This podcast episode discusses sleep issues and how to address them from a functional medicine perspective. The hosts, along with guest Evan Brand, explore the root causes of sleep problems and provide natural solutions.
💊 Binders can help improve sleep by preventing toxins from affecting melatonin production.
🌿 Calming nutrients and herbs can be beneficial for sleep support, but addressing toxicity is crucial.
🌙 Full moons may affect sleep due to increased activity of bugs, parasites, and pathogens.
🧪 Testing for heavy metals, gut infections, gut inflammation, and organic acids can provide insights into sleep issues.
🌿 Adaptogens like rhodiola and ashwagandha, as well as Epsom salts and theanine, can support relaxation and improve sleep quality.
🚫 Alcohol can disrupt sleep, but consuming it with protein, NAC, and activated charcoal can mitigate its effects.
💤 Blood sugar crashes and liver support may also impact sleep quality.
00:20 – Toxins Affect Melatonin Production
02:50 – Work/Home Lifestyle Won't Let You Relax
07:50 – Hormonal Imbalances Affect Sleep Quality
09:12 – Alcohol Is A Big Stressor
11:52 – Hypoglycemia Wakes You Up At Night
15:38 – Melatonin on Kids
18:31 – Female Hormones, Digestion, and Takeaways
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Hey guys, it's Dr. Justin Marchegiani. Welcome to the Beyond Wellness Radio podcast. Feel free and head over to justinhealth. com. We have all of our podcast transcriptions there, as well as video series on different health topics ranging from thyroid to hormones, ketogenic diets, and gluten. While you're there, you can also schedule a consult with myself, Dr.
J, and our colleagues and staff to help dive into any pressing health issues you really want to get to the root cause on. Again, if you enjoy the podcast, feel free and share the information with friends or family. Hey guys, Dr. Justin Marchegiani and Evan Brand here. Today we're gonna be talking about sleep and how to solve it from a functional medicine root cause perspective.
Evan, my man, how you doing, brother?
Evan Brand: Evan Brand Oh, doing great. You know, I had terrible sleep for a long time and luckily my sleep is much better. Do you remember this was probably give or take four years ago now, I was just now figuring out that binders can help improve your sleep. And I'm assuming the mechanism is that mold and other toxins affect melatonin production.
So, many people when they think of sleep issues, they automatically get thrown on some sort of Ambien or other pharmaceutical. And that's really not root cause, obviously. And it's gonna dig you further and further in a hole. Especially if you're using something like a Benzo, like a Xanax to knock yourself out.
Because now, you're gonna downregulate GABA. And if you come off of that stuff, you're going to have all sorts of anxiety, maybe even panic attacks, and the insomnia is likely not going to go away. So, binders for me are an awesome, not common sense remedy to use. Because you think about, well, maybe I just need more magnesium, maybe I just need more passion flower and calming nutrients, which is fine.
If you want to do calming support, you can. If you have a cortisol problem and we need herbs to lower cortisol in the evening to help you sleep, that's one thing. But. toxicity to me is the most common thing that we all have in common. Not all of us have elevated cortisol at night, but all of us has some level of toxicity, whether that be chemicals, pesticides, or mycotoxins.
Those are probably the biggest ones that we're referring to. And these change your gut bacteria. These change your nutrient absorption. These affect your brain and affect melatonin.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, really good points. I mean, I looked at the history like this. So if someone's really kind of wired. Dr. Justin Marchegiani.
going into bedtime, then I would look at maybe those toxins are impacting melatonin. Sometimes, it's the fact that your liver, gallbladder are dumping toxins around, you know, 1 to 3 a. m. and maybe that could be waking you up. Now, if that's the fact, that's where binders I think would be helpful because you'd have binders.
in your intestinal tract. You take them on an empty stomach before bed. They're sitting there waiting to sequester and bind up that toxin. So when that toxin gets produced or stimulated by the liver gallbladder dumped into the intestinal tract, those binders are there to grab it, sequester it, and prevent it from going systemically in the body and creating some kind of a cortisol stress response due to the inflammation it's causing.
