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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A New Year Resolution for EVERYONE!

I am not big on New Year's resolutions ----- as most of you already know, they are generally broken by mid-February, and then when you break them, you feel so bad you do something unhealthy. For me, it would be stuffing my face with a half box of Oreos just because I fell off my "diet"-----I've been eating too emotionally in 2012, and I am now refocusing on eating healthy and asking myself before I put something in my mouth am I really hungry? Or, am I tired, in pain, bored, angry?

However, I have one New Year's project/resolution that absolutely every one of you can keep. Before next Tuesday, sit down at your computer and compile (or update) your health history. Include:
  • Name, full address, and telephone number
  • Surgical history (for me this is a big one---I had 15 surgeries post accident and there is no way I could remember them all without a written list)
  • Current medications (name, dose, frequency)
  • All bioidentical hormones (names, dosages)
  • Supplements/Vitamins (complete list, this is important especially if you see more than one doctor)
  • Names, specialty, and phone number of every doctor who is treating you
  • Emergency contacts
I updated my list this morning, and I always keep a copy in my purse. I also make sure any physician that treats me has an updated copy of the list (trust me, doctors love it when a patient does this!), and I give a copy to any new physician that treats me.  I have also given a copy to the three friends listed as emergency contacts. 

Don't make excuses, don't put it off-----DO IT! And have a happy, healthy, peaceful 2013!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Take 2 minutes to try one of these stress-busters

I am guessing that most of you are experiencing some stress right now because the Christmas holiday is fast approaching.  I know I am, I don't celebrate Christmas and the commercials, the incessant holiday music, and the fake gaiety are annoying me.  It's a yearly thing, some years I cope with it better than others----this year I am about in the middle.  I generally have the biggest smile on my face on January 2!  I definitely have to be aware of stress eating this time of year (I'm not very good at it right now, I'll be honest) and I try to keep to a fitness routine as much as possible.  The Y is not holding water classes on Monday or Wednesday (and obviously are closed Tuesday) but I can go and do a weight workout, or walk, or work out at home with my light free weights. 

I came across this article from Today (NBC) Health on some tips to help you cope with not just holiday stress, but whatever stresses you at any point in the year.  I know I need to focus on my breathing more this time of year, just doing that often breaks the pattern of negative thoughts long enough to reduce my stress levels.  I've already mentioned exercise, and I have about 7 amaryllis bulbs planted in pots that I am nurturing----I didn't think about it at the time I planted them, but watching them grow has helped to relieve the stress of short winter days and long nights. 

Have a great weekend, for those of you travelling, stay safe.  I know the Northeast is getting some stormy weather today, here in the Carolinas it's just cold and windy.  No significant precipitation expected through at least Christmas Day, which is good for those out on the roads. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I don't know about you, but I need to commit this to memory and repeat it at least daily!

Menopause quality of life unchanged by soy supplements

I've never taken soy supplements because bioidentical hormones cured my hot flashes (progesterone specifically).  However, I know a lot of women have used soy, either in supplements, or by adding it to food, to help with hot flashes. 

Check out this article from Reuters.  A two year study conducted at the Oregon Health and Science University concluded that the quality of life reported by women taking soy supplements vs. women taking placebos was about the same. 

A couple of quick points about the article:

  • Wow, the women in this study took either the supplements or the placebos 3 times a day for 2 years?  God bless them, I'm doing well to remember to take my vitamins once a day!  I have to wonder what the overall compliance rate on three times a day was.

  • I'm curious about the line in the article that says the study "set out to look at the effects of soy extracts on bone health, and did not recruit women specifically with hot flash or quality of life concerns in mind".  However, the article doesn't mention any of these women having DEXA (bone density) tests done at any time.  Bone health is measured by the T scores on a bone density test, not by a quality of life survey. 

Speaking of bone health, you are all taking your Vitamin D, aren't you?  The sun, even when it is out, is very weak this time of year so we need to be taking Vitamin D3 supplements if our levels are not optimal.  If your doctor tells you that your levels are "normal" (big difference between normal and optimal), be wary.  By the way, always ask for a copy of any bloodwork you have done and keep a file.  If your doctor tells you you don't need a Vitamin D test, pitch a fit, insist on being tested, or find another doctor! 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

ADHD and Bioidentical Hormones!

Hi everyone, hope you are enjoying a good second half of your weekend.  Here in NC, it's in the mid 60's temperature wise, so when I finish this post I am heading out the door for a fitness walk with my Nordic walking poles. 

