"Treat the disease, you win some, you lose some. Treat the patient, you always win."
~Patch Adams~

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Be honest, we've all done this-------

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Balanced Living 2011 Annual

I'm a big fan of Dr. Andrew Weil. Just noticed on his Pinterest site that the Balanced Living Annual (all 12 of his 2011 newsletters) is available free on his site. Check it out! If you are on Pinterest (I am sooooo addicted to that site!), Dr. Weil can be accessed here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Vitamin D Deficiency May Affect Trauma Patients

It's a beautiful, sunny (but cold) day here in NC, so it's time for an article on Vitamin D. This post from NaturalStandard.com discusses a study in which a signifcant majority of trauma patients were found to have either deficient/insufficient levels of Vitamin D. As someone who ended up in a trauma center 20 years ago because of a severe car crash, this article hit a nerve---I will guarantee you that I was deficient in Vitamin D. I was not eating at all healthy at the time, did not take supplements, and lived in the Northeast (where we rarely saw the sun from October to March!). I shudder to think of how bad my Vitamin D level likely was. Remember if you are taking Vitamin D supplementation to take Vitamin D3-----and it's important to take a good quality vitamin. I use OrthoMolecular brand (I take 5000 IUs daily----check with your doctor).

Friday, February 24, 2012

20 Instructions for Life by The Dalai Lama

Hi everyone, I will get back to a "hormone" post over the weekend, but I'm kind of emotionally drained today-----just got back from a funeral. It was for the husband of one of my friends, he died at the age of 64 from frontal temporal dementia------a terrible, terrible disease. A lovely service for a very accomplished man----------he was a champion engine building in NASCAR (auto racing) in the 70's and 80's. I ran across this article from Mind, Body Green blog ----- it's instructions for life from the Dalai Lama. Enjoy, hug those you love, and I'll be back over the weekend.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

You could die of a broken heart, doctors say

Since we are nearing the end of Women's Heart Health Month (you have been making an effort to wear red this month, right?) I thought I would share this article with you from The Chicago Tribune. The topic is cardiomyopathy, or what is being referred to in the media as "broken heart syndrome". I think by now we know that stress and emotions can affect physical health and the research on this condition bears that out. Note that a significant percentage of those affected by this problem are post menopausal women-----who have lower levels of estrogen, which has been shown to be heart protective.

I am suffering from spring fever, it's 74 degrees here today and it sooooooo smells like spring out! I've been hearing a number of people complaining about allergies (something that my bioidentical hormones, progesterone specifically, cured), and the daffodils are already in full bloom. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

Treating Depression: Is there a placebo effect?

If I had $1 for every patient who has told me that their doctor has prescribed antidepressants for their menopausal symptoms, I could afford to fly out and see my doctor every month (and fly first class). It makes me crazy, and one of my favourite sayings is "we have hormone deficiencies, not antidepressant deficiencies".

I was fascinated by last night's 60 Minutes Sunday segment on antidepressants and the placebo effect. I hope this is water cooler conversation in every doctor's office and health care concern in the US. We can do better to treat people with mild to moderate depression. Click here to read and/or view the story from last night.

If you are currently taking antidepressants, talk to your doctor. Don't EVER, EVER, EVER (that strong enough) stop taking antidepressants cold turkey ------ it's extremely dangerous.

Happy President's Day, everyone!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Atomoxetine drug may restore memory deficits in menopausal women

My apologies for the infrequency of my posting lately. The back problem (detailed in last Sunday's post) is better, it's just not getting better quickly enough! I'm still on the muscle relaxants on an as needed basis (seems like I need them most mornings, but down to a half pill so that's progress!) I'm working out in the pool, haven't started back with weights or my balance ball yet (the balance ball is scaring me a little). I can tell the core muscles have weakened some from inactivity (yeah, like a week pretty much in bed), and that's just a matter of slowly increasing my workouts to get back to square one. Sitting is still very difficult, which is why I'm not spending a lot of time at the computer. Once I get an IPad (new ones are out next month)--it will be easier for me to read articles and post from whatever position is most comfortable. I'm done whining now, thanks for listening.

This article from News-Medical.net is just one of many hitting the Internet this weekend; a research study done at the University of Pennsylvania concludes that Strattera (an attention deficit drug) seems alleviate some of the memory deficits and organizational issues that women encounter as their hormones decline in the peri/post menopausal transition.

Full disclosure, I took Concerta (the long acting form of Ritalin) for years before I got my hormones balanced. I have attention deficit disorder, and my experience was that the Concerta produced only minimal improvement in my cognitive skills (being ADD is enough of a challenge, being ADD and peri/menopausal is a nightmare!). Within two weeks of starting the progesterone cream, I was off the Concerta and my focus and cognition were at least twice as improved as on the medication.

