H is for hormones!

Hormones are the main messengers of the body. They tell the body what to do, how to do it and when. It could be a message that boosts up your energy so you can meet that deadline at work, one that tells your body to release an egg, or one that gets you in the mood for love.  Hormones link one system to another and permit parts of the body to communicate with one another. One hormone greatly impacts another and hormones are in delicate balance.  Once you get to the root cause and fix hormone related problems, health can be dramatically improved.

In this post we’ll go through each hormone, their roles, signs of deficiency or excess and a few treatment options!

Hormones related

Hormones are intricately related.

Cortisol

Our first hormone, cortisol, comes from the adrenal glands and is essential for many metabolic and immune functions. It’s the hormone our body uses to deal with stress and can be chronically elevated due to physical, psychological, chemical or environmental stress.   One of the first things I do with every patient is assess their cortisol.  Are you someone whose tired in the morning and has a tough time getting going? Do you get wired at night if you stay up past 10pm? Are you emotionally unstable if you don’t keep your blood sugar controlled with regular meals? Having a tough time losing weight? Suffer from insomnia? These are all signs that your cortisol is out of wack. Naturopathic doctors assess your cortisol two ways and both are important.

Wired and tired

Firstly, we collect urine for 24 hrs to assess total cortisol and its metabolites in your urine.  This tells us if your cortisol is way to high or too low.

Second, we assess the pattern of cortisol through-out the day.  Patients take a salivary sample of cortisol 4 times a day. Saliva is actually a very useful indicator of health since it contains free and therefore active hormones, as compared to hormones in the blood which are bound to receptors.

Normal depicted in green

Normal depicted in green

Cortisol is suppose to be higher in the morning when you wake and then decrease to its lowest concentration at night.

Signs of elevated cortisol

  • Food allergies, environmental sensitivities, muscle and skin breakdown, PMS, diabetes, obesity, mood disorders, chronic fatigue, infertility, bone loss, high estrogen, low progesterone, low growth hormone, aging due to lower levels of the anti-aging hormone DHEA, high blood pressure and poor memory.

If you think you may be a candidate for adrenal testing, take the test below.

http://www.diagnostechs.com/Pages/StressEvaluationTest.aspx

What can you do?:

  • Yoga/meditation/stress reduction
  • B vitamins, vitamin C
  • Rhodiola, ginseng, ashwaghanda to build you up
  • Magnesium and/or phosphatidyl serine to bring you back down at night.

DHEA

DHEA increases muscle, improves immune function, is associated with anti-aging and is the precursor to all other hormones, especially testosterone and estrogen. DHEA levels peak in our early twenties,  and then, unfortunately decrease from then on.  High levels of cortisol greatly deplete DHEA.

Symptoms of DHEA deficiency

  • Fatigue, loss of stamina, low sex drive, memory decline, muscle weakness/wasting, loss of bone mass and sleep problems to name a few.

What can you do?:

  • DHEA is a fantastic hormone, but currently its illegal for canadians to prescribe. It’s readily available in the states as an over the counter prescription.
  • Try increasing levels naturally with magnesium, Relora and Puncture Vine (Tribulus)

Thyroid hormone

Thyroid function and adrenal function go hand in hand. Cortisol greatly impacts how the thyroid functions and  is one of the main causes of hypothyroidism. The thyroid sits in the throat and releases active thyroid hormones (T4 which converts to T3) in response to TSH with help from its percursors tyrosine, selenium and iodine.  The thyroid controls metabolism, energy, bone turnover and heat regulation among many other things.  Up to 90% of your thyroid hormone is bound in the blood and only a small amount circulates as free physiological T4 and T3.  It’s important to measure these active free hormone levels, in saliva or in the blood.  Ask for a free T3 and T4 if your doctor suspects you have hyper or hypothyroid issues, don’t settle for a TSH only.

You may be suffering from an under-active thyroid if you have:

  • A goiter, or swollen thyroid, anemia, a metal taste, anxiety, fatigue, constipation, cracking/dry skin, depression, edema, hair loss, palpitations, low body temperature, cold extremities, a slow pulse and weight gain.
The thyroid affects weight gain and loss.

The thyroid affects weight gain and loss.

