s5 e7: Holistic Mental Health with Brendan Vermeire

holistic mental health

Holistic Mental Health with Brendan Vermeire

In today’s episode, I am chatting with Brendan Vermeire, a Mental and Metabolic Health Scientist & Researcher, Functional Medicine Educator, Writer, and Speaker.  He is a Board-Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, Master Nutrition Coach, Master Personal Trainer, USAW Sports Performance Coach, and Crossfit Trainer.

He is the proud owner and founder of the Metabolic Solutions Institute for Functional Health and Fitness Practitioners and the creator of the Functional Mental Health Practitioner Certificate Course. He is also the founder of the Metabolic Solutions Research & Education Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to ‘changing the way the world views mental health’ through advancing the science of Mental Health Dysfunction.  He is also the creator of The Mental M.A.P.™, a cutting-edge Lab Panel for Mental Health. 

In this episode, we cover:

  • Brendan’s background and journey to the functional mental health field
  • Mental health issues and chemical imbalances, with Brendan’s viewpoint about the root of our mental health concerns
  • What is driving epigenetic changes and how can they show up as mental illness
  • How early life stress in childhood can alter our behavior
  • Chasing root causes of health issues and trauma responses
  • How mold impacts our brains, and its connection to mental health
  • Brendan’s advice for individuals struggling with their mental health

Connect with Brendan:


Master Your Minerals Course

Free Resources:

Free Healthy Period Starter Guide
Mineral Imbalance Quiz
Mineral Training
Thyroid Training
Feminine Periodical (monthly newsletter)


Listen Now

Apple Podcasts



Amanda Montalvo [00:00:01]:

Welcome to the are you menstrual? Podcast, where we dive deep into all things women’s health to support you on your healing journey. I’m Amanda Montalbo functional and integrative dietitian, also known as the hormone healing Rd. If you enjoyed this podcast and you want to keep learning, check out the podcast Patreon, where I share a bonus episode with additional downloadable resources each week. You can go to Patreon.com forward slash Hormone Healing Rd or check out the link in the show notes. I’m so excited to share this episode with you. This is an interview I did with a colleague and mentor of mine, Brendan Bermeyer. He is a mental and metabolic health scientist and researcher, functional medicine educator, writer and speaker. Brendan is board certified in holistic health. He’s a master nutrition coach, a master personal trainer, USAW Sports performance coach, and CrossFit trainer. He goes through his story and kind of like how he got into this when he was only 18. He was medically discharged from Navy Seal training pipeline because he had an injury. And he goes through just like how he even became a personal trainer and nutrition coach in the first place. So you’ll kind of hear him tell his story in his own words. But just if you’re wondering how is he my mentor, how did I even get to know really? It was a really long time ago. We were chatting before the interview and I was like, I think that we’ve known each other for like six or seven years. He is the owner of Metabolic Solutions Institute for Functional Health and Fitness practitioners. I met him originally through FDN. The Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner program. He was like one of the mentors in there and worked with the company. And that was kind of like my first exposure to him. And I knew metabolic solutions solved him online and he really started to be such an advocate for mental health. And eventually he created the Functional Mental Health Practitioner Certificate course. So I’m currently in the Fmhp program. I’ve been following what he was doing and he created what’s called the Mental Map, and it’s a lab panel for mental health. And for me personally, with the influx of clients that we’ve seen with mental health issues, especially after COVID, I was like, I need more training, of course. And it’s definitely not like therapy or anything like that. It’s specific, like, how can we look at mental health from a functional perspective? That’s very comprehensive. I mean, he goes through everything in that course. It’s like, not only does he teach you how to go through the Mental Map and understand the labs and how they impact neuroinflammation inflammation in the brain, but he’s also going through all the different systems of the body that are going to impact mental health. He has a very interesting take on methylation. He covers nervous system, vagus, nerve. We get into all the gut health stuff. So it’s a really great comprehensive course. It is a commitment, but it is well worth it if you’re a practitioner and you’re feeling like you need to add more tools to your toolkit when it comes to mental health. So he made that. That’s kind of how I started working with him again after, like, I did that program, I think, like, six or seven years ago this, and I was like, oh, I know Brendan, I trust him. And after I went through his little mental map course, that you can view the mental map in the labs as a separate thing from the Fmhp program, that’s when I was like, okay, I definitely need to take this course. So he’s huge mental health advocate. He shares his own story of kind of how he got into this for his own personal reasons, both with himself and a loved one. And when Brendan is not educating doctors, practitioners, any sort of health professional, he does still work with clients, and he has health coaches that work with him on his team as well and helps them overcome whatever severe health struggle. He’s got really great education and he loves fitness. So I love Brennan. I think he’s a great guy. I think he’s a really important voice in the mental health space, and I like his take. Everything is always nuanced. And I really hope you guys enjoy this conversation. If you want to learn more about Brendan and follow him after this episode, you can follow him at The Holistic Savage on Instagram. And I’m going to share his Facebook and LinkedIn and his website and everything in the show notes as well. So I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did. Okay. I can’t believe we’re finally here. I’m interviewing the first man that’s ever been on the Argumentsural podcast, and it’s Brendan. I’m so excited to talk to you. Do you want to just start with giving people a bit of your background and why you started focusing so much on a functional perspective with mental health?

