What’s New! – A Healthy Living Newsletter
My patients frequently ask my opinion
about new health books on the market. And there's certainly no shortage
of experts peddling their advice! While many of these books are excellent,
others are written by people who don't have a clinical background in the
subject. Simply put - they're inaccurate.
The people writing the books either don't regularly use the medicines
they write about or they're presenting theories as if they are facts.
Others can be valuable tools for improving the quality of your life.
If you find this newsletter useful, please forward it to a friend!
Hormone Replacement Therapy -
Yes or No
How to make an informed decision about
Estrogen, Progesterone & other Strategies for Dealing with APMS,
Menopause and Osteoporosis
By Betty Kamen
Dr. Kamen set out to write an impartial comprehensive
assessment of the medical research on HRT. But she couldn't. Much to her
surprise, by the time she had finished researching, she had become a full-fledged
opponent to any form of synthetic hormone therapy. She came to view the
current barrage of synthetic hormones as part of the problem, rather than
the solution to the symptoms of PMS, fibroids, endometriosis, menopause
and osteoporosis. For example, hormone replacement therapy for menopause
does reduce symptoms, but the medical research is no longer supporting
its benefits to the heart or bones. In fact, a recently published report
(April 2002) from the NIH (National Institute of Health) offered one of
the strongest statements yet questioning the use of HRT - especially in
terms of its alleged ability to protect the heart and bones.
Kamen starts off with a brief history lesson of the relatively new (last
hundred years) symptom pictures of hormonal irregularities. Linking it
to changes in our dietary habits, increased personal stress and environmental
changes, Kamen explains in much-needed detail, how all these changes affect
our hormones. For example, our body's response to the injected hormones
into our meat (whether Big Macs or boneless chicken) and prodigious amounts
of daily consumption of dairy, as well as the direct hormonal effect of
insecticides and pesticides significantly imbalances females' hormones.
This leads to fibroids, endometriosis, PMS, etc. She follows this with
the body's response to synthetic hormones verses to natural hormones.
"Estradiol, (one type of estrogen) enhances vulnerability to schizophrenia."
Synthetic progesterone has adverse effects on those with diabetes and
high triglycerides; the natural form doesn't. "The difference between
natural and synthetic progesterone is not unlike the difference between
leather and vinyl car seats. They may look the same, but just wait till
you get into the car on a hot day!" Which leads me to my next point
about this book. It's not an easy book to read, but Kamen writes well.
Often, I wished she would have gone into more detail, but I was pleased
that she covered so many important issues - for example, the stress/thyroid/female
hormonal complaint connection.
"The healthier your adrenals (stress hormone) are, the less opt you
are to suffer common menopause complaints of depression, sweating, vaginal
hot flashes and wakeful nights." Many women seek help
for the symptoms, but don't address the cause - and end up taking hormones
that may be increasing their risk of stroke and cancer. Think of the thyroid
as a barometer of our ability to deal with stress. No wonder there are
so many cases of hyper and hypothyroidism in women.
Similarly, Kamen tackles osteoporosis in one of the best encapsulated
forms of great information I have ever read. Dieting, skipping meals,
drinking coffee, cigarettes and inactivity adversely effect bones. Antacids,
tetracycline, laxatives, diuretics, long acting sedatives, and other drugs
impede calcium absorption. Some forms of calcium, (citrates, hydroxyapetites,
and aspartates) are significantly better absorbed than others. And don't
take calcium alone; it needs other nutrients to protect our bones. Also,
with a good diet - that Kamen describes in wonderful detail, the conventional
1500mg medical recommendation is excessive and may lead to additional
problems. Further, Kamen suggests that you ask your dentist the results
of your mandibular bone density portion of your dental x-rays. The mandibular
bone density correlates to bone density elsewhere, particularly, in the
Another feature of this book I really like is her pithy interjections
of interesting, though generally extraneous facts. For example, the age
of onset of menopause is significantly earlier in left-handed women verses
right-handed. And "those with prematurely gray hair (norm is 50%
gray by 40) are much more likely to develop osteoporosis." "Complete
dentures are required by 44% osteoporotic patients before the age of 60."