So I think you have to look at it, is it a waking up issue in the middle of the night? Then I'm definitely leaning on some kind of a binder support, bentonite clay, zeolite, fulvic minerals, citrus pectin activated charcoal. So we'll look at it like that. And if it's a stimulation standpoint, because your nervous system is overstimulated, then yeah, we look at more calming agents to relax that sympathetic nervous system stress response.
Evan Brand: And it's hard. I mean, in the modern world, let's say if you're a real estate agent, for example, you know, people may expect you to text them or talk to them nine, 10 o'clock at night. You know, sometimes the stress of your career is keeping you up at night too. And that's a huge concern with people now, whether it's remote work and they're expected to work late hours, or maybe they don't separate work and home life.
You know, that's one thing you and I think have done pretty good at is trying to separate work and our home life. And so, You know, it's like when, when you're off, you're off, you're with the kids, you're doing your own thing. And a lot of people, they're bringing their tablets to bed, they're bringing their laptops to bed, and they're bringing this work mode of thinking into their bedroom, for example.
I think not only is that going to kill your sex life, but it's going to kill your sleep quality as well. So I would encourage you, if you are, say, someone who does work a lot from home, I would encourage you to try to have a separate section where you're going to do your work. Don't mix where you sleep with where you work.
I think just from a brain chemistry perspective, if you're programming your body, every time you go in that room, stress is going to get intense because you got to open up this inbox with 4, 000 emails in it. You're going to lose your mind. And then you want to try to sleep in that same room. I just don't think it's going to work.
So sometimes the lifestyle setup is important.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: I mean, the best thing you can do is. On your, if you have an iPhone, for instance, you'll probably do on an Android, but go to your do not disturb setting, go to your settings, and then you can literally go down here and just say, you know 8 PM, have it do not disturb.
So if anyone calls you after 8 PM, it's going to voicemail so you can do little things like that. And you could allow, like certain people to bypass it, like you could have your wife or certain family members get through if it's an emergency. But you can at least create that boundary. Now, again, the healthier you are with your nervous system, the more you can adapt and the more you can break the rules, right?
But just set your boundaries off with, you know, putting your night shift on. So you let me lower the blue light. So that's going to be stimulated. I put on glasses at night that lock out, that block out blue light. And then just set yourself away at 8 p. m. No one can get you anyway. That way all goes to voicemail.
Evan Brand: In terms of testing, let's mention that because if you have sleep issues, there's a few things you should look for. One could argue you could test for heavy metals, and that's fine, but the truth is, I tell most people to save their money because a lot of the mold detox protocols and chemical detox protocols that I create, those often address heavy metals as well, and it's an extra few hundred bucks or so to look at metals.
But if you want to get the full workup, then we'll include metals. So that could be urine or stool. Some argue that hair testing is good. I used to mess with it. I don't anymore. So we'll say urine or stool for the metals also gut infections. I mean, you know as well as anybody that gut infections screw up your sleep.
When I had parasites, my sleep was terrible. You and I are recording this like right after a full moon. So if you pay attention to the moon cycle, if you notice your children or
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: you, by the way, the harvest moon, the last two nights were amazing. Yeah. You see it huge smokes. Yeah. It was
Evan Brand: beautiful. It was insane.
It was beautiful. Now, if you are not well during full moons, you should investigate. Now, some think this is like some weird energetic medicine stuff, but it appears that bugs, parasites, pathogens, they seem to be a little more active. When my kids had gut bugs, I think they grinded their teeth more during full moons.
Like if I was sitting there watching them sleep, checking on them, to me, it sounded like. More grinding was happening, and I've talked to adults, too, at my kid's school. They're like, are y'all sleeping? Like, this full moon, I can't sleep. So, I think there's something to it. Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, I mean, I think you can't hurt to throw on a little bit of antimicrobials if you need, or just some binders.
