To live a long and healthy life you need proper nutrition. Our bodies need real whole foods from nature to function properly. Remember I stated that our bodies are walking chemistry sets. The body requires the vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and chemical composition of whole foods to function properly. The increase in chronic illness is linear to the increase in processed, manufactured, and altered foods in our environment. Whole foods mean fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats such as olive oil. You can adjust this list as you need for your individual body. If your vegan, then remove the meat and increase your consumption of beans and legumes. No matter your dietary restrictions whole foods is what your body needs for longevity and health. It is also important to understand you can have treats from time to time. This is not an all or nothing goal.
The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Brandi Muilenburg.
Brandi is a registered respiratory care practitioner with over ten years of critical care experience. She is also a certified nutritional health coach, functional nutrition doctoral candidate, author, speaker, and business owner. Brandi owns and operates Functionally Autoimmune where she helps people around the world relieve autoimmune symptoms through gut health and nutrition. She is also the founder and CEO of Cesira Olio D’Oliva, her Italian extra virgin olive oil business where she has partnered with two centuries old farms in Italy to grow, harvest, and bottle her amazing oils.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Thank you so much for having me! Yes, my background is in critical care. I have worked as a registered respiratory care practitioner for more than ten years. Along the way I became very ill with symptoms after symptoms, and no one could tell me what was wrong. I had seen over 40 medical providers with no results. I decided to take my health into my own hands and was able to self-diagnose with Hashimoto’s. At this point I went on to become a certified nutritional health coach because I had seen how much I improved through nutrition and lifestyle changes. I then began digging into gut health and learning all that I could. My diagnosis was later confirmed, but at this point I had all but healed myself of autoimmunity. I continued and am currently working towards my doctorate degree in functional nutrition. This journey empowered me to start a podcast called Functionally Autoimmune which is still active today, and soon after I opened my health coaching business to help others so that they did not have to go through the same hassles I did to get healthy. Functionally Autoimmune was born out of a desire to help people rid themselves of autoimmune symptoms. I then went on to open my own Italian extra virgin olive oil business because the power of olive oil for overall health became a passion of mine.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I think the most interesting story from my career is that in healthcare we see acutely sick people everyday with a goal to get them healthy and send them home. I felt like I had a very strong understanding of what being healthy was and took pride in that. When I personally became sick, and no one had answers I felt very lost and confused. Not only in my own body but with my career as well. What I learned from this was that we are our own best advocates, and that preventative healthcare is not a recommendation but should be required to prevent chronic illness. When I decided to take my health into my own hands and learn all I possibly could about the body, autoimmune disease, and health I also learned I could do so much more and make a larger difference. When I opened Functionally Autoimmune, I met hundreds of people whose stories were exactly like mine. Years of symptoms and pain, no answers, and no relief. This is when I knew that I was on the right path and that millions of people needed help and support in learning how to not only heal from autoimmune disease but to prevent it in the first place.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I absolutely agree, It takes a village. It may sound cliché, but my family has been the most supportive along the way. My husband and child are my cheerleaders no matter what crazy Idea I have or what business venture I want to embark on. They support me through it all. I remember when I first started realizing that I was not well and that something was wrong with my body. My family never questioned me, they never assumed I was being overly dramatic and were there for me through it all. My husband in my business partner in many ways and I am so grateful for them every day.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Thank you, yes, the three-character traits that I think were most instrumental to success were unwavering commitment, Not being afraid to fail, and determination.
Owning a business is hard work much like healing your body. You must learn to listen to your instincts and intuition along the way. There are going to be hard weeks, months, years guaranteed! But you must be willing to expect them and keep the commitment and determination to see it through to the other side.
