This podcast episode delves into the importance of Nurse Coaching which is based on a holistic philosophy where we include the individual and their environment, the psychosocial determinants of health, their food, genetics, their sleep, their relationships, everything that influences health and wellbeing.
Nurses have the ability to speak both the language of medicine and the language of healing. When you combine both of those, you enter into a very special relationship with the people you’re working with. Susan covers a multitude of topics in this extremely informative podcast filled with HOPE!
Join us on our third episode as we talk with Susan Luck, RN, and how Nurse Coaching has evolved, leading to new ways we can educate ourselves on the toxins entering our bodies.
From her work in Central America, to working the AIDS epidemic in NYC in the 80’s, come listen to Susan as she details how nurses have the unique ability to speak with both the language of medicine and the language of healing, helping build stronger, more optimal outcomes for patients.
Susan dives into the numerous chemicals that we cross paths within our daily lives and how they invade our brains and health. Susan details the many many ways outside chemicals can affect some but not all patients and why, as they set up specific markers within our bodies, leaving a trail to follow to better solve our health issues.
(1:00) – Nurse coaching and a holistic approach to health care, how working in Central America caused her to explore the environmental exposures on our health, and making the connection that connection between health and well being. Epigenetics of her family tree and how it manifested itself in the lives of her family and how it’s set her on a 30-year journey, to find what impacts community health. Our genes are not our destiny.
(5:40) How Susan became a nurse coach and what it entails. Working in the AIDS epidemic in NYC in the 80s and how it influenced her work and fighting against fatalistic views, and how coaching is about partnering with the person and helping to take the pressure off of having to have all the answers.
(8:20) What if Nurses could assist people in the new model of personalized medicine, creating close relationships and building a foundation of trust. Year after year, how nurses are the most trusted profession in healthcare and creating a legacy of health and well being. How nurses can both speak the language of medicine and the language of healing, combing to form a very special relationship.
(14:00) New choices for behavioral change, eliminating what is bogging us down, and starting small in nurse coaching. Changing the way we practice nursing by using positive psychology. Changing patterns of behavior and how it leads to improved outcomes. Helping patients to change themselves and getting them to change their motivations.
(22:00) How mold circulates through our systems and wrecks havoc and why some people handle exposures better. “Toxic body burden” and how other stressors combine to affect our health, from mold to pesticides and how these triggers intensify our issues. How do we improve our quality of air? How do we properly test?
(30:00) How do we educate ourselves about these toxins entering our bodies? How fragrance misleads us when it comes to how dangerous the air is that we breathe in. Obsesigens and how we metabolize fats, and how even healthy living doesn’t always have a healthy impact the patient wants. Nurse coaching helps patients connect to their intuitive selves, and helps fat cells act like hormonal markers. What are the chemicals we are constantly exposed to?
(43:00) How epigenetics influence how one person can have symptoms and others do not. Environmental detectives and how they help us find a unique personalized approach to eliminating chemical exposures. How history shows us what may be triggering newfound symptoms. Making a list of personal care products that we use unknowingly multiple times a day, exposing ourselves, and becoming consumer savy and finding the chemicals that are triggering us. The importance of educating ourselves and improving our health little by little.
(51:30) Non-organic foods and the toxins they carry, how environmental concerns and awareness is going to be the new medicine going forward, with medical models showing the impact of chemicals, and the brains’ affinity for metals.
Susan Luck: Nurse coaching is based on a holistic philosophy where we include the individual and their environment, the psychosocial determinants of health, their food, their sleep, their relationships, everything that influences health and wellbeing.
Jacob Gordon: Hey guys and welcome. You’re listening to the Rezilir Way with Jacob Gordon. I’m your host Jacob and I’m so excited to have you here today. In today’s episode we have Susan Luck, the Director of Nurse Coaching at Rezilir Health. She is one of the pioneers of nurse coaching and is board certified in health and wellness coaching, holistic nursing, and clinical nutrition.
Jacob Gordon: I’ve read her work and she has a plethora of knowledge. So, in today’s episode she is going to be sharing some of that knowledge with us. We’ll be discussing nurse coaching, environmental and household toxins, as well as some ways to identify bad products you may own and ways to detox your body.
Jacob Gordon: So, without further ado, let’s get started. All right Susan, thank you for being on the show today.
Susan Luck: Thank you for having me.
Jacob Gordon: I want to know a little bit more about you. I know you’re part of the Rezilir team, and I want to know your story. How did you get involved?
Susan Luck: It’s a long story.
Jacob Gordon: Well we have about an hour.
Susan Luck: I’ve always been interested in a holistic approach to healthcare and how people stay healthy and what influences their health and wellbeing. Going back a couple of decades ago, I was a young nurse practicing community health in the highlands of Central America.
Susan Luck: There were seasonal workers who would go to the farms and then come back to the mountain region where I was living and working in the community. When people would come back, they had serious health issues. They had children with birth defects. They have cognitive issues.
Susan Luck: When I explored it just out of my own curiosity, and at the time I was a graduate student in medical anthropology, I was concerned about what I was witnessing. It wound up that these seasonal workers had environmental exposures to pesticides. They were working in the crops in the lowlands, cotton, and other agriculture.
Susan Luck: I started to make that connection between how the environment is affecting their health and wellbeing and that of future generations. That really led me on a search.
Susan Luck: The other part is very personal. Both of my parents had cancer when they were considerably young and I was always curious about what were the triggers as we say in functional medicine.
Susan Luck: So, I started to explore what I knew about them from smoking, to hair dyes, to eating processed foods. I started again to research and study and make some correlations between the health or I could say the epigenetics of my family tree and how it manifested in their lives and their health.