Brendan Vermeire [00:04:50]:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, first and foremost, I appreciate you having me. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time because, as we were saying behind the scenes, we’ve known each other for at least six years. And I love podcasting because it kind of gives us colleagues the excuse to hang out, to collaborate, bounce ideas off one another, and then our audiences get to be the beneficiary of that. So I’m thrilled to have you and we’ll continue the conversation on my podcast later. But, yeah, everybody always likes to kind of hear a little bit about the story of how I got into this. And I will say it’s almost getting harder for me to answer that question as I get deeper and deeper into my career, because it’s like, I think it’s gotten pretty trendy, this idea of turning your pain into your purpose. And I’m huge on purpose, and the research is even really showing that humans as a biological organism, we require a sense of purpose to be biologically, cellularly healthy. That sort of psychosomatic research is starting to unfold more and more. So it’s so much more than just like, okay, supplements and protocols and lab testing. It’s so much about thoughts become proteins and having this eudemonic, purpose driven life. And so I do think there’s a lot of healing that can happen when you take the worst thing that ever happened to you or your hardest struggles and turn that into your service to the collective and to humanity. I think that is an input signal that our epigenetics and cells require to actually build vibrant health, both psychologically and physiologically. So it’s weird how I have, obviously my long, painful detail version of the story that you’ve heard in the Fmhp program. Because that being my program, I wanted to take the time to go into painful detail so that way people can really understand where I’m coming from with the information and why it’s structured the way it is. So even my biography, I think, kind of maps out sort of my eclectic background of really starting with fitness, nutrition, those were my primary tools. And then using a lot of lab testing, primarily blood work, and then metabolic testing with Vo, two respiratory quotient resting metabolic rate testing, all the cool things to essentially coach people towards better health. But even during that journey of, I started my career really at the age of 17 is when I was scrubbing toilets and folding towels at the gym. 18 is when I started as a trainer and nutrition coach. And it was through that season of life where some people that are familiar with me, they’ve heard, like, my Navy Seal aspirations of, I joined the Navy for the Seal program, and then I was medically discharged due to an injury. And that was kind of the tipping point that started sending me more downhill because as a teenager and navigating high school and then graduating and post high school plans, what are you going to do? And academia just didn’t resonate with me. So to have what I subscribed to as my purpose of, like, I’m meant to know a Navy Seal, to have that taken away from me, it rocked me a lot because I’d spent so many years as a teenager building myself up for that purpose. So then it’s like, well, now what do I do, right? And being a trainer and nutrition coach was always kind of like a fallback plan because I was so passionate about fitness. And that’s being a Navy Seal, it’s like, you work out and shoot guns all the time and I’m like, sign me up. Maybe die a hero so I don’t have to suffer the existential crisis of sentience for that much longer. That was kind of the ideology. Now hindsight, I can look back and be like, wow, I was kind of a high functioning, depressed young man. And I hadn’t worked through all of my traumas and conditionings and self limiting beliefs yet, right? And I put so much weight into that. If I become an AB Seal, I will live the rest of my life in pride, even if it’s a short life, because I get shot by a terrorist or something, right? And so then it forced me to face my own humanity. It forced me to create a new sense of purpose. And diving into becoming a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, it helped a lot, and it was kind of a coping mechanism. And I did very much fall in love with the science of health and fitness while serving people and helping them. But it was actually through the years of like 18 to 22, 23, those were like the worst years of my life. It was during that time that I was formally diagnosed with major depressive disorder and ADHD. Two weeks after being diagnosed, I’m waking up in the intensive care unit breathing out of a tube because I overdosed on my wellbutrin dopamine antidepressant. I found myself in an extremely toxic relationship. And as much as the whole narcissist, empath, toxic thing has kind of gotten overused and abused these days, it’s like, well, that was kind of the prototypical example of that. And just to make some relevant points to kind of steer us forward. While I was kind of known as the very more science minded health and fitness guy. Then I was in this situation with a much older woman that had lived much more life, had three kids from two fathers, had a lot of her own issues, and then she got mysteriously ill. And that is an important detail because it was ultimately trying to save her and trying to save the relationship that steered me into functional medicine because it was like I was the science, nutrition, fitness guy. And we went to medical doctors, acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractor, naturopathic, and nobody could figure out what was wrong with her. And she was really struggling with severe debilitating, neurological, musculoskeletal, cognitive. Her demeanor and energy changed a lot in a very volatile, not good way. And this was a woman with lots of unresolved childhood trauma, multiple concussions from stunting as a cheerleader getting dropped on her head. We lived in a water damaged musty home with her kids and everything to not very healthy ex partners that were always around because three kids, two different parent schedules. And it became such an unhealthy situation, both physiologically of like, what is medically wrong with this person that I had committed my life to? I had asked her to marry me, and I was getting emotionally abused and manipulated. So I was trying to navigate her complex chronic illness and navigating the dysfunctional psychology within that relationship. And that relationship was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. And ultimately, I was cheated on. I was betrayed. I was manipulated, all the things I somehow managed to kind of work my way out of that, which I had to learn a lot about psychology very quickly to navigate that very toxic situation. And I got out. And then years later, in 2020, she ended up taking her life and leaving behind her three kids. And I try to be careful about what I divulge, because it’s like if her kids were ever to listen to a podcast where I’m telling this story, I try to be very sensitive to that. And there’s a lot of things I worry about with those kids of like, because I loved those kids and they loved me for a time. And there’s information that’s probably pretty important for them to know that they don’t know because nobody else was there. But I was. I saw what happened, and she wasted away. So many of her family and friends were starting to gossip of like, is she anorexic? Because she literally wasted away, became emaciated, was in crippling pain, right? So to kind of fast forward, it was while I was still with her, and I’m working full time as personal trainer, nutritionist, getting up at 04:00 A.m. Train, my early morning clients. And then in between sessions, I’m doing research, try to figure out what’s wrong with her evening clients, trying to help take care of these three kids that are not mine, trying to take care of her while she’s struggling and everything so super hard. And while I was with her, I was starting to dive into subjects like parasite cleanses and methylation and Mth. Far. It wasn’t until years after I had left the relationship that then I got exposed to the concept of mold illness and all of that. And just to be transparent, I don’t know really what was wrong with her, but knowing what I know now, teaching what I teach through my program, I think it was the compilation of a lot of things. I think it was the concussion, the trauma, some mold and biotoxin illness. There was a lot going on there. And so I paint that picture because especially like, you’re going through the Fmhp program, which has all these modules and all these different root cause subjects, and I’m trying to weave it all together to teach practitioners, how do you navigate these complex cases that are becoming more and more abundant, where people are very physiologically ill but also very psychologically ill, and then those two things are negatively impacting one another, which is what my brain YinYang logo is meant to symbolize. So I think it can be a very hard thing to untangle and disentangle, and I’m attempting to teach practitioners how to do that. But that’s kind of the background story that put me on the path that’s so much.

