Category Archives: Hormone Imbalance

These posts are all concerned with identifying and treating Hormone Imbalance.

Now what was I coming into this room for???(musings on keeping your memory sharp)

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of "Menopaws"

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of “Menopaws”)

I would bet that most of you have experienced at least one moment of wondering why the heck you wandered into a room…..and then just stood there looking around in hopes that some sort of message would magically appear reminding you of your purpose. I cannot tell you how many times that has happened to me but I can say it has happened far too often.  I am also going to assume that most of you are concerned with memory loss and the possibility of dementia and/or Alzheimers as you age.  As many of us are destined to live longer lives, it becomes more likely that our minds will age along with our bodies: a scary thought indeed. Ah, but there are many strategies available to us in our quest to keep our minds and memories sharp as we age. Gracefuly aging in all aspects of our lives is the key to living a higher quality and quantity of life.

So let’s review some of the strategies that we have at our disposal to keep our minds sharp and our memories intact as we do begin to age.  I heard a wonderful piece this morning on NPR that talks about some of the latest research re: memory and the best ways to make sure that we stretch and grow new neuronal connections as we get older, which will enhance our ability to keep learning, stay vibrant and store new memories as well.

http://www.npr.org/2014/05/05/309006780/learning-a-new-skill-works-best-to-keep-your-brain-sharp?ft=1&f=3

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

In addition, getting regular exercise is another pillar of memory strength. I have always loved to work out in some form or another(running in my 20’s and 30’s, walking regularly since then, swimming, pretending to play golf(seriously that is one fun but frustrating sport!), hiking, and skiing.  I took up tennis almost 2 years ago and it has been a blast. There is quite a learning curve involved and I am definitely still climbing up that curve but it has forced me to think while I build new muscle memory. There have been some studies that promote this kind of thinking while exercising as one of the better ways to build memory, but any aerobic and active type of exercise enhances the brain’s potential for learning and storing new information. The most important thing is to just get out there and get active. Here is a link to the importance  between exercise and brain health:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Vitamin D also plays a role in brain health and cognitive strength. According to Dr. Oz, “Scientists hypothesize that improved cognition may be linked to the sun’s effect on the body’s internal clock; exposure to daylight(natural vitamin D) may boost the production of the neurotransmitter seritonin, which in turn spurs growth of the hippocampus, that part of the brain crucial to forming and storing memories.” He recommends( as do I) that every day we should go outside and spend between 15-20 minutes  before applying sunscreen so that our bodies can make Vitamin D ourselves. In general, we still do need to take additional vitamin D: more on that in a future blogpost. Bottomline, make sure you get outside every day possible as this will help both your brain and your mood.

Adequate sleep also clearly has an effect on our memory. Most of us(myself included, far too: often, mea culpa) get far too little of this precious activity most days.  In general, 7-8 hours of sleep is recommended to help our bodies and our brain to restore and rejuvenate. Think of sleep as time to recharge your battery. I imagine you have the same reaction that I do when I see that dreaded message on my cell phone: “less than 20% battery” and I have left my cord at home: panic! I usually feel the same way towards the end of a busy work day when I stayed up and out too late the night before and I am dragging, just not as sharp as usual. Note to self: get more sleep.

A baby seal taking a 'catnip' on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

A baby seal taking a ‘catnip’ on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

One more memory/brain potential robber: STRESS!!! We have touched on this in previous blogposts but briefly, when we are under stress(prolonged, frequent, unrelenting stress), cortisol is released to help our body fight “the attacker”, real or perceived.  Unfortunately, this adaptive response often leads to a maladaptive state, leaving our mind and body depleted. The result: poorer learning capability and difficulty storing new memories. Studies of inner city children, faced with the stresses of poverty, crime, poor nutrition and inadequate social support, have shown over and over how difficult it is to try to learn in school when under chronic stress. The same concept applies to all of us, whatever our stresses may be.  So managing your stress is something each of us must learn to do.  Think exercise, meditation, eating whole foods, making time for yourself, your family, your friends, take regular vacations, prayer…more work is not usually the answer…

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress.  Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress. Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

I haven’t touched on everything that can impact your memory but these are some of the more powerful things that you can work on.  Obviously eating whole foods diet and balancing your hormones are both essential for brain health as well. Hopefully that goes without saying if you have been reading our blog for awhile.

As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas . Stay tuned as Candace and I are getting ready to do some webinars together starting in July. We will provide the links for these so that you can log in and listen.