Susan Luck: So, I personally became very determined to avoid anything that might exacerbate any preexisting genetic concerns or anything else. So, I myself have been on a mission for 30 years of how to “clean up my own internal and external environment”. That has been able to lead me to work with either people, patients, communities, to also explore what might be affecting their community or family health.
Jacob Gordon: Wow, that’s really interesting. So, you saw firsthand what pesticide use did to these people and also your parents with cancer.
Susan Luck: Yes.
Jacob Gordon: So, you have a very personal experience with this.
Susan Luck: I do.
Jacob Gordon: By the term epigenetics, so our listeners know what that means, what is it?
Susan Luck: Well, epigenetics is that we all have genetic markers. We all have a code within our genes. In the last decade or so we’ve been able to really understand more and more about how the genes influence our health.
Susan Luck: But epigenetics is how those genes express themselves. We could have a predisposition. Let’s just say we have a predisposition for Alzheimer’s or for breast cancer. There were genetic markers that we know about. But the question becomes how do we protect those genes and protect ourselves from the potential health concerns and what the triggers might be by not allowing those genes to change.
Susan Luck: The genes don’t change but the way they express themselves changes. That’s the field of epigenetics. What’s coined as a phrase is that our genes are not our destiny. We can no longer say because your parents had heart disease, you’re destined. Or because your mother had breast cancer it’s inevitable.
Susan Luck: How we modulate and manage our internal and external environment will directly affect whether or not we have this “self-fulfilling prophesy” and how we can ward off or even totally stop that kind of expression.
Jacob Gordon: Wow, that’s fascinating about epigenetics. So, my next question for you Susan is how did you become a nurse coach? Also, what is a nurse coach because most people haven’t heard of that term, they’ve heard of health coach, or they’ve heard of nurses.
Susan Luck: Okay. Great question. Nurses are educators. We are advocates for our patients and our communities and we help people navigate through their illness process hopefully toward wellness.
Susan Luck: Again, there’s a little story here that when I was working in the heart of the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s in New York City in community health, people were kind of giving up. They were giving up on life.
Susan Luck: I remember sitting and talking to groups, because I did group, I call it now coaching. We didn’t have that terminology back in the ’80s. I would say to people, “If you could live, what would your life be like? What would it look like to you? What are some of your dreams that you would pursue if you did have a choice?” Because people were so fatalistic in those early days, and rightly so, there were few medications and there was a lot of exposure to segments in the community.
Susan Luck: People would start to share their story, and for the first time they began to think about what if I lived, what would my life look like. I remember one young man George who said, “I would become a massage therapist.” Fast forward 40 years George is a massage therapist, even though in those days he didn’t know he’d survive even a year.
Susan Luck: So, I think my coaching came out of a lot of my own interests and how to work with people, not just telling them what to do, but inviting them to go deeper within to think about what has meaning and purpose in their lives.
Susan Luck: Another part of that in coaching is that we partner with the person rather than being the expert, which actually takes a lot of pressure off of us as practitioners to not have to have all the answers.
Susan Luck: I understand that for example here at Rezilir we do need to do the exploratory, the assessment, evaluation and then come up with a protocol and a program. But what we know is that for people to really adhere to a program, they need to be on board. They can’t just be told you need to take 40 supplements and follow these directions. They need to become engaged and we need to have the individual think about what they want their life to look like moving forward.
Susan Luck: What if they could reverse some of their cognitive decline or all of their cognitive decline and what are they willing to do. Then as a coach, we walk with them in that process.
Susan Luck: So, how I got into nurse coaching is that there were 17 million nurses in the world. There were 4.5 million nurses in the United States alone. Nurses are in every community, in every healthcare setting, in business, in organizations. So, the question became what if nurses could really assist people in this whole new model of personalized health and wellbeing, personalized medicine.
Susan Luck: They’re the perfect professional to be able to do this because they create close relationships with their patients and trust is the first key ingredient for a successful coaching interaction.
Susan Luck: As you probably know, nurses are every year, year after year, designated the most trusted profession in healthcare. I think beyond healthcare, the most trusted profession.
Susan Luck: We come out of a long legacy of health and wellbeing because unless you’re a nurse practitioner, you don’t prescribe and you don’t really tell people what to do. You support them.
Susan Luck: So, it just seemed like a really important movement within nursing. Parallel to that, there was a very big consumer movement for health coaches and I’ll put in quotes, “lay coaches” who don’t have the expertise and the background that nurses have.
Susan Luck: So, one of the things that we speak about is nurses have the ability to speak both the language of medicine and the language of healing. When you combine both of those, you enter into a very special relationship with the people you’re working with.
Jacob Gordon: That’s really great. It’s like more of a holistic approach of looking at everything.
Susan Luck: Yes. Nurse coaching is based on a holistic philosophy where we include the individual and their environment, the psychosocial determinants of health, their food, their sleep, their relationship, everything that comes into what influences health and wellbeing and can trigger things like inflammation which we know is at the core of a lot of the work that we do here at Rezilir.
Susan Luck: So, it could be the environmental factors in our external world, it could be the foods we eat that effect our internal environment and how we process and have the nutrients to support a healthy immune system, healthy brain.
Susan Luck: Then it’s all the other factors that are in our world. It all changes day-to-day, minute-to-minute. If air pollution or drinking unhealthy water, all of this in any given time can effect how our environment is influencing our health.
Jacob Gordon: From my understanding with nurse coaches, they have a particular pattern of how they decipher what’s going on with the patient and how they work with the patient and they understand what’s really going on. Can you describe to me a little bit about that process?