What can you do?:

  • Avoid goitrogens, which deplete iodine: turnips, cabbage, mustard, soy, peanuts, pine nuts, millet
  • Doctors often prescribe Synthroid which contains T4. Some people will benefit form T4, but most will not be able to convert T4 to T3 and will continue to suffer with symptoms.
  • I prefer dessicated thyroid hormone which contains bioidentical T4 and T3.
  • Thyroid precursors: Selenium, Iodine , zinc, B-vitamins and Tyrosine
  • Animal glandulars (Whole thyroid gland from another animal)
  • Bladder wrack (Fucus versiuclosus)

Estrogens

Estrogens, cortisol and thyroid hormone greatly affect one another.  Elevated cortisol, leads to high estrogen and when estrogen is high, hypothyroidism commonly occurs. There are three main forms of estrogen in the body: Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2) and Estriol (E3). Each has different degrees of interaction with estrogen receptors making them relatively strong or weak estrogens.  Estrone is formed in the liver from precursor hormones such as androgens, DHEA and progesterone. Estrone remains high after menopause since it isn’t synthesized in the ovaries, is a strong estrogen and is often called “bad” estrogen since one of its metabolites is associated with increased rates of cancer.  Estradiol is produced by the ovaries from cholesterol, its main role is to build the uterine lining during the second half of the menstrual cycle.  It is also a relatively strong estrogen. Finally, estriol is a weaker estrogen, is secreted in high amounts during pregnancy to protect the fetus from estradiol and does not cause abnormal cell growth in the breasts and uterus and thus is not linked with cancer risk. Estrogen becomes deficient during menopause when the ovaries are no longer capable of producing estrogen. There is however some estrogen left from adrenal production, and fat storage

Signs of estrogen deficiency include:

  • Brain fog, painful intercourse, urinary tract infections, vaginal dryness, night sweats and thinning of the vaginal wall.

What can you do?:

  • Many herbs are helpful in menopausal symptoms that are due to low estrogen: Black cohosh, Chaste berry, Red clover, Sage and Alfafa.
  • Supplementing estrogen is very popular after menopause, however its imperative that the RIGHT estrogen is given in a safe form. I recommend topical estrogen only and insist patients are on supplements which help prevent estrogen conversion into cancer causing metabolites.
  • Furthermore I assess liver function in these patients prior to beginning supplement and carefully monitor serum levels of estradiol once supplementation has begun.
  • I like Biest, a combination of estriol (80%) and estradiol (20%) applied topically.

chaste

Too much estrogen can cause several issues in both women and men. For starters its associated with cancer risk, can generate endometriosis, fibroids, obesity, hypothyroid, lumpy breasts, heavy periods and more. One of the main culprits associated with high estrogen are something called xenoestrogens.  These are estrogen mimickers that wreak havoc on your entire endocrine system.

Common sources include:

  1. pesticides
  2. beef
  3. dairy
  4. cosmetics (especially parabens)
  5. plastic
  6. cleaning chemicals
  7. fabric softeners
  8. farmed fish
  9. hair dye

You may have high estrogen if you experience:

  • Acne, anemia, depression, endometriosis, fatigue, fluid retention, irritability, PMS, weight gain, irregular/long or short periods.

What can you do?:

  • Avoid xenoestrogens
  • Consume brassica rich foods like broccoli or foods that are rich in DIM or indole 3-carbonate (I3C).
  • Supplement with calcium d glucarate.

Progesterone

There are receptors for progesterone in the brain, skin, thyroid, blood vessels, breasts, bone and more. Although its main roles are to shed the uterine lining during menses and maintain the placenta during pregnancy, the relative levels of progesterone in the body compared to estrogen is extremely important for good health. Progesterone deficiencies are very common.  This is because progesterone is used to synthesize cortisol.  Given our stressful lifestyles many of us are using progesterone to make cortisol.

Symptoms of low progesterone include:  

  • Anxiety, insomnia, abdominal fat, depression, a poor ability to deal with stress, headaches and miscarriages.

What can you do?:

  • Protect your progesterone with Dong Quai and Turmeric
  • Detoxify and clear estrogen with I3C, DIM, calcium-d glucarate and liver support.
  • Another great option is either oral or topical bioidentical progesterone. I like prometrium.

natural-micronised-progesterone-100mg-200mg-400mg-softgel-250x250

Testosterone

Important for both males and females, testosterone builds muscle, affects skin health/tone, bone health, heart function and sex drive.

Low levels of testosterone have been linked with:

  • Depression, obesity, osteoporosis, low libido, skin aging and heart disease.

What can you do?:

  • Avoid  pesticides, plastics and xenoestrogens
  • Chill out! When the body needs more cortisol less testosterone is made from their common precursor (cholesterol). When this happens it is known as pregnenolone steal.
  • Increase zinc and fiber
  • Inhibit testosterone conversion to estrogen with aromatase inhibitors like resveratrol, chamomile, passionflower and red clover.
  • Enhance testosterone with Tribulus terrestis, Maca root and Damiana (Turnera diffusa)

Final thoughts

I recommend all patients have a complete hormone work-up if they aren’t experiencing optimal health.  A salivary panel can assess estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, progesterone and cortisol.  Once the results are in, dietary, supplement, botanical and pharmaceutical recommendations will be tailored to you to give you back your life and your health.

