Tag Archives: BHRT

When it Comes to Natural Hormone Balancing a Compounding Pharmacist is your Friend: How to find the right one

When it comes to balancing your hormones with bioidentical approaches, getting to know a  reliable, compounding pharmacist in your area is an essential first step. Few traditional pharmacists better understand the biochemistry of hormones in the body, or can tailor a prescription to individual need based on hormone test results. And if you have a problem swallowing pills, a skilled compounder can solve that with sublingual troches that taste good while dissolving under the tongue, non-allergenic topical creams that can be applied anywhere on the skin, or vaginal suppositories, nasal sprays, drops, tinctures, you name it! Many of these specially designed delivery systems are so effectively absorbed by the body it takes much less hormone to achieve much greater benefit… the so-called “Goldilocks” approach to dosing hormones appropriately – not too much nor too little, but just right!

Woman reading studying, reading

Looking for safe solutions to hormone balance? It’s important to get all the facts and ask the right questions to find a GOOD compounding pharmacist.

Every since the WHI (Women’s Health Initiative Study) found that synthetic hormones like those used in common HRT combinations, increased risks for stroke, heart attack, blood clots, and breast cancer, compounding pharmacists across the country have become key players in the shift to natural hormones and the Bioidentical Hormone Restoration model, a.k.a. BHRT, where patients, providers, and compounders partner to detect and correct imbalances that diminish health …not to mention energy, mood, memory, strength, libido…I could go on…and on!

As happens every now and then, the bad practices of one pharmacy can cast aspersions upon all. In one such incident last year, a pharmacy in Massachusetts used improper procedures in formulating a sterile medication which led to an outbreak of meningitis and the death of hospital patients injected with the toxin. In light of this tragic event, it seems appropriate to clarify that it is exceedingly rare and to talk about the regulation of pharmacy, and safety measures that GOOD compounders use.

For starters, all compounding pharmacies are subject to government oversight by three different regulatory agencies: 1) the State Board of Pharmacy, which ensures adherence to state laws and good pharmacy 2) the FDA, which regulates the integrity of the drugs and active ingredients compounders purchase; and 3) the DEA, which regulates how compounding businesses buy and dispense controlled substances.

Evidently, the pharmacy in Massachusetts, (the New England Compounding Center)  had previously received warning letters from the FDA, ignored safety guidelines, and, had illegally shipped prescriptions to states in which they were not a licensed pharmacy. Not only was the purity of the chemicals they used questionable given the meningitis outbreak, this particular facility was known as an “outlier” in the compounding world.  According to Natalie Gustafson, RPh., and owner of Pacific Compounds and Lloyd Center pharmacies, in Hillsboro, and Portland, Oregon, “these people were not even closely representative of how most pharmacies operate, which is to put the patient first and to have numerous quality control measures in place to ensure the safety of patients and employees alike.”  Natalie, and her assistant, Pharm-Tech, Cory Dolan, emphasize that to find a compounder you can trust absolutely, it is essential that you talk with them and ask the following key questions:

  • Have you passed inspection by your governing bodies: The State Board of Pharmacy: FDA and the DEA? Have you ever been written up by your State Board?
  • Are you licensed by PCCA (Pharmaceutical Compounding Centers of America)?
  • Do you use only pure USP grade chemicals?
  • Do you run any outside testing of the sterility and potency of your formulations by impartial labs?
  • Do you have safety measures in place like human checks of  all prepared formulas in addition to computer checks?
  • Do you individually label, bar-code, and record the chemicals used in your formulations?
  • Do you have a clean room (with powder hood, etc.) to reduce cross-contamination?
  • Do you use the latest technology your industry has to offer?
  • Do you and your staff regularly obtain continuing education credits and training?

Bottom line: Your compounder is your friend, if and only if, they can answer all the questions above with resounding positives!

How to find a good compounder? Easy. Get to know who has a name in your area. Talk to your provider and find out who she/he recommends, or visit PCCA’s website: www.pcca.com or International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists: www.iacprx.org  for a list of trained compounders  by zipcode. Conversely, if you are looking for a provider (see my July 31, 2012 post: How to Find a Natural-Hormone Friendly Provider) your compounding pharmacist is an excellent resource since they know all the docs in town who know what they’re doing when prescribing bioidenticals. ZRT Laboratory, a top hormone testing lab in the country has a great provider resource directory that includes providers and compounders at www.zrtlab.com

African American woman window shopping

Stop by your local compounding pharmacy…Ask if they have a viewing room where you can check out their “clean room”  and see pharmacy technicians in sterile garb hard at work preparing your personalized prescription.