Susan Luck: Yeah. I created that diagram over a long time of reflecting on what is the ideal relationship between the nurse coach and the patient or client. Yes, at the core of that diagram is listening to the story. Listening is a key element in that positive coaching dynamic rather than the seven and a half minute office visit in standard medical practice, not here at Rezilir for sure, but in standard medical practice there is no time to listen to this story.
Susan Luck: Patient writes down their symptoms, they see the physician or the nurse practitioner, and then they’re given a prescription or some advice like stop smoking. Well we know how difficult it is to stop smoking or we know how difficult it is to change one’s diet or change out their favorite personal care product, which we’ll talk about in a while, meaning their favorite lotion or hairspray or toothpaste.
Susan Luck: So, how do we get to have people actually change behaviors, which is at the crux of coaching. The way people change behaviors is to come to some duper self-awareness. So, around that listening to the story by the coach, the nurse coach, we’re also bringing new awareness to the person and they’re telling their story and us feeding back the story that they’re telling us.
Susan Luck: So, for example, the person may say, “I know I shouldn’t smoke but I love to smoke and all my friends smoke. When I’m in a social gathering it seems really difficult.” So, I may to the person, “I hear that you want to stop smoking and it’s very difficult.” And find some ground in between where they can start to think about maybe it’s changing their friends, maybe it’s only bringing one cigarette with them to work, but starting to make choices.
Susan Luck: Coaching is about new choices for behavioral change and for a personalized approach to that. Not everyone is ready for the big picture. Sometimes it’s just eliminating one can of soda or putting two less scoops of sugar in their morning coffee. It starts small. Wherever the person is at, that’s where we meet them in coaching.
Susan Luck: We hear this struggle and their challenges and we try to move in coaching to a more positive way of thinking. There’s a whole positive psychology movement and here at Rezilir we’re steeped in that because all over the center we see posters about hope and resilience. These are the qualities that we try to foster and inspire and explore with people.
Susan Luck: So, in coaching in general, there’s a whole system. It’s an art and a science. It’s not just coming out of nowhere. It’s based on psychology and positive psychology. Within healthcare it’s based on what we now know in research about changing patterns of behavior can lead to improvement in outcomes at relief of symptoms, relief of brain fog, et cetera.
Jacob Gordon: It sounds like you’re able to change their mindset, give them a little bit of action and once they catch on to that pattern really grow from there.
Susan Luck: I would reframe that.
Jacob Gordon: Okay.
Susan Luck: I’m not changing them. They are changing themselves and I am looking for opportunities and for cues to have people reflect on their belief systems and what they think is really important for them. That person who doesn’t think they could improve in, let’s just say losing weight. When they start to think about what it would be like if the older person played ball with their grandchild, that might be their motivation to want to take that extra step. Their intention, and intention is really important, if your intention is to get better, that’s a really important part of coaching.
Susan Luck: The person that doesn’t think they’re able to, is less likely to have success. The person who says I may be able to or I will make this change, they are more likely to see improvement.
Jacob Gordon: Well, it seems like a lot of people get stuck in that mindset there.
Susan Luck: Yes.
Jacob Gordon: That’s what I meant by mindset. You’re helping them change their mindset so they don’t feel stuck.
Susan Luck: Yes, that is accurate, that is true.
Jacob Gordon: Right now we’ve been going through a crisis of bad air quality where it seems like there are fires all over the US. We have an airborne pathogen, mold is on the rise with all the hurricanes. So, we’re in this another kind of pandemic but of air quality.
Jacob Gordon: What are some things that people can look at to improve their life at home so their air quality is okay.
Susan Luck: Okay. Let’s start, you mentioned mold and that’s something here at Rezilir that we’re very, very aware of and do a lot of testing in the home, have people, again, start to think about in a coaching model and in an assessment that we do with patients, is to ask them have they had any flooding in their home, have they seen any mold growing around their windows, up the walls.
Susan Luck: Has anything happened that precipitated or paralleled when they started having symptoms because mold spores are airborne, eventually they fall onto the floor, onto the dust, and we kick them up and they recirculate. If we don’t deal with the mold, which sometimes is not as apparent, but we can do testing to look for it both in the home and in the body.
Susan Luck: In some of the testing we do, we could look at some of the, if you will, by-products of when one has mold. Immunologically we can see a lot of that. Mold is a really big one. We are speaking from South Florida today, and with the rains and hurricanes and storms, it’s very common as you said, for people to be concerned about mold.
Susan Luck: Mold is very insidious in the way that it affects us. Not everyone has these acute onset of symptoms. Sometimes it’s generalized fatigue, a little brain fog. Just not feeling well. In the medical model-
Jacob Gordon: Why is it that everyone feels it differently? Just because there can be someone in the household that feels nothing and the other person who’s dying and called crazy because of it.
Susan Luck: Right. We see that a lot. Why? It’s a combination of perhaps past history and the quality of ones immune system, being able to fight mold. Some of it is genetics. There are people with genetic markers that can have more difficulty and what we’ll call detoxifying mode, ridding the mold from their system.
Susan Luck: Then if people have other concurrent infections like we see people with lyme disease, with a history of other viral infections, we may have its compounded and we may have people have more symptoms due to that.
Susan Luck: The genetic factor is a big one and we always are involved here at Rezilir in looking at the genetics, the epigenetics that we mentioned, as well as the physical environment. But mold is something that when we’re thinking about it, we have a team that goes to ones home to actually test for mold.
Susan Luck: But it’s very important to think about, for those listening to this, have you had water damage from leaky pipes in the bottom of your kitchen sink or your bathroom sink? Have you had rains that have come in through the windows and the walls are now soft and peeling. Do you see stains on your ceiling if you’re in a home that maybe is a leak from the roof.
