Perspective. It affects everything. Take, for example, the beauty of the earth. Some might look at the magnificence of the earth and think of Darwinian theory. But as I stand in my back yard, I am amazed by God’s creation. When I look out of the window on my many plane flights, I am amazed by God’s creation. And when I see the perspective from space as seen by astronauts, I am still amazed at God’s creation.
Perspective colors the way we see everything around us. For those, like myself, who believe in the God of creation, I view the world a certain way. And for those who choose to believe otherwise, they view the world a certain way.
Perspective is an important part of the medical world as well. As technology improves, the amount of information available to me as a physician changes the way I treat my patients because I now have more data than I’ve had in the past helping me make a better decision.
So, let’s talk about how perspective is an important part of evaluating hormones! (And you thought the only important perspective about hot flashes was “where’s the air conditioner”!)
If men were only about testosterone and women were only about estrogen, life would be easy and all would be symptom free. Unfortunately, that is, in a nutshell, the current perspective on treatment of hormone imbalance issues. It is not, however, an accurate perspective based on physiology. Just watch an hour of TV in the evening. The pharmaceutical companies are inundating us with ads about testosterone creams and the like. Regardless of clever marketing, looking at the reality of physiology based on the latest testing methods reveals that hormones are a lot more complicated than treating the level of just one hormone.
When it comes to hormones, there are four important components necessary for physiologic function and symptom-free living.
- Hormone levels need to be in the “normal” range. We don’t need the respective hormone levels too high or too low.
- Hormones need to be balanced. This is where many in the medical field get it wrong since all hormones work together to communicate to the body.
- Your body needs to effectively use the hormones present. Hormone metabolism is a key element in evaluating hormones in the body.
- Hormone receptors must appropriately respond to the signal sent by the hormone to your body.
The past (and current) perspective of the medical community is that the absolute levels of individual hormones are what is important and little attention is given to balance between hormones. Very little attention is given to the balance between hormones. For example, women, post-hysterectomy, are prescribed estrogen only. But we know that prior to the hysterectomy, all hormones are needed for a normal, functioning cycle, not just estrogen alone.
Some of the risks associated with estrogen therapy pertains to how the individual metabolizes or detoxifies the estrogen. Hormone metabolism can be affected by internal factors like genetic variations, or SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), located in the detoxification pathways. These are small genetic coding errors. Hormone metabolism can also be affected by external factors such as magnesium and zinc, co-factors in those same internal detoxification pathways of hormone production and metabolism. Just the presence of the detoxification pathways does not a functional detoxification pathway make.
Finally, and the purpose of this post, are the receptors. Hormone receptors determine how the hormone’s signal to the body is then interpreted. Here’s an analogy to help you understand hormone receptors. I have four beautiful children. As with any parent, getting them to clean their room is an ongoing battle. The signal I give them is a verbal instruction such as “Kids, it’s time to get your rooms cleaned.” How that signal is interpreted is quite different. That signal may be interpreted differently based on the environment or pre-existing conditions. If my children are in one of their “moods” (side note: all four of my kids are redheads), then they may just not clean their rooms out of defiance. There is a reason we call the youngest one “the spicy tomato.”
All this to illustrate one important fact — how the signal is interpreted is just as important as the signal that is to be interpreted.
Scientifically speaking, hormone receptors are defined as “a large family of ligand-activated nuclear transcription regulators, which are characterized by organization into different functional domains and are conserved, to differing degrees, between species and family members.”
Was that as clear as mud? In plain English, hormone receptors are how the external signal, hormones, provide to the internal genome a message to turn genes on or off. There is also non-genomic signaling, but a large portion of signaling is actually done with your DNA. This is what hormones do — interact and turn on and off the expression of your DNA. Pretty amazing, huh? And you just thought hormones floated through your blood causing hot flashes in women or ED in men. That is the way most, including physicians, see hormones. However, that just couldn’t be more further from the truth. There’s so much more to it than that.
Hormone receptors are being used in the medical vocabulary today. If you know someone with breast cancer, you might be familiar with the term ER/PR positive or negative. This is in reference to estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors. This evaluation occurs from an actual tissue sample from the tumor itself and allows the medical team to determine the best course of action for that particular individual. In ER/ PR positive tumors, hormone therapy is used in contrast with ER/PR negative tumors where no hormone therapy is used.
The medical community is addressing the realities of hormone receptors and the role they play in disease. But what about those individuals with hormone imbalance symptoms like hot flashes or erectile dysfunction? Stay tuned. This testing hasn’t made it to the clinical setting yet, but animal testing holds great promise in helping to complete the full picture and improve the perspective that we have on hormones and all their related issues and factors.
Hormone receptors are my current area of research, and I’m writing articles on estrogen, progesterone, and androgen (male hormones) receptors as part of that research. Visit the Seasons Wellness Clinic blog often in the upcoming months so that YOU can become more educated on the body’s communication system — hormone and their receptors.
It is a Thriller night. “Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand…”
It seems everywhere you turn, there are zombies on the move. There are zombie TV commercials, zombie games, zombie novels (the best I have read, by the way, is an unpublished zombie book written by my brother), and even dancing zombies. Michael Jackson showed us how well zombies can dance – better than myself, I might add.
But, of course, zombies are not a part of reality. Who really believes a soul-less human exists, a living body moving about but devoid of the qualities such as a conscience that make us human? Zombies just live in the world of fiction, right? Or do they?
I think, perhaps, the zombies we encounter today are different than those of Hollywood. Maybe zombies don’t roam earth terrorizing whole cities, but there are many who have become emotionless and mindless individuals, none the less. These zombies are just a product of the current medical paradigm, a point of view that works for the disease model of medicine but fails in a health-and-wellness model.
