Leona West Fox is an exceptional nutritionist, herbalist, and functional medicine practitioner. She walks the talk and it shines through in her glowy skin, zest for life, and long list of clients who trust her. She found her calling at age 16 when she got very sick. She was way ahead of her time making kombucha in her kitchen, learning about meditation and realizing how food can be the best medicine…as a teenager! She sees clients for a vast spectrum of reasons. She wants to help all different kinds of people achieve their health goals. She will light your fire to want to know more about your health, to learn to listen to what your body is telling you, and how to begin a love affair with food if you hope to stick around for as long as possible. She not only wants you to live long, she wants you to live well.
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Leona West Fox: The Foodie
Leona West Fox came and spoke with me. She is a nutritionist, herbalist and a functional medicine practitioner. She is special. I and my husband have been to her. She treats patients or clients with a huge variety of different things going on from infertility to menopause to weight loss. People who are very sick with different things going on, cancer or autoimmune issues. Her journey to wellness began when she was sixteen and was diagnosed with Epstein–Barr virus. She pretty much found the mind-body practice and food as a way to heal your body by going to the library and reading all sorts of articles and has been addicted since then. She is a phenomenal resource for anyone to have. I could have asked her a hundred more questions.
Leona, thank you for coming.
You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
This is such a treat. You are a nutritionist, a functional medicine doctor and herbalist.
I’m a functional medicine practitioner, herbalist and functional nutritionist.
I have personally been to see you. My husband has been to see you. I think you’re incredible. On your website, you do many things. I didn’t know that you are an herbalist. How is that all part of the same training or are they all three different?
The school that I went here in LA is the American University of Complementary Medicine. I did my training in Herbal Medicine and in Nutritional Medicine at the same school, but they were separate programs. Years ago, I started the functional medicine training before people were clued into Functional Medicine. I was at the right place at the right time with the first clinic that I entered into practice at. They were all trained in functional medicine and I started training with them. That was a series of different trainings, probably three different areas that I trained.
Where is that clinic?
The clinic that I started out are no longer operating, but I’m at Lotus Integrated Medicine.
I read your story. I didn’t know that you came to this early in life when you were sixteen. You said it was an autoimmune thing that set it off for you. It was mono.
A lot of people get mono as teenagers, it’s called the kissing disease. I got that and that’s not unusual. The virus that causes mono is called Epstein–Barr, which has gotten a lot of attention. What happened with me is I developed mono, but it wasn’t getting better. It started when I was a healthy kid, nothing unusual. I am really active and a lot of extracurricular things beyond school. I got sick but I wasn’t getting better. Weeks turned into months, I started stocking symptoms. I was diagnosed with IBS. I had acne. I gained 30 pounds. I was incredibly exhausted and I had full body migrating pain. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.
Is fibromyalgia the pain everywhere? Is it nerve pain?
It’s definitely generated in the nerves. I had developed an ovarian cyst the size of a grapefruit. My cycle was all over the place. I was a mess. That was the diagnosis and the doctors gave me birth control for the cyst, pain medication and antidepressant. That was my cocktail at sixteen years old. I was happy to get a diagnosis, which a lot of people who are reading can connect with that because when you are carrying around all of these symptoms, you’re confused. You get scared, especially when you’re a child. I was happy like, “I have this diagnosis. Here’s what it is, but how do these medications help my issues?” It took me a couple of days. It was like a light bulb went off and I was your average kid. There is nothing unusual but I said, “There’s got to be a better way to address this.” The first thing I started looking at was my diet because it was awful. You’d be very surprised.
I’m very surprised because I love when I happen to see you and I tell you what I’ve eaten. You’re the cutest. You’re sweet about it, but I do laugh.
I pretty quickly became ravenous to use food for knowledge, about how food affects the body, how food heals the body, nutrition, natural healing and mind-body practices. This was a few years ago. I grew up in a small little town in Orange County. Nobody I knew was talking about this. I can’t Google this. I went to the library and the bookstore. I was hungry for more information. I started making changes in my diet. I went full force.
Did you stop all the medication?
Honestly, I only took the medication for a few days. I didn’t like the way it made me feel. Probably because I knew I didn’t feel good a few days. I thought, “I’ve got to look at something else here.” That initiated an entire path of natural eating and natural living. Even applying mind-body practices to deal with pain.
What are your mind-body practices? Meditation?
At sixteen years old, I started meditating. I started noticing that when I was experiencing what I would call going blind in the dark as a teenager.