Susan Luck: These are just some very subtle areas. Then if people have a lot of clutter and they’ve had mold, then they might also have more dust and mold has an affinity to fall onto the dust and then it gets kicked up when the air conditioning goes on, when the cat runs through the house. So, they may have more mold spores that are circulating and they’re breathing it in.
Susan Luck: Why some people don’t have any symptoms, it may still be affecting their immune system, but they may have a more hearty immune system so they’re not experiencing at this time any of the effects.
Jacob Gordon: You also mentioned how mold affects the brain, could that be part of it? Like some people may have inflammation in one part of their brain that doesn’t affect their outward personality where someone else may?
Susan Luck: Definitely. Mold definitely has a neuro-pathophysiological component. If people have had other infections, it’s more so. But yes, the mold can definitely very common as things like what we’ll call brain fog. When we have people come into Rezilir because they’re having cognitive issues, one of the first things we think about is mold because if we’re breathing in mold, it’s circulating throughout the body and may have an affinity toward the brain as does heavy metals and some other chemicals that are what we’ll call neurotoxic.
Susan Luck: So, a lot of times it’s synergistic. It’s a combination of different exposures. We may not be able to say it’s mold that’s causing your cognitive impairment. But it could be mold and using pesticides inside the home and eating foods or produce that have been sprayed with pesticides that all combined can exacerbate those feelings.
Jacob Gordon: So, is it possible for someone, let’s say they have been exposed, they live in a moldy building. But it was until they got exposed to mercury or pesticides or something dangerous in their environment where they then became sensitive to mold?
Susan Luck: Yes, absolutely.
Jacob Gordon: Or sensitive to other products or whatever it is.
Susan Luck: Yes. We might say, again we’ll call it the toxic body burden that we refer to. It’s kind of a chemical body burden and other stressors combined. We’re all exposed to chemicals. You mentioned air pollution. I think about all the people living in the west coast for example, that have been exposed to flame retardants when the planes go overhead to put out the fires.
Susan Luck: Those flame retardants are very toxic and have neurotoxic effects. So, you might have a person who’s had mold exposure, but when they now are getting exposed to the flame retardants and poor air quality that they’re breathing in general, those are triggers that will intensify and manifest in ways that suddenly the person is having issues.
Susan Luck: It can also affect them immunologically where they’re feeling other issues, whether it’s autoimmune or more frequent colds or I just read an article yesterday in a neurology journal on COVID, which is the times that we’re in, and air pollution and the combination leading toward more of the respiratory issues that we see with COVID of the shortness of breath, pneumonia.
Jacob Gordon: I think I saw that too, the pollution caused in upper regulation in the ACE2 receptor.
Susan Luck: Exactly.
Jacob Gordon: Thus there’s more availability for the virus to get into cells.
Susan Luck: And for the symptoms to intensify because people are already having a compromise in their oxygen intake and now they’ve been exposed to the pollutants and if they’re in an urban environment or in a fire zone where the flame retardants have been sprayed, all of that is going to intensify.
Jacob Gordon: That’s crazy that you mentioned flame retardants because they never mention that on the news. They’ll talk about air pollution, they’ll talk about COVID, and they’ll talk about all the other things going on, but not the flame retardants, sort of those effects.
Jacob Gordon: The only times I’ve ever heard of flame retardants being readily available in the environment is on furniture.
Susan Luck: Right. Well think about what that red powder is that’s coming out of airplanes. I guess to not alarm the public, they probably downplay it, understandably. The question is always what could people do to improve their quality of air in their home for example. Do they need a special air purifier, all the more reason they clean out the dust and repair anything that might show mold and do the proper testing for that so that we could minimize their lung compromise and enhance their ability to breathe. It’s really important.
Susan Luck: Some people do yoga and breathwork as a way to mitigate some of the exposures. We offer here all kinds of supplements using some of the supplements as a broad range of antioxidants from NAC, Cacumen, things people take in this practice that mitigates some of the exposures.
Jacob Gordon: I’ve seen hyperbaric has good use as well. That’s done at Rezilir.
Susan Luck: Yes hyperbaric and then we also have infrared saunas because whatever is in our body, we need to get out and the lungs are a major organ of elimination. We breathe out toxins through our breathing cycle but we also have this largest organ called the skin. The skin both what we put on our skin when we talk about cosmetics, as well as how our skin sweats and releases toxins that come to the surface from our internal towards the surface.
Susan Luck: It’s really important we try to get them out, and that’s the beauty of infrared saunas. There was a study many years ago after 9/11 in a medical journal that talked about firefighters that did infrared saunas and how when they analyzed the sweat they found all of the chemicals that came down with the towers at 9/11 and how these firefighters were able to release and get rid of a lot of those toxins if they breathed in or fell on their bodies.
Jacob Gordon: Did they say in the study how long they were holding on to those toxins? Because some people don’t even realize that they have those toxins thrown into their body.
Susan Luck: That’s true.
Jacob Gordon: Not everyone is a firefighter.
Susan Luck: That’s true.
Jacob Gordon: Hence the air quality how it gets up there.
Susan Luck: But I think it was a demonstration of after 9/11 how sweating in saunas helped release them. I don’t know what the followup was. It was done within the year of 9/11. But I will say that studies show, and I’m sure many of the listeners know about the study that was done with the American Red Cross and The Environmental Working Group looking at umbilical cord blood of newborns. It showed at that time, which was more than a decade ago, over 238 chemicals that a baby was born into this world with as an example of what they inherited from the mom, who may not have known that she had all those exposures, or from the dad through the sperm if he was an occupational worker.
