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

Friday, May 25, 2012

What Is Adrenal Fatigue? What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?

A subject near and dear to my heart, because I struggle with adrenal fatigue. Fortunately, I have a doctor who takes it seriously and checks my cortisol levels regularly. 

Because I deal with a chronic pain issue from a car accident years ago, my body is always under stress.  Add to that that I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the accident (I'm much better than I was, but it's still there) and I am always somewhat on "high alert". An optimal cortisol level is under 10 (blood test), mine has been as high as 19.7.  It rose way high late last summer and early fall when I was involved in a bullying situation ------ I was kicked out of a knitting group and it was very hard to find out that people I thought were friends were just using me. 

I have to be very aware of my stress level, and one of the things I have found with my new iPad is that there are some great meditation apps ----- I'm using them, not as consistently as I need to, but it's progress.  I also take two supplements to help manage my cortisol levels.  Ortho Molecular makes AdreneVive:

 and I take two capsules every morning. 

At night, about an hour before bedtime, I take one Cortisol Manager (it's manufactured by Integrative Theraputics) tablet, and in times of high stress or high pain level, I take two Cortisol Manager tablets.

Just had my cortisol level checked again when I went to see Dr. Carr last week.  Last September (in the midst of a lot of turmoil) my cortisol level was 19.7.  Had it checked again in December, and managed to get it down to 17.5.  Last week it was down to 14.6, so I am making progress! My goal now is to get it under 10, and I will feel very accomplished when I do.  The biggest effect I feel from the decreased level is less craving for salty/sweet foods, which of course helps the bottom line weight wise.  I also feel more energetic in the mornings when my levels are better controlled. 

Check out this article from Medical News Today.com.  It gives a pretty good overview of what adrenal fatigue is, how to lower your levels, and the controversy surrounding it.  Many "mainstream" practitioners do not acknowledge that it exists (which is surprising as cortisol levels can be checked with a blood test or a saliva test, so there is definitive evidence that it exists), but it is gaining wider acceptance and that's a good thing.

Have a great weekend everyone! Don't forget, especially if the weather is getting hot where you are (like here in the Southeast) that you need to take extra care to stay hydrated. I feel like I am still catching up on my hydration after flying across the country Monday......I'm still sucking down water like crazy! 

I think this applies to every middle aged woman on the planet......


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Calcium supplements may raise heart attack risk


I have never regularly taken calcium supplements.  I think I took them halfheartedly for about a year back about 10 years ago, but they caused bloating and so I stopped.  Just before I had my hormones balanced in late 2006, I had a bone density study (DEXA) that showed I had mild osteopenia.  Now, at that time I weighed nearly 300 pounds, never exercised, and could barely get up off the couch.  I had been taking Vitamin D for several years by then, but was not optimizing the levels as well as I am now. 

Fast forward 3 years, I had a repeat DEXA scan done in 2009.  The results were astonishing to both me and my physicians, not only did I no longer have osteopenia, but my bone density was comfortably in the normal range.  That's a huge improvement.  Dr. Carr, Dr. Hines and I attribute the improvement to bioidentical hormone optimization, particularly testosterone, Vitamin D optimization (Dr. Carr's optimal levels for his patients are between 70-100 ng/ml) and regular exercise with weights.  They don't even have to be heavy weights, I use light weights at home for upper body strength, and because of my back I can't lift free weights heavier than about 5-7 pounds. On the weight machines I am able to do between 20-40 pounds on most of the machines.  Obviously it is possible to improve bone health without using calcium supplements (and I must add that I do not get a lot of calcium from food, I don't do a lot of dairy outside a cup of low fat yogurt each day). 

Check out this article from USAToday.com about the increased risk of heart attacks in those who are taking calcium supplements.  The increased risk is pretty substantial.  As always, be sure to check with your health care provider before making any changes to your supplements regimen. 

I'll be back over the weekend, but just want to wish everyone a happy, healthy and safe Memorial Day weekend!  It's the unofficial start of summer, and I plan to celebrate by swimming outside!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A wasted decade: How one HRT scare has 'caused thousands of women 10 years of needless suffering'

This article from The Daily Mail.com is from Great Britain (and yes, that is me commenting at the bottom of the article, if you have time, read some of the comments, pretty interesting!)  but the message is universal. Thousands of women, in the US, Great Britain and everywhere, have needlessly suffered because of the very flawed findings of the Women's Health Initiative Study of 2002. 