A recent analysis by Medco Health Solutions, Inc. revealed that 1 in 5 Americans take prescription medications commonly used to treat psychiatric and mood disorders. That statistic is even worse for women. One in 4 women take the same prescribed medications. The majority of those mood-altering medications are anti-depressants, with 20 percent of American women on some type of anti-depressant. According to the CDC, the use of anti-depressants has increased 400 percent over the last two decades, with the fastest-growing age group being middle-aged women. The question we need to ask is this: do 20 percent of American women need antidepressant therapy?
Even the bravest among us, our military, are not immune to this trend. The Army’s 5th Mental Health Advisory Team revealed that 12 percent of combat troops in Iraq and 17 percent of combat troops in Afghanistan are on prescription anti-depressants and sleeping pills.
As bad as the numbers appear for psychiatric medications, prescribed painkillers are the fastest growing addiction today. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the abuse of painkillers increased by 400 percent from 1998 to 2008. Prescription opiate abuse results in 13,000 deaths per year. In Toronto, oxycodone prescriptions increased by over 850 percent from 1991 to 2004. In the same time period, there was a 500 percent increase in deaths due to oxycodone. Prescription drugs account for an estimated 38,000 deaths annually. These numbers are staggering.
Don’t get me wrong. The purpose of this post is not to bash the use of these types of prescription medications. I am, however, strongly opposed to their misuse and abuse. For many people, these medications can and do change their lives. However, should that number be 20 to 25 percent of the population?
I advocate solution-based healthcare as opposed to band-aid based healthcare. I use the zombie analogy to make a point. Is our current status quo of healthcare in this country creating a legion of zombies? And what if there are alternatives, which I know there are, to treating the underlying issues which produce the symptoms these drugs are intended to minimize or alleviate? Don’t mask the problem. Solve the problem.
In my medical practice, which focuses on an integrative approach to medicine combining the latest advances in medicine with the most natural approach possible, I see patients daily who suffer from the list of symptoms these medications (particularly anti-depressants) are typically prescribed for. With proper testing and analysis of the results, we are able to treat these patients with pharmaceutical-grade vitamin supplements and reverse and/or eliminate their symptoms, returning them to a state of wellness. Wouldn’t it make sense to utilize that approach instead? According to the U.S. Poison Control Center annual analysis, no deaths have occurred from the use of vitamin supplements over a 27-year time period. Compare that to over 3 million deaths occurring from prescription drug use during the same time period (1983-2009).
While it’s the time of the year that zombies and scary things capture our attention, let’s not forget that zombies really do exist and that number is growing fast. With middle-aged adults being the fastest growing age group of users of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and sleeping pills, the age of zombies is just beginning. I can only hope that more people will seek alternatives and look for solutions to the symptoms beyond prescription medication. We can solve these problems without simply masking symptoms.
Yes, Virginia, there are zombies about.
Because Tennessee ranks 39th in overall health of its citizens [according to America’s Health Rankings], we are passionate about educating the community on how to improve their health. I spend time daily reviewing the latest findings from scientific studies related to health and wellness topics to insure that Seasons is always offering the latest and best solutions for pursuing wellness.
Contrary to the belief of many, good health is not something that can be mandated from government or given to you by a physician. Health is a personal journey acheived only through education and self-awareness. At Seasons, our goal is to provide you with the resources you need to improve the health of you and your family.
Here are five books that are easy reads and are rich in good information for your health journey.
Inflammation Nation by Floyd H. Chilton, PhD
Inflammation Nation was written by Dr. Floyd H. Chilton in 2005. While the book goes back a few years, it is still incredibly relevant. Inflammation is one of the primary problems/obstacles to health today. Inflammation, in the short term, is a necessary part of the healing process. When you are cut, the “inflammation” present through redness, pain, and swelling works to protect the body from invasion and to start the process of healing. But the inflammation subsides quickly. However, in some, inflammation rages on and promotes disease.
It would make sense that if something, certain types of food for example, were causing inflammation in our body and ultimately leading to disease, we would want to eliminate the problem, reduce the inflammation and prevent disease, right? Dr. Chilton discusses the immune system and how our diet affects it. The old adage “you are what you eat” definitely applies here.
Inflammation Nation is an easy read and provides many easy recommendations to incorporate into your daily life.
The Wheat Belly by William Davis
The Wheat Belly is written by William Davis. Very rarely do I encounter clients that have not read or heard of this book. This book touches on a growing problem in America and the world today – an adulterated food supply. Not food supply that is adulterated with parasites or bacteria, but that is adulterated from within. What does that mean? In The Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis touches on the fact that the wheat of today is not the wheat our parents ate. Not only is the nutritional value present in wheat lost, but the genetic modification is likely contributing to inflammatory problems.
The problem with ￼genetically modified foods (GMO) is we have limited knowledge of their impact on the body. And the federal government and its agencies have never done a good job of investigating these items before rushing them to market. Just look at the history of environmental toxins such as phthalates, parabenes, and other volatile solvents, all brought to market labeled as safe only to be removed from the market when revealed as seriously dangerous toxins.
This book is also a very easy read and provides easy dietary recommendations to immediately bring positive changes to your health.
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer by John R. Lee, M.D., David Zava, Ph.D., and Virginia Hopkins
This was the very first integrative medicine book I read in 2006. This book goes back to several founding people in the integrative medicine movement like Dr. John Lee, an oncologist who led the movement in bioidentical hormones and saliva testing. Dr. Lee was ostracized by the medical community, but his commitment to his patients and to true scientific evidence is an example for all to follow. In fact, Dr. Zava believed in this movement so much that he started a saliva-testing company.