I'm somewhat bothered by paragraph six of the article, where a doctor (Nanette Santoro) says that the idea of using Strattera for menopausal memory and organizational cognitive issues "poses little risk". Any drug has risks, and quite honestly, Strattera (and most if not all of the AD/HD drugs) have considerable risks and side effects. Check out this list of Strattera's side effects from WebMD--------the milder side effects include stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, constipation, fatigue, loss of appetite, headache, dry mouth, dizziness, trouble sleeping, menstrual cycle changes, mood changes. Read further and there are more serious possible side effects. I don't get it (well, yes, I do, mainstream medicine can't get the simple concept that bioidentical hormones are safer than toxic medications). I would far rather just replace the substances that are already in my body that have diminished with age than to fill my body with a handful of medications, all of which have side effects and many that conflict with each other. We don't have a Strattera deficiency, we have hormone deficiencies!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What a pain!

Hi everyone, I am back among the vertical (more or less). Sorry I wasn't able to post last week, I woke up during the night last Sunday/Monday with severe back pain......different than the back pain I experience on a daily basis from the long ago car accident. This pain was centered over my spine (so I was terrified I had disrupted another disc), and it was nearly impossible to turn in bed. Getting up Monday morning took almost 10 minutes, and getting a shower, dried and into a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt took nearly and hour (I am one of those people who refuses to stay in my jammies all day------).

Tried to deal with it with my meds, Motrin, and heat all day and through the night on Monday; Tuesday I conceded defeat and had one of my good friends take me to the nearest Emergency Room. The nurse who checked me in very stupidly started palpating my back (hard) before I was even into my gown, I have substantial sensitivity to touch on the right side of my spine on a good day, so he made a bad situation worse. Jackass.

The doctor who came in looked bored, but went through the usual questions (and interrupted half of my answers). I finally convinced him that I didn't do anything unusual to set the pain off, that it wasn't a urinary/bladder/kidney issue, and that if my pain management doctor had been in town (he was at a conference until mid week) that I would be there instead of the ER. The whole time I'm on the gurney (not an optimal place for someone with bad back pain), I'm wondering how in the hell I would tolerate an MRI, xrays, or a CT scan if that's what needed to be done.

Much to my relief, the doctor seemed to finally believe me that I was suffering from severe back spasms, and told me that he could give me a shot of Atavan and wait 30 minutes, if it relieved some of the pain, then we had a diagnosis. He would then give me some oral Valium (it's a muscle relaxant) and I could follow up with my pain management doctor. Thirty minutes later, with a shot of atavan in my hip, the pain had lessened by about 30% (which may not seem like much but really did make a difference). Got my prescription for about 3 days worth of Valium, and was out of there. Oh, yeah, out of the many reasons I did not want to go to the ER in the first place-----here in Charlotte we are having a substantial outbreak of the Noro Virus, which is causing bad gastrointestinal upset in whoever is unfortunate enough to catch it. The nursing homes are full of it, as are many of the schools. My friend Katie is the mom of 9 year old triplets, and I was in no shape to be throwing up for several days-------but my pain won out. Fortunately, I think we were the only ones in the ER at the time I got there, so we dodged a big bullet!

I've slept more in the last 7 days than I probably have since the first of the year (the bioidenticals help, but chronic pain screws up my sleep most nights) with the Valium, and so once I got home I was pretty much in bed period. I felt so lousy I didn't even knit or read, and I am here to tell you TV sucks. I listened to the radio some, threw in some DVD comedies (I love MASH) to pass the time. My friends were wonderful to bring me lunch, fix whatever I needed----I'm a very blessed puppy.

Dr. Hines (pain management) was back in the office on Thursday, so I got in to see him late that morning. By then, the pain had subsided a little, although I still wasn't able to bend forward more than about 20-30 degrees (I can usually put my hands down on the floor flat, that's how hypermobile I am). I'm still dreading that I am going to need some sort of xray/scan, etc, and since I was still in a considerable amount of pain, I was dreading the appointment. The minute Dr. Hines came in, I told him what exactly was going on, where the pain was, when it started, I hadn't done anything out of the ordinary, the pain was not neuropathic (burning pain, when it comes from the spine it often causes the burning pain in the legs), nor was it radiating. I've been Dr. Hines' patient for over seven years, and I love him to death----he is great about patient education, and he always makes sure patients understand it is their body and that they have choices. When I got done, Dr. Hines told me that "as long as the pain isn't radiating, and there's no neuropathic pain, we don't get excited. We feel bad for you, and we know you hurt, but we don't get excited because no burning and no radiating means it's likely not a disc." I was so relieved I couldn't stand it!!!!