Biodentical replacement (BHRT) and balancing hormonal health are an important part of a naturopathic practice.

We are living a lot longer these days and quality of life needs to be addressed.  I think the best way to ensure we are living both longer and happier lives is to address endocrine health.

Bet these guys are on DHEA and have cortisol under control!

Bet these guys are on DHEA and have cortisol under control!

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A new year, some new thoughts

It’s a new year! A fresh slate, a time of resolve. A time to reflect on what you want from your life.

Winston Churchill once said that you create your own universe as you go along. We are all responsible for the entirety of our lives.  For our feelings.  For our actions.  For our happiness and lack thereof.

hartley2lores

Life is suppose to be fun.  It should be magical, it should be beautiful and it certainly should be happy.

me and my siblings loving the shit out of our fort!

loving the shit out of our fort!

Your thoughts are the most powerful tool you have in designing your life.  In fact, all that you are is a result of what you have thought.  Unfortunately, this is true of negative thoughts and of positive ones.

images

What you resist will always persist and you can shift this by focusing on your DO wants rather then your DON’T wants. You get what you think about, whether it’s wanted or un-wanted.

Albert Einstein said “Imagination is everything.  It is the preview to life’s coming attractions” – Smart man.

So on this new day, the first of a new calendar I resolve to imagine my life as I wish it. In fact I intend not only to imagine it, but to feel as though I am already living my own personal bliss.

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Celebrating

  1. I will focus on the things I have to be grateful for.
  2. I will count my blessings.
  3. I’ll remember that the feelings I put out into the world are the same ones that will be returned to me.
  4. I will approach every task and every challenge this new year brings with the idea that:

Whether I think I can or can’t, either way I am right. 

Welcome  2013, welcome love, welcome laughter.

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D is for detox

Ohhhhh summer, you have been amazing!!!

You were filled with beer drinking afternoons, long days soaking in the sun at the beach, hot summer evenings, delicious bbqs, wonderful times with friends and maybe one too many smokies.

The air has become a little more crisp, but the sun is still shinning and the temperature is still lovely and warm.

It seems fall is just around the corner and it smells like pumpkin spice lattes outside.

Tis the season for things to end and for a fresh healthy start.

D is for DETOX!

Fall is one of the best times to detox!

Detoxification is defined as the physiological or medicinal removal of “substances” from the body. Subtances like all the bready goodness you’ve been eating, the chemicals you put on your skin and the incredible amount of booze you consumed over the summer days and nights.

What’s a toxin?

Your body is producing toxins this very moment. The everyday physiological functions of our body produces toxins and by-products. If not properly eliminated they can cause harmful effects.  Not only do our basic day to day bodily functions produce loads of toxins but so do bacteria, synthetic foods, processed foods,chemicals, the weather, electronics, cleaning supplies, water, perfume, pesticides thoughts ,emotions, stress, alcohol, coffee, exercise and the list goes on and on.

What happens when toxins build up? What is toxicity

When waste products produced from cellular metabolism and digestion are not eliminated, they can cause irritation and inflammation in every cell and tissue in your body.  A build up of toxins blocks normal functioning on a cellular, organ, system and entire whole person level and lead to chronic diseases and illness.

You know that headache you get, that fatigue you’re experiencing, your seasonal allergies, your acne or skin rash, those coffee/alcohol & sugar cravings you get? Those are all signs that your toxicity glass may be more then half full and you could be walking around in a smoldering body full of toxic debri.

Our brilliant bodies handle toxic substances by either neutralizing them,  changing them into another form or eliminating them completely from the body.

Specific parts of our body are designed to remove and process toxins

  1. The liver:
    • Detoxification’s best friend!  It processes everything we eat and drink and modifies every molecule into a safer & easier to eliminate form.to
  2. Our skin:
    • Sweating is a very important way to eliminate toxins-so consider purchasing a more natural anti-perspirant
  3. Our digestive system
    • Daily bowel movements are imperative for adequate toxin removal-Constipation substantially hinders our ability to eliminate toxins
  4. Our lungs
    • Eliminate metabolic toxins with every exhale
  5. Our kidneys
    • Eliminate toxins through our urine

Ok, ok. So now what?

Let’s assume you’re like me and your summer consisted of  3 months of indulging in any and all foods your heart desired and drinking lots of alcohol. Chances are your body could use a little extra help eliminating the leftovers from your summer of fun.

But what to do? There are A LOT of detox fads out there and this little ND to be has a pretty strong opinion on detoxing.

My opinion: Not all detoxes are created equal and no one detox suits us all. Given that you are a beautiful individual with your own taste in fashion, music and food you need your very own unique detoxification program too. There are pills, there are fasts, special diets, colonics, IVs, heavy metal chelation.  You name it, it exists.