Amanda Montalvo [00:14:44]:

How long were you guys together?

Brendan Vermeire [00:14:47]:

The whole relationship from beginning to end was about two and a half years. And it was a very roller coaster intense, horrible. And I say horrible. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the good or something, right. But it wasn’t obviously all bad, but it was a very tumultuous two and a half years.

Amanda Montalvo [00:15:05]:

That’s just interesting how it’s like, you can look back now and see, like, oh, I wish I knew this. This would have helped. But ultimately, you have to be ready to heal, too.

Brendan Vermeire [00:15:16]:

Yeah. I think the important point there is, while it might be beautiful or noble or altruistic to try to save somebody, at the same time, it’s like, what’s wrong with you psychologically that you feel the need to compromise yourself to save somebody else? Right. And especially some people, they don’t want to be saved. They don’t want to heal. They just want somebody to drown with them. And at some point, no matter how much you love them, if they want to drown, you got to let them drown, as tragic as it might be.

Amanda Montalvo [00:15:46]:

I almost cried a little when you talked about her life with her kids. I was like, oh, my gosh. Not mentally prepared for that when we think of mental health, right. I got so many questions from my Patreon members, and even when I was planning this episode, I feel like it’s being talked about more in the functional space. Right. Just like a different approach to it. We talk about the gut brain access a lot. Recently, I’ve heard quite a few podcasts on how antidepressants don’t work, and we’re kind of, like, sold this theory that mental health issues are or we were like, a long time ago, that they’re an imbalance of neurotransmitters, which that monoamine hypothesis. I really like your perspective on this because you’re very science based and it doesn’t have to be this or that. Like, two things can be true at once. And I’m just curious, what is your approach with this? Do you think that that hypothesis is correct for many people? Do you think that there’s something deeper going on, and do you think the antidepressants work? I’m curious.

Brendan Vermeire [00:16:54]:

Yeah. It’s a big thing to unpack, and I will admit I do get a little bit annoyed with a lot of the content on social media, because I think some of the big name influencers are oversimplifying what is actually very complex, very nuanced, misunderstood, and constantly evolving. Right. We have to recognize that the scientific method is perpetually behind because we’re just trying to objectively quantify and understand what has always existed. Our knowledge is always catching up with kind of our silly human constructs. And so people are so caught up in what’s the current narrative and then what is that really rooted in? And to your point, duality states that multiple truths can coexist simultaneously, even if some of those truths might seem a little bit antagonistic. Right. And then, of course, with social media being such a limited method to try to communicate, because I get trolled every day and people want to project their triggered emotions based on well, this that you’re saying doesn’t seem to apply to me or everyone. Therefore it’s invalid or not true. And it’s like it might not be relevant for you, but this is where bio individuality so this is why I’m so passionate about lab testing and the mental map, because we have to bring objectivity to it. I see so many people trying to heal and self heal and whatever and that’s great. People should try to get better, they should try to heal, they should try to evolve. But I’m seeing more and more people getting addicted to the self healing process and a lot of spiritual bypassing of like, chasing root causes, trying all the things, throwing spaghetti at the wall, over consuming without effectively integrating. And it’s very easy to sort of deflect and avoid dismantling self limiting beliefs or taking any responsibility because they’re just chasing, like, what’s the fad? What’s the trendy diet, what’s the root cause, what’s the supplement? What’s the self indulgent ideology that I can use to use as a crutch so I don’t actually have to show up and lean into life and adversity or building resilience? Right? So this is why I force people to bring some objectivity where even through the intake process that I do of, like, a life satisfaction survey, a symptomatology and clinical history questionnaire, and then, of course, lab testing with the mental map and its constituent biomarkers because people are so tempted to peg and blame all of their shortcomings in life on some mysterious fallacious root cause. A practitioner pushed on my arm while I hold a plastic vial of water and said I have a parasite and liver fluke and therefore that’s my root cause. And all the while that’s an idea. It’s an idea that they’ve built in their neural networks that might not be objectively true. Which is why I’m very big on staying evidence based, staying scrutinous and staying objective because what I’m seeing more and more of like through my platform obviously I post a lot of content about a lot of different physiological root causes and psychological but nobody likes my posts about psychological root causes. Really.

Amanda Montalvo [00:20:09]:

Those are the ones I love.

