Virginia Hopkins Health Watch - Vol 3, Issue 5
& Nutrition News,
Drug Watch and More...
IN THIS ISSUE
Say Good-bye to Painful Menstrual Cramps by C.W. Randolph, M.D.
Just Say No to Prescription Drugs
Case in Point: Avandia
Resources for Managing Diabetes Naturally
Lybrel Stops Periods Indefinitely—the Next Big Experiment on Women
Iron for Restless Legs
Recently I was talking with my dear friend Dr. Bob Gottesman, who has just retired from his decades-long family medical practice. Along with being one of the first doctors to truly embrace and understand Dr. John Lee’s pioneering work with natural hormones, Dr. Gottesman took the time to listen to his patients and thoughtfully guide them towards better health, often helping them make profound emotional and spiritual transformations in the process. We were discussing how he knew what his patients needed, and he said that on some level they already know what they need.
'Tis a Gift to be Simple
How do people know what they need? Dr. Gottesman explained that healing usually has to do with making seemingly simple changes in diet, exercise, sleep, stress management and relationships—the basics. These are the hardest things to change, and the ones we resist the most, yet they yield the biggest dividends with the least risk.
“In other words, we already know what we need to do to get better?” I asked.
“We already know,” he replied, and suggested we can ask ourselves the following simple questions:
What’s out of balance with
Relationships, including the one with yourself
Since the basic changes are the hardest to make, we often avoid what we already know by searching out a new pill or potion—why attempt difficult changes if we can pop a pill instead? It’s a normal response. Dr. Gottesman said he would frequently give his patients a new pill or potion if that’s what they needed to interrupt a pattern or get enough relief to be able to focus inward. “It’s not the intermittent sugar binges that get us,” he explained, “it’s the chronic ones. The body can handle stress now and then, but it can’t handle unrelenting stress.
“Sometimes,” he said, “what people need is as simple as a good feedback loop. I had a lady come in who was overdosing on sugar. She knew that was her problem but was locked in a kind of addictive behavior. I gave her a glucose meter, showed her how high her glucose was, and asked her to take the meter home and make the numbers go down. Almost immediately she was able to change because she could clearly see the effects of her behavior.
“The body is clamoring to get well, and deep down we know what we need, but our attempts at getting there may be tweaked or maladaptive, like a pregnant woman eating pickles. Or let’s say deep down someone feels a lack of joy and in response picks up bungee jumping because the adrenaline feeds the lack. Appropriate or inappropriate, it’s an attempt to get well.”
Thank you Dr. Gottesman, for your words of wisdom. The gifted healers listen carefully and help us listen to ourselves. When we humbly and lovingly ask ourselves the simple questions, and answer sincerely, we can get closer to the truth. That’s when the real healing begins.
Dr. C.W. Randolph is another doctor who early on understood Dr. John Lee’s message about natural hormones and incorporated it into his already very busy Ob/Gyn practice. Over the years he fought for his right to use natural hormones with Premarin drug reps who threatened him, his hospital review board, and skeptical colleagues. I’m happy to say his practice is busier than ever, the drug reps are banished from his office, and most of his colleagues have been won over. Here he shares with us his approach to treating menstrual cramps.
If you are a woman over 30 years of age and experience painful menstrual cramping, you could very well be suffering from an underlying condition of estrogen dominance. It has been estimated that as many as 30 to 50 percent of all women suffer from pain during their menstrual period. Menstrual cramping or pain is the result of contractions of the uterus and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, headache, or lightheadedness. There can be several causes of menstrual cramping including an underlying hormonal imbalance, a uterus that is out of optimal position, or a disease in the uterus such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroid tumors or a problem with an intrauterine device.
Estrogen Dominance: The Underlying Culprit
For our purposes here, I am going to focus on an underlying hormonal imbalance—specifically the condition of estrogen dominance—as the causative agent. Why? Because I see thousands of women each year in my gynecological practice and, for nine out of ten who complain about menstrual pain, estrogen dominance is the culprit.
