Tag Archives: saliva testing

Can’t Sleep? You Could Have an Undetected Hormone Imbalance!

A century ago most people slept nine to 10 hours a night, a healthy normal for rest and replenishment, but these days we tend to live by the You snooze, you lose maxim. Now most of us are working ten hours a day and getting by on half that much sleep – not nearly enough to recharge our batteries, much less replenish hormone levels. In fact, researchers have a name for those of us who get by on less than five to six hours of sleep a night – “short sleepers” – who not only have a serious fatigue problem but may also suffer from anxiety, food cravings, “stress eating”, AND, get this, higher body fat.
A number of studies out of Stanford and the U. of Chicago attest to the strong association between sleep deprivation and weight gain – particularly belly fat!

Can't sleep at night and can't stay awake during the day? It could be your hormones...

Can’t sleep at night and can’t stay awake during the day? It could be your hormones…

A major cause of our chronic lack of sleep is the fast track stressful culture we live in which leads to overstimulation of the hormones that govern all physiological activities, including sleep. Hormones are meant to follow their own rhythm and diurnal curve. Take for example cortisol, the master stress hormone. It should be at its highest level in the morning to get us up and attam, and decline gradually over the course of the day to lowest levels at night – right before sleep. But what we often observe in the test results of those who list sleep disturbances as moderate or severe, is the absolute reverse where cortisol is low in the morning when it should be high, and high at night when it should be low.

Cortisol levels that are elevated at night seriously interfere with the body’s natural production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. So we toss and turn all night then drag ourselves out of bed in the morning relying on alarm clocks, caffeine, and chocolate to get through the day. By the time bedtime rolls around again, we find ourselves too wired to fall asleep and stay asleep – a classic case of hormone imbalance that has probably been overlooked for years.

Living on a caffeine drip...have you tested your hormones lately?

Living on a caffeine drip…have you tested your hormones lately?

Given that hormones work in tandem with one another to maintain balance, shifting levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA can also negatively impact the nature and quality of sleep, particularly at midlife.
For example, women in menopause who no longer ovulate have plummeting levels of progesterone and thus become low in this natural sleeporific hormone. Deficiencies of estrogen can cause hot flashes that wake us up in the night, and low testosterone in both men and women can cause muscles aches and pain that make it hard to get to sleep in the first place.

Testing for hormone imbalances that sabotage our slumber is easy enough to do. A convenient home collection kit combines non-invasive (no-needles) saliva testing of steroid/sex and adrenal hormones with dried blood spot testing for thyroid hormones. Results can identify specific hormone imbalances linked to sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, sugar cravings, stress and other health issues related to a healthy sleep.

To sleep is to be balanced in all ways

To sleep is to be balanced in all ways

You can order a test kit at http://www.canaryclub.org for easy at home collection and return of hormone samples (by regular mail) to the lab for analysis. Test results are not a diagnosis, but can be used by practitioners to facilitate correction of sleep specific hormone imbalances. Always partner with a provider. If you need one, go to ZRT Laboratory’s website:www.zrtlab.com and click on Find a Provider, OR, if you live in or around Portland, Oregon, book an appointment with Kyle at Pearl Women’s Center, www.pearlwomenscenter.com, or if you prefer phone consult/coaching you can book with me at http://www.yourhormonebalance.com to review your test resuts, connect the dots to your symptoms, and design a personal rebalancing plan.

A good nights restorative sleep is waiting in the wings for you – what greater gift can we give ourselves in this season of giftgiving, than that… AND how better to start the New Year than with a long winters nap!
P.S. No cellphones or Ipads allowed by the bedside – the blue light that emits from electronic devices is a serious disruptor of natural sleep hormones!!

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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

Live discussion on hormone balance, testing and treatment options

Last year I did a televised interview at our local radio station, KINK.fm. The moderator asked me questions about hormone imbalance, hormone testing and possible treatments. I have had quite a few patients comment on how helpful it was to hear this interview so I would like to share it with all of you. Just click on the link and then scroll down to my photo and hit the play button I hope you enjoy it and would love to answer any questions you might have. Let me know what you think!

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The Provider’s Perspective on First Person Story

We are very excited to have a real live person for our readers to follow as she sorts through the maze of information and tries to make the best choice for herself in her quest towards wellness and balance(which are actually synonymous!). Her story is one of many that Candace and I have heard throughout the years and hopefully will resonate with quite a few of you. Sadly, I hear over and over again how alone women feel when they start to experience some of the myriad of symptoms that can be caused by the waxing and waning of hormone levels.
Just this week I saw a 43 year old woman who has a friend she is concerned about : thinks she may be going through perimenopause but is afraid to talk about it and has no ideas of how to proceed.
I remember that it wasn’t so long ago that we didn’t even mention the word “breast” in public , yet now there are numerous events dedicated towards raising money for breast cancer. For women who are pregnant, there are prepared childbirth classes, books and endless information available from all sorts of sources; not so for my mother’s generation, so ‘we have come a long way, baby’.