Before Instagram, it’s before wellness and the zeitgeists. It’s not a business. It’s a crunchy little subculture.Food is the number one driver that can make the biggest change in our health, disease prevention, and longevity. Click To Tweet
I started noticing that when I would experience novel things that it wasn’t part of my schedule or something that which is out of the blue, my pain would be better. I started noticing how my emotions would affect pain. I started applying mind-body practices. I’m looking at how my emotions affected my body. The short wrap up to this part is that one by one the symptoms fell away. They dropped away from my body. At that point, I was about a year into this mess. Everything was suffering. I was missing days from school. My grades had dropped and everything last symptom turned around, including a surgery to remove the cysts. That grapefruit-sized cyst was gone.
It’s amazing that one by one in one month it was gone, but it took a while.
I was dealing with those issues for about a year. It took maybe three to six months, but in the first two months, I could see that something was happening after a year of nothing. It is just static.
What a gift to be given that experience so young to find your path at sixteen and to know that that’s what you want to do. I think that’s amazing.
It’s a perfect example that sometimes the seemingly worst things that happen to us. At the time, they seem horrible, but often they can end up being the best things that ever happened to us or this way of putting us on our path.
You see patients for a huge number of things, from infertility, weight loss or depression?
If somebody wants to work on a mood. Food can influence mood, so it’s big.
We found you because after I had my first son in 2013, I had a combination of a perfect storm of hormones and crazy postpartum anxiety, which I didn’t know I have. I know many people have that. At the time, I was like, “I don’t feel any weird negative feelings towards my baby.” I feel I was on edge that I never slept or ate. I got skinny. That was the only good part. When I looked back on it, it is probably not so good because I jumped out of my skin with worry, anxiety and constantly on edge all the time. My husband, Art, gained so much weight. He gained all the baby weight. I remember six months after we had our son, I was tiny and he was bigger than I had ever seen him. He’d gained probably 30 pounds in the six months that we’d had the baby. He was miserable. He found you and that changed his life.
Even more important because to me, weight loss is a good thing. It’s very positive for most people, but keeping it off for years, which Art has. Anybody can go through an initial weight loss program, but it’s about putting those key things in place that make it permanent. You can transform your body in a more permanent way. I love the fact that we went through that process. We went through it once.
It is one big overhaul. He comes to you as often as he can for tune-ups or when he feels that some pounds are creeping back on. He gets to it quickly before the pendulum swings too far in the direction he doesn’t want it to go. It’s been several years.
If we do these tune-ups to look at different areas of our health because ultimately weight gain is a reflection of different areas out of balance. It could be the gut. It could be hormones, especially for someone like Art, where we’ve gone through the process of getting the food. For some people, first off for weight loss, they have to look at the specific foods. They’ve got to look at macros and calorie exchange. At that point, you also have to broaden out. You have to look at hormones and genetics. You have to look at all these other factors that play in, then you tune those up, too.
I’m sure every person, it’s a bio-individual plan. People are going through different things and have different genetic makeup. We can’t give a broad picture or cast at anything about everybody. There are basic things that everybody can do. When I came to you, you looked at my food journal. I was eating fairly clean but you said that I was not eating any vegetables. That was true, there are no greens. I have been good about that. You told me that is a must for everyone, every day for every person.
The great thing is we’re in a time where there are massive research and studies that can validate and even break down the importance of eating your veggies. I love to quote a study from the Journal of American Medicine. It’s not a nutrition-based journal. JAMA is the gold standard. They concluded a massive twenty-year study to look at all the different areas of medical intervention, lifestyle, all these different components that could affect health, disease prevention and longevity. The conclusion of the study was food was the number one driver that can make the biggest change in our health, disease prevention and longevity. That’s coming from the Journal of Medicine, not nutrition. We’re getting all of this great feedback from medical scientists that are confirming what we already know that food is our medicine three times a day. It has the biggest influence along with stress. Stress definitely plays a big influence on our health as well. When we talk about plants, there are a couple of smaller studies. One is from Harvard. One is from London University that talks about the number of plants. There’s a scale of 3 to 10.
You’re not going to move any numbers in terms of your health until you get to three. Once you go from 3 to 5 to 7 to 10, in terms of servings of plants per day, the serving as a half a cup, that disease prevention and longevity start climbing up this scale. From 3 to 10 is exponential. The phytonutrients are the antioxidants, but it’s also very unglamorous. It’s a plant fiber. It’s also the way that plant fiber takes potentially toxic components. It pulls it through the body before it’s allowed to make these changes in ourselves.
Does it do that? That’s pretty incredible.
You don’t have to be plant-based or plant-exclusive. You have to be plant-focused or plant driven so you can eat meat. You can eat all these different ways. When I work with someone, I look at physiology and genetics. All these different components to see, what is the optimal way of eating or plan for them and for their goals at this time in their life? Things change. What you need now, you may not need in twenty years and the different things you’re going through. Looking at all of those things, I customize for each person I’m working with. Ultimately, plants are always the centerpiece.
