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 There are zombie TV commercials, zombie games, zombie novels (the best I have read, by the way, is an unpublished zombie book written by my brother), and even dancing zombies.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.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” said Benjamin Franklin. This statement holds true in many areas of life, including meal planning. The modern American lifestyle is always on the go, and meal planning doesn’t always top the list. Easily accessible healthy recipes will help you plan ahead for nutrition success.
You don’t have to file hardcopy recipes in a box or binder anymore, you can let your computer categorize and store them for you! Here are three recipe organization websites that you may want to try:
Saymmm.com and kitchenmonki.com are very similar. Features include:
- Store your own recipes with just a few clicks
- Share your recipes with others that have an account
- Search recipes in the database
- Create weekly menus
- Create shopping lists that you can send to your phone.
Onetsp.com is a little less complicated and more for the beginner who only wants to store their recipes:
- No other community involvement
- Creates shopping lists
- Stores your own recipes
Start storing your recipes “smartly” and make planning ahead for meals easier. This recipe comes from Kitchenmonki.com:
- 1 tablespoon minced Garlic
- 1 teaspoon Olive Oil
- 1⁄2 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1⁄4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 Orange
- 1⁄2 cup Grape Tomatoes, halved
- 1⁄4 cup Red Onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup Avocado, sliced
- Combine garlic, olive oil, black pepper, and kosher salt in a medium bowl.
- Peel and section orange; squeeze membranes to extract juice into bowl.
- Stir garlic mixture with a whisk.
- Add orange sections, grape tomatoes, onion, and avocado to garlic mixture; toss gently.
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).
I am amazed at the number of clients that I see who are prescribed anti-depressants these days. I have only been in practice for 6 years, but I have seen these drugs used excessively to treat everything from PMS to stress.
The major problem with these medications is there are no long-term studies on the impact these drugs have on the body. Don’t forget that these medications have side effect profiles that rival the novel “War and Peace.
Aside from the litany of side effects, anti-depressants typically don’t treat the actual problem. And what I’m finding is that it’s not depression…it’s stress.
Sure, there are people out there that undeniably suffer from depression. But most are struggling with overwhelming stress. It is well accepted that 90% of doctor visits today are due to stress or some stress-related condition.
Let’s look at physiology to see how stress affects the body.
Our stress response is a protective mechanism. It is our body’s way to help us run from that tiger or turn and fight that tiger. It is our fight or flight response. Therein lies part of the problem.
We aren’t running from any tigers, at least not on this continent. But our stress level is constant and higher than ever…bills, economy, family. From the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep, we are under stress. The body doesn’t know the differences between types of stress — whether tiger chase or financial pressure — it just responds to the stress.
We cannot discount the impact of stress on the body. The stress response comes from our adrenal glands. Epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, and DHEA are the main components of the stress response. Under intense stress, our body releases norepinephrine and epinephrine. These neurotransmitters stimulate cortisol and DHEA release from the adrenal glands. This results in dilated pupils, fast heart rate, edginess…all physical manifestations of the fight or flight response.
It doesn’t stop there. That same long-term elevated cortisol will cause a depletion of the stimulators norepinephrine and an inverse drop in the serotonin levels. And THAT is the cause of depression.
The extended exposure to stress is the problem. And the band-aid solution of treating with anti-depressants is not a good solution.
The alternative? As a metabolic specialist, my approach is to support the the body’s stress response with a customized prescription of vitamins, minerals, bioidentical hormones, amino acids first. Then, we develop a healthy living plan that will help reduce stress and restore the body to normal function so that it is no longer non-functional from extended periods of stress overload.
While exercise and proper nutrition go a long way, the long-term affects of a stress-filled life require customized medical care to reverse their effects. And that’s what we do here at Seasons Wellness Clinic – customized wellness.
Cheers to the pursuit of wellness!
- Cortisol and Stress: How Cortisol Affects Your Body, and How To Stay Healthy in the Face of Stress(stress.about.com)
- Stress (room4truth.com)
- Describing the Function of Adrenal Glands: A Study Guide (brighthub.com)
Seasons has hosted, on several occasions, Dr. Eldred Taylor, an international expert in bioidentical hormones. During his speaking engagements in Ruston, he talked with men and women about lots of exciting ways to help manage their health. Dr. Taylor is a talented teacher, and I want to share the way he taught our patients about stress and hormones.
Stress elicits a hormonal response, he explained. In fact, 75%-90% of all primary care doctor related visits can be directly attributed to stress according to the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. It makes sense. When you are stressed, you are more prone to illness. That’s one effect of hormones, specifically cortisol.
Stress is a doorway to disease if it’s not treated and corrected.
Here’s what I mean by that. In nature, a zebra or horse running from a predator has acute stress response. Does the stress have a negative effect on the animal’s body? Sure. But the animal is running for its life. Either one of two things happen. The animal will get away, and the stress will end. Or the animal will die… and the stress will end. Either way, the animal is not going to suffer from constant stress.
But in contemporary society, many of us suffer from constant stress. When we experience stress, we too have a surge of hormones to help us fight or run away. You’ve heard of fight or flight. When we are running from a predator, everything works fine. The hormones activated by stress pump us full of energy, and we escape the predator. Or kill it.
