The Estrogen Dilemma Posted on May 31st, 2010
If you’re a post-menopausal woman like me you are interested in staying young, youthful and mentally sharp. I am delighted to know a brilliant researcher Dr Roberta Brinton whose seminal work involves the subject of estrogen and memory decline in post-menopausal women. You can imagine my surprise when I opened up the New York Times Magazine last weekend to find an article about estrogen featuring Dr Brinton’s work. Roberta Brinton has been a guest speaker at several of my “Anti-Aging Conferences.” Her information is spellbinding. Why just hearing her talk about ‘shooting mitochrondria’ can get anyone excited. Brinton is a brain scientist and her passion is estrogen and its relationship to brain health. Her work is important because, according to Brinton 68 percent of Alzheimer’s patients are women and 70 percent of women are “estrogen dependent.” I am one of them. At age 60 it was evident that I was not functioning well without estrogen. Now 6 years later I have energy, great mental clarity and a zest and enthusiasm enviable by many of my younger counterparts. Bio-identical, plant based hormones have improved my quality of life. Brinton and other scientists claim that estrogen improves brain function when it is added to healthy tissue, but according to the same researchers if it is added to cells that are sick or damaged, estrogen does not strengthen or repair. Therefore, according to Brinton, taking plant-based estrogen, post menopause, may be potentially useless or harmful to brain cells. Taking estrogen is every woman’s dilemma. Do you take it and feel better and weigh the cancer risk or do you not take it and decline into age-related dementia? The debate continues.
50 Years on The Pill Posted on May 10th, 2010
Today is Mother’s day. Fifty years ago today marks the anniversary of that provocative announcement that introduced “the pill” to the world. That announcement gave women a new “take” on sex, fertility, career and their world. The pill meant reassurance and control. Today, a world without “the pill” is unimaginable. It is used to treat acne, skip periods, plan children and give women freedom in the bedroom. The pill took away the stigma of an unwanted pregnancy (in the 50’s and 60’s that was huge) and the fear of a back alley abortion or giving a baby up for adoption.
I remember being a nervous bride at the age of 21, and asking my doctor for a prescription for “the pill.” Ortho Novum it was called then – little pink pills in a round container. My time on the pill did not last long. In those days, there was far more estrogen than contained in the pill today. I felt bloated and miserable and stopped taking it after 3 months or so. Then there was the condom, spermicidal foam, the IUD, the diaphragm and a lot of prayer. Finally after the birth of my second child I had a tubal ligation. That sealed the vault on the worry of an unwanted pregnancy forever. Even though the pill has been around for 50 years and has opened a centuries-needed doorway to female equality in a man’s world, sexual liberation has come with a price. Girls are now “estrogenized” early and becoming sexually active in their teens, there are more sexually transmitted diseases and estrogen in birth control pills ends up in the drinking water. In 2008, Americans spent $3.5 billion on birth control pills and the one pill, Ortho Novum that was available when I was a young woman, has blossomed into 40 varieties today. There is no question the pill has enabled women to shed the shackles of a life sentence to domesticity. Thanks to the pill, we have emerged from the shadows of our significant others to find our own place in the world. There are issues with the pill however. There are side effects that range from annoying to dangerous, e.g. weight gain, acne, irritability, anxiety, memory loss, lost hair, yeast problems, etc. The dangerous ones are myocardial infarction, thromboembolic disease, cerebrovascular disease, carcinoma, metabolic disorders (diabetes), hypertension, headaches, amenorrhea, disorders of lactation, and infertility. The pill disrupts the female endocrine system because it contains synthetic estrogen. The dilemma that every woman faces, how to enjoy sex and not get pregnant continues – pill or no pill.
Turning Stones into Schools Posted on January 31st, 2010
When Greg Mortenson stumbled into the village of Korphe after a failed attempt at summiting K-2, he did not know that his commitment to build a school in the region would command worldwide attention.
“If you educate a boy, you educate and individual. If you educate a girl you educate a community” is the mantra that has motivated Mortenson to build 131 schools in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan that provide education to 58,000 students. Mortenson’s first book “Three Cups of Tea” remains on the New York Times best seller list after 147 weeks and chronicles his struggle to raise money to build schools in these harsh rural areas. Three cups of tea, drunk many times along the journey helps to foster important relationships with oft-times resistant leaders. Now in Greg Mortenson’s new book, Stones into Schools he introduces us to some of his courageous graduates and the important work that they are now doing to improve health care, education and standards of living in this part of the world. Mortenson believes that the way to promote peace is through books, not bombs. Three Cups of Tea stands out as one of my all-time-favorite books, now “Stones into Schools” is proving to be a close second.
I had the opportunity to hear Greg speak when he was in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago. The man speaks with great conviction and from his heart. He has become a master at accomplishing much within a community by the community. Afghanistan as he terms it is a hospitality society. In three Cups of Tea the first cup is between strangers, the second cup is between friends, the third cup is between family. Those who have gone to the third cup would give their life for one another if need be.