As it relates to breast cancer, there are few more published than Dr. Lee and Dr. Zava. I have met Dr. Zava personally on several occasions, and there are few that I would put above his in both scientific integrity and commitment to true science.
This book lays out a different approach to breast cancer, one focusing on prevention instead of early detection. Traditional medicine focuses instead on early detection and cancer treatment. Don’t get me wrong. We need that, but true prevention is where we should first focus.
The book is deep at points, but is a good discussion of biochemistry and physiology as it relates to breast cancer. Its focus on more natural ways to prevent breast cancer is based on the scientific research. The book clears up much of the misinformation about hormones and breast cancer and equips the reader to be advocate in the prevention of breast cancer.
The book’s authors were unafraid to take on traditional medicine, but do so with a good foundation of science.
The Blood Sugar Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman
Dr. Hyman is a great proponent of wellness and a pillar in the integrative medicine community. This book, published earlier this year, is an easy weekend read with numerous tools to incorporate into everyday life. The focus of this book is nutrition, sugar, in particular.
Obesity is at epidemic levels in the United States. According to CDC data, 13 states now have an obesity rate greater than 30 percent, while in the year 2000, NO states reported obesity rates greater than 30 percent. This book takes the major culprit head-on: diet.
The Blood Sugar Solution delves into diet, insulin, insulin resistance, and a host of other factors contribute to poor health. The book provides many tools to succeed in the “battle of the bulge,” and even includes recipes to help you succeed in your personal health journey.
￼What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You About Hypertension by Dr. Mark Houston
If you ever have the chance to meet Dr. Mark Houston, you will surely be impressed. Mark Houston, M.D., is Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Director of the Hypertension Institute and Vascular Biology, and Medical Director of the Division of Human Nutrition at Saint Thomas Medical Group, Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.
While his list of credentials are a mouth full, to hear him speak will fill your ear! As a cardiologist focused on an integrative approach, there are few that speak so eloquently on the deep biochemical disease found in cardiovascular disease.
While the subject matter might sound intimidating, this book, is a very easy read and focuses on the underlying dynamics of hypertension and associated complications. Dr. Houston defines the problem and lays out solutions with his wildly successful program for treatment of hypertension using an integrative medicine approach.
Dr. Houston also provides a health discussion of hypertension medications, when needed, and the mode of action and side effects of each. This a definite must-read for anyone on hypertension medications. You might just become more informed than your own physician!
While this book is a self-help guide to natural treatments of hypertension, it is based on sound science and the approach has been extremely successful. This book is also heavily referenced, allowing you the option of pursuing deeper learning if desired. This book removes every obstacle to reducing hypertension except you. It’s your job to act on what you read.
The Naturally Healthy Woman: Whole Health for the Whole Woman by Shonda Parker
Yes, I know I said five and this is number six! But this is a very good manual for women and their health. As an OB/Gyn, my first passion was women’s health. The author, Shonda Parker, whom I have met, is a true blessing to know. There are few who have a passion for health that exceeds hers, and she has an ever better spirit. Shonda is a nurse midwife, has authored many books, and speaks nationally on health and other related topics. This book highlights many of the health issues facing women today, and I predict that the edges of this book will become tethered due to your repetitive use after reading it.
As a nurse midwife, the author’s first passion is pregnancy. This book begins by touching and then builds into many other health issues affecting women. The author provides many natural remedies at the end of each section for the different health issues discussed. The book not only provides natural therapies for the mother/wife, but also for the rest of the household.
Every pathway to health is different. Every journey to wellness is unique. At Seasons, our desire for wellness for all begins with education and knowledge for you. I hope that these books will become additions to your library and provide you with the knowledge you need in your personal journey toward wellness.
“I just don’t feel right.” These are frequently the first words I hear a patient say. “I’m so hormonal…I know I’m not balanced. I’m tired, cranky….” and so goes the list of symptoms, all of which indicate hormone imbalance.
It’s amazing to me that most patients know intuitively that they don’t feel good and it has something to do with hormones, but they’ve had a blood test by their physician and everything checked out “okay.” That blood test, however, didn’t change the fact that they still feel terrible.
There is a lot of debate these days regarding the different methods of evaluating hormones: blood, saliva, and urine (oh my). In a few short weeks, school will start. So to get back in the swing of things, today school is “in session” and a science lesson is the order of the day. The topic? How are hormones evaluated and which is the best test for you?
Hormone Delivery and FedEx?
Understanding complicated topics is often made simple with a great analogy. My good friend, Dr. Eldred Taylor, uses the analogy of FedEx trucks to explain hormones and their delivery to the cells of the body. And I especially like this analogy because my dad has been a pilot for FedEx for many years!
FedEx trucks are everywhere during the month of December. It wouldn’t be unusual for a lot of trucks to pass your house during that month. But, if the FedEx trucks don’t stop at your house, it doesn’t really matter how many trucks have driven by your house or how many packages each truck contained. The fact remains that none stopped for delivery. It only takes one FedEx truck to stop at your house and the Christmas tree is full.
I’ll take it one step further. The day after Christmas, the boxes and wrapping paper are piled up at the road-side for pickup. You might comment as you drive by your neighbor’s house “It looks like the Jones’ had a good Christmas” based on the curbside aftermath. You can even make out what the gifts were based on the leftover boxes and debris on the curb.
What does it all mean? The FedEx trucks symbolize hormones in transport in the blood. It doesn’t matter how many hormones are transported through the blood (FedEx trucks), they are inactive (the truck didn’t stop at your house). When the FedEx truck stops at your house, it symbolizes when hormones are dropped off for action inside the cell. One truck can drop off 100 packages or 100 trucks can drive by, dropping off no packages. Finally, the post-Christmas driveway debris represents the hormones after the body has broken them down into metabolites.
