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  1. 1. Price-Pottenger Journal PAGE 13 Vol. 39, No. 4 Your hormones are the driving force behind just about every aspect of your physical and mental well-being—from your mood and energy levels to your skin health, weight, and sexual vitality. The endocrine system, to which they belong, is incredibly complex, and any hor- monal disruption can wreak havoc on your body. Imbalanced hormones can quickly produce unpleasant symptoms, such as fatigue, irritability, acne, and weight gain. If not addressed, imbal- ances can develop into more serious and chronic conditions—diabetes, infertility, breast cancer, and autoimmune disorders among them. Fortu- nately, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make to achieve hormonal balance, increase your health, and improve how you look and feel. BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR AND BOOST NUTRITION Healthy blood sugar levels are intrinsically involved in endocrine balance and are essential for long-term health. Insulin and glucagon are the predominant pancreatic hormones respon- sible for regulating blood sugar. If blood sugar drops too low, the stress hormone cortisol, pro- duced by the adrenal glands, comes into play to help correct the imbalance. In a balanced system, blood sugar levels fluctuate gently throughout the day, rising slightly after a meal and dipping a bit before the next. When the system is out of balance, blood sugar levels spike and fall more dramatically. These exaggerated cycles force the pancreas and adrenals to work harder, producing greater amounts of hormones to keep the body func- tional. If the imbalance persists, these organs can become sluggish. Moreover, receptor cells that respond to these hormones can begin to ignore their persistent messages—a condition known as hormone resistance. This can result in weight gain, adrenal fatigue, and chronic illnesses including metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Because blood sugar spikes can be caused by meals high in refined sugars and simple car- bohydrates, the most effective way to stabilize your blood sugar (and balance your hormones in the process) is to adopt a traditional diet rich in healthy fats and protein. Eating fats and protein at every meal will help keep your blood sugar balanced by slowing the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream. Focus on unprocessed whole foods, including pasture-raised animal protein, vegetables, fruits (in moderation), and healthy sources of fat, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and olive oil. Limit grains, caffeine, refined sugar, processed carbohydrates, and alcohol—all of which can contribute to elevated blood sugar, depleted adrenals, and inflammation. Also, avoid trans fats as they can interfere with adrenal hormone production.1 Eliminating foods that contain added hormones or hormone-like substances— such as factory-farmed animal products and unfermented soy products—will help ensure you are not unwittingly exacerbating your hormonal imbalance. In addition to what you eat, it is important to alter how you eat. Don’t let yourself get too hungry between meals—this can lead to steep blood sugar drops and create more work for your pancreas and adrenals. When going out, pack healthy snacks containing protein and fat to take with you. Improve digestion by eating calmly and avoiding stress during meals. Always sit while eating and chew your food thoroughly. Balancing Your Hormones Through Diet and Lifestyle by Monet Euan
  2. 2. Vol. 39, No. 4 PAGE 14 Price-Pottenger Journal INCLUDE SUPPLEMENTS IN YOUR DAILY ROUTINE As an addition to an unprocessed, whole foods diet, nutritional supplementation is a sim- ple way to promote hormonal balance. There are many natural products available that support endocrine function, including Chinese herbs, vitamins, minerals, and homeopathic remedies. Supplements can also help address nutritional deficiencies that can lead to hormone imbalances. Keep in mind that nutrients are the building blocks that endocrine glands need to manufac- ture hormones. The following supplements may be included in a hormone-balancing protocol: • Vitamin D plays a significant role in main- taining hormone balance and decreasing your susceptibility to disease. Low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk for many diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and depression. You can manufacture vita- min D in your skin through exposure to nat- ural sunlight or take a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement. The most accurate way to measure your vitamin D level is with the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, which is relatively inexpensive and easily available through most doctors. • B-complex vitamins offer extra protection and support to the body during times of stress. They also assist the liver in metabo- lizing excess amounts of hormones, includ- ing estrogen. This is especially important for women with breast cancer and those using hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy.2 B-complex vitamins also help prevent estrogen dominance, boost energy, support the adrenals, reduce