I've gotten several inquires via Facebook and my email about how bioidentical hormones affects ADD/ADHD.  It's a topic I am quite familiar with, as I was formally diagnosed with ADD when I was in my late 30's.  I already knew I had it; I have two Master's Degrees in education, and through the psychology courses I had taken knew I had many of the classic symptoms.  Ritalin use was at that time just becoming widespread, and it was thought that children outgrew the symptoms as they matured.  We know now that although an adult may (or may not) be better at coping with the symptoms of ADD, it is not something you simply outgrow.  At least I had some insight into some of my childhood difficulties; I was a huge daydreamer, very easily distracted and hugely disorganized, but I attributed it to an exacting, verbally abusive father who had me living on pins and needles at all times.  My mom used to send me upstairs to get something for her, and more than half the time I used to come back downstairs and ask what it was she wanted me to get.  I'm very intelligent but was only a mediocre student until I got to high school courses I was interested in, and I excelled in graduate school.  I was very disorganized, and a first class procrastinator. 

In my education courses, we learned quite a bit about helping students cope with ADD issues, and I was able to put many of those coping skills to use in my own life.  For those of you who are wondering what some of the signs/symptoms of ADD/ADHD include, here is a list from WebMD.  Numbers 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 used to describe me to a "T".  I never married, so #3 was never tested, and #8 does not apply to me at all.  I am chronically early because I am such a people pleaser. 

I resisted taking medication (Ritalin was the drug of choice when I was in my 20's) for the condition, partly because I had a doctor who didn't believe in ADD and thought it was a bogus diagnosis. I struggled, but worked hard to compensate for the problems the ADD caused, and I was for the most part able to manage the symptoms.  Remember, this is back before Internet, smart phones to send reminders, etc-----I relied on a lot of lists, almost to the point of absurdity.   When I was 33, I was in a horrific car accident that has been detailed elsewhere here on the blog.  Between the medications, anesthesia, surgeries (I ultimately had 15 orthopedic surgeries to get put back together), stress (I became medically permanently disabled and so lost my teaching career) my coping skills went out the window. I was also deeply depressed and the medications I was taking for that were adding to my lack of ability to cope with much of anything.  Here is a very partial list of side effects for antidepressants,  the restlessness, anxiety and headaches just added to the ADD issues.

I was in therapy with a psychologist by the mid 90's and he was the one that diagnosed my ADD officially. Much more was known about the condition by then, and I was so desperate that I agreed to go on Ritalin.  It did help a little; I felt like I was able to concentrate a little more, and I made a herculean effort to get more organized in every aspect of my life.  Once Concerta became available (the long acting time release form of Ritalin) I went on that, as the Ritalin for me was only effective for about two hours at a time, then I could feel its effects wear off.  The Concerta caused my already poor sleep to become very poor sleep, the medication seemed to stay in my body longer than it did for most people.  By 2002 I had a partial hysterectomy, which accelerated my peri/menopause changes.  Add the brain fog, distractibility and lack of sleep (all common peri/menopausal symptoms) to an already addled ADD brain, and it's a very special kind of hell.  My whole life consisted of just trying to get out of my own way, I was exhausted, frustrated, scared and very unhappy. 

I started the bioidentical hormone protocol in September 2006.  Dr. Carr started me just on progesterone at first, so that we could make sure I could tolerate the hormones well, and if anything was causing unwanted effects we knew what was causing it (bioidentical hormone optimization is as much art as science).  I use progesterone cream (prescription strength) and started with it 3 times a day.  Within 10 days I knew something was happening------and it felt amazing.  First of all, I had far more energy than I had had in years, and with more energy I was more motivated to really work on coping with the ADD.  Secondly, I all of a sudden realized I was reading more, which meant I had more concentration!  As someone who is a huge book lover and has an insatiable curiosity about the world, this just blew me away.  I spoke with Dr. Carr about 3 weeks after I had started the progesterone, and I so clearly remember him saying to me "you even sound more focused on the phone!"  I asked him about discontinuing the Concerta, and over about 4-6 weeks, we worked together to wean me off the Concerta.  Never, and I mean never, go cold turkey off a drug, and ditto, never, never wean off a drug without talking to your healthcare provider.  Ever

It's now been more than 6 years since I have taken any form of ADD drugs, and I have never looked back.  I am also off 5 other medications (including all antidepressants) and I know just not having all those toxic substances in my body also help to clear my mind and be of additional help in managing my condition.  Let me be clear, progesterone does not "cure" someone of ADD/ADHD, but it gets to the underlying cause of the disease (thought to be an overproduction of adrenaline, which is reduced by the hormone balance) and makes it far easier to cope with. 