Hormones can be evaluated through three different testing methods: blood, saliva and urine. Blood testing evaluates the number of FedEx trucks in your neighborhood. Saliva testing evaluates the number of packages delivered at your house. And urine testing evaluates the post-Christmas driveway debris to identify what packages were delivered and opened.
So what does the science say about the hormone testing methods of blood, saliva, and urine?
Testing hormones present in the blood has been used to develop the current reference norms that we use in the diagnosis and management of many diseases. It has been around a long time. This kind of testing is effective in the disease model of medicine. However, in the wellness model of medicine, we are looking for dysfunction, not just disease. And this is where the effectiveness of blood testing breaks down. By identifying physiologic dysfunction, we hope to prevent disease. It is the move into true preventative medicine, not just early detection, the wellness model of medicine has found the blood testing of hormones to be lacking.
There are three main problems with blood hormone testing.
- First, is the whole idea of a needle. If we can evaluate hormone levels without puncturing the skin, then we should.
- Blood testing evaluates hormones in transport. This is typically reported as “total” hormone levels and the “free” active levels are calculated. Transported hormones are inactive. Hormones in the blood are bound to proteins (estimated at 95-99%) and inactive. Going back to the FedEx truck analogy, blood testing tells me how many FedEx trucks there are and how many packages they have to deliver. But it doesn’t tell me how many packages were delivered at your house. And that’s a very important piece of information. Are your hormones coming or going? And is your body utilizing the hormones you have?
- It is not the most accurate form of testing. Saliva testing is proving to be superior to blood testing for measuring hormones (see Saliva below).
The use of urine to evaluate cortisol has been present for awhile. And this is a valid method to test cortisol, one of your body’s hormones. The problem with this form of testing is that most people don’t want to carry a jug around collecting urine for 24 hours.
Currently, the interesting research on urinary testing of hormones is in the measurement of metabolites. Think back to our analogy. Urinary testing is best used for looking at the curbside debris to see what presents were opened at Christmas. By measuring metabolites, we can see how effectively your body is metabolizing hormones. If your body is ineffectively metabolizing hormones, the resulting symptoms and conditions can include Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, obesity, fatigue, and increased breast cancer and prostate cancer risk to name a few. These issues are all treatable at Seasons Wellness Clinic with a customized wellness plan based on your test results.
Saliva testing for hormones first appeared in the medical research literature in the early 1980′s. Saliva is becoming the testing method of choice for many different reasons. Going back to our analogy, saliva testing measures the number of packages that are delivered by the FedEx truck at your house.
- Saliva testing evaluates the “free” (active) hormone levels. A hormone has to be unbound to elicit a physiologic action. Saliva testing looks at the active hormone inside the cell, at the site of action. Saliva testing has been validated as a testing method for measuring the hormones cortisol, estradiol, progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone to name a few.
- Second, saliva testing requires no needles.
- Saliva testing has been shown to be well validated and superior than blood, with sensitivities and specificities exceeding 100% and 97.4% respectively. Other than perfection, you can’t get much better than that.
- According to the National Institute for Health, saliva testing is useful in “detecting various cancers, heart disease, diabetes, periodontal disease…”
- Saliva testing is also useful in disease evaluation. Saliva testing of cortisol has been recommended as the first-line test for Cushing’s syndrome due to “high diagnostic accuracy.”
Saliva testing gives me the information I need to diagnose what’s going in your body. And while that is my opinion based on my training, it’s also opinion based on scientific fact according to hundreds of research articles (see links to additional articles below). Saliva testing is now considered the “gold standard” for hormone evaluation.
Today you have learned about the three methods physicians use for evaluating hormones: blood, saliva and urine. You’ve also learned that each test is useful for measuring different things. We can evaluate hormones many different ways at Seasons and determine not only the amounts of a specific hormone in your body, but also how effectively your body is actually using (or not using) those hormones with saliva and urinary testing.
Most important is the clinical relevance of each test. Testing the hormones at the site of action provides the best physiologic approach (saliva testing). Testing the hormone metabolites provides the next best approach (urine testing). Through the evaluation of the body’s metabolism of hormones, the physiologic mechanisms of how the body removes hormones can be evaluated. The evaluation of hormones in transit (blood testing) provides the least physiologic assessment.
While each test provides an appropriate measure, the question is, does that measure provide insight into physiologic dysfunction? And, can an appropriate therapeutic intervention be undertaken to effect a change? At Seasons, we provide answers using those test results, creating a customized wellness plan that will put you on the road to a life with more energy, balance, and, ultimately, happiness.
Cheers to the pursuit of wellness.
Testosterone is the defining hormone of a man. Estrogen is the defining hormone of a woman.
So when we talk about estrogen, it’s that word men whisper in secret when the women in their lives seem a little hormonal, right? When people find out that my wife and I have 3 daughters, the resulting comment is usually, “Wow, that’s a lot of estrogen in your household!” (Thankfully, I have a son, too, who helps balance the estrogen to testosterone ratio at our house!)
I’m sorry to burst your bubble, guys, but estrogen is not exclusive to women. We make estrogen, too. In fact, some of us make a LOT of estrogen. Too much, in fact. And it creates some serious problems.
But before we talk about estrogen, we need to talk about testosterone. Testosterone levels in American men are at an all-time low! There are four major reasons for that: stress, weight, endogenous estrogens, and xenoestrogens. In this post, I’ll address three of those – stress, weight, and endogenous estrogen.
So let’s get started learning four important facts about testosterone, estrogen, and men!
What problems do high estrogen levels create in men?
