your hormone production shuts off in regard to your sex hormones. So you don't need estrogen and progesterone. You don't have to worry about if you're going to ovulate that month or have a great orgasm. You're about to be eaten. Right. Right, right. Your immune system is shut off because right now, if it's either stress or glass, if you're running from a lion and someone sneezes on you with COVID, the body goes, I'll deal with that later. Right now, I have to just deal with, am I going to be eaten? And clarity of thought gets shut off. You don't need to know what 10 times 12 is. You need to be able to run fast.

Maraya: And so once again, in the context of today's world, we're not being chased by a lion, but you know, I love what Berne Brown says. When you're like she gives the example of tucking in your child at night, putting them to sleep. And that feeling of like heart-pounding deep love. And when we're in that place of deep love, we have the propensity to dress rehearse tragedy. We've all done it as a mom, like, oh my God, there's my kid. And saying goodbye to go to school. And I love him so much. And what if something horrible happens today? Like why do we do that? But as we do that, our physiology is literally ramping up for fight flight or freeze.

Nicole: Yeah. And I think this can be also, you know, this is talked about in, not in this terms, in terms of adrenal fatigue or exhaustion, uh, in particular, but certainly the, the theory of chronic stress and weathering for black women and why they experience disparate outcomes related to maternal health. So it certainly makes sense that when your body is undergoing this constant stress and you add all of these things on top of that, that's eventually going to manifest in, in ways in your life.

Maraya: Yeah, absolutely. The environment that you're living in, the stress that, that you're being exposed to the expectations in society

Nicole: 100%, 100%. So you talked about, or you mentioned, um, how, in terms of dealing with some of these things, you talked a bit about self care, which is of course important. And then what about toxin reduction? And then we'll talk about oxytocin and the quote, unquote love hormone, and just overall gut thyroid, the adrenal health. So let's talk about toxin reduction. What do you mean by that?

Maraya: Yeah. So once again, the, our body is dealing with the onslaught of stress that comes from all different places. I say it comes in through your eyes, your mouth, your skin, your ears, your nose, and your heart. Right? So we often think about what we're eating in regard to toxins, right? Are you eating McDonald's? Are you eating salad? Right. That's a very different toxic load, but also what are you putting on your skin? Are you making sure that it's a fragrance-free paraben-free toxin-free lotion or not? Right. Are we, um, storing our food in plastic and drinking water through plastic bottles? Are we finding other ways around it to decrease toxic load? Um, but also what are we smelling toxins? Come in through our nose, even just finger nail polish and hair dyes, all of that. But then what are we looking at and what is coming into our heart when you're scrolling through Facebook, whose Facebook page are you paying attention to, and is it making you feel agitated and stressed out in my mind, that's a toxic load on your body.

Nicole: That makes perfect, perfect sense.

Maraya: Yeah. Yeah know and so, so then specifically from the like chemicals perspective and toxins in the water and the air, one of the fascinating things in the postpartum period is most of those toxins are fat soluble and breast milk is predominantly fat. So a woman has a breastfeeding woman has the benefit of a tremendous toxic unload when she's breastfeeding. I remember one of the IFN conferences I went to, I think it was as much as 30% of a woman's overall toxic load gets unloaded when she's breastfeeding. The challenge is those toxins are all going through the fat soluble milk directly into our babies.

Nicole: Right, right, right. And that's not ideal.

Maraya: We have got to even ideally before pregnancy, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding decrease that overall toxic load. So ewg.org is a great resource check. The products that you're using from a beauty care perspective, your lotions, your shampoos, conditioners, your makeup, um, get plastics out of your kitchen, pay attention to the laundry detergents and all those things that we use fragrances, all of that, um, can really make a difference in the toxins we're exposed to. Make sure your water is filtered, if you're going to eat produce ideally make sure it's organic. If you're going to eat meat, ideally make sure that that meat is hormone and antibiotic free.

Nicole: Yeah. That was going to say it. Then I, you know, sometimes I worry that it can feel a bit overwhelming for people, all of the things that they have to be on the lookout for. So how do you suggest people kind of manage, like, you know, I gotta check this website, I gotta do this. You know, is this something you do over time? Like how do you manage all of that? Cause it can feel like a lot.