inflammation, and enhance fertility.3 • Magnesium affects numerous structures and processes throughout the body. This critical mineral is easily depleted by factors such as environmental toxins, emotional stress, and alcohol intake.4 Supplementa- tion can boost low levels, aiding hormonal regulation. In addition, neurosurgeon Norm Shealy, MD, PhD, established that transdermal magnesium raises levels of the vital hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).5 [For more on magnesium, see “Magnesium: An Essential Element for Good Health” in the Fall 2015 issue of the PPNF Journal.] • Adaptogens are a group of herbs that mod- ulate the body’s response to stress, allowing for proper regulation of cortisol and sup- porting the adrenals. They can also address other issues, such as blood sugar imbalance, impaired immunity, poor energy levels, and low libido. Examples of adaptogens that may be helpful include ginseng, eleuthero, rhodiola, tulsi (holy basil), maca, and ashwa- gandha. Consult with your healthcare practitioner to determine the best options for you, and, when possible, avoid or reduce intake of pharmaceuti- cal drugs that interfere with endocrine function. CHOOSE APPROPRIATE EXERCISE According to family physician and author Mark Hyman, MD, “exercise might be the most powerful medicine to manage blood sugar levels and make your cells more insulin sensi- tive.”6 Indeed, a study in the Journal of Obesity found that high-intensity intermittent exercise lowers insulin resistance and improves glucose tolerance—both factors that help stabilize blood sugar.7 Exercise can also positively impact the sex hormones, including testosterone and estro- gen.8 Additionally, it reduces stress, depression, and anxiety, thus reducing cortisol levels and supporting the adrenals. When beginning an exercise regimen, con- sider the current state of your endocrine system, especially the adrenals. If you are concerned about adrenal fatigue, choose light to moderate exercise. Overexercising increases cortisol levels and inflammation and can further weaken your adrenals. Moreover, if cortisol levels are already elevated, high-intensity aerobic exercise can actu- ally slow down your metabolism and accelerate tissue breakdown. Instead, choose low-intensity activities that decrease cortisol, such as Pilates, yoga, and walk- ing. Endocrinologist Diane Schwarzbein, MD,
  3. 3. Price-Pottenger Journal PAGE 15 Vol. 39, No. 4 recommends tai chi, qigong, and restorative yoga to reduce stress.9 She also suggests that rest can be more beneficial than exercise when you are sick, overly stressed, or sleep-deprived. IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP HABITS Women’s health expert Christiane Northrup, MD, asserts, “Sleep restores adrenal balance more effectively than any other modality.”3(p537) Your adrenals are the source of a number of hormones, so restoring their function is imper- ative for hormone balance and optimal health. With adequate sleep, you are likely to notice increased energy, optimized mental function, and decreased sugar and caffeine cravings. The impact of insufficient sleep is far-reach- ing—it can inhibit growth hormone, promote insulin resistance and thyroid imbalances, and reduce immune function. Research has shown that decreased sleep can be a risk factor for obesity because it influences the hormones that control appetite. A recent study noted: “Sleep restriction was associated with reductions in leptin and elevations in ghrelin and increased hunger and appetite, especially an appetite for foods with high-carbohydrate contents.”10 Leptin is a hormone that induces feelings of sati- ety, while ghrelin is one that stimulates hunger. Keeping your bedroom totally dark at night facilitates deep, restorative sleep. The pineal gland secretes more melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep and wake cycle, during periods of darkness. Make sure you have proper blinds and/or curtains to block light from enter- ing your bedroom windows. Electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) can also interfere with quality sleep. Opt for no night-lights, cell phones, or other electronics in the bedroom, and limit television, cell phone, and computer use before bedtime. DETOXIFY PERIODICALLY The detoxification process can support the liver, which performs more functions in the body than any other organ. The liver must process the large amount of environmental toxins we are exposed to every day. Detoxification reduces its workload, so it can focus on the other tasks at hand—including the metabolizing of excess hormones. For some, simply giving up sugar, alcohol, and processed foods may be enough to facilitate detoxification and healing. Adding certain sup- plements can also be helpful. Examples include herbs such as burdock and dandelion to support the liver, and chlorella to move heavy metals such as mercury from the body. Exercise and other activities that promote sweating—using an infrared sauna, for example—can be an impor- tant adjunct because toxins are released through perspiration. Always consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner to determine the appro- priate detoxification protocol for you. ELIMINATE ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS In addition to detoxifying your body, you should do everything possible to remove toxins from your home. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a helpful resource for identify- ing and phasing out toxic household products, as well as body care products and cosmetics. In its online “Guide to Healthy Cleaning,” EWG provides scores for over 2,000 household prod- ucts, based on potential health concerns (such as endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity, and carcino- genicity), and highlights the safest ones available in categories such as air freshening, dishwashing, floor care, kitchen, and laundry. [See EWG’s Health Guides at] One common endocrine disruptor that contrib- utes to estrogen dominance and other hormone imbalances is bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical found in many plastics and food can liners. Plas- tic food containers may also contain phthalates, endocrine disruptors that are particularly dam- aging to the male reproductive system. Steer clear of plastic containers for leftovers, and use glass or stainless steel for water and food stor- age. Avoid canned foods as the cans frequently contain BPA—and those that are labeled “BPA- free” often contain bisphenol-S (BPS), another endocrine disruptor. Replace non-stick pots and pans with glass, ceramic, or high-quality stainless steel to pro- tect your thyroid from perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Switch to organic feminine hygiene
  4. 4. Vol. 39, No. 4 PAGE 16 Price-Pottenger Journal products to avoid the endocrine disruptors dioxin, BPA, BPS, and phthalates, as well as pesticides. In addition, when purchasing fish for consumption, choose types that contain low levels of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), such as sardines and wild salmon. Purchasing organic rather than conventionally grown produce can greatly reduce your expo- sure to endocrine-disrupting pesticides (such as organophosphates) and herbicides (such as glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and many other products). Choosing organic and pasture-raised when it comes to dairy products is important as well, as it will enable you to avoid recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a synthetic hormone used to increase cows’ milk production. INSTALL A WATER FILTER Our water supply is contaminated with a vari- ety of toxic chemicals.11 These toxins accumulate in human tissue and blood and cause endocrine disruption.12 Depending on your location, your water supply could contain a laundry list of endo- crine disruptors, including: • pharmaceutical drugs • perchlorate (jet fuel) • pesticides • herbicides • chlorine • fluoride • heavy metals • polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) • perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) Reduce your exposure to these contaminants by drinking filtered or natural spring water. (If using bottled water, select glass to avoid xeno- estrogens found in plastic). Install a high-quality water filter in your home. Also invest in a filter for your shower or bath, as your skin absorbs a large percentage of the water’s toxins. ADDRESS YOUR STRESS One of the most important and effective ways to balance your hormones and prevent disease is to reduce stress. When you experience stress, the body often reacts with the survival-driven fight-or-flight response, even if the situation isn’t actually a matter of life or death. Stress hormone production is always prioritized over less-pressing matters, such as digestion, reproduction, and healing. Reducing stress allows your body to focus on these important functions. You can lower your stress levels the same way you balance your hormones—by stabilizing your blood sugar, maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough restorative sleep, exercising appropri- ately, and detoxifying as necessary. In addition, making some of the following adjustments to your daily routine can go a long way towards reducing stress: • Schedule regular unstructured time for yourself. • Make sure you have enough downtime for rest and leisure activities. • Refrain from making additional commit- ments that will raise your stress levels. • Plan carefully when facing stressful situa- tions, such as work deadlines. If possible, balance unavoidable heavy workloads with intermittent rest, which is proven to increase focus, creativity, health, and well-being.13 • Practice self-compassion. Be kind to your- self and recognize your moment-to-moment needs. People who practice self-compassion are happier, more optimistic, and less anx- ious and depressed.14 INCORPORATE AN INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE APPROACH Alternative healing modalities and health practitioners are often excellent resources to help you identify and address the underlying reasons for a hormonal imbalance. The following meth- ods have been found effective in balancing hor- mone levels and improving overall health: • Chiropractic adjustments and spinal align- ment can enhance function of the nervous system, which is the major regulator of hor- mone production.
