Eating Is Not The Enemy: Repairing Your Relationship With Food

By Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Many women have a rocky relationship with food – almost as complicated as their relationships with other people. We often personify food, holding it up as a hero or villain. Add to that the fact that women have been conditioned to believe that some foods we need (like healthy fats) are to be avoided at all costs, and the issue becomes even more complex.

As women struggle with their ideas about food, we are realizing more every day that nutrition is our best chance at being healthy. Food provides information to every cell in our bodies. And the information a cookie provides is vastly different than the message broccoli sends. The phytonutrients in plants provide positive data to the DNA in our cells, which makes a difference in our skin, hair, nails, energy levels, and overall long term health.

Understanding this is the key to making changes. It’s time to stop feeling guilt about eating, and start learning how to enjoy it. Changing the way you feel about food will take time. Try thinking of food as a friend and mentor, and it just might become one of the best friends you’ve ever had. You don’t have to do it alone – we are here to support you in the path to a new relationship with healthy, whole foods. Let’s start with a few tips to help you love what you are eating – and yourself for making healthy choices!

  • Create new traditions. Many of our habits are born out of family tradition or cultural norms. And so many of these center around unhealthy foods. Baking with children or grandchildren is great fun, but it’s really the feeling of togetherness that we love. You can bake a healthy treat and enjoy the same quality time with family. Or start a new family tradition – go for a hike, pick apples, or volunteer to help others.
  • Try the “cookie experiment”. Experience the different messages different foods send to your body. For a 3 o’clock snack one day, eat a cookie. Write down how you feel – satisfaction levels, cravings, and energy – for the next 3 hours. The next day, eat an apple and some cheese, or carrots with guacamole, at 3 o’clock. Again, write how you feel over the next 3 hours. Compare your observations, and keep the difference in mind next time you reach for a quick sugar fix.
  • Don’t make food your “fix”. Dr. Pam Peeke, author of The Hunger Fix says that we all have a fix, “an entrenched habit that’s so comfortable, it feels like a hug or an island of calm.” For many women this fix is some type of food, but it doesn’t need to be. Peeke recommends finding “healthy fixes” that are “productive, positive habits associated with feelings of pride, happiness and achievement.” For you, this might be yoga, hiking, running, dancing, playing a game with your children or grandchildren, painting or drawing, or making something – a craft or even a healthy meal or snack. There are so many options available – choose a couple and turn to them when you need comfort, instead of turning to the cupboards for an unhealthy snack.
  • Hit the pause button. Often, eating isn’t about hunger at all. You might be bored, stressed, or on emotional overload. Colette Baron-Reid, author of Weight Loss for People Who Feel Too Much, discusses the complex emotional reasons people eat. “We turn to food to feel grounded in our own physicality, separate from the confusing jumble of emotions we’re experiencing,” she writes. Though it isn’t easy, the key is to find new ways to get yourself grounded quickly. A few deep breaths or a quick visualization of something you love can help get you there. Then you can make a real choice. You can discover what you are really craving – maybe sleep, comfort, or love – instead of defaulting to food.
  • Eliminate Temptation. If you have trouble resisting a bag of potato chips, don’t keep them in the house. Avoid the grocery store if you are in a tough place emotionally – wait until you are feeling better, and you’ll be far more prepared to leave the cookies on the shelf.
  • Take your time. Even when you find yourself needing to eat by yourself or on the go take a few moments to really experience and enjoy the food. Sit in the sunshine, eat slowly and pay attention to each bite. Enjoy the smell, texture, and taste of your food rather than rushing through the experience. You will feel much more satisfied when you are finished.
  • Embrace Cooking. It’s not as scary as it might sound to cook with fresh ingredients. You are worth the time it takes to prepare a delicious meal packed with seasonal vegetables. Spend a little time choosing great recipes, planning your meals, shopping, cutting and preparing the food. Allowing yourself to experience the food from store (or even better, farm) to table can help you appreciate what you are eating so much more.

Taking the time to build new habits, find new recipes and create new traditions isn’t always easy.  But you are worth it! Putting great things into your body will help you love it more – inside and out!


Baron-Reid, C. 2013. Weight Loss for People Who Feel Too Much. Harmony Books, p. 28.

Mayo Clinic Staff, Gain Control of Your Emotional Eating. 2015.

Peeke, P. 2012. Are you caught up in a cycle of emotional eating? Prevention, 61-66. URL: PVWI12_HUNGER_FIX.pdf.

Is My Irregular Period Something to Worry About?

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Why did I miss a period? Why was my flow so heavy this month? Is there something wrong with me if my periods don’t have a regular pattern? These are some of the questions and concerns I have heard from patients at my clinic over the years. It can be frightening to notice sudden changes in your menstrual cycles with no good explanation.

It’s important to remember that “regular” doesn’t mean the same thing for every woman. Some have a cycle that arrives every 21-28 days like clockwork. Others may have a shorter or longer cycle that isn’t quite as predictable. So to judge whether a period has become irregular, you first need to know what is normal for YOU.

Often, an irregularity is nothing to worry about. One or two missed periods over the course of a year is probably not a cause for concern. But if your cycles are more unpredictable than that, it’s time to take a closer look. When you can’t find a consistent pattern, you may be at the beginning of perimenopause, have a disturbance in the hormonal chain of events that impacts menstruation, or you might be pregnant.

There are numerous factors that might be behind irregular periods. If several of these factors are present, there’s an even higher likelihood that you will experience some disruption in your natural cycle. Some of these factors include:

  • Significant weight gain or loss. Both low body weight and obesity can cause a change in your menstrual cycle. Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia can also be behind this disruption. Poor nutrition has an impact – if you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, your body lets you know.
  • Over exercising. Regular exercise is good for your overall health, but when you overdo it, your body reacts. Endurance athletes like marathon runners often experience missed periods.
  • Excessive substance use. If you are regularly filling your body with toxins through smoking, drug use, excessive caffeine intake, or alcohol use your menstrual cycle may suffer.
  • Hormonal imbalances. Whether related to increased stress, perimenopause, or Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), if your hormones are not properly balanced your periods might not be regular.
  • Medications, including heavy duty treatments like chemotherapy. Birth control medications have a big impact on your cycle, whether they cause lighter or heavier flow, skipped periods, or no periods at all.
  • Uterine abnormalities. Differences in your uterus – for example, fibroids, cysts, polyps or endometriosis, can cause changes in your periods.
  • Pregnancy or recent childbirth, miscarriage, or D&C. Many women will also not resume normal periods until they have stopped breastfeeding.

Because so many things could be behind a change in your cycle, it’s important to talk to a health care practitioner if you are experiencing irregularity. If missed periods are a sign of a larger condition – whether pregnancy, hormonal imbalance or disease, it’s important to know what to do to best support your body and find your way back to your best possible you!

If you suspect a hormonal imbalance may be the root of your erratic periods, our products can help bring you back to a balanced state. If you suspect the issue is related to perimenopause, try our Menopause Program, which includes a high quality multivitamin to ensure you are getting essential nutrients, adrenal support, and our herbal menopause support designed for hormonal balance that can relieve symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and mild mood swings. 

Tomatoes, Menopause Symptoms and Weight: The Secret?

By Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP

I often share with you my thoughts around the power of healthy food; we know that good food can heal the body and reduce or eliminate symptoms of hormonal imbalance and that poor food choices can have the opposite effect. Today I want to share some interesting news about one food’s power to help manage menopause symptoms including anxiety and weight gain: tomatoes.

Our bodies depend on a complex array of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and co-factors, all of which are required in combination with each other for good health. That’s why we tell all our patients at Women to Women how important it is to take a high-quality multivitamin in order to ensure they are getting all the nutrition the body needs; it is just so hard to get everything we need for wellness from our food supply today.

While the overall nutritional content of food has declined measurably in recent years due to farming and distribution practices, certain foods still make a lot of headlines in the news; often called “superfoods,” they can pack a more powerful nutritional punch because they are loaded with more of what our bodies need for wellness including anti-oxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals.

I think it’s important to say, however, that while some foods may be “super,” they are still just one of many different food requirements for health. There are no magic food elixirs; we need to eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables, even though we may have our favorite colors!

Having said that, a fascinating new study I read recently in the Nutrition Journal focused on one of my favorite “superfoods,” tomatoes, and one of my favorite subjects, menopause. (When two things I like come together, it gets my attention every time!) The study looked at women with menopausal symptoms and the impact of tomatoes on their health, their symptoms and even their weight and found some pretty amazing results.

Here’s how it worked. For two weeks prior to the study, the researchers asked women between the ages of 40 and 60 who had at least one menopausal symptom to abstain from all tomato or tomato-based products. Then for eight weeks, the women were asked to consume 200ml of unsalted tomato juice (that’s just under a cup) with breakfast and dinner every day.

They found that the women reported their symptoms were reduced (in a statistically significant way), including symptoms such as anxiety and hot flashes, two of the biggest ones we see in our patients at Women to Women. In addition, their serum triglyceride levels were reduced (improving their heart health) and their Resting Energy Expenditure or REE was increased.

So what is REE and why does it matter?

It turns out that increasing REE can play an important role in avoiding mid-life weight gain. Studies have shown that our Resting Energy Expenditure, or how many calories we burn when we are not active, goes down in the years leading up to menopause by as much as 400 calories a day.

This means that in addition to potential weight gain that may occur when progesterone and estrogen levels become imbalanced during perimenopause and after menopause, many women may gain weight mid-life simply because their bodies are burning fewer calories overall: if you keep eating the same number of calories and don’t increase your activity level, over time, those extra 400 calories a day will start to add up in the form of extra pounds.

What was so interesting about this study was that the twice daily tomato juice consumption was able to increase the Resting Energy Expenditure of the women by almost 400 calories a day, or nearly the same amount that is lowered naturally as we age!

So why do scientists think this occurs?

One reason tomatoes may work to help vanquish menopausal symptoms is that they contain large amounts of vitamin B-6. B-6 plays a critical role in balancing estrogen and progesterone levels and avoiding the menopause symptoms that appear when those two hormones are not in alignment.

Another reason tomatoes work so well on menopausal symptoms is that as we’ve shared with you in past newsletters, oxidative stress is shown to exacerbate symptoms in perimenopausal women. Tomatoes are high in lycopene, which is an anti-oxidant that can help alleviate the impact of the stress and keep symptoms in check.

While scientists aren’t exactly sure how tomatoes increased the women’s Resting Energy Expenditure, overall, we know that tomatoes are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants and can play a helpful contributing role to a healthy diet. And now we know they may help manage menopausal symptoms, including anxiety, hot flashes and weight gain as well. So does this mean you should run out and stock up on tomato juice? Sadly, no.

Dietary or lifestyle extremes are never healthy and as we said in the beginning, we need to eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables to ensure good health. While this study focused on tomatoes, my guess is that similar results would occur if any number of fruit or vegetables were tested, something that doesn’t happen often because it’s hard to find the money to fund food studies.

So while it’s exciting to see a study focused around the health impact of a food, particularly around menopausal symptom relief, it’s not a directive to go on a tomato juice diet! That said: if you are a woman who loves to have juice with breakfast or consumer a beverage with dinner, switching to tomato juice might be worth considering.

And adding more tomatoes to your diet, along with a healthy mix of other fruits and vegetables, is always a good thing (as long as you feel better after eating them; some women are allergic or sensitive to nightshades such as tomatoes and should avoid them.)

If that’s not you, look for ways to add more tomatoes and unsalted organic tomato juice to your meals. You can check out our slow roasted tomato recipe below for a new way to add a delicious tomato side dish to a meal and bring more B-6 and lycopene into your diet.

Spice up Your Life With Turmeric

By now you know how important I believe food is to health and healing. Food is something I discuss with virtually every patient I see at Women to Women. Finding the right balance of high quality proteins, slow-release carbohydrates and healthy fats — and knowing which ones are the best to choose — is something we all need to understand in order to get and stay healthy.

I encourage my patients to experiment and to try new grains, vegetables and other ingredients. We need to eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables, selecting options in each color to get the best nutritional support but yet often, we stick to the few things we know and love.

That’s probably because it’s easy, safe and familiar; it may feel too risky to take a chance on something new for dinner.

What if you cook it and no one likes it? Or you order it and pay all that money only to leave the restaurant still hungry (or worse yet, fill up on dessert because dinner wasn’t quite to your taste). But taking risks in life can pay off big time and trying a new food is a small way to change things up, escape your daily routine, and at the same time, improve your health.

You may not be able to travel to India or China tonight, where food has been used medicinally for thousands and thousands of years, but trying food from other parts of the world can be a great first step toward filling in your own nutritional gaps while at the same time opening yourself up to other ways of seeing the world. Who knows: you may find yourself beginning to take more risks in other areas of your life as well!

Whether you go all in or start small with some simple baby steps, to restore hormonal balance and heal your body, broadening your menu and ingredient list will help to ensure you get all the nutrients your changing body needs. Why not take a chance and try some kale, pomegranates, quinoa, sardines, or kefir? Or maybe instead of pizza, you could try some Indian, Asian or Middle Eastern food? Perhaps you could get together with friends (so you feed yourself on other levels at the same time) and try a new ethnic restaurant once a month. Or better yet, create a social cooking club and take turns choosing an intriguing new recipe to cook together. Trying new foods can be fun as well as healthy!

In addition to trying new foods, however, I also tell my patients to consider trying new flavors. If you are reluctant to jump from the chicken you know and love to a meat you have never tried such as bison, for example, there is still an easy way to completely change up the flavor of the same foods you eat regularly and also bring in some seriously powerful health benefits at the same time: add some spices.

It may help to think of spices as just really intensely flavored and concentrated vegetables: they are full of nutritional benefits such as phytonutrients and antioxidants, they are calorie free, but best of all, they take little to no prep work! Spices contain numerous health benefits and offer different flavor profiles to turn your chicken or vegetables from another “same old” meal into an exotic escape.

One particularly powerful spice you can bring into your diet easily that will have a positive impact on your health, wellness and longevity (that I have come to love!) is turmeric. You may have heard that turmeric is so powerful it has provided results comparable to many patented drugs; if you haven’t I’m going to give you a small taste of just some of turmeric’s many amazing health benefits.

So what exactly is turmeric?

Turmeric comes from the root of the curcuma plant. It’s native to Indonesia and southern India and it has been used in Eastern cultures for more than 5000 years. It has a tough brown skin but its flesh is a deep orange: it’s kind of like what you might see if ginger root and an orange merged together. (It’s sometimes called Indian saffron because of its similarity in color.)

While it’s one of the main ingredients in a curry, turmeric is also found in inexpensive store and ballpark mustards (such as French’s) as it gives mustard a bright yellow color. On its own, turmeric has a peppery, warm and slightly bitter taste. It’s high in manganese, iron, vitamin B6 and also contains fiber and potassium.

For thousands of years, turmeric has been used in China and India as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat conditions from toothaches to chest pains, colic, menstrual difficulties, flatulence and even jaundice. The healing power comes from curcumin, which is contained within the yellow or orange pigment. Curcumin has been shown in multiple studies to compare to the drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone and even over the counter anti-inflammatory products such as Motrin!

While these drugs all carry numerous risky side effects, however, curcumin has not demonstrated any toxicity or concerns. Beyond its generalized use as an anti-inflammatory (something very important given todays pro-inflammatory diet), turmeric has been shown in studies to have some very powerful more specific health benefits including aiding in:

  • Cancer prevention;
  • Improved liver function;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis relief;
  • Cystic fibrosis prevention;
  • Cholesterol level reduction;
  • Alzheimer’s prevention; and
  • Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

That is some serious nutritional power in a tasty little powder! So how do you bring this power into your diet? While turmeric is often found in supermarkets these days, spice stores and ethnic markets often have superior quality and freshness. If you are buying a jar of turmeric, try to find an organic brand (so you can be sure it was not irradiated as many spices are because that damages the free radicals) that is packaged and shipped fresh.

Powders should be kept in a cool, dark and dry place in a tightly sealed container. If you purchase turmeric itself, the fresh turmeric rhizome, as it is called, should be kept in your refrigerator. When ready to use, you boil it, dry it and grind it finely. The color of the powder may vary from yellow to orange but that won’t affect its quality: you can expect color variation to vary by variety.

Turmeric can stain easily, so wash any area it comes in contact with using soap and water and consider wearing kitchen gloves to prevent finger stains if handling directly. One last tip: curry powder contains only a small amount of the healing curcumin so opt for turmeric rather than curry powder for best results.

Experts say 2 teaspoons a day can have a powerful health impact so look for ways to add more turmeric into your diet by adding it to salad dressings, egg salads, or sprinkling it on steamed veggies such as cauliflower, onions, green beans and even sautéed apples. It goes great in any recipe using a curry (just add some extra) or anything you cook with lentils.

Taking a risk in life is good…. Food and especially spices are a great and easy way to bring something new and different in your life: Escape your routine and try a new spice such as turmeric today!

How You’re Making Your PMS (Or Menopause) Worse

When we started Women to Women more than thirty years ago, we were so excited to create the first alternative health clinic to offer care for women by women. We knew from the day our doors opened that women were not always listened to in the mainstream health care system. We knew that many practitioners had no idea what PMS or Menopause was really like: how could they when it was not even taught in medical school?

Back then, so many physicians would tell their patients that their symptoms of heart palpitations, anxiety, hot flashes, fuzzy thinking, depression and more were “all in their head.” Or they would simply send them out the door with a prescription for an anti-depressant, never taking the time to understand or connect the dots the symptoms were presenting.

From day one, we were passionate about women being heard; we listened to our patients, reassured them that their symptoms were real and that we understood how debilitating and disrupting they could be, and we worked with them to restore hormonal balance, heal, and get their bodies (and their lives) back on track. Since then thousands of women have come to our clinic and used our online programs to finally feel like themselves again.

When we started, we knew we were ahead of the curve but we truly believed that “the curve” would begin to catch up and that more practitioners would practice functional medicine. Functional medicine acknowledges that everything is connected and recognizes that sometimes a symptom does not come from an obvious cause, but rather, is the result of something happening further ‘upstream’ that needs to be addressed for health and healing (instead of simply treating the end result, the symptom.)

There is definitely more awareness today but sadly, three decades later, we still see patients who are dismissed by their regular practitioners because they were unable or unwilling to see the impact their hormonal balance symptoms were having on their lives and their health. Sometimes they were given an anti-depressant as a magic bullet; sometimes they were simply told it’s just a part of getting older. Sometimes we see women who have been to specialist after specialist to uncover the true cause of their health concerns, only to remain undiagnosed, miserable and exhausted.

The women who find us at our clinic or on our website tell us that we changed their lives and they are so glad they (finally!) found us. And we are thrilled that we can be there to listen, support, understand and guide them back to health.

While there have been some incredible medical advances over the past few decades, at Women to Women, we see more women than ever with debilitating PMS and peri-menopausal symptoms. That is because many of these hormonal balance, adrenal and thyroid symptoms are created and/or exacerbated by our lifestyle choices.

With the changes to factory farming, the rise of fast and convenience food, eating out more, working longer, sitting more, sleeping less, the prevalence of stress, and the excesses of exercise, alcohol and caffeine we employ to cope, more women than ever are struggling with painful or uncomfortable PMS or Perimenopausal symptoms.

The good news is that if we are causing or worsening our symptoms, then we can improve and even alleviate them. Let’s look at some of the factors that may be making your symptoms worse and what we can all do to help our bodies heal, whether you are experiencing symptoms or not.

(We have a lot more information on each triggers of these on our website, so I’m going to keep the details to the point. If you want more information, check out our articles here.)

Top PMS and Perimenopause Triggers

Sleep – Many of my patients struggle to get a good night’s sleep. A recent study showed that after two weeks of sleeping for only 6 hours a night, your body reacts and functions as if you had been up for 48 hours straight! Sleep is so important to health and wellness and most of all, restoring balance and healing. That’s because so many of our body’s healing processes take place at night while we are sleeping. If your sleep is disrupted, so is your healing and that means your hormonal imbalance and your symptoms will seem worse.

So what can you do if you aren’t getting enough sleep? I know we are all so busy, but try making a plan to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night for two weeks straight. My bet is you’ll feel so good after a few weeks that it will become a priority! Turn off the TV and read before bed. Try a warm bath with Epsom salts or take a magnesium supplement before bed, especially if you wake up and have trouble going back to sleep. (Magnesium has been shown to aid in falling – and staying – asleep and most of us are deficient.).

Keep your room cool and dark and avoid reading, watching or discussing anything intense or stressful (like the news or problems at work or with the kids) in the hours before bedtime. If your mind is busy or you have difficulty relaxing, try our Women to Women’s Sleep Support Formula that supports relaxation and sleep.

Stress – Stress has reached epidemic proportions and it is proven to disrupt hormones and menstrual cycles, leading to more painful periods and more entrenched peri-menopausal symptoms. I’m not going to be the first one to tell you that finding a way to slow down and relax is critical for your health and your hormonal balance; you’ve heard it before and the research proves the negative health impacts of living under ongoing stress include not just worse PMS or peri-menopausal symptoms, but adrenal fatigue or burn out, heart disease, stroke, cancer and more.

So What Can I Do About My Stress? There are many ways to reduce stress and what is important is that you find the one (s) that you enjoy and will stick with. Meditation, tai chi, yoga, deep breathing, journaling, art or music therapy are all great stress relievers. As is spending time in nature, being active outdoors, a nice long walk or being with loved ones and laughing.

Try combining a few to pack a more powerful punch such as a yoga class with a friend, or a walk with a loved one. Plan activities on the weekend, over lunch, or after work that excite you, inspire your creativity, or just get you to slow down and breath, laugh or smile.

Diet – Food is probably the biggest symptom trigger. It’s hard to eat well in today’s world: even your intentions are good, the nutrient level in food is not what it used to be and food today contains hormones, chemicals, pesticides and allergens that disrupt our hormone system. Most of my patients are out of balance from low-fat diets, too much refined sugar and flour and processed foods, dairy (which often contains hormones that will tilt your system out of balance), carbohydrates, gluten, dieting or eating irregularly throughout the day instead of steady meals and snacks that start with a healthy breakfast and end at least three hours before bed.

So What Can I Do About My Diet? Women to Women has a meal plan coming soon

to guide you, but your goal should be to reduce or eliminate foods that disrupt hormones such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, white flour, processed foods, excess carbohydrates, dairy (especially non-organic), gluten, and non-organic fruits and vegetables as many pesticides contain environmental estrogens that will disrupt your hormone balance.

Instead, look for high quality REAL foods and try to combine high-quality protein, fats and fiber (such as vegetables and other slow-release carbohydrates) at every meal. Look for organic whenever possible and when it comes to animal products, wild such as salmon, venison, bison, or grass-fed beef are better. Think of it as a re-set for your hormones and try to take two weeks to make thoughtful food choices. Most of my patients say that they feel so much better after two weeks that they never want to go back to their old way of eating again!

Excess – Good sleep, good food, regular movement throughout your day to reduce periods of sitting, exercise, and relaxation are all important for healing. Often, however, when our lives get out of balance, we adopt coping mechanisms to make it through. Over time, if the situation doesn’t change, those become habits that can derail our health.

Excess caffeine (more than a cup or two of coffee for example or relying on the coffee to get up or to make it through the afternoon) will wreak havoc on your hormones. So will too much alcohol (it’s just like sugar and will raise your blood sugar levels followed by a crash, making hormonal balance — and possibly restful sleep if you drink at night — impossible.

While exercise is great for health and hormonal balance, too much exercise/extreme exercise can lead to exacerbated symptoms as well as it may deplete the body’s nutritional reserves and send it into famine mode.

So What Can I Do About Excess? We all know we need balance in our lives and hormonal imbalance is often a great reminder of that: we cannot balance our hormones if we out of balance in major areas of our lives. A cup or two of coffee or an occasional glass of wine is ok, especially if it brings you pleasure and you slow down, stop and truly relax and enjoy it. (Though if your symptoms are moderate to severe, you may want to take a break from all caffeine and alcohol for a couple weeks to let your body re-set and see how you feel.)

If you crave something, be if coffee, wine, salty foods, or chocolate, you’re likely out of balance and not getting nutrients that you need; you should definitely look into a high quality multi-vitamin and a probiotic supplement such as the ones we offer in our store.

If you’re addicted to exercise, you may need to learn to love your body (and yourself) as it is. Or you may need to get the energy high from a hug or a close relationship instead. Ask yourself WHY you are doing/eating it. If the answer is positive and nourishing, indulge a little. If not, look for another way to get what you or your body needs.

You don’t Have To Go It Alone!

In our many years at Women to Women, we have found most every woman requires a high-quality multivitamin, an omega 3 and a probiotic supplement. We simply cannot get the nutrition we need from the food supply today, even if we eat well. If you are under stress, not sleeping well, don’t get regular exercise, sit too much throughout the day, are exposed to hormones, chemicals or pesticides, or just don’t feel good, it’s even more important that you support your body’s healing with good nutritional supplementation.

If your symptoms are more severe, the additional support we provide in our PMS and Menopausal Product Systems will help your body jump-start its healing and find relief even more quickly. You may think a nutritional support system cannot bring you relief or maybe you’ve tried cheaper nutritional supplements in the past without success but that’s why we offer a money-back guarantee: our products work.

We have partnered directly with a leading lab to bring you the very best products available, proven to make a difference. We’ve helped thousands of women restore hormonal balance and find relief from their PMS and peri-menopausal symptoms. We can help you too.

To learn more about our PMS product system, click here.

To learn more about our menopausal product system, click here.

What You Need to Know about Water and Hydration

Summer in Maine is short, but so very sweet: beautiful weather, time for the beach or the lake, and gathering with friends. Because the winters can be long and harsh, we treasure every minute of summer in Maine and try to get outside as much as we can to soak in the sunshine (and the vitamin D!).

Many patients come to me at Women to Women wondering what the best options are to stay hydrated: when you’re outside in warmer weather, it is even more important to ensure that you drink often and stay hydrated.

So what should you choose? Should you stick with bottled or tap water? What if you don’t like water?

Today I’d like to look at some of the options for optimal hydration and share a little about why hydration is so important so you can support your body through the summer heat and beyond.

Why We Need to Stay Hydrated

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, (and most all of my patients have at some point in time!), you know that it is often not that hard to drop a few pounds when you first start and that your weight can fluctuate a few pounds on a daily basis. That’s because of changes in your body’s water levels and it’s why many say not to weigh yourself on a daily basis (or even at all) but rather to go by how your clothes fit and feel.

More than half our body weight is water and you lose water every day as you go to the bathroom and sweat. When you are active or in higher temperatures, even if you’re just sitting, you’ll lose even more water. You also lose water when you have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, if you are on a diet, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or even if you are older. That’s because as we age, our brains are less sensitive to hydration levels and thirst signals are not as precise.

The water we lose must be replaced because our bodies need water to survive.

Every cell, tissue and organ requires water to perform their functions including joint lubrication, waste removal and maintaining your desired body temperature, to name a few. (If you’re struggling with hormonal balance and having body temperature changes, it’s even more important not to exacerbate this by becoming dehydrated as that will prevent your body from maintaining its proper temperature.)

Are You Dehydrated? How Much Water Do You Really Need?

Many women come to the clinic with symptoms of sleeplessness, fatigue, headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, or confusion. While these are all common symptoms of hormonal imbalance, many of my patients are surprised to learn that these are also symptoms of dehydration!

In addition, dry mouth, no tears when crying, lighter than normal urine volume or urine that is dark yellow are also common signs of dehydration. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you’ll need to increase your fluid intake. If you do not have these common signs of dehydration, how do you know if you are well hydrated and how to determine much water do you need?

The old adage about water consumption has been that we need to drink 8 8-ounce glasses a day. That’s because back in 1945, when that recommendation was developed, the Food and Nutrition Board suggested 1 ml or 1/5 of a teaspoon of water for every calorie consumed. Since the average diet was about 1900 calories then, that worked out to 64 ounces a day.

Now the Institute of Medicine sets general water guidelines at 91 ounces, or 2.7 liters a day, for women and 125 ounces, or 3.7 liters, for men. But these guidelines include any and all liquids we drink, even coffee or soda, and the water found in foods we eat as well. They now say that most healthy people can get all the fluids they need from their regular food and drink without adding multiple extra glasses of water and that most importantly, thirst should be the guide.

Of course, some of my patients are transitioning off medications for depression, heart disease or stomach ulcers and these medications can disrupt your thirst signals. In addition, diabetes will disrupt thirst signals as well, so you cannot always rely solely on thirst.

I always tell my patients that liquid consumption, much like everything is, bio-individual: some people will need more, some less. One of the best ways to gauge your hydration level is still checking your urine: a well-hydrated body will have clear or light yellow urine. If yours is dark yellow or amber-colored, you are likely dehydrated.

What Is the Best Way to Stay Hydrated?

Because water is a foundation of the human body, drinking pure water is the best way to remain hydrated and to replace the water your body loses on a daily basis. But today, getting pure water is much harder than it should be. Tap water is often fluoridated which can pose many health concerns including thyroid problems and cancers. (You can learn more about this in our article here.)

If you drink tap water, you will need to filter it. There are whole house filtration systems available that remove all the chemicals from your water including your bath water as well as your tap water. Since we absorb water through our skin as well, these are an excellent investment. Or you can choose to just filter the water from your kitchen sink. If that’s not possible, there are now water bottles with built in filters available that you could refill and keep with you throughout your day.

While bottled water is a convenient option, at Women to Women, we don’t recommend bottled water to our patients. In addition to the environmental concerns massive amounts of plastic are posing, recent studies have shown that bottled water often contains many of the same chemicals as tap water, which can disrupt your endocrine system and cause health concerns. In addition, plastic bottles leach chemicals into the water when they are exposed to heat: even if you keep yours in a cool, dark place, it’s very likely they were exposed to heat in transit, in the store or in a warehouse.

If water seems boring, try adding a slice or two of lemon, cucumber or another fruit to it to jazz it up. Keep a pitcher of fruit water handy in your fridge to make it convenient. While any liquid counts in terms of hydration, we don’t recommend soda or juice because of the high sugar content. (Diet soda poses numerous other health concerns and should always be avoided).

In addition, stay away from energy drinks, as they are usually high in caffeine and other stimulants such as ginseng, guarana or taurine. Most processed sports drinks are not much better. They contain very high levels of sugar, may contain caffeine, and often contain artificial dyes and ingredients that may pose health risks.

If you are going to be physically active outside in hot weather, though, it is important to replace the electrolytes your body will lose through excessive sweating. In that case, look for a natural water supplement to add to your filtered water. Ultima Replenisher makes an electrolyte drink powder that has no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. It comes in convenient single serve packs you can carry with you and simply add to your water if needed. (I like the lemonade flavor)

In our previous newsletter we shared that a cup or two of coffee a day is fine. In the summer if you choose to have it iced even better; either way, it still contributes to your liquid intake. Same with tea: if it’s caffeinated, a cup or two a day, hot or iced, is fine. However green tea (which has lower caffeine) or herbal teas can be effective hydrators especially over ice.

And don’t forget that the food you eat that contains water counts too: soups and broths, vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, water and even lettuces all contain water as well.

Water Loss, Hormones and Vitamins

If you are losing more water than normal for any of the reasons mentioned, you’ll also want to pay extra attention to ensuring you take a high-quality multi-vitamin to ensure you have the vitamins, minerals and co-factors needed for your body to remain in optimal health when under the stress of heat or exertion.

If you are experiencing symptoms of hormonal balance such as fatigue, hot flashes, anxiety, night sweats, digestive concerns, depression, or fuzzy thinking, your body needs extra help and support to get back on track. You don’t have to suffer. Our hormonal balance product system has helped thousands of women to finally feel like themselves again. We can help you too.

While it’s always a good idea to take a high-quality multi-vitamin since we simply cannot get enough nutrition from our diets today given the way food is produced and marketed, it’s especially important if you are experiencing symptoms of hormonal balance. In addition, however, we often make adjustments to our lifestyles in the summer months that may require us to provide our bodies with additional support.

If you are more active, as we often are in the summer; if you are outside in heat or other environmentally stressful situations; if you are exercising more or doing your usual routine in warmer temperatures than normal; if you are not sleeping as well at night due to warmer temperatures or because you are staying up later to fully enjoy every summer day and night; or if are eating lighter because of the heat, you’ll definitely need to make sure you provide your body with the support it needs to balance your hormones and stay healthy.

If any of those conditions or scenarios sounds like you, you can’t expect your body to perform optimally or heal itself without giving it the right support. With our stressful lives depleting our nutrients and our food supply unable to replenish them, you must take action to heal your body and restore hormonal balance if you want to

live symptom-free.

You can feel better. But it won’t happen unless you make the decision to give your body the support it needs. To learn more about our hormonal balance system including our high-quality pharmaceutical grade multi-vitamin, which has helped thousands of women to feel better and restore their health, click here.

Making Menopause Magical and Meaningful

One of the wonderful things about being a part of Women to Women for over thirty years is that I have seen so many women heal their bodies and their lives. Thousands of women overcome by disruptive symptoms such as joint pain, night sweats, digestive concerns, anxiety, depression, mood swings, or hot flashes, have gone on to restore hormonal balance and to feel like themselves again.

It’s incredible to see the physical transformation first-hand and watch them leave the clinic feeling good, often for the first-time in years. But more and more, I am seeing women transformed by menopause in other ways: emotional healing, the emergence of a new understanding of who they are and what they want, expression of dormant creativity, and even total reinvention.

I can’t tell you how inspiring it is to see women heal emotionally and physically and go on to create incredible amazing lives after menopause. So often we speak about menopause negatively, focusing on symptoms and discomfort and the physical challenges it brings. But menopause also brings a wonderful opportunity to get to know our bodies and ourselves in a much deeper way and to use the information we gain to chart a new course for the second half of our lives. How exciting is that?

Like all big opportunities, however, it’s not completely effortless: the mid-life transition of menopause brings with it some challenges and requires a little time and effort on our parts. But the pay off is so worth it! If you’re feeling down or discouraged about the state of your body and/or your life, I want to reassure that there is hope. You can get your symptoms under control. You can feel good again. You can turn your life around and create a new future by using this time to explore emotions and dreams you may have put on hold or buried away and forgotten long ago.

Before we can look at the emotional aspects, however, we need to deal with the physical ones. If you are not feeling well or not feeling like yourself, you won’t have the ability or the space or the emotional stamina to look deeply within yourself. Over the past three decades at Women to Women, we have seen the power of nutrition and lifestyle choices first-hand: now more than ever, food is medicine or poison, depending upon how you use it.

It’s important at all times, but especially during times of transition such as menopause, that we make the best choices we can to nourish and support our bodies and our lives. That’s why we encourage our patients to eat whole foods, organic when possible, and not packaged or processed foods. We also suggest to our patients that they try to cook at home as much as possible since restaurant food is often as bad — or even worse — than packaged and even fast foods.

Balance is key: aim for meals with healthy proteins, fats and fiber. That means grass-fed beef, organic free-range chicken, wild-caught salmon, bison, and whole and complete plant-based proteins like quinoa. We also need to consume healthy fats in the form of olive oil, avocados, grass-fed butter, and nuts along with lots of (organic when possible) fruits and vegetables.

We’ve shared with you before, however, that even adopting this healthy eating plan, it is very hard to get all of the nutrients we require from todays food supply, especially during a time of transition and hormonal imbalance such as menopause. That’s why even if you eat well – but especially if you do not – we believe every woman needs high-quality bio-absorbable nutritional supplementation like we offer in our multi-vitamin and omega-3 support products.

Most of our patients find that the right high-quality supplementation, along with some simple dietary changes such as cooking more and eating out less and making sure meals are balanced with protein, fat and fiber, brings significant and fast symptom relief. If your hormones are out of balance, additional plant-based support to restore that balance is also provided in our PMS and hormonal balance support systems to help speed relief and heal and restore balance. Quite frankly, we find the results to be amazing!

If you’ve read our previous newsletters on probiotics, you know that we also recommend a probiotic support product to all of our patients. If you have digestive concerns of any kind, this is definitely a must. But as we’ve seen from recent studies, the gut flora balance our bodies rely on for wellness can so easily be disrupted by antibiotics, stress, lack of sleep and poor food choices, so it’s important to ensure that your second brain, your digestive system, is in balance.

If you can make small dietary changes and then also add in some basic lifestyle shifts such as getting more sleep (start with 15 more minutes a night, then work up to 30 or 60 more minutes over time); finding ways to reduce and relieve stress (it may be physical such as yoga or tai chi or it may be more spiritual such as journaling, meditation or a hobby; I like using both); adding in more physical movement in our day (take a walk at lunch, take the stairs or simply make sure you stand up every hour); and looking to find exercise we truly enjoy doing (I’ve begun ballroom dancing and I love it! But many women I know have taken up training for a run or cycling charity event, started hiking again, or tried Zumba or boxing classes at the gym), you’ll be well on your way to feeling good again.

As women begin to feel better physically, at the clinic we often see that emotions they have buried previously may come to the surface. Perhaps feelings or issues from your childhood that you never fully addressed may emerge. While that may surprise you, it is a gift and a call from your body to explore them, feel them, release them and heal them so that you can experience greater physical and emotional health going forward.

Much like a physical symptom showing up that invites us to look upstream to see what actually caused it, (and it may be something very different than what it initially appears to be), an emotional memory or experience is your body’s way of shining a light and asking you to delve deeper to explore the root cause so that you can release the symptom or its expression.

For other women, it may be more of an opportunity to finally take some time for themselves: their career may be more stable, kids may be older, perhaps they are on their own or their relationship affords them more “me time” at this stage; it is a chance to ask questions about who and where they are now… and where they would like to go.

Is there enough joy and sweetness in my life?
What can I imagine myself to be?
What could I do with the second half off my life?
Who am I now? What do I want? How could I get there?

There are no right or wrong answers and unlike the pressure of an imminent graduation or wedding, there is no time constraint forcing an immediate decision or action. So finally, sometimes for the first time in a woman’s life, she can explore these questions openly, playfully, spiritually, enthusiastically and individually, focusing on herself, and see what comes up. It may be a little scary but mostly it is fun to imagine a variety of future possibilities, to take time to sit with what comes up and see how it really feels, and to focus on what lights us up and ignites us with passion.

I have seen so many women take the time to explore these questions and emerge from menopause clear and excited about where they would like to go — and then go off and create it. I admire and am inspired by these women reinventing themselves and their lives and using menopause as a time of transformation, healing and growth.

I invite you to consider menopause as more than just annoying symptoms but also as a wake up call to your physical body and to your spirit to look deeper and see what is really going on, what lies within that is calling for you to discover it, and to explore the possibilities for the second — and quite possibly best half — of your life.

Our menopause support products can help speed symptom relief so you are free to explore the gifts that menopause can bring. Our multi-vitamin, omega-3 and plant-based support products work together synergistically to heal and restore hormonal balance.

Stop suffering now! Hot flashes, night sweats, forgetfulness and brain fog can disappear! Order Women to Women’s Menopause Support Program today!

To take our hormonal balance symptom quiz, click here.

Anxious? Depressed? It’s Not in Your Head: It May Be in Your Stomach!

Over the last thirty years, we’ve seen first-hand that in order to create and sustain wellness, we need to do more than just treat a symptom; we need to find the cause.

At Women to Women, we practice functional medicine because we know that everything in our bodies is interconnected.

Often, the cause is not immediately related to the symptom; the symptom may be the result of something that happened “upstream” which created a chain reaction of sorts. So while the symptom may be cause for concern, the bigger challenge is tracking down how, why and where it all began.

Over the past three decades that we’ve been in practice, I’ve seen over and over again the importance of maintaining a healthy digestive tract: so many different symptoms can present when the bacteria in our digestive system become imbalanced.

I am thrilled to see so much new research and information in the media these days about the important role our gut flora play in our health; it’s so exciting to see what we have learned and experienced first-hand at Women to Women begin to reach the mainstream and to hear others finally talking about it too.

While at Women to Women we’ve connected gut bacteria to mental and physical health for more than a decade, when most people think about mental health, they still think about brain chemical imbalances. But now new research is showing that the imbalance causing anxiety and depression (and a host of digestive and other health concerns) may not be in your head; it may be in your gut.

Let’s look at your gut and why it’s so important to your health.

What is your Gut?