Maraya: Absolutely. I mean, one, there are a bazillion experts out there and everybody's sending you in a different direction, really overwhelming as a consumer. And I just had this conversation with a client today. I think sometimes as women, we become a little bit obsessed and stressed out about am I eating the right foods? And if the journey of trying to clean up your diet is adding stress to your body. I don't think we're really making a whole lot of progress. And it's the same with the toxin reduction, if it feels obsessive and it feels like a source of stress. Okay. Well, here we go back to giving ourselves permission. All right. Put a little pause, slow it down a little bit. It doesn't all have to happen at once. Welcome to being a mom. Okay. We're going to screw up. We're going to do an amazing job.

Maraya: Our child's going to become whoever they're going to become. Some of it has to do with what we did and didn't do and who knows, but all along the way, giving ourselves some grace, allowing ourselves to give ourselves a hug and look in the mirror and say, you did a good job today, Maraya, I love you. And so when it comes to this journey of getting the toxins out and trying to eat well, I'm a big advocate of finding a coach. You know, all the information in the world only goes so far, having somebody to hold you accountable and join you along the journey that you trust can really make or break, um, the success along the journey 100%. Yeah. And just when you feel that overwhelm, I mean, I also don't think we need to stay in underwhelm all the time either. You know, there's, I always talk about, let's say in whelm stagnant and an underwhelmed, but I also don't want to tip the scale over to overwhelm where now your stress levels up and now your, your gut health and your adrenals and your thyroid are getting wrecked in the journey of trying to heal yourself.

Maraya: But a little bit of stretch a little bit outside your comfort zone. A little bit of challenge is when we get to grow

Nicole: 100%. Yeah. I love that. I love that. And I was also, as you were, as you were saying that, and I, I should say I did training as an integrative health coach. Like I went back to where I did my residency at duke and I got, I'm a certified integrative health coach. I don't do one-on-one coaching anymore, but it certainly gets incorporated into what I do, but just, I don't want people to feel like, you know, everybody leads like different levels of support and it may be something like you're able to follow. Coaching can look different for different people. Some people may need like handholding one-on-one. Some people may be fine with like a program that they can follow on their own. Like it doesn't have to be, um, a huge thing necessarily. You just want to find what works best for you

Maraya: And someone that you trust. I think once again, there's so many experts out there. Um, I think it's important that women don't jump, we can't expect super quick results in, in the pharmaceutical world. You know, you take a pain medication, you're feeling better within, you know, maybe 30 minutes, you can take an antibiotic and there should be a shift within 24 hours. But when it comes to diet and lifestyle modification, there's gotta be some time investment. And so if you're going to choose a new way, a new route, a new expert to trust a new coach to work with. I mean, my preference is that you give it at least three months before you make a decision about whether or not it's quote unquote working or not.

Nicole: Yeah, definitely. It definitely takes time an investment of time, investment of energy, but the payoff is, can be quite substantial. Absolutely. And long lasting actually. So yeah. So what do you mean by maximizing oxytocin? I have a feeling where this is going, but what do you mean by that?

Maraya: Okay, well, so oxytocin, we think of as the hormone of ecstasy, love, bonding, connection, orgasm, right? It's the highest in a woman's life when she's giving birth, it makes the bond with her and her baby and helps with breastfeeding and helps you fall in love and look in the eyes of that baby and just be totally bonded. What's interesting in the oxytocin conversation, in the context of what we're talking about is, um, and this was I've um, John Gray talks a lot, a lot about this. He's the one that wrote men, men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. So he says that women and tit just anticipating being nurtured, loved, understood, seen, will actually have oxytocin increase. Oh wow. And what women do to help lower stress is they use their oxytocin. And the way that they use their oxytocin is by nurturing others. And so we have this reward system.

Maraya: If I'm feeling a lot of stress, I'm going to go out and nurture others. I'm going to give more so that my stress response goes down and I feel great, but now what's happening is a woman's oxytocin is all used up. So maybe her feeling of stress goes down, but her oxytocin, um, has gone up. But now she goes back to giving more because she's feeling stressed again. Right, right, right. So it's this loop. Um, and so there's gotta be that balance between, okay, we're going to bond, we're going to cuddle with our babies. We're going to hug chest to chest anyone that we have access to in a social distancing climate. You know, if you have access to someone where you can touch and hug, that will help your oxytocin, it will help you feel connected and bonded and loved and loving. If you can experience orgasm on a regular basis, there are great benefits to that from an oxytocin perspective, and you will feel more connected to your community, more connected to your baby, more connected to yourself.