To building  great memories…..and remembering them, LOL.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Essentials, Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

Going gluten-free: what you need to know

In my last post, I talked about some of the issues surrounding the consumption of gluten and wheat and why someone might consider going without for awhile. As you may remember, I am going to go gluten-free myself for 21 days starting on March 1st ,which is a mere 5 days away. Gluten tends to be rather ubiquitous, hiding in not only foods(like black and red licorice, I just discovered) but also in makeup, toothpaste, personal health care items and prescriptions.

In November, I attended an all-day seminar on gluten-related disorders put on by Nadine Grzeskowiak, a nurse who discovered that she herself had serious health consequences from gluten consumption. Once she eliminated it from her diet, her quality of life changed so much that she started to devote herself to educating others on this topic. You can find out more about her and her programs at http://www.GlutenFreeRN.com.

Going gluten-free can feel a bit daunting if you have never really thought about it but it is also extremely manageable to do so. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest are particularly lucky as we have a wide choice of health-conscious stores to choose from . During the past few weeks, I have been perusing the aisles and have amassed a nice selection of gluten-free grains(remember I love to bake and cook) and things that I can snack on. The choices are amazing!  I have ‘practiced’ going gluten-free for a few days at a time and I can honestly say that it has not been very difficult. I know that I will miss Italian focaccia bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as New York style pizza….but I will live and not only that, I will thrive: of that I am certain. Perhaps I will even discover something without gluten that I will love as much: one can only hope.

Okay, here goes: the lists of what you can and cannot eat if you are choosing to join me. These lists are gleaned from “Wheat Belly” and Nadine’s workshop and may not include everything that you CAN eat but I believe that they do list everything that you cannot eat. I always advise my patients who are adopting this lifestyle change to pick up a book on this topic AND to take a ‘gluten-free’ tour in their local Whole Foods/ New Seasons -type grocery store.

What to avoid: Wheat, Spelt, Seitan, Semolina, Couscous, Durum,  Kamut, Bulfar, Farina, Emmer, Graham, Barley, Malt, Rye and Oats(there are gluten-free oats available by the way: more about that later)

What you CAN eat: vegetables, fruits, organic meats, fish, nuts, seeds, rice, corn , potatoes, beans, dairy , ‘safe grains’: this includes nut flours(such as almond, chestnut, coconut, pecan and hazelnut), grain flours(rice, corn, millet, sorghum , teff and quinoa), legume flours(peanut, lava and chickpea), seed flours(amaranth and buckwheat: yes buckwheat is NOT a wheat), tuber flours(potato, tapioca and arrowroot).

Some of the many choices available to bake with gluten

Some of the many choices available to bake with gluten

Something else you should know is that according to Dr. Davis(author of ‘Wheat Belly’),the tuber flours in particular can raise your blood sugar. This is particularly important if you already know that you have insulin resistance or are hoping to lose some weight by adopting a gluten-free diet. Before buying something, read the label and decide if this product is right for you.

If you are a baker, you can make your own gluten-free baked goods and know exactly what is in each item.  I am excited to try some new recipes in the gluten-free world as there are some delicious substitutes already out there. Here in Lake Oswego we have one of the best GF bakeries around: Kyra’s. The owner actually won a baking contest against bakers that cooked the traditional way. I have tasted her cinnamon rolls and cupcakes, which were simply amazing. Again, switching out sweets that are gluten-free for those that contain it will not be part of a weight-loss plan, but living without any treats forever is not a realistic goal for most of us and it is lovely to know that there are suitable choices for a gluten-free lifestyle.

There are some excellent mail-order sources for gluten-free products(like oats). Two that immediately come to mind are Bob’s Red Mill,located in Portland, and Lingonberries Market, which is located in Vancouver, WA. If you happen to live in the Portland metro area, take a trip to both of these stores to see the incredible selection of delicious gluten-free choices that are available. Otherwise, go to their websites and do your shopping online. Once you gain awareness of how many great choices you still have,  I promise that you will not feel deprived in any way.

Some of my new favorite snacks

Some of my new favorite snacks

So if you are joining me, take inventory of the things you have in your fridge and cupboards and make room for the new foods that you will be eating. I will be sharing some of my observations and recipes with you and I hope that you will do the same.  A toast(gluten-free of course) to healthy eating and living!

1 Comment

Filed under Essentials, Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Women's Health & Happiness

Newsflash! PMS is Real! See Kyle’s TV interview about Hormones and Depression!