It seems silly because every parent, “You have to eat your vegetables.” That’s what we tell our kids. I feel like most parents are trying to have their kids eat vegetables. As we grow up, that falls by the wayside. Thanks to you, I eat a lot more. I want to notch my health up to a ten. I don’t want to even be at three. You also gave me a lot of hope because after I had my second baby in my early 40s, you told me that I had the potential to be in the best shape of my life. People can change whatever the landscape is at the moment.
I have been a part of the many transformations that seems that all the odds were stacked against. Inside and outside transformations, the sky’s the limit. Nothing is too big to tackle with looking at all the pieces. I’m thinking of people that I’m working with that have made major transformations. I’m thinking of one person in her 60s who made the most fit of her entire life. This idea that health and disease are just linear. We have to expect that as we get older, we’re going to get weaker, we’re going to get sicker. Slowly we’re shifting. As a society, we’re rejecting that. If we have the right tools. It’s not a big mystery. Those tools are not closely guarded. Anybody can start applying those tools and working with someone to get a few of the specifics for them. You can make the transformation. Age and disease are not linear. You can be the healthiest that you’ve ever been to 60 instead of at 25.
That is encouraging. It makes me want to check that. When someone comes to you, you lay them on that bed. You’d put those sticky things on. What is that machine called?
That’s a Bioimpedance Analysis. It’s a body composition analysis. It measures body fat, muscle, hydration and electrolyte balance. It also looks at resistance and reactants on the cell level. It looks at how your cells are functioning, the health of the cell membrane, how it’s storing and exporting energy. We know that you had a good reading.Age and disease are not linear. You can be the healthiest that you've ever been in your 60s instead of at 25. Click To Tweet
That was the proudest moment of my life.
That’s looking at the health of the cells. In a way, it is your cellular age. You have your chronological age and your cellular age. The phase angle can give us an idea of your cellular age.
After I had that, I came back to you and it was a much more normal number, which I reject that number. When I go back to Leona, that to me is the most important thing. You tell me that my muscle mass and my weight has something to do. I guess it’s important.
Your cellular age is the most important thing. The health of your cells.
You say that it can be improved with lifestyle. Vegetable eating and hydration is a big one. How much water do you drink? Do you drink special water? Do you do something to make yourself hydrated?
The most important source of water plants. When we drink a cup of water, let’s say we drink eight ounces of water. That water structure of it and the way that it gets into ourselves is a little bit clunky. It’s not going to get fully absorbed the full eight ounces. The water that’s been filtered through plants is in the perfect molecular size to get absorbed by the human cell. That’s why some people who have been raw foodists for a couple of years, including myself, I always thought it was early on in my journey of nutrition. I felt like it was my duty to try out all these different types of more extreme eating. I was 100% raw foodist for years. I noticed that my need for water dropped at a certain point because I was getting so much water. Ultimately, eating plants is your best source of getting water. I drink about 60 ounces for my frame. Someone with a little bit larger frame might have up to 80 ounces. I do a combination of filtered water, spring water and alkaline water.
How about herbal teas?
Yes, but ultimately, your best source of water is the water that’s available. If it’s filtered, that’s good and consuming more plants because that’s where you’re going to get that. Your perfect filter plants. Your plants, your fruits and vegetables are going to filter the water in the perfect bioavailable structure to get absorbed by yourselves.
What are your feelings on fruit? I’ve read that some people say, “There’s so much sugar. Don’t eat too much of it.” Do you eat a lot of fruit?
I eat a lot of fruit in the summer when it’s in season, when it’s hot, when I’m craving more hydration. If we listened to our bodies, I’ve coined a term called being a Listenatarian. We have to listen to our bodies. What do our bodies need? When I first started my practice, people came to see me knowing little to nothing. I don’t know anything. Give me the basics. People come saying, “I feel like I know too much. I feel like this person is saying this and this person is saying that.” I’ve got many ideas swirling around in my head. I’m overwhelmed. Give me the steps to what to do. What do I do? It’s too much information. Before, it was too little information. Now, it’s too much.
Part of this, when I’m working with someone, yes, I’m taking my role at looking at their nutrient markers, genetics or physiology, their goals, their lifestyle put together what I think is the optimal plan for them. I also want them to embark on a journey of becoming a Listenatarian, to start listening to their bodies again. If you start to listen, you can get prompted in a way that you can feel like, “I can trust that. Why would I want to not eat any fruit at the peak of summer because someone told me it has too much sugar?” That’s ridiculous. There are a few exceptions here and there. If someone is a full-blown diabetic, do I encourage them to eat the highest sugar fruits? No. If someone is temporarily dealing with some fungus or yeast, I’m not going to give them a plate full of fruit. When the body is in balance and in many ways getting the body back in balance, the fruit is on the table, especially in the summer.