Hormonal Replacement Therapy, Yes or No is a great book in most ways.
Maybe that's why it has been reprinted so many times. It's important to
read the research questioning the safety of decades of primarily synthetic
estrogen medication. And that's exactly what Kamen does for the first
200 pages. However, in the last 50 pages, Kamen pushes long-term use of
"natural progesterone" and in particular, a patented solution
of topical natural progesterone in a compound of herbs and vitamins. While
this is a major step forward for the conventional medical community, I'm
concerned that in 20 years, there will be a new book stating the obvious
that except in infrequent cases, "long-term hormonal therapy of any
form can be dangerous and should be avoided".
Kamen is a proponent of diet, exercise, herbs and vitamins, but she doesn't
have enough experience with natural medicine to stray too far from conventional
medicine's need for a drug rather than let the body, prodded gently by
natural medicine, do its own job.
And don't expect changes from the pharmaceutical companies as long as
they can make money off of synthetic hormone patients. Because as we all
know by now, natural hormones can't be patented - though if you mix them
with herbs and vitamins in a proprietary blend similar to the product
that Kamen recommends, they can.
Opposing Viewpoints Series
Here's a book that sets out to do one thing and ends
up doing another. Aimed at the young adult age group, Eating Disorders
presents a series of articles about anorexia, binge eating, and bulimia
from multiple points-of-view. The reader hears from the professionals
in the field as well as the people affected by the eating disorders. Of
course, all the experts disagree with each other. Some argue force-feeding
should be allowed. Others question the right of people with anorexia being
allowed to starve themselves to death. One group maintains that the unrealistic
body sizes of actresses and models are the cause of these disorders. While
still another suggests that poor relationships among women with their
fathers is the cause. It goes on and on. However, reading the accounts
of the young women and men with the eating disorders, gives a whole different
vantage point to this topic.
Like the motto of alcoholics, once an anorexic, always an anorexic. And
the comparison with alcohol doesn't stop there. When a person stops eating,
there is more affected than just loss of body weight. One of these changes
is a mental state similar to being intoxicated. The writers refer to it
as a euphoria. Imagine walking around intoxicated without ever having
to worry about a hangover. Couple that with people praising you for the
weight loss. Unlike former alcoholics, cured anorexics seem to remember
the anorexic period as a strong time in their lives of having personal
control. Despite the fact that I have treated and heard about many cases
of eating disorders, I found the accounts in the book fascinating. These
weren't the well-rehearsed reports that one often hears.
Here are the basic statistics on eating disorders in general. One-third
are cured, one-third improve and the last third battle the eating disorder
the rest of their lives. Eight to ten percent are men. Most with eating
disorders are from a middle-to-upper socioeconomic background. For 86%
of those with eating disorders, the onset came by age 20; for 33% it starts
between 11 and 15 years of age.
If you know someone who you think has a eating disorder, there's more
bad news. Insurance companies classify eating disorders, and anorexia
in particular, as a mental disorder. If person's employer didn't contract
to cover mental disorders, then until the person has organ failure or
is close to death and must be hospitalized, there is no coverage. According
to the some of the experts in the book, only once weight is restored to
within 95% of a normal weight range can counseling and medication like
Prozac be effective.
Is this a great book? No. I found it annoying that the editors asked the
reader questions on each chapter. However, it's extremely easy to read
and would help anyone who suspects a friend or family member of having
an eating disorder, understand the thought process of that person. I wouldn't
suggest sharing the book with impressionable and perhaps slightly overweight
young people. That's how at least one person in the book started. "Gee,
I could do that. The woman in the story just let it get out of hand."
Instead, it's a good starting point for adults who are concerned - and
who don't want to be bogged down with a more technical text. Hopefully,
it will tell that adult that eating disorders are more an outward manifestation
of depression and need for acceptance and confidence building than a desire
to lose weight.