Good morning from Portland! I’m Anne, Menopausibilities’ “Blogmother”, with a link to Kyle’s interview with KOIN 6 News on the link between hormones and depression.

http://www.koinlocal6.com/news/local/story/Pearl-Womens-Center-knows-PMS-is-real/iwaDpTdw-kCiQSc5MsxNkw.cspx

Leave a comment

by | March 21, 2013 · 5:50 pm

Ready, set , go(!) back to cleaner eating

I spent the last week traveling to NYC to attend my third IFM(Institute of Functional Medicine) Integrative Health Care symposium. The focus this year was on how our lifestyle can have a far-reaching effect on our health, particularly what and how we eat, how active we are and how we manage our stress.

What a perfect segue to our next ‘cleanse’! And as always after this type of conference, I walk away with a renewed awareness of and commitment to eating a cleaner, more nutritionally balanced and life-sustaining diet. I will be sharing with you many of the ‘pearls’ that I gleaned from attending this symposium so do stay tuned.

In case you don’t know what functional medicine is, briefly it is a shift in how we view the body. Often in Western medicine, we focus on the symptoms an individual presents with, which usually occur in a constellation of sorts, leading us to a particular diagnosis of pathology or disease. Functional medicine goes beneath the symptoms and tries to understand what mechanisms are ‘broken’ or altered so that the focus of treatment is more on correcting the imbalances and  the changes , and by supporting the various components of the immune system.  One of the main distinctions of functional medicine is a comprehensive evaluation of the individual’s lifestyle and careful attention is aimed at improving this. Studies have shown over and over again that many of the diseases that are prevalent in our western culture are directly linked to poor and inadequate nutrition(whether it be due to overeating of processed foods or simply not getting the correct balance of micro-nutrients).  Chronic stress is linked to the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer, mood disorders, and many others.

Poor diet, chronic stress and lack of exercise are also associated with hormonal imbalances, which we have talked about in many of our previous blog posts.  Whenever I meet with my patients who is obviously struggling with symptoms of hormonal imbalances, I always stress that along with testing and treating the obvious indicators, we will also devote quite a bit of time addressing dietary, activity(or lack thereof!) and life quality factors. Otherwise, hormonal treatment will only work for awhile and soon the patient will be back to square one.

Some of my favorite herbal teas and sweetener

Some of my favorite herbal teas and sweetener

By embarking on a mini-cleanse like this, you are doing your body a favor on so many levels. Remember to eliminate alcohol, caffeine(green tea is okay, as it has so many health benefits), sugar(other than stevia, small amounts of honey/agave or coconut sugar) and whites: pasta, rice, flour and potatoes. I will be on this starting Monday, March 4th , going through Friday March 8th and then I will resume on Monday, March 18th through Friday March 22nd. Please join in for the 10 days of your choice and as always, join in the conversation by posting a comment on the blog or on the Facebook page of Pearl Women’s Center. For more suggestions and information on how to do the cleanse, please refer back to my previous posts.

Eat a wide variety of fruits: the best 'dessert' of all, full of life-sustaining nutrients

Eat a wide variety of fruits: the best ‘dessert’ of all, full of life-sustaining nutrients

Kudos to all of you who are joining me!

2 Comments

Filed under Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness

On my way in to work this morning, I heard an interesting and provocative piece on NPR re: the link between WHEN you eat and weight loss or gain. Remember the old adage: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”?

Apparently there is some truth to this!

“A new study published in the International Journal of Obesity builds on previous studies that suggest it’s best not to eat too many calories late in the day.

The Spanish study finds that dieters who ate their main meal before 3 p.m. lost significantly more weight than those who ate later in the day. This held true even though the early eaters were eating roughly the same number of calories during the five-month weight-loss study as their night-owl counterparts. ”

Here is a link to the rest of the study:

http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ijo2012229a.html”>study</a>

It is so interesting to me that over the years, we have seen a rollercoaster of viewpoints on the best ways to eat to maintain a healthy weight. I remember that when I was younger, we were told that the kinds of calories we ate mattered: so we counted how much of our calories came from sugar, fat, proteins and carbs. Then we were told ” a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” and that it really didn’t matter what we ate, just how many calories we consumed. That doesn’t even make sense!!! Imagine eating 300 calories of green leafy veggies throughout the day versus eating 300 calories of M and M’s: how can it NOT matter where the calories come from? One food source is loaded with nutrients and fiber while the other is loaded with sugar and artificial chemicals and clearly has an impact on how much insulin is released to try to negotiate just how that ‘food’ is metabolized???