The trick is to select the right speed of detoxification, the right strength and the right intensity specifically for you.

If done improperly or too quickly detoxification can make things worse!

Consider the following analogy:

You decide to wash your dishes

You need:

  1. Soap to remove the dirt
  2. Water to rinse
  3. A functioning drain to release the dirt once its cleaned
  4. Then you let the water dry off

The same goes for cleansing

  1. Soap: You need help extracting toxins from your body-that’s where the nutraceuticals, herbs, homeopathics, drainage etc comes in
  2. Water: You need to dilute the toxins to make them more readily excretable-that’s where the water intake is very important, lymph draianage and physiological homeostasis.
  3. Drain: You need to be able to eliminate the toxins once you’ve got them hanging about in your system-a detox gets all the “dirt” out of your cells but you need an outlet so they can leave your body for good. This is why you need proper liver fxn, kidney fxn, skin brushing, and bowel functioning.
  4. Dry: You need to sweat-this is where saunas, steam rooms, hydrotherapy come in

Come see me in the clinic on Fridays 8am til 8pm if you think you’d like help with detoxifying your way into a super duper fall.

Map to Boucher

From coast to coast: My very first post!!

Well hello there!

This is me! (sporting my favorite Carrie Bradshaw inpsired hair)

Allow myself to introduce…..myself……. 

I’m Mel! I’ve also been called Melly Belly, Mellers, Melissa or MCF . My official name is currently Melissa Christie-Fougere (a mouthful, I know) but I’m soon to be Melissa Lehman and I’m super gosh darn pumped to be marrying one awesome guy!

I’m very excited to being sharing my experiences, my knowledge and myself with well,….everyone.

Two and half years ago I embarked on a nice little plane trip (by nice I mean 14 hrs) with my cute little kitty cat Thai from the very absolute east side of Canada, St John’s Newfoundland, to the very most west coast of Canada, Vancouver British Columbia.  Graeme Lehman (who’s puts exercise and nutrition into “Layman’s terms” graemelehman.wordpress.com) Thai and I moved to the beautiful, snow caped, ocean front enormous city of Vancouver.

The view atop Signal Hill in Newfoundland.

The bestest cross eyed, meowing purry siamese kitty around.

We left behind the cutest little yellow row house, a collection of beautiful friends and a piece of our screech loving hearts so that I could follow my dreams.  I had endeavored to pursue a goal I had scribbled onto a piece of paper back in 3rd grade. I wanted to become a doctor! Yes that’s right I left the beautiful, friendly, boozey, freezing, rainy city of St John’s to bring health to the ENTIRE world and another rainy, beautiful city that might be a little less boozey.

Our little house in Newfieland

I had just finished writing an exhaustive thesis on memory, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and a whole pile of jargon about rat olfactory bulbs and published what I think is a pretty smart paper on neonatal olfactory learning, in a pretty great journal: Neuroscience.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306452208016606

Towards the end of my master’s degree my life didn’t have much direction, but certainly had a great deal of fun.   Have you been to George street? Enough said. I had decided I couldn’t do research and quite frankly, decided I’d rather hang out with people, instead of baby rats.

Cute errrrr. gross right?

One winter evening, I was driving a friend to her nutrition class and it occurred to me that I’d totally dig a nutrition class. Then I got to thinking. I wondered if there was a profession out there that involved teaching, being your own boss, learning about supplements and food as medicine while allowing me to learn all about the human body. I literally thought I had invented the next best thing, until my ignorant, unknowing east coat mind was quite literally blow away to learn that there was a profession as giving, complex and awesome as Naturopathic Medicine.

I feverishly researched this new medicine until 3 am that night and discovered the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, in beautiful BC.  I was hooked! I wanted to learn how to expand the length of human life, while enhancing it’s quality! (Awesome, right?)  I was immediately captured by a vision of acupuncture needles, physical medicine, plants, supplements and a holistic view of the human body.

The very next day I paid in a lump sum the tuition I owed to Memorial University of Newfoundland for my Masters degree (kind a big deal, because there were lots of shoes I would have rather purchased) and enrolled in a biochemistry elective I needed as a pre-requisite for another, (3rd one’s a charm right?) degree!

Our first class get together!

Smart, good looking, kind people.

…….and here I am. A student physician of naturopathic medicine. I’m learning how to prescribe drugs, I know A LOT of nutraceutical therapies, I love plants and think they are an amazing form of medicine, I’m learning how to crack your back, how to assess your sore shoulder and how to see your body as a beautiful chinese work of art.

I can’t wait to share this blog with you all! I have many stories, experiences and lessons to share.  Stay tuned and keep on reading on… 🙂