I have owned other businesses before the two that I operate now, these all failed for several different reasons. They we either not inline with my true mission and values, they did not bring me joy, or the timing was off, and it just did not work. While I did not see each of these as failures but rather learning opportunities. I took each one and learned something from it. Learned something about myself or business. I keep those lessons always close to me because they happened as a way to teach me not to quit or give up. I treated my healing journey in with the same attitude and knew that I would get healthy.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about health and longevity. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
Yes of course, health and wellness has become a huge part of my life after healing my own autoimmune disease. You could say it even started earlier than that as a respiratory practitioner, but it really wasn’t until I had to heal my own body of chronic illness that I really started studying wellness. As a certified nutritional health coach and now a doctoral student in functional nutrition I have spent hours upon hours reading research, talking to people, looking at lab values, understanding what prevention really means, and learning the chemical mechanics of the human body and gut. The world longevity goes hand in hand with wellness. You cannot have one without the other.
I see wellness from not only a conventional standpoint that includes the world and environment we live in today, but I also see it from an evolutionary standpoint. The human body chemically has not changed or evolved in many many millennia. I find it important to look at our food sources, disease patterns, and environmental changes to help understand how we have gotten so sick. You mentioned Blue Zones earlier, this ability to have areas of the world where people are living into late age with many over 100 years old is due to the continued way of life of these villages. As a whole, life expectancy is much higher now then it was decades ago thanks to modern medicine. When I say modern medicine, I mean acute care medicine. We are still way behind on prevention of disease.
It is important to look at the big picture when talking wellness and longevity.
Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests in search of the “elixir of life,” a mythical potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has your search for health, vitality, and longevity taken you on any interesting paths or journeys? We’d love to hear the story.
Oh of course, I think when you’re in this line of study you find yourself down many different rabbit holes of research. I don’t believe that such an elixir exists. If it did, we would likely have found it by now. I do however believe that looking to nature and naturally occurring substances is the answer. Our bodies are chemically wired to process and use food from nature. What we eat today is often not food. If you think of our bodies as walking chemistry sets, which is truly what we are. Then you can understand that certain substances create positive reactions and others negative reactions.
What I have learned in my research and with my own healing journey is that extra virgin olive oil is probably the closest thing to an elixir or life. It has been used for centuries in both food and medicine but also as skincare and more. When high quality EVOO is consumed it contains one of a few natural forms of bioavailable vitamin E. It also contains high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols that are vital for health. In European countries it is consumed in large quantities at every meal and brings amazing health benefits. This is why olive oil has become such a huge part of my life and why I was drawn to starting an olive oil company. It was so beneficial to my own journey and my own gut health.
Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? (Please share a story or an example for each)
Yes of course, First its important to note that every person is individual, meaning each of these things are important to overall wellness but they may need to be modified for your specific body.
- To live a long and healthy life you need proper nutrition. Our bodies need real whole foods from nature to function properly. Remember I stated that our bodies are walking chemistry sets. The body requires the vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and chemical composition of whole foods to function properly. The increase in chronic illness is linear to the increase in processed, manufactured, and altered foods in our environment. Whole foods mean fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats such as olive oil. You can adjust this list as you need for your individual body. If your vegan, then remove the meat and increase your consumption of beans and legumes. No matter your dietary restrictions whole foods is what your body needs for longevity and health. It is also important to understand you can have treats from time to time. This is not an all or nothing goal.
- The second thing you need for a healthy and long life is movement. Our bodies were designed to move, run, jump, skip, climb, and more. We have over the decades deprived our bodies of this ability by increasing desk jobs, couch time, and video games. Our bodies not only can move, but they also need to move. Daily movement improves digestion, cell regeneration, and muscle and bone health. Movement can be anything you want it to be. Walk your dog for a few miles, go on a hike, run, or walk on a treadmill, do yoga, stretch, bike, or whatever movement you enjoy. It does not have to be hours in a crowded gym to benefit your body. Find what you like and move every day.