When it’s cold, we’re probably not going to crave a lot of fruit. Seasonally, there’s not a lot of fruit to be had. We were a little bit unique in California, we have a lot more available. Eating seasonally can get a little bit difficult when you’re going to grocery stores and things are being shipped in from different places. We’re lucky because the farmer’s market is 365, where a lot of people in different parts of the country don’t have farmer’s markets year-round. They only have them in the spring or summer. Going to the farmer’s market is the easiest way to eat seasonally because you’re only going to eat what the farmers have.
There’s a test that I have not gotten. Art hasn’t either. You’ve said that one day you would recommend it. It’s a blood test.
It’s the nutrigenomic test. It’s a DNA test. For any DNA test, your sample is going to be saliva for most DNA tests. It’s a genetic test, but it’s looking at genetics on the platform of looking at it from a nutrition standpoint, from food and lifestyle. It gets down to real specifics. You can start to see a person’s genotype. What are best practices for them around food, lifestyle, exercise based on their diet? Since those genetics ultimately reflect bigger genetics around disease risks, that’s where we’re making a change. The thing about learning about genetics, people think, “Why would I want to learn about genetics? Am I predisposed to this?”
Is it fear-based?
Yes, the thing about genetics outside of some unmovable genes like eye color. Most genes are very flexible. There is something called epigenetics. Epigenetics is applying a lifestyle, dietary, different practices that end up changing our genes. Our genes are flexible. It’s like how we learned in the last several years that our brain is malleable and flexible. They call it plasticity. It’s the same thing with our genes. The biggest influence over our genes is all the things we’re doing day in and day out around food, lifestyle, movement and stress. We’re applying epigenetics constantly, whether we realize it or not. If we can purposefully apply epigenetics by learning about our genes and making a few clear calculated steps towards supporting our genes or shifting certain genetic expressions, it can make all the difference. I’ve been doing this for the last several years. It has truly been a game-changer in my practice. That’s why I keep encouraging you and Art to do it.
We should and we want to. How much is this? Is it $400?
Yes, it is pretty reasonable for all the information.
Will you say the name of it one more time?
It’s called a nutrigenomic test.The most important source of water are plants. Water filtered through plants is the perfect molecular size absorbed by the human cell. Click To Tweet
I want to know what’s the best plan for me. I feel like it’s getting my astrological chart cast.
It is a little more evidence-based or more rooted.
When I come to see you, you encouraged me to get blood work done because the blood doesn’t lie. You can see so much from that. It’s a lot deeper. The test that you’ve requested than my annual physical, which tests for a few things.
Anyone that’s practicing functional nutrition or functional medicine, integrative medicine, preventative medicine, it’s about prevention. The basics are often to rule out any big guns. A blood test is to rule out disease from a medical perspective. There are wonderful medical professionals that I work with on a weekly basis, but as a whole, it’s like, “Let’s run these few markers. Let’s make sure there’s no disease present. Let’s see if a person needs medication.” That’s the extent of it. If we do a little bit more comprehensive look and we’re looking through a slightly different lens, that’s where functional nutrition and functional medicine resides too. We can look at things that might be what you might call subclinically out of range or different markers that might reflect different things that we can go in and start supporting from a preventative standpoint. There will be no disease that will ever develop a year down the line, three or six years down the line. It’s coming from an entirely different perspective of supporting, prevention, nourishing, and balancing. We’re looking at it through a different lens.
I think I’ve done that twice. It’s been a big eye-opener. What you can tell me about that?
It’s funny because sometimes, I’ll get lab work. I haven’t met the person and I feel like sometimes I can have an idea what the person looks like. Even personality traits, it’s weird.
Are you often right?
Yes, I don’t know a lot about this so I couldn’t expand upon it. I know in Japan this is a thing. Looking at lab work, you can see the types. There is so much in there that reflects who we are, where we’re at, and what’s happening. In the medical profession, they’re seeing a massive amount of people in one day. I see very few people in one day in order to put in that time to comb through all of those things and work with a person with all those pieces. That’s not what the average doctor is doing. They are there to identify disease, treat disease or disease processes. They can’t spend those hours that I spend in session, away from session on a single person. I am investing in them from that preventative standpoint.
It’s important to note when you did say or you recommended the blood work that I get, it’s very expensive. It’s not covered by insurance, but if you pay a cash price, often the labs at a much different price.
If you’re talking about your basic annual labs.
Those are covered.