Your gut is considered to be your entire digestive system including your stomach, colon, and intestines. We have 100 trillion bacteria (about 6 pounds worth) in our guts. In comparison, we have about 37 trillion cells in our entire body! While gut bacteria is often labeled as either good or bad, all bacteria play a role and are necessary but they must remain in balance so that no one group takes over.

Bacteria help us break down food, absorb nutrients, run our immune system (70-80% of our immune cells reside in our intestines) and our digestive system. When we have too many of certain kinds of bacteria, it can cause us digestive distresses, obesity, and now research shows, can even impact our mood.

The bacteria in our guts generally coexist peacefully but when we get out of alignment, stressed out, eat poorly, don’t sleep enough, or take medications such as antibiotics, we upset the delicate balance, killing off necessary good bacteria we need for health and allowing other bacteria to take over. That’s one powerful reason why our lifestyle choices and diets have such a huge impact on our health!

Antibiotics were developed to kill off potentially deadly bacteria and they may be one of the greatest discoveries of all time for extending our health. But antibiotics kill off all bacteria: they do not differentiate between good and bad or which bacteria play what role. That means every time we take an antibiotic, we lose healthy bacteria as well. If we eat poorly, have stress or poor sleep, we create the environment for less healthy or potentially harmful bacteria to grow and we shift the balance of bacteria in our systems.

Gut Flora and Weight

While we’ve known for awhile that stress, poor sleep, and an imbalanced diet can lead to bacteria imbalances, studies also show that eating junk food such as fast food will kill off healthy bacteria. A genetic epidemiology professor recently put his son on a McDonalds diet for 10 days as an experiment. He tested his son’s gut microbes and found 3500 species of bacteria before starting; by the end of 10 days, 1300 of the species had died.

In addition, the professor found that a new type of bacteria took control in his son and that the bacteria linked to obesity became present. Even more concerning was the fact that when the son resumed a normal diet, the species of bacteria that had been killed did not return! This will create an imbalanced environment in the gut that may lead to a host of potential health concerns over time if not corrected.

Fast food has been linked to obesity because we assume it’s all about eating too many calories. This study shows that the food itself may be altering gut bacteria balance and causing us to hold onto or gain weight. We’ve already seen lab studies showing that when mice receive bacteria from obese humans they become obese as well and headlines were made recently when a woman received a fecal transplant and became obese after the procedure. These studies show that being obese is not just about eating too much and lacking willpower!

Conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s and Colitis have long been connected to gut health but now we are beginning to see connections between gut flora imbalances and diabetes, heart disease and cancer as well. I expect we will see much more research on this in they years to come.

Gut Flora and Mood

In addition to all of the connections established already between health, disease and your gut, exciting new research has now also shown that our gut is actually responsible for how we feel (good or bad) and is even connected to mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression.

For a long time scientists thought that we might feel good or bad simply because of how our digestive tract was doing; it’s hard to feel good if you feel bloated or have cramping. Now, however, researchers have been able to show it’s even more than that. Bacteria in our guts are actually able to produce hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and other mood enhancers — or detractors — directly! These chemicals are not just produced in the brain: they are created in our guts as well!

It’s incredible to think that we have hormones being created in our digestive systems and not just our brains: our stomachs are actually creating or altering our moods! This helps explain why we have been able to treat menopausal women who experience anxiety and depression at Women to Women so effectively through our nutritional plan and supplements.

In fact, scientists now believe that the neurons in the gut produce as much dopamine and those in the head and about 95% of the serotonin in the body measured at any point in time is typically in the enteric nervous system, or the nervous system found in the gut.

In the future, gut bacteria research may lead to alternative therapies and treatments for a number of mental health concerns. I am excited about what we will learn in the years to come. In the meantime, however, if you suffer from anxiety and depression, I encourage taking a look at your stomach and not just your head.

I believe time and more research will connect many of our modern diseases and conditions including obesity and other mental health concerns to gut health. More than ever, research is proving that we truly are what we eat and that food is our greatest medicine or our most dangerous poison.

At Women to Women, we have found that eating whole foods, reducing stress, getting a good night’s sleep and taking high quality multi-vitamins will go a long way to supporting better gut — and overall — health. In addition, adding more fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh and miso to our diets can help to restore gut balance.

I also encourage all my patients to take a high quality probiotic to support better gut health, especially if they are experiencing any symptoms. If you are struggling with digestive concerns, you need to restore balance in your gut flora. If you are struggling with weight gain or obesity, you may have a flora imbalance. And if you are experiencing anxiety or depression, you’ll need to balance the hormones being created in your gut as well as your brain with healthy probiotic support.

You don’t have to experience digestive concerns or suffer from mood imbalances. We’ve helped thousands of women to feel like themselves again. We can help you too. Between antibiotics, processed foods, stress, poor sleep, and food contamination, we could all use a little digestive health support and a good probiotic is an important part of maintaining and restoring healthy gut flora balance.

To learn more about our probiotic support, click here.

The #1 Symptom of Menopause: It’s Not What you Think!

Do you know what the #1 symptom of Menopause is? I bet it’s not what you think!

There are many different menopausal symptoms (three dozen or so!) and each woman experiences menopause differently; which symptoms cause the greatest disruption to YOUR life will be unique to YOU. But even so, with my patients at Women to Women, I’ve seen a few symptoms rise to the top of the complaint list over the years.

For the longest time, the biggest complaint women had during perimenopause was around hot flashes. Hot flashes are still a big concern for women, don’t get me wrong, because they are really disrupting and 4 out of 5 women will experience them at menopause.

But over the past few years, I’ve seen a shift in symptom complaints in my patients. The number one symptom I see at Women to Women today is no longer hot flashes: it’s anxiety.

Anxiety can show up in your life in many ways. You may have heart palpitations, trouble breathing, a nervous stomach, or feel like you are scattered, distracted or compulsively worrying. So what’s changed to make anxiety so much more prevalent among women transitioning through menopause today?

In my opinion, much comes down to stress. The way we live our lives today and the amount of stress we experience on a daily basis running our homes, our families, our jobs and trying to do it all takes its toll on our bodies.

And when you have that high stress combined with changing hormones, the likelihood of experiencing anxiety is that much greater. That’s because progesterone has a soothing effect on our nervous systems and as the ratios of progesterone to estrogen decrease during perimenopause, anxiety is often the result. And when we have increased amounts of stress for long periods of time, pregnenolone, a precursor to progesterone gets pushed down a different pathway to make cortisol.  Then, often, women will have a low progesterone level and imbalanced hormones.

So what can you do about it?  I’m not going to be the first person to tell you that you have to find a way to slow down and reduce stress. I know it can be hard with so much going on in your busy lives but I can tell you that finding a practice that works for you and taking the time to implement it into your daily routine is going to go a long way toward feeling better.

Your anxiety is a call to action from your body, telling you to listen. If you don’t take action, not only will you be living with the anxiety and the uncomfortable, life-disrupting symptoms it presents for longer than you need to, but over time, that stress is going to cause other more serious problems.

So take your anxious moment as a message from your body to say: Hey there! You’re running me ragged and I need a little rest and a break. How about a good night’s sleep, some healthy nutritious food and some me-time? Maybe some deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi, chi gong, a hot bath or journaling and a cup of tea? Or perhaps a nice long walk outside?

Whatever you decide to do is up to you. It should be something that slows you down, gives you time to relax and free your mind, to take deep breaths and step away from the crazy stress of the day. Finding some time for yourself every day will not only reduce your anxiety, it will make you happier and re-fill your cup so that you can give more to others than you can when you’re running on empty yourself.

And taking a little time every day to relax and de-stress will help you get your body back on track so that the stress won’t do more damage. Stress is connected to heart disease, cancer and more, so ignoring this wake-up call won’t serve you well now or in the future. But the good news is that it just takes a little practice to build some de-stress time into your daily routine.

You can also look to add some more protein to your meals and snacks.  The addition of protein will help to reduce blood sugar spiking and lessen internal inflammation or the stress caused by food additives, allergens, and chemicals. Consider lean meat, grass-fed cheese, nuts, or nut butters, without added sugars.

At Women to Women, we’ve seen that a daily de-stress ritual coupled with getting a good night’s sleep and making sound nutrition choices can restore your health, relieve your symptoms and get you feeling great again. Try to avoid sugar and processed foods, which can cause internal stress on your body and choose organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats, and wild caught fish instead.

And because we know that even if you try, it’s really hard to get the nutrition you need from today’s food supply, we recommend a high quality pharmaceutical grade multivitamin and omega 3 oil to restore inner balance, reduce inflammation and manage the stress within your body. We believe every one needs to take both a multi-vitamin and an omega-3 product for optimal wellness.

If you are experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance, you will also need additional nutrients to support your body’s healing such as the all-natural herbs we have formulated in our proprietary Menopause Support product.

Diet and lifestyle changes combined with nutritional support through high quality supplementation leave most of our patients symptom-free. So if you’re ready to get rid of anxiety, hot flashes and other life-disrupting symptoms so that you can restore your health and feel like yourself again, we can help. We’ve helped thousands of women to feel better and we can help you too.

To learn more about our menopause support system, click here.

What’s The Buzz About Precision Medicine?

At Women to Women, we’ve known about bio-individuality for more than three decades now and have always believed that there is no one size fits all approach to wellness. So it’s exciting for me to see functional medicine actively acknowledge the potential that exists to use our own bodies’ information to prevent, diagnose, and treat health conditions (even if mainstream medicine isn’t quite there yet.)

Precision medicine has been called a “broad-based research program that is focused on creative approaches for individual patients.” The recommendations that emerge from the studies that are done would then be tested and used to build an evidence-base that can more effectively guide clinical practices. That may sound technical or scientific, but what it really means is that finally individual health statistics would be tracked in a massive database and we could begin to learn from what we know about others who face the same conditions or share similar genes.

Understanding that we are all different, at least on some level, is not a totally new concept for the medical community. We’ve known for some time that there are different blood types and that a Type B can’t receive Type A blood, for example; some differences between human bodies are openly acknowledged and understood by everyone.

But taking that blood type idea even further and applying it more broadly to acknowledge variances among our proteins, metabolites, genes, cellular assays (secretions) and more on a person by person basis, is an exciting concept to consider!

Could we ever know enough about our individual body functions to be able to target prevention and treatment strategies that are unique to our own physiology? Someday, I think so.
Precision medicine is underway now and is already having an impact on the treatment of cancers. Many cancer incidence rates are increasing and cancers overall are among the leading causes of death both here in the U.S. and all over the world. We know now from research that there are characteristics that are universal across all cancers but there are others that are unique to each particular kind of cancer: every cancer has its own “genomic signature.”

And we are learning more every day about those signatures. While we know now from research that cancer is predominantly a lifestyle disease, resulting from damage to the genes based on things like our food choices, exposure to chemicals and toxins and stress, we also know that there is a genetic component and that inherited gene variations can also play a significant role in cancer development.

Knowing this, precision medicine scientists are already adjusting their risk assessments, their diagnoses and therapeutic strategies based on the variances among the genes that they observe, enabling targeted therapies, drugs and antibodies to be developed that are already having incredible results. Imagine what they can do when they have access to a huge database of information that they can study!

We are just starting … and as we analyze more cancer genomes and conduct more trials, the precision medicine initiative hopes to build a “cancer knowledge network” to store the data and the conclusions and enable scientists, health care workers — and even patients — to access it. This will enhance existing cancer treatment practices, making them more precise and may also improve preventative measures. It will also empower patients to take more control of their own health.

As amazing as this foray into bio-individuality in the cancer realm is to me, the really exciting part of all this is what may be coming down the road: scientists hope to build a database and a longitudinal “cohort” of over a million Americans to gather and track health information and eventually develop better understandings of disease mechanisms, disease risk, and optimal therapies.

They hope to include a wide range of biomedical information, including genomic, cellular, behavioral, molecular, clinical, environmental and physiological parameters. What that means is that researchers can use details our bodies can give us, from our genes to our cells to our lifestyles, gather the information into a database where it can be studied and cross-referenced, and then they can develop some powerful applications using advancing technologies.

For example, one possible application might be a high-tech solution such as real-time monitoring of blood pressure, cardiac rhythm and glucose via your mobile phone. Another possibility might address a recent headline made when a woman received a fecal transplant and became obese as a result: fecal sampling might determine the specific patterns of gut microbes contributing to obesity.

Blood tests might be able to reveal tumors cells or enable early detection of cancer through tumor DNA. Or we may also be able to use genotyping to uncover the specific variants among genes that lead to certain conditions, enabling more effective treatment, earlier detection and ultimately, prevention.

While the greatest benefits will likely take some time, it is also hoped that another shorter-term benefit may be found in pharmacogenetics: getting the right drug to the right patient in the right dose. For those on medications, this can be very impactful.

At Women to Women, we’ve always known that every woman is different: our philosophy has always been to meet her wherever she is and work with her own unique physiology, biology, lifestyle and “story.” We treat the whole person and accept that there is no one size fits all approach.

But over the last thirty plus years, we also have come to see first-hand in our clinic that while there is always some tweaking and adjusting patient by patient, certain lifestyle and dietary choices and key nutritional supplements seem to bring tremendous results universally for almost every woman.

We see every day that lifestyle and what we put in our mouths is the most important aspect of our health: food is the most powerful drug (for harm and for healing) that we have. At Women to Women, we’ve spent more than three decades identifying the common denominators that help virtually all of our patients to restore hormonal balance, thyroid and adrenal health and overall wellness.

We’ve helped thousands of women alleviate mood swings, fuzzy thinking, hot flashes, anxiety and other debilitating symptoms and finally feel like themselves again. You don’t have to wait or feel badly another day. We can help you too.

To learn more about our hormonal balance support products, click here.

Get Your Mojo Back Without “Pink” Viagra

Sexual desire is considered to be a life force in many cultures and feeling sexy and desired is a powerful part of being a woman. Fluctuating hormones during perimenopause and declining estrogen after menopause, however, can leave us wondering why we are feeling less interested in sex than we used to be.

I often see patients who are struggling with their libidos; changing sexual desire is one of the most common complaints women share with us at Women to Women. Many women come to us with physical symptoms that impact their interest in intimacy or diminish their pleasure, while others are experiencing emotional shifts or unresolved relationship issues that may make sex less appealing with their partners.

We often see that women who have not dealt with emotions from their past, be it from childhood or within their relationships, will find that these unresolved issues emerge and express, sometimes in new or surprising ways. Whether they are totally clear to you or completely catch you off guard, one thing is for sure: these emotions will not be denied and they will call to you for deeper exploration. Left unresolved, research shows that they will very likely impact your health as well as your sexuality.

Women, many of whom have enjoyed a healthy sex life until this point, often come to the clinic distraught and desperate to get their “mojo” back. They may even lament the fact that there is not a female Viagra, thinking perhaps that popping a pill would make their symptoms go away and make everything ok. (Ask any man on Viagra who experiences its high cost and the declining efficacy over time and he will tell you it’s not his preferred solution.)

While we’d all like a magic bullet, we know from working with our patients at Women to Women that there are no quick fixes. Desire can be restored but the most helpful thing to start with is diet and lifestyle changes, nutritional supplementation, and exploration of the relationship and emotional connection of the patient to her partner.

When you develop a symptom such as painful sex, diminished desire, or even surprising feelings and emotional reactions toward your partner, it is your body’s way of getting your attention and showing you what is really going on. Taking a pill to ignore the message may be convenient, but long-term, it’s much more effective to figure out the cause and treat it. In fact, that’s the only way to ensure your optimal health — and that of your relationship. Don’t get me wrong there are times that testosterone levels are low and adding testosterone can make a big difference for some women.

The New Female Viagra — How Flibanserin Works

As a health care practitioner who has been helping women to experience the best sex of their lives after menopause for over three decades now, I’ve been fascinated by conversations in the news recently about this new drug being called the “female Viagra” that pharmaceutical companies claim may potentially improve a woman’s libido.

After two rounds of rejection due to concerns about side effects and effectiveness, the drug has now been passed on to the FDA for potential approval later this summer.

Despite the current media attention, it’s not the first time pharmaceutical companies have tried to create a “Viagra for women.” In fact, that’s the approach taken previously by copying how Viagra works to increase blood flow to the genitals in men and trying to do the same for women.

This new drug, however, which was originally created as an anti-depressant, works on the largest female sexual organ instead: the brain. Researchers claim it increases dopamine and norepinephrine, the “excitatory factors for sex” and decreases serotonin, which can diminish libido.

The drug, flibanserin, is far from proven, demonstrating very mixed results, and it carries a number of side effects including nausea, dizziness and sleeplessness.

But that doesn’t seem to deter women who are clamoring for its approval.

One woman supporting the approval has claimed that her relationship with her spouse is better than ever but that her sexual desire has disappeared, leaving her husband to question whether or not they should get a divorce. She says that she’d risk any side effects “gladly.” She seems pretty clear on how far she will go for her relationship!

The way I see it, it’s just not that clear. There are so many ways to be loving and intimate in a relationship. Does desire need to be amped up in order to have a sexual relationship? She says that she has tried counseling and it has helped… but not enough. Is there is an emotional connection that might be missing on some level? Has she explored and treated the cause of her physical symptoms or is she reaching for a quick fix? It makes me wonder. Many physical issues may be at the root of the problem including adrenal dysfunction.

The Great Flibanserin Debate – Why It’s About More Than Sex

The debate about approval of this new drug, flibanersin, has become divisive and has turned into a much broader discussion around gender, sex and society; it’s one that we at Women to Women want to weigh in on.

The National Organization for Women, or NOW, feels that approval has not been forthcoming because there is a sexual bias against providing something to women to enhance sexual pleasure. They’ve gone on the record as saying that as a culture, men’s sexual health is extremely important but that women’s is not. There may be some truth to this as there may well be a sexual double standard in today’s society, but we think the reason approval has been a challenge thus far is so much more complex than that. And I am all for women having a libido, and enhancing their sexual enjoyment.

Other women’s groups are arguing that the primary considerations of drug approval should be safety and efficacy. The National Women’s Health Network, for example, has come out and said that the drug doesn’t work well, has some noted safety concerns, and has not been fully studied. They feel it’s about waiting to get a drug that really works — and is safe.

While we are not sure any drug can accomplish that when it comes to sexual desire because it’s not something that can be fixed with a pill, we definitely agree that if a drug is approved, it should be thoroughly studied first and should be proven to be effective — and safe – both over the long-term and in conjunction with other medications. This new drug does not meet those criteria.

Others are arguing that the campaign for the drug oversimplifies female sexuality and we couldn’t agree more: There is so much more to sexuality than the stress hormones dopamine and norepinephrine!

Some women (and men) who experience a waning libido at midlife don’t see it as a problem — at least not one worth taking a drug for. At Women to Women, we don’t think you should accept low sex drive as a new norm: we know it can be restored and that with some time and effort, you can experience the best intimacy of your life after menopause. So why settle? But we do agree a drug is not the answer.

And then there are those, and we are among them, who raise concerns that the pharmaceutical industry has a desire to take every circumstance and transition in life and turn it into a disease that needs a pill to fix it. This not only prevents looking at the true source of the problem, it creates a mentality that normal life transitions such as menopause are diseases.

The pharmaceutical industry then focuses on the convenience of popping a pill to problem solve instead of practicing what is now being called precision medicine: getting really precise about the root case and its effect and then treating the whole problem. Menopause is NOT a disease and a pill is NOT the answer: adjusting stress hormone levels artificially with a drug is NOT the answer to hormonal shifts that may just need some transitional support.

So while the debate in the news rages on about whether or not approval is warranted, whether the drug, flibanserin is effective and safe, or whether disapproving it is “sexist” because there is a bias against women’s sexuality as being a significant health concern, we find ourselves scratching our heads that someone could be willing to undertake drug risks without trying to understand what is going on within the body to cause this reaction in the first place.

How to Get Your Mojo Back

After more than three decades supporting women’s health and healing, we know that there are answers. When your body is out of alignment, it needs extra support. A high quality multivitamin along with an omega 3 supplement supports hormonal balance and symptom relief among our patients; even those who eat healthy diets of fresh local food find they need additional support during the menopause transition.

Diet and lifestyle changes such as stress relief, a good night’s sleep, exercise and movement, and a healthy balance of fresh fruits and vegetables along with high quality proteins and fats can further support this rebalance and accelerate relief, especially when combined with high quality nutritional supplementation.

We also recommend a probiotic supplement to restore the balance of healthy bacteria in your digestive system; it may not seem obvious that your digestion is connected to your hormones, but your ‘second brain’ plays a role in supporting all healthy body functions.

We also believe that it’s important to explore the emotions you are experiencing and use the transition time of perimenopause to examine your feelings, process them and to “speak your truth. “ Menopause is a time of release and clearing: it’s time to let go. Studies have shown that holding onto unresolved and unexpressed emotions will lead to the presence of physical concerns down the road and for many women, this catches up to them at menopause.

With a little time, attention and support, including some hormonal support if needed, you can experience a significant improvement in your health and wellness, restore that hormonal balance, and finally feel like yourself again… All without an untested drug that has numerous side effects.

At Women to Women, we have helped thousands of women alleviate their physical and emotional symptoms, restore a healthy sex drive and create the best intimacy of their lives. We can help you too.

To learn more about changes in sexuality around menopause, read our articles here.

To purchase our menopause support products, including multivitamin and omega 3 support, click here.

Chemicals in Our Cosmetics: It’s Not Pretty

As women, we all want to look and feel our best. We know the confidence that comes from within when we have a great hair day, our skin is clear and bright, and we feel beautiful. I see so many women at Women to Women struggling with hormonal imbalance or adrenal fatigue and my patients often tell me that it’s hard to look great when you are not feeling great.

That’s why we work together to get at the root cause of the symptoms and to actually treat them rather than just cover them up. To look and feel great, you need to be physically symptom-free so your hair, skin and body can radiate good health and you also need a healthy mood and emotional state as well.

At Women to Women, we work with our patients to resolve and clear the emotional and mood-based symptoms of hormonal balance as well as the physical ones. We also believe it’s important to remove emotional blocks and barriers and resolve any buried emotions; they may be hidden but often surface during menstruation or menopause as a gift from our body to us to heal them.

We know first-hand that women can restore their inner and outer beauty with good nutrition and lifestyle choices and some transitional supplementation support. Our Personal Products have helped thousands of women to do just that and we’ve witnessed many extraordinary transformations. Getting there, however, is a process that takes a little time and support.

During that time, we may need a little help and many of my patients turn to cosmetics and beauty products to help them look better. Unfortunately, the beauty industry is largely unregulated and many of the ingredients used in these products contain chemicals that can disrupt your hormones even further, make things worse, and lead to a number of health concerns over time including metabolic syndrome and even cancer.

That’s a high price to pay! But there are other options. Let’s look at what you need to know about chemicals in our cosmetics and why it’s important to make better choices.

Women are Exposed to 168 Chemicals A Day

A recent study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed that women use on average 12 personal care or cosmetic products a day and that those products contain as many as 168 different chemicals. While they may be in low doses, studies have shown that ongoing low-dose exposure and the cumulative effect it has over time can be as damaging or even more damaging than a single large dose exposure. And we are talking about 168 different chemicals: how they interact with each other has not been studied.

More concerning is that teenagers use an average of 17 products a day, putting their potential exposure on their developing minds and bodies at over 200 different chemicals.  If you’re wondering about your man, men use fewer products, but still get exposure to about 85 chemicals a day. Given that this exposure occurs over a lifetime, this is cause for concern.

We are now more focused on eating better foods and choosing organic, but the truth is that applying chemicals to skin enhances the likelihood of absorption into the blood: what we put on our bodies matters even more than what we are eating. (Just rub a piece of garlic on the bottom of your foot and see how long it takes until you taste garlic in your mouth!)

In fact, when EWG looked at the presence of chemicals inside the bodies of teenagers, they found 16 different hormone-altering chemicals, including phthalates and parabens. Just what a teenager needs: more hormone disruption!

One of the problems is that in the US, there is very little regulation of beauty and personal care products. Unlike in Europe where over a thousand of ingredients have been banned from personal care products, in the U.S., the FDA only prohibits eleven chemicals/chemical groups from use in products.  Instead, the industry is self-regulated by a review board, which in its 30-year history has only restricted 11 items from use, and even then, its decisions are not binding.

In addition, there are little to no labeling requirements for cosmetics and personal care products: companies can use the terms, “natural,” “hypoallergenic” and even “organic” with little regulation. In fact, organic personal care products may contain as little as 10% organic ingredients and may still contain harmful petrochemicals even though they claim to be organic.

We’ve known for some time that these chemicals can disrupt our body’s natural processes and interfere with our hormones, causing a number of health concerns. At our practice, we see the impact they can have on women’s menstrual cycles, including more severe PMS and menopausal symptoms. Now a new study concludes that exposure to beauty products can actually trigger early menopause.

Chemical Exposure Can Lead to Early Menopause

One of the most comprehensive studies ever done on menopause and endocrine disruptors shows that exposure to chemicals such as dioxins from pesticides, phthalates from fragrances, plastics, cosmetics and hairspray, and polychlorinated biphenyls can result in menopause as many as four years earlier.

The study took blood and urine samples from women over a ten-year period and analyzed them for chemicals such as pesticides and other endocrine disruptors. They also asked the women questions about health nutrition and menopausal status every two years. In total, the researchers found 111 chemicals present in their blood and urine and they showed that the women with the highest levels of the chemicals entered menopause on average between 2 and 4 years earlier than the women who had lower levels.

The study concluded it wasn’t simply exposure to the chemicals that triggered the body’s response; it was increasing exposure over time that led to the impaired ovarian function. When they looked at all women over 30, those with the highest levels of exposure in their blood and urine were 6 times more likely to be menopausal than the women with lower exposure levels.

While more studies will be needed before we can conclude with certainty that one causes the other, the link between the two has now been proven. Previous studies have already linked endocrine disruptors to disturbances and imbalances in reproductive hormones such as estrogen, so following that disruption through to its next logical impact, early menopause, makes sense. In time, I think we’ll also see verification of a comparable impact on the age that young girls reach puberty.

What is especially concerning is that it is very difficult for women to reduce their exposure to all of these toxins. Many of the environmental chemicals have half-lives that take decades for them to break down; even if they have been banned in the US in the 1970’s as PCB’s were, they remain in the air, soil and water. In addition, several of these substances are still in use in other countries and make their way into our air and food supply.

But many of them, however, are well within our control. There are things that we all can – and should – do to reduce our exposure including going “green” in our household products and choosing organic in our food and beauty product purchases.

Given that it is the exposure over time that adds up and makes a difference, every little choice that we can make to avoid adding to our toxic load may be one that keeps our hormones and our bodies functioning optimally over time.

Here are a few ways to avoid chemical exposure in your daily life:

  • Avoid plastics, especially in food packaging
  • Minimize microwaving and only do so in glass containers
  • Avoid handling cash register receipts
  • Choose organic health and beauty cosmetics and products that don’t contain pesticides and other chemicals. There are some great ones out there but you’ll have to read the labels.  Especially try to avoid “fragrance” or “parfum” which contains phthalates, and look to avoid parabens. The Environmental Working Group has a list that can guide you.
  • Try using natural remedies and products. Coconut oil is a great moisturizer for skin, nails, lips and hair.
  • Eat organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meat and wild caught fish. Minimize packaged, processed foods.
  • Take a high quality multivitamin such as the one we offer to keep your body and your immune system strong.
  • We now know that digestive microbes impact our overall health so we recommend that every woman take a probiotic supplement as well. You can learn more about probiotics in our article here.

There are a lot more things that we can do; at Women to Women, we’ve been talking about the harms of exposure to these products for decades. We have much more information on endocrine disruptors to share with you in our library at

To learn more about our hormonal balance support products and our nutritional supplementation in order to minimize the impact of chemical exposures, click here.

The Great Fluoride Myth

One of the great things about being a health practitioner for more than three decades is that I get to see exciting new research and development emerge –- and also witness the medical and scientific communities retract mistakes and give credence to things that were dismissed years ago. (Remember when butter was “bad” and margarine was “good” for you? We now know that margarine contains trans fats that can contribute to heart disease and that butter can be a healthy part of a balanced diet but it took quite some time to undo all the biased research. )

Understanding toxicity: the idea that chemicals can have a negative impact on our body functions was something much of the scientific world did not want to admit for many years. But now, more and more research is being done to show the effects of drugs, chemicals and endocrine disruptors on our bodies — and to identify all of the many health conditions they can cause or exacerbate. At Women to Women, we’re thrilled to see this because we’ve been talking about this for decades.

One chemical that has been getting a lot of media attention lately is fluoride. Fluoride was first added to the water supply in Michigan after World War II when it was heard that in some areas of the world that had higher natural fluoride levels in their water, people had better dental health. Soon after, many communities jumped on the bandwagon. Despite the fact that manufactured fluoride should never be swallowed (just read the poison warning label on a tube of toothpaste) somehow it was believed that adding it to water and drinking it would improve our dental health, and it actually did seem to decrease dental caries. But years ago the literature was compelling enough that I worked hard when my children were young to not have them have fluoride treatments when they went to the dentist.

Today it’s estimated that about 70% of Americans have fluoridated water. (Elsewhere in the world this practice is not prevalent and in fact countries that have naturally high fluoride levels in their water are taking steps to remove fluoride found naturally in water and bring the levels down.)

Here in Maine, we have some communities on well water but most all of the towns around add fluoride to the water. My patients often ask me if they should be concerned about fluoride and whether to filter their water or buy bottled water instead.

Let’s talk about fluoride, the surprising new announcement the Department of Health and Human Services made recently, and what you need to know about water and dental health.

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a chemical ion of the element fluoride, the 13th most abundant mineral on the earth’s crust. It has one extra electron, giving it a negative charge and it is found naturally in water, soil, foods and other minerals. Fluoride is also synthesized in labs and put into water, toothpaste, mouthwash, and chemical products and it is found in foods that are processed using fluoridated water.

As with vitamins and minerals, we know that when they are lab-created, they are not as readily absorbed as when they are found naturally. In the case of fluoride, while it may not be harmful, and in fact may even be beneficial in small doses from natural sources, in its lab created form, it can cause harm in the body because the body sees it not as a natural substance but as a toxin.

Fluoride and Your Thyroid

In its natural form, fluoride is found in seawater at about 1.3 parts per million (or ppm) and in natural water, fluoride levels are typically .01 to .3 ppm. Some places such as China can have areas where the fluoride levels in natural water are high enough that it has been traced to health conditions and efforts are being made to remove it from the water.

That’s so different from here, where we are adding a lab-created chemical to our water in the name of better health. Recently we shared with you some shocking results from a British study about fluoride’s impact on the thyroid. This study looked at different areas in England, some of which fluoridated and some of which did not.

The study found that the rates of hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid, were double in the areas where fluoride was put in the water versus the non-fluoridated areas. We are seeing hypothyroidism rates increase dramatically in the U.S., so it may well be connected to our water practices. It was great to see a study prove what we at Women to Women have suspected for some time.

In addition, the study found that whenever the concentration of fluoride was above 0.3 ppm, the rates of hypothyroidism were as much as 30% higher. We just saw that the high end of natural fluoride levels is exactly that same level, but that is for natural fluoride. What could much higher levels of synthetic fluoride do?

EPA Announces Fluoride Rates Are Too High

Until now, the acceptable rate of (synthetic) fluoridation levels in US water has been agreed to fall within the range of 0.7 and 1.2 ppm even though health concerns were noted in the study above 0.3. (And to be clear that is a range of samplings, there is no way to know what the level is in the water that comes from your tap, as it will vary.)

To put it in perspective, studies have shown that in a healthy 154-pound person, 3.5 mg of fluoride was found to disrupt thyroid function. If water fluoridation is allowed up to 1.2 ppm and you drink water regularly, you can easily exceed that rate. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the average American ingests 3 mgs a day but that many of us consume more than 6 mg a day! That’s almost doubt the level that was proven to impair thyroid function.

Even more concerning is that if you are iodine deficient, as many of us are, as little as .07 mg a day could damage thyroid function. That could be a glass or two of water a day! So it was good news that the Department of Health and Human Services just announced that it is now changing the maximum level to 0.7: at least it is the beginning of acknowledging that there is a problem.

At Women to Women, we’ve been concerned about this for some time, as we know too much fluoride can impact not just the thyroid but also many other body functions. We wish the announcement came because they were connecting the dots to all of the health concerns associated with excess fluoride.

But instead the announcement was made because the CDC has revealed that 40% of Americans have dental fluorosis, a condition that changes the appearance of your tooth enamel. It can cause chalky-like lines, pitting and staining on your teeth. That means that 2 out of 5 of us are experiencing permanent damage to our teeth from the chemical that was supposed to keep them healthy. But many say the unsightly stains and blotches on your teeth are not the biggest concern.

If your teeth are seeing the damage then most likely, fluoride is having an impact in other areas of your body as well. That’s because once fluoride is swallowed, it accumulates in your body’s bones and tissues. Teeth fluorosis may also mean you have skeletal fluorosis; it is very hard to tell apart from arthritis and can result in fatigue, muscle weakness, gastrointestinal disorders and ultimately stiff joints, calcification of tendons and ribs and osteoporosis.

Despite the good intentions around fluoride, neither the CDC nor the World Health Organization have been able to identify any differences in tooth decay and dental health between countries that fluoridate versus countries that do not follow that practice. Beyond the less than stellar dental results and the direct link to thyroid dysfunction, fluoride has also been identified as an endocrine disruptor that can lead to reproductive problems and cancers as well as many other health concerns.

So with little good and a host of concerns, I find myself asking why do we continue?

I suspect some day we will look back and call this one of the great medical experiments that did not result in good. There is already so much fluoride in foods processed with fluoride-rich waters that we can be taking in more than we should without even realizing it, let alone what is found in water, toothpaste and other dental products.

So what can we do about too much fluoride?

We can’t avoid it completely but we can be aware of its presence and try to reduce exposure to it.

  • Avoid bottled water as it often contains hidden fluoride as well as BPA and other concerns.

  • If you have fluoridated tap water, look into a filter that is proven to remove fluoride.

  • Be extra careful not to swallow any toothpaste or dental rinse.

  • Eat more iodine-rich foods such as sea vegetables, saltwater fish and other seafood, or iodized sea salt to offset the impact to your thyroid.

  • Get your thyroid tested. This is especially true for women during perimenopause, but if you’ve been exposed to fluoridated water all your life or you are seeing any dental spotting or staining, you should definitely get your thyroid tested.

  • Take a high quality multi-vitamin to support your body’s healthy response to exposure and elimination of toxins.

We cannot change the world but we can change our response to it. If you are experiencing perimenopausal or PMS symptoms and struggle to feel good, it may be your thyroid or it may be your body’s need to rebalance from toxic exposures so that your hormones can realign. We’ve helped thousands of women to reclaim their health and feel like themselves again. We can help you too.

For more information on a healthy thyroid read our article here

To purchase a high quality multivitamin or our thyroid support product click here

The Hype about Probiotics: Is Yogurt Really the Answer?

One of the things I love about being a health practitioner is that I get to help people make sense of things that are confusing for them. I just love the feeling when that missing puzzle piece is uncovered and it all just clicks for my patients. Often my patients at Women to Women (and sometimes even other practitioners!) will come to me with questions about something they have heard or read about. There is so much conflicting information out there and one of the amazing things about living in today’s world is new discoveries are being made about health and nutrition all the time. Some days I can hardly keep up!

Sometimes a woman will come to me confused about a new headline that says this food is now bad or good for you. Or maybe it’s a new product and they are not sure if it is something they should pay attention to or just a passing fad (remember the pet rock?). While it happens often, it always surprises me when a woman comes to me asking about probiotics.

Probiotics have been on the front pages of newspaper and magazines for the last 5 years and probably every one of us has seen the yogurt ad featuring Jamie Lee Curtis, touting the benefits of eating probiotic yogurt for digestive health. At Women to Women we have been talking about probiotics for decades now so we’ll be the first to say probiotics are not a passing fad. But many people still aren’t sure whether they should be taking probiotics or simply eating more yogurt.

Let’s talk about probiotics: what they are, why they can help, and the best way to use them.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics actually comes from the words “pro,” which means promoting, and “biotics” which means life. Probiotics promote life: literally the opposite of anti-biotics, which we take to kill bacteria that can cause disease. Probiotics are actually healthy microorganisms that live in our digestive tract; we need them to help break down and absorb the nutrients in our food.

We have trillions of these bacteria, often called beneficial flora or good bacteria. These healthy bacteria are necessary for a strong immune system, the creation of vitamins, and healthy digestion.

When our good bacteria are healthy, we are healthy. But when we get sick, these necessary bacteria can be killed or damaged, upsetting the perfect and delicate balance that exists between good bacteria and bad bacteria in our guts. When our good to bad bacteria ratio gets out of balance, disease and illness becomes more likely. That’s because our gut is considered our second brain; while it doesn’t do any thinking, we now know that the gut runs the show as far as a healthy body is concerned.

So how does our bacteria get out of balance?

There are several ways this can happen and usually my patients have experienced at least one of them. First, antibiotics can kill off healthy bacteria while they are attacking the bad ones. While antibiotics are one of the greatest inventions for our health and survival, if you take a course of antibiotics, you should know that the balance between good and bad bacteria will also be affected. Taking a probiotic for a couple months after antibiotics will help restore a healthy balance in your digestive tract and keep your body and your digestive tract functioning optimally.

Another way your bacteria can be thrown off balance is if you experience a flu or a food-borne illness that results in vomiting and/or diarrhea. In this case, you’ve definitely imbalanced your flora and a round of probiotics afterwards will likely also be necessary to restore a healthy balance in your gut and your body.

I know here in New England during our cold snowy winter last year many people experienced a stomach flu that went around. Now that spring is finally here, I like to tell my patients that it’s time to plant new healthy bacteria in our stomachs along with spring flowers in our gardens!

You may also experience a flora imbalance if you have experienced an intestinal disease or illness such as celiac disease, crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you currently experience digestive concerns including cramping, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or gas, consider taking a probiotic to help restore a healthy balance as well.

In addition, if you have chronic headaches/migraines, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, lactose intolerance, bad breath, fatigue or irritability or worsening allergies, asthma, PMS or perimenopausal symptoms, you may wish to consider a round of probiotics to restore your digestive health.

Even if you do not experience any symptoms, if your diet is full of fast foods or other nutrient empty calories, you will definitely want to replenish your good bacteria. A recent study showed that eating at McDonald’s for 10 days resulted in the loss of 1400 types of gut bacteria, or almost 40% of the test subject’s total bacteria varieties! To make things worse, when he returned to a healthy normal diet, the bacteria that were lost did not return!

If you’re like many of my patients, you are saying “Yes, that’s me” to one of the above. If you’ve experienced any of those symptoms or situations, you may be wondering how to restore that perfect balance between good and bad bacteria so important to our health.

What do I need to know about taking Probiotics?

In my three decades at Women to Women, I’ve come to see first-hand that most of us could benefit from taking a good probiotic. So how do you find a good one?

There are many different strains of bacterias but most researchers agree that the benefits of two primary strains are significant: lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. That’s why our biotic product at Women to Women contains a 50/50 combination of at least 15 billion L. acidophilus and B. lactis Bi-07 bacterias.

It’s also important that the biotic you take be dairy and gluten free, as these two ingredients cause digestive concerns for many of us. Even if you are not allergic to dairy or gluten, you may be sensitive to these ingredients without even realizing it and your bacterial balance may be impacted as a result of that sensitivity.

I always say to my patients “Why would you want to take more of something you may be sensitive to as a hidden ingredient in a product you are taking to try to help restore the balance that a hidden food sensitivity may disrupt?” That just wouldn’t make any sense.

It’s important to read the labels on your probiotic carefully as recent newspaper headlines have revealed that many probiotic supplements actually contain gluten!

If you’d like to get more probiotics in your diet naturally, try some fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and kombucha. Most of us don’t eat these foods on a regular basis and they are probiotic powerhouses. (Though for some of us with digestive issues, these foods may be too much and could increase irritation, so go slowly.)

As for yogurt, like other foods that probiotics are sometimes added to, it is not as effective as the naturally fermented foods above: adding cultures to food after the fact makes them less available for absorption than when they occur naturally. And if a yogurt is pasteurized, as store-bought yogurt is, the pasteurization process will kill off the bacteria; that’s the whole point of pasteurization. So in addition to any bad bacteria, good bacterias will be destroyed as well.