  5. 5. Price-Pottenger Journal PAGE 17 Vol. 39, No. 4 • Traditional Chinese medicine and herbal therapies can assist with hormone imbal- ance, detoxification, and stress reduction. Acupuncture has been shown to be espe- cially effective in reducing cortisol levels and feelings of anxiety, boosting immune function, and increasing pain-reducing endorphins.15,16,17 • Meditation and yoga can reduce cortisol levels and improve mental well-being. In a meta-analysis of 47 studies, researchers found that meditation eases psychological stress factors, such as depression, anxiety, and pain.18 As stress levels decrease, the workload of the adrenals also decreases. • Massage reduces stress by lowering cor- tisol levels and boosting oxytocin (known as the “bonding hormone” or “bliss hor- mone”).19 Balancing your hormones is one of the most important ways to improve your health. Remember that you have the power to actively influence your hormone levels by making life- style changes. For best results, take your time and create small, attainable goals. Go as slow as you need to ensure the changes you make really stick—your endocrine system and health depend on it. & ABOUT THE AUTHOR Monet Euan is a health and wellness writer, researcher, and consultant based in Los Angeles, California. She founded Transcend by Monet, an integrative health support system, to provide others with information and resources that can help them explore their options and make informed health decisions. For more information, visit REFERENCES 1. Enig M, Fallon S. Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press; 2005. 2. Martin R, Gersting J. The Estrogen Alternative: A Guide to Natural Hormone Balance. 4th ed. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 2005. 3. Northrup C. Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. 4th ed. New York, NY: Bantam Books; 2010. 4. Sircus M. How stress, magnesium and disease are linked. and-disease-are-linked. Published February 18, 2013. 5. Shealy CN. Holy Water, Sacred Oil: The Fountain of Youth. Fair Grove, MO: Biogenics Books; 2000. 6. Hyman M. The one test your doctor isn’t doing that could save your life. doctor-isnt-save-life/. Published January, 8, 2015. 7. Boutcher S. High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. J Obes. 2011. 2011:10 pages. doi: 10.1155/2011/868305. 8. Hamdan S. Bio-identical hormone replacement: an inter- view with Jonathan Wright, MD. PPNF Journal. 2010; 34(3):6-11. 9. Schwarzbein D. Hormonally balanced exercises. Schwarzbein Principle. 2007; 4. pgs/newsletters/SP_Newsletter_Exercise.pdf. 10. Cauter E, Knutson K, Leproult R. The impact of sleep depri- vation on hormones and metabolism. Medscape Neuro. 2005; 7(1). 11. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Contami- nants of emerging concern. Updated May 8, 2014. 12. Mercola J. Fluoride and other chemicals in your drinking water could be wrecking your health. http://articles.mercola. com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/28/fluoride-drinking-water. aspx. Published December 28, 2013. 13. Schwartz T, Porath C. Why you hate work. New York Times. you-hate-work.html. Published May 30, 2014. 14. Halvorson HG. Nine ways successful people defeat stress. Harvard Bus Rev. successful-people-de/. Published December 13, 2012. 15. Georgetown University Medical Center. Series of studies first to examine acupuncture’s mechanisms of action. http:// php. Published March 14, 2013. 16. Arranz L, Guayerbas N, Siboni L, et al. Effect of acupunc- ture treatment on the immune function impairment found in anxious women. Am J Chin Med. 2007; 35(1):35-51. PMID: 17265549. 17. Han JS. Acupuncture and endorphins. Neurosci Let. 2004; 361(1-3):258-261. PMID: 15135942. 18. Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EMS, et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014; 174(3):357- 368. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018. 19. Rapaport M, Schettler P, Bresee C. A preliminary study of the effects of repeated massage on hypothalamic–pituitary– adrenal and immune function in healthy individuals. J Altern Complement Med. 2012; 18(8):789-797. doi:10.1089/ acm.2011.0071.