Are you talking about doing some of the more nutrition-based or functional-based testing? There’s testing that can do a complete inventory of your nutritional status. You want to know where all your vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, fatty acids and toxicity levels. I can do a map of your entire microbiome and look where all your flora levels are. There’s so much you can delve into, but the pricing of that year by year, it gets better and better as far as insurance coverage and even cash prices. Let’s talk about one of those tests that are giving you the most amount of information. Even those tests, it’s averaging about $400, some of them are even in the $200 to $300 range. You mentioned that I do work with a lot of different conditions. I consider myself a family practitioner and I want to work with a lot of different people. Therefore, I will work with whatever the person has. If they come in and they say, “These are my goals. My last blood work was a year and a half ago. That’s all I have. What do you get?” I’ll give it my all.
One time I was like, “I don’t want to pay that right now. I want whatever I was asking you.” You were fabulous with it. You were like, “That’s fine. We’ll start with this and we’ll work from there.” If somebody did want to go deeper and do on a bigger picture, “You can do that, but it’s not covered. It’s getting better.” What kind of diet do you follow? Are you mostly plant-based? Do you eat meat?
My journey’s been interesting. I follow what I would call a centenarian diet. Not necessarily on purpose, but they’ve converged.
Is that Valter Longo’s thing?
It is and it isn’t because the research on centenarians generally meets a certain consensus. He does research on centenarians. They all come to a close consensus, which I’ll loop around, too. I became a vegetarian at nine or ten. I was an awful vegetarian because it was cheese and bread for 6 to 7 years, then, I got sick. I wasn’t doing it for health reasons at nine or ten. I didn’t want to eat a cow. As a teenager, I had to start looking at diet from a health standpoint. Someone who eats plant-based is vegetarian doesn’t mean they’re healthy. It doesn’t mean they’re even eating plants.
I was very clean eating very few vegetables.
That’s the thing. That’s where I love digging into where a person’s at because you never know. You can pull away from certain layers and provide some insurance for that person. Where do we need to adjust certain areas? I did end up becoming a healthy vegetarian as a teenager, after all of that. I went along that way. I was even vegan and then raw vegan for a couple of years. At a certain point, I started to listen to my body. I started to crave some fish. I don’t even recall even eating salmon at all prior to incorporating it into my diet. I don’t remember as a kid. I was a burger kid before I became a vegetarian. I don’t even remember eating fish or salmon in particular, but I was craving for salmon. At that point, I already completed my school. I became a practitioner. Education pulls away your ignorance. It makes you look at the history of nutrition, all of the components that go into looking at nutrition from a more evidence-based and scientifically based standpoint.
I thought, “I’m going to listen to my body. I’m going to have some fish.” I’m predominantly pescatarian, although I’m not big on labels. May I have some turkey at Thanksgiving? Yes, probably. The only thing is I still haven’t eaten any beef or pork since I was nine. I have zero upon zero desire. Although, I’m very clear that other people do. That’s very specific to them. It’s funny because the people that lived the longest free of disease because living long doesn’t matter if you’re not living well. They’ve never been vegan. They’ve never been major meat-eaters. On average, the people that live the longest and healthiest have only a few key things in common. One is if you average out statistically their consumption of meat, it’s about once every ten days. They eat beans almost every day.
I heard that beans are good for the body.The biggest influence over our genes are all the things we're doing day in and day out around food, lifestyle, movement, and stress. Click To Tweet
If they’re eating meat every ten days and they’re eating beans, they also eat a lot of plants. From a diet standpoint, there are other social and cultural things that are unique to people that live long and well. From a nutrition standpoint, those are the only things we can narrow in on and nail down. They’re not eating meat every day, yet they’re not eating completely. There is no meat either. They are plant-focused, but you can’t call them pescatarian. You can’t call them vegetarian. You can’t call them vegan. The people that live the longest well, you can’t fit them into any diet trend, whether it’s a new trend or a long trend. They are their own statistics. I probably fall the most personally if you’re asking about my personal diet within that.
What about exercise? Do you exercise a lot?
I do. I go through different trends or different phases. Do you know that I started out my first endeavor professionally into the health and wellness field as a fitness trainer? When I was eighteen, I became a personal fitness trainer. I started working at the time for Bally’s. I don’t know if you remember this actress Linda Evans. She had this high end, Linda Evans women’s gyms. I would train women at these boutique gyms. I was obsessed with weight training, fitness, and running. That was my big passion for many years. I loved weight training. Isn’t that bizarre? With all the passion around nutrition, but then realized I was spending equal time talking to my clients about food. I was like, “I think I need to keep moving in the food direction.” I got back on this kick of being in the gym. I do a combination of my own fitness routines at the gym. I’ve been doing Orangetheory a little bit.
Do you like it?
It kicks your butt.
I heard a lot of people say that. I must try that out.
When I came out of the new mom. My daughter is turning five, but I feel like yoga was important to me coming out of not doing any exercise and that new mom nursing window.