I think there's some good things, and then make sure you're putting some kind of an adaptogen on board there, because if you know you're stressed, and your circadian rhythm's a little bit off due to stress, it can't hurt to have be on a little bit of adaptogenic support, whether it's rhodiola, ginseng, probably more rhodiola and ashwagandha will be probably more modulatory.
ginseng would be a little bit more stimulatory. And then Epsom salts a bit are really helpful. Magnesium sulfate gets absorbed transdermally. That's very sedating and relaxing and really increases that parasympathetic nervous system response, really chills you out. And it can't hurt to throw in some theanine too.
Theanine is wonderful, very calming and relaxing.
Evan Brand: Dr. Justin Marchegiani I love thenion. Okay, so on the testing front, look into metals, that'd be something. Look into the gut. We could run a Marchegiani Maybe a competitor for parasites, gut inflammation, anything that could be affecting the brain. Also organic acids I think is key, because we're gonna look at B vitamins.
So for example, if you see someone that has low serotonin, and they have low B6, well, those are the two ingredients to make melatonin. So if we see that you don't even have the precursors necessary to make your sleep hormone, Obviously, your sleep is gonna suck. So, you and I love organic acid testing. We probably run more oats than almost anybody in the world.
And with these oats, we can see so much data about mold, candida, nutrients, mitochondrial function, brain chemistry. So, if you have not had a recent organic acid test, and you have insomnia, You got to get one done. How about hormones? I mean, you would think we should probably run some cortisol panel if insomnia is a terrible concern.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Dr. Justin Marchegiani Yeah, cortisol rhythm is vitally important because cortisol has an inverse relationship between melatonin. So, cortisol starts higher during the start of the day, and the awakening response doubles, your cortisol doubles in that first hour of waking, and then it gently tapers down throughout the day.
And as cortisol goes down, melatonin goes up. And so, if we don't have that, drop in melatonin. We don't have that drop in cortisol at bedtime. We're not gonna have that rise in melatonin. So, making sure we get the mel we get the cortisol down is vitally important. That's where we can bring in things like theanine.
We can bring in an Epsom salt foot bath. We can bring in ashwagandha. We can bring in like California poppy, lemon balm, valerian root, calming, relaxing, supporting theanine. We can even add in things like 5 HTP with B6. B6 is a very important cofactor or tryptophan. B6 and 5 Acid are my favorite because they, they don't have an enzyme regulator to to drop its conversion.
The aromatic decarboxylase enzyme is It, it governs tryptophan. It does not impact 5 HTP. So you get a better bump, so to speak, in serotonin, melatonin levels. So that's very powerful, too.
Evan Brand: Evan Brand Yeah. And this can bump it up. Evan Brand And this can help quick, too. We're not talking a long term thing here.
We're talking a couple of weeks. If we're using the right amino acid blend, some of these calming adaptogens, we can get things under control relatively quickly. Maybe we should talk about a few stress sleep red flags or roadblocks. I mean, alcohol is huge for sleep
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: issues. Yeah, it can be. So the first thing is try to keep it out of your diet during the week.
And if you're going to put it in there, just make sure you eat with protein, make sure it's dry and clean, you know, white wine, make sure it's organic or like a good, clean, hard alcohol. Make sure you have some protein in your stomach first, cause alcohol will actually lower. Your blood sugar, which can actually cause cravings, which makes you eat more junky carbs.
So the first thing is have some protein. Second thing is take some NAC and activate a charcoal with it just to be on the safe side. Eat some good protein, regulate your blood sugar, and then drink a mineral water. Later on, because alcohol inhibits ADH hormone, ADH is anti diuretic hormone, so it inhibits your anti P hormone.
So inhibits anti P, so two negatives equal a positive, so it promotes peeing. So alcohol promotes peeing, therefore promotes dehydration and low electrolytes. And so, you're gonna consume alcohol, drink a good mineral water, and then take an NAC, and then activate a charcoal with each drink. And that will pretty much keep you in good shape and consume it with protein.