Once you find someone that sounds good, stop by their pharmacy. Check out their premises, the levels of cleanliness, certificates and registrations of their technicians, available information and resources. A top level facility should ideally have a viewing window where you can observe technicians hard at work under the hood, in the clean room, attired as they should be in the appropriate sterile garb, etc.. A GOOD compounder should offer medical professionals and interested patients tours of their lab and safety procedures. These are the kinds of things to look for so that you can trust your compounder without a shadow of a doubt.

Please chime in to this conversation if you yourself happen to be a compounding pharmacist,  natural friendly hormone provider or concerned health care consumer looking for hormone balance!! Tell us your experience of working with compounders and stay tuned for Kyle’s upcoming blog post from the provider perspective!

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Filed under Women's Health & Happiness

Reflections on the ‘cleanse’ and more reasons to stay away from most sugars

Well, I made it through the past 10 days and amazingly, this was not as difficult as I had anticipated. Honestly I was a little nervous before I started, as I had re-developed the mid-morning and sometimes early afternoon coffee habit over the past 6 months….and I was worried that I would be falling asleep mid-sentence! I also love to savor a glass(or 2) of full-bodied red wine in the evening, as a way to separate the busy-ness of my work day from the relaxation that I like to enjoy when work is over. And all too often  I found myself sneaking in a few potato or corn chips or occasional bites of chocolate, without paying too much attention to how all of these things added up over the day. The bottomline was that I found myself reaching for the cup of coffee or the quick snack to rebuild my energy when it dipped so going without seemed a bit daunting.

So here it is 10 days later and this is what I noticed during that time:

1. I slept better than I had in years. BHRT(bio-identical hormones) have clearly improved my ability to sleep(no night sweats, more REM sleep, ease of falling and staying asleep) but by developing some of my previously mentioned habits, I was often tossing and turning in the middle of the night, unable to find that rest again. Not so these past 10 days: my sleep was deep and wonderful and I woke each morning feeling refreshed.  And for those of you who have sleep issues, you know how priceless a good night’s sleep is!

2. My head was clearer, memory sharper and I found it easier to do tasks that I might usually keep avoiding.

3. My energy level was terrific. I found that could swim and walk faster and my workouts gave me more energy back.

4. I lost almost an inch around my waist(that darned belly fat…even though I am relatively lean, I still struggle with that…and that is not the good kind of fat to have: it is directly correlated with a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer; Belly fat begone!), shed about 3 pounds  and my clothes fit better. And I felt full and satisfied after eating and I didn’t crave sugar or caffeine….astounding.

5. I had fun trying new recipes and teas…and I didn’t mind the 5 evenings when I was around family and friends who were having wine , beer and cocktails…it was actually very pleasant, not an issue at all.

Some healthy and delicious food choices, packed with powerful nutrients

So now I am on day 11 and actually have decided to continue for a few days longer. A few of my friends asked me last evening if I picked 10 days for any particular reason. My reasoning for that is I don’t think a week is long enough , 2 weeks sounds too long to many people, and  you can make it work so that you are only on it for one weekend. I also think you get to see more results if you make it the full 10 days. Again, this is just something I made up for myself to help me make a few small changes and gain a feeling of empowerment.  But I have heard quite a bit of positive feedback from the women who joined me(there are also 3 men…I would love to hear how they did as well!). Everyone noted better sleep, better energy, less sugar cravings and a feeling of control.  Wow, so small changes really had a big impact.  That is pretty powerful.

Kyle and Candace at our local farmers’ market: so many wonderful food choices, grown locally

I guess there are no coincidences after all. When I came home from work and started to read today’s Living section in our local paper, the Oregonian, I of course noticed the article skewering sugar and its relatives by Dr. Oz and Rozen.  Many points were made in this article. Here are just a few of the highlights: sugar alters essential proteins in the body, particularly if you already have insulin resistance; too much fructose(we are not talking about whole fruits here: more like High Fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, brown and white sugar, honey, agave and turbinado sugars) causes your liver to turn the excess fructose into fat: this in turn can lead to fatty liver and/or cirrhosis; drinking large quantities(30 oz of fructose-containing substances)/day can drive up your blood pressure; high levels of fructose are directly related to the development of diabetes.  Recommendations include: cut down on those sugars in general(try to limit consumption to 20 g or 3 Tblsp/day); eat fruit for dessert and use stevia as a substitute, in moderation of course.