- The third thing that you need for overall wellness is good quality sleep. Sleep deprivation at any level increases your risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illness. You should strive to sleep 6 to 9 hours per night, every night. This range is large due to the fact that people are individual. I may need 8 hours per night to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day. You may only need 6 hours to feel the same way and your friend may need 9. To find your best sleep schedule practice some trial and error. Set a bedtime and your normal wake time. Determine how many hours of sleep that is. In the morning evaluate if you feel rested or not. Do this by adjusting sleep and wake times until you determine what works best for you. There are also many different tools to track and monitor sleep that can be used to help you determine your optimal sleep pattern.
- The fourth and arguably the most important is community. Community is different for each person. This could be family, friends, church groups, support groups, book clubs, or any people you enjoy being with. Community is people that you can laugh with, cry with, talk to, and support. Humans are not designed to be alone which is why we rely on pets so heavily. Pets are also a great way to gain community with other pet owners. Our hormone levels adjust when we are with other people. Serotonin that happy hormone spikes when you’re with your community. This act of having people around you has been proven to reduce the prevalence of disease by almost 50%. The same is true of pet owners.
- The fifth and final thing I suggest for living a long and healthy life is preventative care. Finding a practitioner, health coach, or nutritionist you trust to talk through your health. Functional lab testing, gut health, annual exams are all important to keep track of your health and to make adjustments in real time to avoid chronic illness. No one wants to think about being sick until they do not have the choice because they are sick. You are your own best advocate.
Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?
Of course, I think this goes back to community. When we have community, we have people that we connect with, talk to, and share ideas with. This brings joy and happiness to our lives. It is also important to find things that you are passionate about and that you want to learn more about. Continually learning and being curious is a wonderful way to build satisfaction and meaning into your life. That can be higher education or volunteering for an organization that you support.
Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this nature vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?
I have studied both sides of this question pretty extensively. Our genetics play a huge role in our looks, health, personality, and traits. Some of these things cannot be changed because our DNA says so. However, some genetic traits related to disease and health have a switch. They can be turned on or activated or they can remain turned off. For example, is you have a gene that predisposes you to breast cancer that does not mean you will get breast cancer? However, through life choices and exposures this gene can be activated making more likely that you will contract the disease. It is important to know your genetics and your risks, but it is more important to take the steps each day to keep your body healthy and well. Longevity is the same. You may have a family history of people living into their late 90s or 100s but if you choose a life that activates genes related to disease you may not be so lucky.
Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?
Yes, it does, Life is not easy. Each journey we take in life, should it be health, career, education, or any other requires persistence and dedication. There will be failures along the way, things you did not expect, surprises both good and bad. For me, my healing journey took about eight years from the time I accepted I was sick to the time I was healthy. In the course of this time, I saw forty medical professionals of all specialties to seek answers and help. Each one told me that I was fine, healthy, nothing was wrong. I knew that I was not. I had experienced unexplained weight gain, fatigue, pain and many more symptoms. I was told over and over that I was probably just stressed and tired. It took me saying enough to seek my own solutions and heal my own body. When I did this, I was able to find a medical team that would listen, that trusted me, and that helped me stay healthy. Yes, it was hard, and there were times I wanted to give up but that was not an option to me. I can say the same about all my business ventures. If you expect setbacks and plan for them as much as possible, they are not as shocking when they do happen. I strive to keep an optimistic outlook in all that I do. It is hard at times to maintain but worth it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My favorite quote is “Nothing is Impossible, the word itself says I’m Possible” Audrey Hepburn
When things get hard, I always think about this quote. It reminds me that it is all possible. You can even find it on my website because I like to share with clients that they can get to the other side of a health journey. It takes time and lots of effort but it is possible.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could start a movement, it would be that everyone added extra virgin olive oil to every meal! The health benefits are just so undervalued and so enormous. I would also want to stop the use of plastics they are just terrible for our planet and our health.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
Yes, they can find me for health coaching and nutrition at www.brandimuilenburg.com or on instagram @brandimuilenburg
For olive oil education, products and books www.cesiraoliodoliva.com
Or instagram @cesira_olio_doliva
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.