Also when I was younger, we learned that one shouldn’t eat late in the day, that by doing so, the food could more easily be stored as fat because( as I best remember this!) ‘ our metabolism had slowed down by day’s end resulting in slowed breakdown and resulting in more calories being stored that burned’. I am not convinced that this is truly the reason but it definitely makes sense to me that it does in fact matter when we consume food during the day. But in recent years, we were told(back to the rollercoaster: hang on for dear life!!) that it didn’t matter when we ate. Thankfully this new study does point to evidence that when we eat does have an impact on our ability to maintain our weight.

One thing that has remained constant in ‘diet lore and wisdom’ is that people who eat a nutritious breakfast tend to be leaner than those who skip it or eat poor choices early in the day. So do make sure that you eat a well-balanced breakfast, as it will set the tone for the rest of your day in terms of metabolism, energy and brain functioning.

As always, we would love to hear from you about your own experiences, both good and bad, in terms of achieving and maintaining(or not!) a healthy weight. This is one of the essentials for balanced living and for hormone balance. More to come in the upcoming weeks.

1 Comment

Filed under Essentials, Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Women's Health & Happiness

Seeking balance in the new year(again!)

Let me first wish you all a happy new year. I don’t know about all of you, but New Year’s Day is truly one of my favorite days of the ‘holiday season’. Although I love the festivities, the decorations, the gatherings of family and friends, playing Secret Santa at work, the yummy holiday treats and special beverages, the magic of the season, the reflection of why we celebrate these sacred and traditional holidays, watching classic Christmas movies, singing Christmas carols, giving and getting presents, catching up with old and new friends, and ringing in the new year(this year we made it til midnight!!), I love waking up on January 1st and reflecting back on the previous year and thinking forward to the year at hand.

This is a particularly clear and gorgeous day 1 of 2013 in Oregon: the sun is shining brightly, the air is crisp and cold and there is a peaceful sense of silence outside, as most of us have the day off from work, from school, from our daily routines and the pace has slowed permitting more time for reflection.  So often we get caught up in the ‘busy-ness’ of our lives and we don’t take the time to pause and plan for more balanced living.

A pausable moment: essential to maintain balance

A pausable moment: essential to maintain balance

What does it mean to have balance anyway? According to dictionary.reference.com , the type of balance I am referring to is defined as “mental steadiness or emotional stability, habit of calm behavior, judgement, etc”…also defined as “a state of equilibrium or equipoise”.  We at Menopausibilities often talk about hormone balance and how important it is to have one’s hormones tested, in order to take an objective look at our hormones within, so that we can work towards balancing these remarkable chemicals in our bodies. Achieving hormonal equilibrium helps us to feel balanced from the inside out and greatly improves the quality of our lives.

It's all about balance...

It’s all about balance…

But there are so many other aspects that we need to consider to keep us from falling back into imbalance or disequilibrium. It is important to take a critical look at the things we eat and drink every day, our exercise habits, the ways in which we balance our stress, supplements to consider to enhance our health, maintaining healthy relationships, our spiritual, emotional and intellectual well being…..it really does take a ‘village approach’ to achieve and maintain a balanced life.

Back in early October, I challenged our readers to join me on  a ‘consciousness cleanse’. Many of you did and we all reaped similar benefits from this 10 day mini-program: renewed energy, better sleep, clearer thinking, loss of belly fat and even a few pounds, and a renewed awareness of how important it is to be conscious of what we put into our mouths. I am inviting you all to join me again in January  as we support one another in making small but important changes towards achieving balance in our daily lives.  This is a perfect time of year to take this on: the festivities are over, many of us have overindulged and are making resolutions for the new year, and we have a renewed sense of optimism that we can succeed. 

A quick refresher about the guidelines: I will be eliminating caffeine, white sugar, alcohol and ‘the whites’: white flour, sugar, pasta, potatoes and rice. I plan to start on Monday, January 7th and will end on the evening of Wednesday, January 16th. Please go back to the post that I wrote on October 14th for more specifics, as I know many people have strong reactions to the no-caffeine portion, but don’t worry: this can be done slowly to avoid those terrible caffeine withdrawal headaches.

In conjunction with this January cleanse, I have some additional goals during this 10 day period. I always find my house to feel extra-cluttered after the holidays, particularly with some of the new possessions that have magically appeared, coupled with the tendency to be more house-bound, due to the colder weather and shorter days(and I know that my ability to feel a sense of balance is greatly impacted if my home feels cluttered).  So I plan to tackle my closets and cupboards, perhaps even my garage if I get an extra burst of energy, so I will be ‘cleansing’ out my home environment as well: a winter cleaning if you will. Then I will take all of these superfluous items and bring them to the appropriate agencies so that others might benefit from their use.