I won't list all of the problems with the study here, but two of the most glaring problems are the age of the participcants in the study, mostly in their 60's and far past menopause, and the study used Premarin and Prempro, which, as you likely know by now, are NOT bioidentical hormones, they are drugs. Premarin is made from the urine of pregnant mares (and they are horribly abused to get the urine). 

Bioidentical hormone balance is an entirely different issue, far safer and merely replacing in the body what is lost as we age.  I so often hear the "oh, but estrogen causes cancer" arguement.  No, it doesn't.  If it did, teenage girls, who are full of estrogen (as many of you know who still have drama queen teenagers in your house) would be full of cancer, and they aren't.  If cancer is present in the body, estrogen can stimulate the cells and cause growth, which is why it is important to get regular mammograms to be sure you are cancer free if you are on estrogen. 

Despite all the newer evidence and studies, so  many doctors are still telling their patients that "a hormone is a hormone" and I am sorry, but that simply is not true.  So often the statement is made out of ignorance, if the doctor didn't learn it in medical school 30 years ago, then it isn't worth knowing.  One of the things I most admire about bioidentical hormone specialists is their willingness to think outside the box and understand that old research is just that, old research.  We already know that Premarin and Prempro have caused problems for many women (some who have sued Pfizer Pharmaceuticals for millions of dollars in damages) and yet too many doctors are still prescribing it, which frustrates me and many others.  There are safer, more effective options out there, and if your health care provider is not willing to discuss them with you, or blows you off, then it is likely time to find another practitioner.  If your doctor says "I don't know much about it, but if you want to explore bioidentical hormones and I'll help you find someone who is an expert"------give him or her a hug for admitting that it's not his/her field of expertise and caring enough about you to help you get the care you need!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Free Kindle Book!

Hi, everyone, I'm so busy (and having so much fun!) on vacation I've had no time to blog, but I wanted you to be aware of a (for right now, anyway) free book from Amazon.com for your Kindle. Here's the link, but be sure to check and see if it's still free when you download it, often the price jumps back up quickly. It's called Mentalpause and other Midlife Laughs. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Mentalpause-Other-Midlife-Laughs-ebook/dp/B007764OZW/ref=zg_bs_154606011_18

I'm going to try to post over the next couple days......I haven't forgotten you! Seeing Dr. Carr on Friday, combining my trip to see him with a bit of vacation fun. Enjoy the rest of your week!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Having a 'Purpose in Life' May Help Shield You From Dementia

What is your purpose in life? 

Surprised by the question? Did it make you think (that's what I am aiming for!)  I was fascinated by this article in US News Health.com about research being done on what effect a purposeful life has on the development of and management of Alzheimer's Disease and dementia. 

I think every peri/menopausal woman has wondered at some point in the last few years if she is developing early onset dementia, Alzheimer's, or some other form of cognitive problems. So many doctors just blow off our concerns as "normal part of aging", but in reality it's due to hormonal imbalances.  Bioidentically balancing our hormones helps tremendously!  Our concerns are also raised when we watch parents, older siblings, or friends struggle with memory problems, in my own case, a friend's husband developed frontal temporal dementia about 4 years ago, and passed away at the age of 64 this past winter.  It was heartbreaking to see him decline, and his illness took a huge toll on his family, particularly his wife.  The only upside was that it was a constant reminder to me to keep my brain active and engaged. 

So back to my original question..............what is your purpose in life?  Mine?  Three and a half years ago, when Suzanne Somers appeared twice in two weeks on the Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about biodientcal hormones, she "stirred the pot" and made a lot of women aware that they had other options to deal with menopause than just accept whatever antidepressant or synthetic hormones their doctors were routinely handing out.  I admire her courage in bringing this issue to the attention of so many women, but when I went on the Oprah discussion boards, women had all sorts of questions, and were angry because they were led to believe that only women of wealth could afford this protocol.  That's just not true.  I am blessed to have a doctor who believes bioidentical hormone balance should be available to patients of modest means, and I wanted to "give back" by helping women find hormonal care in their geographic area.  I started this blog as a result.  Some days it's heartbreaking to hear how women are getting screwed over by their healthcare professionals, some days I am frustrated when I get angry emails about how rich people like me can afford medical care but they can't (what a joke that is, I budget hugely carefully and give up a lot of extras to afford my hormonal care), but for the most part, this is one of the most gratifying things I have ever done in my life.  I have helped about 2500 women find hormonal care over the last 3 1/2 years......it's a drop in the bucket and we have a long way to go , but it's a start. 