DASH Diet for Hypertension
Lower Your Blood Pressure in 14 Days - Without
Thomas Moore, MD, Laura Svetkey, MD, Pao-Hwa Lin, PhD, Njeri Karanja,
PhD with Mark Jenkins
The NIH (National Institute of Health), funded by the
US government, collected a group of prestigious medical researchers and
scientists to find out if eating a healthier diet would decrease high
blood pressure. And guess what they found out? It does. At first glance,
the whole study seems superfluous and obvious. However, the study tackles
some really important questions. Why does food work consistently better
than simply taking the individual nutrients in pill form? How much can
diet alone help with hypertension? And can a diet be flexible and good-tasting
enough to have compliance among hypertension patients?
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet centers on a 2
year study. A group of participants were separated into 3 groups. The
first ate a typical American diet, the second ate the same as the first
group with additional fruit and vegetables; while the third group consumed
only the DASH diet. "The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables,
and low-fat dairy products; moderate in fish, poultry, and nuts; and reduced
in red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened drinks."
At the end of the two years, the results were tallied. Typically, blood
pressure is measured in 2 parts. The systolic blood pressure, or first
number, reflects the blood pressure in the arteries as the heart is working
the hardest pumping out blood; while the diastolic blood pressure, the
second number, indicates blood pressure when the heart is at rest. As
expected, the first group with the typical American diet didn't see a
change in blood pressure. The second group had a significant change in
the systolic portion of their blood pressure. While the DASH diet participants
significantly decreased both their diastolic and systolic blood pressures.
These changes occurred within two weeks of starting the diet and were
maintained as long as the diet was maintained. In those with hypertension,
the DASH diet decreased systolic blood pressure an average of 11.4 points,
and the diastolic blood pressure 5.5 points. This decrease is comparable
to conventional medications.
This is great news for those with moderately high-normal blood pressure,
i.e. those with blood pressure in the 140/90 range. It will bring them
back into a healthier state. But for those with blood pressures around
160/95 or higher, this diet may help them decrease their medications but
it will not completely resolve the high blood pressure. Exercise should
be added to their regime.
The DASH diet is a nice compromise diet. It has too much dairy and too
few beans to be extremely healthy, but it is a do-able diet for most Americans.
Also, there is no emphasis on the quality of the food. But the recipes
are good. Even the names of the dishes sound great: "Vermont Roast
with Brown Mustard", "New Orleans Red Beans and Rice" and
Dave's Cajun Catfish". The decreased salt will be hard for most,
but they do try very hard to increase the flavor of the foods. Even better,
the book tells you how to eat out and maintain the diet.
The DASH Diet for Hypertension is an easy-to-read and very practical book.
It's not earth-shattering news for natural medicine practitioners, but
it's nice to see it in print with a formidable host of well-credentialed
scientists supporting it. And while this study may seem like US tax dollars
being wasted, as the results were so predictable, if it helps physicians
encourage their patients to change their diet to a healthier one, it's
worth every penny.
One of the most important things you can do for your
health is to take 20 minutes a day and meditate -- relax, listen to classical
music, do tai chi, sit near a quiet brook, take a hot bath or engage in
joyous prayer, not beseeching prayer.
I'm oversimplifying things here, but our bodies alternate between the sympathetic
(fight or flight) autonomic nervous system and the parasympathetic (steady
state) nervous systems. Meditation helps bring our bodies into the steady
state during which tissues heal and rebuild. This is particularly important
for chronic illness brought on by excessive stress. As long as we stay in
the coffee-laded, overstressed state of fight-or-flight, our bodies heal
much slower and the tissues continue to degenerate.
A drop of lavender essential oil on your pillowcase
will help you or your child to sleep better. But remember, only one drop.
Essential oils are very strong and can cause harm in large doses.
To all the local readers, our office is now located at 11825 SW Greenburg
Rd., Ste A2, Tigard, Or. 97223. Our phone number will remain the same.
2002 Dr. Suzanne C. Lawton, LLC