Susan Luck: But all of that gets passed down. I just finished reading a study about heavy metals and mercury of children being exposed in utero from the mom who maybe ate too many tuna fish sandwiches or decided to have her mercury fillings taken care of before the baby was born because she felt she might not have time after and how that baby was born with higher levels of mercury.
Susan Luck: Fast forward a lifetime, it becomes cumulative or manifests as we get older. Some of this stays in tissue whether it’s in the brain or in other parts of the body. At some point when we become overburdened with many other exposures, cumulatively we start to see those results. Maybe that’s even what we see if we look at some of the research on Alzheimer’s.
Susan Luck: We’re always looking at how we look at a timeline of earliest exposures, and we don’t always know.
Jacob Gordon: So, it could happen before you’re born. So, you have to know your whole life story if you are getting sick, apparently.
Susan Luck: That’s right. That’s right.
Jacob Gordon: So, it does help with education if we’re able to educate ourselves on what’s making us sick. Our parents wouldn’t have that problem and maybe we wouldn’t have that problem.
Susan Luck: That’s right. There’s an interesting belief about cleaning products. People believe that if it smells strong, it cleans better. That’s an interesting thought to reflect on.
Jacob Gordon: That’s really funny. I’ve had that same problem getting an Airbnb during COVID time. I’m traveling in an RV right now and I like to get by occasion have a nice tab. But you’ll go into these Airbnbs and they’ll have heavy, heavy smells.
Susan Luck: Yeah. The question becomes what does a cleaning product have to do with the fragrance. Why does that make it more potent and yet there’s a very strong cultural bias that if it doesn’t smell like a cleaning product it’s not as effective. So, that’s number one.
Susan Luck: Because whatever is in the air, we’re breathing in, getting back to air quality. So, fragrances are notorious for a whole host of chemicals that have the ability to be toxic to the body, whether it be to the brain or circulating and may have what’s called properties that we call endocrine disruptors that can imitate hormones in the body and go into hormone receptor sites.
Jacob Gordon: Is that the same thing as obesogenic. I saw that in one of your papers.
Susan Luck: It’s parallel.
Jacob Gordon: Obesogen, sorry.
Susan Luck: Obesogens. Obesogens are chemicals that are actually can interfere with the way that the body metabolizes fats. So, this is a little aside, but the person who does all the right things, they do exercise, they are eating well, they think they have a clean diet and they’re still not able to lose weight, there has to be a question by the coach or the practitioner what are the chemicals in their environment that may be interfering with the ability for fat cells to metabolize and break down, and those are obesogens.
Susan Luck: Many of them overlap with the endocrine disruptors. They’re very similar. All of these get stored in fat tissue so they confuse the cell signaling pathway.
Jacob Gordon: So, are they telling the cells to produce more fat or are they telling it to keep its current fat?
Susan Luck: To hold on to the fat. It’s normal to hold on to the fat, that’s what animals do in winter in nature. We eat and hold on to the fat to keep us warm and even in humans there’s an instinct to eat warmer foods in winter and more fresh vegetables, salads in summer.
Susan Luck: It’s just an intuitive. A part of coaching is to help people reconnect to that intuitive part of themselves of how what you eat affects how you feel. But the overlap of that is that most, the majority of chemicals that we get are in our food supply, the pesticides, the fertilizers. Those stay in the cells of the plant and then we eat that plant, that vegetable, that fruit, and we’re getting a high concentration.
Susan Luck: Those then get metabolized in a way that has an affinity towards certain fat cells in the body or they act like hormonal markers and they go to hormone receptor sites again.
Jacob Gordon: So, it could be any hormone not just estrogen.
Susan Luck: Female and male, testicular, breast. Not just estrogenic. A big one is actually thyroid. There is a whole other chemical component called goitrogen. Goiter is what can happen to the thyroid when the hormones …
Jacob Gordon: The goitrogens, I’ve seen those in kale.
Susan Luck: In very large amounts.
Jacob Gordon: Very large amounts, okay.
Susan Luck: But most of the chemicals in the environment that cause an influence on the thyroid which also has to do with weight and energy and hormonal changes are chemicals that are in a whole other classification called pollogens. They’re things like chlorine that people clean with or have in their swimming pools and you breathe in the vapors.
Susan Luck: Things like fluorine or fluoride which is in our drinking water. Things like bromines or bromides which have been used traditionally to make vegetables look perky in the market. We’re exposed in many different ways to these thyroid mimicking hormones, that are again, chemicals.
Jacob Gordon: Would iodine or iodide be in that same category since it’s a halogen?
Susan Luck: It is and it isn’t because we need iodine in order for a thyroid to work. Whereas these imitate iodine, they’re a similar family of chemicals but they have more dilatory of side effects.
Jacob Gordon: Okay. That makes more sense. I’ve seen where there is an RDA for iodine and I know some people with thyroid issues especially if their hyperthyroid need to be on that.
Susan Luck: That’s right. But I would always look at and ask them about other chemicals. When you turn the tap water on here in Florida during certain periods, whether your municipality warns you or not, you turn the water on and there are fumes of chlorine because they are trying to disinfect the water supply.
Susan Luck: So, when we talk about our home environment, it’s really important to know what is our water supply, and we don’t always get the full spectrum of what’s in the water from the municipalities. They may check for some mold spores, they may check for some maybe even heavy metals. But I would always ask people when was their home built and if they have lead pipes which was banned in 1978. So anyone that’s living in an older home very possibly have lead pipes and lead sluffs off over time and there may be high amounts of lead in the drinking water.