My other purposes in life?  I'm a good friend to people, and although I went through a rough patch last year with a bullying situation, it ultimately strengthened my real friendships and taught me valuable lessons about people who just are out to use others (guess that's their purpose in life, which is sad, but fortunately they are no longer part of my life).  I'm very creative, I find great purpose in creating with my hands.  Beading, knitting, a little papercraft, much of what I make I give as gifts and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction. 

I take my quest to get as healthy as possible very seriously and my daily workouts are purposeful.  I almost died in a car accident 20 years ago, and although for many years after that I wasn't taking as good care of myself as I should have been, I now have a healthcare team that believes in me and makes me want to do better. I do because I can. 

Next week, my purpose is to enjoy myself on a few days vacation in CA, combined with a visit to Dr. Carr (my hormone doctor).  If I don't post much next week, you'll know why, I can post with my iPad but I'm not too good at it yet, so be patient with me. Wishing you all a Happy Mother's Day weekend (Mom's rock-----I still miss mine!)

Gaming our brains

Memory problems (brain fog) is about the fourth most common complaint I hear from menopausal women (behind hot flashes, sleep disruption and weight gain).  The decrease in estrogen as we age is know to cause some cognitive issues, for some women it is far more bothersome than others.  My hair stylist and I were talking today, she is peri/menopausal and said that life has become a game of charades......"where is that, what's it called, you know, I read it............yeah, book, couldn't think of the word."  I nodded my head in agreement, that's exactly what I went through and while I was going through that I was in graduate school so I was under a huge amount of stress.  Inability to recall words is annoying, and can be frightening because you wonder if you are in the early stages of dementia. 

Do any of you do brain exercises on your computer, iPad, or smart phone?  I don't do the "brain games" per se, but I have Sudoku on my iPad, and I have a couple of Sudoku books laying around the house.  I keep my brain busy in other ways (like reading articles for this blog and my personal blog over at Needle Notes), I knit and follow charted patterns to make lace shawls (and believe me when I tell you that is sometimes a HUGE challenge), I keep up on current events, and most importantly, I take bioidentical hormones to keep my brain in top shape. 

I know the brain games industry was alive and well, but I didn't know it was such a big multi-million dollar industry.  Check out this interesting article from USAToday.com.  I'm going to check out a few of these sites soon, I'll let you know what I find out!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Just a little silliness on a Monday!


7 Medical Tests and Treatments You May Not Really Need

Good morning everyone! Just got back from the pool........workout was with one of my favourite instructors.

I got my newsletter from AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) on Saturday and while I was browsing it on Sunday, I noticed a really good article about medical tests that you may not need. I am all about everyone taking some personal responsibility to keep health care costs down, and so I read the article with great interest. 

In my own case, I had a bone density scan in 2006, just before I started the bioidentical hormone protocol.  It showed that I had a mild case of osteopenia, not surprising since I didn't take supplements, ate junk food, and although I was doing some exercise, it was mostly in the pool, not weight training.  Started the hormones in late 2006, started doing regular weight training, and also optimizing my Vitamin D level (I take 5000 IUs daily).  I do not now, nor have I ever taken calcium.  I had a repeat scan 3 years later (summer 2009) and it showed that not only do I no longer have osteopenia, but that my bones are comfortably in the normal range for density.  I was thrilled, so were both of my doctors (hormone doctor and pain management doctor----I have a messed up back and hip from a long ago car accident).  I asked Dr. Carr last winter if I needed to have another scan, and he said no------that because I am still doing all the things I do to keep my bones strong it would be a waste of money and unnecessary exposure to radiation (something I don't need, the number of x-rays/scans/MRI's I've had in the last 20 years because of the accident injuries is significant). 