1. High estrogen = low testosterone. One of the primary causes of low testosterone is a high estrogen level. Estrogens can be endogenous (produced by your body) or exogenous (from the environment, also known as xenoestrogens). Estradiol and Estrone (two of the three kinds of estrogen produced by your body) feed back to the hypothalamus and pituitary and shut off testosterone production.
2. High estrogen = inflammation. Not only do high estrogen levels decrease testosterone in men, they also increase inflammation. And this is VERY significant. Inflammation, just like stress, is a biochemical process.
Inflammation is the natural result of the immune system. Remember the last time you got a paper cut? It was incredibly painful, probably red, warm and swollen, all cardinal symptoms of inflammation. Inflammation, in the right setting, is actually the body protecting itself. However, when the immune system becomes imbalanced or chronically activated, the immune system causes damage through inflammation. For example, chronically activated immune cells in the brain (glial cells) play a pivotal role in the development of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Multiple Sclerosis.
Inflammation is a SERIOUS issue. Chronic inflammation has been linked to many of the chronic diseases of aging: Type II Diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and cancer. In fact, a new term has been coined to describe inflammation arising from the gut which results in many of the above listed disease states - metabolic endotoxemia.
We’ve established that high estrogen levels are bad for men, shutting down testosterone production and causing chronic inflammation leading to disease.
What causes high estrogen levels in men?
1. High aromatase activity = high estrogen. First, high endogenous estrogen levels in men come from high aromatase activity. Aromatase is the enzyme that converts androstenedione and testosterone into estrone and estradiol respectively. Aromatase is present in many different tissues. But in men aromatase is highly concentrated in that mid-life bulge.
Unfortunately, aromatase activity in men increases as we age due to stress, weight gain, and inflammation. None of us are going to get away from aging (it’s right there with death and taxes). And who do you know that has NO stress? (Remember, it is estimated that 90% of doctor visits are stress-related.) Typically, as we age we gain weight and have more inflammation.
That “age-related” tire around the mid-section is more than just unsightly. It is a hormone and inflammation-producing organ. Remember metabolic endotoxemia, the disease-producing state I mentioned earlier? Metabolic endotoxemia is inflammation arising from the GI system which causes obesity and then turns right around and produces inflammation. It’s a vicious cycle! And guess what is concentrated in fat? If you guessed aromatase activity, then you are absolutely correct. Aromatase activity in men accounts for 80% of estrogen production.
Hormones are not just about numbers, but balance and metabolism as well (read my recent post on the topic).
2. Overdosage of testosterone = high estrogen. As mentioned earlier, testosterone levels in men are at an all-time low. And the mass solution for this problem with most physicians is to increase testosterone without evaluating or treating the underlying causes for low testosterone. Unfortunately, this complicates the entire low testosterone problem. Overdosage of testosterone increases estrogen production.
What? You mean you can dose too high on testosterone? Yes, and most of the patients I see who are being treated with testosterone have been, in fact, overdosed.
In fact, at Seasons Wellness Clinic and Seasons of Farragut, we have seen many men must donate blood due to excess production of hemoglobin and hematocrit, a by-product of testosterone overdosage. A 20-22 year old male normally produces 5-10 mg daily of testosterone. It is during this age range that men are at their physical peak of testosterone production. For me, this was during my college football years.
Does it make sense for 40-and-up men currently taking testosterone, that they did not need to donate blood monthly during their peak years of natural testosterone production, but are currently required to donate blood regularly with their current regimen of testosterone? Of course not. So, if you didn’t have to donate blood with your peak testosterone production in your 20′s, you shouldn’t have to donate with testosterone therapy in your 40′s and beyond either. Something is wrong here, right?
The starting dosage for one of the most highly-prescribed androgen gels is 1 gram daily. Men, we didn’t need 1 gram of testosterone in our early 20′s, and we don’t need it in our 30′s and beyond.
80% of a man’s testosterone occurs from aromatase activity, and aromatase activity increases as we age. So high doses of testosterone don’t make sense. Doctors are just throwing fuel on the fire with these massive doses. More is not better if it’s too much, even when it is something your body needs.
Then, there is the delivery of testosterone therapy. The body’s natural testosterone secretion follows a normal diurnal rhythm. Testosterone is known to be greatest in early morning and lowest in the evening. But with many prescribing testosterone therapy today, it is very common to get weekly testosterone shots or testosterone pellets. This method of delivery does NOT follow the body’s natural rhythm. The shots and pellets delivery method of testosterone produce supra physiologic (abnormal) peaks. If the purpose of hormone therapy is to return the body to normal levels, then that objective can never be reached with this type of testosterone therapy.
The effects of Testosterone to estrogen conversion in men and women are different. That’s certainly no surprise. In men, high aromatase activity and conversion of testosterone to estrogen has been linked to elevated CRP, fibrinogen, and IL-6.
Are these important? CRP is one of the best indicators of future cardiovascular disease/events (heart attacks and strokes), and is associated with metabolic syndrome. And yes, it is more predictive than even a high cholesterol level. Fibrinogen is another marker of inflammation that has been associated with cardiovascular disease and systemic inflammation. IL-6 is an inflammatory cytokine (immune signal) that has been implicated in increased aromatase activity (conversion of testosterone to estrogen) and at the same time is the result of increased testosterone to estrogen activity.
So, what’s the big deal? The studies are not 100% conclusive, but it is clear that inflammation increases the testosterone to estrogen conversion through increased aromatase activity. And the increased estrogen conversion is associated with increased inflammation in men. It’s a vicious cycle that will lead to disease states such as insulin resistance, hypertension, prostatitis, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and cancer, to name a few.