Maraya: But then we also have to look at this push and pull behind stress levels and how we take that stress and give more. So we go back to the conversation around boundary setting and putting on my own oxygen mask first to go, do I need to take a little pause and go, am I so stressed out? And I'm over-giving as a woman because that's what I do in times of stress and from a physiological standpoint, that makes sense. Now I'm increasing my oxytocin so I can feel loved and connected, but the detriment is now I'm ending up actually feeling more depleted.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. Gotcha. And then the final thing is just, what are some things you recommend for supporting overall gut thyroid adrenal liver health?

Maraya: There's so many,

Nicole: We can maybe pick like two or three things.

Maraya: Um, okay. So let's say gut in an ideal world. Think about what are you going to take out? I would love it if you could cut out gluten and dairy, sugar too, would be lovely.

Nicole: Oh my goodness, Maraya.

Maraya: So we just do one thing at a time, right? And we figure out what is doable during this time of life. Right. Um, knowing that those things really wreak havoc on our gut health and the gut is the foundation. 70% of our immune system lives in our gut. It is considered the second brain or 10% DNA, 90% microbiome. The gut is really where we go back to, um, foundationally. And so then what do we replace it with? Lots of plants, every color, every day, more variety, the better, if you could just look at your plate and go, all right, half my plate is, has been picked from a vine or a Bush it's fruits, vegetables, and berries, um, eating a probiotic, rich diet, such as your sauerkraut and yogurts and Kiefer and kombucha. And miso that kind of thing from a thyroid perspective, I'm speaking your truth.

Maraya: Remember the thyroid that's in the throat, that's the area of the truth, but also toxin reduction. This is controversial, but fluoride, you know, dentists are going to say, we need to increase our fluoride for dentition fluoride wreaks havoc on our thyroid. And so if, if your thyroid is feeling out of balance or you are a woman in postpartum with a postpartum thyroiditis explore using fluoride-free toothpaste and filtering it out of your water. Oh, interesting. From an adrenals perspective, put on your own oxygen mask. First, I'm also a big advocate of adaptogens and for women making adaptogenic elixirs every day, um, if you go to my website, marayabrown.com, I have free adaptogenic elixir recipes there that you can grab. What is an adaptogen, an adaptogen adaptogens, all come from the plant mushroom herbs kingdom. And what they do is they go into the body and help the body better adapt to stress.

Maraya: So some that you might have heard of many people have heard of ashwagandha, um, green tea, uh, dark chocolate, uh, maybe cordyceps, reishi, shots of vari. Um, there's a lot of the lion's name. There's a lot of different adaptogens. So in adaptogen elixir, you're going to take the adaptogens, a quality source of protein. My preference is collagen unless you're vegan and then a quality fat, you emulsify them and then use that as your hot beverage. And so for instance, cordyceps is a great one for increased energy. Ashwagandha is great for thyroid, whatever it may be. It's a great way to support the adrenals and immune system and your energy level foundationally. Um, and then just watching stress levels. You know, obviously there's a lot of stress that we can't necessarily change externally, but we can change the way that we react to it.

Maraya: And we could do a better job at filtering it out. So do you really need the news playing on in the background, the friends that you're watching on Facebook or Instagram that their posts stress you out or feel toxic? Can you filter that out a little bit more and stay in your place of a baby blessed postpartum bliss, mommy bliss. And then from a liver health perspective, the liver, um, that liver, we gotta be so grateful for our liver is working all day, 500 different roles and responsibilities. It's working all the time, anything that comes in, it's getting filtered through the liver. And so, you know, obviously reducing alcohol intake is one big one for liver, but eating your bitters. Okay. Your, your dark greens that are on the bitter side, your chicory root your, um, dandy blend tea dandy, all that is going to support liver function. Um, for some women helping with what's called methylation, which is going to be, you know, maybe a methylated B complex, there's different ways to support the liver. But one key thing just to go, let's just keep it real. Are you pooping every day? Okay.

Nicole: Yup

Maraya: All of these I can tell you are doing well or not based on every day, at least once a day, ideally more than once a day, you're having a healthy, regular bowel movement. You can look at the Bristol stool chart. Um, you know, you'd want to have a bowel movement that kind of looks like a soft banana, right? It's formed. It's not smoothy poop. It's not constipated little ball poop, right? If you're having regular bowel movements that tells me your gut is healthy, it means your body's detoxifying. It means your leverage liver's working well, your thyroid's working well. And so if that's not the case, we got to look under the hood and figure out what aspect really needs to be addressed. Are you getting enough fiber? Are you hydrating? Well, are you overdoing it on caffeine? Right. Um, so anyway, that's kind of a long answer.