Study Shows Placebo as Effective as Anti-Depressants Posted on January 7th, 2010
If you think that taking an anti-depressant to banish your winter woes would be a good thing, think again. Latest study by the University of Pennsylvania shows that for mild to moderate depression, a placebo (sugar pill) may be just as effective as antidepressant drugs. The study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA reviews data from previous trials. Industry-supported trials have generally found that anti-depressants reduce symptoms whereas the new study showed no significant benefits compared with placebos.
The study also showed that antidepressants inability to out-perform placebos against moderate symptoms was due to sustained attention that patients received during the drug trials. Could it be that discussions about coping strategies, lifestyle changes, being heard and understood by the therapist or doctor was really what made the difference? Study participants that took the anti-depressants and not the placebo showed marginal if any difference in mood when taking the anti-depressant drugs.
Readers of the study are reminded not to adjust medication in any way without a doctor’s approval. Anti-depressants are life-saving in cases of severe depression.
Depression in my opinion is the opposite of “expression” or lack of a positive, creative outlet. Isolation from one’s peer group or society can also affect one’s state of mind. Depression can also be caused by hormonal imbalances. Low progesterone in women accounts for depression, anxiety and post-partum depression. It is always worth having hormone levels checked before considering antidepressants. Psychotherapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Re-Patterning) can also be useful. There are almost as many causes of depression as there are people. All this is worth noting considering that over 170 million prescriptions for antidepressants are filled in the United States annually.
Precious, the Movie. We are All Precious Posted on December 4th, 2009
See the movie Precious. It will shock you and inspire you. Precious is the story of Claireece “Precious” Jones, a 16-year-old African American girl born into a life of unimaginable abuse and violence. Pregnant for the second time by her father, threatened with expulsion from school and suffering from horrific violence and verbal abuse from her mother, Precious is able to transfer to an alternative school where she is supported step by step to self-reliance, belief in herself and hope. Precious is a story of triumph against great odds. This is the story of the cycle of family violence and abuse – the cornerstone of poor self-esteem and resultant health and lifestyle issues. The deep pain of abuse on all levels is responsible for a myriad of health problems – headaches, asthma, digestive problems, sexual dysfunction, hampered creativity and self expression. The movie teaches us that in the eyes of God everyone is precious. We must learn to treat all persons as precious – including ourselves.
On a higher level these cycles of abuse, poor self image, and physical violence are playing in the background behind all that is wrong in the world. Or perhaps seen from another angle what is wrong is actually right as it reflects what we are doing to ourselves and each other. The cycles must be recognized and broken for lasting change.
Time Magazine on Post Partum Depression Posted on August 25th, 2009
Did you know that the biggest cause of Post Partum Depression is a dramatic drop in progesterone levels following the birthing process? Sadly there is nary a mention of hormones in the latest issue of Time Magazine covering post partum psychosis or PPD entitled The Melancholy of Motherhood.
The Time article discusses such useful strategies as: funding for research, education and public service announcements and services for the women who have it. Post Partum depression is a very real and serious issue. But how many more silly strategies and “mental-health screens” are we going to have to implement before someone with a brain and a bit of knowledge is going to look at a woman’s hormone profile before putting her on anti-psychotic drugs for PPD?
Imagine the wisdom of Paula Caplan research psychologist who is quoted in the Time piece as saying. “We should be addressing the social factors causing women to be upset after they give birth, not locating the problem within the women.”
I have never heard of such nonsense – social factors….really?
My own daughter, who fortunately did not experience PPD, was visited by the home nurse following the birth of her son over a year ago. She was handed various government publications about healthy baby weights, immunizations etc. along with a large book devoted to the subject of post partum depression. In perusing this book I noticed that there was not one mention of the word hormones let alone the word progesterone in the entire book. When are we going to do the logical thing; test women for hormones and supplement with progesterone if it is warranted?
This subject is covered fully in my 4 CD set: The Body Knows About Hormones
Cost of Hormones Rises Posted on June 6th, 2009
If you are taking traditional HRT or horse-urine-derived hormones, get ready for a cost hike. Big pharma giant Wyeth has announced that their hormones made of horse pee are going to cost you a lot more money. Why? Well, women got scared off taking synthetic HRT when the Women’s Health Initiative Study (using Premarin and Provera) was halted in 2002 because of increased risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Now women are investigating BHRT or bio-identical hormone balancing which is derived from plant-based oils and not pregnant horse’s urine. Consequently drug sales of Premarin have dropped significantly over the last few years.
The way Wyeth plans to recoup this loss is to increase the drug cost. I am really quite supprised that there are still women out there using these products. Maybe it is time for women to listen to their bodies and use hormone replacement that is identical and more in tune with their own hormones and not those made from a horse. Many women get relief from menopausal symptoms by using herbs and supplements which are readily available without prescription.
I felt so strongly about the subject that I interviewed a “compounding pharmacist” and created The Body Knows about Hormones – a 4 CD set which describes bio-identical hormone balancing in detail.