One more thing that you should know. We will be posting daily updates on how we are feeling through the cleanse . You can follow us through our blog and by becoming a friend of the Pearl Women’s Center facebook page. They will be offering several small ‘prizes’ for those of you who complete the 10 day cleanse but you must be signed up in order to be eligible to win. And we would love to hear from you about how YOU are doing : you can do it both on the blog(you will need to sign up as a follower first) and/or on the facebook page. It will be fun to see how many of you join us this time and how making these 4 small changes impact your lives.

As we look back at our blog over the past 15 months,  we are excited to see that we have touched many of your lives with some of our blog posts. We received an update from wordpress(our blog server) and we have had 6,546 views since we first launched our blog. A big thank you to all of our readers! Wow!! We are looking forward to a renewed commitment to our blog and will be rolling out some new features in the upcoming weeks. I am also due to post my list of favorite books so watch for that as well.  We love touching your lives and as always, would love to hear from you if you have any particular topics you would like us to discuss.

Wishing you a safe, healthy, joyful and balanced new year.

Another way to find balance: laughing with a dear friend

Another way to find balance: laughing with a dear friend

6 Comments

Filed under Essentials, Hormone Imbalance, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

Day 5 of our ‘consciousness cleanse’: almost halfway there!

Checking in with all of you who have joined us on this 10 day mini-journey towards optimal eating and drinking: how is it going so far? I am sure it has had some challenges along the way, as breaking old habits can be really hard. I love to sit down with a lovely full-bodied glass of red wine after a long day at work so during these last few days, I learned to shift and focus instead on the incredible variety of teas I could brew up and savor.
For others, I have heard that cutting out sugar was the most difficult and required some pretty strong ‘won’t power’. Caffeine for some was the most challenging so perhaps not something to be eliminated this time…or maybe this is a time to simply cut down on the daily dose. Remember, this cleanse is for you and you need to make it work for your life and routine.
All in all, I have loved how I have felt each day: I have noticed that my sleep has been deep, restful and free of night sweats. Although I have been on BHRT for almost 12 years and usually symptom-free, after several glasses of wine in the evening, I often toss and turn and wake up throughout the night with mild night sweats(alcohol consumption is definitely linked to increased hot flashes and night sweats, so that is something you should be aware of). I have awakened each morning with an abundance of energy and mental clarity and I have found that I am not getting drowsy soon after lunch. You may remember that I am one of those ‘nuts’ who awaken at 4:30 weekdays so that I can get my workout in before heading off to work. Often a post- lunch siesta sounds very tempting. These past few days I have not felt the urge to crawl up into a little ball and catch a few zzzz’s after lunch so that has been a noticeable change for me.

I have also enjoyed the renewed focus on the foods I have been buying and preparing for my meals. On day one, I made a spicy and hearty pumpkin soup as well as a loaf of whole grain bread, served alongside a fresh green salad. I was inspired to make pumpkin soup in the spirit of Halloween and also because I know how many health benefits pumpkin has:  it is low in fat and calories , high in fiber(important to lower blood glucose and cholesterol, as well as important for smooth digestion), high in carotenes(anti-oxidants), which are crucial for our vision and our skin, plus it has critical nutrients such as vitamins C and E, and the minerals magnesium , potassium and iron. Often we add health-promoting spices to pumpkin recipes such as cinnamon , curry and cumin, which will further enhance pumpkin’s benefits.

Day one: Sunday dinner: yummy nutrient-full pumpkin soup and hearty organic whole grain bread plus green salad

The bread recipe came from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook. It was so simple that it inspired me to make bread, something I did all the time years ago. It took me less than 3 minutes to toss the ingredients together. Next I let the dough rise for 2 hours, added some cooked millet, formed the loaf, let it rise again and cooked it for 40 minutes. There is nothing like a the fragrance and taste of a freshly baked loaf of whole grain bread to complete the meal…and it cost less than a dollar to make. In addition,  I was confident that the ingredients were organic as well as rich in nutrients.

As I have shared with you before, women come to me with a litany of complaints, frustrations and symptoms that are related to hormonal imbalance.  After testing has been reviewed and I have created a comprehensive ‘personal balance plan’, I always remind them that lifestyle changes are also a critical component in achieving and maintaining hormonal and health balance. That is why taking the time to pay attention to how you nourish your body each day is so pivotal to your overall health. The effects are longlasting and far-reaching. As my friend Molly said to me, we are on the 90 year plan so we have to realize that what we put into our body today has an incredible effect on our longevity as well as the quality of our life.