Make sure you, you know, shrimp cocktail, you know, some beef sliders if you're going out, like, just something really simple, good protein, keep the gluten down, the carbs down. That's a good kind of rule of thumb, where if you're gonna do it, that will mitigate a lot of your damage. And just test it, get your HRV out, whether it's your O ring or your Fitbit or your Whoop, just kind of test it and see how you do with alcohol, and then do it with NAC, charcoal, and some additional hydration and minerals, you'll see a big difference.
Evan Brand: Yeah, glutathione could help, too, and you can measure that on the oat test, so if you're deficient in glutathione, you already have mold toxicity and you're drinking alcohol, you probably need a little bit more. Some people
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Ideally, you do both. The problem with glutathione, glutathione cannot cross the blood brain barrier, NAC can, so NAC can cross the blood brain barrier and then convert to glutathione in the brain.
Glutathione cannot cross, so that's why it's good to have both, because then you have glutathione in the body, and then you can have the NAC which crosses and then converts to glutathione in the brain.
Evan Brand: Mine is a combo. It's the NAC plus the acetylglutathione. It works great. Dr. Justin Marchegiani Yep.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: It's great.
Two grams NAC, couple hundred milligrams glutathione. You're pretty
Evan Brand: good. Evan Brand Other sleep destroyers. Evan Brand I would say we talked about the hormone piece, gut infections, toxins, alcohol we could throw in the toxin bucket, blue light, we covered that piece. What about blood sugar crashes? You kind of hit on the liver a little bit, so I mean the liver piece as well, like if you're waking up 2 to 4 a.
m., we're gonna try to add a little more liver support. What about the blood sugar piece, this like hypoglycemia Marchegiani
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, some people are like, hey, no eating before bed, I'm not gonna eat four hours before bed, like I'm gonna stop eating at six or seven. Evan Brand Well, that You know, that may or may not be okay if it's 10 o'clock and you haven't eaten four hours.
you know, how do you feel? Do you sleep okay that night? Or are you waking up? If you're waking up, have a little simple collagen smoothie, maybe a little bit of magnesium powder, maybe a little bit of fruit in there, or maybe a tablespoon of honey. So you get a little protein, little fat, easy to digest, a small amount of carb, just to provide a little bit of blood sugar stability before bed.
This is incredibly helpful if you're waking up, and then have it by your nightstand, so you can have a little bit if you wake up as well. And that's a great little option, you know, I'll stop patients, you know, take a, you know, get a one milligram sublingual melatonin, and just take a little sliver on it, just a couple hundred micrograms, and that can be enough if you get up.
Just to kind of knock you back out if, if you need, but I find get the blood sugar stability under control before and if you wake up, that way if your cortisol is so if your blood sugar drops, that can cause your cortisol to go up because your cortisol is going to mobilize glucose. So blood sugar drops.
cortisol can go up to mobilize glucose to provide that blood sugar stability because your body is incredibly fastidious and focused on keeping blood sugar stable. So if your blood sugar drops, that cortisol goes up. So by having a little bit of blood sugar stability in that smoothie before bed, allow it to be a little more stable, which decreases the cortisol
Evan Brand: increase.
Yes, yes. Gaba. I've got my chewable GABAs. I sell a bunch of those. People love those. The pharma gaba 'cause it's quick, it's easy. Mm-Hmm. mother wart I love too. So if you have like heart palpitations, anxiety, emotional stress, keeping you up, mother warts, one of my favorites for that. I mean, it just calms you, it lowers your blood pressure a little bit too.
So if you're a little bit hypertensive and that's affecting sleep, you know, you just tone yourself down a little bit.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah. You can even do some lavender essential oil topically. You can do, you know, cup or two of epso salts and. Dr. Justin Marchegiani. Ashwagandha, adaptogens, theanine is wonderful. Love theanine.