There really is no avoiding the news about sugar and its effects on our health.  So this cleanse for me came at a particularly powerful time, right before Halloween(yikes: just think how much candy we have all consumed as a result of that holiday!!) , Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah. I am motivated to find recipes that will rely minimally on added sugars and I will share them with you. Please do the same for us and all of our readers.  As always, wishing you joy and balance.

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Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Menopause Symptoms, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness

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

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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

Insist on Bioidenticals: BHRT is the new HRT

It never ends I said to no one in particular.  And then loud enough to raise a few eyebrows: when will these people get it right!! I was referring of course to the crazy- making misinformation on hormones that crops up way too often in the popular press. I had been in the doctors office that day, riffling through  the Health and Science section of a month old Time Magazine when my eye landed  on a handy dandy chart divided into OLD SCIENCE – NEW SCIENCE. The OLD column was in a muddy green hue and the NEW in eco-green.

Under OLD Science on Hormone Replacement it was written: Estrogen and progestin protected post-menopausal women from heart disease.

Under NEW Science it was written: Hormones do not protect the heart and can increase the risk of breast cancer. 

Excuse me? They got the first part right, but to then say that “hormones do not protect….” sounds like they are saying ALL hormones do not protect and ALL hormones are bad for us when nothing could be further from the truth.  Endogenous hormones, the real ones that our bodies produce naturally, certainly do protect the heart and the breasts (not to mention all the other reproductive organs in the body, including blood vessels, bones, brain, etc.), that’s what they are there for! And the next best thing to the real thing? A bioidentical hormone, derived from plant substances made to mimic mother nature.   Yet the presumably up-to-date editors of Time’s Health and Science section (no less) chose not to make mention of  bioidentical hormones. They chose not to mention what is  widely recognized by scientists and experts alike that Bioidentical Hormone Restoration Therapy” or BHRT is the new HRT.

One size no longer fits all
when it comes to women’s hormonal health

And in the year 2012, a full decade since the bad news about Prempro hit the headlines, there was no mention of the millions of American women who are switching over to BHRT  because it works – without putting us at risk for strokes, heart disease and breast cancer. We women are on to the NEW science of bioidenticals, learning how hormones work in our bodies, reading the studies, listening to the experts, partnering with providers and experiencing the relief.  We have seen the future of women’s hormonal health and we’re not going back!

My little hormonal rant puts me in mind of a recent “Dr. Oz Says”  that I have to share with you here: “Hormones are better now. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) monitored women taking high doses of Prempro, a synthetic mix of horse derived estrogens and progestin ….. This combo is still prescribed today, but you should insist on today’s much safer types of  hormone therapy: bioidentical estrogen, and especially, progesterone. They can lower your breast cancer risk and protect your heart. Yes, we’re going against the establishment but you deserve the right data, not the BS (bad science) from those who seem not to care what the WHI and other studies said. Today’s hormone therapy is safer – so safe in fact that it is the intelligent option for women.”

Oz says it all, and he says it all right. Mixed in with the mixed messages on hormonal health there are those who are doing the work, witnessing its benefit, and unafraid to speak truth to power. In the paradigm shift from synthetic to authentic hormones the science is growing and it is on our side.

Balance is achievable.

You can gather that evidence for yourself by checking out the scientific resource sections at Women in Balance www.womeninbalance.org or The Seventh Woman Foundation www.theseventhwoman.org. Meanwhile join in the discussion and comment right here on the blog to let us know how you have experienced the benefit of  BHRT and natural hormone balance.

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

Jane Fonda: TED talk on “The Third Act”

Greetings from the road(again!)

I am currently traveling with family along the east coast which has been a blast, filled with daytime activities(tour of Boston, playing tennis, long walks through New England towns) and late night talks. Last night I had the fortune to see ‘the Boss’, none other than Bruce Springsteen himself, excite and entertain the crowd of multi-generational music fans …backed by the ‘Green Monster’ at Fenway Park. We danced and sang and laughed….hard to believe I started listening to him in my early 20’s and here I am on the eve of turning 60. Wow, is all I can say about that.