Hormonal balance depends on the entire package: testing, treating with appropriate hormones and supplements, eating nutritiously, regular exercise, stress management, maintaining nourishing relationships, pursuing the things that you love, spiritual practice  and the support of your personal village. 

I am looking forward to your comments on how you are doing. Let me know if you would like me to share the recipes I used for pumpkin soup and whole grain bread and I will post them on the blog.

Congratulations for making it this far and for keeping me company. Thank you.

A moment of balance , halfway up Saddle Mountain in the Oregon Coastal Range

6 Comments

Filed under Bioidentical Hormones, Essentials, Hormone Imbalance, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Menopause Symptoms, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

How the WHI turned things on its head and we have come a long way baby!! Happy 2012

It is hard to believe that 10 years ago this July, the first reports from the WHI(Women’s Health Initiative) first hit the press and caused a major upheaval in our country in terms of how we viewed hormone treatment for women.  Headlines appeared in all of the major newspapers, soundbites aired on TV and radio shows, all echoing the same information:  based on this study(despite conflicting evidence from dozens of studies prior to this one), it was felt that hormone replacement therapy was no longer something that should routinely be prescribed to postmenopausal women due to the increased risks of breast cancer and cardiovascular complications.

The release of this information was a veritable nightmare for clinicians like myself who have worked with women for years trying to find the safest and most effective treatment options to deal with the challenges of perimenopause and beyond. Suddenly everything we had trusted was brought into question and the reaction was loud, contentious and confusing. We were advised by our various medical organizations(such as NAMS:North American Menopause Society; ACOG: American College of OB/Gyn, AMA: American Medical Society, and so on) to get women off of HRT(hormone replacement therapy) and advise them of their risks.

I have been a Nurse Practitioner since 1988 and I can honestly say, this was a pivotal moment in my evolution as a clinician. I felt as though I was between a rock and a hard place. How do I honor the “wisdom of the powers that be” yet take excellent care of the women who trusted me to provide them with accurate, up-to-date health information and help them find relief for their innumerable symptoms of hormonal imbalance? This was not an easy task but in many ways, I am thankful for the stir caused by this study as it forced many clinicians like myself to take a hard look at the information coming to us from these large scale, big Pharma-financed studies. It was time for a seismic shift for me, that’s for sure.

I have always been more holistic in my approach towards health care than what I learned in my allopathic undergraduate and graduate programs.  I had long developed a mistrust from some of the “studies” and abstracts given to me by pharmaceutical reps and this new turn of events just confirmed for me the need for ME to sort through the information myself, to resist believing the latest “headline du jour”. And I was in a perfect position to change my approach to taking care of women approaching menopause.

Thankfully one of my patients at the time told me about a special that had aired on public television highlighting “Bio-identical Hormones”, something I had heard of but honestly, didn’t know much about. I sought out a local compounding pharmacist, Alison Johnston and asked her to teach me. Not only did she mentor me and turn me on to a whole new world of compounding, but she sponsored me to go to a conference put on by PCCA(Professional Compounding Corporation of America). This is where I learned about the value of saliva testing, met the wonderful folks of ZRT lab and from that point on , I knew I had found what I was looking for: a safe, non-invasive, accurate, comprehensive way to test actual hormone levels.

My next challenge was to learn to interpret these levels and then how to prescribe BHRT in PHYSIOLOGIC doses to help alleviate symptoms of hormone imbalance and provide the many benefits of hormone treatment(see our previous blog posts on this). I had no local providers to ask….I was completely on my own and sometimes it was a scary place. But I knew there was no turning back. I had the support of my local pharmacists and the providers and staff at ZRT lab. I continued to go to any conference I could find on the topic, I read countless books and articles and soon I was treating hundreds, then thousands of women.  Not just treating them but helping them regain balance, hope and quality of life. I will soon be sharing some of their testimonials with you all in future blogposts.

So that’s the story of how I became so passionate about saliva testing and BHRT. I see thousands of women every year and I get such joy out of partnering with my patients. So many of them are like some of the people who have commented on our blog: at their wit’s end. Help is just around the corner ladies. Stay tuned and we will continue to provide you with the information and optimism that you need to get on your own road back to balance.