There's no upper limit for it. So you can always nail that. And then just try to set boundaries with your spouse. You know, no, no heady, stressful conversation before bed. Just keep it light. Keep it more about appreciation and gratitude. Yeah,
Evan Brand: that's true. Yeah. I mean, trying to get into a battle before bed is not wise.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Just say, hey, two hours before bed, like, let's just keep it all positive and light. Yeah. And then 5 HTP, you know, 100 to 400 milligrams. I'll usually spread it out. at dinner time and at bedtime, because sometimes it can take an hour or so to convert. So, I try to do a little bit at dinner and then at least an hour or two before bed just to have that conversion happen.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Evan Brand: That can be super helpful. Evan Brand This stuff applies to kids, too. So, obviously, our reference ranges, our recommendations are a little different for kids. But, you know, I have had amazing tinctures in my kids if sleep is an issue. Usually, if we wear them out enough, And we exercise them enough during the day, they're fine.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani Yeah. They're
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: totally okay. Dr. Justin Marchegiani You get them outside, get a little sunlight, get a little exercise, they do much better. We'll put the kids in the pool, have them, you know, we'll roughhouse a little. Roughhousing is amazing for kids, by the way. I roughhouse 10 15 minutes, throw them on the bed, do some old, old fashioned wrestling moves, right?
You know, I give them the Razor's Edge or the Stone Cold Stunner a couple times. We'll do some Mortal Kombat moves, right? Like, brings me back to my childhood. And they're just like, all right, they're good. They're ready to sleep. Evan Brand
Evan Brand: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I find that for my kids, if we go bike riding or swimming.
I mean, those are kind of the two we use the best. And if they swim, they're toast. They're toast. Oh, yeah,
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: it's great. It's excellent. So you can do that. What's your take on melatonin in kids?
Evan Brand: Man, I don't know. I mean, wouldn't you think they should be making enough on their own at that
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: age? Yeah, the pineal gland is really important kind of stimulator of puberty.
So my philosophy is if you're going to do anything melatonin wise, try to do. tryptophan or 5 HTP. So, I always would go to the precursor with kids because melatonin is too instrumental in puberty. And so, we just tend to go more to a theanine, amino acids, theanine, and magnesium. I try to keep it like that and then just get the sunlight dialed in.
And then for me, it's very simple. Get the kids to bed earlier because, you know, I look at wake times. My kids are up at 6, 630 every day, right? So, at 14 hours in, they're ready to go to bed. So that's key for me. And then we can always do magnesium and amino acids to get them calm down and the sunlight and activity
Evan Brand: is key.
I've had a lot of good success mixing things. So I've mixed the herb farm, which I like. They've got the fastest sleep. So this has been cool for our kids, man. I think you would like it. Because you can use it in the middle of the day, too. So California poppy
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: is awesome. I have that in my medicine cabinet.
I will pull that out. Yep. So ever stressed before bed. That is incredibly sedating and relaxing. Yes. And there you go. Yep.
Evan Brand: Love it. Go ahead. Yeah. Catnip, chamomile, lemon balm, poppy, passion flower, then a little bit of sweet orange essential oil.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Oh, that's good. I'll look at my medicine cabinet. That's a good one.
Evan Brand: like that. Evan Brand So I'll do that one. And then the cool thing is you can do it during the day, too. So if kids are being crazy during the day and you just want them to chill out, just do a lower dose. It won't knock them out. Just like five drops. You could really settle yourself. I mean, same for adults, too.
So I mean, these herbs can help with pain. So if you're all listening and you're like, Hey, you know, don't have a ton of issue with sleep, but maybe you've got chronic pain. Well, a lot of the same herbs that we use for sleep can help with pain, too. So poppy is amazing. And. You can really knock things down.
So if you've got a chronic back injury, for example, and that's impairing your sleep, well, now these type of verbs, you have a two for one combo, you have the sleep benefit, but you also have the pain relief benefit. So if you're so achy or stiff, or maybe you've got sciatica or something that's impairing your sleep, well, now we could use these things as the more anti inflammatory thing.