Are you doing vortex yoga?
Yes, vortex for sure. Yoga was grounding, especially your body is different.
What do you talk about with food? What is your body craving in that exercise and fitness department? I teach barre method and I happened to love it. I’ve always been consistent with that. The other things that I do change depending on what I’m in the mood for. I love taking dance classes, which you’ve told me is great, especially for the memory, too. I found out Lauren Roxburgh with roller with fascia and then rebounder.
I’ve been doing the rebounder since I was a teenager.
You found all this, so you were way ahead of the curve because when I brought her up to you, you hadn’t heard of her yet. I told you that she told me or tells all her clients about the rebounder. You’re like, “It’s the best for the lymph system.” One thing, they have all these great videos. I’m a member of her monthly studios. I can do it at home because we have a rebounder at home. Bellicon has a monthly thing. It is incredible cardio. It’s hard.
I think it’s ten minutes on the rebounder is equivalent to twenty minutes of running.
That’s what they say. Do you agree with that?
Yes, 100%. You do it.
That’s what I feel but it doesn’t hurt until you are sitting there, your heart is pumping, your face looks great. You get all the endorphins, the red and the pink glow. My boobs and my knees are not in pain. I don’t have stitches in my side.
You’re moving your lymphatic system, which nothing else does outside of the massage.
How does it do that?
You don’t have your heart pumping with your circulatory system. You don’t have anything central that’s moving your lymphatic system. You have to do it by yourself moving, but rebound or the way that you’re jumping, you’re not having that hard impact. It’s that constant jump. It’s such a great way to move your lymphatic system like dry brushing, running or massage. There’s this unique way that the rebounder does it. I love it because I discovered so young before nutrition and natural healing, only this piece. This is my lane. I feel like I’ve been around for so long in it. These things were fringe and granola.
I remember jumping on a rebounder and people are like, “What are you doing?” I remember making kombucha in the kitchen at seventeen. My mom and my sister were like, “What is this? What are you doing?” I would fill the cupboards with the scoby. People were like, “You are crazy.” My sister says, “You are ahead of your time.” It’s amazing that all of these things that were so fringe, so granola, they’ve all come around. They are uber-trendy, but it’s fantastic that people are embracing it. The rebounder is one of the best forms of exercise that is exercising many different areas of our body and our physiology.Functional nutrition is about prevention. Click To Tweet
I’m glad that you corroborate that because Lauren Roxburgh says that. I asked you and you were like, “It’s phenomenal for cardio.” She was saying it brings synovial fluid into the joints. It helps with osteoporosis. The fact that ten minutes is equivalent to a twenty-minute run and it doesn’t hurt.
You can feel that cardiovascular conditioning.
When you come off, your heart is pumping in a great way. I love that. What are your thoughts on fasting?
My thoughts on fasting from a genetic standpoint, it is so key for some people. Every person should be fasting. Every person is fasting. That’s why we have to look back. Sometimes we get focused on what’s new. Let’s look at things historically, there’s a reason why we call it breakfast. It is to break fast. We are all fasting.
A lot of people, there’s a lot of late-night snacking. There’s a lot of first thing in the morning, grab a croissant and some coffee.
In a 24-hour period, everybody should try to commit to a twelve-hour fast. We sliced that 24 hours in half. Twelve hours of that is fasting overnight. Within that twelve-hour window, not necessarily every person is eating within that full twelve hours. The thing that I maybe have the biggest issue with the trend of fasting is that most fasting, in the way that it’s trending, is talking about fasting in the day. If you look at the research, it indicates it’s the overnight fast. It’s how many hours can you drop dinner down. It’s not sexy because everybody wants to like, “I’ll blast through breakfast and get to work or get to the school.” Who wants to eat at 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM or 7:00 PM? I can have my late night, but the thing is you’re not going to get the benefits. If you look at the research, it is talking about extending the overnight fast means bringing your dinner down earlier and taking that twelve hours and seeing where you can expand it from the 12 to 16 hours. Genetically, some people get more benefits out of doing that.
I always use myself as a guinea pig. I’m always looking at my genetics. I have that gene. The difference between me fasting for 12 hours and 16 hours is 45% to 70%, depending on cancer. It’s a 70% decrease in different cancers. Increase body composition markers in terms of weight loss. I’m getting a maximum when I go for that 12 to 16 hours, but other people don’t have that in particular. That’s also the test that I’m talking about, the nutrigenomic test. Some people, they’re not going to get that much more after that 12 to 13 hours. For me, my incentive is to go longer, but another person, their incentive drops. Maybe we’re not going to prioritize that. That’s where I get to work with the individual. What are the things we want to prioritize?
There’s been a lot of research that some people have great success working with their oncologists. People who have cancer or other diseases, who are going through chemo, monitored fasting with your doctors but it increases the effectiveness of the chemo.