The immediate cause of menstrual cramping is that the uterine muscle and the blood vessels that supply the uterus are tight and contracted. Uterine contractions are caused by prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are a natural substance made by the body; uterine prostaglandins cause uterine contractions. Strong uterine contractions cause the blood supply to the uterus to temporarily shutdown, depriving the uterine muscle of oxygen and setting up the cycle of menstrual contractions and pain. Blood circulation and oxygenation to this area are diminished, so the metabolism of the uterus and pelvic muscles is decreased. Waste products of metabolism, such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid, build up, intensifying the pain and discomfort.
This sequence can occur from a woman’s first period. Often I will have a woman tell me that she suffered from menstrual cramping in her teens and early twenties but, after childbearing, she experienced a reprieve. Then, years later, the cramping came back with a vengeance. Let me explain why that can occur.
The Estrogen-Progesterone Dance
You are most likely aware that there is an inner dance between the estrogen and progesterone hormones produced by your ovaries. That dance triggers monthly ovulation and menstrual bleeding. With age, often beginning in a woman’s mid-thirties, there is a shift in the production of these hormones, with progesterone levels declining first. In fact, progesterone levels decline an average of 120 times as rapidly as estrogen levels. This means that the ratio between estrogen and progesterone becomes unbalanced and their dance is disrupted. The result: a condition of estrogen dominance.
Now, as a woman ages she begins to have anovulatory cycles, which simply means menstrual cycles during which her ovaries do not release eggs. When there is no ovulation, the ovaries are not producing any progesterone. When the body’s estrogen levels are dominant and unopposed by progesterone, the estrogen stimulates the endometrial lining to become abnormally thickened. The result can be heavier bleeding, clotting and/or painful menstrual cramps.
What Can You Do?
- First and foremost, balance your hormones. If your estrogen-progesterone dance is out of step, then you probably need to replace your missing progesterone. How can you do that? I recommend transdermal bioidentical progesterone cream.
- Eat a healthy balance diet that is high in zinc, calcium and B vitamins.
- Cut back on your salt, sugar and caffeine intake during the week leading up to your period. Less of these items means less severe menstrual cramps.
- Reach for vitamin E-rich foods such as nuts and legumes two days before your period and throughout the rest of it. According to a recent study published by the University of Minnesota, “Vitamin E inhibits the interior inflammation that cause menstrual cramping.”
- Supplement your diet with 400 IU Vitamin E and 100 mg B6 daily. Do not exceed recommended dosage of these vitamins.
- Supplement with 300 mg Evening Primrose oil which will also reduce cramping caused by prostaglandin contractions.
- Stand up straight and exercise. Good posture and gentle exercise such as walking, yoga and stretching can improve proper circulation to the pelvic region.
Assuming you’re eating well, sleeping well, exercising and tending to your relationships, the next best optimal health step you can take after the age of fifty is to avoid prescription drugs. All prescription drugs—without exception—have side effects. The most common cause of side effects is the simple fact that prescription drugs are highly concentrated and usually not found in nature, so they’re hard on the liver. Once your liver is chronically stressed by taking a drug every day, any other stress you put on it, such as exposure to toxins (think car exhaust, paint fumes, pesticides, excess alcohol etc) can compromise your health. As we age, the liver loses some of its efficiency, so prescription drugs add insult to aging.
Once you start mixing drugs the side effects multiply and magnify. Side effects can be subtle at first, and you may not attribute them to the drug you’re taking. Common examples include mild symptoms of:
- Muscle weakness
- A bit of dizziness when you first stand up
- Trouble thinking clearly
- Uncharacteristic depression
I’m convinced that millions of Americans over the age of fifty are tired, weak, depressed and mentally dulled out because of prescription drug side effects, and yet are blaming it on aging. Yes, aging can have all those effects on us, but prescription drugs can advance and accelerate the process.