Unless you make your own yogurt, and eat a lot of it, you’re better off taking a probiotic supplement than eating yogurt every day (not to mention that many yogurts on the market today have more sugar than a soda!).

If you’ve had a stomach flu or food illness or taken an antibiotic, even if you have no digestive concerns now, you should take a probiotic for at least one month. If you have or are currently experiencing digestive concerns or entrenched premenopausal symptoms, such as gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, fuzzy thinking, allergies or asthma, or skin problems, a probiotic can make a big difference.

With a high quality probiotic, you should see and feel a difference within the first few weeks of use; most of my patients report feeling much better after the first two weeks.

Even if you have no symptoms, if your diet is not ideal or consists of nutrient empty calories such as fast foods, you should also consider taking a probiotic.

If you are experiencing digestive symptoms, you don’t have to suffer. We’ve helped thousands of women restore a healthy bacterial balance and heal their digestive tracts. We can help you too.

To learn more about probiotics, read our in depth article here.

To order our powerful dairy and gluten free probiotic, click here.

Hormone Disrupting Foods In Your Kitchen Now

Whenever I see a patient who is experiencing life-disrupting symptoms, one of the first things we talk about is her diet. At Women to Women, we have learned over the years that the old adage you are what you eat is so very true, especially during the transition before and after menopause.

When I ask my patients about their diets and begin to suggest some changes, sometimes women will tell me it’s too hard. But even small changes can make a big difference, and once they get started, they soon realize it’s not nearly as hard as they think.

Eating plenty of healthy proteins such as grass fed beef, bison, and wild caught fish, organic fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats such as grass-fed butter, coconut oil, avocados, and olive oil always makes my patients feel better. That’s because these “real” foods provide the nutrients a body needs to stay healthy, heal, and keep hormones in balance.

If you are experiencing especially uncomfortable symptoms, it may well be your diet is severely imbalanced; usually I find that it’s one of three main concerns. First, you may be eating too much sugar, which we talked about recently in a prior newsletter. Too much sugar will prevent estrogen, progesterone and testosterone from being balanced because balancing insulin will take precedence.

Or you may be eating too many packaged and processed foods that (in addition to sugar) contain unhealthy vegetable oils and artificial ingredients. These food choices are not only not providing the nutritional support your body needs, they are introducing other ingredients such as chemicals and substances that will impair healthy body function and hormone balance.

Or perhaps you have bought into the low-fat diet myth and you’re not eating enough good healthy fat, something the body (and especially the brain) needs to function optimally and stay in balance.

At Women to Women, we know that there is more to being symptom-free than just your diet, but we can’t overestimate how much of a role our food choices play. Every once in awhile, though, we’ll see a woman who is doing a good job eating healthy whole foods and still finds herself struggling with hormonal balance. That may be because many of the foods we eat contain ingredients that can disrupt our hormones and some of them may come as a surprise to you.



Media headlines have told us not to eat red meat (something that has been misunderstood and misinterpreted; we’ll talk about this more soon). Many women have turned to chicken instead, thinking it’s a healthier protein choice. In fact, the biggest concern about the animal foods we eat is what those animals themselves are eating: when we eat animals and animal products, we take in whatever they have eaten or been exposed to because it remains in their fat cells. (That’s why animals eating a natural diet such as grass-fed beef, bison, pastured pork and wild caught fish make the best choices.)

A chicken’s natural diet is grass and bugs, a combination of healthy protein and grass that has soaked up the vitamin D and energy of the sun. It is extremely difficult to find a chicken or turkey that has been allowed to eat its original diet these days, unless you go to a small local farm and they sell it to you directly. Even organic chicken and turkey is raised on feed.

The problem is that the feed chickens receive contains soy which is laden with estrogen-like substances and is likely genetically modified, corn that is not food grade and contains GMOs, cereals often including wheat and GMOs, and processed oils such as canola oil. Poultry farms are not looking for high quality feed ingredients; they are looking for the cheapest possible protein and fat sources they can find.

Heavy use of soy means that you are ingesting high doses of estrogen, which can be especially disruptive to your hormone cycles. In addition, most chicken is raised on antibiotics in order to resist disease in the close quarters of a chicken farm. If you eat chicken or turkey, it is important that you choose organic.

Even free-range organic chicken (that just means they have some outdoor exposure), receives feed but at least the organic version is fed a vegetarian diet (not a chicken’s natural diet, but without animal waste products) that is without genetically modified ingredients (to the extent we know; most soy and corn today is genetically modified and not always identified as such) or toxic synthetic pesticides.

USDA organic chicken can also only receive antibiotics during their first day of life or if they fall ill, not on an ongoing basis as traditional factory farm chickens do.

If you eat a lot of chicken (or eggs), choose organic but look to reintroduce more grass-fed meat, bison and fish into your diet as well.



I just mentioned the fact that soy is a very common ingredient in chicken feed today and soy contains phytoestrogens which can mimic real estrogen: these substances may sit on the receptor sites of our cells, which were designed to take in estrogen, blocking the needed estrogen from entering and leaving it to wander around through the blood instead.

These estrogen-like substances can also impact the thyroid, which controls our hormones and may lead to suppressed thyroid function. Heavy soy consumption has also been shown to impact fat gain, muscle loss, infertility, mood swings and sexual dysfunction. Unfermented soy products such as tempeh and miso are fine, but tofu and soymilk products should be avoided. Try nuts and nut milks such as almond milk and raw milk and grass-fed cheeses instead.



While we all need vitamin D to stay healthy, the best way to get it isn’t from dairy: it’s naturally from small doses of skin exposure to sunlight instead. (Fat-free dairy won’t enable vitamin D, which requires fat to be processed, to be absorbed anyway.) In order to maximize dairy output, cows are kept pregnant, resulting in high levels of estrogen that can not only wreak havoc on your hormones, but cause early puberty for your daughter, breast development for your son, and belly fat concerns for your husband. As with soy, higher levels of reproductive cancers are also found among heavy dairy consumers.

Americans consume enormous amounts of dairy products, especially cheese, so we can all look to cut back. If you must consume dairy, be sure it is organic or preferably grass-fed. Most European cheese comes from grass-fed cows so there are lots of inexpensive choices. Nut milks such as almond milk also make delicious substitutes.



If you love licorice or licorice-derived products such as fennel, Pernod, and anise, you should know that licorice has estrogenic properties so high they are even stronger than contraceptives (but please do not use licorice as birth control!) In fact, licorice is currently being evaluated for possible anti-testosterone drug purposes. So if you have a licorice addiction and you are experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance, you might want to cut back on your habit and see what happens.

At Women to Women, we’ve been helping thousands of women to restore their hormonal balance over the last 3 decades. We’ve seen first-hand how important diet and nutritional supplementation are to relieving your uncomfortable symptoms and enabling you to finally feel like yourself again. That’s why in addition to good eating habits, we recommend every woman take a high quality multi-vitamin to ensure she gets the support her body needs during times of transition or imbalance.

We also suggest a high-quality omega 3 supplement to ensure your body (and your brain) receives the healthy fat required for optimal functioning; it’s hard to get the nutrition we need from our food supply today and healthy fat options are not easy (or cheap) to find.

The good news is that with some diet and lifestyle changes, coupled with high-quality nutritional support, your body can heal and you can alleviate your symptoms. We have helped so many women to finally feel good again. We can help you too.

To read our article on healthy diet click here.

Check out our hormonal balance product system here to get on the fast track to feeling good again.

Why Sleep Matters

Every time I see a patient at Women to Women and ask about what is going on in her life, I always hear a long list of responsibilities and priorities: women today have very full plates! Whenever I ask a patient about her sleep and whether she gets enough, it seems that almost every woman I speak with wishes that she could get more.

Some women may struggle to fall asleep or to sleep through the night because of hormonal imbalance, stress, or adrenal fatigue, while others just cannot seem to schedule in more than 6-7 hours of sleep time due to kids and jobs and all their many obligations.

We all know that sleep is important for good health and most of us probably feel like we should be getting more. But with all of life’s responsibilities and our many different priorities as women, sleep doesn’t often land at the top of our lists. But it should. Let’s look at why.

Can I get by with 6 Hours of Sleep?

Every once in awhile when life gets crazy, our sleep gets sacrificed and we have to get by on less. We may tell ourselves it’s ok because it’s just for a little while until…. But I recently came across a fascinating sleep study that shows that even just a few days of not enough sleep wreaks havoc on your mental and physical performance and your health.

In the study, researchers divided the participants into four groups: one group slept for 8 hours a night, one for 6 hours, one for 4 hours, and one poor group had to stay awake for 3 days without any sleep at all! The groups who slept for 4, 6, or 8 hours were required to maintain those same sleep hours for two weeks and along the way they were given mental and physical performance tests.

The lucky group who got to sleep a full 8 hours had consistent performance: whatever their performance level was at the beginning of the test, it remained the same throughout the entire two week period. But the groups who slept for either 4 or 6 hours experienced cognitive decreases, motor skill declines and attention lapses that grew steadily worse as the two-week trial progressed.

Everyone expected that the 4-hour a night group would be much worse off than the 6-hour a night sleepers. But one surprise was that while the 4-hour a night sleepers did do slightly worse, there was not as large a difference between the 4-hour and the 6-hour groups as you might expect.

After only one week, one quarter of the 6-hour sleepers began falling asleep randomly during the day. But even more surprising was that after two weeks, the 6-hour a night sleepers performed at the same level as if they had stayed awake for 48 hours straight!

That means that if you sleep for only 6 hours a night, after two weeks, your body will be performing as if you had pulled two all-nighters back to back! If you ever pulled an all-nighter in college at exam time, you know how you felt the next day: pretty awful and totally exhausted. Imagine doing that two nights in a row and still going to work, running your household, and taking care of your family!

But what was really fascinating to me was that the people in the study who experienced the cognitive, motor skill and attention declines were totally unaware of them. When they graded themselves, they did feel a slight decline for a couple days but then after that, they felt that their performance leveled out. In reality, they were continuing to decline each day and they were completely unaware of it!

This just goes to show that we may try to fool ourselves by saying we’re fine and just having an extra cup of coffee or an afternoon treat to keep our energy going but the reality is that our bodies are not performing optimally because they are sleep deprived. Getting less than enough sleep will reduce both your mental and physical performance after only a few days so while we can all have an off night, it’s important not to let it go on for too long.

How much sleep is enough?

While that study showed that 8 hours of sleep was adequate but 6 was not, it did not break down the sleep time in between. Not all of us can get 8 hours every night so I wanted to know what to tell my patients for whom 8 hours is simply not possible or even not preferable for them. Thankfully, a number of other studies have also looked at this question and have found that while the exact number is different for each of us, generally 7 or 7 ½ hours is the minimum amount of sleep required nightly to avoid performance disruption.

We need that time because when we sleep, we go through several different cycles, which together take about 90 minutes to complete. Two of them are particularly important for our health: deep sleep or slow-wave sleep and REM or rapid eye movement sleep. When we are in slow wave sleep, the body heals and repairs, the immune system does its work and pituitary gland releases growth hormone for muscle and tissue repair. We need this phase for physical wellness.

That’s why many elite athletes state that they sleep 11-12 hours a night; their bodies need the additional slow wave sleep time to repair and restore. In fact, one study at an elite college required basketball team members to increase their sleep from 8 hours up to 10 hours a night. They found that free throw shooting, three-point shooting and sprinting times all increased when the athletes slept longer. So if you place high physical demands on your body, whether you’re an athlete or just a busy constantly on the go mom, more sleep may be required for you to recover.

The other part of the sleep cycle that’s really important is REM sleep. During REM sleep your brain goes into dream state and clears out unnecessary information, reorganizes information, and your memory and learning are improved and distilled as you connect the day’s experiences with previous memories and experiences. Your brain requires REM sleep to perform at peak levels and memory, cognitive function and mental performance all suffer when we don’t get enough REM sleep.

In fact, research has shown that without adequate sleep, the body begins to die: mental and physical performance suffer; the immune system cannot function properly; and the likelihood of infections, weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, mental health concerns and ultimately, death, increases.

The problem is that when we get older, especially at the busy perimenopausal time of our lives, we often tend to sleep less; precisely at the time we need more sleep to restore, repair and heal. One study showed that the typical 80-year-old gets 62% less slow wave sleep than a 20-year old. While more sleep facilitates healing, less sleep can accelerate aging, so extra sleep is also a great anti-aging strategy as well.

We all need to make sleep a priority and most researchers agree that we need between 7-9 hours a night. The exact number will vary by individual and you can experiment and see when you feel best. Even one week of less than enough sleep will result in significant declines so getting adequate rest regularly is a key component to feeling good, reducing your symptoms, and enabling your body’s own innate healing.

What if I Can’t Sleep?

I often have patients at Women to Women come to me saying I know I need to sleep more, but I just can’t. What should I do? Despite our best efforts and intentions, we will all experience a sleep disruption on occasion. The good news is that short-term, we can compensate for that when it occurs: our bodies will simply make up for a shortage the next night.

If you do experience a night of unrest for whatever reason, even if you only got a couple hours of sleep, don’t stress about it: sleeping for 10-12 the following night will bring you right back into sync. The key is not to let it go on for multiple nights and to get right back on track the next night.

If you have trouble sleeping, make a sleep schedule and stick to it, sleep in a dark room that is nice and cool, turn off the TV and the computer before bed and read, and avoid sugar in the evening: these tips will help you sleep through the night and allow your body to heal. Healthy nutritious food and supportive multi-vitamin supplementation can also help your body fall and stay asleep and support the many processes the body performs during sleep to stay healthy.

If you are experiencing mental symptoms such as fuzzy thinking, memory lapses, anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability or panic attacks, you may need more REM sleep. If you are experiencing physical symptoms such as weight gain, hot flashes, or fatigue, you likely need more slow wave sleep. Either way, your symptoms are tied to your sleep cycles and more sleep will support your body in healing, just as not enough sleep can make your symptoms worse.

Making sleep a priority in your life will improve your mood and your energy, and increase your mental and physical performance, your ability to overcome challenges and your overall happiness and well-being. It will also prevent and reduce many symptoms of hormonal imbalance.

You don’t need to lie awake all night tossing and turning: You can get a good night’s sleep. We’ve helped thousands of women just like you to sleep through the night. We can help you too. Try taking an over the counter magnesium supplement a half hour before bed: calcium and magnesium should be consumed in a 1:1 ratio and many of the women I see have more calcium-heavy diets.

New research is also showing that insomnia is often connected to stress levels. If you are wired and can’t sleep or if you feel that you have a lot of stress in your life, check out our adrenal product system for sleeplessness. It’s helped wired or stressed women finally sleep peacefully.

If you have trouble sleeping but don’t feel adrenal fatigue due to stress is the cause, our Sleep Support Product can give you the added support to relax and get a good night’s sleep. It can be taken along with any of our other products as an added sleep support aid.   You can find it here.

Should I Get My Thyroid Checked?

Almost twenty years ago, the American College of Physicians, a pretty conservative organization, stunned the medical community by issuing a guideline that women over 50 should have their thyroids tested at least once every five years. At that time, most physicians thought that they could diagnose thyroid problems themselves and that testing guidelines were unnecessary.

At Women to Women, however, we weren’t stunned: we were excited! We knew first-hand how challenging it can be to identify and treat thyroid concerns without testing. The reality is that even all these years later and with the testing guideline in place, many practitioners still fail to diagnose thyroid concerns. That’s because over or under active thyroid problems can be hard to pin down and the symptoms may also resemble those of many other conditions, including aging.

In fact, Time Magazine recently reported that hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is one of the top 15 leading conditions doctors most often get wrong.

At Women to Women, we have helped thousands of women to restore healthy thyroid function and we know how an under or overactive thyroid can wreak havoc on your life, your weight, your health, and your mood: It’s not just a part of getting older and you don’t have to live with it!

For the longest time, no one seemed to pay the thyroid much attention. Some of my patients would come to the clinic thinking that their symptoms were menopausal, some felt it was just a part of getting older, and others simply blamed them on stress. But now, with all the media exposure, more and more women come to see me wondering if they should have their thyroid checked. Let’s talk about your thyroid gland and what you need to look for if you are wondering about your thyroid health.

What is your Thyroid?

Your thyroid looks like a mini bow tie and it wraps around your windpipe at the base of your throat. Its primary function is to regulate your body temperature: it’s your own internal thermostat. The thyroid takes orders primarily from the pituitary gland (via the hormone TSH) to produce thyroid hormones T3 (triiodthyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). These thyroid hormones also regulate our metabolism, impact our bowel function and affect our energy levels and mood.

The most common thyroid concern is hypothyroidism, which occurs when you fail to produce enough thyroid hormones. This will make your metabolism slow down and leave you feeling sluggish and lacking energy.

The opposite concern can occur when the thyroid works too hard, resulting in hyperthyroidism. In this case you will feel like you’re all revved up: your hands may tremble, your heart race, and you cannot fall asleep.

If this sounds like you, you should definitely consult with your practitioner about getting your thyroid tested. However, many people do not experience symptoms at all; it is estimated that as many as 1 in 5 people may have sub-optimal thyroid function and do not even know it. So what should you look for? Here are some of the common thyroid symptoms I see in my patients at Women to Women.

Common Thyroid Symptoms

Feeling Tired, Sluggish or Low Energy

We all go through times of stress or busyness that can disrupt our sleep or leave us feeling burned out, but if you find yourself hooked on caffeine to get through the day, constantly dragging or in need or a lot of sleep (more than 9 hours on a daily basis), you may have an underactive thyroid.

Stomach/Digestion Concerns

You might be wondering what your thyroid has to do with your stomach, but your thyroid actually plays a role in bowel function. If you feel bloated, constipated or have that heavy feeling in your stomach, your thyroid may not be functioning optimally and hypothyroidism should be ruled out. Conversely, if you experience excessive diarrhea, your thyroid may be overactive and hyperthyroidism should be considered.

Hair and Skin Changes

While we all lose hair on a daily basis, if your hair loss becomes more frequent or heavy, if hair becomes dry or brittle and breaks off easily, your thyroid may be impaired. In addition, hypothyroidism can show up in your skin making it become dry and scaly. Often there is also an unusual loss of hair in the outer edge of the eyebrow that may occur when your thyroid is underperforming. When your thyroid is overactive, your skin may become thin and very fragile and your hair loss even more severe.

Mood Changes

Because the thyroid also regulates your mood, mood changes, especially if they come on suddenly or severely, may be a sign of thyroid dysfunction. Depression, anxiety, and even sudden panic attacks, especially if they do not respond to traditional anti-depressant treatments, whether pharmaceutical or natural, are common symptoms of thyroid impairment. Generally, depression is associated with hypothyroidism while panic attacks may be a sign of hyperthyroidism.

Fertility issues, Miscarriages and Menstrual Cycle Changes

Whenever one hormone is disrupted, there is often a disruption to other hormones up or down stream. If you are still menstruating, then heavy, more frequent or more painful periods can be a sign of hypothyroidism. Shorter, lighter or more infrequent menstruation may accompany hyperthyroidism.

Because of menstrual cycle disruptions, infertility may also be a concern. If you are trying to conceive, thyroid testing may be helpful, especially if you do not have consistent menstrual cycles. In fact, some infertility specialists recommend thyroid testing to all patients. In addition, impaired thyroid function can lead to miscarriages, so if you are experiencing difficulty carrying to term, thyroid testing is suggested.


Memory and concentration can be impacted by either overactive or underactive thyroid function. In particular, hypothyroidism is commonly known to impair memory. While it may start out small in the early stages like simply misplacing your car keys, over time memory loss, fuzzy thinking or trouble concentrating can become more disruptive.

These are just a few of the more common symptoms; there are many more listed on our website. You’ll notice that these common thyroid symptoms also are common menopausal complaints and general aging concerns as well, which is why it can be hard to determine whether your symptoms are a result of hormonal imbalance, thyroid or adrenal concerns, or a combination without testing.

Fluoridated Water and Thyroid

If you drink a lot of water, you’ll want to know that a British study made headlines recently when it reported results that hypothyroidism rates were higher in areas with higher fluoride concentrations. When the parts per million of fluoride concentration was above 0.3, hypothyroidism rates were much as 30% higher. In addition, when comparing one area of England that fluoridates to another that does not, scientists found that hypothyroidism rates were double in the fluoridated areas as compared to the non-fluoridated region.

In a healthy 154-pound adult, 3.5 mg of fluoride was found to disrupt thyroid function. If you are already iodine deficient, even small amounts of fluoride can wreak havoc: as little as 0.7 mg a day could lead to thyroid dysfunction. According to the EPA, the average American ingests 3 mg a day, but many of us consume as much as 6 mg a day or more.

If you consume a lot of fluoridated water and/or do not consume iodine-rich foods such as sea vegetables, saltwater fish and other seafood, or iodized sea salt, you should definitely think about a thyroid test. A study almost twenty years ago estimated that one in seven women is iodine deficient, though I think that number may well be much higher now given our diets today.

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer has doubled in incidence since the 1970’s and it is now the fastest-growing cancer among women. That said, to keep it in perspective, the incidence rates of thyroid cancer overall are still relatively small compared to many other cancers, such as breast cancer. Some scientists even question how much of the incidence rate increase is simply due to better diagnostics enabling more cancers to be detected.

Nevertheless, there does appear to be an increase in thyroid cancer rates that does concern researchers. They attribute the increase to changes in our diets, increasing exposure to chemicals such as fluoride, chloride and bromide and higher exposure to environmental and medical radiation.

Thyroid Testing

Because so many of the symptoms of an impaired thyroid can also be attributed to menopause or simply getting older and since not everyone experiences symptoms at all, testing is really the best way to know if your thyroid is functioning properly.

Many practitioners will suggest a TSH test and a T3 and T4 level test but there are several more tests that can be helpful in getting the true picture of your thyroid health. Speak with your practitioner about a full thyroid workup including all of the following tests:

• Free T3 and Free T4
• Anti-TPO
• Anti-thyroglobulin
• Reverse T3
• Total T3
• Micronutrient analysis (intracellular)
• Basal Body Temperature

Restoring Thyroid Health

If your thyroid is not functioning properly, it is important to provide it the nutrition and lifestyle support it requires for optimal function. A stressed, overworked, or sluggish thyroid will require additional nutritional support to repair and rebalance beyond what can typically be found in today’s food supply.

We have had great success helping to restore optimal thyroid health in our patients at Women to Women with out Thyroid Product System. Thousands of women have experienced symptom relief and renewed thyroid health with our products and support. We can help you too.

To purchase our Thyroid Product System, click here.

PMS Doesn’t Exist!

PMS doesn’t exist!

That’s what I heard from a speaker recently who was giving a TED-X talk. Describing PMS as a myth, she went as far as to say that the PMS label is an excuse for women to behave in a way that would otherwise not be acceptable. And that for all we know, men and dogs can have it too!

I couldn’t believe she was minimizing the physical, mental and emotional distress PMS can cause for women that I’ve seen firsthand in my clinic at Women to Women.

She went on to say that by chalking up emotions to a PMS excuse, women don’t have to deal with them and that doesn’t serve us long-term. And that’s when I finally agreed with her. Sweeping emotions under the rug or saying they are just hormonal episodes means we don’t have to look deeply into them, and at Women to Women, we think every symptom is a call from our body to us to pay attention, including our emotional ones.

In fact, for decades now we have been talking about PMS as an opportunity for women to use that time each month to really deal with unresolved emotional issues. In one previous newsletter, we shared the idea that PMS can serve as a “window of time during which you have the ability and the strength to speak the truth – if you will simply face it.”

As a psychologist, in her talk, she was trying to raise attention to the fact that PMS is not a mental health diagnosis. It’s true that the mental health community doesn’t really have a definition of PMS and so you could argue that we all experience symptoms at times of what is commonly referred to as PMS, even men and dogs!

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM, which mental health practitioners use as their reference guide, the only approved diagnosis is for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Dysphoria is a feeling of agitation or unease and to receive a diagnosis, a woman must experience at least 5 of 11 possible symptoms in the week before her period begins, they must improve when menstruation occurs, and the symptoms must be gone the week after menstruation ceases.

At least one of the symptoms must come from a list of four: irritability, anxiety, depression or marked mood swings. The other symptoms can be much more broad such as changes in sleep or appetite, or feeling out of control. We have articles and information about dozens of PMS symptoms that we’ve seen in our clinic on our website.

As a practitioner who has worked with thousands and thousands of women, I can tell you with certainty that despite the lack of a clear approved mental health diagnosis, PMS is real and it is debilitating for many women. The good news is that you don’t have to suffer: we’ve had great success in alleviating symptoms with our dietary and lifestyle guidelines and our nutritional support systems.

It’s important to feel good about yourself and your body, not just for a better quality of life now, but also for a great life down the road. That’s because another thing that we’ve been talking to women about for decades is that PMS is often a preview of coming attractions, so to speak, for perimenopause and menopause.

I always love it when new research comes out supporting what we’ve known about for years and recently a study from Helsinki Finland connected PMS complaints to a lower quality of life after menopause. Researchers tracked 120 postmenopausal women asking about their PMS experiences and the symptoms they currently identified after menopause. About 90% of the women reported having had PMS, with about half of those women saying it interfered with their home, work or social life, and about 40% rating their PMS as moderate to severe.

The researchers were hoping to connect hot flashes to PMS severity, but they could not. They did, however, discover that other postmenopausal symptoms such as depression, poor sleep, feeling less attractive, and memory and concentration were strongly linked to the severity of the women’s PMS symptoms.

This does not come as a surprise, given that we know that symptoms are signs to us to pay attention and if they are unresolved and not addressed, they may continue and even worsen over time.

That’s why it’s so important to consider your PMS symptoms as a wake up call to you to pay attention now: an invitation to look at your emotional health as well as your physical health and take action to make it better. Ignoring your symptoms not only means that you’ll be uncomfortable every month, it may mean that health concerns could continue long past your periods. Why not begin the healing process now?

While we continue to learn more about PMS, one thing is certain: PMS symptoms are a sign that a woman’s body is out of balance. The good news is that sound nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way toward relieving symptoms. When you combine it with the nutritional support in our PMS system, you give your body the help it needs to repair, restore, and rebalance — and to eliminate those disrupting symptoms.

You don’t need to suffer through another month of feeling uncomfortable, out of control or just not yourself. Our PMS system has helped thousands of women. We can help you too.

To learn more about PMS or take our quiz, click here.

This article is in PMS

Surprising Sources of Stress

I remember when Time Magazine called stress the “Epidemic of the 80’s” in its cover story back in 1983. I was so excited to see that Time Magazine, a popular and accepted news source, was talking about something the medical profession rarely recognized back then.

With more than 30 years of wisdom since, not much has changed in many ways: stress continues to plague us and contribute to a myriad of health challenges and I see it in my patients every day. In fact, many of them tell me that life in the 80’s seems calm in comparison to the busy pace of life now.

However, there is some good news: more and more practitioners are recognizing the importance of adrenal health and its connection to stress. Adrenal fatigue as a significant health condition has only been introduced into the main stream recently, and even now, many doctors don’t recognize or understand it, but at least the movement has started.

At Women to Women, we’ve been talking about and treating adrenal fatigue for decades. When I ask my patients to describe something stressful, most of my patients can produce a personal example pretty quickly: being stuck in traffic and being late to a child’s recital or game, missing a flight connection, having an enormously long to-do list to prepare for an event or a holiday, or a tight deadline at work for a big project coming due. What many of us don’t realize is that it’s not so much the one time situation as it is the little stresses of every day life can do damage to our health; it is the cumulative and repetitive stressors over time that do the most harm.

Now a new study reveals the surprising fact that most people are more stressed at home than at work. I’d like to talk more about why that may be and share with you some sources of stress I see with my patients at Women to Women every day. Many of these surprising stress sources are things that most people don’t even consider or recognize as having an impact on their health but these stressors can do significant harm to your health and hormonal balance over time. Maybe some of these will be familiar to you, too.

Stress is Higher at Home Than Work

Last week I shared that while I was traveling to and from the Institute of Functional Medicine, where I was facilitating workshops and training new practitioners, I had the chance to catch up on some reading. One of the headlines that caught my eye was a study done by researchers at Penn State that revealed people have much lower stress levels at work than at home.

What made the study especially interesting to me was that more than simply asking people how they felt and determining stress levels purely anecdotally, the researchers also measured the cortisol levels of the participants at home and at work. (Cortisol is a biological marker of stress; more on that later.) We’ve always heard that work is the source of so much of our stress and home is where we re-charge, but this new finding reflects what many of my patients have told me for years: home is not a stress-free haven.

Rather, home can actually cause stress, especially for women. Before we delve deeper into some of the reasons why, one of the really interesting conclusions of the study was that women (as well as men) reported significantly lower levels of stress at work than at home and this included parents, although the decrease was not quite as big for parents as for non-parents. But something really shocking came out beyond having less stress at work. Women (unlike men) reported that not only was stress lower but their happiness levels were higher at work than at home: many found work to be renewing!

This conclusion supports numerous other studies published over the years that show that people who work have better mental and physical health than those who do not. In fact, mothers who work full-time outside the home through their twenties and thirties have better health at age 45 (an age at which stress can wreak havoc on hormonal balance heading into menopause) than mothers who worked part-time, had periods of unemployment, or who chose to be stay-at-home moms.

Perhaps because they have to deal with so much, the full-time working moms are forced to find better ways to manage their stress levels and wellness, whether it’s hiring help around the house, or making sure they hit the gym or get that massage. Or perhaps, because they have an outlet or a place to escape the frenzy of home, somewhere they can make a valuable contribution and be recognized for something other than being chef, maid and chauffeur, those chores and labels don’t cause the same emotional stresses that can impact health over time.

Regardless, it does not mean that full-time working mothers have stress-free lives. But they do seem to have lower stress levels than other women overall and the research shows that that full-time workingwomen do experience better health. (Though clearly, if you hate your job, that will change things significantly and may cause stress and health concerns, not prevent them.) Beyond the overall health and wellness impacts of full-time work, I had to wonder, and you may too, why it is that work is seen as a place of renewal and home is seen as chaotic and stressful for women?

My patients have given me some other surprising sources of stress that may help shed some light on why home can be a source of stress for many men and especially women today. As I considered what they have shared with me, I found other experts recognized the same concerns as potential sources of stress that my patients have shared. Let’s see if any of them resonate with you.

Surprising Sources of Stress

Your Partner/Significant Other

When we first merge our lives with someone, it can be stressful adjusting to so much that is new. Then we settle in and as time goes on and life evolves, money, parenting and life choices can bring on stress as well. If you don’t see eye to eye with your partner on any big issue, whether it’s money, kids, intimacy, shared workload or how you spend your time, being at home will be stressful!

In addition to struggling with a particular issue, not having alignment on some foundational relationship basics such as communication styles, intimacy preferences, how you show affection, love, appreciation and support for one another, and how much time is spent together as a couple, can wreak havoc on a relationship as well. Relationship challenges or differing styles can cause stress and may create distance and an emotional gap that in and of itself can create stress as well.

I believe relationships are so important to our overall health and well being that I am working on a new and exciting project, coming this summer. I’m excited to be bringing you a whole new series of websites providing a new way of learning about the differences between men and women and how together we can create a great intimate partnerships. I can’t wait to help you create better health through better partnerships!

(Watch for more information, coming soon.)


For so long we’ve been taught that we should multi-task and as women, let’s face it, we do it because we can! But new studies show that not only are people more successful and accomplish more when they focus on one thing instead of trying to do several at once, but they are less stressed. One particular study measured heart-rate variability as a reflection of mental stress and found that people who answer emails during the day as they work instead of setting aside time each day to respond to all their mail at once experience more stress. (More on email as a stressor below)

Digital Devices and Social Media

When Time Magazine talked about stress in the 1980’s, we weren’t walking around with smart phones and tablets in our pockets and bags or lying in bed at night texting or checking Facebook. We wonder why we are stressed when we never take time to unplug and reconnect with nature, family and friends! How many times have you seen families (or done this yourself) out to dinner or watching TV, all on their own devices simultaneously?

Whenever we read or see a message, email or post that is stressful or unfortunate, we take on some of that stress ourselves. Subconsciously, we may think or worry that it could happen to us and a post or a comment impacts us much in the same way that watching the violence and negativity on nightly news may. Research also shows that negative body image and longer periods of post-break up pain are just two of the downsides associated with social media use.

Apart from exposure to negative or stressful messages, using technology before bed can also interfere with sleep and excessive technology use can reduce your availability for connection and intimacy with your partner and family.

We also lose the warmth that comes with a direct interaction that is not transferred through an email or text exchange as well as tone and context; that’s why it’s never a good idea to discuss anything important, particularly with your partner, over email or text.

And while setting aside an hour for email while you’re on vacation is definitely better than checking your phone every 5 minutes, it’s hard to remove all the information, requests, ideas, problems, and tasks from your head and not have them creep into your thoughts while you should be playing and relaxing with your family or friends. This distraction will take hold at home if you check mail after leaving work or before bed as well.


For some people housework and creating order in the home is relaxing. For others, it is exactly the opposite and is a huge source of stress. Even if you do enjoy it, if you feel that you don’t get enough help and support from others in getting it done, or you have to face a messy or disorganized environment on occasion, it can become a source of stress for you as well. Dividing up the workload in a manner that everyone feels comfortable with and feeling supported in your role is key. This can be challenging for many couples and families to accomplish, however, and may be a source of significant stress in the home.

These are just a few of the sources of stress that impact us at home and may play a big role in why work can feel like an escape at times. When I ask my patients for examples of big and stressful things, however, as I shared with your earlier, these are not the things they name first. Any one of these can become a big and divisive issue, but even if it is not the biggest challenge you face, each of these smaller stressors can bring steady and unrelenting stress into your daily life that can lead to relationship challenges, less happiness, and health concerns such as hormonal imbalance and adrenal fatigue.

Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

When we are in a dangerous or stressful situation, our adrenal glands, which sit on top of our kidneys, release adrenaline to make us more alert and focused, and cortisol, to convert protein to energy and release our stored sugars, glycogen, so we can respond quickly. The adrenal response will prepare us to fight or flee by releasing energy, sharpening our senses, and slowing our digestion. Once the threat is removed, adrenaline rapidly vanishes and cortisol slowly returns to normal again.

When stress is ongoing or daily and not a once in a while occurrence, the adrenal glands focus the resources required (including estrogen) to make cortisol, resulting in hormonal imbalance. In addition, too much cortisol can damage healthy tissues. When the adrenals become totally burned out from this repetitive process, adrenal exhaustion and serious health concerns may result.

But before they are fully exhausted, the adrenals will function at limited capacity, resulting in hormonal imbalance and adrenal fatigue. In this case, you may experience symptoms such as weight gain, depression, cravings, insomnia, fuzzy thinking, and mood swings.

While I see this often in my practice, the good news is that Women to Women’s foundational nutrition and lifestyle recommendations can help stressed out women get back on track and restore their adrenal health. Our adrenal health system products also play a key role in restoring hormonal balance and providing adrenal support by delivering foundational nutritional support that is just not available from today’s food supply.

Our products and programs have been helping thousands of women to restore hormonal balance and repair adrenal fatigue for more than three decades. Together we can help you reduce your symptoms, restore your health, and finally feel like yourself again.

If you experience any of the stressors in this article or any other sources of stress on an ongoing basis, if you feel tired or worn out, have trouble sleeping or are wired, if you feel stressed more than occasionally, or if you would describe your life, or home or work environment as stressful, that stress can significantly impact your health over time. In fact, you may already have hormonal imbalance and and adrenal fatigue.

Stress doesn’t have to wear you down and wipe you out or leave you wired and unable to sleep. You can feel better. We can help. To learn more about adrenal fatigue click here.

To purchase our adrenal support system or one of our adrenal support products, click here.

Will My Hot Flash Lead to a Heart Attack?

Last week I was in Tucson, facilitating workshops at the Institute of Functional Medicine. It is such an honor to be asked to facilitate and assist in training so many brilliant minds and amazing health professionals.

I love working with like-minded professionals and I get excited about sharing my knowledge, passion and energy with my peers. I know I’ll return to the clinic re-charged. One of the benefits of traveling (and having my plane delayed for mechanical reasons) is that I had the chance to get caught up on reading a number of new research studies that I’ll be sharing more about with you over the coming weeks.

I always love it when I see studies come forward that make the connections that we have seen in our patients at Women to Women and have been talking about with you in our newsletters for years. I’m a Functional Medicine practitioner and what that means is that we know that everything is connected; Functional Medicine practitioners understand that if we can learn more about what is happening “upstream,” we can begin to prevent and cure the symptoms and conditions that ultimately occur “downstream.” So I love to see research that helps us to “connect the dots.”

While I try to stay up to date on all the latest studies, I always pay extra close attention to research that confirms what we believe about the connection between symptoms of hormonal imbalance and other health concerns. That’s because we usually find that the “downstream” symptom has an “upstream” cause. One study recently connected the dots between hot flashes and heart health and I’d like to sum up the major conclusions and share what it really means for YOU.

The study, which was conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, found that women who have hot flashes at younger ages, and who have them more frequently, might have a greater risk of heart disease.

Specifically, the research showed that when a woman experiences her first hot flash at age 42 or younger, her endothelial function (which is tied to heart attack risk and is considered an indicator of heart health) is significantly poorer than in women who had their first hot flash at an older age.

In addition, the more hot flashes the women in the age group of 52 and younger had in a 24-hour period, the less healthy their endothelial function was and the greater their heart attack risk.

While we know that this is not conclusive and further study is warranted, it is an interesting connection and one that makes sense to us since we know that hormonal imbalance is something that does not occur in isolation. We know that insulin resistance plays a role in heart health and also leads to menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes so that is just one way that these two may be connected. It will be exciting to see if more research can probe the link and make the insulin connection in the future.

As we wait for further information, however, one thing these results do suggest is that women at younger ages experiencing hot flashes should be more vigilant of their heart health.

One way you can take better care of your heart is to engage in regular exercise, especially exercise that raises the heart rate. Exercise is known to force blood vessels to dilate and to help them remain healthy, improving the poor endothelial function that the study found which was so concerning; women in this group should be even more conscious of ensuring they remain active and exercise regularly as they age.

We have talked about the burst form of high intensity interval training with you before, as this is the form of exercise that we always recommend. Exercising for too long a period of time actually can increase oxidative stress.

In addition, managing other factors such as weight, blood pressure, and diet, especially glucose levels are important for long-term heart health; as we’ve seen and shared with you, correlations have been proven between internal inflammation, blood sugar levels, and heart attacks.

At Women to Women, we think it’s important for all of us, but especially women with frequent hot flashes and flashes occurring at younger ages, to take preventive action with respect to heart health. But we also know that it is equally, if not more, important to try to prevent or eliminate hot flashes before they do damage to the endothelium and ultimately, the heart.

To bring hormones back into balance, we work with our patients to focus on what they eat and how they live: we know that a good night’s sleep, reducing stress, regular exercise, and a healthy whole food diet, which includes being aware of the overall carbohydrate content and quality, will go a long way toward restoring wellness.

In our nutritional guidelines, we recommend high-quality proteins such as grass fed meat and wild caught fish, fresh fruits and vegetables (organic if you can) and minimizing packaged and processed foods. If organic is not possible all the time, at least buy organic when consuming the toxic 12 fruits and vegetables. (Link to our article.)

We see so many patients in our clinic who tell us that it is extremely difficult today to eat all the nutrients needed for hormonal balance during perimenopause, even if they do try to eat a healthy and balanced diet. Numerous studies show us that the nutritional content of food today is diminished due to farming practices, long transportation times, and our desire for perfectly beautiful produce.

So in addition to eating well, the body may require more support, especially if you experience a lot of stress in your life. We have found that we can reduce or eliminate hot flashes with our patients by supporting the body’s hormonal balance with a pharmaceutical grade multi-vitamin and omega-3 supplement.

We actually went out and created our own to ensure it had the ingredients and the purity we knew women needed to restore balance and feel well. Our patients have had great success with them for over 3 decades and we take them too!

In our clinic, these two products help virtually all patients we see to reduce symptoms, whatever they may be, and to feel like themselves again: whether they suffer from hot flashes or not!

If hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms are causing discomfort, we also recommend a third product that is formulated specifically to alleviate symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Our proprietary and proven Menopausal Support System can reduce or eliminate annoying symptoms, including potentially heart-unhealthy hot flashes, so you can feel like yourself again.

This week, to celebrate spring (which is hopefully coming to Maine soon!), we are offering 10% off any of our proven Menopausal Support System products. Use coupon code springsale at checkout. If you’d like to learn more, click here.

To learn more about heart health, hot flashes or how to manage your blood sugar levels, see our library at

The Surprising Truth About Hot Flashes

When I ask my patients which menopausal symptoms drive them the craziest and disrupt their lives the most, they give me a variety of answers: fuzzy thinking, weight gain, anxiety, disrupted sleep, decreased libido or painful sex, and mood swings all come to mind.

At our clinic, Women to Women, we have seen first-hand that the range of symptoms women experience in the years leading up to and immediately after menopause is extensive, and that each woman is affected differently. Despite the myriad of symptoms my patients complain about, however, it seems that one symptom in particular is nearly always on the top of my patients’ “most bothered by list:” that symptom is hot flashes.

Studies show that 4 out of 5 women will experience hot flashes and night sweats before or after menopause, which means most of us will experience them at least once. For many of us, they are life disrupting for far longer than we’d like. If it seems like your temperature shifts are not getting better or showing any signs of going away, you’re not alone.

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that these vasomotor symptoms (or VMS) last on average for more than seven years. For some ethnicities, the average duration can be over ten years; that’s a long time to be kicking off blankets and peeling off clothing layers!

The good news is that you don’t have to suffer through a decade of misery. At Women to Women, we’ve been helping our patients manage their hormonal imbalance and regain control of their health – and their body temperatures – for decades. Let’s look a little more closely at hot flashes and night sweats and what we can do to feel better now, not ten years from now!

Treating Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

If you’ve had a hot flash or night sweats, you know how uncomfortable and awkward it can be. Thankfully, there are more options than just keeping the thermostat down, avoiding spicy foods, which several authors suggest as treatment options, or opting for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which has been linked to breast and ovarian cancers even when only taken for short durations.

When your body is experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance it means that your systems and hormones are out of alignment: your symptoms are a message from your body asking you to pay attention.

During our transition before and after menopause, our hormones are shifting and the ratio of estrogen to progesterone and testosterone is constantly changing. When these ratios get out of balance, we experience symptoms such as hot flashes and many other well-known menopausal complaints. It IS possible to bring these hormones back into a healthy balance and our Menopause Support System has proven very effective in helping the body do so and alleviating symptoms during this transition.

But while nutritional supplementation and support is a critical component, it’s not as simple as just popping a pill and making it all go away; to receive optimal relief and restore health so that you can feel like yourself again, you’re going to need to make some simple lifestyle and diet changes as well.

That’s because our sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, are secondary hormones and our primary hormones of insulin, adrenalin and cortisol take precedence when it comes to getting the support and nutrition your body needs to perform optimally. If these hormones are out of balance, your body will focus on restoring harmony there first and your best efforts to address your menopausal symptoms may not yield the results you are seeking.

For example, insulin controls your blood sugar levels so if your diet is full of sugar, starch and carbohydrates, your menopausal complaints may well be more severe and will likely stay around longer. Similarly, if you live a very stressful chaotic life and you don’t take time for relaxation, meditation and self-care, you may experience adrenal fatigue because your adrenalin and cortisol will be out of balance. If there is an imbalance in any of the primary hormones, it will slow down symptom relief.

But the good news is that by making some simple diet and lifestyle changes, you can begin to feel much better and alleviate not just hot flashes, but weight gain, mood changes and all of your other menopausal symptoms as well.

The first step is to minimize processed foods and sugar and instead opt for fresh whole foods: grass-fed meats, wild caught salmon and omega-3 rich fish, and organic produce whenever you can will go a long way to restoring balance and helping you feel better. It’s important to watch out for hidden sugars such as high fructose corn syrup that wreak havoc on your insulin levels and to avoid vegetable oils and other omega 6 processed oils and the boxed foods that contain them.

You can learn more about sugar in our article here.

In addition, in the study, researchers also found that lifestyle concerns and psychosocial factors have an impact on how disruptive hormonal imbalance symptoms may be. In other words, the scientists are saying that if you have stress or distress in other areas of your life, it is more likely to show up in the form of symptoms in your physical body than if you don’t. We’ve seen this first-hand at women to women for years.

Those women in the JAMA study who experienced symptoms for longer periods of time included those who were under financial strain, under greater perceived stress, experiencing more depression or anxiety, seemed to be more sensitive to their symptoms and those who experienced symptoms at younger ages. So it’s important to reduce stress from your life by making changes where you can and by implementing stress relief practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, journaling, deep breathing, eating well and getting a good night’s sleep.

Menopausal Symptom Relief Is Possible

One of the major conclusions of the JAMA study was that most physicians are unaware of the severity and the duration of many menopausal symptoms including VMS. If your practitioner thinks they will go away on their own, or that living with them for a few months (or years!) is ok, find a practitioner that will work with you to improve your diet and lifestyle and give your body the support it is crying out for. Symptoms of hormonal imbalance mean your body is out of alignment and needs to be re-balanced. And with the study results indicating that this imbalance can last as long as a decade, taking a wait and see attitude is not the best solution for your health, or your comfort.

At Women to Women, we have been successfully treating symptoms of hormonal imbalance including hot flashes and night sweats for three decades. We have found that in addition to changing your diet, basic nutritional support in the form or a pharmaceutical grade multi-vitamin and omega 3 fatty acid supplement fill in the nutritional gaps that can result in your body’s sensitivity to symptoms such as VMS.

In today’s world with our busy lives and our compromised food supply, it is nearly impossible to get all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and co-factors your body needs for optimal function in a form that your body can absorb. In addition, if you are experiencing more severe, more frequent, or more numerous physical or emotional symptoms, our proprietary blend of natural herbs to support you will provide the relief from your symptoms you are seeking and help to restore your hormonal balance so they don’t come back. While diet and lifestyle changes go along way, when you add in nutritional supplementation support, it’s possible to go symptom-free and finally feel like yourself again.

Let today be the last day you have a hot flash – or the last night you wake up hot and drenched! Order now.

To learn more about our Menopause support system click here.

If you missed our last newsletter on vitamins, you can read it here.

The Truth About Vitamins

Every so often, a new study about vitamins dominates the headlines announcing that vitamins don’t work, they are a waste of money, or they aren’t what you think they are. I’m always amazed at how they can spin things to make such sensational headlines!

After looking at thousands of research studies over my years in practice, I know that it isn’t until you delve into the specifics of the study: how it was done, what they actually looked at, and who funded it, that the real headline emerges.

A few years ago, a scathing review conducted by Consumer Reports concluded that vitamins were a total waste of money. They looked at individual supplements for vitamins, such as vitamin E and other vitamins, in isolation and concluded that they weren’t effective.

As a Functional Medicine practitioner who treats the body as a whole, recognizing that every system, process and function is interrelated and connected to others, it’s no surprise to me that a vitamin taken in isolation, without all the necessary enzymes and co-factors that support its metabolism, would have little impact.

Earlier this year, another study concluded that many of the supplements you purchase at stores like Walmart, Target, GNC and Walgreen do not contain what they claim to. This isn’t the first of these studies. A similar study on omega 3 fish oils in California a few years ago revealed wild disparities between the concentration and purity of the products and the stated label claims. Several other studies have revealed similar results.

Given we are often looking at a vitamin in isolation or evaluating vitamin products that do not contain the ingredients or doses they claim to, it’s no surprise that the media proclaims that vitamins don’t work, aren’t necessary or are a waste of money: in those cases, it’s likely true!

At Women to Women, however, over the past three decades, we have seen first-hand that high-quality supplementation can make an incredible difference in the health and healing of our patients. That’s because we formulate our vitamins to be of the highest quality and purity, designed for optimal absorption and laboratory-tested to ensure efficacy and potency: our patients see and feel the difference.

Vitamins can help support your health, but only if you are getting high-quality nutritional support that is proven to impact wellness; otherwise, you’re just “wasting your money,” as the headlines claim. Let’s look at what you need to know about buying and taking vitamins so you can get the benefits that high-quality supplements can provide.

Why Isn’t Good Food Enough?

When I ask my patients about their diets, most confess that they eat out more than they should, they choose the convenience of packaged or processed foods a bit too often, and they don’t always get the highest quality ingredients such as organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed meats because they aren’t readily available or affordable.

Given the way food is raised and grown today, it’s no great surprise that they are often experiencing symptoms resulting from the deficiencies or ‘gaps’ that can arise from incomplete nutrition. For the majority of my patients, once we look at their diets, they immediately understand that their bodies need more support and see a high-quality multi-vitamin can help to “bridge the gap.”

Occasionally, I have a few conscientious patients who are making all those good choices, at least most of the time, and they are sometimes surprised that it is still not enough. The truth is that given today’s farming practices, where foods are picked before they are ripe and before they have developed their full nutritional profile in order to make it to markets, often a long distance away, before spoiling, even organic produce often lacks sufficient nutrients. One study showed that to get the same level of vitamin A from eating two peaches back in the 1950s, today you would have to eat 53! I’m pretty sure none of us are doing that!

That’s why virtually all of my patients benefit from a high-quality multivitamin supplement, whether they are experiencing hormonal imbalance or other symptoms yet, or not. Those who are not experiencing life-disrupting symptoms still recognize that the chronic lifestyle-related diseases that are today’s greatest causes of death and illness all have roots in diet and nutrition and that supplementation is a small price to pay for prevention.

Stress, Diet and Vitamins

Even if we do our best to eat well and cook from scratch, many of us have not done so religiously over the years. Let’s face it: we didn’t know or talk as much about food when we were younger and we ate anything we wanted and generally got away with it! Convenience foods came into being in the 60’s and 70’s and we shifted away from home cooked meals every night into convenient fast food and processed options.

Who can’t remember their first TV dinner and how exciting it was to have that tray and eat in front of the TV? While we could get away with it for a while, for many of us, those choices caught up to us and resulted in dieting of some sort, at some point in our lives. More than half of American women are on a diet at any given time and often these diets rob our bodies of critical nutrients.

In addition, stress plays a huge role in our physical health and wellness, our absorption of nutrients, and our weight gains and losses. The more stress we have, the harder it will be to maintain a healthy weight and the more likely we are to make poor food choices, which will then impact our weight. It’s a vicious cycle!

Regardless of it’s impact on weight, however, stress, whether it is environmental stress such as pollution and radiation, or the every day craziness of rush hour traffic or busy kids’ schedules and work deadlines, also impacts our bodies’ abilities to absorb and process nutrients, making it even more important that we receive high-quality support to stay balanced.

Taking vitamins in isolation has not been proven to be effective so we recommend a high-quality, pharmaceutical grade multi-vitamin that will provide all the key nutrients as well as their supporting co-factors required to ensure maximum absorption. In addition, we recommend every patient take an essential fatty acid (EFA) supplement in order to provide the omega 3 support our bodies require.

EFAs are essential, meaning our bodies cannot make them, so we must ingest them. Today’s diet is heavy in omega 6 vegetable oils that are the foundations of processed foods and restaurant cooking, but our bodies desire a ratio of 1:1 omega 3 to omega 6. To compensate for our heavy omega 6 diets, we must ingest omega 3s in order to balance out that ratio and our nutritional health. Many patients say just this one supplement makes a huge difference in how they feel, both mentally and physically.

How Do You Get The Right Vitamin?

As we’ve discussed, if the vitamins you take cannot be absorbed, they aren’t going to help! Cheap generic vitamins are rarely fully absorbed, and some have even been shown to pass through the stool whole or just partially decomposed. If they are broken down fully and completely in the body, they are often lacking the appropriate doses (Recommended Daily Allowances or RDA’s are the bare minimum required to prevent diseases such as scurvy and rickets, not the optimal amounts a healthy body needs) or they lack the co-factors needed for the nutrients to be processed and utilized effectively. As scientists put it, bioavailability is key: if they aren’t bioavailable, they won’t be effective and you will be wasting your money.

So what should you look for when choosing a nutritional supplement? There are six main points that we think are essential in making your choice.

  • Complete is crucial. The latest nutritional science suggests that women need at least 30 vitamins and minerals, along with a rich essential fatty acid formula.
  • Bioavailability matters. There are six patented chelated formulas we recommend be included, and the vitamin must meet USP standards for solubility.
  • Natural is the only way to go. Supplements must be free from artificial preservatives, dyes, allergens and other contaminants. The fatty acid formula must be certified free of mercury and lead.
  • Reliability is essential. While there are no manufacturing standards for nutritional supplements issued by the FDA, there are several sets of standards with international recognition. The manufacturer must meet at least one of these recognized standards.
  • Laboratory testing to back up claims. Every production batch of a nutritional supplement must be tested to ensure it contains exactly what the label claims.
  • You must feel results. You are the best judge. If a supplement doesn’t make you feel better within 30 days, it’s time to try another. Though symptoms may not disappear in that time frame, you should feel a marked difference.

Working with our patients who were struggling with hormonal balance, adrenal fatigue and thyroid concerns, weight management issues, and concerns about bone density and aging well, we knew we had to provide an affordable option that our patients could trust to be free of impurities and bioavailable. We wanted to ensure that we maintained control over both the quality of the ingredients and the manufacturing process in order to deliver the highest possible quality of supplementation available, one that would yield maximum results for our patients.

Our proprietary products, Multi-Essentials and EPA/DHA Support, have all of the above qualities, and provide the foundation women (and men!) need. We have done our homework, including visiting the manufacturer, talking with their scientists and reviewing processes and controls. We’ve used these products successfully with patients in our clinic (and online) for decades and we take the products ourselves.

It isn’t enough to live longer – we must also live well. With the help of a high-quality nutritional supplement, we know living well is possible. High-quality supplements like the ones we offer at Women to Women are such a small investment in your health. You’d readily invest in a gym membership to get your body in shape if your health required it; nutritional supplementation is an investment that will pay off in a big way health-wise, both now and as you age. Thankfully, it’s easy and doesn’t take any time out of your busy day!

We should all feel great: full of energy and free of limitation. Our patients tell us our products help them to do that: Don’t you deserve that as well?

To learn more about our products….click here.

50 Layers of Relationships

We know that you strive for health and wellness in your life. You want to be healthy, you want to be strong. You want to have amazing relationships. You are part of Women to Women because you actively seek information and resources to make your life better.

You have been with us for a long time, helping us grow as you let us know what you need. You have told us your stories, shared your struggles and we have been listening. We are excited to announce an incredible new forum where you can find all the information and resources you need to make your relationships remarkable. Our site, will offer everything women are looking for in an exciting, interesting and stimulating format designed with you in mind.

Plenty of websites claim that they can help you have better relationships, but on closer examination we find that none of these sites are comprehensive enough to cover all the questions you may have. Many focus on how to seduce a partner or how to spice things up the bedroom, while missing the bigger picture. Good sex is one essential element in a satisfying relationship, but despite popular sentiment sometimes, it’s not the only thing you need. What about connection, true intimacy, and understanding your partner? So many people struggling in their relationships need more than just sexual advice.

Often, sites focus on just one point of view – but there are two people in every relationship, and two perspectives to consider. What if there was a website that considered both viewpoints, and offered resources for each of you, eliminating the need to jump from website to website, typing in search after search to find the answers to your questions. Our site will offer the unique opportunity for you and your partner to each find the information you are seeking. We are going live on Valentine’s Day, a day set aside in popular culture for romance and relationship building. With the movie 50 Shades of Grey arriving in theatres, relationships are on everyone’s mind. What are women looking for? What do men want? How can we all explore our sexuality to create thrilling, emotional connections? The timing couldn’t be better to begin exploring all facets of our relationships together.

We are striving to become the number one resource for relationship support and information, a one-stop shopping center filled with articles, quizzes, advice and products that will allow your relationship to soar to new heights.

Your relationship might be okay – but don’t you deserve better than just okay? Wouldn’t you rather have amazing, exciting, exhilarating and stimulating connections with your partner? Relationships shift and change over time. The secret is to shift and change with them, to keep the excitement alive. You can’t always do that on your own.

Maybe you need information. Maybe you need a supplement to help your libido come back to life. Maybe you just need a safe place to explore issues you weren’t even aware existed. Whatever it is you are lacking, our goal is to have easy to find answers all in one place. We can help you take your relationships beyond “good enough” to the next level.

The site is a work in progress, and we need your help in building it to suit your needs. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to keep you in the loop, letting you know when new content is added and developed.

Our goal is to share with you the best ways to communicate your wants, your needs, and your desires. We will explore tough issues and answer difficult questions, based on your input. Visit us at

We can help you explore your relationships to discover exactly what is missing, and what you can do to get what you want. Join us on this exciting journey by signing up for our newsletter, and offering input on the site as it grows.

With your help, can be the resource you, my valued clients, have been craving. Together, we can build a remarkable resource that can lead us to the incredible relationships we all deserve.

Could Coffee Be Good For You?

by Dixie Mills, MD

Woman holding hot cup of coffee heart shapeMedical school requires one to be alert and awake, so of course I relied on a cup of coffee to do just that. After I got pregnant however, I lost my taste for it completely. Now don’t get me wrong – I still enjoy a good decaf latte – on a leisurely, quiet morning or after a wonderful meal.

But what is the scoop about the good old fashioned stuff??  Is it good for you or not?? For years now we have thought that it was bad for your health, but recent studies have shown that it may not be bad for you at all, in moderation. I am not sure I have a firm answer for you on this one, but I definitely do have an opinion. I do think a cup of coffee, just one, is really fine for you long term.

To date, studies are showing that along with its ability to wake us up, caffeine may help our short and long-term memory. In addition, regular coffee consumption (with or without caffeine) has also been associated with lowering the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular risk. More than likely these effects are because of the antioxidant effect of the bean. So for you coffee lovers out there – take heart and continue to enjoy that morning cup of coffee.

I love the communal aspect of having my coffee with a friend, or partner. It can be a great way to take that early morning pause, to slow just for a bit. If you really love it and it feels good to you to have it, I say – take this off your list of concerns, enjoy every minute of your cup.

If you want to learn more about caffeine and how it affects you, I recommend these articles:
Is Your Caffeine Boost Causing You to Sink?
The Caffeine Controversy – What’s the Buzz
Caffeine Withdrawal – Doing It With Ease


Haskell, C, et al. 2005. Cognitive and mood improvements of caffeine in habitual consumers and habitual non-consumers of caffeine. Psychopharmacology, 190(4), 469-477. URL:

Angelucci, M, et al. 2002. Effects of caffeine on learning and memory in rats tested in the Morris water maze. Braz. J. Med. Biol. Res., 35(10), 1201-1208. URL:

Van Dam, R, et al. 2005. Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes. JAMA, 294(1). URL:

Andersen, L, et al. 2006. Consumption of coffee is associated with reduced risk of death attributed to inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases in the Iowa Women’s Health Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 83(5), 1039-1046. URL:

The Health Benefits of Sex, No Matter What Your Age

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP

Happy senior man and woman embracing on a deserted tropical beach with bright clear blue sky PMS-E-X.  Sex.  For a small word, s-e-x evokes all sorts of varied emotions for people!  Some women tell me that sex was never discussed in their homes when growing up; others say that it was discussed infrequently and in hushed tones. Rarely do I hear that sex and sensuality were encouraged topics of conversation. Sensuality and sex are two wonderful facets of being human. Being knowledgeable about sex – everything from the how to’s to the risks – is so very important these days. Understanding sensuality and how that affects you and your relationship is important for all women to understand. Pushing this information aside or not recognizing your feelings isn’t healthy!

At Women to Women we’d like every woman to understand her own body, to be able to ask questions about topics she’d like to understand better and, most importantly, to know about all the positive benefits of sex.

There is good news!  It’s not too late for you to reap the health benefits of sex, no matter what your age may be. For those women who are menopausal, you are at the age where you can enjoy sex without fear that you might get pregnant!  Sex is good for your health!  Let me explain why.

Sex and Your Heart Health

Do you ever notice that when you are sexually aroused, that your heart and breathing often increase?  Your body actually does that to channel more blood to your genitals to get ready for sex. Mature Senior Woman Holding Heart ShapeHowever, there’s more to it than just that. An entire cascade of hormones released during your sexual arousal and climax – DHEA, prolactin, adrenaline, noradrenaline and testosterone are all called into action – and most of these have great cardio-protective effects.

Once you have an orgasm, your body releases the hormone oxytocin. One of the results of the oxytocin surge is lowering your blood pressure. It’s a well-publicized fact that healthy blood pressure makes you less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. In fact, there was a study done on more than 900 men (ages 45–59) that suggested that having sex two times or more per week might aid in preventing cardiac events, like heart attack and stroke. While this study didn’t include women, it still demonstrates a hope for both sexes, as much of the chemistry involved in the study applied to both men and women.

Sex and Exercise

Did you know that your body treats sex just like exercise!  Your heart rate increases, muscles contract and calories are released from fat to create energy just as if you were lifting weights, hiking or bike riding!  Not many people talk about this, but it’s a great benefit of having sex!

Sex and Sleep

What do you feel like after you have an orgasm?  If you’re like most women and men, you will want to relax and close your eyes. You feel very relaxed and can easily doze off – even if you usually have insomnia. This probably has to do with oxytocin and the release of endorphins at the time of orgasm. These are like natural sedatives. Sleep itself has amazing health benefits! It’s a time when your body rebuilds and rejuvenates – every body needs this!

Sex and Decreased Depression

Happy Young Woman Relieve Depression

Having sex releases endorphins in your body – and these endorphins can make you feel elated and even relieve pain!  Many women talk about the euphoric feelings they have right after having sex – and some even comment that sex makes them forget their aches and pains!


Sex and Stress Relief

There are additional benefits that oxytocin can provide as well. One of them is stress relief. You’ve probably heard some women describe their orgasm as the “ultimate release.”  That moment is the time when they can let everything go. Oxytocin is present in your body when you are in a stressful setting. Women with greater oxytocin levels are usually calmer and more relaxed. A study done at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) showed that the estrogen that was present in women would enhance the calming effects of oxytocin, while testosterone might counteract it. This probably explains why so many women want to cuddle after sex.

At Women to Women we understand that sensuality and sex are very important pieces of a woman’s being!  We encourage all women to know their bodies, to ask questions and to express this part of themselves – both to promote good physical health and for their emotional wellbeing. It’s also good to recognize that sexual fulfillment doesn’t require a partner – masturbation is healthy way to meet your needs – and fulfilling these needs leads to a happier, healthier YOU!

For more on this topic, read our informative article, “Safe (and Enjoyable) Sex In Your Middle Years.”

Non-Hormonal Birth Control and IUDs

by Marcelle Pick, OB-GYN, NP

Some of you may remember the frightening stories related to the safety of IUDs (intrauterine devices) shortly after they were introduced many years ago. Since that time, the IUD has become one of the best methods of preventing pregnancy and it now comes with only minimal risk of adverse consequences for most users.

Years ago, there were two issues with the early IUDs. One was the incredibly poor design of the Dalkon Shield. Because of the design, it caused a huge increase in the incidence of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Many women thought that all IUD’s caused PID. It is now known that pelvic inflammatory disease is not caused by intrauterine devices. It has more to do with partners, and the infections that may occur because of exposure to various infections.

The type of IUDs that woman experienced problems with 30 to 40 years ago were designed differently than the products that are available today. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that IUDs may have been more readily prescribed for women who were already at risk for chlamydia, the infection that causes most cases of PID (Pelvic inflammatory disease). A good example of this is someone that has multiple partners. Years ago we didn’t have an effective way to test for this infection, so PID got severe before it was detected and the IUD was blamed, not only for the severe infection, but also for the resulting infertility in some women. Today we have tests that determine chlamydia quickly and women get treated immediately without developing PID.

Your Intrauterine Choices

The IUDs that are used nowadays are much better designed than in the past. In an attempt to get past the bad reputation IUDs had years ago, some companies are now referring to their products as IUS or intra-uterine systems. These newly designed devices provide a great birth control option for many women, especially for women who are approaching perimenopause and other women who want a convenient, easy method of birth control. Good candidates for IUDs are women who are free from infections, who are in a relationship with only one partner, and who have no uterine fibroids. IUDs often are easier to insert for women who have been pregnant at least once.

At Women to Women, we often suggest the 10-year copper ParaGard IUD and/or the 5-year Mirena IUD. The ParaGard is the IUD we prescribe as a first option for patients who have had blood clots in the past, or have a history of cardiac problems. We often find that the Mirena, which releases a synthetic progestin hormone in the uterus, may be a good option, especially if the patient experiences heavy blood flow during menses, and even heavy irregular menses. More than likely this occurs because it affects the uterine lining and makes it thinner.

An IUD provides a wonderful choice for those who are used to the spontaneity that oral birth control offers. After insertion, you can, for the most part, ignore that it’s there. If you think you may be interested in this option, speak to your medical provider to find out a few more key points. If you do decide on an IUD, it’s vital to keep your follow-up appointments.

Another wonderful birth control method we often prescribe is the NuvaRing, a 21-day vaginally inserted device that provides a constant and specifically measured, very low dose of birth control hormones. Since the hormones are delivered vaginally, your gastrointestinal system and liver do not have to metabolize them first. We’ve discovered the slow and consistent release and the low dose of hormone required make this product an excellent alternative to oral birth control for patients who have troubling side effects such as hormonal headaches. Another benefit some users notice with the NuvaRing is that vaginal dryness, common with oral birth control, is not as problematic. The only issue some women complain about is that they don’t like having to insert something in their vagina, but most women can overcome this and love this method.

Alternative Non-Hormonal Choices

Condoms and diaphragms are technically known by the term “barrier methods.” The “Today Sponge” is also back on the market, which is also a barrier method. These are fairly trustworthy ways of preventing pregnancy and they don’t rely on the use of hormones. The Sponge is currently being produced in New York State. At first it was only sold in Canada, but the Sponge is now available in the United States and it has been FDA-approved since the early spring of 2005. Many love the convenience of the sponge and were very upset when it was taken off the market. The good news for many is that it is now back.

For those who have decided that they don’t want to have children, or do not wish to have more, surgical interventions remain a choice for either the woman, or her partner. A woman may have her fallopian tubes surgically “tied,” in a procedure known as a tubal ligation, thus preventing pregnancy. Her male partner may choose to undergo a surgical procedure known as a vasectomy.

The Choice is Up To You

There are many factors to be considered when a woman is deciding which method of birth control is right for her. At Women to Women our goal is to help women find the method that fits them the best. Every person is a unique individual with her own needs. It’s good to take a look at several factors when making birth control choices and finding the one that fits you the best.



by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP

Sometimes when women experience problems like increased fatigue, loss of concentration and weight gain, the first thing that comes to mind as the cause is “it must be my thyroid.”

Female thyroid gland anatomy in x-ray viewThe thyroid gland regulates your metabolism, which has a huge impact on your weight, your energy levels, and your moods. When stress hormones go out of balance, your thyroid is often affected, too, which in turn triggers PMS, menstrual and perimenopausal symptoms and other health issues. This is a much overlooked issue as the adrenals have much to do with this reaction. Thyroid-induced symptoms include weight gain, constipation, hair loss, sluggishness, fatigue, depression, and mood swings.

Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid levels, sometimes shows up despite your best attempts to establish a healthy lifestyle. This is because the hormonal changes that occur with menopause can sometimes be accompanied by fluctuations in thyroid functioning. If untreated, this leads to thyroid imbalances, hypothyroidism, or the need to rely on medication indefinitely.

What is hypothyroidism?

A healthy thyroid is crucial to helping you metabolize food, manage your weight, keep your internal thermostat functioning efficiently, using and storing energy, reproduction, sleeping and even talking!

Ill Young Woman Lying Down On Couch With CupWhen your body underproduces thyroid hormones, the condition is known as hypothyroidism. When this occurs, you feel like you just aren’t functioning like your normal self. You may remember the old days when things were firing properly, and now they just are not. Women report a multitude of symptoms, and many of them are due to an under-functioning thyroid.

Your brain and your thyroid usually communicate with your body to maintain optimal balance of these hormones. In this healthy state, the brain produces thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). These hormones then prompt your thyroid gland to produce the active thyroid hormones called T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine) whenever levels are low. Ultimately, the body works to convert T4 into T3, the form our cells recognize best and use most effectively.

To meet your body’s continually changing needs, this active system is designed to adjust itself from moment to moment. This system will always move toward balance as long as things haven’t gotten too far out of sync.

Is It Menopause Or Is It My Thyroid?

When patients report symptoms of energy loss, unusual weight gain, lowered sexual desire, changes in their skin and hair and depression, we sometimes discover they are entering menopause or perimenopause. However, it’s not uncommon for them to also have evidence of thyroid imbalance. The symptoms are closely related, due to the thyroid hormones and the sexual hormones axes being so closely connected.

Thoughtful Mature Woman ThyroidDuring menopause, less sexual hormones are produced because less of them are required during the second half of life. However, estrogen helps TRH to perform its job. This means that as less estrogen is produced, thyroid function slows down also, especially if the decrease in estrogen is sudden or dramatic.

Maybe you have been prone to thyroid imbalance throughout your life without being aware of your predisposition to the disorder. When everything is working exactly as designed, you are able to effectively cope with changes you experience. There are many variables though, that affects our abilities and makes us vulnerable to imbalance. Some of these factors include stress, our environment, genetics and nutrition. Reproductive factors also impact our predisposition, which explains why women are more likely than men to suffer from thyroid disorders.

Hormonal imbalances such as thyroid dysfunction commonly result when the endocrine system veers off-center. With suboptimal levels of thyroid hormones, your cells simply cannot produce healthy biological responses and you begin to experience symptoms. For women who have been extremely health conscious through their life, this can be particularly frustrating for them.

Thyroid imbalance origins sometimes don’t lie within the thyroid, but rather in the roots of the gland itself or in other parts of the endocrine system. The thyroid is constantly engaged with other endocrine glands in a series of complex feedback loops. For example, when your adrenal glands don’t work well, your thyroid is also affected.

Thyroid Health Nutritional Supplement System

Mammograms – The Hundred Shades of Gray…

by Dixie Mills, MD

Happy Young Woman MammogramThe questions and answers around mammograms are muddy to say the least. The debate about their use can get quite heated and more emotional than one would think for a medical screening test. No one really gets up in arms about chest x-rays or blood draws. Unfortunately, the science around mammograms is not as straightforward or black and white as anyone would like it to be.

A study published earlier this year in a very reputable journal, the British Medical Journal, reported that mammograms are really not that helpful and do not prevent any more breast cancers in women between the ages of 40 and 59, than having clinical exams.1  Then the next day, a rebuttal was made by other medical professionals (many radiologists and cancer specialists) that the study used out-dated equipment and was poorly designed. These conflicts in the “breast field” seem to appear in the lay press every few years and obviously confuse the majority of women as much as they are confusing to the medical professionals. Primary care doctors – many of which have never had a mammogram themselves because they are men or too young, are not sure what to recommend to their patients and organizations are trying to come up with meaningful guidelines.

Female Breast Self Exam BodyUnfortunately, I think some of the sound bites we have heard over and over are not as accurate as we once thought. Let’s look at “Early Detection Saves Lives.”  Well it may for some, but the big data does not show that having annual mammograms makes as big a difference in breast cancer as we had originally hoped. I have many patients who swear they were saved by having a mammogram. Their cancers were caught when small – they were Stage 1 and they had the recommended treatments of surgery, radiation and systemic therapy and go for their follow-up mammograms on a regular basis. However, there are also women who went for their annual mammograms and their cancers were not caught early – some were hidden or missed in their mammograms, others were just fast growing tumors. Or there are the thirty something women who are too young for mammograms who get breast cancer.

And then there are women whose cancers were caught early, did all the right things and still got more cancer and their breast cancer spread. On the other side, there are the women who are sure that their cancer was caused by having too many mammograms – exposing them to too much radiation. And now, we realize that there are some breast cancers which are fairly benign, and do not kill, so there is no need to find them early.

It disturbs me to think of throwing mammograms out (and slowly that may be happening whether it is a woman’s choice or health care companies not wanting to pay for a test) – without something to take it’s place.  Ultrasounds are almost there, but whole breast ultrasound technology is not quite ready for prime time, and MRI’s are much too expensive and time consuming. So we are left with the least high tech instrument – our own fingers or our health care providers!  And mammograms themselves, while most are digital, are still just black, gray and white images.

Pink Stethoscope as Breast Cancer Awareness SymbolI certainly would hope, that with all the data technology out there, that some independent group would try and answer this debate. As I have half jested in the past, I would like be a curator of a mammogram museum when I retire. However, that means that either we have found a way to prevent breast cancer so we don’t need to screen for it anymore, or someone (where are you Silicon Valley folks?) invents a better screening device – GOOGLE Mammograms, an Apple iMammo? A prize for the best name?

The medical community is trying to advocate more personalized medicine and in particular, identifying molecular markers on tumors to direct treatment. I read where Google has funded a nanoparticle pill that you swallow and it disperses though the body and can identify cancer cells. Who knows? But hopefully someday there will be a way to tell which women need to have mammograms, which need ultrasounds, and how often. Stay tuned for the next article on some tips about what you can do to take care of your breasts.

1 Twenty five year follow-up for breast cancer incidence and mortality of the Canadian National Breast Screening Study: randomized screening trial  BMJ 2014; 348 doi:  (Published 11 February 2014)

10 Tips to Prevent Headaches Naturally

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP

There are some natural headache remedies or “rescue treatments” available and if you are in pain and need immediate relief, it’s good to know you have options. But as I always tell my patients – headaches, like all symptoms, are a call to pay attention to something else that is going on in your body and/or your life.

SS Woman Headache BlueWhether your headaches are a regular event or an occasional experience, there is much to be learned about what’s going on to cause them. At Women to Women, we think that knowledge is power and understanding the circumstances around a symptom like headaches can yield a goldmine of information about what your body responds to – and what situations will throw you off balance.

The good news is that most chronic headaches, including tension, cluster and migraines, can benefit from nutrition and lifestyle changes. The first step in developing a natural headache prevention strategy is to begin a headache diary. Unlike other diaries that require recording every little thing you do, keeping a headache diary is relatively simple – whenever you have a headache. you record the details that will help you and your practitioner better diagnose your type of headache and its possible triggers.

In your diary, you’ll record the date and time of the headache; how long it lasts; what it felt like; how intense it was (a scale of 1-10 works well); any other symptoms you are aware of before, during or after; any medications including Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or birth control pills you’ve taken; any triggers you might be aware of, such as a change in sleeping habits, stress; what you ate over the past 24-48 hours (especially anything you don’t usually eat); sounds, smells, or physical activity; what you were doing (computer time, watching TV, etc.); and finally, what kind of relief you experienced. No stress – just remember what you can and continue to do so with each recurring headache.

SS Woman Journal WritingIt would also be very helpful to note where you are in your menstrual cycle. Over time (and we’ve found if you have regular headaches, it can sometimes take as little as two or three weeks), you and your practitioner may begin to see patterns. It’s amazing some of the stories my patients have told me about their discoveries after keeping their headache diaries. Food sensitivities, environmental concerns, especially smells from certain chemicals, night teeth grinding (which can cause TMJ headaches), stress from deadlines at work, a mother-in-law visiting – even disrupted sleep due to uncomfortable bedding or restless sleeping partners – have all emerged as triggers for some of my patients!

At Women to Women, we tell our patients that what you are experiencing now is often the result of many months or years of habits. Understanding your body is essential for making health changes, but it won’t happen overnight, just as the reasons causing your symptoms likely took time to build and develop long before the symptoms appeared – or the headaches began. But if you are committed to making some changes in order to feel better, there are things you can do to address the imbalance and get your body back on track.

1. Nutrition and Supplementation

After treating thousands of patients at our clinic, one common theme has emerged: most of us are nutritionally deficient in some area. We all have our ingrained eating habits that may not be ideal, and even if we are doing fairly well, there are challenges getting the nutrients we need from today’s food supply. I see over and over again in my patients that most all of us have faced nutritional challenges and may experience nutritional gaps.

For many of my patients, sugar, alcohol and caffeine are prevalent in their lives and these are all major headache triggers. I realize that going cold turkey is not the answer, but if you suffer from headaches, it may well be worth gradually cutting back and seeing what happens. You can learn more about how to beat your sugar cravings and why sugar is so damaging to our bodies in our article, “Sweet Poison – Kicking Your Sugar Addiction.

Multi-Essentials Health Supplement

Low Sex Drive – Why It Happens and How To Change It

 by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP

With so much change occurring in our bodies (and our lives!) during the years of perimenopause and menopause, it’s not hard to imagine that our sexual experiences may be changing as well. Hot flashes and mood swings may impact how we feel about sex, while weight gain may leave us feeling less sexy. Diminishing sex drive may leave us wanting sex less or finding us enjoying sex less than we used to because of vaginal dryness and discomfort.

Menopause Nutritional Supplement

In addition to physical changes, we may be experiencing changes in our lives on so many levels, with kids growing older and transitioning out of our homes into an empty nest scenario or perhaps life right now includes hormonally-charged teenagers.

There is a “settling in” that can sometimes occur in a relationship after being together for a while that can shift our view of sex, or there may be unresolved relationship issues that are suddenly entering into the bedroom for the first time. For some, it may mean being single again and re-entering the dating world may lead us to revisit our sexual desires and values or maybe even cause us to retreat into overwhelm!

Thoughtful Mature WomanOften there are concerns and challenges around aging parents to manage, stresses at work and then there is our own personal transition. Menopause is a time for us to question our priorities and our desires as we head into the second half of our lives and to find our true voices.

Not surprisingly, all of this can lead us to a place where sex isn’t the priority that it used to be. I believe it’s important for you to define the role you want sex to play in your life and to know that that role may well change over time. So if sex is on the back burner by choice right now, that’s totally ok. But even if it’s less frequent, sex shouldn’t be any less enjoyable.

A healthy sex life is an important part of who we are and research shows staying active sexually can bring benefits both physically and emotionally. At Women to Women, we want you to know that you deserve a satisfying sex life if you want one and that you CAN continue to have pleasurable sex at mid-life — and beyond. Just ask some of my patients in their sixties!

Read our article, “Safe (and Enjoyable) Sex In Your Middle Years,” for more on this topic.

So let’s look at what’s going on in our bodies and what we can do to maintain or restore a healthy sex life at any age.

Why Does Sex Drive Decline?

Patients sometimes ask me, “If it’s normal and natural to desire sex, then why does that stop or change as we get older?” It isn’t hard to see how that can happen when you look at all of the changes we just mentioned that are occurring in our bodies and our lives at this time – there’s a lot going on!

Signs_Early_Menopause_EditSex drive is affected by our physicality and the changes occurring within our bodies as well as by emotional factors. As with most things in our bodies, the physical and the emotional issues are interconnected and interdependent so we need to address both. Let’s begin with the physical factors, as I know so many of my patients struggle there.

One of the most obvious triggers of lower sex drive is hormonal imbalance (Click here to read our many informative articles on this topic). In addition to the common symptoms of insomnia, hot flashes, mood swings and weight gain that we see in perimenopause, sex drive is also affected by our changing estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels. Usually, once hormonal balance is restored, so is libido. Let’s look at the key hormonal players and how they impact your sex drive.

Click here to take our Menopause Health Assessment.

One of the most important drivers of libido is the hormone testosterone. Many women in perimenopause have lower testosterone levels that can impact their sexual interest, arousal and response as well as their lubrication and orgasms.

The Truth About Perimenopausal Weight Gain

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

As women, we spend so much of our lives comparing ourselves to other women – whether it’s our friends, our co-workers, our sisters, or the many women who stare back at us from the pages of magazines or TV and film screens. We use them as models of what is good and beautiful, and what is not. Many of us struggle to accept that our nose or our thighs are just never going to look like Gisele’s.

Finally we make peace with our bodies and learn to love them as they are and then BAM! Perimenopause shows up with all its challenges, from hot flashes to headaches to the dreaded weight gain. SS Pensive Woman Hands TogetherSuddenly we find ourselves looking in the mirror wishing we could have our old bodies back. Perimenopausal weight gain is very common; it’s our bodies’ way of adapting to our new hormone levels and supporting us during the changes that nature intended to occur as we leave our reproductive years behind.