It not only does the chemo have a better job at going after the cancer cells, but also in preserving your healthy cells. It’s like this duo where the chemo, which is toxic is going to have a better chance of getting to the cancer cells. Your healthy cells are going to have a better chance of maintaining their integrity.
I’ve never heard anything more. It gives me goosebumps when I hear that.
Any person who knows someone who’s going through cancer treatment, who’s going through chemo, needs to give them that information. It is critical.
There are doctors who will work with that. It’s so counterintuitive. You’re having chemo. You’re losing all this weight. You should eat whatever you want, but no. There’s a certain way to do it.
It’s at the beginning of your chemotherapy. It’s not throughout your entire weeks or months of treatment. It’s your new chemotherapy treatment. Within that 1 to 3 days, that’s when you work with your doctor. As a nutritionist, I work with a lot of people going through cancer, but only if they’re working with their doctor. I am not interested in that. If someone has a full team oncologist and they want to maximize nutrition, fasting and some supplements that are compatible, especially after chemo, we want to pick up the pieces of both cancer and the chemo and optimize their body and put in as much as we can to prevent any recurrence. Working with people after two is very critical. The research is compelling that even within five years, this is going to be adopted as common knowledge. I’m even talking to clients where their doctors are already talking a little bit about it.
The research that I’ve read, the studies are overwhelming. The difference between people who have fasted and people who haven’t in some 10,000 cases. When they do studies you’re like, “Maybe it’s a few people know.” No.
It’s not this never-ending fast. It’s about the beginning of each of your courses. It’s not as intense as maybe people think.
It makes sense if you boil it down because digestion takes the most amount of energy from the body. During the day, it’s a calorie bank. It’s calories in, calories out. Digestion takes so much energy. If you want to harness all every last drop of your body’s energy when you are going through treatment, if you look at it in a basic way, it makes sense from the standpoint of you’re not getting in the way of trying to digest major amounts of food while you’re also having the chemo.
You can focus all its energy on getting rid of cancer cells. I want to say that you do amazing work for people who are trying to get pregnant. I’ve read your testimonials. I came to you the second time, saying, “I want to get pregnant again.” I had a terrible low AMH reading. You told me that it didn’t mean anything that big. I know there’s no Botox for your eggs, but you did tell me that with supplements, you can improve egg quality. I want to give you the credit and maybe my phase angle, but I got pregnant in a month. You gave me some supplements.
I remember that there was this moment, it was a flash and you got past it. When you got your AMH number, you were devastated.
I was devastated about that. We don’t think that this is working.In a 24-hour period, everybody should try to commit to a twelve-hour fast. Click To Tweet
The doctors immediately go in and tell you, “Forget it. Pack it up.” You can’t change the number of your eggs obviously, but you can change the quality. I’ve seen it in the most seemingly hopeless of cases. In your case, I don’t know how much credit I can take from the standpoint that you got pregnant in a month because usually, it takes about three cycles of applying that type of egg health and fertility protocol. I think it’s your phase angle. You had less of them, but those eggs are in good shape.
I read the testimonials on your Yelp, on your website. People give you so much love and so much credit for that. Between people going through cancer, illness or autoimmune things. People going through infertility or having trouble getting pregnant, Leona, you’re incredible.
I love what I do. The longer I do it, I love it more. It never gets old. I only get more excited about it.
I’m in my mid-40s. I think of perimenopausal things. I want to come back to you because all sorts of stuff start to happen. One of the saddest things for me is alcohol. You told me this next bit of knowledge. I love wine so much. Nothing makes me happier. I grew up in England. It’s the best. I love drinking wine. We’re not getting drunk, but it’s so nice. It destroys me now. I feel anything more than one glass of wine, I cannot function the next day. My whole body, the headache that I feel and the chills. You told me that women after a certain age, they do not have the enzyme anymore to break it down. Is that right?
Not exactly. First off, that’s the art of listening to your body. A lot of people will push past that. You are saying clearly and maybe at times, you do.
Rarely, but yes.
That’s when you listen to your body and you’re saying, “I’m not able to tolerate it.” What I had shared with you before is there is an enzyme that breaks down alcohol. Men produce more of that enzyme. That’s why men often can hold their alcohol better. It does nothing to do with anything else, but an enzyme.
That’s annoying. Why do they get all that stuff?
We are limited based on this enzyme of how much alcohol we can break down in a given setting and within a given week where it’s not going to start impacting our physiology and inflammation. Definitely, we as women getting further into perimenopause towards menopause and then post-menopause, we start breaking down fats, sugars and alcohols a little bit differently. It becomes slower. This is probably my biggest PSA, which will make me very unpopular because I get it. Wine becomes probably more appealing to a woman over 35 or 40 than it ever did in her twenties because of many factors. You have kids and then the perimenopausal symptoms. It’s a cruel joke because the perimenopausal symptoms in a way are alleviated to a certain degree.