You may be thinking, “Is the testosterone I need leading me to disease?”
The answer is, “Yes, it sure can.” If your testosterone therapy includes prescription of supra physiologic levels of testosterone, lack of follow-up on hormone levels, and no effort to balance hormones and metabolism, then yes, it sure can.
Is there a safe and effective way to balance hormones, lower estrogen and increase testosterone for men?
Effectively administering hormone therapy requires the following:
- A physician with extensive training in hormones and body biochemistry.
- The best and most accurate testing possible to determine current hormone levels and to track hormone levels after therapy is administered.
- Hormones that most closely replicate the natural ones produced in your body — bioidentical hormones.
- A therapy plan with the objective of returning your body to normal, not super-charging the body with unnatural levels of testosterone or any other hormone.
Our patient experience begins with an initial consultation to evaluate symptoms and develop an evaluation plan.
The next step is testing. In the case of hormone imbalance, we evaluate hormones with state-of-the-art hormone testing via saliva, not just blood. As stated in a 2006 article, “plasma levels of estradiol do not necessarily reflect tissue-level activity.” Saliva has been shown to reveal the active hormone inside the cell at the site of action.
After initial testing and a therapy program, hormone levels are re-evaluated to ensure the progression of treatment and necessary changes are made to the treatment program. Testing and follow-up are key to proper balance of hormones (read my recent post). At Seasons of Farragut, our approach to treatment and therapy is fully supported in the scientific research literature, and we’re happy to share that research with you if you’d like to educate yourself.
The way estrogens are metabolized plays an equally pivotol role in hormone risk and effect. At Seasons of Farragut, our system of testing, evaluating, and monitoring is the only way to ensure that testosterone therapy for men is raising the testosterone and DHT levels instead of all being converted to estrogen. Hormone therapy is safe, but for it to work effectively, it must be properly evaluated, dosed, followed, and re-evaluated.
If you have questions or comments, please post them below and I’ll respond as soon as possible. What is your experience with testosterone therapy? How has your physician tested and re-evaluated your therapy program?
For more information about the Seasons approach to wellness or to schedule an appointment, please contact our office at (865) 675-WELL (9355).
The needle stick was inconsequential to me since I routinely get serum lab tests and also nutritional IV therapies. Just as I counsel and plan with all of my patients regarding everything from thyroid to toxic metals, I also devise my own therapies to correct, tweak, and improve my health markers. I have had my own major challenges, so I know personally that initial gut reaction to lab results!
However, Telomere testing kicks it up a notch regarding true aging. Telomeres are sections of DNA at the end of every chromosome that serve as a cap to your genetic material. Think of them as the small plastic strands on the end of a shoe lace.
Each time one of your 100 trillion cells divide and replicate, the new strand becomes shorter which causes the cell to age. By evaluating the Telomere length on white blood cells, we can assess biological age versus chronological age. The higher the score, the “younger” the cells are, and thus, the goal is to slow the loss of Telomere lengths.
Variables that can affect Telomere lengths include diet, exercise, oxidative stress, weight, insulin resistance, and toxic exposure. Studies have shown that Telomere test results are strongly associated with cardiovascular risks, chronic disease, and cancer.
For me, knowing this biomarker will help me strengthen my desire to live healthy with specific restorative plans. Each piece of my “puzzle” gives me a glimpse of my own personal risk factors. My goal is not to live forever, but to live with the best possible quality of life.
As one of my patients stated, “I want to live hard and die fast!” We can’t predict our destiny. But the more knowledge we have about our bodies, the better choices we can make.
I should have my results in a few weeks. Perhaps I’ll share them and we can figure out how to improve my health. In the meantime, I’ll be more intentional with my personal time. Spring is a great season for gardening, cooking organic vegetables, biking Cades Cove, and loving on grandchildren, family, and friends. Quiet times of prayer and a thankful heart are great for de-stressing. Nurturing our body, soul, and spirit is the best way to seize every day…and a great way to lengthen those Telomeres!
Last weekend, I needed to find some specific items in my garage. I soon became overwhelmed with all the stuff I had to pick through before I found what I was looking for!
Spring cleaning was more intense than I had anticipated. However, after organizing and “detoxing” this vital area, I began to appreciate the many functions of my garage! As I threw away the last bag of debris, I realized that our bodies also need a thorough review and cleansing. Many times, vague symptoms such as fatigue, apathy, muscle pain, insomnia, and irritable bowel issues need more than a quick fix. Antidepressants and laxatives may initially soothe our symptoms, but they don’t heal our bodies.
A better approach is to assess the situation by getting to the root cause. A unique test at Seasons measures energy production, metabolism, B vitamins, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, ability to detoxify, and markers for emotional and behavioral problems.
The Organic Acid test is like an emission test performed on your car. The exhaust is measured to see how well the engine is burning fuel. In the same way, amino acids excreted in your urine reveal how well your body is running!
When specific nutrients such as vitamins are not being absorbed, important reactions cannot take place in your body. For example, B vitamins are critical for digestion, muscle and nerve function, and energy production. A deficiency can cause a multitude of problems with various symptoms exhibited. Organic acid levels help us determine the bad stuff (toxins) that have accumulated as well as reveal any insufficiencies that need to be replenished. From your unique results, we can custom design a plan to help restore health and a sense of well-being.
So, as you begin the process of Spring cleaning, make it a point this year to do as much for your body! It will function better, you won’t need to replace parts, and your shelf life will be exponentially increased.
Between Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month, there’s no denying that hearts and February go hand-in-hand. This month, as we celebrate the things that make our hearts melt, let’s also think about preventing heart disease with the 4 Pillars of Heart Health: Minerals, CoQ10, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and L-Carnitine.