Susan Luck: This is something that there’s been some studies around the country and the majority of municipal water systems do have high levels of lead. So then the question becomes what do we need to do to filter out some of that lead, and there are many water filters and filtration systems that can do that.
Jacob Gordon: What is a typical system that someone can use that they could just pick up? I’ve been using a Berkey filter and just adding electrolytes back into it. But what are some other things that people can use?
Susan Luck: Berkey is good. There is a couple of commercial ones that you can use. I think Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot sells them. But I work with a company called Aquasana. A-Q-U-A-S-A-N-A. Aquasana has under the counter, water filtering systems. They have shower filters that go between the water input and the water coming through the system that eventually touches the person.
Susan Luck: They also have outdoor full house systems for those that have a home that they could then just change the filter out. I think it’s every 500 gallons. But it’s Aquasana.com. I think it’s a very reliable system. Consumer reports has supported it for many years.
Jacob Gordon: Wow, okay that’s great. That’s great to know. Now in terms of cleaning products, because that’s some of the household stuff that are hurting people. We’re talking about how people think fragrance or something that’s really strong in smell causes something to be clean, which you and I both know is inaccurate.
Jacob Gordon: What kind of cleaning products are we looking at, and what should we replace them with?
Susan Luck: Easiest way to think of it is look at the ingredients. If you see a long list of ingredients, of long chemical names, you have to ask why. What are they? Even the hand sanitizers the main ingredient is just old fashioned alcohol. That seems to be just as disinfecting as these products that have all these other chemicals that again we’re putting on our hands, absorbing into our skin.
Susan Luck: I did a report years ago on a product called Triclosan. Triclosan was what was in the hand sanitizers in hospitals. When you looked at how many times that they, for example, a nurse had to use this Triclosan product between patients, there were hundreds of times a day.
Susan Luck: When you look at the research on Triclosans, which the FDA finally banned after a long time of not, it showed that there were more birth defects, more miscarriages in women, higher rates of breast cancer, it’s an endocrine disruptor and I believe it’s also neurotoxic.
Jacob Gordon: That’s crazy, and that’s in a hospital.
Susan Luck: A hospital. Purell, which is what most hospitals use now, changed out but only a couple of years ago. When you look at what Triclosan is still in, I have to say as a disinfectant it’s still in toothpaste and it’s still in other personal care products.
Jacob Gordon: Right. So, we putting that right amount.
Susan Luck: Sometimes it’s things like laureth sulfates and they’re also in personal care, in cleaning products, and many other chemicals that are used as disinfectants. The question really is, do we really need all of that.
Susan Luck: When you look at the new soap detergents, for example, from dishwashing machines, many of them say it’s plant-based and the fragrances are plant-based. So maybe it has orange or lemon fragrance because people are so attached to fragrances.
Susan Luck: But it’s not a chemical fragrance like in a deodorizer that you find in your Airbnb or hotel room.
Jacob Gordon: So, with these care products that have these fragrances in it, I want to tie this back to what we were talking earlier, someone who has mold issues or heavy metal issues, for me personally I was never sure if I had mold issues but I became more mold and chemically sensitive after using undiluted essential oils.
Jacob Gordon: I’ve been trying to figure out, because I know of some haptens or potent amino stimulants, that’s kind of the conclusion I’ve gotten to. But with cleaning products, I know those are very fragranced and cause chemical sensitivity as well.
Jacob Gordon: Is that usually a problem with the detoxification system or is that something else that I’m not looking into?
Susan Luck: It’s probably a combination. It’s probably the amount of exposures, again cumulative over time, maybe your body has a unique detoxification pathway. Maybe it’s genetically triggered and you may not be able to break down a certain chemical that other people may be able to break down because when you look at detoxification, there are many both nutrients and chemical pathways innate to the body that need to be functional in order to neutralize and clear chemicals that come into the body.
Susan Luck: When we look at people that have certain genetic, we call them single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPS, S-N-P-S, they might not have the ability, they might have a genetic marker that makes it more difficult.
Susan Luck: Now the good news is, is that many nutrients are also involved both genetically in the body’s ability to utilize them and we can also supplement to tweak those pathways, if you will so that the body could then detoxify more efficiently.
Jacob Gordon: That’s the whole idea of epigenetics is using something else to turn a gene on that wouldn’t have worked otherwise?
Susan Luck: Epigenetics exactly is part of it. That we have our genes and then we have our exposures and why, it goes back to a question you asked earlier, why some people don’t show any symptoms and another person does.
Susan Luck: We have to go back to what’s their unique genetic predisposition. If I could just say here at Rezilir, we do a lot of work around that, around genetic testing, around toxicity testing, mold testing, and we try to be, I call it environmental detectives to figure out what unique personalized approach is going to be to enhance those detoxification pathways eliminating, really important, eliminating any of the triggers, any of those chemical exposures.
Susan Luck: The way that I work as an environmental nurse educator and environmental nurse coach, is to work with people to really look at all of their potential exposures both present and past because again it may not be what they were exposed to last week. It may be the dentist who is retired now but worked with mercury fillings and plasticizers, which are very common in dental work, for many, many years and had exposures in the air from the mercury, perhaps touching their skin, and then here they are now in older years and they have cognitive decline.
Susan Luck: We need to look at what they had in their history, and then what might be triggering their symptoms now and then how do we mediate that.
Jacob Gordon: So, what are some questions that patients or people listening can ask themselves to try to be their own detectives?
Susan Luck: Great question. I invite people to make a list of all of their favorite home cleaning products and make a list of all of your favorite, what we call personal care products, which is what you put on your skin, your hair, your face, that you use unknowingly many times a day, or I should say you get exposures many times a day.