Brendan Vermeire [00:20:11]:

They’re the best ones, they’re the most important ones. I could post one day of saying toxoplasma has been associated with schizophrenia and bipolar. That post will blow up because it’s like oh, it’s not my fault, it’s this bug, this infection that I have if I the very next day post is your ego, your root cause? Are self limiting beliefs your root cause? Are you obsessively chasing root causes as a trauma response and people want to freak out about that, they get offended, they get triggered, right? And it’s like what are you avoiding facing in that behavior? Right? And as coaches and practitioners we can’t enable that kind of self limiting ideology or subjectivity. So the mental map, for example, with its constituent biomarkers we can objectively measure how much inflammation do they have, how much brain damage do they have. We now have biomarkers that we can measure in the blood reflective of how much your brain is being degenerated right now. It’s going to take another 1020 years before these biomarkers are commonly employed in the conventional model. But they’re available now. We can use them now. And so one of the big problems I see is people get turned on to functional medicine and like, oh, let me do urinary, mycotoxin testing, a genetic test, a stool test. And it’s like, oh, see, I have all these bugs, genetic material of bugs in my stool. I have mycotoxins coming out in my urine. I have scary looking SNPs in my genetic report. See, those are all my root causes. But the thing is, if you’re not assessing the physiology, are your organs being damaged? Do you have inflammation? Do you have oxidative stress? Can we see that? Your brain is degenerating with neurodegenerative biomarkers, and I’m seeing more and more, I think there is a lot of psychosomatic dysfunction going on. And even the word psychosomatic triggers the shit out of people, because a lot of times, the first time they’ve heard the word psychosomatic was their doctor saying, your blood work looks fine. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s all in your head. It’s psychosomatic. And then they cry about, I’m medically traumatized, I was gaslit by my doctor. And all the while, it’s like, well, that was kind of a misuse and bad experience of an important word that is psychosomatic. So with psychosomatic, psychosomatic doesn’t mean it’s all in your head. What it means is that your perception is contributing to your illness. And this is well established through the nocebo effect. Everybody talks about placebo. We all know placebo is a real thing if you expect a positive reaction, even if it’s a sugar pill, but you don’t know that because it’s a double blind, placebo controlled trial. If you expect that pill to have a positive effect on your body, you are more likely to have a positive reaction to it. Nocibo is the opposite. If you’re expecting a negative reaction, you are more likely to experience negative symptoms. So quite literally, and that’s what Joe Dispenza is all about, right, is how your thoughts either manifest health or illness. It’s not like that’s really his original concept that dates back to Hippocrates and everything. So I think we have to recognize all of these things. And what I’m attempting to do with Fmhp is create a framework where we’re able to take into account all of these psychological healing opportunities and physiological and being able to really navigate, because it’s not this or that. It’s how all of it is impacting them, their health, their physiology, their psychology, and their perception of their own health, right? So I think a lot of times there’s not enough structure or objectivity in people’s healing pursuits. So then they just get on this consumerism hamster wheel and they’re not really making progress. Often.

Amanda Montalvo [00:24:01]:

Thyroid health is essential for healthy hormones, digestion energy and more. Our thyroid is so important because it sets the metabolic pace of our body, which controls how every single system functions. Whether you think you may have some thyroid dysfunction going on based on symptoms you may have or have a confirmed diagnosis, chances are you haven’t been given the best tools to address your thyroid health. I’ve been there. Thyroid is a big part of my health journey and something I’ve been optimizing for the last decade. I’m very passionate about this topic, which is why I created a free thyroid training that walks you through how to assess thyroid health. All the labs I do cover blood work and what the optimal ranges are. I just want to say that I think we have to look beyond blood work when it comes to assessing our thyroid health. That’s why I also cover hair mineral testing, urine testing, and then basal body temperature, which is a measurement you can do at home to assess your thyroid health. I’ve had so many people reach out and say they can’t believe that this training is free. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I also cover nutrition tips for optimizing thyroid health. You can head to the link in the show Notes or to my website, Hormonehealingrd.com, to watch the training. There’s just so much lacking when it comes to helpful info on thyroid health, so I’m really hoping that this training helps you and fills that gap. Yeah, and I think one of the cool things it was at the very beginning of the FMH program was when you had this whole thing on antidepressants and how it’s the whole monoamine hypothesis, it’s this imbalance in our neurotransmitters. But of course, in that program, the premise is learning about neuroinflammation and having that inflammation in other areas of your body can contribute to inflammation in the brain and that can also create imbalances in neurotransmitters, plus many other things. And I’d listened to a few of these functional perspective podcasts on mental health, talking about how antidepressants don’t work. We have the data to show us this. And then I was going through one of the lessons and you talked about how certain ones can actually be anti inflammatory. And so is that the impact that they’re having on neuroinflammation?

Brendan Vermeire [00:26:14]:

Yeah, I’m just realizing I didn’t really answer the question very directly, but you kind of encapsulated it there. I went off on one of my ADHD tangents, but to your point so the narrative that we’ve been sold for the past 30 years is this idea that mental illness is the result of brain chemical imbalances. We don’t know why it happens. It’s heterogeneous in origin, so we don’t really know why it happens. There’s not really anything you can do about it, but you just need to do therapy and take this neuropsychiatric drug SSRI, SNRI, benzo, antipsychotic, dopamine receptor blocker, whatever it is. And so conventional psychiatry has kind of, unfortunately become this very empirical model of how is the patient presenting with their demeanor and their behavior and then like, okay, well, let’s it seems like they’re kind of psychotic, so let’s try the antipsychotic, or it seems like they’re very anxious. Let’s try a drug that blocks the NMDA receptor which regulates a lot of kind of anxiety properties. But to your point, that was all based on the monoamine theory of mental illness, which used to be the leading theory. And that theory was all built around essentially the balance of neurotransmission, the serotonin and the dopamine and the GABA and the acetylcholine. So for many years, the pharmacology approach to treating and managing mental health disorders was using these drugs that activate or block these neurotransmitter receptors. Essentially, that’s kind of the basic premise. And these days, though, as science has evolved and advanced while the monoamine theory still has merit, we’re seeing oh, actually, the leading theories now are the cytokine theory and neurotrophic theory, which are more looking at the role of inflammation and how that’s driving not just neurotransmitter nerve system dysregulation but also just essentially neurotoxicity and neurodegeneration through these neuroinflammatory mechanisms and then concomitantly. The other side of that same coin is the neurotrophic theory, which is more focusing on these neurotrophins that are proteins that regulate neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. So this is why all of my work centers around the microglial cells because they really regulate the neuroinflammatory process and co regulate neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. So this art piece behind me is actually called neurogenesis because up here, this is a brain and some neurons going on over here. And then these are different types of fungi, lions, mane and psilocybin and different types of mushrooms that promote neurogenesis. So that’s why psychedelics and psilocybin, or just therapeutic mushrooms are so popular, is they promote neurotrophic activity. And there’s a lot of other things that do too. But to your point, people love to jump on the bandwagons and there is this more anti pharma sentiment that’s growing. And I can appreciate why, but let’s keep in mind, like these psychiatric drugs, they do have established efficacy. While it might not be great, like it might only be 30% efficacy, and there is a lot of treatment resistant depression. And so, for example, one of the teaching points I like to use to illustrate this point whereas SSRIs have historically kind of been the frontline treatment for depression and different mood disorders, treatment resistant depression is becoming such a big thing that pharma is trying to figure out, so what do we give them if that doesn’t work, right? And so one of the exciting things in Pharmacology these days, it’s the monoclonal antibodies because it’s like now they have the technology to create designer antibodies that can go after basically any molecular target in the body. So a lot of. The approach these days is using these designer antibodies to block pro inflammatory cytokines. So that way, those pro inflammatory cytokine messengers aren’t starting a fire in your body or your brain. And we do know a number of pathways, such as I teach through the Fmhp program of ido one pathway, or Gtpch one, these biochemical pathways that, when activated by inflammatory messengers, it dysregulates neurotransmitter production and signaling. So in a lot of ways, you could argue that neuroinflammation kind of precedes neurotransmitter imbalances to some degree now. It’s very nuanced, and people try to cling to these things, and it’s like, well, it’s a lot of bad juju going on at once. But part of it, with different drugs like SSRIs, they can establish efficacy without fully understanding how it works. Maybe the mechanism is blocking the reuptake of serotonin in the synaptic cleft. Maybe that’s the mechanism. But what’s the effect of modulating that mechanism? And so now they’re starting to see, actually, SSRIs do seem to promote neuroplasticity and reduce neuroinflammation. So now we’re learning more about that, actually seems to be part of how the SSRIs have any efficacy. So I don’t know. I think sometimes people get too reactive, and they really want to hate pharma. And conventional, it’s like, well, these things can be very useful at times. Some people really need these drugs to be stable. But my whole thing is like, yeah, we have a big, powerful system that dispenses a lot of drugs. What we don’t have enough of is holistic functional practitioners helping, like, well, what started the inflammation? Right? Rather than trying to block the pro inflammatory messengers, why don’t we figure out what triggered the pro inflammatory messengers using a root cause approach, right, rather than just the symptom management? Because one of the big risks of blocking pro inflammatory messengers is it lowers immunity and increases the risk of infectious disease. So during COVID it’s like, how are we going to combat a mental health crisis using immunosuppressive drugs during an infectious disease cris?

Amanda Montalvo [00:32:10]:

Yeah, it’s not going to work. It’s just interesting, and I just think it’s so important for people to hear that, because we can learn from this, right? It doesn’t have to be one or the other. We can learn that, oh, these SSRIs are having this other possibly anti inflammatory effect, which could be benefiting it. Let’s take that piece of information, take it a step further, and apply it to the whole person and understand where that inflammation is coming from. I don’t think one of my friends sent me a podcast, and it was completely bashing SSRIs. I’m like, this is not helpful, though. This is not helping us help people. So I think it’s important to go through that. And one thing when you were talking about before, kind of putting that whole picture together with how you got into this, and you mentioned genetics, epigenetics, snips specifically. I want to talk about this. You have so many good posts on epigenetics. Those ones must do well, right?

Brendan Vermeire [00:33:01]:

Yeah, they do. Anytime you say epigenetics, people freak out.

Amanda Montalvo [00:33:05]:

It’s just interesting. And you talked about different things, about how having childhood trauma or early childhood trauma, certain aspects of chronic stress and stuff in your life and how that can impact your epigenetics. I would love to talk more about just how you think epigenetics are impacting mental health and how it can show up as mental illness. What might that look like? How might someone know?