There are times in all our lives when we need a quick patch or remedy for a few days or a few weeks, but the minute your doctor suggests that you need to be taking a drug every day indefinitely, the hairs on the back of your neck should stand up. That would be a good time to ask the simple questions mentioned above.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported this week that an analysis of dozens of studies on the most commonly prescribed Type 2 diabetes drug, Avandia, show that it dramatically increases the risk of heart attack and death in those who take it.
This is just the next FDA-approved drug in a long series that is proving to be dangerous. Obviously FDA drug approval is meaningless.
The good news is that almost all mild to moderate Type 2 diabetes can be very well controlled with diet and exercise, and there are plenty of dietary supplements that can help control blood sugar. The research on this is abundant and clear. Granted, changing diet and exercise habits is much more difficult than popping a pill, but if the pill is going to kill you, then isn’t it worth it to make some fundamental changes?
Ironically, just last fall the FDA was patting itself on the back for going after websites that offer natural approaches to controlling diabetes, so online resources are hard to find at the moment.
Now I’m not saying to just willy nilly go off a diabetes drug—that would be dangerous. The ideal is to find a health care professional who will help you, step by step, make the changes needed. My list of Doctors Who Use Natural Hormones can help you get started on finding a health care professional who is open to natural approaches to controlling diabetes.
Wyeth, the giant pharmaceutical company that brought us the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) known as PremPro, which likely has killed and injured tens of thousands of women, has just launched Lybrel, another risky and unproven drug that is both a form of birth control and will stop women’s periods indefinitely. We already have drugs that are approved for stopping periods for a few months, so stopping periods indefinitely was the inevitable next step. The biggest reason women dropped out of the studies on the drug was breakthrough bleeding, and in many of the test subjects, it took up to a year to totally stop periods.
I know, I know, if you’re young and in a hurry, and especially if you have PMS, not having periods sounds like heaven. No muss, no fuss and contraception that requires no attention.
Here’s the bottom line: the long term consequences of not having periods has been poorly tested and we really do not know whether it's safe. Remember, the synthetic hormones found in chemical birth control are the same or very similar to the HRT drugs that—after 30 years of poorly studied use—were found to cause breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and gallbladder disease.
A woman’s body cannot adequately produce its own hormones without menstrual periods, and the synthetic hormones found in chemical birth control are no substitute. Hormones affect every part of the body: the nervous system, bones, brain, skin, digestion, fertility and sex drive just for starters.
Women who choose to take chemical birth control drugs that stop their periods should clearly understand that they are guinea pigs, part of a giant experiment, and the long term consequences for them are unknown.
Here's a collection of articles I've written over the years about chemical contraception: What Every Woman Should Know about Birth Control.
One of the most common causes of restless legs syndrome (RLS), which seems to have been forgotten amongst the soothing TV drug ads for it, is anemia, or iron deficiency. In fact, restless legs can be one of the first symptoms of iron deficiency and it may show up before a blood test for serum iron even shows it. (A test for serum ferritin may very well show a deficiency.)
Researchers at Harvard studied brain tissue from seven people with RLS who donated their brains for research on the disorder. While the scientists found no evidence of brain damage, they did find that iron levels in some parts of the brain were extremely low and that there were few receptors for transferrin, a substance that shuttles iron into cells.
The solution isn’t as simple as taking an iron supplement, which you can read about in this article by Dr. John Lee, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Iron and Anemia. The best dietary source of iron, because it’s the easiest for the body to absorb, is red meat.
Another approach may be to take a lactoferrin supplement. Lactoferrin is a protein that enhances iron absorption. Jarrow has a good lactoferrin supplement, and you can also get it by taking a colostrum supplement.
Connor JR, Boyer PJ et al, “Neuropathological examination suggests impaired brain iron acquisition in restless legs syndrome,” Neurology 2003;61:304-309.
Fisher JL, Devraj K et al, “Ferritin – A Novel Mechanism for Delivery of Iron to the Brain and Other Organs.” Am J Physiol Cell Physiol (April 25 2007).
O'Keeffe ST, Gavin K, Lavan JN, “Iron status and restless legs syndrome in the elderly. Age Ageing 1994;23(3):200-3.
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