Susan Luck: Take a look at it, become consumer savvy, read the list, go online and Google, and if you want to, go to a website called Environmental Working Group. The acronym is EWG.org. They now have a new … They have little charts and cards that you could actually print out and take to the supermarket. You can go into their safecosmetics.org website and you could look at your favorite product, look at the ingredients that are in it, they even score it on a scale of one to 10 or one to seven, and you could see how strong that product is, and they give the product a rating of how dangerous it could be.
Susan Luck: Again, then offering you better choices. EWG.org is great for looking at foods that are high in chemicals and pesticides and what they call the Dirty Dozen, which are the 12 foods highest, and then the Clean 18, which are foods that don’t need to be sprayed as heavily. Some foods actually have their own built-in chemicals that repel insects so they don’t need as many external pesticides.
Susan Luck: I would encourage people to educate themselves because there’s something called the precautionary principle, which is better to take caution whether or not your governmental agency says it’s harmful because in a test tube a little bit may not look harmful. But what about a little bit every day over decades.
Jacob Gordon: It’s impossible to study that or it takes a really long time and a lot of effort.
Susan Luck: Well, I think that people that have, a lot of times people don’t do this preventively. They wait until they have an autoimmune issue, which could be anything from MS, to frequent colds and flu, to other symptoms, or they have something like they’re starting to forget things and suddenly there’s a heightened interest because it didn’t come out of nowhere. The rate of Alzheimer’s and of cognitive decline is on the rise with younger and younger people, which we know.
Susan Luck: We also on the rise is exposures to chemicals both the ones that are external and the ones that are internal, the ones we breathe in through the air, the ones we take in through our food, the ones we take in through the water we drink.
Susan Luck: So, it really is up to us to take the precaution, because again, unfortunately as consumers we’re not always protected the way we would hope to be.
Susan Luck: Then to do an experiment. In the BIPA world we call it an elimination protocol where eliminate food chemicals or foods that may be triggers and wait a couple of weeks and see if the symptoms improve or they lessen.
Jacob Gordon: In an ideal world, should people be eating less pesticides or going more towards organic or grass-fed meats?
Susan Luck: In an ideal world, yes. Can everyone have access to organic? Not really. Can everyone afford organic? Not really especially at these times. So, we do the best we can. The idea of that 12 Dirty Dozen of the most heavily chemical sprayed, are the ones that people need to be extra careful about. An example would be berries. We love our raspberries and our blueberries, they’re good for the brain, they’re good as antioxidants.
Susan Luck: But because we know how quickly they mold because sugar comes to the surface, you buy a box of blueberries and the bottom has mold before you even open it sometimes.
Jacob Gordon: Yeah.
Susan Luck: That is worth now, you can at our local supermarket chain here in South Florida, Publics, Costco, Walmart, they’re all selling organic blueberries. There is a big market there for people to get cleaner produce.
Susan Luck: You can buy it and you can freeze it. Things are picked from the crop, immediately frozen. They don’t have time to mold.
Jacob Gordon: I also heard that when they’re frozen they have higher antioxidant levels.
Susan Luck: Exactly. Because when food is exposed to air, a certain amount of antioxidant properties can diminish and vitamins so that frozen is actually a better choice for many people these days.
Jacob Gordon: Wow. Yeah, also I read that when my first apple blueberries when they’re in the natural environment, they’re producing a lot of antioxidants to defend themselves from the environment. Then once you put that cold stress on them, they produce a little bit more.
Susan Luck: Great information. Yes. Those are the simple things. Foods that have skins, that’s not as important because even if it’s been sprayed, that thick orange rind or avocado skin pretty much protects the fruit from the pesticides.
Jacob Gordon: So, they don’t absorb any of that.
Susan Luck: They don’t absorb as much.
Jacob Gordon: As much, okay.
Susan Luck: Small amounts. Again, by doing the antioxidants, whether it’s the blueberries and other fruits and vegetables, you’re actually counterbalancing or counteracting the exposures that you might get from somewhere else because all of those detoxification pathways are dependent on nutrients to function. That’s the good news.
Susan Luck: But people that eat a poor quality diet, canned food and chemical preserved foods, and they have other exposures, they are going to be higher at risk for all across the board diseases whether it be cardiovascular, Alzheimer’s, cancers.
Susan Luck: This isn’t for whatever our genetic predisposition is, environmental concerns and environmental awareness is going to be the new medicine moving forward. We’re still early in this, but more and more medical model research is beginning to show the impact of chemicals.
Susan Luck: I went online this morning on PubMed, which is where research journals are published, and I was trying to get some information on heavy metals and it’s fascinating in the last year or two how much information is there on heavy metals meaning mercury, arsenic, aluminum, cadmium, lead and the brain because as we started off speaking about heavy metals have a propensity toward brain tissue.
Susan Luck: So, we think that may be a very key component in our patients that we’re seeing with cognitive decline.
Jacob Gordon: Now why is it that they are attracted to the brain?
Susan Luck: That may be a bigger question than I can answer. But brain set, different cells have different affinities toward chemicals just like I mentioned the endocrine disruptors, the Bisphenol A, the plasticizers. Those have an affinity to endocrine tissue or that take up other endocrine markers.
Susan Luck: The brain seems to have an affinity for metals. I’d have to get back to you on the exact mechanism of that.
Jacob Gordon: Yeah, because I’ve seen in studies you’re talking about that metals they essentially accumulate either in the brain or in your bones.
Susan Luck: Exactly, both. Here’s the thing, there are chemicals, there are neurological or chemicals that are interfered with the optimal cell signaling functioning when you have those heavy metals exposures.