Oh, and by the way, patience really is a virtue. After 10 years of arguing back and forth about whether hormones are safe for women, just this week a statement was issued by NAMS and supported by 15 major medical organizations that now states that hormone replacement therapy should be offered to women.  AMEN!!! Remember, we support the use of BHRT… but this is such a sweet victory for women and those who care for them. Here is the link to the article:

NAMS statement

One last thing in closing. Today is Candace’s birthday so wishing my dear friend and colleague a wonderful celebration of life and a toast to many decades of happiness and balanced living to come!

With love,

Kyle

4 Comments

Filed under Bioidentical Hormones, Hormone Imbalance, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Menopause Symptoms, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

In defense of saliva hormone testing: the battle of spit vs. blood

Last week the talking head TV doctors were at it again,  spinning and disparaging the accuracy and validity of saliva hormone testing despite decades of use by health care providers around the world to detect and correct hormone imbalances.  This kind of noise gets louder every now and again, emanating mostly from well-paid spokesmen for big-Pharma contracted to uphold the status quo.

By that of course, I mean the continued use of synthetic HRT (albeit at lesser doses but nevertheless a far cry from the bioidenticals Dr. Oz and other forward thinking providers now favor and tell us to INSIST upon if we want to prevent breast cancer, heart disease, blood clots and stroke) AND blood testing. Naysayers would have you believe that blood is the ONLY way to measure hormones accurately in EVERY person on the planet, despite the fact that unlike standard blood tests, saliva measures bioavailable, active hormone levels that any savvy practitioner will tell you, more closely correlates with patient symptoms. Not to  mention that it accomplishes this task non-invasively, without the needles that can raise stress and skew results…indeed that is why saliva testing remains the gold standard for collection of cortisol stress hormones.

Thousands of reputable MDs, NDs, NPs, PAs, endocrinologists, (and I might add, a growing number of Ob-GYNS) etc., use saliva testing to quantify hormone levels as do scientists and researchers  in the field. The World Health Organization for one, has used salivary testing to run cross-cultural comparisons of hormone levels in women living in industrialized vs. third world countries.
As to why this issue rears its head from time to time, to be fair it has to be said that many traditional MDs are not yet familiar with  the ranges and measurements used in saliva testing which differ from the standard blood test. Hence they are not comfortable interpreting a saliva test result or its’ validity. But this is no excuse for being indifferent to evidence of benefit, or as someone once said, being down on what one is not up on.

Looking sideways at the benefits of saliva testing is a disservice to those who stand to benefit

To make a long story short, the saliva hormone test provides invaluable information millions of people are using to shed new light on a persistent problem, rebalance their hormones naturally, and improve their health, energy and longevity. As the former Director of Education at ZRT Laboratory, I saw its benefits in action and heard from clients every day who told of persistent symptoms relieved, weight lost at last, mojo restored, divorce postponed for good! By the time I moved on from ZRT into my own hormone consultancy we had tested nearly 2 million people – the numbers speak for themselves.

Have you had your hormones tested in saliva and experienced the benefits of easy collection, easy monitoring and information you were able to use to make a difference in the way you think, look and feel? If so, please chime in ….and comment on our blog in defense of saliva!

7 Comments

Filed under Candace Burch, Hormone Imbalance, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Women's Health & Happiness

Top 10 Hormone Rebalancing Tips: YOU could be walking around with a hormone imbalance and Not Even Know It! Oprah said that but what did she mean? Hormone imbalance defined.

Return to Balance

No one likes being out of balance, especially when the hot flashes, foggy thinking, and mood swings of menopause leave us feeling like a pale reflection of our former selves. During this hormonally challenged time its important to realize that the extent to which we suffer from troublesome symptoms has much do with the extent to which our lives – and our hormones – are out of balance.

Picture if you will synchronized swimmers all pointing their toes in perfect petal formation at the exact same moment. Suddenly, one of the swimmers takes off in a different direction, let’s call her progesterone, another dives to the bottom of the pool (call her testosterone), a few more decide to make waves (call them cortisols) while the last but not least of swimmers (call her estrogen) takes over the whole routine. All that beautiful synchrony, gone.