But in contemporary society, sometimes we can’t kill our predators or run away from them. Sometimes our predators are coworkers or bosses. We don’t get along with these people, or perhaps we are intensely competitive, and it causes stress. Only we can’t escape these predators in the same way that a zebra can escape a lion. We have to fight with that coworker or boss every day. We experience the stress every day. Our bodies weren’t designed to handle this kind of chronic stress.
That’s why it’s so important to relax. Learn to control what you can. Learn to let go of the rest. I highly recommend things like aroma therapy and massages for relaxation. That’s why Seasons has developed a medical spa—because we want to do more than just help people who are not well. We want to help prevent people from getting sick in the first place.
Stress management is a good place to start.
“If wrinkles must be written on our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should never grow old.” — James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States.
I read that quote by President Garfield the other day and it occurred to me how important his statement was in my practice of medicine. What causes wrinkles? What causes the spirit to grow old? What can damage the heart? The answer is stress. Stress is not something that just exists. Stress is not just a term used to describe forces applied as in engineering. Stress is real and it affects our hearts. Stress kills.
What impact does stress have on the health of our heart?
- 43% of all adults suffer stress related adverse health effects.
- 75-90% of all visits to primary care physicians are stress-related.
- Stress is directly linked to heart disease according to a new study from University College London.
The interesting thing about stress? It’s not just external. Stress is both external and internal. There is stress of day-to-day life. And then there is the silent physiologic stress. The internal stress occurs in the form of obesity, food sensitivity, and inflammation to name a few.
How is stress affecting you? Ask your heart. Focus on keeping your heart healthy by limiting and relieving your stress this Valentine’s Day. While we can’t always eliminate the causes of stress in our life, we can control how we allow it to affect us!
- Make good food choices to give your body the right kind of energy that lasts and helps you work and feel better.
- Get regular exercise. It boosts your metabolism, fights fatigue, and even elevates your mood helping you to cope with stress more effectively.
- Take time to meditate and pray.
- Take a break and relax whether it’s a soak in the tub or a good book.
Take care of your heart. That’s the best gift you can give those you love!
Related articles by Zemanta
- Marcia G. Yerman: A New Recipe for Heart Health (huffingtonpost.com)
- Bill Clinton says lack of sleep added to heart problem (ctv.ca)
- Easy Tips for Reducing Stress (dirjournal.com)
- Stress `can cause heart damage’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Spirituality and Prayer Relieve Stress (psychcentral.com)
- Study: Low levels of vitamin D linked to higher rates of asthma in African-American kids (scienceblog.com)
- Stereotypes About Old Age Can Affect Health (patspapers.com)
- Is the fat acceptance movement bad for our health? (cnn.com)
- Stress `can cause heart damage’ (telegraph.co.uk)
Here are the Seasons top five suggestions for the pursuit of wellness.
1. Evaluate Your Diet. Do you make good food choices? Are you overweight? The latest statistics indicate that 58 million Americans are overweight, 40 million are obese, and 4 million are morbidly obese. The vast majority of illness is caused or complicated by being overweight.
2. Evaluate Your Activity. Do you exercise? Small choices add up to increased physical activity, So park further from the grocery store entry and WALK. Take the stairs. Stop working at the computer for 5 minutes and do 50 situps.
3. Have A Wellness Checkup at Seasons of Farragut. The Seasons approach to wellness is centered around balance and prevention. A few medical tests will reveal where your body is deficient. A wellness regimen tailored to YOUR body will relieve hot flashes, sleep difficulties, mood swings and even weight gain.
4. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Vitamin D. Studies indicate the importance of Vitamin D in disease prevention. The level of cold and flu increases in the winter largely due to the decrease of Vitamin D in our system. Medical research even suggests that Vitamin D is the BEST prevention for flu–even better than the vaccine. At Seasons, we evaluate your Vitamin D levels and offer medical-grade Vitamin D supplements in capsules, drops, and even injections, if needed.
5. Decrease Stress. Stress is the enemy. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Take time to smell the flowers. Find a de-stresser that works for you, whether it’s weekly Bible Study, a good book, or coloring with your kids.
An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth A Pound of Cure. Benjamin Franklin said it best when he coined the phrase that’s been repeated for generations, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Former Surgeon General, Dr. Richard Carmona echoed Franklin’s advice in an opinion published by the Arizona Daily Star.
“Sadly,” says Dr. Carmona, “in the United States spending to treat preventable chronic diseases accounts for more than 75 percent of the approximately $2 trillion we spend each year on health care. Americans spend more money on health care than any other nation, yet rank 42nd in life expectancy worldwide, down from 11th two decades ago. While our federal and state governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on treating diseases, they spend less than $10 per person per year to prevent diseases. We are a treatment-focused society, when the real benefits to health and happiness come from preventing diseases before they ever occur.”
Startling, isn’t it. Reading Dr. Carmona’s words reminds us that pursuing wellness should be the focus of our health care. We need to jump off the bandwagon of a treatment-focused society and jump into the pursuit of wellness.
At Seasons, we help you achieve renewal of the body by finding balance. What kind of balance? It’s that “I-don’t-know-what-it-is-but-something-is-definitely-not-right” kind of feeling that seems to plague women in their post-childbearing years. For some women it means hot flashes, sleep difficulties, mood swings, and even weight gain. For others, it’s more vague – perhaps a feeling of general fatigue or malaise. If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, we can help. For more information, contact our office at (865) 675-WELL (9355).