It’s hard because in perimenopause, you’re like, “I’m still getting my period every month. I’m totally regular. What is this?”
Here’s the thing about perimenopause. It can last for 2 to 10 years. Perimenopause is not a six-month process. It’s a drip process that goes over a long period of time. The best thing we can do is start making changes in those early mid-stages of perimenopause because things ramp up. As you get close to menopause, if you haven’t made some of those changes, you might luck of the draw in genetics. You swim through it no matter what, making no changes. In my practice, the average person I see, they need to start getting proactive about their health, about their physical fitness and about their alcohol intake. Even though wine starts an uptick after 35, the most important thing you can do is start to wean it down after 35 because it will impact your brain, your mood, your hormones and your body composition. It’s an important thing to adjust.
It’s not about, “I can never have any alcohol anymore.” If someone is starting to use it as their crutch, their friend, their lover or their happy place, I get it. I understand the passion for wine. It’s yummy. I love it too. I’m a health foodie. I love great food and great alcohol. I get it, but it’s important. I always talk about your core plan. There’s our core diet and then there’s the special occasions and the celebratory moments. It’s like, “Let’s put it back towards the celebration.” Let’s put it back towards those sweet celebratory moments of travel treat. We all need a treat. We need to put certain things that have crept into our core diet. We need to put them back and into the treat category. Then we can enjoy them because many people struggle. They have these things and then they struggle with. They don’t even enjoy it. People ask me, “When I have a glass of wine, everybody has their thing. What’s Leona’s thing?” My thing is a chocolate croissant. There’s nothing that is better to me than a good one. I have zero shame about food, fear or angst. When I have a treat, I enjoy it to the fullest because my core diet is my core diet. When I have a treat, you better believe I enjoy it.
That’s the best way to do it. You did say to me. I’ve tried to adhere to it. Mostly I would say 95% of the time really well. You say that for alcohol not to affect a woman hormonally, in any way for it to have no impact, have a maximum of three servings a week. Is that right?
That can vary from person to person but on average three servings a week.
I’ve tried to stick to that. I feel like I could have a whole other talk with you about perimenopause because a lot of people in my friends’ circle, even people who are younger than I am, they are feelings somethings starting in their late 30s. There are many questions that I have.
You can invite me back.
I’m going to and I’m going to come to you for a tune-up. If anybody wants to look Leona up, she’s phenomenal and amazing. I love her. On Instagram, you are @LeonaWestFox_Nutritionist. What is your website?
You can go to her for pretty much any health question or issue you want to address. She’s the best.
Thank you, Jenny. Thanks for having me.
About Leona West Fox
For the last ten years Leona West has successfully assisted others in addressing many different conditions including fatigue, stress and adrenal conditions, Auto-immune disorders like Hashimoto’s, healthy and permanent weight loss, digestive health issues, cholesterol and heart health, blood sugar issues, fertility, hormonal issues in both women and men.
Leona is a family practitioner who treats many conditions and whole families through functional medicine nutrition. Additionally over the last 10 years Leona has also specialized in the particular areas of autoimmune conditions, digestive conditions and fertility. Leona is considered a fertility expert, helping many couples overcome months or years of fertility challenges and go on to conceive and deliver healthy babies.
Leona also enjoys working with people who just want to improve their overall health and gain more understanding about their individual needs and food choices. She uses nutritional therapies, herbs, supplements, detoxification programs, whole foods, and diet and lifestyle practices. She also honors and addresses the emotional factors involved in good health and in persistent health problems.
Leona takes a food as medicine, whole body, and whole mind approach to health, favoring traditional modalities that consider the whole person coupled with cutting edge approaches in lab testing and diagnosis. She is excited to work with people who are ready to make a change in their health and in their life. She understands and has observed that even the simplest of food and lifestyle changes can make a significant and positive effect on how we feel in our body and mind and how it reflects in our entire lives.
Leona West is certified as a Nutritionist, Herbalist, Fitness Trainer and Birth Doula. Leona West has maintained a successful functional medicine nutrition practice for the last 10 years. She has also been a natural health educator and public speaker on health, food and nutrition for over 20 years. She completed a formal nutritional medicine and herbal medicine program through AUCM, The American University of Complementary Medicine, located in Beverly Hills, California. She has additional training in Functional Medicine and certification in Functional Endocrinology and Blood Chemistry Analysis and has had the honor early on of apprenticing with gifted scientists and doctors. She is also involved in research and writing contributions to medical programs, book and magazine publications.