Jacob Gordon: Well I appreciate you coming on this show and explaining this to us. Where can people find you and more information about if they wanted to find their own nurse coach?
Susan Luck: I am here at Rezilir. I’m part of the team and I see patients both in conjunction with the medical doctor, the nurse practitioners, our acupunctures, nutritionists. Those people that it seems really need some coaching guidance both around environmental, lifestyle, stress, sleep. All of these we know are markers that can lead to what we’ll called neural inflammation.
Susan Luck: All lifestyle factors are part of a coaching, holistic, integrative coaching model, which is what I work within. They can reach me at Susan.Luck@RezilirHealth.com. But I would encourage everyone on their own whether they come here or not, to begin by making a list of all of the products that you use and researching them. Do your homework. Be an advocate for yourself.
Susan Luck: There is so many websites and information if you Google that. Then make a list of what you feel you can begin to change. List three products that you could change out for something healthier. One of the products that I always encourage is laundry detergent because whatever you’re using, whatever fragrance, whatever chemicals are on your pillowcase you are breathing that in all night.
Susan Luck: Your breath is a mediator between your body and your brain, so that it’s going to circulate in that way. So, have an idea of where you want to change. Change doesn’t happen all at once. Part of a coaching model is change happens at the pace that the person is ready for and we just want to support them in what we’ll call their readiness for change.
Susan Luck: So, cleaning products, fragrances is a great place to begin. On a personal care product, take an inventory of what you use daily. There has been a lot of talk about aluminum in commercial deodorants and the armpit sweats so it also absorbs into the skin, and that aluminum can circulate into the body. Again, the armpit and the brain is not really that far away from one another.
Jacob Gordon: Yeah.
Susan Luck: So, we have to think about that. One thing I want to mention when we’re talking about the home, is think about what you’re cooking with. People have used traditionally in modern times aluminum pots and pans. Aluminum especially if there’s any acidity whether it’s tomato sauce or lemon will leech into the food that you’re cooking with.
Susan Luck: That aluminum foil, maybe try parchment paper. Maybe just try Pyrex dishes and try to change that out. Stainless steel is a much better choice or ceramic or cast iron. Think about do you use pesticides in your home. Do you really need to for those few ants. What’s the downside of that for you, for the children, for the dog, because all those pesticides fall onto the ground and then your cat or pet also licks their paws and can ingest it.
Susan Luck: So, we’re talking about all creatures. If you do spray, make sure your windows are open. There are very harmless ant products. I brought one on Amazon that was plant-based that you can try. Some people just use lemon juice and white vinegar in a spray bottle around their door frames.
Susan Luck: Then identify other cleaning products and what you might want to use that’s safer. There are so many brands out there. They’re at, again, the supermarkets, at Walmart. We are in a time now, because there’s increased awareness that there’s much more purchasing ability than ever before so people should take advantage of that.
Jacob Gordon: That’s great. Yeah. There’s so many alternatives now that we shouldn’t be using these harsh chemicals anymore, things that are messing us up, our families, our pets, that’s great.
Susan Luck: Can I just say that the companies want you, the consumer, to buy their products. When Johnson & Johnson was exposed for having really toxic chemicals in their baby bubble bath products.
Jacob Gordon: Yeah, I remember that.
Susan Luck: Do you remember that, a couple of years ago? They changed them out because they wanted consumers to continue to buy their baby bubble bath. So they took out some of the fragrances and some of the sodium laurate and phthalates and other things that were in it, dyes, and colorings.
Susan Luck: All of that can be changed by consumer demand. So, we do have the power if we use it.
Jacob Gordon: That’s great. Well thank you so much for being on the show today.
Susan Luck: Thank you very much and I hope that this has been helpful. Again, if anyone wants to get in touch with me, Susan.Luck@RezilirHealth.com. Thank you all and stay safe and be well.
Jacob Gordon: Thank you. Thanks guys for listening. To find out more information head over to RezilirHealth.com. If you’re looking to get healthy but don’t know where to start finding a nurse coach may be a great choice. So, until next time, stay healthy.
As Co-Founder of the International Nurse Coach Association for over a decade, Susan has been teaching and developing coaching program and currently through the Integrative Nurse Coach™ Academy. She is Board Certified in Health and Wellness Coaching, Holistic Nursing, and Clinical Nutrition. Susan has authored several chapters on Nutrition and Environmental Health for Holistic Nursing, Integrative Nursing, and Nurse Leadership textbooks.
She has co-authored Nurse Coaching and Self-Assessment chapters in; Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice, 7th edition (2015-2020) and is co-author of the award winning book (ANA Gold Seal, 2015) Nurse Coaching: Integrative Approaches for Health and Wellbeing (2015) and The Art and Science of Nurse Coaching, an ANA Publication (2013), that led the way to establishing the standards for practice in the emerging Nurse Coach role. For the past 20 years, she has been the Nurse Coach and Nutrition consultant for Special Immunology Services at Mercy Hospital in Miami and is currently the Director of Nurse Coaching at Rezilir Health in Hollywood, Florida.
Susan continues to integrate lifestyle health and wellness education into diverse communities, bringing her expertise and passion as a nurse, clinical nutritionist, and medical anthropologist. She has developed and implemented integrative health initiatives for diverse community organizations including the Yellow Courtyard, Integrative Health Symposium, Urban Zen, New York Open Center, The Lower East Side Girls Club, Kripalu, Omega Institute, and the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University.
As a concerned global citizen, Susan is the founder and education director of the Earthrose Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to environmental health education and advocacy. She maintains a private practice as an Integrative Nurse Coach™ with a focus on nutrition and the environment.