Nicole: Great advice. And again, I don't want anyone to feel like, you know, she's talked about a lot of things, give yourself some grace and we're, we're all works in progress. And maybe I'm speaking from the perspective of being a little bit on the other side, you know, in my forties later, you know, in 45, almost 46 and having had the experience of, of living, but, you know, just don't, don't beat yourself up. You just keep doing a little bit, a little bit and it gets easier and it gets more comfortable and just give yourself some grace. Yeah.

Maraya: And allow it to be, um, from an energetic perspective. It's not that I'm depriving myself of this thing. It's, I'm making a choice to lean towards what I know serves me. And so for me, I know that if I eat gluten, my body hurts. If I drink more than a glass of wine, I feel like trash the next day. Right. And so if I'm going to go out with friends and there's a beautiful thing on the menu, it's an, but it has gluten. I'm going to opt not to have it. Not because I can't, but because I know what makes my body feel great. Right. Right. And so to allow yourself to do it from an empowered self-advocacy place and not to get caught up in, um, feeling trapped or feeling like you're a victim of having to do these things

Nicole: 100%, 100%. And it doesn't have to be, I mean, actually these days, like there are lots of great, like vegetarian plant-based meal. It doesn't have to be like depriving and things can taste quite delicious.

Maraya: Absolutely. And when you feel good, it really feels good to feel good.

Nicole: Yeah, exactly. And actually I'll say, honestly, as you get, as you start incorporating some of these things into your diet and your life, uh, when you don't do it, you really notice it. So yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Okay. So just, just to wrap up, how about you share with us what your favorite piece of advice is that you would give to an expectant mother or expectant parent?

Maraya: Yeah. It's to connect. Tell us more, but put the phone down, put the TV in the garage or the garbage. Looking baby in the eyes. Look your partner in the eyes. If you have one husband, wife, partner, whatever friend, whoever is there, man connect with other human beings. Um, it is going to serve you emotionally, mentally, physiologically, and you can't give your baby too much love. There's no such thing as spoiling your baby.

Nicole: Nope. No, not at all.

Maraya: Yeah. They know so much more than what we give them credit. Like, just because they haven't learned to use the words and communication in our adult world. I promise you, they are aware of everything. They are feeling what you feel and they are observing the energy in the room. So connect. Um, and once again, like we said, allow yourself to give yourself permission to prioritize you so that that cup is overflowing and the you, that they are, that your baby and your friends and your partner is experiencing is a bubbling over fuller version of you. And it gives all of them permission to do the same.

Nicole: Love it, love it, love it. That is such outstanding advice and something that we have to hear. Sometimes it guys, we have to hear things over and over again in order for it to set in. I know this is a message that I have to tell myself. So like just take it in and take little bits of it and it'll, it'll stick. It will stick. Yeah.

Maraya: You can set timers on your phone to limit your social media time. I'm an absolute max of two hours a day on the TV time and that's lot.

Nicole: Y'all, that's actually a lot. All right. So where can people find you if they want to learn more about you and your work?

Maraya: Yeah, absolutely. So marayabrown.com is one place it's M a R a Y a brown.com. And like I said, when you're there, um, you can grab those free adaptogenic elixir recipe. Please use, use them, drink them, enjoy the benefit. And I also offer up a free breakthrough call for any woman, if you're listening and you're going, wow, this is really fascinating. I'd like to learn more, um, a gift an hour of my time just to go what's not working, what have you tried? And see if I can point you in the direction of solutions for some women, I offer them a spot to work with me for others, that's not where it feels like is, is going to serve you the best. Then instead, I point you in the direction of some other solution through, Beyond The Red Tent, I've been vetting online experts for years now.

Maraya: And so I've got lots in my back pocket to be able to point you in the direction of solutions based on kind of how committed you are and how much time and energy you have and what you've already started. Um, I also run two Facebook groups. One is Beyond The Red Tent. Like I mentioned, in that one, we've got about 14,000 women and this podcast shared there and that's just a space for women to share with women. And then I bring in that it experts kind of like this, but in Facebook group rather than podcast forum and interview them about women's health related solutions. And then my smaller Facebook group is called Women, Rocking Their Energy, Hormones And Libido. And that's just to kind of get a better feel for kind of how I work and give some solutions specifically for women of all ages to really tackle the exhaustion, the feelings of hormones being out of whack and the changes in libido.