But just because it’s common doesn’t mean its mandatory. We all have a metabolic set point, and that set point can change, but it does not need to change after menopause. Weight gain is another symptom of imbalance in your body and with some effort and care, you can maintain — or restore — your ideal weight in perimenopause and menopause and beyond.

Let’s look at what is going on that is encouraging your body to store more fat and what we can do to help our bodies to let it go.

Causes of Menopausal Weight Gain

While we are all unique and we each face our own weight challenges, there are some common causes of menopausal weight gain that many women struggle with. Our hormones and our fat cells are part of a complex and comprehensive network responsible for metabolism, appetite, digestion, heat regulation, and detoxification. Any breakdown in communication will result in symptoms like hot flashes, food cravings, and yes, weight gain.

Menopause Nutritional Supplement

In order to prevent weight gain, we need to ensure that the network is communicating regularly and effectively so that there are no breakdowns. There are many connections and links between hormones and fat and we are still learning about all of them. But one absolutely critical link is the connection between insulin, metabolism and body fat.

Insulin Resistance

Our bodies have three primary hormones: insulin, adrenaline, and cortisol. Adrenaline and cortisol manage our stress response while insulin controls our blood sugar levels. In other words, food and stress directly affect our hormones! Insulin is driven by the food we eat and when we eat too much sugar, white flour and processed foods, insulin levels will rise. When we are exposed to high or chronic stress, adrenaline and cortisol will increase.

Whenever our body is out of alignment and struggling with a primary hormone, it does not have the resources or the ability to produce optimal levels of secondary hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Many of us eat too much white sugar and white flour, too many processed foods and carbohydrates and not enough healthy fats.

SS Chocolate Fudge CakeWhether your weakness is bread, pasta, sugared coffee drinks, alcohol or dessert, if your blood glucose levels are high and you are approaching insulin resistance, or have insulin sensitivity, your body will convert every calorie it can into fat. That’s because even though you may be gaining weight, your cells are actually starving for the healthy nutrients they need!

In addition, whether you have been diagnosed with diabetes or insulin resistance or not, many of us have insulin sensitivity and have glucose levels that are higher than they should be. Heading into perimenopause, this is a recipe for weight gain. Your body will store fat to ensure it has what it needs, and your hormonal imbalance and sugar consumption may lead to cravings that are hard to resist. If you do choose a high sugar option, be sure to add some protein to help stabilize your blood sugar levels.

For more information, read our numerous articles about this topic in our Insulin Resistance category in our Health Library.

On a side note, I just want to say that the answer to sugar cravings is not artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners such as aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), sucralose (Splenda), and saccharin (Sweet ’n Low or Sugar Twin) have toxic effects on the body that can bring a host of side effects including headaches and digestive problems and can also exacerbate your underlying hormonal imbalance issues. For more information on this topic, read our article, “Sugar Substitutes And The Potential Danger Of Splenda“.

Sweet Poison – Kicking Your Sugar Addiction

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

When I started my practice years ago, I truly didn’t understand the power of food, but now I know more than ever that sugar can be a game-changer for people today. The epidemic of obesity is largely driven by the fact that sugar is an additive in many foods today – hidden in condiments, in almost every processed foods – including ones you’ve heard are healthy for you – like Greek-style yogurt with fruit! Many popular brands do indeed have additional protein but also contain many grams of sugar. Sugar increases insulin resistance, contributes to hormonal imbalance, fatigue and mood swings – and can cause weight gain, particularly around your middle.

The Seductress

She’s sexy and seductive. She’s sweet and rich and eminently satisfying. She brings us joy and comfort and pleasure. She’s our reward, our indulgence, and our gift to ourselves. She hides in plain sight and try as we might, we cannot let her go. We do our best to stay away. We set the intention to resist her. We focus our mind on other things, but like an irresistible temptress, she calls us back and makes us want her again. She is ubiquitous, unavoidable and compulsively compelling. She is … sugar.

These days so many of my patients are struggling with sugar addictions. Sugar is everywhere, hidden in so many foods and available in so many different forms, it’s hard to avoid. It goes by many different names including glucose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, malt syrup, dextrose, and evaporated cane juice to name a few. And it hides in plain sight: oh how it hides!

While we expect to find sugar in candy bars and cookies, sugar is a common ingredient in fruit drinks, coffee drinks, cereals, salad dressing, ketchup, pizza and spaghetti sauce, and yogurt. Many people don’t realize that a small yogurt with fruit or fruit flavoring can often have as much sugar as a can of soda! While clearly yogurt is a better choice, the sugar levels in many processed and prepared foods can be much higher than you would ever imagine.

Especially vulnerable to high sugar content are low-fat foods. To make up for the diminished flavor resulting from the fat reduction, manufacturers often add sugars to improve the taste. (Just try looking for a low-fat salad dressing without sugar!) We know now that fat is not the enemy: actually, it is sugar. But knowing that is only part of the solution: what do we do about it?

Because most processed foods contain added sugars, our sugar thresholds are constantly increasing, making us want more and more. Even healthier forms of sweetness such as maple syrup or raw honey still provide higher levels of simple carbohydrates these days than our bodies require or desire. Sugar impacts a variety of biological functions in the body and can be compared to heroin in it’s addictability. Let’s look at the impact sugar has on our bodies and how we can reduce our sugar cravings and end our sugar addictions for good.

The Impact of Sugar on our Bodies and Emotions

Most of us grew up associating sweets with a special occasion such as a birthday or a holiday celebration. Many of us still associate a treat with celebration and reward.

We may have gotten to help mom or grandmother lick a bowl of brownie batter or cookie dough or been rewarded with the first cookie out of the oven. We hold special meanings in our hearts for those events and for the people who loved us and shared that special treat with us.

We may even look at our parents and grandparents and think, “They grew up indulging in homemade baked goods and they were fine. What’s the big deal about a little sugar?” Back then, however, it really was a treat; it wasn’t an everyday occasion. And mom and grandma were cooking mostly from scratch, making their own meals, and controlling their own ingredients.

Today we are so busy that most of us are cooking out of bags and boxes and the prepared processed food we consume is very different than what our parents grew up eating. It’s full of artificial ingredients and loaded with sugars. So, if it were just the occasional brownie or cookie, as it was in our youth, it might be just fine. But today, it’s the treat at the end of the day on top of all of the other sugars we are consuming that causes concern.

There have always been sweets in our diets: raw honey, maple sap, fruits and berries, and dates have long been used to add some sweetness in countries around the world. In generations past, we might, for example, indulge in a tablespoon of honey, burning off those 60 calories with our physically active lifestyle. Today, our average sugar consumption is a cup of sugar a day. At 774 calories and given our more sedentary lifestyles, that’s a huge caloric shift.

But it’s not just the calories that cause concern. Sugar has been shown to feed cancer cells and has been connected to breast, ovary, prostate, rectum, lung, gallbladder and stomach cancers. Sugar can interfere with the absorption of protein, cause gastrointestinal concerns such as increased risk of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, indigestion, acidic digestive tracts, and can cause food allergies. Sugar has also been connected to kidney disease, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, inflammation, diabetes and insulin resistance and heart disease. In fact, one cardiologist even declared that virtually all of his patients who suffered heart attacks also had above normal blood glucose levels.

Sugar raises your fasting glucose levels, which can lead to hypoglycemia. And we all know what happens when your blood sugar levels crash after a sugar spike! More aggressive behavior and a reduced immune system are also impacts of sugar, especially for children. Research has connected children’s behavior to their level of sugar consumption. When your body experiences the sugar crash post consumption, blood sugars fall and the brain is affected since glucose is its primary fuel.

So we have a soda, blood sugar goes up, the body releases insulin in response and the insulin increase causes the blood sugar to drop. As the ups and downs continue, the stress on the body causes a fight or flight response that results in a release of adrenaline. Aggressive behavior, anxiety, attention struggles and hyperactivity can occur not surprisingly.

It’s hard enough to manage your children’s sugar intake at home, but harder still at school. Even if you pack a healthy lunch, there is a plenitude of treats accessible. More than 80% of schools have contracts with soda companies, so whether it’s a soda or a fruit juice, an “energy” drink, or even flavored milk, high sugar options abound in schools.

There are some success stories, however. One Georgia elementary school adopted a sugar-free policy in 2005 making every parent and child sign an “Achieving Excellence Through Nutrition” contract. Sugary foods are prohibited and are taken from the children if they show up at school. School menus were changed; a good night’s rest and a healthy breakfast were expected.

The results included a 28% drop in bad behavior referrals by teachers, a 30% decrease in visits to the school nurse, and higher test scores. These measures may be extreme, but so are the results!

Sugar also wreaks havoc on our mineral absorption. Minerals play a critical role in digestion, maintaining our pH balance and nerve impulse transmission. When our mineral balance is out of alignment, we can experience trouble sleeping, anxiety, asthma, tooth decay, and weaker bones. Minerals function in a proper balance and when one mineral is out of proportion, the others typically follow suit.

Studies have shown that sugar causes the body to release calcium and magnesium, throwing the calcium and phosphorous ratio out of balance. In an attempt to rebalance the ratio, the body will pull calcium from teeth and bones. But because the alignment of calcium, magnesium and phosphorous remains unbalanced, the calcium isn’t fully or properly utilized and it will likely be excreted through the urine or land as a kidney or gallstone. So teeth and bones pay the price for the excess sugar, but the problem still isn’t solved.

The Sugar Addiction

We know that addiction to sugar is real, as withdrawal symptoms have been documented including low energy, mood swings, headaches and the relapse desire to consume more. Sugar increases pleasure-yielding opiates in the brain, similar to morphine and heroin, resulting in strong cravings that we cannot ignore. Mood enhancing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and endorphins are released when we eat sugar, making us feel relaxed or energized. We become addicted to the energy surge or the false sense of calm that they provide and return to them for that feeling over and over again.

At the same time, if you are consuming sugar in combination with poor sleep, stress, or adrenal fatigue, the likelihood of intense sugar cravings can increase as the sugar perpetuates a cycle of more sugar cravings that repeats over and over again. Excessive sugar actually re-wires the brain creating a biochemical dependency that will be very hard to ignore.

Even artificial sweeteners without calories trick our brain into wanting that sweet flavor and they come with a host of other side effects. For more information, see our article, “Sugar Substitutes and the Danger of Splenda“.  But suffice to say, aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal), saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low or Sugar Twin) sucralose (Splenda) are not good substitutes and should always be avoided.

So many women tell me that they’ve tried to cut back but they can’t seem to stop. Either they feel the withdrawal symptoms of headache, shakiness, fatigue, nausea, or depression or they are overcome by stress and the struggles of work life balance and our busy schedules. Sugar can be a sweet release, a little self-love, an antidote to the absence of pleasure and joy in our lives.

But there are things you can do to begin to wean yourself off sugar and break the cycle of addiction. Let’s look at some small steps you can take forward in the right direction.

How to Beat a Sugar Addiction

If you love sugar, or have a sugar addiction, going cold turkey is not the best strategy. As we discussed, withdrawal symptoms will wreak havoc on your body and your willpower. So it’s best to put a plan in place to slowly decrease the amount of sugar you are consuming gradually over time.

1. Choose naturally sweet foods

Try to indulge your sugar cravings naturally by choosing fruits, berries, dates, raisins and other sweet whole foods. While these foods still have high sugar content, they also contain nutrients and fiber and can help to satisfy a sweet tooth when a candy bar is calling your name. If you want to use additional sweetness try Stevia. It is a more natural substitute, although we are still not sure if it primes some of the receptors in a similar way as does sugar. Stay tuned for more information on that.

2. Read labels

There’s no way around it if you want to beat a sugar craving. So many foods have hidden sugars you don’t even realize are there. Save your sugar intake for the things you really enjoy and remove the excess from the foods you don’t even realize have added sugar. 4 grams of sugar equals about 1 teaspoon so when you read the label and see 28 grams in a yogurt, ask yourself if 7 teaspoons of sugar is a good choice for you.

3. Don’t eat out of habit.

This may seem obvious and simple, but it’s actually neither. We often get into habits such as a 3pm snack for example, or a piece of chocolate after dinner. Try not to eat foods automatically or because that’s what you’ve always done. Instead, choose your sweet indulgences carefully, make them treats to savor, and if you don’t really desire it, skip it that day. Try working down to every other day, then every three days. I’m not saying never have your favorite treats again! But try to limit them to special occasions rather than every day and when you do partake, eat them slowly and savor each and every bite. Also try to eat them combined with healthy fats such as butter, eggs, cream, nuts or avocado to slow the sugar absorption.

4. Examine your emotions

Many of us grab sweet treats when we are tired, stressed, frustrated, angry, or depressed. We tell ourselves we deserve to feel better or we simply reach for it automatically, knowing the calmness or energy surge it provides will help us cope. If you’re feeling an urge for chocolate or ice cream, ask yourself if you really desire that or if what you really need is a hug or someone to listen. For more on this, read our article, “Emotional Eating.”

5. Prep in advance

Have healthy options around so when you are hungry or stressed there is something else available nearby. Chop up some carrots and celery, keep a few hard-boiled eggs in your fridge, make unsweetened ice tea and keep a pitcher handy. You know what your temptations are, so find the antidote -the healthier version, and keep it plentiful so you always have another choice available in any stressful moment.

6. Add fermented foods to your diet

In addition to being nutritional powerhouses, many people find that when added to their diets, the fermented foods seem to help diminish sugar cravings. And if eaten at the same time as something sugary, the beneficial microflora will minimize the negative effects of the sugar as the fermented foods and drinks will use the sugar as its food.

Every culture has its own form of fermented delicacies including miso, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, fermented pickles and sauerkraut, fermented condiments such as chutneys and even fermented yogurt and a homemade version of a fermented ginger ale. Adding more fermented foods to your diet will make the sugar you eat less damaging and will help to reduce your cravings for it over time.

7. Eat foods with all six flavors

Ayurveda has been around for thousands of years and teaches us that there are six main flavors to food: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. When the body gets all six it is more balanced, digestion is improved and cravings are diminished. Many recipes or meals can easily contain all six, as can one simple side dish like a fruit and spice chutney, which can be fermented to add even more health (and sugar craving reducing) benefits.

Just as all six flavors bring the body back into balance, you can listen to your body and monitor how you feel after eating and use this information to bring yourself back into alignment. Your energy should be consistent and stable after a meal, not high then crashing low. Using healthy fats such as butter, olive oil, nuts and avocado can also help you to feel full, eat less and reduce cravings for something sweet.

8. Eat a healthy balanced diet

Avoiding packaged and processed foods rich in sugar and white flour in favor of fresh organic produce and grass fed meats will help your body restore its own natural balance and make sugar less of a seductress and more of an innocent bystander in your life. Supplementing with a high quality multivitamin (click here to learn about the one formulated by Women to Women) can also help support your body’s balance and eliminate nutritional gaps that could lead to cravings.

9. Try Chromium Picolinate

Chromium supplementation has been shown to help normalize blood sugar levels, improve blood sugar utilization, metabolize fats and decrease insulin requirements in patients with glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. One study tested blood sugar levels after a meal of white bread and found that a single (400 microgram) dose of chromium reduced blood sugar after the meal by 23%.

Chromium has also been shown in studies to reduce carb cravings and stabilize blood sugars, with the best results experienced by the participants with the greatest carbohydrate cravings. Chromium has been shown to reduce triglycerides by as much as 32% and while we don’t know exactly how yet, chromium plays a role in insulin signaling and has been shown to improve glucose disposal rates. If you struggle with cravings or blood sugar issues, consider chromium supplementation. Women to Women has a high quality chromium formulation, click here to find out more.

Sugar is one of the most powerful seductive foods that we can eat. When you stop using it, your life can be changed in the most powerful of ways.

For more information on the topic of sugar, read our article, “Insulin Resistance – Our Love Affair With Sugar.”

Detox and Women’s Health

by Frank Lipman, MD

A note from Marcelle: There’s a lot of buzz about detox right now, and we’re glad of it. Detox should be part of every woman’s effort to take control of her health. To help you learn how, we’ve asked Dr. Frank Lipman to share his perspective. Frank specializes in detoxification; he’s the author of a wonderful book on detox, Total Renewal, and his approach is identical to our practice here at Women to Women.

Here are the sections you’ll find in this article:

  • Why effective detox is a necessity
  • Environmental toxins
  • What is detoxification?
  • Assessing the burden on your detox system
  • Symptoms of toxicity
  • How to detox your body naturally

In more than 25 years of clinical experience, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with thousands of patients from all walks of life. Over time, I’ve seen how few of us are able to stay healthy and feel really well as we get older. Many of us have come to accept developing a degenerative disease or simply feeling incrementally worse each year as part of the aging process.

It’s not. There is so much we can do to take control of our health and support our bodies happily and healthily our entire lives. And it begins with understanding what kind of “burden” your body is under right now, today, both physical and emotional, and lessening it.

Think of yourself as a ship floating in water. You will ride high or sink low depending on the burden you carry. The more burdens you unload, the better you will feel. I strongly believe that detoxification is an effective way to unload these burdens and is an essential — and often overlooked — aspect of total healthcare.

In my book, Total Renewal, I go into detail about the seven steps I recommend to detoxify your body, rebalance your biochemistry, and build resiliency for a new lease on your health. I’d like to take this time to introduce the basic ideas behind this concept and the importance of detoxification. These steps reflect the same ideals and integrative approach I share with the practitioners at Women to Women, and I welcome the opportunity to bring them to you. So let’s begin.

Effective detoxification is a necessity

I came to realize the importance of detoxification after studying Chinese medicine and being in practice for a number of years. I learned from Chinese medicine that we (humans) are all microcosms of the macrocosm (the universe), that we are part of it and intricately connected to it. Therefore what is happening to the environment will and does affect all the species in it, including man.

Environmental pollution is not only changing the ozone layer, plant species and animals, but humans as well. But only after seeing more and more young women with breast cancer and infertility problems; patients with chronic fatigue and chemical sensitivities; and more and more patients complaining of aches and pains and degenerative problems, did I suspect something was not right.

It was at that time — about 15 years ago — that I realized that most of these problems were not “normal” aging problems, but rather malfunctioning detoxification systems. I was shocked to discover vast amounts of literature on where these toxins are coming from and what they are doing not only to the environment, but to our health and especially our children’s health.

I began to identify one common link to many of the health concerns I witnessed in my patients: an inability to cope with their toxicity load. It was then that I realized that detoxification is an absolute necessity.

Environmental toxins

Although technology and industry have helped us to live more comfortably and have generally enhanced our way of life, we are paying a heavy price. The air we breathe, water we drink, and food we eat are no longer clean. Our environment is contaminated and polluted. Since the 1940’s there has been an explosion of synthetic products. We are the first generation of humans to be exposed to so many synthetic chemicals.

In the past 60 years, these processes have been significantly altered:

  • How food is grown and packaged
  • How homes are built, furnished, and cleaned
  • How lawns and gardens are maintained
  • What cosmetic products we use

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

It’s amazing how often we see women at our medical clinic with health issues that can be traced back to insulin resistance. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is one such condition that we see with increasing frequency. PCOS affects about 10% of women worldwide and can occur at any age before menopause. It can often go undiagnosed for months, because its symptoms overlap with so many other women’s health concerns. PCOS itself is not a disease and no one is sure yet what causes it in the first place.

Women with PCOS have ovaries that create an abundance of follicles each month without producing an egg. PCOS can contribute to irregular periods, depression, excessive weight gain (despite diet and exercise efforts), acne, and excess facial hair. It is also a common cause of infertility (for more information, read our article, “PCOS And Fertility – Answers To Your Questions.”

PCOS is often temporary. We see it in girls going through puberty (when their ovaries are trying to set a regular menstrual pattern) and during the transition years of perimenopause. It usually goes hand-in-hand with insulin resistance. We find that PCOS responds well to a program of natural support that restores hormonal balance, especially the dietary changes we recommend for women with insulin resistance.

What is PCOS?

Understanding PCOS is easier if one tries to picture what goes on inside our ovaries every month. For more about women’s monthly cycles, please refer to our article on menstruation.

Each month our ovaries begin to ripen a number of follicles. You may be surprised to hear that normal follicles are cysts – in that they are pockets of tissue filled with benign fluid and hormones, mostly estrogen. The amount of immature follicles changes with each cycle— but during normal times, one or two follicles grow stronger than the others and produce an egg. When we ovulate, the egg in the dominant follicle pops out and flows into the fallopian tube on its way to the uterus. This event triggers a host of hormonal secretions, one of which is progesterone, that will plump up the uterus to support a pregnancy if the egg is fertilized or a normal monthly period if it is not.

Polycystic ovaries

When ovaries become polycystic, they create a lot of follicles that form like a pearl necklace on the ovaries. No one follicle becomes dominant and ovulation can’t occur. For the most part, these multiple ovarian cysts are not dangerous in themselves—unlike larger ovarian cysts that cause pain and can rupture. But they do bring with them a range of uncomfortable side effects. Because a woman with PCOS doesn’t ovulate, her natural sequence of hormonal events gets interrupted, her levels of estrogen and androgens (testosterone and DHEA) remain high, and her body reacts with symptoms.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

The most common symptoms of PCOS are an irregular period, infertility, increased hair growth and unusual weight gain, even with dieting or increased exercise. Women with PCOS will often go for months without a period and then start bleeding heavily for days. This occurs when the uterine lining has gotten too thick and the body must naturally shed it. Because PCOS disrupts ovulation, it can be very difficult to become pregnant.

Other signs of PCOS include acne, high blood pressure, obesity, and abnormal facial and body hair growth (due to too much testosterone). One of the less recognizable symptoms of PCOS is depression, which can be misread as a bipolar illness. While depression stems from many factors, we think it is always a good idea to consider PCOS if patients have other symptoms. In some medical practices antidepressants are prescribed, which do not alleviate the underlying issues, and therefore are not very helpful.

PCOS and insulin resistance

Another telltale symptom of PCOS is steady, significant weight gain — even with reduced caloric intake. Some women report that they’re gaining weight no matter what they do. It’s not unusual for patients with PCOS to tell me they’ve recently gained 60 or more pounds in less than a year despite dieting all the time and exercise. This weight usually accumulates around their middle. Why do women with PCOS gain weight at such alarming rates? The research is showing that PCOS is strongly linked with insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance — a condition some people get by eating too many carbohydrates — leads to sustained high levels of insulin in the bloodstream. It is possible that this extra insulin hitches into the receptors lining the ovary and stimulates cyst production. This is an issue that should be monitored because women with insulin resistance have a much higher risk of developing other serious health problems, like diabetes. On the bright side, women with insulin resistance and PCOS respond very well to modifications in their diet, adding nutritional supplements (Women to Women has formulated high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade supplements to enhance your health), and beginning an exercise program. We’ve found that our patients often get normal periods as their insulin levels normalize.

Multi-Essentials Health Supplement

Should I see a doctor if I think I have PCOS?

If any of these symptoms describe what you’ve been feeling, it’s important to see your healthcare practitioner. If I suspect PCOS in a woman, I will do a complete evaluation, including checking for insulin resistance. This work-up includes a physical examination, a fasting lipid profile, a glucose test, hormone levels, and an insulin test (before and two hours after a high-carbohydrate meal). A blood sample is very informative for testing elevated thyroid and prolactin levels. If these tests come up positive, I also look for an altered FSH to LH ratio and increased levels of androgens. Occasionally I will suggest a pelvic ultrasound. It can be possible to see the pearl-necklace pattern of cysts on some women’s ovaries.

If there is any abdominal pain or pressure around the ovaries, an evaluation is certainly necessary. In most cases a woman will be monitored on a regular basis to make sure her cysts are not at risk for rupture.

If a patient has been trying to get pregnant for more than a year, I usually refer her to a fertility specialist, especially if she is over the age of 35. Ovulation stimulants, like Clomid, can be helpful for many would-be moms who have PCOS. When a non-menopausal woman skips a period for more than four months, pregnancy should be considered. Having regular menstrual periods is important to prevent osteoporosis and maintain the protective effects of estrogen.

Occasionally a woman with PCOS will simply not get her period. If she is not pregnant, I advise stimulating a period after four months with the use of Provera, Aygestin or micronized progesterone (a bioidentical hormone). This protects the lining of the uterus from becoming too thick or unusual.

What is the treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Traditionally, doctors have overlooked PCOS unless it was diagnosed relative to infertility or irregular bleeding. If diagnosed, it was and often still is commonly treated with birth control pills. The Pill lessens the symptoms of PCOS by short-circuiting ovulation and giving the ovaries a rest from follicle production. This is always an option for women looking to avoid pregnancy. Testosterone levels will go down on the Pill and it is good for regulating cycles but it won’t address the basic issue of insulin resistance.

Some doctors are now prescribing a diabetes drug, Glucophage, for blood sugar control, but in my experience, if a woman with PCOS doesn’t attend to some of her lifestyle choices — such as adhering to a PCOS diet — her ovaries become polycystic again when she goes off either pill. This is particularly irksome for women trying to get pregnant.

At our medical practice, we treat PCOS with a combination approach, whether it is a chronic or a temporary condition of perimenopause. We’ve helped countless women reduce their polycystic ovaries through nutritional supplements, progesterone cream, enriched nutrition and regular exercise. This combination approach is an effective way to start bringing the body back into hormonal balance.

Progesterone cream is an especially good way to bring on a regular monthly period. Applying the cream at Day 14 for two weeks introduces this essential hormone back into the body at the right time during a cycle. In a menstruating woman, ovaries produce progesterone after ovulation. Eventually the body catches on to this rhythm and begins to cycle on its own, thereby reducing the presence of cysts.

If you have PCOS or think you do, I hope that you will take heart in realizing there are many things you can do to alleviate your symptoms naturally, without drugs. Like any condition related to hormone imbalance, taking the right steps to improve your lifestyle and nutrition will do wonders to restore your well-deserved good health!

For more information, read our article, “Nutritional and Lifestyle Guidelines“.

Safe (and Enjoyable) Sex in Your Middle Years

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

If you’ve been waiting in line at the supermarket or browsed a newsstand recently, you cannot help but notice the controversial and attention getting covers of today’s women’s magazines. If they are not sharing “the secret to losing weight overnight,” these magazines are offering up tips on how to have a better sex life or how to be and feel sexier.

They do this, of course, because sex sells – most of us wouldn’t mind feeling more sexy and having more enjoyable sex. If only it were as simple as a magazine checklist! So many women entering perimenopause or menopause have entered a new phase of their relationship lives – some may have been widowed while others may have ended a long-term relationship.

SS Mid Age Couple OceanHowever they got there, more and more of my patients are finding themselves navigating the dating scene once again and they are discovering that it’s a different world today than when they were last single. In addition to the media images about what is sexy and the magazine stories offering us “quick-fix sex solutions,” there is the presence of social media and internet dating sites that have changed the way people meet and date. These tools have made it easier for newly single people to connect with more people, even if it’s not for a long-term relationship.

Despite the ease with which we can meet people today, I’m often surprised when women come in for their annual exams and share that they have had unprotected sex. Whether pregnancy is a concern or not, they may have forgotten or just not been aware that there are other health concerns that come from being intimate with someone, regardless of your age.

In other ways, though, I am not so surprised. After all, sex is a wonderful, pleasurable experience. And being touched, held, caressed, and cuddled feels incredible, especially if you have not had that experience in a long time. Some of my patients tell me that after years without physical contact or connection, they couldn’t resist and the moment just got away from them.

Talking about sex can be difficult. Inquiring about your partner’s dating history may make you feel like a prude and you may even have no idea how to bring it up. But the same media that brings us information about the weight loss secrets of the stars is telling us that the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among the 45-64 year old group has tripled in recent years.

We know it can be hard or awkward to discuss sex and sexual health. At Women to Women, we believe it’s important to talk about sex — it’s benefits and it’s risks — so that you are informed and you can make the best choices for your long-term health and well-being.

Whether you are single, divorced, or still committed to a long-term relationship, let’s start the conversation so you can enjoy the healthy, safe sex you deserve in the second phase of your life.

Sex, STDs, and Menopause/Perimenopause

Many women don’t realize that just because their periods are slowing down and becoming less regular, they can still become pregnant during perimenopause. Until you have gone 12 months without menstrual bleeding, you still need to protect yourself from the possibility of pregnancy.

But while there are many forms of birth control that can help you avoid pregnancy, only a condom can protect you from sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. If you have had sex without a condom and you have not been tested recently, even in a committed relationship, you really should consider getting tested for your own health and peace of mind.

That may seem extreme, and it surprises some of my patients, but there are several important reasons why I tell my patients this.

First, whether you have been using condoms faithfully or not, the reality is that many of us have already been exposed. It’s estimated that about 1/3 of us have had or will have a diagnosed STD in our lives. If you’ve already been diagnosed, there is nothing to ashamed of – 15 million Americans get diagnosed each year and 65 million people are living with an STD that is considered “incurable.” STDs are becoming increasingly common.

Menopause Myths and The Answers You Need

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Menopause is a time of change and it can be so confusing! There is so much information out there (and so many stories) about what will happen to your body — and your life! Will you gain weight, lose your sex drive, suffer from hot flashes?

SS Woman Question Marks BlueWill menopause feel as though it’s hitting you like a freight train? It may feel that way for some women – while for others, it sneaks up over time and catches them by surprise. Over the last 25 years, I’ve seen firsthand that it’s a different experience for every woman – but surprisingly, there are myths about menopause that many women still believe to be universally true.

I see it over and over again with our patients and our members. They come to us frustrated or upset about what they have been told will happen to them, even if they are not yet experiencing any symptoms!

So what’s your menopause IQ? Do you understand what is going on with your body and how best to navigate this transition? Without the right information, addressing your hormonal changes and finding the most effective solutions for your own unique symptoms and experiences will be more difficult than it needs to be.

Menopause is a transition that may not be simple, but that doesn’t have to mean that it must be hard. Whether you are trying to make sense of your symptoms and their impact on your body or you are just beginning to learn more about what may lie ahead for you, debunking the menopause myths will help you to make the decisions that are right for YOU.

Discover how much you know with our eye-opening menopause questions below and learn more about what to expect in menopause!

1.  Does menopause typically begin at age 50?

The average age for women beginning menopause is age 52 but the truth is, premature menopause can start for you as early as your late 30’s and menopause can come as late as your 60’s, though this is less common. For most women, their menopause timeline lies more within the late forties to mid-50’s range.

Most people think that menopause is a long process, but menopause actually occurs once you have officially gone 12 months without any menstrual bleeding. SS Tampon Pads CalendarAfter that, you are considered to be post-menopausal, though for many that does not mean your symptoms are over!

The period leading up to menopause is called perimenopause and it can be just a few months or as long as 13 years! During this time, you may be experiencing a variety of symptoms including hot flashes, irritability, fatigue, or weight gain. These symptoms can come as a surprise to many women who are still having their period, and may be (or may think they are!) years away from menopause.

Symptoms are often more common — or more severe — during this time leading up to menopause as your sex hormones, which include estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, can fluctuate more dramatically than they do after menopause.

You can learn more about this time in our article, “Am I in Menopause?“.

2.  Is it true that I won’t know I’m in menopause until my first hot flash hits?

When that first hot flash hits, it is a good indication that you are in perimenopause. However, many women experience other symptoms first. It’s not uncommon to experience weight gain, cravings, irregular periods, fuzzy thinking, lower libido, hair loss, irritability, mood swings, depression and/or anxiety, or fatigue long before you ever feel that first hot flash. (And some women survive their perimenopausal journey without ever having a hot flash!)

The list of symptoms is long and if you begin by experiencing depression or weight gain, for example, you may not immediately connect the dots to menopause.

Your symptoms may or may not include hot flashes so it’s good to know what to look for so that you can find relief. Our article, “Relief Tips for the Top Five Menopause Symptoms” can get you started.

Adrenal Stress And Weight Gain – Are They Related?

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

  • The stress response and how it causes us gain weight
  • Belly fat, one of the first symptoms of adrenal dysfunction
  • Changing your diet, the key ingredient for adrenal balance
  • Balancing your life, where to start?

The most important question so many of my patients ask me is “Why am I gaining weight?  I’ve done nothing different.”

Times have changed greatly and our lives are busier than ever. Multi-tasking is now the norm. Between the stressors of our jobs, relationship turmoil, caring for aging or sick parents, and many other responsibilities, we are all very aware that life challenges are more difficult than ever before. Sometimes unconscious snacking can occur as it’s a quick fix solution to increased stress, and it does temporarily soothe the tension.  BUT it is by far not the only reason for our weight gain as stress and the physical effects can be such a big factor.

Many physiological changes happen with high levels of stress and all of these predispose us to gain unwanted pounds – many times without changing our diets or eating habits!

The origin of these dramatic changes stem from hormones produced by our adrenal glands.  These amazing glands govern many very important bodily functions and are crucial to helping us deal with the stress response. When the adrenals are completely out of balance, the fight-or-flight response occurs and the body prepares for the worst case scenario by storing calories for a rainy day. But the good news is that when supported properly and healthy function is regained – energy comes back, stamina returns, cravings for carbs and sugar disappear, and best of all – the unwanted pounds just fall off with little effort.

Our adrenal products help thousands of women.  Learn more about all of the products included in our True Health Systems for Adrenal Health.

So how does stress really affect our weight? Let’s take a more in depth look at how this happens and what you need to do about it so you can feel more like your old self.

How stress really can makes us gain unwanted weight

As a culture, we most often think that “being stressed” is only related to our emotions, yet few of us understand the dramatic effect it has on us physically. The most frustrating way that it affects us is by storing any calories that are not absolutely necessary, and most often the storage occurs in the abdominal area and thighs.

Our ancient evolution has everything to do with why this happens this way. Many years ago,  if you were being chased by a tiger, your adrenals quickly went into the fight-or-flight mode, releasing it’s stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol. Those superhuman powers we have heard about in cases of stress come from adrenalin and cortisol, and their ability to quickly mobilize carbohydrates and fats to give us instant energy. When the threat is over, our body relaxes but our instincts cause us to refuel with carbohydrate dense foods that are most often stored as fat. When high levels of cortisol are streaming through the blood, we are much less sensitive to leptin, the hormone that gives the signal to the brain that we are full.  Therefore, there may be a tendency to eat more than usual, as it feels like a need for survival.

The real problem here is that these physiological responses take place whether the threat is real or psychological. Because most of the everyday stressors we experience on a day to daybasis don’t require our fight or flee response we really don’t need the extra calories our body is so efficiently storing. The other significant change is that many of us are living in a constant state of stress which causes high levels of cortisol to be released on a regular basis for extended periods of time.

Belly fat:  One of the key symptoms of adrenal fatigue

Women with adrenal dysfunction most often develop additional body fat around their middle, known for many as a “spare tire”.  There are several reasons for this. In normal circumstances, if we have gone for long periods of time without food, our blood sugar drops and our brain sends chemical messages to the adrenals to release cortisol.  This cortisol mobilizes glucose, amino acids and fat to prevent the blood sugar from going too low and keeps the body and brain fueled with the energy it requires when food is not available.  Cortisol’s job is to maintain stable levels of glucose in the blood while insulin assists in the ushering of glucose into the cells.

After years and or months of long term stress, cortisol and insulin remain high in the blood and the extra glucose gets stored as that unwanted fat, mostly in the abdomen and thighs. Research is now showing us that fat cells have special receptors for the stress hormone cortisol, but most importantly these receptors are much more prevalent on the fat cells in the abdominal area.

Another extremely frustrating issue, is that this fat does not just sit there. Recent research shows that it actually works like an endocrine organ that reacts to the stress response which in turn creates even more abdominal fat and on and on it goes.  The great news – and it is great news – is that you can stop the cycle by taking steps to heal that adrenal imbalance.

What can you do to change the pattern: Eat right!!

Many of you may have read my article on how to eat for adrenal health, and everything I talk about in my book, Is It Me or My Adrenals? and in this article applies here too.  So what can you do?!

Regular meals and two snacks per day.  To convince your body that it is not starving, and most importantly, that it is not in danger, you must eat on a regular basis. Keeping your blood sugar stable prevents large amounts of cortisol from being released and in the long run, decreases the burden on the adrenal glands. I recommend that you eat three balanced meals and two snacks per day, and these need to be spread out across the day to work with your bodies’ natural circadian rhythm. See our diagram of the cortisol cycle for the effects of meals and snacks on cortisol.

Eating at the right times does matter.  Cortisol has a natural rhythm, which is highest in the morning, and decreases gradually as the day progresses, and is lowest at night so restful sleep can occur. Eating tends to increase cortisol, so eating the largest meal earlier in the day is the best option for optimal well-being.

Having your favorite foods readily available. So many of my patients use sugar, sugary snacks and caffeine because these give them quick energy and are fast and easy. But trust me, eating this way often leads to an even bigger drop in energy as the blood sugar plummets after the initial spike. If energy is needed, add protein and foods high in nutrients that support the adrenals, foods such as blueberries, broccoli, ginger, avocado and of course lean proteins.

Tip:  Something extremely important to consider is adding a pharmaceutical grade multivitamin/mineral complex and adaptogenic herbs like the ones we offer in our True Health Systems. Adrenal expert Shawn Talbott, PhD, writes, “When it comes to dietary supplementation for stress adaptation and cortisol control, the first line of defense appears in the form of a comprehensive multivitamin/mineral supplement…”

Balancing your life to promote the healing of the adrenals

As I talked about in the beginning of this article, we live in a world that is non-stop.  We as women multi-task and are often proud of all that we can accomplish in a day.  We have cell phones, and most of us have smart phones, ipads, computers, do texting and Facebook, and we seldom take a peaceful break.  Restoring the adrenals back to balance means having balance in your life which requires that you take time for yourself and find ways to slow down regularly. Many of us think that being on the go all the time will help with weight loss, but the opposite is actually true. But if you’re tired, wired, and overweight, it’s likely you will need to lower your stress level and heal your adrenals to stop the vicious weight-gain cycle.

Important things for you to Know!

Craving salt and being light headed, especially when getting up quickly, can be signs of adrenal dysfunction.

You can take our quick quiz to see if you have an adrenal dysfunction and get our unique recommendations for your unique situation. Learn more.

How do I start to balance my life?

Sleep. So many of my patients tell me they feel more energized at night especially after dinner or that night time is their best time. I also hear from them that they just can’t get to sleep or falling asleep is easy, but they always wake up and can’t get back to sleep.  If your circadian rhythm is backwards and your cortisol is low in the morning and high at night you will feel tired in the morning and wired and awake at night. You can begin to change this pattern by eating your largest meal earlier in the day, and having a light dinner, stopping any screen time including the computers at 7pm and making an effort to be in bed by 10 pm, striving for at least 7-8 hours of sleep. If you are struggling with sleep, our Women to Women’s Sleep Support Formula can help naturally reset your sleep cycle.

Be mindful of exercise. If you are already in a pattern of getting regular exercise, and feel good after the exercise, then continue your regime.  IF, on the other hand, you feel wiped out after exercise, try decreasing the exercise and try not to get your heart rate over 90 until the adrenal dysfunction is resolved. If you are just starting to exercise, try taking a walk (preferably outside) for 15 minutes to start and then increasing to 15 minutes two times per day. Exercise has been known to decrease stress and help endorphins, which help you feel better.

 Play. As adults we seldom make time to play. Most of us have forgotten that fun and play are essential parts of life.  Making some time in your life now for more fun is essential for your well-being. Many times in my practice I will actually write out a prescription for my patients to have fun and PLAY more.  So now I want you to do just that!

 Breathe. Breathing is crucial for slowing your heart rate and calming your entire body. Just three or four deep breaths can do wonders to accomplish just that. So find time to take those deep breaths throughout the day – especially when you are stressed.  The good news is that it takes up very little of your time and you need to breathe anyway. Try to recognize those times when your body needs a break.  Get some fresh air, take a few deep breaths, have a relaxing cup of tea and relax – even if this is for a short period of time.  It will do wonders.

Allow your body to release the stress and relax

In seeing patients every day, I see over and over again the enormous sense of responsibility many women have today.  For so many it can seem virtually impossible to take just a minute for themselves. But I know that unwanted weight gain and lack of get up and go are significant worries for many women.  For so many of us our stress in intimately connected to our weight and lack of energy.  Our amazing bodies are very wise and want to protect us with the fight-or-flight response, and hold onto those extra pounds.

