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Healthy Habits

What Women Need to Know About Hormones

woman with babyRead this if you have two X chromosomes, or love someone who does! We women are loaded for risk, at every turn in the modern world, and our endocrine system is fragile. I believe that depression, fragile bones, reproductive cancers, and rapid aging are highly preventable, with a little education and a little good health care that deals with the whole organism. Hormones are never actually “corrected” with a synthetic chemical solution. Quite the opposite, in fact.

We have to be educated about what is happening to us, in an environment where 80,000 chemicals have been approved for use by our government, and many of them damage our hormone balance.

(Men, too, are affected by hormone imbalances, and endocrine disruptors in our environment. Prostate cancer is heavily linked to testosterone imbalance, for instance. But this article focuses on female hormone issues.)

In the briefest possibly way, we’re going to talk about why women have more hormone issues than men. Why synthetic hormones are harmful and bioidentical hormones (and/or sometimes herbs, high-iodine plants or other natural substances) are not only helpful, but critical. We’re going to talk about what elements in our environment create hormone imbalance.

The vast majority of hormone imbalance in women is estrogen dominance. The ratio of estrogen to progesterone is critically important to maintain balance. Because of so many xenoestrogens (pronounced zeno-estrogens) in the S.A.D. and environment, most women have too much estrogen and too little progesterone.

Xenoestrogens are “foreign” estrogens that cause the body to overproduce estrogen. They are derived from petrochemicals, and they include pesticides, lawn and garden and insect sprays, soaps, plastics, meat and dairy products (since livestock is fed estrogenic drugs to fatten them), ground water, car exhaust, and smog.

These chemicals we’re all bombarded with bind to estrogen receptors in our bodies, and damage egg follicles, causing problems with ovarian function.

These xenohormones do not degrade over time. We are affected by the false hormones our mothers were exposed to when they were pregnant with us! Many species in our environment have been damaged or killed off by these chemicals, but they are reducing sperm count and reducing fertility in women.

Alcohol and prescription drugs also affect our estrogen dominance, because the liver is heavily taxed, which compromises the liver’s ability to filter out excess estrogens.

And guess what else causes to over-produce estrogen. Fat cells! They store the fake “xenoestrogens” as well, which continue to cause problems as long as they’re held there.

Tomorrow we talk about the kinds of foods known to protect against xenoestrogens!

You already know fresh fruits and veggies protect against cancer. Thousands of studies say so. Part of that is vitamins and mineral and fiber, of course. But part is that they protect against estrogen dominance! There are seven classes of “phytoestrogens” that you would be wise to seek out, in your diet:Isoflavones and coumestans are the strongest classes of these nutrients, ten times stronger than the others. Legumes have the highest concentration of both isoflavones and coumestans. In countries where women suffer the least from PMS and menopause—Asia, South and Central America–legumes are staples. In the U.S., we eat meat instead of legumes. And meat is heavy to digest: acidic, highly estrogenic, free of fiber, and low in micronutrients.

Flavones, coflavonones, flavanols, lignans, and chalcones are the other five compounds. They might sound like Greek to you, but exposure to those words will help you recognize references in the future to these little friends that heal and protect us from risk everywhere in our environment. One reason I promote a 60-80 percent raw diet is that raw foods are phenomenally healing, but if we take up an extreme position of 100 percent, we’ve eliminated legumes. They add bulk, they’re easy to eat, and they’re highly nutritious as evidenced by research on the many millions of people on the planet who eat a lot of them. (Yes, you can sprout raw legumes, and feel free to do that, but they’re starchy and hard to eat that way in any kind of quantity.)

You can’t always control the smog you’re exposed to—but you can certainly control what you put in your mouth. Some disease factors are fully in your control, and the flip side, when you follow the rules, is that you have stable mood, youthfulness, and pretty skin, hair and nails.

Because when you lose your female hormones, it’s your body’s signal to begin dying. Who wants THAT? Not me.Here’s the good news. You don’t have to chase berries up the Himalayan mountains to get a variety of these compounds in your diet. These are found in virtually every vegetable, fruit, seed, legume, and grain.

Shocker! It’s the diet I teach. All paths lead to Rome on this blog, don’t they? It’s not an agenda of mine—it’s science. It’s like shootin’ fish in a barrel, to prove to you why you should EAT MORE PLANTS. The reasons are so many, to shift to this kind of diet, I can hardly enumerate them!A simple progression in a year of transition, and you, too, could be eating the most disease-preventative diet possible. While living in the “real world,” traveling, going to parties, and having a normal social life. It’s possible. I do it.

Tomorrow we talk a little about specifics of estrogen and progesterone.

There’s more you have to know about hormones.

Being estrogen dominant causes stroke, heart attack, cancer (especially of the reproductive organs), and osteoporosis, to name a few.

We need estrogen dominance in the first week of our 28-day cycle. Estrogen prepares a woman for conception, and it promotes rapid cell growth. It has its function, but when it’s excessive all month long, you can imagine how it fuels cancer growth. It also activates a cancer-stimulating gene called Bcl-2. (Progesterone, though, down-regulates that same gene).

Then progesterone should become dominant during the last two weeks of our cycle, to protect pregnancy. When we don’t have enough progesterone, we get PMS symptoms. Women who balance their estrogen appropriately with bioidentical creams find that their PMS symptoms abate.

Mine completely, totally disappeared years ago, and I used to have moderate to severe symptoms: big mood swings, a lot of crying and general hatefulness towards people I actually love, cramps that required drugs. All gone for many years now.Women who have too much estrogen are often prescribed synthetic hormones. And that’s the vast majority of women over 40 these days, who are estrogen dominant. A significant percentage of women under 40 are, too. (Birth control hormone virtually guarantees estrogen dominance!)