Maraya: Um, I will say libido, yes, it's a sexual term and particularly postpartum. So many women feel over touched and just no desire. And so I do work with women a lot around the libido conversation, but I feel like a lot of it is from the perspective of feeling turned on by your life, your love and yourself. And so, you know, even I mentioned your zone of genius and how you're talking to yourself in the mirror, all of that plays out in just feeling passion. And so anyway, that's women rocking their energy, hormones and libido, and I'm sure there's going to be social media handles and my website in the description, wherever it's going to be here in this podcast.

Nicole: Indeed. Indeed. Well, thank you so much, Maraya, for agreeing to, to come on. This has been a really informative and helpful conversation and I'm sure some folks will take you up on that free consult discussion for sure.

Maraya: Absolutely looking forward to it.

Nicole: Well, wasn't that an interesting conversation? I know I learned some things that I didn't know, and I hope that you did too. Now you know after every episode, when I have a guest on, I do something called Nicole's Notes where I talk about my top three or four takeaways from the episode, here are my Nicole's Notes from my conversation with Maraya. So number one. Yeah, this is kind of funny. I don't know if you caught it in the episode. I've very confidently said that I am 45, almost 46. Y'all the truth is at the time I recorded this, that I was 46, almost 47, and now I am actually 47. So I don't know why I just find it hilarious that I can't seem to keep up with my own age. So I am not 45, almost 46. I am actually 47. All right. Point number two, I encourage you, if you can, to go deeper into things and look for those sorta long-term solutions.

Nicole: And what I mean by that is sometimes some things require or are fixed in a quick way. So like a UTI, you take antibiotics and you fix it, but some things require a bit more deeper work and there's not a band-aid and those problems and issues and concerns, particularly around mental health, don't always develop, um, short, you know, in a short period of time, they develop over time and it takes time to address. And I think the more that you can kind of go under the hood and look into those issues then in the long-term, you're going to be more successful in using a combination and more holistic approach to do things as opposed to just medication. Medication can be an important part that's for sure. But I think when you do that holistic approach, it makes a big difference. Now that is, of course, what I do inside the Birth Preparation Course is a holistic approach to getting you ready for your birth and not just understanding what's happening in your body, but also what's happening in your mind.

Nicole: And in some ways, things like, you know, social media posts and following accounts and things like that is kind of that superficial level. And if you really want to get that deeper understanding and knowledge, you need that deeper level. So come join me in the Birth Preparation Course, to get that deeper level for childbirth education. Again, this drnicolerankins.com/enroll. The other two things that were so important that I think can always be said and shouted from the top of the mountain tops over and over and over again. Number one is give yourself some grace. Nobody is perfect. Um, we all have faults. We all have things that we're working on in ourselves and in our lives, just give yourself some grace do the best that you can. Um, sometimes some days your best is going to be different than other days.

Nicole: So just keep trying, keep putting one foot in front of the other and do the best you can give yourself some grace. And then the final thing is the importance of filling up your own cup. You cannot do anything, if you don't have your own self nourished, you can't be there for anybody else, whether it's your children, whether it's your partner, whether it's other family members, it's not to fill your own cup first is actually important in order to help you be your best version of yourself. So don't forget to fill up your own cup. So there you have it, be sure to subscribe to the podcast, wherever you're listening to me right now. And if you would like to leave a review, I always appreciate those. And also, um, come find me on Instagram. We can hang out there in between the show connect.

Nicole: Um, I post more information there about pregnancy and birth, the combination of the podcast, Instagram or my course go really nicely together to keep you informed and up to date on all of the latest, greatest things about pregnancy and birth. So I'm on Instagram @drnicolerankins. So that's it for this episode do come on back next week. And until then, I wish you a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast, head to my website, drnicolerankins.com to get even more great information, including free downloadable resources on how to manage pain and labor and warning signs to look out for after birth. You'll also find information or my free online class on How To Make A Birth Plan That Works as well as everything you need to know about my signature online childbirth education class, the Birth Preparation Course. Again, that's drnicolerankins.com and I will see you next week.

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