Tired of those extra pounds? Clothes that just don’t fit? You don’t have to do this alone – start today with Women to Women. Click here to start!

Stroke And Heart Attack Symptoms In Women

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

For so many women, it is easy to miss the signs of a heart attack, and that’s because the symptoms that women have are very different from men. They are often misdiagnosed, especially the top four symptoms, such as heartburn and digestive disorders. Understanding that immediate action is needed if a heart attack occurs, can mean the difference between whether a woman lives or dies, making it that much more compelling to be aware of the warning signs.

Symptoms of a heart attack in women

For most people the symptoms of a heart attack start slowly with mild discomfort or pain.  Below are the symptoms women tend to experience when having a heart attack.

  • Shortness of breath. This may occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Nausea and light-headedness.
  • Flu-like symptoms, including chills and cold sweats.
  • Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat.
  • Chest discomfort ( also known as angina) – pain, tightness or pressure in the center of the chest that lasts more than just a few minutes, or that comes and goes.
  • Discomfort or a heaviness in other areas, including a pain or discomfort in one or both arms (especially the left arm), in the back, in the upper back between the shoulder blades, in the neck, and/or in the jaw or stomach.
  • Heartburn or indigestion.
  • Extreme fatigue, a sense of not being able to have the energy to do normal activities.

Symptoms of stroke in women

Strokes are not nearly as common as heart attacks, but they can – without any warning signs – occur very quickly. Following are some of the signs that a stroke may be occurring:

  • A very sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms or legs, generally it is seen on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or comprehending even simple conversation.
  • Sudden difficulty with sight in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden difficulty with walking, dizziness with movement, a severe loss of balance or coordination.
  • A very sudden, intense headache with no obvious reason.

One of the difficulties is that some of the symptoms of a heart attack or heart problems such as palpitations, dizziness, and feeling faint are also seen by some in perimenopause.  It is important to understand that any symptoms that may be related to your heart health should be evaluated by your healthcare practitioner first.

Symptoms of inflammation

The most recent scientific information is showing that inflammation and heart disease go hand in hand. Closely monitoring any and all symptoms of inflammation is a very important preventive tool to help asses your risk and also help you prevent future issues with your heart. Here are some of the tests to look which indicate a risk in the future.  For more information, read our multiple articles on inflammation.

  • Elevated levels of HS-CRP, homocysteine
  • High blood pressure
  • Insulin resistance diagnosed with an elevated fasting or 2hr pp insulin
  • Diabetes, diagnosed with elevated fasting blood sugars or elevated Hgb A1C
  • Joint pain or diagnosis of arthritis
  • Chronic headaches
  • GI distress, bloating, constipation/diarrhea, gas/ IBS, Chrohns or colitis, diverticulitis
  • Ulcers/heartburn
  • Food and other allergies/sensitivities
  • Chronic respiratory difficulties, asthma, or bronchitis
  • Dry skin, itchy skin, rashes, psoriasis or eczema
  • Weight gain/obesity as this is now known to increase inflammation
  • Fever or chronic infection
  • Other autoimmune diseases
  • Elevated fibrinogen
  • High ferritin levels
  • Elevated Lp(a)


Stress And Happiness

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Stress seems to be so prevalent in everyone’s life today – how many times do you hear it from your friends? How many times do you say it yourself?

We’ve learned that stress is a highly significant contributor to disease. The World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2020, stress related disorders will be the second leading cause of disabilities in the world. Everything we know about stress – either real or perceived – acute or chronic affects your health. Stress changes the way your neurotransmitters relay information and your hormonal pathways. It is never too late to do something about stress – once you can look at your stress and come up with a plan minimize and reduce it – you may see an improvement in your overall health.

Women all experience stress in different ways

As women, we tend to have a nurturing response that can tend to put us in positions where we are trying to care for everyone but ourselves. There is a belief with some scientists that during times of stress this response may actually strengthen. The reasoning behind this theory stems from the evolutionary instinct women have to protect themselves and their offspring during times of stress.

Short term stress is the kind of stress we feel when we have a deadline – or when driving in hazardous road conditions. Symptoms of short term stress may include an increased heart rate, sleep disturbances, increased blood pressure, irritability, headaches or muscle tension, decreased memory, fuzzy thinking and poor eating habits.

Chronic or long term stress is stress that stays with us for months – or even years. We know that psychological stress disrupts blood sugar metabolism which can be a key factor in diabetes. Chronic stress also affects our immune systems and increases the risk for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism and allergies. Studies conducted in 2006 showed a direct correlation between stress and cardiovascular disease. In a recent study conducted with 58 women – those under high levels of stress showed an increase in oxidative stress and cellular aging!

I always urge women to look at the sources of their stress. While some of these sources might be difficult to admit, they are easy to recognize. Sometimes stress comes from a job you love but has changed, other times from a relationship. Long term stress can develop from experiences in our childhoods. The ACE – Adverse Childhood Event – Study (1998) showed that children who experienced adverse childhood events were more apt to have adverse health conditions or disease as adults. Some of the adverse childhood events which were reported are:

  •  Growing up with an alcoholic
  •  Growing up with a drug user
  •  Recurrent sexual, emotional or physical abuse
  •  Living with someone who was mentally chronically depressed or who was treated  violently
  •  If a child in some way was separated from a parent – through death, divorce, illness or  separation

Dealing with emotional stress is one piece of your happiness – but I know from years of practice that stress is a larger piece of our physical wellness than many people have considered.

Every woman has a different journey when getting to the root cause of her stress – and everyone resolves their stress differently. During this time its so important lessen the effects of stress on your body.

Here’s what I recommend to my patients:

Practice healthy eating! I suggest three meals and two snacks per day. The stress hormone cortisol is released when your blood sugar is low, so keep your body fueled well to lessen this stress. Choose good protein sources, lots of nutrient rich fruits and vegetables and high quality fats.

Create some relaxation practices. Whether you journal for fifteen minutes a day, walk for 30 or connect with a friend – find a time each day to relax. You may even want to try yoga, acupuncture or reiki. Whatever helps you quiet your parasympathetic nervous system is the right thing for you.

Consider taking a multivitamin. When you are under stress your body needs all the support you can give it! While we would like to think that we can get all our nutritional needs from the foods we eat, in this day and age its difficult. Close any gap you might have with a dietary supplement.

If you may want to explore uncovering deep seated emotional stress you may want to consider: psychotherapy, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or a fantastic program offered by the Hoffman Institute known as the Quadrinity Process.

While we all may experience stress every day in our lives, we don’t have to let it overpower us or prevent us from living the lives we want.

I know from personal experience that taking the time to lessen stress and resolve stressors in your life isn’t always easy. I also know from my own experience and from talking with women every day that it is well worth it. Take the time for you!

Help For Insomnia

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Insomnia can be one of the reasons patients see a healthcare practitioner. Night after night of unplanned wakefulness can take its toll on women – and so many women are aware of the far reaching health effects that they are often looking for ‘anything’ that will help.

Conventional healthcare practitioners are most likely to turn to sleep aids – there are many available over the counter as well as by prescription.

I’ve always found it’s better to help a woman get to the root source of her insomnia. Sleep is so important to our natural biological rhythm that it’s worth the effort to help reset its natural flow.

We all have our own unique circadian rhythm which is linked to the sunrises and sunsets of our days. Deep inside our brain clusters of nerve cells work as our internal clock, signaling the time for cell regeneration and hormone production and regulation. They also release the hormone melatonin which makes you sleepy. Light exposure – either natural or artificial inhibits melatonin production. There are times in our lives when due to life circumstances, travel or illness when our circadian rhythm will reset itself – sleep aids can help get through the moment – but its not a good solution long term.

Many women who experience sleeplessness may have physiological imbalances which are responsible for disrupting their inner clock. Diet changes and stress can easily cause daytime fatigue and nighttime insomnia. Unfortunately for many women, these become routine, rather than exceptions. If you have trouble sleeping for more than a few weeks, you are considered to have chronic insomnia.

Chronic insomnia is broken down into two distinct categories – primary insomnia and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is usually brought on my conditions which interfere with sleep – caffeine intake, sleep environment and low level worry.

Secondary insomnia has many more potential root causes, and many times occurs or is a result of medical or psychological concerns. Many things might contribute to secondary insomnia including: hormone balance, chronic pain, arthritis, urinary incontinence, mineral deficiencies, insulin resistance and breathing problems.

We find that for many women, hormone imbalance can be a primary culprit. Shifting hormones can cause temperature disruptions – hot flashes and night sweats which affect many women. There is a theory that shifting estrogen levels affect melatonin production – without enough melatonin are brain doesn’t receive the signal to slow and quiet down.

I recommend my patients keep a sleep log for about a week to help us figure out what might be happening during the day which is impacting sleep. Items to track are: caffeine, nicotine and alcohol consumption, foods you eat and when you eat them, exercise habits, stress levels, and the kind of medications and supplements you take – when you take them and the amounts. Your bedtime and noise and light levels when you can’t sleep.

The first step in getting back to sleep and to find out what keeps you awake. When creating a plan to get you back to sleeping well we recommend:

  • Insuring that hormones are balanced! Aside from diet and lifestyle changes, you may want to consider nutritional supplements or even talking with your healthcare practitioner about hormone replacement therapy.
  • Create a good nighttime routine. Set the stage for a good night’s sleep. Try to go to bed at about the same time every day, turn of all electronics about an hour before bed and make sure your environment is comfortable.
  • When you are suffering from sleeplessness it’s more important than ever to support your body’s nutritional needs – during times of stress, our bodies may require more nutrients. One way to do this is take a high quality multivitamin/mineral supplement every day.
  • You also may want to consider one of nature’s own sleep aids – calming teas or even a supplement with herbs that assist with sleep. I always recommend working with a healthcare practitioner to help choose the right supplement for you.
  • If you try some of these steps and don’t see relief, you may want to consider looking into behavior modification techniques for insomnia. There are wonderful choices available – guided imagery, cognitive behavioral therapy, mediation – the list goes on.

I hope I’ve reassured you that insomnia is a highly treatable condition that doesn’t necessarily need pharmaceutical intervention.

When you listen to the messages that your body is sending, you can often provide just the support you need!

Detoxification – It’s More Than A Week Long Cleanse

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

When some people think of detoxification, they think of a specific regimen they follow to get rid of the toxins or wastes that have built up over time in their body. But the truth is, our bodies are amazing! It goes about it’s business of detoxing constantly without any help from us. Every time we take a breath, urinate, have a bowel movement or even cry, our bodies are getting rid of waste. Our various bodily systems target the toxins and eliminate them in remarkable ways.

Given the world we live in – with all of its environmental poisons, prescription drugs, polluted air supply, heavy metals, antibiotics contaminating even the water we drink and use for bathing – it’s no wonder I hear patients report they are feeling tired, achy and just not themselves. These unnatural toxins, which we’re exposed to us on a daily basis, can overwhelm our bodies, especially our liver and lymphatic systems. This in turn disrupts our hormonal balance. No wonder we don’t feel up to par. We’re fighting to just keep clean!

Let’s look further at this together. Your body has a remarkable way to take care of healing itself, with your support. You can help to boost your body’s natural detoxification processes and in turn feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Detoxing helps your mental focus, improves digestive processes, and promotes clear skin. It’s not an overwhelming or lengthy process. It’s one of the easiest steps you can take to dramatically improve how you feel.

We can help answer your questions about detoxification. Our resources give you a closer look at the lymphatic system and show you can incorporate an easy two-week detox process. We also have several other ideas on how to prevent toxins from threatening your wellness. You can come to know your own body’s rhythms and how nature meant for it to cleanse itself. You can feel at home in your own body!

Bone Health – Prevent Osteoporosis By Easing Inflammation

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

One factor that’s often overlooked in the prevention of osteoporosis is reducing chronic inflammation. It’s important to take a look at this, because inflammation can interfere with your own body’s natural ability to repair bone mass. Over time, this leads to brittle bones that are common in osteoporosis. You have several choices to help you limit the damage caused by chronic inflammation. Let’s look at them together.

A closer look at your bone health

Let’s look at some of the small changes you can make in your lifestyle and dietary habits to help maintain your bone health. Whether you are concerned about maintaining bone health, or you’ve already been told you have osteoporosis or osteopenia, it’s always a good idea to take good care of yourself. Symptoms of an inflammatory condition, including osteoporosis, can be managed in safe and natural ways which are effective. Changes you make today help shape your future!

1. Nurture healthy bacteria. Your gastrointestinal system is the source of nutrition for your cells daily functioning. If your cells are having trouble absorbing nutrients from the foods you take in, you are at risk for inflammation and osteoporosis.

Part of the problem we often have with absorption starts because we don’t have enough of the “good” bacteria that helps in digesting food and absorbing nutrients. This necessary bacterium also helps us to fight off substances like systemic yeast. Some steps you can take to help keep maintain good levels of gut flora are:

  • Get plenty of fiber in your diet. Friendly bacteria love fiber.
  • Add foods to your diet like yogurt, kefir, kimchee and sauerkraut. These are “living” foods.
  • Try to gradually decrease your intake of red meat.
  • Try taking a probiotic supplement on a regular basis if you have digestive troubles. This can help restore the natural bacteria in your GI system.

2. Pursue a high-alkaline, anti-inflammatory diet. An anti-inflammatory diet has a lot in common with an alkalizing diet that supports bone health. Consider these suggestions:

  • Try adding extra servings of alkalizing fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and high-quality fats to your daily diet.
  • Try cooking foods slowly or simmering, instead of frying. Foods retain more nutrients when they are cooked slowly; deep-fried foods are more difficult for our bodies to digest.
  • Try to avoid red meat and processed foods. Other things to limit in your diet are refined sugars and grains as these often contain high amounts of additives, artificial colorings, flavorings and preservatives.

3. Take gluten off your menu. Research has shown a direct link between gluten reactivity and bone health. Whether you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or just have a mild intolerance to gluten, it sets off an inflammatory process which places your bone health at risk.

It’s much easier to implement a gluten-free diet now that there is such a wide variety of a food available. Many stores have whole sections dedicated to gluten-free foods. There is an extra benefit in eating gluten-free: since many foods which contain gluten are acid-forming, removing these will naturally lead you in the direction of a more alkaline dense diet.

4. Detoxify. Sometimes we don’t realize a certain food is making us feel sick until we eliminate it. Food sensitivities and allergies place our bone health at risk by stimulating the body’s inflammatory process. To help identify foods you may be sensitive to, experiment by removing a suspected substance from your diet for two weeks. Then reintroduce it and see how you feel.

5. Add omega-3s to your diet. I really can’t overstate the importance of these fatty acids. They stop inflammation and reduce the risk of complications in many areas of our health, including our bone health.

Foods which are especially rich in omega-3s include wild-caught Pacific salmon, mackerel, flax seed and walnuts. It’s easy to include these in your diet and reduce inflammation. You may also want to think about supplementing with an omega-3 supplement.

6. Vitamin D. Nature provides us with Vitamin D through sunlight, but not everyone spends enough time in the sun. It’s been estimated that up to a billion of the world’s population is Vitamin D deficient!

Vitamin D is important, not just for bone health. Low levels of this important vitamin have been linked to diabetes, increased risks of cancer and to heart disease. All of these diseases have a component of inflammation.

Vitamin D is important in helping our bodies absorb calcium and also aides in the removal of old bone tissue. At Women to Women we recommend 2,000 IU of supplemental Vitamin D3 daily to ensure your health.

7. Vitamin K. Vitamin K has been somewhat of a mystery until recently. Now we have discovered that there is a whole family of these K vitamins. We know that they help limit the loss of calcium from the kidneys, and help to retain several of the proteins needed for bone production. Certain plant foods contain vitamin K1, and some traditional fermented foods contain vitamin K2 (sauerkraut, natto and kimchee). Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin K in our diet.

8. Magnesium (Mg). Research has shown low magnesium levels to be associated with decreased bone mass, which leads to brittle bones. Foods to include in your diet which are high in magnesium include spinach, almonds, avocados and soy. Taking a good multivitamin with minerals, including magnesium is also a good idea.

Looking ahead

It’s good to know there are steps you can take now to help support your bones. You don’t have to let inflammation disrupt your body’s natural balance as it processes healthy bone tissue. You can calm inflammation and feel healthy and whole today and in the future.

The Truth About Modern Healthcare

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

The healthcare industry changes quickly. With advances in medical technology, enhanced scientific research, improvement in treatments, and the ability to have so much information at our fingertips, the healthcare industry is an ever-evolving universe of numbers, research and changing practices.

The fact is, because healthcare changes so rapidly, it often does not leave room for the basics in patient care, establishing intimate doctor-patient relationships, time for trials and testing, and sometimes even the development of confidence in the whole system. Healthcare has become a very big industry, focusing on profits before patients’ health, which leaves us all at risk.

Clinicians, for the most part, have always had their patients’ best interests at heart. But the framework has changed. We have become a culture of “assembly-line medicine”, making it very difficult to tailor care to the individual. Practices deemed “best”, may simply mean the most accepted. Studies are released, protocols are quickly set forth, and “one size fits all” treatments are established. But sadly the unique circumstances and needs of each person are lost in the process.

Another huge building block in this new foundation is the Internet. This valuable resource has pros and cons. There is so much medical information out there – material that can range from completely accurate to totally nonsensical. It is hard to decipher what is real, what is important, and what to do with any of it!

I talk with so many women who want to understand how to manage all of these factors. Health issues instill fear, and women want to make informed decisions, but are not sure how. They may find themselves taking medications or undergoing procedures recommended by their doctors without understanding the implications. They read headlines revealing new medical research and treatment plans claiming to work, but without time to back them up. They consult the Internet for one thing, only to find many other things of concern.

Modern medicine can be very confusing. So let’s take a look at how to navigate through the system with confidence.

Prescription drugs

There are pills to treat nearly everything now, and taking medication is common practice to maintain health. But many providers automatically prescribe medication to treat a symptom, without even investigating what is actually causing the symptom. They are aided by pharmaceutical companies who tempt us with “cure all” solutions through advertisements and marketing. The problem is that this information is not always clear or accurate.

Here’s an example. One of the recent advertisements for Lipitor claimed this medication “reduces the risk for heart attack by 36%…in patients with multiple risk factors for heart disease”. But there are a few problems with this claim. First of all, when looking closely at the study, the numbers indicate a reduction of heart attack risk by only 1% based on the reporting of both those patients on Lipitor, and those taking a placebo. Furthermore, the study in which they base this information was funded by the pharmaceutical company that sells Lipitor, creating a potential for bias.

What many patients and their healthcare providers fail to realize, is that these reports often only present relative differences as opposed to absolute differences. What this means is that the numbers are not necessarily dishonest, they are just presented in a way to appear better. But when it’s broken down, the benefits are not what they appear to be. With Lipitor, the absolute difference indicates you have a one in 100 chance of being helped by this drug, not a one in three chance.

Sadly, most pharmaceutical companies manipulate statistics because it helps generate sales. If a product appears to be more advantageous than it is, they use that in their marketing so that doctors and their patients will buy the drug. Also, when the drug studies are funded by giant pharmaceutical companies, even the researchers are compelled to ensure positive results. Combined with the patient overload for the average healthcare provider, who may not have time to scrutinize the numbers from a drug study, we do not always have complete information about our medications.

It is very important for patients to understand the real benefits of a drug. In certain circumstances, prescription drugs can be lifesaving for many conditions. But they should not automatically be the first line of defense for every health issue. More than 20 percent of all prescriptions today are being prescribed for situations they were not intended for or approved for use for by the FDA. Off-label use of a drug can be lifesaving, but it also carries the risk of complications for people who may not truly need it.

The good news is that there are many effective natural alternatives to consider when treating health issues. Nutraceutical and plant-based medicine is beginning to come to the forefront in both research and usage. Natural disease treatment looks to a bigger picture, offering more complete improvement, and also offers fewer side effects than prescription drugs.

Patience pays off

Part of the problem with the changes in modern medicine is the demand for speedy solutions and quick remedies to fix our problems. We live in a culture obsessed with immediate gratification, and we want no less for our medical needs. And just as quickly as we want answers, drug companies want to be able to deliver the solution. So much so, that they often find ways to expedite their medications through the FDA review and approval process, which could jeopardize quality and lead to issues down the line with safety.

Richard Deyo, MD, from the University of Washington recently wrote an article for the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine cautioning providers:

“FDA review serves a critical function, but physicians should be aware that new drugs may not be as effective as old ones; that new drugs are likely to have undiscovered side effects at the time of marketing; that direct-to-consumer ads are sometimes misleading; that new devices generally have less rigorous evidence of efficacy than new drugs; and that value for money is not considered in approval”.

One such example is the release of the HPV vaccine Gardasil, marketed to protect against cervical cancer. I have a particular interest in this as a women’s healthcare practitioner. Although we have not seen the long term effects of this vaccine, healthcare practitioners, drug companies, and policy makers have quickly made this vaccine a requirement, after conducting studies on girls as young as age 9.

There have been thousands of reports of adverse effects with Gardasil, many of them very serious. Some reported side effects of this vaccine include nausea, infections, joint pain and weakness, and other side effects may include blood clotting, anaphylactic shock, coma, paralysis, foaming at the mouth, grand mal convulsions, and death. There have been 21 deaths to date from this vaccine, and we don’t even have all of the facts about the vaccine itself. It is irresponsible of policy makers to mandate a vaccine offering women and girl’s protection for only two out of more than 20 cancer-associated strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), plus two of multiple strains associated with genital warts for which it is supposed to protect.

I am not suggesting to not get this vaccine. I am suggesting that parents be given the opportunity to make an informed decision based on realistic and proven information about the benefits and the risk, rather than mandating the vaccine’s use without accurate data on the long term effects.

This is when the old adage, “Good things come to those who wait”, could make a tremendous difference.

Preventative medicine

When “well visits” became part of routine care in our society, I think we all agreed that this is a good way to keep people healthier in the long run. But preventative medicine means different things to different people in the world of modern medicine. For some it is about saving money by helping people stay well as opposed to treating illness. For others, it means providing prophylactic medications, multiple vaccines, screening tests, and even surgeries.

A good example of that is the use of hysterectomies to correct many, if not benign, gynecological problems. About one-third of women in the US have a hysterectomy by the age of 60. Who benefits most from that? Doctors, hospitals, and drug companies make billions of dollars annually from this procedure. In many cases, women can have other less invasive options that doctors do not even consider, let alone offer. The same held true for cesarean section births until a few years ago when the numbers of unnecessary c-sections was so high, that people started to notice and made a case for returning to vaginal births in appropriate situations.

There are many practices considered to be valuable in modern medicine that may still raise questions. For example, infants today receive twice the amount of vaccines they received in 1985. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics approved the use of cholesterol drugs known as statins in children as young as 8. The negative side effects for adults on statins are quite documented, but they are now approved for children who still have many years to develop. While vaccines and medications can save lives, they are not always appropriate for every single person. It is important to think about the possible consequences of this type of preventative medicine.

In functional medicine we look at preventative medicine in the form of natural therapies involving high quality nutrition, natural supplements, regular exercise, and stress relief. This type of medicine works best when it is tailored to the unique circumstances and needs of the individual. That does not mean conventional medicine is better or worse than functional medicine. It simply means that from a patient-perspective, you might want to consider looking at things differently from only what the current accepted norm dictates. I encourage my patients to become informed, do their own research, ask a lot of questions, and learn alternatives to assembly-line medicine and protocols dictating what may be the standard practice, but may not be the best one.

Participate in your own healthcare

Taking a lead role in your health care can help both you and your practitioner form a strong partnership leading to the right solutions for your personal health goals. The relationship between you and your provider requires both people to actively participate in the process. Remember, you know best how what you are feeling inside of your own body! Here are some ways to get the most out of your visits to your healthcare practitioner:

  • Be prepared and proactive. First determine what you want  and need to achieve in the visit. Make a list of your concerns, even if you do not think they are important. Evaluate your personal goals for your health and how you want your provider to help facilitate them. Be sure to ask lots of questions and do not leave until you feel you have gotten the answers you need.
  • Do your own research. Explore all of the possible resources offering you information to gain a better understanding of your own health situation. Whether you want to learn about a medication or procedure, alternatives in treatment, or simply expand your knowledge about a particular topic, feel empowered to research and have a deeper discussion with your healthcare provider during your visit.
  • Consider alternatives. There are so many ways to approach healthcare today. From conventional medicine offering standard practices – to integrative medicine offering a whole person approach (body, mind and spirit) – to Ayurveda practices, acupuncture, nutraceuticals, and homeopathy – to functional medicine, offering holistic and natural medicine focusing on the underlying causes of disease that lead to patient-centered therapies. There is strong scientific evidence now supporting the functional medicine approach to healing to be as effective, or even more effective in healing than pharmaceutical drugs. There are many avenues to better health. Don’t be afraid to investigate all of your options.
  • Keep copies of your lab results, reports, and keep track of your progress. As a functional medicine practitioner, I try not to focus on testing and numbers as much as I do how my patients feel. But it does help to have this information to see if things are changing. Keep track with your provider of blood sugars, cholesterol levels, thyroid hormones, vitamin D levels, bone density, or mammography, and when shifts occur, you can address them appropriately.
  • Communicate your healthcare philosophy. We all have personal preferences about what we feel comfortable with when tending to our health. Some people like to let their doctors make all of the decisions and allow them to initiate protocols. Others prefer to steer away from medications and follow a more natural approach. Some patients like to know every detail about what is going on with their bodies and others prefer to let their doctor manage that information. It does not matter what your preferences are, it matters that you discuss them with your practitioner so that you can receive the care that feels most comfortable. After all, feeling good about your care will help you have a successful outcome!
  • Practice good health habits. Nutrition and lifestyle can help make – or break – our health. Nourish your body with fresh, whole foods – lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, unrefined or unprocessed carbohydrates, and a high-quality multivitamin can change your body’s functioning all the way to the cellular level. Exercise is another important way to not just prevent, but also reverse many common, chronic and degenerative health conditions and maintain good health. And of course get plenty of sleep, which helps regulate all of the systems in the body.

Change the traditional doctor-patient roles

I have many women who come to me in mid-life, when shifts in their bodies become evident. They often believe that any pains, fatigue or chronic complaints are normal for their age, as well as the need for medication or even procedures. I have good news! That is not true! I tell them to think about the health they would like to have, and to not settle for anything less. Creating a healthy and vibrant health picture in our minds is important for achieving that in our bodies.

It may seem overwhelming to navigate a complicated medical system offering so many alternatives. But optimal health is possible, no matter the path. You do not have to be a medical provider to know what is best for you – that is what our intuition (or our gut instinct) is for. When we tap into our own inner wisdom about what we need to feel good, and we trust that, we can walk with our healthcare provider on our personal path to good health.

How Does Healing Your Past Help Your Present Health?

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

“As humans, it’s our great fortune that any negative patterns we are capable of learning, once we become aware of them, we are also capable of unlearning” – The Hoffman Process

The issues for women are quite clear cut when it comes to emotional needs. By nature, women tend to be the caregivers to everyone – but themselves. In fact, most women put their needs on the back burner until everyone, and everything else is tended to. As demands pile up, women take them on, and find many excuses to put off their own needs for rest and renewal. This leads to exhaustion both emotionally and physically. Why do we put ourselves last on our list of priorities? And more importantly, how can we change that?

Oftentimes women are stuck in this pattern of self-denial because of their “personal stories”, or the lifelong emotional issues hampering their ability to care for themselves effectively. These stories take up a lot of room in our minds and our bodies! One method we find highly valuable to women who are seeking a way to address emotional issues is the Hoffman Quadrinity Process. This transforming program helps women integrate the four essential aspects of their being — emotions, intellect, physical body, and spirit.

A 2006 study done at the University of California Davis, found that participants in the Hoffman Quadrinity Process did as well as, or even better than, those who utilized other interventions to reduce anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and interpersonal sensitivity. The study not only showed success for the long term, but also found significant improvement in vitality, energy, emotional intelligence, spirituality, and forgiveness.

Raz Ingrasci, President of the Hoffman Institute, shared with us what this process teaches women, so they can better understand emotional health.

Emotions speak first, actions speak loudest

Most people realize that their emotional brain reacts much more quickly than their intellectual brain. When our emotions speak, they produce actions or reactions, as the case may be, and our intellect hangs back while this process goes on until our emotions have settled down. It is safe to say that our actions are mostly guided by how we feel, not by how we think.

“Think back to the last time we felt humiliated, upset, angry, or insulted”, says Raz. “It only takes a millisecond to put us in a state of paralysis. We’re reeling, trying to come up with words to use in conversation, but we’re struck dumb”.

It can take from minutes to hours to be able to articulate the feelings we had, or what occurred because of them, and this happens for nearly everyone. Raz estimates that at least 80 percent of our behavior stems from our emotional brains. This can cause confusion, especially when we know our ensuing reactions may be counterproductive.

Raz says one way to fix this dilemma is to begin to identify our emotions. When we do this, we are activating the intellectual part of our brain.

“The naming of an emotion takes place in the intellectual brain, though the feeling itself exists in the emotional brain”, he says. “When it is named, those two spheres are connected and you feel more whole”.

This is the first step towards improving our lives. When we recognize an emotion and pay attention to that, we are not burying it, which tends to cause the same emotion to resurface whenever it’s triggered. Raz reminds us of an old axiom, “What you can feel, you can heal”.

When we recognize the power of our emotions, we can tap into them, and use their power advantageously, towards healing.

Note: If the emotions are overpowering or frightening, it’s best to seek professional help while working through this process.

“The best way to begin dealing with an unwanted emotion is to allow yourself to experience it. Become aware of your feelings and move with them, allowing your body to experience your sensations”, says Raz.

Family patterns and negative love

Once we can identify our feelings, the next step is to figure out where they came from. Many of our behaviors are learned from our parents, both mimicking them, and seeking their approval, attention, and love. Bob Hoffman, creator of the Hoffman Process, calls this Negative Love Syndrome.

Until behavior patterns change, they intend to repeat. Negative love syndrome is no different. We often seek relationships as adults that provide us the same or similar emotional feedback we received as children. It makes sense, because this is the way we learned about love and relationships!

There is a real reason why people may say to you “You married your father” or “You have become your mother”. Your parents taught you their perception of how adults behave, and what love is supposed to look like. They likely received the same information from their own parents, continuing both positive and negative patterns and perceptions throughout generations, essentially unquestioned.

We can change who we are and what we’ve learned

We learn early on, as children, how to elicit the love we need from our parents and our caregivers, and when that did not always work, we learned to blame ourselves. As children, we cannot understand or accept our parent’s dismissal of us – for whatever reason – as anything but rejection, that we somehow created. Maybe we thought we were being bad, or were unworthy of love. We internalize these feelings and they grow with us, persisting into adulthood.

Some of the unconscious reasons for adopting negative behavior patterns from our parents, according to Bob Hoffman, include:

  •  The hope that our parents will love us if we are like them.
  •  To vindictively punish our parents by reflecting their negativity back to them.
  •  To punish ourselves for feeling unworthy and unlovable.

These negative love strategies will not only cause us difficulties in our adult relationships, but also can affect our physical health if left unexamined. While we may feel discouraged when we realize these negative emotional and behavioral patterns began early in our childhood, they were learned. This means with practice and patience we can unlearn them and change our lives. As children we have few choices, but as adults, we have plenty. This is the goal of the Hoffman Process for emotional healing.

From human doing to human being

Tim Laurence, author of The Hoffman Process, discusses how to transition from a “human doing” into a “human being”. This concept is quite simple. We react or do as we have been shown or taught in any given situation. But The Hoffman Process helps us unwind this programming by examining all of the parts of ourselves – our emotions, intellect, body, and spirit. We take a close look at those factors along with the subsequent patterns we have developed, and we decide what we want to keep and what we don’t. These choices are very empowering, and allow us to have a more spontaneous, free, open, and loving life.

The Hoffman Process is focused on helping us become more authentic and real. It shows us how to be ourselves, and not wear the mask we created to meet everyone else’s expectations. This is an amazing way to repair and restore our emotional health.

This process is also a wonderful way for women to put themselves on their own to-do list. Negative emotional patterns do not have to dictate who we are, or our way of life. There are many tools we can utilize in this process to become whole again.

To see if the Quadrinity Process is right for you, read this list of statements and think about them in your own personal context.

  •  I feel that something is holding me back and I want to take the limits off.
  •  I experience too much stress and I’m not having enough fun.
  •  I know what I should do, but often can’t generate the will to do it.
  •  I often feel angry, resentful, embarrassed or depressed.
  •  I flip flop between dominating and intimidating people below me and avoid being  dominated by people above me,
  •  I feel intimidated, coerced, and manipulated and can’t stand up for myself.
  •  I work compulsively, often to the detriment of other aspects of my life.
  •  Meaning is going out of my marriage, my career, or life in general. I often feel I’m just going through the motions.
  •  There’s a lack of intimacy in my life — I’ve been unsuccessful in creating relationships.
  •  I’m either unemotional or disconnected from my feelings or my feelings are running me.
  •  I’m in recovery from substance abuse (clean and sober for 90 days minimum) and want to deal with the original pain that led to addiction.
  •  I recognize that my parents were not as loving and supportive as I wanted them to be, or that bad things happened in my childhood.
  •  I see myself passing my own suffering on to my children.

Stress And Weight Gain – Are The Two Connected?

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

I think we can all agree that over the years women’s lives have really changed – our cultural expectations, our feminist expectations, and our personal expectations all combined with advancing technology have dramatically changed our day to day lives. Think about our grandmothers or great grandmothers – they stayed home and cooked the meals, often taking all day to prepare, setting aside dedicated time to visit with friends or take care of family responsibilities and experienced a much different pace than women today. This isn’t to say that these wonderful women didn’t work hard! They did! Today’s woman may prepare a meal, while answering work emails, responding to texts from children requesting rides, while supporting a friend going through crisis…all at the same time! This scenario doesn’t take into consideration the physical stress her body might be handling at that very moment – significant hormonal shifts could be happening at the same time – particularly if she hasn’t eaten in a balanced meal within the past few hours, if she hasn’t been sleeping, or if her sex hormones are out of balance. We are very complex beings! Our bodies respond to stress in a physical way.

Weight – particularly weight gain is a prominent topic with most of my patients. Some see the pounds sneaking on gradually; others tell me that overnight 20 pounds have jumped onto their bodies. Most tell me that they have tried to cut calories, increase exercise and at times have taken some dietary supplements. It seems as though these women are doing all the right things. These patients are always, yes always surprised when I steer our conversation to the stress in their lives. What does stress have to do with weight gain?

Our adrenal glands, walnut sized glands which sit atop our kidneys, govern our stress response and help regulate many other body processes can become imbalanced. We’ve all heard the stories about mothers having a surge of strength to lift a car off their injured child – this amazing strength comes from a surge of adrenaline and cortisol from the adrenal glands! This is exactly how our bodies were designed. These hormones mobilize energy product from fats and carbohydrates In a perfect world, we would experience that surge, then our stress would pass.

For many women today, periods of intense stress never stop and our adrenal glands keep producing the hormones they should, but begin to become unbalanced. Then our bodies start preparing for the worst by storing calories – our primal body kicks in – being stingy with how calories are used and insuring that it will have calories – and fat to pull from when needed. When are bodies are flooded with cortisol, we are less sensitive to leptin. Leptin is the hormone that makes us feel full – when less sensitive to it; we eat more than we normally might. Our bodies are wise – holding onto calories help us survive!

Women with adrenal imbalance most often experience weight gain around their middle – their waist grows disproportionately to other areas – we call this visceral fat depositing. When our bodies are not struggling with constant stress, cortisol, glucose and insulin all work together to keep our blood sugar stable. When we haven’t eaten for several hours, our glucose (blood sugar) drops and a message is sent to the adrenal glands to release cortisol. This cortisol mobilizes fat, amino acids (from our muscles) and glucose (from glycogen in the liver). All of this keeps your body and brain fueled in the absence of food, preventing low blood sugar also known as hypoglycemia. Insulin helps glucose into the cells and cortisol maintains glucose levels in the blood.

With long term stress, both insulin and cortisol remain high in the blood. Extra glucose is stored in the form of fat , primarily in abdominal fat cells. This is also known as visceral fat. Scientific studies have shown that fat cells have unique stress hormone receptors for cortisol and that there are more of these receptors on the fat cells in the abdomen than anywhere else in the body! Most women are shocked to learn that this visceral fat is not inactive! It seems as though the fat itself can act as an endocrine organ that reacts to the stress response – and will continue to build on to the abdominal fat deposits. What a terrible cycle to fall into! The answer is to help the adrenal glands get back into balance.

Where do you start? By eating!

Like many of my patients, you may be surprised, too! Yes, eating more instead of less is one of the keys. You want to convince your body that its not in danger of starving – and the way to do that is to eat – making sure you are making good choice to provide the nutrients you need.

Eating regularly is the way to go! We know that cortisol is integral to maintaining good blood sugar levels and stable blood sugar levels keep your adrenal glands from working overtime. When you get too hungry, you send the message that cortisol is needed – and the unhealthy cycle will start. To prevent this, I recommend three balanced meals and two snacks per day. Eating within one hour of waking lets your cortisol reach its morning peak, relieving your adrenals from maintain fast blood sugar levels. A healthy balanced snack between meals helps tremendously. I advise women to have lean protein at every snack and meal and to keep carbohydrate intake to 16 grams per meal and 7 per snack.

What you eat counts!

Keeping good choices close at hand is the key! When you’re hungry and tired our natural response is to reach for what’s close at hand. Sugar laden foods, caffeine and carbohydrate heavy foods may fill your need in the moment, but not in the long term. When in this healing phase it’s important to avoid processed foods, alcohol, caffeine and refined and processed sugars. Many of my patients are gluten sensitive and notice good, positive changes when it is removed from the diet.

Keeping the foods you need handy may take a little more time, but the end result is worth it. Lean proteins can be cooked ahead of time, vegetables can be purchased peeled and cut, and nut butters on an apple are quick and easy. And remember…you are worth every effort!

  • Breathe deeply. One of the best things you can do when you feel stress building is to pause, take in three very deep breaths through your nose, exhaling mindfully through your mouth…and feel your heart rate decrease. You can do this anywhere and no one will even guess what you are doing!
  • Disrupted or poor quality sleep can also affect your ability to lose weight! When your circadian rhythm is disrupted your cortisol cycle will follow! Create a goal to get at least 7 hours sleep per night. Follow good sleep hygiene – including turning off all electronics one hour before bed!
  • Exercise mindfully. Keep our heart rate under 90 beats per minute if you are currently exercising. You may want to consider easing up for a few months while you are healing. If you don’t exercise, try walking 15 minutes once or twice a day – outside if possible.
  • Find time to enjoy something every day – whatever that means to you! Is it meeting a friend for a meal? Skyping with a family member? Reading? A bubble bath? Taking your dog to a dog park? Taking a class once a week? One woman I know loves to take classes – she does everything from craft classes to wine tasting. These classes define what she needs for fun – connection, learning, new environments and a feeling of moving forward in her life. What’s fun for you?

Stress related weight gain does not have to be a part of your life!

Adrenal Feeling Wired Nutritional Supplement System

Are You Someone With Weight Loss Resistance?

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

There are people in the world who don’t have to work at staying thin and trim, and there are people in the world who do. For those in the latter category, the battle of the bulge can feel like a nemesis impacting them on many levels, physically and emotionally. Everywhere we turn we see advertisements, infomercials, and even reality television shows telling us that we can lose weight, and all we have to do is stop eating so much and exercise more. In fact, health practitioners relay this information to their patients every day, and send them on their way with a “prescription” for what sounds like a simple solution. But it’s not.

There are many weight loss programs out there, all offering different methods and techniques to help people lose weight. I know, I joined Weight Watchers when I was 19. I followed the program to the letter, weighing and measuring every single bite of food I consumed. I exercised every day, I never cheated, and each time I got on the scale, I was devastated to see I had only lost a half pound, or worse – gained weight. It wasn’t Weight Watchers, it was me. I had weight loss resistance.

Weight loss resistance occurs when a woman has a physiologic/metabolic imbalance that makes losing weight and keeping it off extremely challenging, even when she puts forth her best efforts. It may be a preexisting condition or a new development, but until it’s addressed, no amount of working out at the gym will fix it.