Also, as you know, with. All sorts of different viruses. If there's inflammatory cytokines in the system, that's going to impair sleep as well. So if that's activating the brain due to the inflammation, maybe ginger, boswellia, those type of anti inflammatories, that could arguably help with sleep as
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: well. Dr.
Justin Marchegiani have it alcohol free with the sweet orange essential oil. I'll put that in my medicine cabinet. That's a good one for the kids. If they're ever just a little bit stressed or just, you know, on edge before bed. On edge meaning they're like overly loud and can't chill out.
Evan Brand: That's a good one.
I like that. You'll like it. You'll like it. That's good. Well, we got to wrap this thing up, but very good. Is there anything we missed? Any other? Dr.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Justin Marchegiani So I'd say with a lot of female patients, low progesterone can be a big one because progesterone is a GABA chloride channel opener. So chronically low progesterone, estrogen dominance, lots of hormonal issues, PMS type of issues, estrogen dominance.
Breast tenderness, cramping, back pain endometriosis, fibroids, any of those things, we may have to look at progesterone and hormone balance. Of course, you know, we've talked about toxicity like heavy metals, pesticides, molds, getting your gut looked at because that's where you absorb all the protein that you need to break down these things to actually make your melatonin and your anti stress hormones.
And so, So, if we don't digest these proteins well, then the building blocks won't get shuttled into the amino acids. So, digestion's gonna be a bottleneck for everything. And that's why when you're stressed, you make less hydrochloric acid and enzymes and bile salts. So, that could be a big vector as well.
And then we kinda have our spot treaters, right? Some of our favorite herbs that we mentioned. Whether it's Motherwort, Skullcap, Lavender, California Poppy, Lemon Bomb, our amino acids like Theanine and Tryptophan or 5 HTP with B6, B6 is the important cofactor to help the convert that, don't forget B6, and then I would say your, your Theanine and Magnesium or Magnesium Epsom Salt foot bath which is Magnesium Sulfate, those are my kinda go tos out of the gates for sure.
Evan Brand: No, I think you covered most of it. I mean, we could always do a part two, part three. There's never enough info on sleep in a world that's chronically sleep deprived and staring at their screens. I mean, these teenagers that are going to bed while scrolling on Tik TOK, and then they put their phone down on the pillow next to them and blast theirself with their RF from the phone all night while they try to sleep.
I mean, it's no surprise. You see so many teenagers that are exhausted and just not motivated. And we run labs on these kids too. I've got a lot of teenagers that I've seen clinically and all of them have issues of brain chemistry, low serotonin, low dopamine. They don't sleep well. They're not motivated for work.
They're not motivated for college or for school. So this is a big problem. So I know when you and I talk about these things, it sounds like this kind of rare, like nuanced thing that we're bringing up, but this is a huge epidemic problem and it affects your ability to drive. This affects your reaction time, your reaction speed, so you're much, much less safe on the road if you're sleep deprived.
This affects your productivity in the workplace. This affects the way you handle your children as a parent and your stress tolerance if you're not sleeping well. So, I really encourage you guys to prioritize this. This is one of the huge pieces and the big foundation to your health. And if you want help, we're happy to hold your hand through this process.
We can run labs on you and investigate this, and we can help you get to the bottom of it. So, everything we're talking about. We can quantify, we can put it on paper and show you where the issue is happening. So if you'd like to reach out and get some functional medicine help, you can reach out to Dr. J, that's justinhealth.
com or me, Evan Brand at evanbrand. com. We work worldwide. We have international distributors, so wherever you are, whatever corner of the globe, we're happy to help facilitate this and help you get better sleep. Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: 100%. Again, EvanBrand. com, JustinHealth. com. See you guys on the flip side if you need more support.
Evan, thanks so much, man.
Evan Brand: Evan Brand Take care. Dr. Justin Marchegiani Good chatting with you all. Take care. Bye. Evan Brand Peace.