We talked and he said that it was likely one of two things: either an acute flare up of the arthritis in my back that just went kind of nuts, or that an adhesion or scar tissue in my spine had worked loose and irritated something that just set of pain receptors. (The explanation he gave me was far more detailed---you are getting the condensed version). He then addressed the options I had for treatment, starting with doing exactly what I was doing, meds, heat and rest, with encouragement to get back in the pool as soon as I could to gently start moving my back and spine around to increase blood flow to the spine and to limber up, also to keep as much strength in my back as possible (I am all about core strength when I exercise because I know it helps my back). He offered me the option of five days of steroids to further reduce the inflammation (I declined----steroids make me very anxious and agitated---he was fully supportive). He talked to me about other options if this didn't get better or recurred, including pain injections and some other similar types of treatments if needed. He said he didn't need to do any diagnostic studies right now, we would cross that bridge if we came to it down the road. I was one happy and relieved puppy!

It's now Sunday and I am amazed at how much better I am doing. I rested the rest of Thursday, and then Friday I slowly loosened up and then made myself walk around the house as much as I could, with short laying down breaks in between. It was pretty funny, I had done two loads of laundry just before I got sick, and they were laying on the sofa in the small third bedroom (my catchall room). I used my "grabber" (one of those utensils you can use to pick stuff up off the floor when you can't bend over) to get a couple pieces of laundry, fold it, then take it to where it needed to be. Then I decided to clean up the dining room table (I had my glass pendant making supplies laid out all over), and again, did it very slowly. Saturday I usually have lunch with friends, so Karen came and picked me up (I started weaning down off the Valium on Saturday but she didn't want me to drive just yet) and I went to lunch----so much fun! We stopped at the Dollar Tree on the way home, I walked around for about 20 minutes, and did really well. It was very exciting. I rested most of the rest of the day (I fell asleep for almost an hour ----- all the excitement of the day). Today I went solo ------ drove myself to Walmart and poked around for about 30 minutes. I did fine, am still using my cane as sort of a back up, but hope to put it back in the closet for good within the next couple days.

Part of my reason for detailing this story is that I am so glad my health care providers made a diagnosis and gave me options for treatment without immediately sticking me under an xray machine or sliding me into an MRI tube. Aside from the discomfort factor, I have had so many radiologic testing procedures done over the last 20 years (since the accident) that I try to minimize my exposure whenever possible. Besides that, those procedures are very expensive, and although I am covered under Medicare (because of my disability), I think we all need to take personal responsibility to keep costs under control whenever possible. It was serendipitous that I read this article from KevinMD.com about a patient who had a diagnostic procedure done and is now paying dearly for it in the form of difficulty in getting insurance coverage. I thought the article was important to share with all of you because we are too often unaware of how such a seemingly innocuous diagnostic procedure gives the insurance companies ammunition to deny coverage to an otherwise healthy patient. This kind of crap from the health insurance companies drives me nuts.

I hope to be back with regular postings by tomorrow-----I'm keeping my schedule deliberately light this week so that I can ease back into the swing of things. The whole experience, while not something I care to repeat any time soon, did teach me a couple things: 1. I have amazing friends, 2. I am not going to take my mobility/independence for granted any time soon, 3. I sometimes fill my days too full just to prove to the world and to myself that despite my physical limitations I have a busy life----being forced to slow down (hell, I was just about stopped this week) made me see that sometimes it's ok to be home for most of the day and it's ok to just slow down when I need to.

Enjoy your week, everyone-----happy Valentines' Day! Let's not forget to wear red on Tuesday to remind everyone of heart health!!!!!!

Mmmmm, fruit!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Hi everyone, didn't want you to think I have forgotten you; I am dealing with severe back spasms this week that have me pretty much stuck in bed. This is the first I have been up at the computer in 4 days, and that's just to answer a request for hormone physician information. I hope to be back blogging by early next week. In the meantime, remember to wear red whenever possible to promote women's heart health, exercise (do some stretches for me----I haven't worked out at all this week), and enjoy your week. I'll be back soon!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Progesterone: The Oldest "New" Drug to Nearly Reach the Market

I've talked about this issue before, but this morning's Huffington Post has a very good article on how bioidentical progesterone has been used for years to prevent preterm delivery in pregnant women. Recently, the pharmaceutical companies have gotten involved, complicating matters and jacking the price of the treatment through the roof (don't even get me started on this!). It's good to know that there are doctors out there (besides mine!) who are willing to take the lead and prescribe what is best for their patients, not what is best to line the pockets of Big Pharma.

Go Red For Women 2012

Even my stuffed animals are wearing red today in honour of Women's Heart Health Month!

Do you know the signs/symptoms of a heart attack or stroke? They are different for women than they are for men. Check out this page from the American Heart Association----it could save the life of you or someone you love!

Thursday, February 2, 2012