This condition can be very frustrating for women. I talk to women every day in my practice who just don’t understand why they can’t lose weight, and I tell them what I know: we can fix that, and not only will the pounds come off, but they will stay off with the right daily efforts.

Weight Management Nutritional Supplement System

Is weight loss resistance genetic?

Research shows that people metabolize fat differently. That’s why some people can eat a lot of food and never gain an ounce, and others barely eat and gain a pound or more. Genetics can play a role, and studies are in progress to help us understand more about that. But if genes do play a role, then that means we all benefit from different types of food and exercise when it comes to weight loss, to support our personal genetic makeup. For more information on genetics and weight, please read our articles, “Set Point Weight – Fact Or Fiction?” and “Reprogram Your Genes and Cells For Healthy Weight.”

We have all heard of so many different diet and exercise plans to help us lose weight, I’m sure more are being invented right now! But there are healthy ways to reduce — including lower-fat diets, Mediterranean style diets, higher protein diets, low-dairy diets, and many other choices — to optimize metabolism. The same holds true for exercise. Some people benefit from endurance-style exercise, others from strength training, and others still from things like yoga and Pilates. The good news is, regardless of your genetic makeup, there are many dietary and lifestyle choices that can increase your ability to lose weight and keep it off.

Although society tends to group everyone into the same category when it comes to health and fitness, we are all individual, and different things work for different people. It is not just our genetic makeup, but also our emotional makeup, and our lifestyle and environmental factors that play roles too. It takes time to figure out what is at the core of weight loss issues, and that is what we do in functional medicine – we get to the bottom of it so it can be corrected.

Core systemic imbalances and weight loss resistance

There are six core systemic imbalances that contribute to weight loss resistance in women. We may see a combination of them, but one usually becomes prominent as we investigate what is keeping a woman from losing weight. They are:

  •  Hormonal imbalance (including thyroid dysfunction)
  •  Adrenal imbalance (chronic stress)
  •  Neurotransmitter imbalance
  •  Digestive imbalance
  •  Systemic inflammation
  •  Impaired detoxification

For more information, read our numerous articles on above topics.

When we determine the primary cause of weight loss resistance, we offer the following measures to not only jump start, but to sustain weight loss and then maintenance regimes.

  • Know your unique physiology. Work with a functional medicine practitioner to identify any metabolic imbalances, and create a nutrition and exercise plan unique to your system.
  • Use herbs and supplements. When weight loss resistance is caused by hormonal imbalance, stress imbalance, and neurotransmitter imbalance, supportive herbs and supplements may help rebalance your metabolism and assist with weight loss. The active compounds and micronutrients found in herbs and supplements can go to work at the cellular level, helping you from the inside out. Women to Women offers many high-quality, pharmaceutical grade supplements to enhance your health.
  • Practice healthy eating. Eating three well-balanced meals and two snacks each day at regular intervals will help regulate your metabolism. Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein such as organic meats, fish, nuts and legumes, offer the best nutritional support. Since our lives are busy, having a snack shake made of whey protein and almond milk is a healthy alternative. Our Whey Protein helps support metabolism and satisfy cravings!
  • Sometimes we need more than food to get all of the vitamins and nutrients we need, especially when trying to lose weight. Chromium, zinc, vitamin C, D3, and the B vitamins are essential for a healthy metabolism. A high quality, pharmaceutical-grade multivitamin-mineral complex will support and enhance weight-loss efforts. Women to Women offers many high-quality, pharmaceutical grade supplements to enhance your health.
  • Exercise. Even if you have tried to exercise and not had too much success, finding the right type of exercise is key. It should not only move your body, but it should be enjoyable. Regular exercise is an integral part to good health and it will re-set your metabolism and help you overcome weight loss resistance.
  • Rest, restore, and sleep. Sleep is vital to not only restore metabolism, but help all of the systems in our body function properly. Sleep allows our body to repair itself, regenerate, and helps regulate our hunger mechanism – a very important part of weight loss! There are studies which actually show that people, who sleep less, eat more. We suggest trying to sleep for eight hours each night between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., can make all the difference.
  • Seek support. Whether you believe “misery loves company” or “it takes a village” or even “great minds think alike” – finding other people who are on a similar journey can go a long way in helping you feel good, stay encouraged, and achieve success.

Solving the weight loss puzzle

Weight loss resistance can cause a lot of emotional turmoil. The struggle is real, and you may feel disheartened, discouraged, angry, sad, or even guilty. But these feelings will not help solve the mystery as to why you cannot lose weight. It’s easy to say just let those feelings go, but you will find when you turn them around into hope, belief, enthusiasm, and renew your efforts, you can find the underlying cause, address it, and the weight will come off. Remember, it’s not your fault! We can work together to fix it.

Natural Treatments For Adrenal Dysfunction

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Restoring The Energy You Thought Was Lost

In this article:

Phytotherapy for adrenal health — the role that plant medicine plays within our body

Medicinal herbs for adrenal imbalance — our suggestions

Real support, not just a one-size-fits-all solution

 Now let me ask you, does any of this sound familiar?

  •  Do you feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and stressed all the time?
  •  Do you need five cups of coffee or a constant infusion of soda just to make it through the day?
  •  Do you have trouble waking up, falling asleep, or staying asleep, no matter which herbal supplements you try?
  •  Do you find yourself feeling constantly irritable or on edge?
  •  Do you feel that you need to exercise to stay in shape even though you’re exhausted when you do?
  •  Do you feel as though everything you eat turns to fat?
  •  Are you always hungry, frequently craving sweets, or tempted by “carbo-binges”?
  •  Are you plagued by irregular or painful periods or PMS?
  •  Are you struggling with peri-menopause or menopause: lowered sex drive, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and hot flashes?
  •  Do you find yourself feeling forgetful, “foggy,” or unable to concentrate?
  •  Do you find that you do better when you’re always on the go?
  •  Do you find that you actually enjoy adrenaline rushes and feel a little bored without a crisis to handle?
  •  Are you struggling with anxiety, depression, or despair?
Adrenal Feeling Wired Nutritional Supplement System

If I’ve painted a picture you recognize—in yourself, in your family, among your friends and colleagues—you’ve just gotten a good look at adrenal dysfunction, a distressingly common problem in which overworked adrenal glands combined with lifelong emotional patterns add up to a painful set of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. In the early stages of adrenal dysfunction, you might feel “tired and wired”: keyed up, anxious, fatigued, and depressed. In the later stages, you might simply feel exhausted. Either way, you know something’s wrong—even if your health-care provider has assured you that you’re fine or hasn’t included adrenal dysfunction in his or her diagnosis.

In my practice, I have found that many women have come in feeling listless with energy levels so low that they feel this is normal. Many have felt that this is just part of the aging process. However, I am happy to say that it’s not natural to feel fatigued purely as a function of your age. And as long as there are no major health issues causing your fatigue, we can absolutely get you back to feeling as energetic and vibrant as you did in your younger years. What it really boils down to, is learning to listen to your body and being able to identify what is wrong. Understanding your body and its functions like how to better support your adrenal glands, two plum-sized but powerful glands that many women have never even heard of.

You may not think much about your adrenals, but they are crucial to your health, mood, and well-being. These little triangular-shaped glands sit on top of the kidneys, responsible for giving us those extra surges of vitality that we need to cope with unusual challenges, new demands, and heightened levels of stress. That vitality is commonly known as the fight-or-flight reaction. When a major challenge threatens, our adrenal glands kick up the stress hormones, enabling us to cope with whatever challenge or emergency befalls. Then, when the crisis is over, the stress hormones subside and we relax once more.

Today we live in a world that is troubled with so many challenges, that it is a relief to know that although your adrenal glands serve a number of functions within your body. Their primary responsibility is to help you react — and survive — in the face of stress. Sometimes we may not feel stressed, but unfortunately stress comes in many disguises which we aren’t always aware of: physical, emotional, perceived, psychological, environmental, infectious, or any combination of these. Because your adrenal glands work in tandem with your body and mind, they have the ability to respond to every kind of stress.

Unfortunately, your health-care practitioner is likely to ignore or dismiss adrenals as the source of your problem unless you are suffering from either Addison’s disease, in which case your adrenals severely under produce, or Cushing’s syndrome, in which they severely overproduce. These two conditions are well understood by conventional medicine. But if your adrenal imbalance is less extreme—as is true for hundreds of thousands of U.S. women—your practitioner is unlikely to recognize your condition. That’s because, despite the enormous body of science relating adrenal problems to a wide variety of symptoms, adrenal dysfunction is not a commonly accepted diagnosis.

From both my personal as well as my professional experience I understand the impact when your adrenal system and body is not working in harmony with one another. Sometimes we need to look beyond conventional medicine towards alternative forms of therapy that will enable you to live an optimally healthy lifestyle.

Are your adrenals imbalanced?

Our adrenals produce bio-chemicals that our body needs to function on a daily basis. Women with adrenal issues often say they have issues in other areas of their bodies as well, such as, irregular blood-sugar; thyroid and sex hormone imbalance; digestive problems; cardiovascular difficulties; immune and autoimmune disorders; mood complaints such as anxiety and depression; and cognitive difficulties, such as poor memory, fogginess, and an inability to concentrate and think clearly. This increase of symptoms can make adrenal dysfunction problematic to recognize. But if you know what you’re looking for, it can be done.

Below is a simple list of questions which may help you to identify whether your adrenal glands are functioning correctly and whether they are in-sync with your mind and body. Should you answer yes to more than one of these questions, I would suggest that you consult with a functional medicine practitioner regarding your adrenal glands.

  •  Are you always on the run?
  •  Do you often feel the inability to cope with things around you?
  •  Do you feel that you need to use far more energy than normal when you need to do something?
  •  Are you struggling to get out of bed in the morning?
  •  When your energies levels are low do you turn to caffeine and sugar to give you a boost?
  •  Do you feel tired and irritated with those around you?
  •  Are reading and watching movies your cue to falling asleep?
  •  Are you so hyped up at night that it is difficult to fall asleep?
  •  Do you feel listless, depressed, or emotionally numb?

Now that you have established that many of the symptoms you are feeling are ‘normal’ for adrenal dysfunction, we can now work together to see what the options are available to putting you back on the pathway to achieving adrenal health. With so many natural treatment options so easily accessible, why don’t we look at some of the options that can help restore your energy, balance your adrenal output and get you on the road to feeling like yourself again.

How herbs benefit your body

There are many new natural modalities that have come to light when it comes to restoring your energy levels and supporting your adrenal functions instead of depleting them. For thousands of years man had predominately lived on a diet using our natural resources – plants. With this in mind the properties of plants have been used as a source of healing either in its whole-food form or in standardized extracts and supplements. This process is called Phytotherapy and now with evidence-based research, we are able to back up the benefits of phytotherapy treatment.

Extensive research carried out in the in the US and across the world has established that the herb Eleuthero (aka “Siberian ginseng”) contains anti-fatigue and anti-stress properties that help to support the adrenal glands. Swedish researchers in 2009, found that there are certain molecules which are released by the adrenal glands to protect the body against physical and emotional stress. These same molecules are found in Eleuthro and by introducing these “molecular chaperones” to the body, we are able to help treat and repair damaged proteins during times of intense physical demand. The added benefit is that by taking Siberian Ginseng we are also able to improve our tolerance to stress and allows for less physical destruction. Furthermore, a research team in Australia demonstrated how Eleuthero inhibits the binding of stress hormones to their receptors.

Adrenal depletion can drain the entire body

As our stress levels reduce the functionality of our adrenal glands, so it affects other functions in our body. Other than their primary role in dealing with stress, your adrenal glands:

  •  Maintain the balance of over 50 hormones in your body
  •  Manage stress and sex hormones as well as a number of other hormones which they are able to synthesize
  •  Assist in regulating blood pressure and our heart rate
  •  Assist in balancing blood sugar levels
  •  Quiets inflammation throughout the body –
  •  Support nervous system function (behavior, mood, , memory, clear thinking)

As you can see, the adrenal glands are so intimately intertwined with our physiological and emotional well-being that we need to heed what our bodies are telling us. By understanding our bodies and the role that these ‘little glands’ play, there is no reason for us to suffer from weight gain, fuzzy thinking, insomnia, severe fatigue, thyroid disorders, and accelerated aging. For more on the connection between adrenals and thyroid, see our articles on hypothyroidism in menopause.

The good news is there is much that can be done. Advances in science are uncovering new understandings all the time. Recent research has shown that Eleuthero, a medicinal plant in the form of Siberian Ginseng, bolsters the immune system, aids with inflammation and boosts clarity of mind. It has also been found to help in nervous system function, assists in regulating blood sugar levels, and there is thought that it may benefit bone remodeling by increasing the amount of a hormone called osteocalcin in the blood.

With so many of my patients who although adept at multitasking are completely overworked and highly stressed, they have found relief and benefit from using adaptogenic herbs such as Eleuthero and other supplements. Unfortunately we live in an age where the expectation is one of immediate results and gratification. If this is not achieved the natural assumption is that the therapy is in fact not working. Sometimes we have to exercise patience and belief in what has been recommended by our health practitioner.

Phytotherapy and mineral supplementation are very gentle remedies and take time for your body to absorb and feel the benefits. Remember that we are all different and therefore one may have to try a number of options until you find the right one that works for you. Thank goodness the plant world is so diverse which means that there will be something available to help you – don’t give up!

Adrenal imbalance – suggested supplements

Western medicine has been taking its time recognizing the importance of adrenal health—but Eastern cultures have always given the adrenals their due time in the spotlight. When it comes to conventional medicine they have been focusing on acute adrenal-related conditions, like Addison’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome, which are not exceedingly common. However, more sensitive testing will show a trend toward one end of the spectrum that, though not an illness, may point to vulnerability. My goal is to have you look deeper and start at a place where we view food as medicine.

It is also important to think about using a number of safe and supportive herbs and supplements in your daily regimen. Below is a list of some of the herbs that I have used to treat my patients. When you are attempting to try a more holistic and natural route of medication, it is important to listen to your body, and to monitor your growth as you experiment with a natural approach as we all react differently to therapeutic agents. If you find that you are having a reaction to the herbs or are sensitive modify your dosage or consider working with an experienced herbalist.

Herbalists and many other alternative practitioners rely on herbal medicine, which happens to be the basis for many prescription drugs. Herbal remedies can take the form of teas, tinctures, oils, creams, and pills. Many herbs can be poisonous or interact dangerously with prescription drugs, so it is best to use them only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.

  •  Astragalus root (A. membranaceus). Your body has a natural ability to adapt to stress, but sometimes this is not enough. Astragalus boosts your bodies capabilities to handle stress, gives your immune system a healthy boost, regulates normal blood sugar levels and alleviate insulin resistance.
  •  Cordyceps (C. sinensis). An antioxidant fungus, Cordyceps can slowdown the aging process, supports your the immune system, assists in inflammation and helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels.
  •  Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus, also known as Siberian ginseng). As discussed before, Eleuthero is an adaptogenic herb helps to protect our bodies from the debilitating effects of stress, reduces fatigue, assists in clarity of memory aids in balancing blood sugar levels, and even perhaps supporting bone remodeling as well.
  •  Rhodiola rosea (“golden root”). Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that protects against stress-related fatigue and ultimate“burnout”, increases mental clarity, supports the immune system and assists in balancing blood sugar regulation. An added benefit of Rhodiola is it’s antidepressant and antianxiety effects.
  •  Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Licorice Root is well known for helping support adrenal balance as well as energy levels and endurance. Although many herbs do not have many restrictions with their use or dosage, there are certain forms of licorice which are known to increase blood pressure and lower one’s potassium levels in the body. So be cautious to check your blood pressure when using it.

(Images courtesy of GNU Free Documentation License).

As a holistic and functional medical practitioner, I have found the strengths in using diverse forms of intervention.. I believe that each health professional has their own unique expertise and whether one consults with a herbalist, naturopath, or functional medicine practitioner – it is all about you and finding the solution that is going to work best for your condition. Many times it may require you seeing multiple practitioners.

I’ve borrowed this phrase from healer and best-selling author Caroline Myss because I think it sums up so beautifully the other key factor behind adrenal dysfunction. No matter how disciplined we are about cleaning up our diet, taking our nutritional supplements, and getting regular exercise, if we don’t attend to the emotional piece of the puzzle, our adrenal symptoms won’t go away. The phrase that Caroline uses often is “Our biography becomes our biology “ if we do not pay attention.

Real support

We have become used to living in a world where there seems to be a solution for everything. Advertisers have led us to believe that we can expect immediate results and we’ve been brainwashed into believing that one-size-fits-all is the answer to our problems. It’s important to remember that phytotherapy isn’t a magic bullet, either. What it offers us is an additional source that will provide us with an extra energy and support as we make the necessary steps towards healing the adrenals. However, in order to have optimal adrenal gland functionality we need to be honest with ourselves to acknowledge and address the root causes of stress in our lives.

I am reminded of a patient whose toddler son was admitted into hospital after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Upon release he needed care 24/7 which left my patient sleep deprived and depressed. She also began to notice that her elevated blood sugar levels were entering into a pre-diabetes danger zone.

After intense discussion and evaluation of what was happening in her life and body, I recommended that she start with a combination herbal/mineral supplement. Very soon she started to feel much better but unfortunately her new sense of well-being tipped her overboard. She felt so invigorated that she joined a gym, took on more responsibilities at work and at home, and started writing a book! Now you may say this was amazing and wonderful, which it is but what she needed to understand was that the herbal support was just one piece to healing her adrenals. Even though you may feel infinitely better after starting phytotherapy, true adrenal health comes from creating conditions that sustain not just physical health but emotional and spiritual wellness, too.

All of these realizations can lead us on a path of discovery, understanding what our problems are and how or what can we do to change – to learn new ways of “being”. This does not mean that one has to undergo a radical change but rather by taking baby steps one can make one small change at a time. I understand that this sounds a lot easier than it actually is but I would like introduce you to a few changes that you can make to your lifestyle that will ensure a full adrenal recovery:

Modify your exercise. There are many benefits to regular exercise and although it may be difficult at first to get going, many of my patients marvel at how well they feel after a workout. If this is you, stick with it. However, some people will feel absolutely exhausted and their energy levels depleted. If this is the case then one needs to slowly introduce exercise into your daily life. Mornings are best for aerobic exercise because this is when your cortisol is naturally highest, but try not to let your heart rate go above 90 beats per minute. If aerobics are not for you, then find something that is not so demanding like a relaxing walk, yoga, or any kind of exercise that restores you instead of draining you.

Eat often and well. In the past I have written extensively on how to support your adrenal glands by eating the correct foods. Nothing is more discouraging than being disciplined about your eating plan and not losing the weight you’d like—only because you aren’t appropriately supporting your adrenal-friendly food choices with healthy lifestyle and exercise choice. By eating certain foods, and at specific times of the day can help you return to a natural cortisol rhythm thus avoiding the “crash and burn” of the peaks and valleys of sugar and caffeine. One point that I have always stressed is that a body that is allowed to be hungry places a huge strain on the adrenals and therefore it becomes absolutely vital not to miss meals or let too much time pass between meals or a snack.

Relieve stress. If you can find a way to quiet your mind periodically, you can release an enormous amount of stress. One of the most wonderful ways to quiet your mind is through meditation. Meditation offers many health benefits, improving blood pressure, circulation, and heart health; and it also supports mood, self-confidence, and relaxation. Even just five minutes a day of quiet breathing or meditation can do wonders for your adrenals. Create ‘me time’ and be kind to yourself. Find things that are going to make you feel relaxed like going for a massage or ask your partner to massage your feet or head. The practice of yoga, t’ai chi or qi gong is non-invasive, but smooth and tranquil. When was the last time you put your feet up with a cup of tea or had an extended phone call just to talk? Look at the things that you feel will best relieve tension and stress and follow this path.

Play. We so often take on responsibilities or agree to do things that require a lot of your time or just drain your energy. We need to learn to say no and take on things that are fulfilling and satisfying. Step out of your box and have fun – meet up with friends that you haven’t seen for a while, spend time with your family, take your grandchildren to a movie, go to the beach – the list is endless. Don’t feel guilty but rather embrace your new life and give yourself permission to do it during this time of healing.

Sleep. Get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. The connection between lack of sleep and weight retention is clear – insufficient sleep stresses your body, chronic loss of sleep equals chronic stress and chronic stress means chronically high levels of cortisol, which encourages your body to hold on to every extra ounce of fat. If you regularly go with-out at least seven hours of good, restful sleep, you are going to find it nearly impossible to lose weight or even to maintain a healthy weight. Often as women we are so busy that we end up burning the candle at both ends. Try to go to bed at a reasonable hour as sleep is one of the magic remedies to restore your adrenal glands. Before going to sleep try having a herbal tea or consider a natural herbal supplement to help you relax and ease you into a peaceful sleep. Not always possible, but a short nap during can boost your energy levels.

Natural methods on how to get your energy back

The mind, emotions, and spirit have an enormous impact on the body. How we think and feel about ourselves and the world, and how we experience a spiritual connection, can make a huge difference when it comes to healing the body. If we’re prisoners of our past, responding with amygdala-driven impulsiveness to replay the same panic, anxiety, sorrow, or anger that colored our past, our bodies will find it far more difficult to heal. But if we learn to reprogram our emotional responses, our bodies can begin to shake off the burdens of the past. How exciting and empowering is that? Just by the choices we make each day about what we eat and how we live, we can alter the way our genes express themselves and create our own good health.

Climb off the rollercoaster and shrug off the idea that you have to do more and that enough is never enough. Be kind to yourself and do what you can instead of keeping your energy levels up by relying on sugar, carbs, and caffeine to make it through the day. And you certainly don’t have to feel so tired and miserable anymore. Help is on the way! Why not support your adrenal glands by trying some of the natural herbal options that are available to boost your energy. It is important for you to take control so as to not exacerbate future health issues but to rather adopt a path that will lead to adrenal health and lifelong balance.

Adrenal Feeling Wired Nutritional Supplement System

The Master Hormone – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

by Marcelle Pick OB-GYN, NP

Thyroid TSH Hormone Woman Holding ThroatThe thyroid gland has long been considered the master gland and is well known for its ability to affect metabolism. When a TSH test is ordered, I am trying to determine exactly how much of this hormone TSH is circulating in the blood. This provides me with information about how the thyroid and metabolism are working.

When the TSH level is high, it is producing too much “stimulating” hormone, which may indicate hypothyroidism. The converse to that is – if it produces too little, and the TSH level is low, then the thyroid is hyperactive.

Generally the TSH level is ordered depending on your symptoms. Though the “normal” range for TSH levels vary depending on the labs, the practitioners and individuals. In 2002, The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists changed the range for TSH to be between 0.30 and 3.04. Generally most of us in the Functional Medical World think most women feel best when the TSH is at 2 or below.

If one of my patients is above 2.0 or if she is symptomatic of a thyroid disorder, I always try to understand the root cause. This often means more detailed testing, so I can get a better understanding of how the thyroid and adrenals are functioning.

The thyroid is one of the master glands and is intimately connected to so many organs and systems in the body that dysfunction in other places, especially with the adrenals, may be at play.

For more information, read our many informative articles in our Thyroid Health and Adrenal Health sections of our Health Library.

Thyroid Health Nutritional Supplement System

Digestive System Problems – Causes And Diagnostics

by Marcelle Pick OB-GYN, NP

Many of my patients make the needed dietary and lifestyle changes and find they continue to have digestive symptoms that simply do not go away. Our bodies are fascinating and understanding the digestive system is important to obtaining optimal health. We know that your bodies need food to provide it with energy, vitamins, and minerals. However, in order to use food, we must first break it down into substances that the various organs and cells in our body can use. This is the job of our digestive system.

If you experience digestive issues, like many do, it is important to get to the root cause of why you are having digestive issues. It could be something that is short lived and your digestive system is restored to health, but sometimes something deeper is going on, such as a bacterial or parasitical infection.

Below is a list of tests that you might encounter when you have digestive problems.

Chronic GI Support Nutritional Supplement System

Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA)

Comprehensive digestive stool analysis (CDSA) tests for digestive system function, absorption, gut flora, and the colonic environment. This test is needed for evaluation of chronic gastrointestinal (GI) issues, such as indigestion, dysbiosis, constipation, bloating, gas and diarrhea, to name a few. In addition, it can be recommended for serious bowel changes and systemic diseases. CDSA evaluates digestion of food particles, absorption of nutrients, the presence of bacterial or yeast infection, floral imbalance, intestinal immune function, and dietary fiber intake adequacy. A stool is generally gathered at home and sent for analysis.

Testing for food allergies and food intolerances

If you think you might have an intolerance or sensitivity to food, I suggest that you omit foods such as gluten eggs, corn, peanuts and dairy. These are the groups that usually cause allergic responses. However, there are many foods and food additives, in addition to the environment (within your body and externally), that can cause digestive symptoms.

Stay away from foods that irritate you and cause symptoms at the same time , I suggest that you take supplements to heal your gut integrity. This should work with most food sensitivities within 4–6 months, and you might be able to once again enjoy a food that used to bother you. Sometimes the sensitivity does not go away or it could be a “true” allergy that lasts for your entire life (called “IgE” allergies).

If you’ve tried following healthy nutritional guidelines, but you still have symptoms, you might want to consider testing for food intolerance or sensitivity. The following tests are used in functional medicine to identify food intolerances and sensitivities (IgG).

Laboratory /diagnostic tests for food intolerances

Intolerances/Allergies/Sensitivities (IGG/IGE)

Challenge or elimination diet

  • IgG RAST to specific foods, such as milk, egg, corn, peanuts or wheat
  • Celiac panel and genetic tests (HLA DQ2, DQ8)
  • Organic acids (gut flora by-products, specifically)
  • Breath testing for lactose and fructose
  • Intestinal permeability testing (lactulose-mannitol)
  • Stool analysis (absorption, digestion, inflammatory markers, microecology)
  • Alletess testing will determine if you are sensitive to various foods and additives and possibly allergic.
  • Gluten sensitivity and Celiac Disease

Gluten sensitivity, once rare, is more frequently identified today. Up to 30 percent of the population carries a genetic predisposition to gluten sensitivity and celiac. This causes an inflammatory/autoimmune response in your gut when you are exposed to gluten.

Try to eliminate gluten to help reestablish optimal digestive system function. You might be able to eventually reintroduce gluten-containing foods with minimal ill effect. There are others, however, who find they are healthier by remaining gluten-free, after they’ve healed their digestive problems. Women who have celiac disease, the most severe form of gluten sensitivity, and are exposed to tiny amounts of gluten have a response that damages the small intestine, impairs nutrient absorption, and leads to additional complications.

If you have been gluten free to heal your digestive system, try to reintroduce a small amount of gluten. If this causes your symptoms to return, you are probably gluten-intolerant or gluten-sensitive. You might consider genetic testing (genotyping) or autoantibody screening (serotyping), if you have a genetic susceptibility to celiac.

Laboratory and diagnostic testing for celiac disease

  • Three-month trial of gluten elimination
  • Celiac panel
  • Anti-deaminated gliadin IgG and IgA
  • Anti-gliadin IgG and IgA
  • IgA anti-endomysium antibody
  • IgA and IgG anti-transglutaminase ELISA (tTG)
  • Total IgA (IgA deficiencies ten times more common in CD)
  • HLA DQ2, DQ8 typing
  • Intestinal biopsy

Parasite and pathogens testing

Many pathogens and parasites can upset your healthy digestive system and cause symptoms in the gut. There are some signs that indicate their presence, but the best way to find out for sure is to undergo testing.

If you can choose to have specialists evaluate your stool samples, that would be ideal. The greater the specialist’s experience with pathogenic organisms, the better equipped the pathologist will be to perform a thorough analysis that identifies any problematic organisms.

There are many labs in the United States and Mexico that screen for yeast overgrowth and the presence of ova (eggs) and parasites. The labs also test overall digestive function, including absorption and immune status.

Below is a list of some of the important pathogenic organisms that affect digestion.

Helicobacter pylori. This bacterial infection can cause bloating, belching, nausea, and pain in the stomach. Infection can lead to stomach ulcers and inflammation and an increased risk of stomach cancer. Your healthcare practitioner can request a test to find out if you have an H. pylori infection. This infection is treated with antibiotics and drugs that reduce acid.

Fungal dysbiosis/candidiasis. Molds and yeasts can stay in the body and grow under the “right” conditions. A well-known example is yeast, candida albicans, normally found in the digestive tract. Yeast grows when there is a digestive imbalance. Signs include oral thrush, vaginal yeast infections, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, and irritable bowel disease. Candidiasis can be diagnosed with a stool test. Treatment is with an antifungal enzyme supplement (such as Candex or oil of oregano), following a yeast-free diet, and taking a probiotic to reintroduce floral balance.

  • Laboratory/Diagnostic testing for yeast and fungal Infections
  • Antibody testing (Candida, specific molds, fungi)
  • Fungal stool culture and stool smear (false negatives happen)
  • Nasal swab fungal analysis
  • Organic acids: D-arabinitol (false negatives happen)
  • Room analysis for molds and fungi (Petri dish culturing)

Small-bowel bacterial overgrowth (SBBO). If you have symptoms of indigestion, especially gas and bloating, with diarrhea, irregularity and abdominal pain, this can signal bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine. Like candidiasis, this overgrowth is common, but it is the underlying conditions that favor those organisms, which allows the overgrowth to happen. This must be examined to be sure that the problem does not reoccur. The presence of SBBO can be verified using breath testing. SIBO is harder to diagnose but when treated can make a huge overall difference.

Parasites. Your GI tract has many good microbes, but harmful ones exist as well and can be the culprit to many symptoms. “Don’t drink the water” is good travel advice, but there are other ways to get a parasite infection, such infected pets, farms, contaminated foods or surfaces, even walking barefoot on contaminated soil can infect you with a parasite.

Intestinal parasites usually cause diarrhea and abdominal pain, with flatulence, cramps, blood or mucus in the stools. They also cause other symptoms (seemingly unrelated), such as fatigue, fevers, chills. There have also been symptoms like rashes, hives, arthritis, and foggy thinking.

When you talk with your healthcare provider, ask for a panel of tests to determine the specific organisms that are causing the infection, and then you can be treated just for that. Some of the more common organisms that cause trouble include giardia, klebsiella, cryptosporidia, blastocystis hominis, entamœba histolytica, and helminths (flatworms and roundworms). Sending a stool sample to a laboratory that specializes in ova and parasites (O&P) will return more accurate results than using a general lab. At Women to Women we often use Genova Diagnostics Comprehensive Parasitilogy CP x 2 test for our diagnostics.

Digestive biochemical deficiencies testing

You digestive system has an extraordinary way of using the nutrients that you provide your body. Good digestion needs biochemicals to breakdown, assimilate, and eliminate nutrients. These include digestive enzymes, regulatory digestive hormones, stomach acid, and bile acids. Women can be deficient because of long-term digestive imbalance or other genetic factors. The CDSA panel (described previously) includes an evaluation of enzyme and acid sufficiency.

Enzyme deficiencies are treated depending on the enzyme levels. Certain foods and herbs increase enzyme creation, while in other cases supplemental enzymes might be needed.

If you have low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria), your stomach doesn’t produce enough hydrochloric acid – needed to breakdown proteins in your food and assimilate them in your intestines. The acid also fends off pathogens that you ingest. Unfortunately, the symptoms of low stomach acid and excess stomach acid are similar. Many women use acid suppressants, such as TUMS, before the real problem is discovered. This deficiency can often be corrected by using betaine-HCl supplements. It is available over-the-counter, but betaine HCl should only be taken with the guidance of a functional medical practitioner. If you use it improperly, it can cause harm.

This article has reviewed just a few of the indicators of GI tract dysfunction and disease progression. Other digestive system concerns that can be tested include sufficiency of bile acid production, markers of malabsorption and dysbiosis (such as organic acids), markers of oxidative gut stress, and sensitive markers of bowel inflammation (such as calprotectin and lactoferrin). Careful analysis will help determine and treat the cause of digestive illness. Many systemic issues are helped by understanding that the gut health and ill health can affect the entire body.

Don’t suffer with embarrassing and uncomfortable digestive issues any more! Take our quiz and get started today on alleviating those symptoms!

Healing Leaky Gut Syndrome – Open The Door To Good Health

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

It is not uncommon in my practice to have women come in with new physical complaints after major life events like having a baby. Ellen is a perfect example of one of these cases. She was diagnosed at a young age with lactose intolerance, and managed her symptoms quite well. She even went through not one, but two pregnancies without any issues and was able to digest dairy-products. She thought she had overcome the condition, until symptoms presented again at a particularly stressful time in her life. She was a young mother of two, her newborn had difficulty nursing, she was working full time, and had many uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms every time she ate – gas, bloating, even diarrhea. She was exhausted, irritable, and it all impacted her daily life.

As Ellen told me her story, I thought it sounded more like leaky gut, a digestive disorder that is not always at the top of many clinicians’ diagnosis list, but more common than you think.

Our digestive system influences everything. From controlling digestion and protecting us from hostile bacteria, to communicating with the brain – sending physical signals such as gas or hunger, and emotional feelings such as anxiety, stress, and even love. This complex union moving through the gut is often referred to as our body’s second brain, affecting our health physically and psychologically.

Not a “thinking” brain, our digestive tract actually has its own reflexes and senses, working hard to move things through our body, absorbing nutrients, and removing waste. Because of this complicated system of nerves and chemicals, sometimes these exchanges of information can veer off track.

It isn’t hard to notice when our gastrointestinal tract is off, changes in digestion can impact our daily lives. Whether it’s gas and bloating, cramps and diarrhea, fatigue, or even joint pain or skin rashes, symptoms can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, even debilitating.

More than half of my patients come in with complaints relating to a digestive imbalance, and many times I can attribute it to leaky gut syndrome.

Chronic GI Support Nutritional Supplement System

What is leaky gut?

Leaky gut is a condition affecting the lining of the intestines, creating a dysfunctional environment for proper digestion. It is also called “increased intestinal permeability”, because with leaky gut, the intestines lose some of their ability to filter nutrients and other substances. When this happens, particles of incompletely digested foods, bacteria, other waste by-products may leak through the intestines into the bloodstream. It is usually caused by some form of damage to the intestinal lining.

Our intestines are lined with cells, which are sealed together by something called “tight junctions”. In healthy intestines, these junctions work like gatekeepers, which essentially allow or prohibit particles to move through the gut and into the circulatory system. With leaky gut syndrome, particles can slip through the cells and tight junctions and literally leak into bloodstream or lymphatic system, and move freely throughout the body.

When the body recognizes these foreign substances and detects something is wrong, the immune system kicks in, and tries to fight what it perceives to be danger in the intestines. This causes inflammation and inhibits functioning. In this situation, a woman’s ability to digest food and absorb nutrients is decreased, and her immune system can become compromised. Impaired immune functioning here is extremely important, as our guts contain tissue known as gut-associated lymphatic tissue (GALT) which helps protect us from antigens causing food allergies as well as microbes carrying disease.

When the body is continually trying to repair itself from the effects of leaky gut, it can be caught in a never-ending cycle, especially when the source of the problem is not diagnosed. For example, if unrecognized food allergies are creating leaky gut, and the same foods are consumed over and over, a self- perpetuating, inflammatory cycle will be triggered, and the intestinal lining cannot heal.

Chronic inflammation in the intestines is a concern, because of the potential for its link to many serious disorders ranging from depression, osteoporosis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis to Alzheimer’s, heart failure, and more. Leaky gut may be also be linked to other gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel disease, Crohns disease or celiac disease, as well as immune system disorders such rheumatoid arthritis, and even asthma. That’s why I stress to my patients the importance of sharing all of their symptoms and concerns, no matter how small they may seem. As we examine each of the symptoms, we can figure out what may be causing them, and how to relieve them.

How do you get leaky gut?

Sometimes digestive problems originate early in our lives–such as lactose intolerance or food sensitivities. The problems may ebb and flow, especially during busy or stressful times. Other times we can develop issues related to taking certain medications or medical treatments that may have caused damage in our gut. Things like radiation, chemotherapy, corticosteroids, and even long term use of aspirin and antibiotics can wreak havoc with our intestinal flora, or the “good bacteria” that keep our digestive system functioning properly.

Any abundance of toxins in the system can burden our bodies. It is important to recognize imbalances and try to repair them naturally, before they lead to other disease and disorders.

How can I fix it?

In functional medicine, we look at the underlying causes of a disorder, and address it with a patient-centered focus. We evaluate lifestyle factors, environment, genetics, and history, and address individual aspects with a systems-oriented approach. The Institute of Functional Medicine developed a tool for clinicians to use when treating digestive disorders, called the Four “R” Program: remove, repair, replace, and reinoculate. I have added a fifth “R”, regulate. This method highlights effective ways to heal digestive imbalances.

1. Remove: Undertake an elimination diet

First we must stabilize and smooth the digestive tract. A 14-day detox cleanse is a gentle approach that helps eliminate common allergens, such as dairy, soy, gluten, sugar, yeast, and alcohol. It can help determine which foods may be contributing to symptoms. At Women to Women we work in partnership with our patients to help them manage and maintain an effective cleanse.

2. Replace: Investigate digestive aids

Oftentimes, using soothing digestive herbs, digestive enzymes, or other digestive supports, can help protect the lining from further damage, and coat the intestines while they heal. A functional medicine clinician can help determine which supports are best for each patient’s unique needs.

3. Reinoculate: Rebalance your gut flora

Friendly bacteria are important, and a well-colonized gut is vital to good digestive health. The good bacteria help abate the less-friendly ones, that lead to sickness and disease. Probiotics are an important way to re-introduce proper flora to the intestines. Proper diet, including fiber-rich foods also establish microfloral balance.

4. Repair: Rebuild your intestinal cells

There are many ways to repair and rebuild the intestinal cells and lining. Medical research continues to explore ways to advance this healing, naturally. Studies have shown glutamine is helpful for maintaining the structure and function of the intestine, and has been shown to improve damage from radiation and chemotherapy. Other therapies include methionine and N- acetyl cysteine, larch, kiwifruit, and zinc to aid in healing. It is important to work with a clinician to establish the best ways to treat and repair your digestive tract.

5. Regulate

Finally, we need to pay attention to how we feel when we eat, where and how we eat, and of course what we eat. First, we should avoid anything that we know causes GI upset. We should have our meal in a relaxed setting, eat slowly, and chew our food thoroughly. Digestion begins with an antibody in our saliva called secretory IgA (sIgA), which is an indicator of digestive immune function. Found throughout the digestive tract, sIgA is our first line of defense against bacteria and along with relaxed, healthy eating, is important to our entire immune system.

With time, patience, and a little extra help, Ellen was able to heal her leaky gut. Her life turned around, and she began to enjoy eating again, as well regain confidence that she could go out without fear of running to the bathroom! Leaky gut syndrome is not yet fully understood, but is real. The symptoms may be different for everyone, but identifying and isolating the cause can help eliminate this distressing disorder. I firmly believe digestion is the foundation of our overall health, and by nurturing and improving this very important function naturally, we can open the door to better health.

Dry Eyes and Hormone Imbalance

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

They say that your eyes are said to be the window to your soul and if you look deep within you can see the person’s genuineness and truth! But what happens when your eyes aren’t seeing clearly they are irritated, dry, red, and itchy? If you have symptoms of dry eyes, you might have something else going on in your body that needs attention.

Most people think of hot flashes, moodiness, vaginal dryness, and night sweats when they think of menopause. Research has found, however, that dry eyes affect 60 percent of menopausal women. There are other imbalances at work that might also affect the eye and they often become more evident when your hormones begin to fluctuate.

If you experience dry, itchy and irritated eyes, you may have tried to treat your dry eyes with eye drops to reduce the irritation. But many times this is like putting a band-aid on an abscess. We are not looking at the real issue. At Women to Women we have had tremendous success treating this problem by looking upstream for the actual causes, antecedents or triggers. So let’s discuss the symptoms of dry eyes and how you can learn methods to restore a healthy balance to your eyes and your body again.