I think slowly the trend toward not exposing patients to unnecessary tests is catching on.  I woke up during the night early last February with excruciating pain over my spine, higher up on my back than my "normal" pain.  I tried to tough it out until my pain management doctor got back from his conference, but by the second day I had to have someone take me to the ER.  The doctor there was kind of a jackass, but at least he was willing to give me a shot of a muscle relaxant to see if it would help before shoving me in an MRI tube (for which I was very grateful, I was in so much pain laying on one of those tables for a half hour would have been next to impossible!)  The muscle relaxant did help, enough for me to hang in until I could get to my own doctor later in the week.  As it was, that little trip to the ER, half hour total, one shot, was $963! 

Check out the article, and as always, talk to your doctor about what tests are right for you and your particular health issues.  Enjoy your day!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Better Sleep Through Meditation: 4 Techniques To Try Tonight

I'm a big fan of meditation, it has helped me with sleep, with pain and with stress managment.  One of the things I love about my new iPad is that it has a bunch of meditation apps on it, and I have also found (and shared with you on the blog) a couple great YouTube videos on meditation and deep breathing. 

This is not a new article from the health section of The Huffington Post.com, but it's concise and has some very good information for those of you who are struggling with sleep (behind hot flashes, disrupted sleep is the most common peri/menopausal difficulty I hear about from women.....I can empathize, I've been there!)  I use guided imagery some nights to help me get to sleep, other nights I like a program that plays sounds of nature, I love the sound of gentle rain (something we need a bit more of in Charlotte right now----we're in a mild drought situation). 

Wishing you all a great night's sleep, tonight and every night!  Oh, and if you are wondering, I take 3 mg of melatonin every night (over the counter supplement, works well, better than any sleeping med I used to take), and I also take a Cortisol Manager every night. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Low Testosterone Linked to Diabetes Risk in Men

Good morning----Happy Cinco de Mayo and Happy Kentucky Derby Day (always reminds me of my comeback when someone tells me Premarin/Prempro are "natural hormones"---I say "only if your address is Churchill Downs!)  Hope everyone has a good start to their weekend.  Very hot here this week, temperatures about 10 degrees above normal.  The upside of that is that it will warm the subdivision swimming pool (just refilled) quickly.

We know that it's  not just women that suffer hormonal deficiencies as they age, men's menopause is called andropause.  A lot of media hype lately about male hormone replacement being all about better results in the gym, and better results in the bedroom (stronger and longer lasting erections).  However, there is far more to it than that, one of the obvious benefits is improved cardiac functioning; remember, the heart is a muscle. 

LiveScience.com presents an article this morning about another benefit (and it's a big one) to testosterone optimization-----lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.  As I am sure you all know, diabetes risk increases with age and weight gain, and can have devastating, debilitating effects on quality of life.  Diabetes is one of the most expensive health conditions known, and is a strain on the health care system (or as I prefer to call it, the disease care system).  I am so hopeful of the day that mainstream medicine will "get it" that preventing disease is a far more efficient and cost effective way to manage care than to wait until a disease is a major concern before treatment. Bioidentical hormone optimization would be a huge step in the right direction................

With this hot weather (in at least some parts of the country) be sure to stay hydrated, I know some of you skip drinking a lot of water to cut down on trips to the bathroom.  No.  That's what bathrooms are for.  Many of you who are regular readers of the blog have already heard this, but it bears repeating.....you want to drink enough so that your urine is as clear as possible.  The more yellow the colour, the more you are dehydrated. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sleep lessens the effect genes have on weight

It's long been known that a lack of sleep is related to weight issues, whether it's that you are chronically fatigued and tend to eat more fattening foods (been there, even now if I have a bout of poor sleep I crave carbs, cookies in particular), or that you are too tired to exercise.  Now there is evidence that the better you sleep, the less effect your genetics have on your weight.  Very interesting, and could be an important tool in society's effort (and medicine's) to slim down the population.  Good sleep has a beneficial effect on the body in so many ways!  Check out this article from USAToday.com.

Check out this article from the National Sleep Foundation (yes, there is such a thing) on good sleep hygiene.  Wishing you a good night's sleep tonight and every night!