Mind/body balance: part of the equation for all of us

Not far enough though for women struggling with perimenopausal or menopausal issues or even those who suffer with terrible symptoms of PMS early on. This was the main motivation for us to launch this blog, to create a safe, fun, informative and interactive place for women to come to in order to pose questions and find answers. Our blog will continue to morph and mature over time as you will see. This new feature, the ‘First Person Story’ , will grow over the months into a complete narrative tracing this individual’s thoughts, actions and responses to our recommendations.

We are currently waiting for the saliva test results to arrive. Once they do, Candace and I will post our recommendations(and many of those will be very similar, by the way; the main differences will have more to do with my ability to prescribe actual bio-identical hormones. The other differences will be how we each interpret her results and where we think the focus should be: and this will change over time as well, as it should. )
Then our first person will make some choices and we will periodically be checking in with her to see how she is progressing(or not) and make adjustments to her plans as needed.

Stay tuned! And don’t forget to jump in any time with questions you might have as well.  Remember you are not alone in feeling the way you do and there are many possibilities awaiting you…..menopausibilities indeed.

 

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First Person: My Search for My (Happy) Self, part 1

Hi there! Blogmother Anne here, to post the first installment from a woman who has just started her own path looking for balance. You can follow her story as it unfolds by using the drop-down menu at right, where you’ll find each installment under the First Person Category.

About a month ago, I found myself in front of my bathroom mirror wondering who the heck that was staring back at me…without getting into the raw details, I’m a 50-ish woman navigating a path through divorce and financial

Who is this person? It just doesn't seem to be the real me...

devastation for the past 3½ years, no more or less challenging than many that life is known to dish out on occassion. I keep thinking I’m coming out on the other side…but darn it, something always seems to scuttle it and I feel as if I’m back at square one. Suffice to say I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and thoroughly incapable of pulling my tattered hopes out of the cellar for another day. 

Now, before you think you’re reading about one big pity party, you also need to know that I have a dedicated cadre of incredibly generous and level-headed friends, a gem of a daughter, a loving and supportive family, and I’m so far from the utter physical devastation of a tornado or a hurricane that in the big picture I have relatively little to complain about. But nonetheless, there I stood, realizing that I was once again way too uninterested and defeated to face this particular day or any other in the foreseeable future… and so I made the decision to get a prescription for anti-depressants.

Several of my friends have gotten through some pretty tough times with the help of these modern medical wonders…and I didn’t see why I couldn’t too. So within two days, I was filling a prescription and fervently hoping that the six weeks of adjusting to half doses – with side effects including headaches, sleeplessness, and more — wouldn’t sink me any deeper than I already was. I read all the drug precautions and disclaimers and indicators, then got up the next morning determined that, with just a swig of my morning coffee to wash it down, I would begin a pharmaceutical journey to my very own confident and happy future.

And I didn’t have intense side effects: mild headaches in parts of my head where I never had them before, a vaguely upset stomach, another sleepless hour or so to subtract from the usual short night. But I did have one other side effect, apparently from reading the three pages of information provided by the pharmacist: a nagging sense that this

These pages of cautions, precautions, disclaimers and relevant facts for a popular anti-depressant spooked me, and led me to start thinking seriously about bioidentical hormone therapies with Candace's & Kyle's help.

was not the right thing for me, that I was taking chemicals rather than therapy, that I was giving up control. My doctor had told me that on the rating scale they used my depression was mild – yet the popularly prescribed anti-depressant was only shown to be as effective as a placebo for mild depression. After about three days I began to worry about my brain chemistry, and the length of time I would have to be on them to see results and then beyond that to wean myself off them (it’s not recommended to stop in the fall due to the possible compounding effect of seasonal affective disorder).  I was actually resigning myself to a year of taking pills that alter my brain chemistry, all the while gambling that I would be one of the perhaps 50% that would benefit.

My ritual of a healing morning coffee was replaced with a sense that I had surrendered, and thinking that there must be a better option in something less chemical and pharmaceutical, something that would let me still be in charge.   

Enter Kyle and Candace. I’ve known Kyle for years, and through her I now count myself among Candace’s friends, too. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know they truly believe in the power of balanced hormones. I had also been reading the wealth of information about healthy hormones on The Seventh Woman Foundation website, an excellent resource.  I decided that I wanted to try this out…I wasn’t locked into long treatment cycles, and could be in more control of my own health with the ability to make adjustments that suited me.

The saliva test kit...four vials to fill with spit at four different times of day, a rated checklist of symptoms, and a prepaid UPS envelope to send it all back to the lab for testing.

So less than seven days into the half-dose beginnings of what was looking like at least year of anti-depressants, I put an end to them and took a saliva test. Spitting diligently into four vials at various times of the day will measure a variety of hormone levels, and I filled out a form from the test kit detailing everything from my emotions to my physical health. I packed the vials and questionnaire into the preaddressed envelope, popped it into a UPS drop box, and told myself to be calm and patient for a week of waiting for the results to arrive, and then a few more days to have the results interpreted by Kyle & Candace. Without even seeing the results they both recommended finding an adrenal supplement from the natural grocery health aisle, to get my cortisol (the hormone you blow through during stress) back on the map…and from the very first day of taking it I’m sleeping much better. They tell me it’s the magnesium; and while that’s interesting, the big news for me is: I’m sleeping!