Image

Key hormone players achieve balance through synchrony

And so it goes with us. When our hormones are out of sync, we are out of sync – physically, mentally, emotionally. And because hormones are so mutually dependant (a deficiency of one creates a surplus of another), there are countless opportunities for imbalance. As Oprah put it at the opening of her show on women and hormones, “You could be walking around with a hormone imbalance and not even know it!” Knowing the signs and symptoms of a hidden hormone imbalance is your first big clue, testing and exploring your options is next  …. But before we go any further, let me explain what a hormonal imbalance is…. It’s what happens when one or more of the key hormone players (see Kyle’s most recent blog): estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and/or Cortisol, fall out of proportion to each other, (or like our synchronized swimmers above, swim off in different directions) that we are left with excesses of one hormone and deficiencies of another, a working definition of hormone imbalance. These unwelcome but inevitable shifts in hormonal milieu can be handled but until we learn how, they can seriously disrupt our  moods, memory, mojo, and zest for living. It can happen to the best of us …I would describe myself during my early experience of imbalance as feeling addled, exhausted and unloving…in a word or two: basket case.  Here now are some of the more common (preventable – seize on that word ladies) doozies:

Estrogen Dominance (flabby, crabby and fed-up) – this mother of all hormone imbalances results from high estrogen levels relative to low progesterone as a result of erratic ovulation, normal aging, hysterectomy (particularly if estrogen therapy is prescribed post-surgery in the absence of its balancing partner, progesterone), and exposure to environmental chemicals known as “xenoestrogens” (see my Feb 1st post: the Cruciferous Connection). Too much estrogen triggers multiple symptoms like weight gain, mood swings, heavy periods/no periods, lost libido, lost pzazz, lost YOU…. It typically begins at Perimenopause (early to mid-40s) when hormones wax and wane, and ends with Menopause (early 50s) when cycles cease and the ovaries stop making hormones for good. Younger women who don’t ovulate regularly (note that lack of ovulation = lack of progesterone) can also be estrogen dominant, plagued by PMS, monthly migraines, tender breasts, water retention and painful periods. So when it comes to hormone imbalance, too much estrogen is just as much an issue as too little. Having said that….

Estrogen deficiency (hot, sweaty, weepy) – low levels of estrogen can trigger that hot flash in the middle of an important meeting, or night sweats in the middle of the night, as well as other bedevilments like vaginal dryness, thinning skin, brittle nails, bones, heart palpitations, fragile emotions, muddled mind….

Imbalances of Testosterone/DHEA and Cortisol (no longer lean, just mean) are a bad combination that deplete energy, metabolism, mental clarity, stamina, and the strength of our bones, muscles, and libido. When for instance, the stress hormone cortisol goes up or stays up, testosterone goes down along with our enthusiasm, drive, and zest for living.

Adrenal Imbalances (tired, wired, and bummed-out): Lows and/or highs of cortisol resulting from unresolved stress, junk food, lack of sleep and exercise, can cause rapid aging and belly fat bigtime – not to mention allergies, insomnia, and chronic fatigue.  This under-recognized imbalance generally makes an appearance in mid-life when the adrenal glands have to pick up the slack in hormone production. The once and future energizer bunny no longer hops but plops, her sunny mood submerged under a black cloud. This is the time when the flack hits the fan if we don’t take better care of ourselves; tired, overworked adrenals eventually burnout and so do we…

Fluctuating hormones at perimenopause when hormone production becomes erratic are usually behind the hair-raising symptoms known to everywoman as the “emotional roller coaster.” That’s when all hell breaks loose and we’ll do anything for relief!

Fortunately we have a lot more control over these ups and downs than we might think. Consider these Top 10 Tips  to empower yourself and return to balance:

1.   Determine your symptoms of hormone imbalance http://www.hormonesynergy.com/women.asp  or http://www.theseventhwoman.org

2.   Test your hormones to detect hidden imbalances http://www.canaryclub.org or http://www.zrtlab.com

3.   If you have an imbalance and need to supplement insist on bioidentical hormones – they are better and safer!

4.   Learn how and when to use natural progesterone, the “great balancer.” http://www.theseventhwoman.org

5.   Support adrenal health with optimal C and B-complex, D3, and herbal tonics such as Dong Quai, Astragalus, Maca, Rhodiola, etc.

6.   Avoid xenoestrogens – eat “hormone free” foods, go GREEN with home, garden, bodycare; microwave in ceramic/glass; reject synthetic hormone replacement (HRT) and any products with unpronounceable ingredients, exercise in the open air whenever possible.

7.    Counteract stress by releasing tension: stretching, deep breathing, yoga, pilates, zumba, walking. Strength train to boost hormones naturally.

8.   Take your vitamin Zzzs – power nap!

9.   Make more ME time

10.  Act the way you want to feel! ( The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, order at http://menopausibilities.com/womens-health-shop.html)

How do YOU rebalance? Have you got a top 10, or 5, or a Numero UNO all-time best tip you can share? We’d love to pass it on!

Rebalancing amongst the Rhododendrens

3 Comments

Filed under Candace Burch, Hormone Imbalance, Women's Health & Happiness