Brendan Vermeire [00:33:31]:

Yeah, I saw you had noticed that quote that I include it in every slide deck because it’s essentially like my professional theory that then my work is trying to essentially prove. But my sort of theory, my quote, is that mental illness is largely an epigenetic phenomenon driven by oxidative stress and inflammation. Now, I don’t say exclusively, I say largely. Right? So I think genetics and genetics is undoubtedly the future of medicine. We will get to the point we can bio individualize medical treatment based on somebody’s genome and their SNPs and all of that, but we’re so far away from that right now. Our technology has surpassed our understanding. And while I love genetics, I think genetic testing is often not always. It’s all in how the data is implemented and employed. But generally speaking, I see genetics and genetic testing kind of doing more harm than good because people are freaking out about their SNPs. And it does create that nocibo effect that I talked about, right? Like, oh, gosh, I have the dreaded HLA, and I have homozygous six, seven, seven Mth bar, and I have APOE. So, oh, my God, I’m doomed, right? And it’s like, okay, so now you have this negative perception that’s creating increased sympathetic tone in your body, driving HPA, Dysregulation, gut brain access Dysregulation, increasing oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. And now you’re just going to be kind of like manifesting your own symptomatology and illness through that perception. All the while, it’s just your genetics. And we don’t know how they’re expressing themselves or not, which is like a light switch that’s getting turned on, turned off, like billions of times every day.

Amanda Montalvo [00:35:13]:

I don’t think people get that, though. I don’t think they understand that when you get a genetic test done, yes, you might have that SNP. Is it good to know? Probably if you’re going to maybe use it to make nutrition, lifestyle choices, but we don’t know for sure that it’s turned on.

Brendan Vermeire [00:35:29]:

Yeah. Then sort of the binary thinking of is it turned on or turned off? And it’s like, well, it’s being turned on, turned off billions of times in every cell. It could be turned on 70% of the time in these cells in this part of your body, but then turned off in this region. You know what I mean? So the complexity I was in a meeting a couple of years ago with a medical laboratory and some researchers. It was like a few CEOs and researchers, because what we were all coming together to do was we were toying around with the idea of kind of combining some of our work efforts to see if we could create a new lab test that measures global DNA methylation. And the idea being, so I’m sure some of your practitioner followers are probably savvy about methylation of, to stick a methyl group onto a gene is essentially silencing the gene, kind of turning it off, whereas putting an acetyl group on that gene is essentially turning it on, turning the gene on, the light switch on. And is that a good gene? Is it a bad gene? Is it a dirty gene? Whatever. And so global DNA methylation is essentially trying to quantify how much of your genome is methylated or turned off, but that’s at a global DNA level, not an individual gene. We have 20,000 plus genes in the human genomes, and then our microbiome has 100 times that amount of genetic material, and we get a lot of our functionality from those microbes that are being killed off by this sterile germ theory world that we live in. So people need to understand I don’t even think there’s always a ton of value in doing genetic testing. It’s just focus on how do you optimize the health that you have? And if you want to say, how do I optimize my epigenetic health? It’s like the same conversation as how would you optimize your health if you didn’t know anything about your genetics? So maybe I’m always very especially with clients and patients, and this is effective, client centered coaching psychology. We have to be focused on the action and the solution, not focused on the problem. It’s easy to dig up problems with experimental testing, but we need to be focused on, great, what are we going to do about it?

Amanda Montalvo [00:37:42]:

Yeah, I think that’s such a good point. I’m happy we went into that because I was like, the genetics thing, it’s very cool. I think it can be helpful to an extent, but I do think people get wrapped up in it, so I hope this gives them a little peace of mind. Like, if you do know that you have this specific SNP MTHFR, whatever it is, it doesn’t mean that’s your fate and focusing on it so much and stressing about it isn’t actually going to help. It’s going to be the opposite. All right, let’s talk about trauma. All your good posts and controversial ones are the trauma ones you posted recently the other day about how childhood stress and how I just feel like people get so triggered when you post about it.

Brendan Vermeire [00:38:19]:

Yeah, they do.

Amanda Montalvo [00:38:20]:

If you guys want entertainment, grab some popcorn and go to Brendan’s comment section. But it’s a really important message. So when it comes to life and stress in your childhood, how is that going to alter and our genetics? How does that alter our behavior? What does that potentially look like? Because I don’t think that people really think about this and how much all the stress of their whole life impacts their health right now.

Brendan Vermeire [00:38:46]:

Yeah, well, it’s kind of the perfect segue since we were just talking about epigenetics, because you have to think about your epigenetic health being sort of the net result of all the input signals that your genes are receiving through the milieu, through the environment. Every thought, every breath of air, every bite of food, it’s all a signal to your genes. Right? And so with early life stress or adverse childhood events or trauma or whatever you want to call some of that, it does alter the epigenetic expression then and there. And the mechanism of epigenetic expression is regulated through methylation and acetylation. So some of the more mechanistic research is looking at how early life stress or adverse childhood events change global DNA methylation and are changing the expression of the genes that then drives this dysfunctional physiology. Because that’s kind of my thing is too many functional practitioners, maybe they run a genetic test and a stool test and organic acids or something, but if they’re not assessing the physiology objectively through blood work or other established physiological, clinically significant biomarkers, you don’t know how that experimental data is being reflected in their actual physiology. And ultimately, what we care most about is their current state of physiology and biochemistry. So with early life stress and trauma, it does create this more dysfunctional epigenetic phenotype with more pro inflammatory cytokine, chemokine and just pro inflammatory activity, more oxidative stress, more neuroendocrine dysregulation. So there’s such a massive body of evidence and different layers of research behind it. But essentially that early life stress and trauma does kind of set somebody on this path of more inflammation, more oxidative stress, more neurolimbic and HPA dysregulation, and it can be corrected. It’s not a death sentence, right? These things can be improved. And there’s a lot of different aspects of that. Like with trauma recovery, something I don’t see enough people talking about even the biggest accounts on Earth that talk about trauma every day. Nobody’s really talking about extinction learning, where essentially it’s the unlearning of the traumatic based beliefs, right? So I always use the analogy of if you were a young child and you’re in the car with your parents and you get in a really bad car accident, maybe both of your parents die and you get banged up a little bit, right? Like, what a traumatic event. So then you have this older teenager that lost their parents in a car accident and they don’t want to get anywhere near a car. Now, it’s going to be kind of hard to get around in life if you’re constantly afraid of cars. So at some point you do have to unlearn this trauma based belief system that is telling you through this miswired nervous system, if you will like, hey, if you get in that car, bad things are going to happen. And it’s like, well, not always. So that’s that reexposure therapy because essentially you have to, at a cellular level, break down the neural network that’s associated with that false belief system that comes from a place of trauma and build a new neural network that says, hey, not every time I get in a car, I’m going to get in traumatic car accident. Right. And a huge focal point of PTSD. Pharmacology research these days is really focused on using anti inflammatory drugs to treat PTSD. Clinically, you can do all the therapy in the world, and that is very helpful. But if you’re not helping rewire your brain and you’re not bringing down the neuroinflammatory load so this is why therapy doesn’t always help people recover, is you can’t talk your way out of neuroinflammation all the time.