Do I still exhibit symptoms? Sure!  I'm still somewhat of a daydreamer, I have to make an extra effort to prioritize and not procrastinate, and I often tell people when I first meet them that if I break eye contact with them, I'm not being rude, it's how I focus/refocus.  I'm very aware of it, and I work on it all the time.  My knitting friends will tell you my most obvious manifestation is that I have at least 4 knitting projects going all the time (right now it's a man's sweater, a pair of bed socks, two shawls, and a scarf-----sigh), and I have tried nearly every craft imaginable at one time or another in my life.  I usually am reading two different books at once, one fiction and another non fiction, if I didn't consciously control myself, I'd have 10 different books laying around the house half read.  I've edited and reeditied this post at least a half dozen times trying to stay on message. 

Are there gifts that come with this condition?  Absolutely.  I am very creative, have a very quick mind (and a mouth to match, that's not always a good thing but it's who I am), I have as I have aged become a better multitasker.  I've been known to hyperfocus, sometimes that's good when something needs to get done and have my undivided attention, sometimes it's a curse.  Most of us with ADD/ADHD have above average intelligence, that's not bragging, that's just fact. 

If you suspect you may be ADHD/ADD, please see and talk to your doctor.  If your doctor dismisses you, find one who will take you seriously.  There are a number of books on the market on ADD/ADHD in adults, I just downloaded Your Life Can Be Better by Douglas Puryear---- I will let you know after I have read it what I think (it's available for the Kindle/Kindle app right now for $1.99)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hot flashes may return after ending antidepressant

Long time readers of this blog will know that I have ranted more than once about the all too common use of antidepressants for hot flashes, but I know some of you are fairly recent (welcome!) readers. 

I was grinding my teeth this morning reading this article from Reuters/Modern Medicine.  Before I met Dr. Carr and got my hormones bioidentically balanced, I was on Lexapro, which was the most recent in a long line of the antidepressants I had been on for at least 12 years.  The Lexapro didn't do a damn thing for my hot flashes, if anything, it made them worse.  Most women that I have talked to that have taken antidepressants for hot flashes have had similar experience---the drug helped little if at all.  Lexapro, like all antidepressants (like all drugs period) has a  myriad of side effects, check out this page from Web MD that lists the side effects.  I was shaking my head when I read the list----some of the most common and troubling symptoms of peri/menopause are fatigue, excessive sweating, trouble sleeping, and loss of libido.    Every one of those problems is a side effect of Lexapro, if I can figure that out, why can't most doctors?????  Not mentioned on the WebMD list, but known to be a side effect of antidepressants is brain fog (and oh, my, did I ever have that---sometimes I wonder how I ever functioned.)

It's just common sense that once you stop the antidepressants, your hot flashes will return.  Bottom line, taking antidepressants for hot flashes is just putting a band aid (and not a very effective one at that) on the problem.  Women have hot flashes during peri/menopause because they have a hormone deficiency, NOT a deficiency of antidepressants!  If you go to your physician with hot flashes, and he/she immediately whips out the prescription pad and gives you antidepressants to get you out of the office, think long and hard about the toxicity of the drug, the side effects, and perhaps look at finding a doctor who is an expert on bioidenticals.  If you need help finding a healthcare practitioner, please feel free to reach me at holyhormones (at) gmail (dot) com

I am often asked how long after I started the bioidentical hormones did I notice an improvement in my symptoms.  For the hot flashes, within 3 days of starting the progresterone cream, I was done with hot flashes and haven't had one since.  For the acid reflux, seasonal allergies, restless leg syndrome---gone. Completely. Within two weeks of starting the progesterone (the testosterone and eventually the estradiol came later) I was off five medications. 

If you are currently taking an antidepressant ------ DO NOT STOP COLD TURKEY AND ONLY WEAN DOWN ON THE MEDICATION WITH THE APPROVAL AND ASSISTANCE OF A DOCTOR!  I know I am shouting, but I cannot stress this enough.  The withdrawal process should be done slowly, and only under the supervision of the doctor who prescribed the meds for you.  It took me about 4-6 months of slowly weaning down off the antidepressant with assistance from Dr. Carr. 

Enjoy your week, everyone.  I don't celebrate or observe the holiday season, but for those of you who do, I hope this first week of December is feeling festive and happy.  I'm looking forward to the winter solstice on December 21 -----then the days start to get longer and spring gets a little closer!