And as for the saliva test, the next move belongs to Kyle and Candace. In the next week I’ll meet with them separately and write again to let you know what they found…and what they each think is the way to approach this. It should be interesting! As united as they are about hormone balance, I’m expecting their backgrounds, careers and experience will give me at least two paths to choose from.  Far from presenting a quandary, I am really happy that I will have the option to choose what I think will work best, or change the course if something doesn’t work for me…a “Personal Balance Plan”, a chance to stay in control of some aspect of my seemingly out-of-control life.  –MTA

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Hitting the Pause Button(another essential ingredient for balanced living)

The countdown continues: now I am faced with “16 shopping days til Christmas”(how did this happen and why do stores love to remind us of this???) and my initial reaction last week, when I thought about the list of things I still wanted to get done, was to reschedule my weekend away at the beach with my friend Melinda, her daughter Rupa and my loyal canine companion Riley(aka best dog in the world….). We had planned this time away months ago after looking at our individual commitments throughout the fall and had finally found a weekend that was just right for all of us. So when last week came I couldn’t imagine how we had done this to ourselves, booking time away right smack in the middle of that uber-busy time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas!! Another example of a “senior moment”, perhaps, but on the other hand, maybe this was the perfect time to get away and recharge. So I resisted the urge to call her and suggest a change in plans: in other words, I opted to ‘hit the pause button’ and go for it.

Kyle, Melinda and Riley enjoying a Christmas pause

It’s funny but I can name on one hand, maybe, the times I have regretted hitting that button. Life gets going so quickly some times that we often forget to block out time for R and R. That is a huge mistake. Our bodies, minds and spirits need time to rejuvenate and recharge and when we neglect to allow ourselves those periods of rest, we shift into that chronic stress response with all of its negative effects. And don’t you just know when your body has hit that point? Symptoms start to emerge, including insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, sugar cravings, moodiness, increased belly fat, feeling overwhelmed, distracted, to name just a few of the things you might be feeling when you are “stressed out”. In my last blog post, I reviewed the adaptive stress response(running from the proverbialwild animal who is chasing you) vs the maladaptive response, when your body is in “chronic stress response mode”. It is the maladaptive response that leads not only to all of the symptoms(and more!) that I just listed, but in addition an increased risk to many types of illnesses.

“There is very good scientific and medical evidence to show that chronically elevated cortisol levels are associated with obesity, hypertension, diabetes, fatigue, depression, moodiness, irregular menstrual periods, decreased sex drive , and Alzheimers”(from ‘The Cortisol Connection: why stress makes you fat and ruins your health-and what you can do about it’, an excellent book by Shawn Talbot, PhD, 2002).
Once you realize that you may be suffering from some of these symptoms and a feeling that you are spinning out of control, think first about getting your hormones tested. Candace and I are huge advocates of the “test and treat approach”, in comparison to the more commonly seen “guess and treat approach”. In my practice, after I take a thorough history of my patient, I then order a group of tests designed to identify exactly what is causing the patient’s symptoms. All too often I see women prescribed antidepressants, tranquilizers or sleeping pills to treat what may in fact be a hormone imbalance. And although women often protest to their providers that they aren’t depressed or anxious(after being told that their test results are normal, or worse yet, ‘you are just going through the change: you just need to deal with it and eventually it will be over’), they often feel as though they haven’t been listened to and don’t know what the next step might be.

A spectacular December morning on the Oregon coast

Know that you are not alone in feeling this way but also know that there is something that can be done to make you feel better from the inside out, which is a more sustainable way of living a balanced life. Make an appointment with a provider in your area who knows about saliva and blood spot testing and who is knowledgeable about bio-identical hormones and adrenal fatigue. This can be a life-changing experience: I hear this from my patients every day and it makes my job so gratifying. If you are in the Portland , OR vicinity, please feel free to check out www.pearlwomenscenter.com . If you live in a different area of the world, feel free to ask us the best way to find a knowledgeable provider in YOUR area. This will be a step that you will never regret taking. You deserve to live the best life you can: ‘Hormones in Harmony, Lives in Balance’. This can be true for you as well.

Oh, and getting back to my own “Hitting the pause button” last weekend: so we spent 2 wonderful days walking through the little beach town of Manzanita on Oregon’s magnificent north coast, as well as ooh-ing and ah-ing at the sweet Christmas lights on the local stores. We even accomplished a few things(no, we never did write our Christmas cards….oh well) by getting some Christmas shopping done. We ate and slept incredibly well, we laughed, A LOT, but the high point for me came on our long walk Saturday morning along the beach, the sun spectacularly shining on the bluest of water, the air calm and cold. While walking, I heard a soft bark from somewhere near the dunes, and much to our wonder and surprise, was a beautiful seal lion, waiting patiently for the tide to come up so she could return to her sealife. We were able to get close, but not too close, and truly it was a magical moment to be in the presence of such a magnificent wild marine animal…..and all because I remembered to take time to pause and remember to breathe amidst all that is left to do.

Our new friend up close: the wonders that are possible when you take time for yourself

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Filed under Bioidentical Hormones, Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Women's Work/Life Balance