They think they are balancing their hormones, with drugs. They’re not. You cannot balance your hormones with drugs.Fact is, the hormones are SIMILAR to the natural hormone produced in the body, but not the same. Testosterone andprogesterone, molecularly, are very, very similar. You know they’re very different in their function, don’t you? You’d have to stare at a picture of both of them, to ascertain the tiny difference in the oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen atoms. My point is, a small molecular difference is a very big deal!

And Provera, the synthetic “progesterone”-like drug prescribed to bring progesterone into balance? It’s far more dissimilar, molecularly, from natural progesterone than natural testosterone is!For 20 years, doctors prescribed women synthetic estrogen for menopause symptoms—with no progesterone for the “check and balance”—and then discovered massive rates of endometrial cancer. Women with low progesterone have a 540 percent higher incidence of cancer than women with normal progesterone levels, according to a Johns Hopkins study in the 1980’s.

The Women’s Health Initiative studied 16,000 women receiving Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT, or synthetic, hormone-similar drugs) from 1997 to 2005. However, in 2002 the study was stopped, because the women were experiencing so many life-threatening side effects.

No bioidentical hormones were used in the study. Only Premarin, an estrogen so named because it is made from PREgnant MAres’ uRINe, and the highly dangerous Provera, a progestin, or drug that is similar to, but different than, natural progesterone.

Another huge study published in JAMA in 2000, followed 46,000 women prescribed Premarin and Provera and discovered that if they use HRT for five years, their breast cancer rate was 40 percent higher than women not using HRT!

At this point, in my opinion, prescribing these drugs equates to malpractice. But have they been taken off the market? Of course not. They are still the most common form of HRT prescribed today, in combination!
It’s easy and inexpensive to use natural “bioidentical” hormone, which simply means that it is molecularly identical to the hormone produced in the body.

pills and moneySo why don’t more people use it? Because who would profit by promoting it? Suzanne Somers does, and brave pioneering M.D.’s like Jonathan Wright and John R. Lee do. They are more interested in the truth than in blindly furthering drug companies’ agenda. (Only altered molecules can be patented. Only patented substances can earn billions of dollars. Bioidentical substances are very inexpensive and since they are natural, unpatentable. So if you’re Big Pharma—which do you market to doctors?)

And a number of docs and practitioners who sponsor my lectures “get it.” More docs know the research, which proves that using bioidentical hormone PREVENTS cancer, and using synthetic facsimiles CAUSE cancer. Still, most don’t. Most continue to prescribe synthetic drugs well documented to cause cancer and a host of other problems in tens of thousands of women.

So how do you get on bioidentical hormone? The self-dosing method that many women use, which is very unscientific of course, is to take dessicated animal hormones, such as thyroid, you can get at a health food store. These are natural supplements, and as such, are unregulated. (There are measures being actively legislated that would take our access to natural supplements away except as prescribed by M.D.’s. Europeans have already lost many of their rights to, for instance, higher-dose vitamin supplements.)

I recommend if you can afford it, however, you get a full blood panel and have a bioidentical specialist interpret it and get a compounding pharmacy to make your prescription supplements. Google “bioidentical hormone” and your state. Some practitioners are nurse practitioners, others N.D.’s, M.D.’s, even chiropractors with additional training.

Law requires your practitioner to get your blood tested every six months to make sure your hormones are at appropriate levels. Unfortunately most insurance companies do not cover the full blood panel for a holistic practitioner—or much of anything that practitioner does, actually. My practitioner doesn’t do the FULL panel ($400-$500) each time; she may just look at T3 for thyroid or anything we are concerned about.

You may be able to get an M.D. to prescribe the blood panel, so your insurance company will pay for it, but a bioidentical specialist should work with you.

(Incidentally, under President Obama’s health care reform, our ability to get bioidentical hormone through non-M.D. practitioners, and compounding pharmacies, is in serious jeopardy within a year or two. You can imagine that drug companies are threatened by the increasing competition from inexpensive, natural bioidenticals. They have exerted their influence over our policymakers.)

Find a bioidentical hormone clinic where you live (run by M.D.’s occasionally, but also nurse practitioners who can prescribe, or sometimes physicians’ assistants, chiropractors–who cannot prescribe–and other practitioners). Google it, or ask around.

In Utah Valley, the ones I know are Francine Opfar Weiss (Utah Health and Wellness Center) and Catherine Kipp (Utah Valley Wellness Center). They are both nurse practitioners with master’s degrees.

If you use a bioidentical hormone clinic you want to recommend, wherever you live, please feel free to comment here. One of my goals on GreenSmoothieGirl.com in the future is to have a forum or resource to post and review your recommendations for holistic practitioners.

By the way, I use a natural, bioidentical form of progesterone cream. I also take bioidentical thyroid, as I was exposed to massive radiation, having been a cow’s-milk-fed infant downwind of the Nevada Test Site, where the grass cows ate had 5,000 times the radioactive fallout deemed safe by our government. Many Utahns have sued the federal government and won damages for their medical treatment. I haven’t developed thyroid cancer, so I have no place in the settlement, even though I am thyroid suppressed. I’m doing very well thanks to an education, careful monitoring, and an excellent thyroid-supporting diet.

Suzanne Somers believes bioidentical hormones saved her life, now well over a decade past her cancer diagnosis. I, too, believe they play an important role in my health. I often use kelp tablets, naturally high in iodine and inexpensive to buy, or Nascent Iodine or Lugol’s solution, to help my body utilize thyroid hormone. I also use natural progesterone cream applied to the skin, and a bioidentical thyroid, made for me at a compounding pharmacy.

Again, this blog series is not intended as medical advice, and my own actions may be different than what you need. Like many if not most women, I am estrogen-dominant, and natural progesterone balances me very effectively.