Not only is Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) one of the most widespread and costly problems in the U.S., it is among the most preventable. Like any other part of the body, the heart requires preventive care to ensure it will operate at its best. These days I see more preventive care for cars than for the heart. Prevention is not early detection. It is identifying those at risk and instituting therapy to actually prevent the disease. And while early detection and treatment is needed and saves lives, we need also to focus on preventing CVD altogether.
Current statistics on Cardiovascular Disease (CVD):
- 33.5% (149 million) of US adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure
- 8% (18.3 million) of the US adult population has been diagnosed with diabetes
- 67% (34% of which are obese [149.3 million]) of US adults are either obese or overweight
These 2012 statistics tell us that we are not gaining much ground in the battle against heart disease.
So, what is the heart? The heart is complex organ, but essentially it is a big hunk of muscle. The heart is responsible for pumping the blood to the lungs to be oxygenated and then deliver that oxygenated blood throughout the body. To pump that oxygenated blood, the heart needs lots, and lots of energy (ATP). The heart uses the “power house” of the cell, called mitochondria, to generate all this needed energy.
How much energy does the heart make? The heart makes enough energy, everyday, to drive a truck 20 miles. That mileage, over an average lifespan, will get you to the moon and back. The ability of mitochondria within the heart (which is muscle) to generate energy is critical to life. In fact, the result of compromised mitochondria is aging and death. The lack of ability to produce energy, actually triggers apoptosis (cell death). Enough cell death equals organ death, which results in the body’s death. Obviously, this is not what we want. Mitochondria are crucial to the heart’s ability to make energy and avoid all the, well…unintended consequences.
At Seasons Wellness Clinic, we focus on the 4 Pillars of Heart Health which support mitochondrial function.
- Magnesium is a nutrient. Magnesium is needed for more enzyme reactions than any other nutrient, which makes it extremely important.
- B Vitamins give us energy. Why? One reason is B vitamins are co-factors in energy production. Many of the B vitamins are co-factors in the Kreb’s cycle, another very important pathway for energy production.
2. CoQ10 is critical in energy production. CoQ10 is a carrier protein between complex I and complex II of the electron transport chain (ETC). The ETC is where your body makes most of the ATP (energy). CoQ10 is an antioxidant as well.
3. Alpha Lipoic Acid is very important in the pyruvate dehydrogenase enzyme complex. This enzyme complex is very important in the first steps of energy production from glucose, a process called glycolysis. Alpha Lipoic Acid, like CoQ10, is an antioxidant.
4. L-Carnitine is involved in the “fat shuttle.” Carnitine is involved in how the cell shuttles fat into the mitochondria for energy production. You can see how a compromised “fat shuttle” can effect energy production and fat production. L-carnitine, too, is an antioxidant.
Not only do we want to evaluate these critical components (and yes, we can test for these essential molecules), but we want to prevent any compromise to their function. A major cause of component malfunction in the body’s processes is mineral depletion, and the #1 cause of mineral depletion is prescription drugs.
To demonstrate my point, let’s use Metformin and Statin drugs as examples. First, Metformin, a good prescription drug for Diabetes, is known to deplete the body of Magnesium, B12, folic acid, CoQ10. And second, Statin drugs, for cholesterol, are known as disruptors of CoQ10. Ever wonder why those on statin therapies complain of muscle pains/cramps? If you poisoned your muscle’s ability to make energy, you would do the same. I am not opposed to these medications, it is just very important that we understand that a patient with Diabetes and high cholesterol (closely linked) must avoid therapies that actually worsen the problems.
To help the heart live long and strong, remember the 4 Pillars of Heart Health. There are four major vessels of the heart as well as four major obstacles to heart health. For more information about heart health, specialized testing, and medical-grade supplements, contact a Patient Relations Specialist at Seasons Wellness at (865) 675-9355
Ah, fall! The crisp, cool mornings, the return of football, and the sweeping changes of color found throughout the landscape. Fall is a welcome change after the long, hot Tennessee summer. With all of the wonderful changes that fall brings, there are a few unwelcome visitors. Just as we move past the summer heat, fall ushers in the cold and flu season.
Recently, I overhead a good friend of mine say that the flu vaccine is “as good as gold” and that as far as results, “the proof is in the pudding.” Not long after that, I saw an ad campaign for the flu vaccine with the tagline: “the value of wellness.”
So, I have to pose this question. With the upcoming cold and flu season, what is the best way to protect my family? How should I treat or even prevent the flu? Is the flu vaccine “as good as gold” and is the “proof” really “in the pudding?”
Today is the era of evidence-based medicine. So, to answer these questions let’s see what the evidence shows.
Is the flu vaccine “as good as gold?”
The answer is no. While not surprising to me, I’m sure this comes as a surprise to you! Let me show you the evidence.
A Cochrane analysis, “Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults,” published in 2010 looked at over 70,000 adults ages 16-65 from 1966 to 2010. The objective was defined as: “identify, retrieve and assess all studies evaluating the effects of vaccines against influenza in healthy adults.”
The results may surprise you.
- Flu vaccine was found to be a very poor match (1%). Each year, the 3-strain flu vaccine is created in attempt to match the up coming viral strains.
- Flu vaccine only had a modest effect on reducing flu symptoms and days missed.
- No evidence was found that the flu vaccine affects complications. Complications were defined as pneumonia, hospitalization, and TRANSMISSION.
In my opinion, if you are a healthy adult, the flu vaccine is a waste of your time. But don’t worry; there are many scientifically proven preventive and therapeutic treatments available. The problem is most are labeled “natural” or “alternative” so you may not have heard of their benefits.