Menopause Nutritional Supplement

Dry eye symptoms

Temporary mild symptoms of tired, itchy, or red eyes that abate with sleep, a change in environment, or taking your contact lenses out can be chalked up to obvious culprits. But worsening or persistent symptoms should be taken seriously. They include:

  •  itchiness
  •  a scratchy or gritty feeling
  •  tears running down the cheeks
  •  increasingly tired eyes during the day
  •  irritation from smoke, wind, or air movement
  •  stringy mucus
  •  sensitivity to light
  •  blurriness
  •  problems wearing contact lenses

There are some symptoms (red, itchy, tired) that are mild and are relieved with rest, environmental change, or by removing your glasses or contacts. If the symptoms persist or get worse, please see your doctor. Serious symptoms include the following:

  •  blurriness
  •  extra sensitivity to light
  •  irritation from smoke, wind, or air movement
  •  itchiness
  •  problems with wearing contact lenses
  •  a scratchy or gritty feeling
  •  stringy mucus in your eye
  •  tears that spill out of your eyes and running down your cheeks
  •  increasingly tired eyes during the day

It is recommended that if you have dry eye that you begin to seek treatment for your dry eyes, so that you can avoid harsh damage like scaring your cornea, which in turn can cause ulcers. You are also at a higher risk of an eye infection, because the fluids in your eye can’t carry the debris away and protect your eye. Furthermore, you might also notice changes in your vision and feel constant pain in your eyes.

Causes of dry eyes

There are two reasons that dry eyes develop: (1) not enough oil production by the meibomian glands (in the inner eyelids) or (2) excessive evaporation of the tears. Usually people are affected with low oil and high evaporation. If you have certain autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, lupus, and Sjögren’s syndrome, you are more prone to develop dry eye.

If you have ongoing symptoms of dry eye, please call your doctor to schedule an evaluation.

Below are some common reasons that may contribute to your dry eyes:

  •  Reading or computer work (you may not blink enough to redistribute eye fluid)
  •  Living and/or working in dry environments
  •  Contact lenses that absorb eye fluids
  •  LASIK eye surgery, which cuts nerves and reduces blinking
  •  Allergy drugs, diuretics, beta-blockers, birth control pills, or other drugs
  •  Diets poor in essential fatty acids or anti-inflammatory foods
  •  Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, lupus, and Sjögren’s syndrome, which also causes dryness in the mouth.
  •  Eyes that have excessive droopiness

As a functional medical practitioner, I believe it is important to dig deeper and try to identify the cause of the dry eyes. If we take a closer look we know that hormones are quite important for production of tears and lubrication of the eyes.

Dry eyes and hormonal changes

The way in which particular hormones affect your eyes depends on your individual genes and diet and lifestyle. Since we know that hormones are important to your eye health and studies have associated androgen (testosterone) and estrogen receptors on the cornea and on the meibomian gland. What this means is that there is a connection between your tears and your sex hormones.

Before menopause it is known that the greater your testosterone, the fewer tears you produce and the greater your estrogen, the greater your tears. During menopause, this reverses, the greater your testosterone, the greater your tears and the greater your estrogen, the fewer your tears. We have much more to learn about how hormones play a role in the lubrication of your eyes, but we are understanding that dry eyes can result from a deficiency in estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone.

If your eyes are dry for a long period of time then you will experience inflammation. The immune response releases inflammatory substances that make your eyes become red, itchy, and swollen. Dry eye symptoms go along with other menopausal signs of “drying,” such as sore joints and dry vaginal tissues. One way to help remedy your dry eyes is to restore a natural balance among estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. For a better view of dry eye, let’s look to the East.

An alternative approach to dry eyes

The eyes are crucial diagnostic tools in many Eastern healing traditions. Practitioners will look deeply at a patient’s eyes to obtain better insight about the health concerns. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the eyes are thought to be where your purest energy flows. When your life is balanced and you are healthy, your eyes radiate clarity that is visible to the practitioner. When your life is not balanced, your eyes show it, because the liver (organ of detoxification) rules the eye in TCM.

Symptoms of dry eye might be a warning sign that your body is not detoxifying properly and thus inflammation occurs. The inflammation connection is supported many conventional eye doctors who encourage their patients to add omega-3 supplements or fish oil to their dry eye treatment. A recent study showed that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduced the risk of dry eye by 20 percent compared to women with low levels of omega–3.

In addition, there are other benefits when you increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids (with supplements; eating fish, such as mackerel, tuna, or wild salmon; or eating some nuts and seeds). They naturally moderate inflammation. They also assist in tear stimulation and secretion and help to increase oils in the secretion. In addition they are thought to moderate extra production of estrogen. These all help provide natural lubrication instead of temporary “artificial” relief, such as over the counter eye drops.

Eye drops and artificial tears

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, most people use eye drops or “artificial tears” to help relieve symptoms of dry eye. The good news is that the drops can help make you more comfortable temporarily. The not-so-good news is that it’s only a temporary relief, and your symptoms will probably reoccur.

If you choose to use eye drops then please educate yourself on what is out there because eye drops can vary quite a bit. You will want to make sure that you are not using something that has preservatives that might further irritate your eyes. And remember that the drops that “get the red out” are not for dry eyes. To find permanent relief, you need to look deeper and not depend on the eye drops.

Functional dry eye relief

I’ve helped women find permanent relief from their dry eye symptoms by building up their healthy nutrition and restoring their hormonal balance. You are unique and might have to try a few combinations to find what works best for you. I believe that supplemental essential fatty acids and a nutritious diet will help with dry eyes. So let’s start here with some methods for you to try:

Nutrition. Eat three healthy and sensible meals and snacks every day. The meals should always include whole foods. Take a daily multivitamin, essential fatty acids, with EPA and DHA, plus vitamin E, which helps omega-3 do its work. Look for the right balance of omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9—it is all about balance. Read the label to determine if it’s free of lead, mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants.

Balance your hormones. Endocrine support can help your body produce natural levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Try eating more whole grains, less sugar, and fewer processed foods. This will help to control insulin levels and keep inflammation under control.

Check your medications. If you are on prescription drugs, talk to your healthcare provider to see if anything might be causing your dry eyes. There could be alternate medications.

Avoid pollution and irritants. Smoke aggravates dry eyes. Avoid rubbing your eyes because that can disturb the tear film, remove tears, and transfer irritants to your eye. If you wear makeup it is suggested that you purchase hypoallergenic make-up.

Hydrate and humidify. If you are dehydrated, the fluid in your eyes can be depleted, so drink lots of water and herbal teas. Another thing you can try is a humidifier. Clean it with soap so you don’t add more irritants to the air.

Blink! Try to blink every five seconds, especially when staring at your computer screen or kindle or Ipad.

Special care with contact lenses. Contact lenses can soak up the fluid in your eye and they also collect proteins on the surface, which further irritates the eyes. Keep lenses clean, and try not to wear them all the time. If you need to use eye drops, check the label, as not all drops are made to be used with contacts.

Get more sleep! Enjoy the goodness of regular sleep! This will give you’re your eyes the rest they need and will also help reduce the stress that contributes to imbalance in your hormones. Your body repairs its cells and detoxifies while you sleep, which in turn also helps decrease inflammation.

Paying attention to your third eye

You have a “third eye” and it’s your intuition. This could be the best tool for you to find a way to keep your eyes healthy. Dry eye is a common symptom during menopause. Many women experience this symptom and many get relief. Be patient while you are improving, and speak with your doctor if your symptoms get worse. Eyesight is an important part of daily lives and we tend to take it for granted. Make positive changes for your healthy lifestyle that will benefit you and your eyes.

The Effects Of Adrenal Imbalance – Stress Does Count

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

One of my patients recently said to me “I’m so tired of being tired!” and “I’m so tired of talking about being tired!” and “I’m tired of saying I wish I had the energy to…”  Then through teary eyes she asked “What’s wrong with me?”. This patient is like so many I’ve seen recently – women do so much today – have more responsibilities than ever before – most are busy from the time they get up until the time they go to bed with little, if any, time built in for self-care. No wonder women feel tired! By the time many seek help, they just want to feel better – some are not even interested in getting to the root cause.

All of my patients breathe in a sigh of relief when I assure than that as long as other major health issues are ruled out, we can absolutely have them feeling vibrant and full of energy.

I usually recommend a series of simple tests for patients who come to me with these symptoms. These tests evaluate cortisol and DHEA levels as well as stress markets. At Women to Women we find that the results are astonishingly consistent – less that 25% have cortisol levels which indicate healthy adrenal function, while more than 75% show impaired adrenal function – there are women who are wake up feeling tired and without any increase in energy throughout the day, there are women who wake up with very high energy levels (sometimes even before the sun rises) but who can’t stay awake after 3pm and then there are those who can’t seem to wake up in the morning, but are wide awake at 2am. This wide spectrum of adrenal function is a pattern I’ve seen for many years with women – its known as adrenal dysfunction.

Adrenal dysfunction tells us that the adrenal glands are either under producing or overproducing stress hormones. The effects can be baffling and concerning for women – a feeling of weakness, overwhelming fatigue, immune system weakness, moodiness or depression, insulin resistance, muscle and bone less, hormone imbalance, hair loss, autoimmune disorders, and many other health concerns.

Our adrenal glands help us to have a healthy – sometimes lifesaving – stress response, which wasn’t designed to last very long.

These two walnut shaped glands are located on top of our kidneys where they act as small centers of hormone production. The very innermost section of each gland produces adrenaline and noradrenaline. The adrenal cortex, the layers outside the center, produces the hormones DHEA, cortisol and our sex hormones – estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

Our adrenal gland’s primary purpose is to give us the energy we need when facing a threatening situation – the ‘flight or fight’ response is often used as an example. When this happens, our adrenals immediately increase production of adrenaline and cortisol. This causes our heart rates to increase, our metabolism and digestion to slow down, and our senses to sharpen. We need all of these systems supported during times of intense, immediate stress – and these amazing glands respond to every kind of stress – emotional, psychological, physical, environmental, even infectious! When we have chronic, unrelenting stress, our adrenals don’t give up on us! They keep producing what we need – and the domino effect in our body begins. Fatigue, weight gain, moodiness, hormone imbalance, thyroid imbalance and irritability may follow.

Our adrenals were designed to override other body functions – and they were designed to push and pump stress hormones non-stop!

To understand how adrenal imbalance develops, it is helpful to consider the original, evolutionary function of the adrenal glands. The adrenals are walnut-sized glands located on top of each kidney, where they serve as important manufacturing centers for many of the body’s hormones. The innermost section of each gland produces adrenaline (which you may know as epinephrine), and noradrenaline (also called norepinephrine). The layers outside the center, called the adrenal cortex, produce several other hormones, including cortisol, as well as DHEA, and the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Along with several other key responsibilities, your adrenal glands’ primary purpose is to help you survive in the face of a threat, rallying all your body’s resources into “fight or flight” mode by increasing production of adrenaline and cortisol. Healthy adrenals instantaneously increase your heart rate and blood pressure, release your energy stores for immediate use, shut down digestion and other secondary functions, and sharpen your senses. But since they are programmed to respond to every kind of stress — physical, emotional, perceived, psychological, environmental, infectious, or any combination of these — a woman under chronic stress can strain her adrenal glands. Stress comes not only from a dramatic life event, but lack of sleep, financial worries, chronic dieting, infection, digestive issues, reliance on stimulants such as alcohol or caffeine, unresolved emotional issues and other worries or concerns. When the adrenals are chronically overextended, she can end up with issues like thyroid imbalance, weight gain, insomnia and severe fatigue.

Let’s emphasize two points about this healthy stress response. First, it takes priority over all other metabolic functions. Second, it wasn’t designed to last very long. It is important to remember that the hormone cortisol converts fats and proteins into energy – just what we need during those stressful times! But prolonged high levels of cortisol are actually damaging to your body. Digestion, metabolism and mental clarity are impaired, normal cell regeneration and healing slow down, healthy muscle and tissue are compromised, healthy endocrine function and immune function are compromised, and hormone production is impacted.

The cumulative effect of high cortisol levels can take a toll on even the healthiest of bodies. We’ve talked about fatigue, weight gain and sleep issues – but there are other symptoms, too. Adrenal imbalance may also be a factor in depression, fibromyalgia, arthritis, hypo-thyroidism, hair loss and acne.

I’ve helped patients thousands of patients regain healthy adrenal function. There are four easy steps to start with – things you can do every day – addressing the root causes of your adrenal imbalance.

Before you get started, it is important to rule out the possibility of any serious underlying medical condition – have a full medical exam to rule out this concern.

To start healing your adrenals, eat regularly and choose your foods wisely! Make every bite count – choose nutrient rich foods, ones which haven’t been processed and do not contain sugar. Blood sugar spikes and drops create stress for your body. I encourage my patients to eliminate gluten from their diets as well. Eat five to six times a day and include protein, a complex carb and high quality fat every time you eat. A healing body needs good nourishment!

Build in time to get more rest! Now’s a good time to commit to getting seven to nine hours sleep a night. Practice good sleep hygiene – create an environment that welcomes a good nights’ sleep. Turn off all electronics an hour before bed – allow your mind to slowly unwind and your body will follow!

Think about what causes your stress and think about ways to put some stress reduction measure in place. For some, this may mean taking on less…for some others it may mean setting aside time each day to problem solve. Some women find that exercising helps – the hormones which are released during exercise help many women feel better, but some of my patients report that the focused time during exercise gives them the time and uninterrupted attention to think about potential solutions to their stressors!

I urge you to consider talking a high quality multi-vitamin to close any gaps in your nutritional needs. Its more difficult that that ever before to get all the nutrients our bodies need from our daily diets. A body healing needs support – a multi-vitamin rich in vitamins and minerals combined with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement – also known as fish oil – are great building blocks to start with.

In most cases women report feeling better in a few weeks and return to feeling ‘like themselves’ in just a few months. In some instances, women may require more support such as low dose compounded DHEA or other herbs. I urge you to work with a practitioner if you feel you may need more support – some of the more advanced treatments can have adverse interaction if not used properly.

Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal when given the right support! Regaining your energy, your clarity and your vitality is a must!

Adrenal Feeling Wired Nutritional Supplement System

Emotional Eating

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

In all my years as a health provider for women, I think I can count on one hand the number of women for whom emotions played absolutely no part in their relationship with food. Our emotions and how we eat (and when and what) are so intertwined that I think it is virtually impossible for a woman to get healthy — and, eventually, to lose weight — without first addressing her emotional attachment to food.

SS Holiday CookiesEach day I hear all kinds of stories about women’s emotional relationship to food. For many of my patients, these memories, particularly the early ones, are fond ones: the ice cream truck on a hot summer day, traditional holiday meals celebrated with family. These stories underscore how food can be used to make us feel comforted, connected and loved. In many families food is the only currency of love, a legacy many women unwittingly pass on to their own daughters and sons.

Or just as often, the opposite may occur. Mealtimes may have been excruciating exercises in power or parental control. How many children sit down to a meal only to hear, “I have a bone to pick with you?” How many are forced to sit at the table until they eat everything on their plate? Who wouldn’t eventually lose their appetite after being fed a regular diet of criticism and shame every evening?

As women move into their adolescence, stories often morph into tales of deprivation and triumph over food, the perceived enemy. One of my patients describes how she and her friends ate one meal a day all through their senior year in high school, squeezing each other’s hands in support, so they could fit into tiny little prom dresses in June. Another remembers coming home and lambasting herself if she ate more than half a yogurt container for lunch. Often adolescence for girls is the entry into what may become a lifetime of self-loathing, all for wanting and needing to do something that is a vital necessity — eat!

Our society has few rituals in place to make teen-aged girls feel comfortable with their emerging curves and hormonal surges. As a result, a girl’s burgeoning body, her promise of fertility and womanhood, can feel threatening—more so to herself and her parents than anyone else. And if a woman never finds a way to feel comfortable with her grown-up shape, either through romantic love or emotional work, this discomfort parlays into an ongoing struggle with food and self-esteem.

SS Woman Binge EatingEating disorders aren’t the exclusive domain of young women. In their book, Runaway Eating, Cynthia Bulik and Nadine Taylor help clarify why huge numbers of women in their 40’s and early 50’s now find themselves coping with midlife stress through unhealthful eating patterns, including binge eating, yo-yo dieting, calorie restriction and compulsive exercise. While a woman at this age may not consider herself anorexic because she eats regularly, her obsession with maintaining control (and not just of her food intake) can be just as destructive. Emotional attachment to ritualized denial — of food, of pleasure, of money, of rest, of sex — is anorexia in another guise. It is an effort to erase a part of yourself or your life that weakens your sense of control.

And women aren’t the only ones doing the erasing. Just look at what has happened to dress sizes in the past 40 years — for those of you who still sew, you know your pattern is really a “12” even though designers are sewing size “6” labels into your clothes these days. And what’s with size “0,” “00” and “000” anyway? Do women need to fully disappear to be truly attractive?

At least 80% of the patients I see have some form of emotional issues with food — and what I’ve learned over the years is that most of them grew up in dysfunctional families. If you see yourself among the ranks of these women, it may reassure you that you don’t have to suffer alone — you are part of a wide continuum, at either end of which lie extreme over-eaters and under-eaters — and just by reading this article you are taking another step toward healing.

So now that you know that age has nothing to do with an emotional attachment to food, let me assure you that it has nothing to do with your level of education or socioeconomic bracket, either. What does vary among emotional eaters is how an individual has learned to respond to stress. Some women become hyper-responsible or obsessive-compulsive, and use food as a form of control over themselves or others. Others are sensate types and cope by taking it all in, learning to soothe and stuff their feelings with food. In every case, though, what we’re talking about is preoccupying yourself with food to prevent yourself from feeling unwanted feelings — including but not limited to the big ones: pain, despair, and shame.

The Gluten Spectrum – From Sensitivities to Celiac Disease

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

There is tremendous confusion around the term gluten sensitivities vs. actual celiac disease, and generally, conventional medicine continues to ignore the diagnosis of gluten sensitivity. In the standard community, the advice given to patients with celiac disease is to be strictly gluten-free for life, while those with a sensitivity may just cut back and reintroduce it again later, and having it in smaller amounts is also considered acceptable. From my perspective and that of many of my functional medicine colleagues, the line between the two is not so distinct. Imagine that celiac lies on one end of the spectrum and gluten sensitivity falls at the other end and of course there are many degrees in between. And even a mild sensitivity to gluten, it is now understood, may (depending on the circumstances), develop into something more significant such as full-blown celiac symptoms.

Celiac disease is most often associated with significant anatomical changes within the lining of the gut, specifically the small intestines. A wide range of symptoms can be present before a diagnosis and there is always presence of certain antibodies in the blood, particularly antiendomysial, and anti–tissue transglutaminase antibodies. For many years the gold standard to obtain a positive diagnosis was to obtain an intestinal biopsy. The more damage and irritation to the gut, the more likely the antibodies would be elevated. But what has become more apparent is that not everyone with gluten sensitivity had dramatic changes, and of more interest is that modern medicine has still not done a very good job of testing and accurately diagnosing this condition.

Recent studies have reported that about 46% of celiac patients are actually misdiagnosed, and many of them, especially those with “classic” GI symptoms, 59% are told they have some form of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS.  The best part of all of this is that more sensitive tests have been and are being developed. In the works is a saliva test which you can do at home to check for antibodies associated with gluten sensitivity. As always, knowing early on that you are reacting to gluten can go a long way to prevent damage to your intestine, from constant exposure to repeated gluten, as well as negative effects elsewhere in the body.

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Gluten-associated Disorders

Autoimmune disorders are ten times more likely in celiac patients than in the general population.

Here are some common ones:

  •  Type 1 (autoimmune) diabetes
  •  Thyroid disease
  •  Addison’s disease
  •  Cardiomyopathy
  •  Sjögren’s syndrome
  •  Autoimmune liver disease
  •  Osteoporosis
  •  Rheumatoid arthritis
  •  Hair loss

Although until recently there was no understanding of the term gluten sensitivity, it is now more frequently identified and accepted today because of its prevalence. There is even an insurance code for the diagnosis.

Up to 30 percent of the population carries a genetic predisposition to gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. This causes an inflammatory/autoimmune response in your gut when you are exposed to gluten. Gluten is an antigenic protein found in many grains that are part of the wheat family and includes other grains such as rye and barley.

Laboratory and Diagnostic Testing for Celiac Disease

  •  Three-month trial of gluten elimination
  •  Celiac panel
  •  Anti-deaminated gliadin IgG and IgA
  •  Anti-gliadin IgG and IgA
  •  IgA anti-endomysium antibody
  •  IgA and IgG anti-transglutaminase ELISA (tTG)
  •  Total IgA (IgA deficiencies ten times more common in CD)
  •  HLA DQ2, DQ8 typing
  •  Intestinal biopsy

Anxiety And Worry In Women – Causes, Symptoms And Natural Relief

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Many women operate in an ever-present state of low anxiety or worry, also called generalized anxiety that may blossom into episodes of full-blown panic attacks, phobia or anxiety disorders during times of psychological stress or biological change — like menopause.

A majority of my patients with chronic anxiety are so accustomed to living with it – often since childhood — that they don’t even mention it until I ask or until they begin perimenopause and their anxiety symptoms worsen.

Anxiety and worry are knots of both emotions and physiology feelings. Most psychologists look at anxiety as purely emotional: the outward sign of repressed negative feelings and inner conflict. But over 30 years of scientific research into severe anxiety disorders and panic attacks has established that all anxiety has a real, physiological cause that is just as important to treat — especially for relief of anxiety related to hormonal imbalance.

This is good news. It means that anxiety symptoms that were once dismissed as character flaws (think of the terms “worry wart”, “head case” and “control freak”) are not feelings you just have to live with or medicate when they get too severe for you to function. There’s a lot more to the story — and a lot that you can do to get that monkey of anxiety off your back.

What is anxiety?

Everyone experiences anxiety or feels panicky from time to time: the shaky knees and thudding heart, the shortness of breath, and the mind going a million miles per minute. Part of what keeps us alive is our ability to feel fear. In fact, we are made with a kind of built-in alarm system that brings the full weight of our mental and physical prowess to bear in the face of danger — the “fight or flight” response.

The limbic system, the parts of the brain responsible for orchestrating our emotions, including the fight or flight response, relies on a complicated interplay between neurotransmitters and hormones to fuel the body and mind to deal with a perceived enemy.

What’s not natural is to feel afraid and upset most of the time without any tangible cause. Like our immune response, our fight or flight response is meant to click into action in the face of danger and then rest. But in our day and age, too many of us never get to relax: our minds are perpetually on high alert with the accompanying physical response.

It’s no exaggeration to say there is an epidemic of anxiety. Over 19 million American adults and millions of children have anxiety disorders ranging from mild to severe. And the statistics only count the people reporting their anxiety symptoms to doctors. I know from my practice that there are many more on the mild to moderate scale who feel reluctant or even ashamed to admit their anxiety.

Our culture tells us that feelings of fear, vulnerability, and even shyness are signs of weakness — which makes anxiety the fault of the victim. Women are taught from childhood to “grin and bear it.” The people who accuse us of medicalizing anxiety are not being helpful. The truth is that telling women to suffer through anxiety is just as terrible as telling them that drugs are the only remedy for anxiety and panic attacks. Neither is correct.

Let’s start by looking at the major types and symptoms of anxiety and then examine the real roots of anxiety. That’s where we’ll find solutions.

Severe anxiety disorders

Severe panic and anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobias, and stress disorders affect only a small minority of anxiety sufferers.

Severe anxiety disorders are highly treatable but require medical diagnosis. If you think you may be experiencing any of these disorders, contact your healthcare practitioner right away. Different approaches that include drugs and cognitive-behavioral therapies (such as exposure therapy) are proving to be very successful.

One hot topic of study is the connection between anxiety disorders and genetics, because anxiety disorders clearly run in families. At Women to Women, we think genes are a factor in some anxiety disorders, but generally not the most important factor. More often than not, anxious women grew up in anxious households. Anxiety is usually a learned behavior that can be unlearned — even when it’s severe. We’ll return to this topic after we explore generalized anxiety disorder, which affects many more women than the severe anxiety disorders.

Adrenal Imbalance And Insomnia

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Our internal clocks can be disrupted by ongoing stress of almost any kind – and women today have ongoing stress of all kinds.

In times of chronic unrelenting stress, women can experience adrenal dysfunction and eventually become cortisol dominant. High cortisol can actually change our normal sleep cycling and reduce the amount of restorative (REM) sleep you experience.

One of the first things to do is to look at what is really causing stress in your life – is it a family member? Too much to do in a day? Chronic dieting? Your job? Sometimes writing things down help bring them into your awareness and then you can start to problem solve.

The good news is the that once you have identified this type of insomnia pattern, there are steps you can take to restore your normal rhythm! Remember that insomnia is a symptom of what else is going on in your life.

  • Eat well! I recommend that women eat three meals and two snacks per day. This helps keep blood sugar levels stable – putting less of a burden on your body. Consider reducing or eliminating sugar, caffeine and alcohol from your diet.
  • Exercise mindfully. If you don’t exercise, consider starting a regime so that your body feels physically tired. Pick something you enjoy – walking, dancing, biking, yoga – anything that feels good to you!
  • Consider adrenal testing. Talk with a qualified healthcare professional.
  • Try herbs and nutrients that support sleep naturally. Taking a magnesium and calcium supplement before bed can be very helpful for some women. Chamomile, valerian and passion flower have been used for a long time to support sleep.
  • Establish a bedtime routine. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – and remember that we need seven to nine hours sleep a night. Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed.

While insomnia can be frustrating for many women, there are ways to regain your sleep – try some of our easy steps. You may be surprised at the difference just a change or two makes!

Adrenal Feeling Wired Nutritional Supplement System

Hypothyroid Symptoms

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Hypothyroid Symptoms Woman Touching ThroatHypothyroidism is the medical term for a sluggish thyroid. It can lead to a wide range of hypothyroidism symptoms:

  •  Severe fatigue, loss of energy
  •  Weight gain, difficulty losing weight
  •  Depression and depressed mood
  •  Joint and muscle pain, headaches
  •  Dry skin, brittle nails
  •  Brittle hair, itchy scalp, hair loss
  •  Irregular periods, PMS symptoms
  •  Breast milk formation
  •  Calcium metabolism difficulties
  •  Difficulty tolerating cold and lower body temperature
  •  Constipation
  •  Sleeping more than average
  •  Diminished sex drive
  •  Puffiness in face and extremities
  •  Hoarseness
  •  Bruising/clotting problems
  •  Elevated levels of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and heightened risk of heart disease
  •  Allergies that suddenly appear or get worse
  •  Persistent cold sores, boils, or breakouts
  •  Tingling sensation in wrists and hands that mimics carpal tunnel syndrome
  •  Memory loss, fuzzy thinking, difficulty following conversation or train of thought
  •  Slowness or slurring of speech

Subclinical hypothyroidism may present itself with mild versions of these hypothyroid symptoms, or often just fatigue or depression. Hypothyroidism often occurs along with insulin resistance, and these two conditions share some similar symptoms.

Hypothyroid Symptoms Enlarged Goiter Woman DoctorIn some cases, hypothyroidism leads to a goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid sufficient to be externally visible. The gland enlarges to try to compensate for its sluggish production. Goiters can also result from an overactive thyroid, called hyperthyroidism. In this case, the gland enlarges in response to attacks by antibodies, which are triggered by the thyroid’s overproduction.

It’s important to note that without treatment or relief of the underlying causes of hypothyroidism, the symptoms will generally worsen over time, eventually resulting in permanent damage.

In the most extreme cases, such as Hashimoto’s disease, the body forms antibodies to its own thyroid gland, creating permanently low thyroid function.

For more information, read our numerous articles on this topic in our Thyroid Health section of our Health Library.

Thyroid Health Nutritional Supplement System

How Can You Feel Good With Early Menopause

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Menopause is a time of life that many women dread. They hear horror stories about it’s symptoms, including weight gain, insomnia, mood swings, and vaginal dryness, all that can be quite bothersome. This is especially true for women experiencing early menopause. If you are between 40 and 45 and are beginning this life shift much sooner than you expected, you may be upset and concerned, and rightfully so.

But while menopause does create many challenges for women, there are also many remedies. When we pay attention to our symptoms, we have taken the first step in correcting them.

Menopause Nutritional Supplement

Signs of early menopause

In early menopause estrogen levels can rapidly decline causing symptoms to appear suddenly, feel severe, and last longer. Here are some telltale signs you are in early menopause.

  •  You are between the ages of 40-45
  •  You experienced an absence of periods for a full 12 months.
  •  You may be suffering from common symptoms including hot flashes, headaches, weight gain, depression, insomnia, mood swings, fuzzy thinking or fatigue.

For most women in early menopause, addressing the hormonal imbalance is the first step to finding relief from physical and even emotional symptoms.

Understanding the difference in types of menopause

There are many terms to describe the different stages of the menopause cycle, which makes it confusing for women who just want to understand why they are not feeling like themselves. These phases are all physiologically different, but the symptoms can feel similar.

Perimenopause is a transition easily confused with menopause that can last for several years. This phase presents similar symptoms to menopause that gradually increase, including fatigue, irritability, mood swings, and weight gain. The difference is that women in perimenopause continue to have periods, although they may be irregular. When you do not have a period for 12 months, you have entered menopause.

Early menopause occurs in women between the ages of 40 and 45, and occurs naturally, in other words, is not medically or surgically initiated.

Premature ovarian failure (POF) occurs when the ovaries slow or stop production of mature eggs and reproductive hormones before age 40. Between 5 and 10 percent of women diagnosed with POF actually go on become pregnant without any medical intervention.

Surgical menopause is a result of a hysterectomy, oophorectomy (removal of ovaries,) and other pelvic surgeries. Ablations, procedures to remove the lining of the uterus, can mimic menopause by stopping menstrual periods.

Medical menopause may occur after medical treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and during the course of various drug regimens. A common one is tamoxifen, used primarily to prevent the reoccurrence of breast cancer.

No matter what stage or type of menopause you may be experiencing, any abrupt change in your symptoms necessitates a visit to your health care provider. This is especially true if you think you are in early menopause or premature ovarian failure.

Possible cause of early menopause

When many of my patients learn they are in premature menopause they ask, “why me?” Symptoms often catch them by surprise, and they worry about what may have caused it, or what it means for their future. We don’t have all the answers about what causes early menopause, but we do know there are some definitive factors.

Genes: Women with a family history of premature menopause are 60 percent more likely to experience it themselves.

Also, events that occur in utero while a female’s ovaries are developing may result in a smaller number of egg-producing cells, which can then shorten a woman’s reproductive lifespan.

Environment: Toxins in our environment may be contributing to reproductive changes found in both women and men, although scientists have yet to uncover the exact causes.

Lifestyle: These factors are associated with early menopause

  •  Poor nutrition and poverty.
  •  Smoking increases your risk of early menopause by 30 percent.
  •  Alcohol may contribute to entering the phases of menopause at an earlier age, although not necessarily as “early menopause”.
  •  Medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can initiate menopause earlier than usual.

Studies show that oral contraceptives however, may actually reduce your risk for early menopause.

Relief for the symptoms of early menopause

Our estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels are constantly shifting throughout our life, and that’s normal. But as we age, the fluctuations and ratios between these hormones can become more extreme. When the body cannot regulate these shifts in hormone levels, women can experience common symptoms of menopause, including night sweats, hot flashes, food cravings, and fatigue.

But by approaching these symptoms naturally, balance can be restored, and both the frequency and severity of symptoms will improve. Here’s how.

Nutrients provided by both a diet consisting of healthy, whole foods, along with nutritional supplements can help restore balance at the cellular level.

Herbal remedies can help balance the fluctuations in hormone levels. A functional medicine provider can work with you to determine exactly what herbs you need to help your specific imbalances.

Lifestyle changes including removing environmental toxins, getting proper sleep, and reducing chronic stress can help reduce the symptoms associated with early menopause.

All of these changes can effectively and proactively help you reduce your risk for diseases as well, especially of the heart and bones.

Health concerns with early menopause

Our sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone,) are beneficial in the years leading up to menopause, by offering protection against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. To continue protecting against these health issues, talk with your healthcare practitioner about your risks, and consider adding the following steps to your daily routine.

Support your bones by adding more Vitamin D. This inexpensive supplement can help bones stay strong and resilient.

Tend to your heart. Studies show that women who go through menopause before age 46 are twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease or have a stroke. Proper nutrition, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking are the top three ways to help protect our hearts. But there are other ways to lower our risk for heart-related health conditions.

High quality omega-3 supplements can nourish our cardiovascular system.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may also be appropriate to address any long term health risks associated with early menopause.

Many women choose natural methods to support their bodies as they go through the stages of menopause, and beyond. If you work with a health practitioner and are committed to making appropriate long term adjustments, you can transition through menopause with relative ease, and keep it from impacting your overall health.

Emotional impact of early menopause

Menopause is certainly a milestone for most women. But the impact of early menopause can be quite dramatic. It can cause a shift in a younger woman’s sense of identity, making her feel powerless, and older than her age. Some women even feel they have lost their womanhood (a common feeling among many women going through menopause.)

The reality for women going through early menopause who chose to wait to become pregnant can be very painful. The path to motherhood is not always what we plan, but that does not mean we will never be mothers. I encourage my patients who are experiencing early menopause to seek additional emotional support if needed, to help work through some of the emotions associated with its arrival.

Menopause can be a time of reflection and insight. It does not prompt you to let go of the past, only to honor it and to shift the way you think about your life. When you have natural supports in place to relieve the physical symptoms of menopause, your emotional health will not suffer. In fact, you may actually welcome this change wholeheartedly, embracing the next phase of life.

Type 3 Diabetes

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

We have all heard about diabetes and how prevalent it is becoming in our country, especially Type 2. This condition, although commonly called “adult-onset diabetes”, actually affects people of all ages, and is connected to a diet high in sugar, lack of exercise, and even some environmental factors. But just recently, researchers have revealed another type of diabetes similar to Type 2 that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists are now saying Alzheimer’s and dementia may actually be a form of diabetes, known as Type 3 diabetes. This is a huge discovery!

Nearly every day in my practice I come across patients who are on their way to developing insulin resistance, a pre-cursor to diabetes. Because the symptoms may be minimal at first, many people do not even know they have it. We are proactive when it comes to checking blood sugar levels, and we always encourage our patients to eat nutritiously, exercise, and curb chronic stress. But now we have evidence that these factors are more important than ever in preventing a number of diseases, including the recently identified Type 3 diabetes. The good news is, we can virtually stop this disease before it even starts. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture.

What is Type 3 diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to make adequate amounts of insulin, a hormone released to help cells absorb glucose (also known as blood sugar), providing us with energy. Diabetes is divided into categories, and each characterized by its own set of circumstances.

Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults and cannot be corrected with diet or a change in lifestyle. Type 1 is genetically predetermined, and requires daily insulin injections to balance glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes happens when the cells cannot identify or absorb the insulin put out by the pancreas, and usually occurs with obesity, and/or a strong family history of diabetes. The good news is that in its earlier stages, Type 2 is easier to manage with diet and lifestyle modifications.

With Type 3 diabetes, the researchers at Brown Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital discovered that insulin is not only released from the pancreas, but also the brain. This opens a whole new perspective on both diabetes and Alzheimer’s – the progressive degenerative disorder causing loss of memory, intellectual capacity and even personality changes.

Type 3 diabetes is an extension of Type 1 and Type 2, and follows a similar pathophysiology as Type 2, but in the brain. Insulin is needed to help the neurons in the brain absorb glucose for healthy functioning, and if the cells in the brain become insulin-resistant, it can lead to Alzheimer’s.

This form of dementia worsens over time, eventually impeding daily functioning. Early diagnosis is critical to try to slow down the disease and help maintain quality of life. For many years, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis has been linked to genetics and lifestyle, diet, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The groundbreaking study at Brown not only shows us this common thread, but teaches us that we can actually change the way our brain cells respond by controlling our diets. This is amazing news!

Ways to help prevent Type 3 diabetes

Since the link between diet and diabetes – and now Alzheimer’s – has been established, let’s think about our lifestyle. We live in a country of “super-sized”, easily accessible, processed foods, providing quick energy. High on refined sugar, but low on nutrition, these foods, including processed meats, fast food, donuts, sugary colas, and candy, can actually inhibit cell functioning, leading down a pathway to disease.

Some healthier choices include fresh fruits, green, leafy vegetables, whole grains, high-fiber breads and cereals, fish, nuts, and legumes. A healthy diet lowers our risk of diseases, boosts our immune system, and even helps delay the aging process, not to mention we feel better when we eat right.

In addition to good nutrition, exercise also plays an important role in keeping our cells, and therefore our body, functioning properly. The key here is to do something you enjoy, so you do it consistently. The benefits of exercise are numerous. Not only does it improve our resistance to disease, it helps reduce inflammation associated with disease, sharpen our minds, and keeps all of the systems in our body flowing smoothly.

Reducing our exposure to environmental toxins is also helpful in preventing Type 3 diabetes. We know that cigarette smoke, air and industrial pollutants, and artificial chemicals can pose hazards to our health. Although the studies are fairly new, researchers are also investigating electropollution, or frequent exposure to the energy emitted from electronic devices, as a contributor to this form of diabetes. Since we are almost constantly exposed to technology, how do we combat electropollution? Fresh air. A brisk walk outside has been shown to reduce blood sugar.

At Women to Women, we work with our patients each and every day on the importance of lifestyle balance. We know that obesity, lack of exercise, chronic stress, and not enough sleep can cause a number of health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndromes, risk of stroke, and impaired brain function. We can now add Alzheimer’s to our list of nutrition-modulated, potentially preventable diseases.

I’m excited to learn about this study, as its results may change the course of a disease that impacts not just those who have it, but families, caregivers, and medical providers. When we can control so many of the factors that lead to diseases like Type 3 diabetes, we can become empowered. Imagine being able to not only improve your health span, but do it with a sharp mind and renewed energy.

What Is C Reactive Protein (CRP and hs-CRP)?

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

Inflammation is a quickly becoming recognized in conventional medicine as a key component of serious health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Inflammation is the body’s response to infection. Acute inflammation occurs almost immediately after trauma — from a cut or break, to a heart attack. Chronic inflammation is an ongoing process by which tissue breaks down and is repaired over and over, causing scarring or even tissue destruction. Chronic inflammation is common with autoimmune disorders, when the immune system attacks itself.

Detecting inflammation can be tricky, but a marker called C-reactive protein (CRP), is released into the bloodstream by the liver when inflammation is present, and can be revealed in blood tests. Although doctors and scientists are still uncertain about the specifics around when the test should be done or who should have it, most clinicians use CRP tests to monitor acute inflammation or disorders specifically linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory bowel disease or arthritis.

Cardiovascular risk and CRP

Many things can contribute to low-grade inflammation, including stress levels, nutrition, and environmental exposures. The problem occurs when these ongoing factors create inflammation in the body that potentially leads to serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

In 2003, the American Heart Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (AHA/CDC) published their recommendations on the clinical use of CRP testing. They established levels of cardiovascular risk by assigning CRP values as follows:

Low risk: less than 1.0 mg/L
Average risk: 1.0-3.0 mg/L
High risk: above 3.0 mg/L

But the AHA/CDC also said that these values are only useful as an independent marker for risk of cardiovascular disease and should not be used as a screening tool or to track treatment. It is my experience as a functional medicine practitioner that CRP is a very important marker, especially for preventative intervention. When I have a patient whose CRP is over 1 mg/L, I recommend lifestyle changes to help manage and reduce inflammation. I also recommend an hs-CRP test, or high-sensitivity CRP. This test in my opinion is critical to help determine more accurate CRP levels.

A recent worldwide study revealed that people with high levels of hs-CRP benefit from the use of a common statin drug that can help reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. My hope is that this study will encourage all practitioners to test for hs-CRP, but instead of simply writing a prescription for a statin, actually investigate and address the underlying causes of inflammation.

If CRP or hs-CRP is elevated, there are many things that we can do to help temper inflammation and the risk of inflammation-related disease before beginning a lifelong course of prescription medication. The first place I check is the digestive system, the seat of a healthy immune system. Simple changes in diet can improve digestion and change CRP levels for the better. There are also anti-inflammatory spices that can be used in cooking, such as turmeric, ginger, and other Indian spices that may help reduce CRP.

Although this is a fairly new path in conventional medicine, inflammation has always been considered a high priority in my practice. For more information about inflammation and natural approaches for reducing it, see my many articles in our Inflammation section.