Amanda Montalvo [00:42:46]:

Yeah. And you’re very pro therapy. You’ve always like huge advocate.

Brendan Vermeire [00:42:50]:

Yeah, I always say, first, put out the fire in your brain. Second, go to therapy. And people don’t like it when I say that.

Amanda Montalvo [00:42:57]:

Yeah. We can work on two things at once for talking about these new neural networks that’s really like neuroplasticity. Right. I’m going to have Irene Lyon on Can’t Wait, and we’re going to go deep into neuroplasticity. So we’re not going to cover it a ton in this episode because it’ll be covered in the next couple of so does trauma and experiencing that, does it make it harder to make those new neural pathways?

Brendan Vermeire [00:43:25]:

Yeah, I mean, it can, but I don’t want to distort the science on that either, because it’s also individualized of how many input signals are their brain cells receiving that are promoting neuroplasticity? Neurogenesis versus promoting neuroinflammation neuroinflammation excitotoxicity because neuroplasticity neurogenesis is more neuroprotective in nature and neuroinflammation excitotoxicity more damaging. And we need homeostasis there. Right. And obviously not all neuroinflammation is bad. If you get COVID and it’s trying to infect your brain, it’s the neuroinflammation that keeps the COVID from infecting your brain. So we need acute controlled, regulated inflammation in the body and brain that then comes to a resolution. But because so many people, their body, their tissues, their cells, their brain cells are just being bombarded by pro inflammatory, ProOx data input signals all the time, it does create this dysfunctional phenotype that it’s the chronic inflammation crisis that’s going on that directly impacts the brain as well. So while I think some of the inner work and healing psychology and transcending trauma facing those deep, dark wounds within ourselves, that can be really hard and really scary. So a lot of what I tried to do is like, well, let’s make it easier to do that work by optimizing the low hanging fruit, right? Let’s improve your nutrition and your exercise and your sleep hygiene and your stress management. Let’s get you on some supportive supplements and pharmaceuticals as needed with your healthcare provider. Because you still have to do that inner work. But we can make it more manageable and we can support the physiological healing that has to happen in order for the psychological healing to really stick.

Amanda Montalvo [00:45:21]:

Yeah, and I think that’s just so important to mention, and I just wanted to really point that out for people because if you are having a hard time, you feel like it’s impossible for you to create these new neural pathways to have a different mindset on things related to that past trauma. It could be because you have an incredible amount of inflammation going on that’s making it even more difficult. So it’s like, I don’t think you have to work on just one or the other, but I think that we can’t forget about if we have inflammation in our body. I’ve never seen a mental health client that doesn’t have gut issues. If we’re not addressing different things, then it can make it really hard to make therapy and things like that really effective. The one other thing I want to talk about, and you kind of talked about this before, but it was such a good post and I could not believe the comment section was the one where you talked about obsessively chasing root causes as a trauma response. I see this in my practice a lot. I honestly used to not even take on clients that were like this because we couldn’t help them. But now we focus a lot more on your mindset, those thoughts, and we just don’t let people bypass that. We’re like, if you don’t want to work on this stuff, then we’re not a good fit for you. But we think that for your case, you’re most likely like, we’re going to have to look deeper. You should definitely be working with a therapist. That’s how you’re going to get the most out of working with us. Because I do think this is a huge issue, like taking in more information constantly and then not applying it or just obsessively looking outside yourself for an answer. So tell me a little bit more about why you wanted to do that post, why you think obsessively searching for a root cause is a trauma response and what can we do instead?

Brendan Vermeire [00:47:10]:

Yeah, I’ll divulge strategically mindfully lovingly. That post was particularly inspired by one of my best and most challenging clients that I’ve ever had in my career. We’ve been working together for about two and a half years, and she’s worked with a few of my health coaches on staff. And then I’ve been more so, like, overseeing. And the services I offer have become a little bit unique where I kind of end up being the guy that people come to for perspective and guidance when they’re feeling, like, really lost and kind of disoriented. But her sister is doing all the things. We have done an ungodly amount of lab testing and all the supplements we’ve been through mold, remediation. She’s working with an energy healer and a trauma therapist and doing psilocybin, microdosing and EMDR. And OCD and trauma might be like, the worst combination in my experience. Trauma mixed with OCD because they just exacerbate one another. The OCD keeps the trauma alive, the trauma makes the OCD worse. So it’s a very hard thing to break out of. And of course, in the functional medicine space, everybody wants to, okay, oh, look, you might have this root cause we have to go chasing it with a protocol. So right now we’re trying to kind of determine, does she have chronic lyme or not? And she goes and sees a conventional infectious disease doctor, and of course the conventional white coat is like, no, you don’t have lyme. Chronic lyme doesn’t exist. That’s not a thing. And she’s not content with that answer. And so we’re digging and whatever. But my point being the problem that we’ve been running into with her is she’s hyper vigilantly and erotically looking for things wrong with her. We’ll do some lab testing, and even though maybe 98% of all of her biomarkers look perfect on paper, but if there’s one or two that are out of range and then she looks up, well, what do those mean? Like, oh, it could be related to cancer, it could be related to this. And then she freaks out about it and erotically chases these root causes. And all the while, I actually challenged her with some pretty deep, profound motivational interview questions of how does freaking out about a couple of biomarkers serve your health? Goals or what areas of your life might be neglected while you obsessively Chase root causes as you’re trying to find more things wrong with you? These are the things that we have to challenge our client. We have to challenge their belief systems when their belief systems are self limiting and keeping them on an unhealthy hamster wheel. Because, look, her health coach and I, we together over a year ago. We had to cut her off of lab testing for a while because she was weaponizing the lab testing against herself, using the data to keep herself on that neurotic hamster wheel. And it’s compulsive. It’s feeding into OCD compulsions. So if I’m trying to help this woman heal and have a better quality of life, I would be doing her a disservice by doing anything that enables those self limiting beliefs or behavioral patterns. Exactly.

Amanda Montalvo [00:52:16]:

Yeah. You don’t want to exacerbate her main health concern.

Brendan Vermeire [00:52:19]:

Exactly. And that’s the thing, especially this is why I like the objectivity to it of like, okay, your physiology looks really good on paper. You don’t have any measurable inflammation. Your immune status looks great. Your metabolic markers look great. So let’s stop digging for problems where there don’t really seem to be any. Right. Let’s focus on the self limiting belief systems that are keeping you stuck. Right. So that’s kind of where that post was inspired from. And then, of course, I get trolled. A bunch of people are like, well, maybe the trauma is my root cause, even though it’s like I wrote that in the post of know, trauma could be one of your root causes. Calm down, Karen. But you know what? It’s just and at the end of the know, I avoid my own comments because it’s not good for my mental health. But for Know, I see that volatile know more and more. It’s really more on the Internet. It’s not like I have weird interactions with people in real life, but it reflects back to me just how much psychoemotional healing there is to do at the collective level. And I just think it’s really important that we are able to identify the psychological healing opportunities and physiological and have some sort of structured regimen to address all the above, because people are just getting lost in their own pursuits, and.

Amanda Montalvo [00:53:39]:

They need some clarity, and I think practitioners listening. Obviously, you have a very specific kind of relationship with that client, so you can say those things to her.

Brendan Vermeire [00:53:49]:

We’ve built that rapport and trust and safety.

Amanda Montalvo [00:53:53]:

So don’t go out go wild in your clients there. And I think it’s coming from a place of, like, you want to help them. But I do think it’s a very fine line, and it can be really hard to do to not enable your clients, especially when you’re like, I can’t do it for you. And if you’re not going to make the changes, it’s difficult. But I think now, like you said, more of those really difficult cases are becoming more and more common. It’s a huge reason why I joined Fmhp, because I was like, man, I don’t know how to help these people. At least I can only get them so far. And then it’s kind of like we hit a wall. How can we get past that? And a lot of it’s just learning more about how all the things that we’re already working on with clients inflammation, all those things, how those affect the brain and just having a better understanding of that. But a lot of it does come down to your day to day, your nutrition, lifestyle. You can’t hide from those things and you definitely can’t hide from how your thoughts are going to impact your health. And that’s a chronic stressor. If you’re just constantly looking for something or talking negatively to yourself or thinking that you can’t heal, you’re never going to heal. And I see this a lot in the mold community. The whole mold thing is crazy. I might leave this question, the mold question for the Q A, because we’re running out of time here. But this was so good. Thank you so much for being here. We’re going to continue on. Anyone in my patreon. We’re doing A-Q-A with Brendan there. I’m sure I’ll have you back because I feel like we could talk forever about this stuff. But thank you and I hope everyone enjoyed this interview with Brendan.

Brendan Vermeire [00:55:32]:

Yeah. Thank you, Amanda. It was a pleasure.

Amanda Montalvo [00:55:34]:

That wraps up my interview with Brendan. I could have talked to him forever. I definitely tried to keep it to that like 45 minutes ish timeline. I did do a whole Q and A with him inside Patreon. So if you’re a Patreon member and you submitted your question, it was answered in the Q and A. That bonus has already been posted inside Patreon. If you want more from Brennan and to hear the kind of questions he answered, you can go to Rd and get access to that Q A. But definitely follow Brendan at the holisticsavage on Instagram. Check out his website, Metabolicsolutionsllc.com if you’re interested. If you’re a practitioner interested in the Fmhp program or learning more about mental map, you can find it all on his website. So I hope you guys enjoyed that. Next episode. I’m going to do a little bit of a deep dive into how certain minerals can impact our mental health. Just to expand on this topic a little bit more. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Are You Menstrual? Podcast. If you want to support my work, please leave a review and let me know how you like the episode. This lets me know what you guys want more of less of. I read every single one and I appreciate them more than you know. If you want to keep learning, you can get access to the bonus episode and additional resources on Patreon.com hormonehealingrd. I’d love to have you in there. Thanks again and I will see you in the next episode.

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

Master Your Minerals

Created by
Hormone Healing RD