Fortunately I am blessed with a healthy body and plenty of energy to face MY third act. Much of that I attribute to paying attention to what I eat, staying physically active, keeping my hormones balanced( I have been on BHRT for 12 years myself, which has been an essential factor in the quality of my life), a strong network of family and friends, as well as doing work that I am passionate about. However, like many women(and men!) who are in the ‘midlife’, I am starting to think about how I will live and contribute during the next phase or phases of my life.  Several months ago, a friend of mine shared this video on TED with me by Jane Fonda and I am moved to share it with all of you. It is a powerful reflection on what all of us are facing as we think about the road ahead.

How many of us grew up watching Jane in her infamous striped leg warmers, encouraging us to ‘feel the burn’? Now she is encouraging us to dip deep and think about what we want this next phase of our lives to look like: not to just go through the motions, but to realize we have a lot of valuable things to contribute and to experience. In this talk, she challenges each of us to live energetically and consciously. I hope you find as much inspiration as I did in listening to her.

Please share your thoughts with us in our comment section as we love to hear from you.

Wishing you balance in your life.

Kyle

 

 

 

 

Jane Fonda takes us through her views on the next and potentially wonderful phase of life

2 Comments

by | August 15, 2012 · 12:41 pm

How to Find a Natural Hormone (bioidentical) Friendly Health Care Provider

In the ten years since the the Women’s Health Initiative put the kabosh on HRT, millions of women stopped using PremPro, the combination of horse-derived estrogen and synthetic progestin found to literally be causing all the problems it was supposed to be protecting us against! When the higher risks for heart disease, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer were revealed as outweighing the so-called benefits of the billion dollar drug too many of us had trusted for decades, the researchers halted the the study immediately – three years early.

European women use bioidenticals for balance

In the ensuing years while many women have successfully migrated to bioidentical hormones made from plant substances, millions of other women who chucked their HRT into the bin are still out in the cold, afraid to use any type of hormones at all. This is a crying shame given the fact that hormones govern our every motion and emotion, protect our bones, blood vessels, hearts, brains, and breasts from disease, decay and rapid aging, AND that too many of us are missing out on the benefits of bioidenticals that our European counterparts have enjoyed for decades.

Part of the challenge is that when the bad news about hormones hit the headlines in 2002, many providers had to jettison the old one-size fits all approach to menopause with nothing in place to take its place. Dr. JoAnn Manson, the new director of NAMS (North American Menopause Society), and one of the WHI’s lead investigators underlined this in a recent interview alluding to the “many, many clinicians who no longer prescribe, or know how to prescribe.” She goes on to say, “this isn’t a good situation for women who are having severe menopausal symptoms. They’re going to have trouble finding clinicians who will help them make the most informed decision.” Not a good situation indeed, but for women still seeking safer solutions ten years on from the WHI, Kyle and I can assure YOU that the situation is improving by the minute.

To put this into perspective …. when I became the Director of Education at ZRT Laboratory (one of the largest hormone testing labs in the country) in 2000, just 25 per cent of our clients were health care providers; the rest were consumers looking for answers on their own. Eight years later licensed health care providers had climbed to 75 per cent of our client base, a number that signalled a paradigm shift  from hormone replacement to hormone balance. Pretty promising huh! Not to mention the growing numbers of health educators like me and lifestyle counselors/coaches coming on line to help women explore their options for safe, natural symptom relief.

So, if you are one of those women still feeling confused or out of the loop when it comes to your hormones, we have resources aplenty for you starting with your local compounding pharmacist. The majority of these brainy biochemists really get it when it comes to the whys and wherefores of hormone action in the body and are trained in BHRT (the bioidentical hormone restoration model). Not only are these folks themselves fountains of information, they can usually point you in the direction of health care providers who will test your hormones and are trained to prescribe natural hormone therapies tailored to individual needs. So that’s your first port of call, a face to face with your friendly local compounder, or you can find them by visiting www.iacprx.org.

Next stop are the excellent online resources that enable you to find a provider in your area by simply popping your zipcode into the required field. The best of these can be found at: www.womeninbalance.org, or www.zrtlab.com
Just go to their “find a provider” referral tab. If you need to lose weight you can get a head start on the process by identifying the hormone imbalances that contribute to weight gain through MRC weight loss centers around the country www.emetabolic.com. Their Body in Balance program is the first ever to address hormone imbalance in a nation-wide weight loss program. Awesome!

Meanwhile, if you happen to be in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon you can get in touch with Kyle or myself to explore your options for finding balance in your hormones and in your lives! This is a Menopausibilities essential truth:

Finding, being and staying in balance is a work in progress – take the first step NOW!

Being in balance.

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Filed under Candace Burch, Women's Health & Happiness

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!

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