Hippocrates said, “Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly should proceed thus: in the first place to consider the seasons of the year.” Vitamin D levels show an inverse relationship to the cold/flu incidence.
Cannell JJ et al., in “Epidemic influenza and vitamin D,” showed that vitamin D levels reach their lowest levels during the winter months, often dropping by 24%. Below in “Epidemic influenza and vitamin D”, 2,000 IU daily versus 800 IU and placebo was shown to significantly reduce the incident of the cold/flu.
In addition to being preventative, vitamin D is active against ongoing infection. A recent study in the Journal of Virology, revealed that vitamin D has anti-viral properties. Because of its function in the innate immune system, vitamin D, a proven anti-viral, was suggested to be a primary method of treatment.
That’s right, a healthy gut equals a healthy immune system. In children with recurrent otitis media, 24 weeks of probiotics versus placebo was shown to reduce recurrent respiratory infections. Another study, revealed reduced otitis media recurrence in children given probiotics. Still another study revealed a reduction in fever, rhinorrhea, cough, days of antibiotics, and missed school days in children given probiotics daily for 6 months versus placebo.
How? The current thought is that bacteria and viruses use a “biofilm” protective layer. This protects the virus or bacteria against the body’s immune attacks. This also appears to protect the offending virus/bacteria against administered therapies.
The importance of the gut to the immune system shouldn’t surprise us. It is estimated that 70% of the immune system is concentrated in the gastrointestinal system. In fact, we know that the route of delivery predicts the gut flora. Other events, including maternal steroids, antibiotics, and breast-feeding, can also alter the risk. Collectively, these early events can increase obesity risk.
What do guinea pigs and people have in common? Their bodies don’t make vitamin C. That’s right, we humans, don’t make vitamin C. So, the only way our bodies get vitamin C is through our diet. Just like vitamin D, the majority of us don’t take in enough Vitamin C.
No therapies will have all positive studies, but therapy using vitamin C has a large body of evidence supporting its use against the common cold and flu. Vitamin C therapy came to prominence with Linus Pauling in the 1970’s. Linus Pauling was an advocate for Vitamin C therapy as an anti-viral therapy in the treatment of the common cold and flu. In his 1970 study, the incidence of colds were reduced by 45% and the duration of the colds were reduced by 63%. High dose IV vitamin C therapy has been shown to reduce the symptoms of the common cold and flu by 85% in a study of 715 people by Gorton and Jarvis. A study by Straten and Josling, showed that vitamin C reduced the incidence and the duration of cold symptoms. A large Cochrane review, showed a reduction of the severity and duration of cold symptoms with vitamin C therapy.
Furthermore, vitamin C has been shown to have many positive immunomodulatory effects. A study by Wintergerst, Magginini, and Hornig discussed many of the positive immune effects of vitamin C. And Harri Hemila in 2006, discussed the effects of vitamin C and the large body of evidence that show the positive effects it has on the immune system. The immune enhancement effects of vitamin C should be evident over the long-term. A study out of theEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 showed no change in severity or incidence of the common cold, BUT a 66% decrease in 3 or more colds over a 5-year period was seen; revealing just the long-term positive immune enhancing effect we were looking for. So the benefits are extensive, reaching beyond a therapy for the common cold and flu.
Homeopathy goes back to the eighteenth century with Samuel Hahnemann, MD. In fact, it probably goes back even further. Hippocrates (400 BC) was quoted as saying, “through the like, disease is produced and through the application of the like, it is cured.” Homeopathy works by helping the body to heal itself first, before the powerful interventions of today’s therapies. These powerful interventions come with powerful side effects. The healing medical model of homeopathy fits the Hippocratic oath well, “First, do no harm.”
Homeopathy has been shown to be an effective addition in the treatment and prevention of the cold and flu. Homeopathy was shown to reduce the infection rate of cold and flu viruses by 20-40%. Long waits to see the doctor are very common in Europe and one study showed that homeopathy effectively reduces URI symptoms in children versus a waiting-list control. Finally, in a head-to-head study, homeopathy was shown to be more effective and had lower complication rates than antibiotics in children with recurrent acute rhinopharyngitis.
So how do we stay well?
One thing is certain, wellness doesn’t come from the flu vaccine. Working with your body and allowing what God created to work as it was intended provides true wellness. Your body wants to protect and heal you. Why not give it a chance, first? No one therapy can provide 100% protection against the common cold and flu. However, these four recommendations, vitamin D, probiotics, vitamin C and homeopathy, have been shown through scientific evidence, to be worthy preventive and therapeutic tools for the upcoming cold and flu season.
Mammograms continue to be the mantra we hear every October during the annual Breast Cancer Awareness month. This screening tool may help identify cancer but it certainly doesn’t prevent breast cancer. At Seasons, every month is breast cancer awareness month as we are always looking at risk factors and working towards strengthening the body.
Cancer cells have three basic characteristics. They multiply more rapidly than normal cells; they are less differentiated (immature); and they don’t die (apoptosis) when they are supposed to. Many factors either contribute to or help prevent this horrific chain of events. Our goal at Seasons, is to uncover these factors before the mammogram reveals cancer.
Dr. John Lee describes in his book, “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Breast Cancer,” risk factors that are not commonly discussed. We are vigilant to uncover all of these and more. Through testing, we can identify such risk factors as estrogen dominance, insulin resistance, elevated cortisol levels, and how your body metabolizes estrogen.
Furthermore, as a breast cancer survivor myself, I am dedicated to helping women avoid this diagnosis.
On Thursday, December 8, we will be offering thermogram screening. To schedule an appointment for the screening or for more information regarding true breast cancer prevention, call our office at (865) 675-9355.