Host: Deanna Minich, PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMCP
Guest: Deborah Maragopoulos, MN, FNP
“The hypothalamus is like the CEO of your entire body. Everything else are workers.” – Deborah Maragopoulos, MN, FNP
In this edifying discussion, Deborah Maragopoulos, FNP and Deanna Minich, PhD explore the neuro-immune-endocrine system and how the hypothalamus, specifically, is at the core of many patients’ chronic health issues, from mood and metabolic disorders to insomnia and autoimmunity. Over 30+ years of working in healthcare, Deborah explains that her 22+ years of focusing on the hypothalamus has allowed her to achieve healing in hormonally challenged patients.
Hypothalamic functions are numerous and critically important, including neuroendocrine roles via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal/thyroid/gonadal axes and gut-brain connections through arcuate nucleus actions (think ghrelin, leptin, etc.). But, this endocrine organ is not protected by the blood-brain barrier, so it’s exposed to everything—the nutrients and the toxins, too. Therefore, the cleaner the inputs, the better.
Working in family medicine, Deborah sees many different types of patients, but mostly females. Many of her patients share common clinical characteristics: low lean mass, high body fat, depressed, stressed, anxious, subclinical hypothyroidism, constipated, no energy, insomnia, fatigue, can’t lose weight, elevated blood pressure, beginning to demonstrate food sensitivities, and less robust immune system (i.e., catching more colds), or viruses resurface like herpes.
Many patients want a pill to fix their symptoms. Instead, Maragopoulos practices personalized lifestyle medicine, and by targeting the brain, she has helped her patients achieve clinically significant improvements across diverse outcomes. Over many years of clinical practice, Maragopoulos honed methods to indirectly assess hypothalamic health and imbalance by capturing a clinical picture of overall hormone health, incorporating info from the adrenals, thyroid, etc. She considers biomarkers collectively, including but not limited to a lipid profile including lipid subparticle size and number info (especially for LDL), glucose, HbA1c, DHEA and DHEA-S, a thyroid panel, FSH, and LH.
Next, Dr. Minich and Maragopoulos focus on targeted therapeutic interventions to support hypothalamic health and function, including dietary approach, chrononutrition (i.e., when you eat matters), micronutrients, and supportive lifestyle modalities. By sharing her day-to-day wellness routine, it is evident that Deborah “walks the talk” in her everyday life and is intentional about reducing stressors. She advises that, “we have to get away from the tiger,” alluding to the constant fight-or-flight response triggered by the current world we live in.
The discussion wraps with an exploration of science and art of medicine, for example where pattern recognition and intuition fit into clinical practice. Maragopoulos closes by sharing a brief, easy meditation exercise to boost gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in your brain.
This Personalized Lifestyle Pearls broadcast took place live March 26, 2019 on the Metagenics Institute Facebook page.
Listen to the podcast below (also available in iTunes)
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Xia L et al. Alterations in hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal/thyroid axes and gonadotropin-releasing hormone in the patients with primary insomnia: a clinical research. PLoS One. 2013;8(8):e71065.
Papalou O et al. Endocrine disrupting chemicals: an occult mediator of metabolic disease. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2019;10:112.
Soto-Tinoco E et al. Interaction between the hypothalamus and the immune system. Exp Physiol. 2016;101(12):1463-1471.