  6. 6. PRICE-POTTENGER JOURNAL OF HEALTH AND HEALING, VOL. 39, NO. 1 SPRING 2015 REVIEW THE ESTROGEN ALTERNATIVE A Guide to Natural Hormonal Balance (updated fourth edition) By Raquel Martin and Judi Gerstung, DC Review by Monet Euan The Estrogen Alternative: A Guide to Natural Hormonal Balance is a thorough inquiry into the benefits and risks of synthetic and natural hormone replacement therapies for women. It addresses a wide spectrum of health conditions related to imbalances in the female hormonal system, including osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. This engaging book on balancing hormones through natural methods was written to provide support for women who are confused and suffering, but the research and thoroughly documented information it presents will also be invaluable for doctors and other health professionals looking to expand their knowledge of women’s health issues. Written from the perspective of author Raquel Martin, assisted by chiropractor, teacher, and radiologist Judi Gerstung, the book begins by sharing Martin’s personal experience with traditional estrogen hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the disturbing side effects she endured. In her quest for relief, Martin received contradictory information from the doctors she consulted, who were constantly adjusting her prescriptions and dosages, oftentimes making her symptoms worse. She put an end to ten years of this
  7. 7. “experimentation” and began to take personal responsibility for her own health after reading about the increased risk of breast cancer linked to synthetic estrogen. She became committed to learning about her options and finding safer treatment methods, which led to her healing. What she discovered motivated her to share her research findings, observations, and experiences through this book. Martin debunks a popular myth perpetuated by conventional medicine: that menopausal symptoms tend to stem from an estrogen deficiency. This myth has been furthered, she learned, by mainstream media sources and pharmaceutical marketing campaigns that misinterpret conventional HRT studies or take isolated elements supporting estrogen supplementation out of context. In fact, she points out, the real deficiency is often that of progesterone, and its root cause is estrogen dominance. Adding more estrogen when there is already too much present only exacerbates health problems or creates new ones. To counterbalance the effects of this estrogen overload requires supplemental progesterone. In making this point, Martin quotes the late John R. Lee, MD, an international expert on natural hormones whom she cites frequently in the book: “Estrogen should never be given unopposed, i.e., without progesterone, due to its risk of developing endometrial carcinoma… It is amazing to me that, given the extensive supporting medical references presently existing, estrogen without concomitant progesterone is still commonly prescribed.” The author further discredits the estrogen myth as she delves into the studies on natural, plant-derived progesterone. She discovers that natural hormone replacement therapy (NHRT) with botanical progesterone actually confers the many benefits that have been falsely attributed to conventional estrogen therapy by its proponents. The benefits of natural progesterone include, among others, an increase in energy and libido and a reduction in depression, insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, migraines, hot
  8. 8. flashes, cardiovascular disorders, adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, and osteoporosis. Natural progesterone has little to no side effects, does not cause cancer, and can even reverse specific uterine cancers. Martin was astounded at the risks the conventional medical model accepts when safer—and more effective—options exist. After unraveling the misconceptions about hormone replacement therapies, Martin presents a holistic guide to addressing the root causes of hormonal imbalances, with a focus on estrogen and progesterone treatments prescribed during pre-, peri- and post- menopause. She investigates the differences between synthetic and USP plant-derived progesterone, as well as between synthetic and natural estrogen, and includes a discussion of when supplementation with natural estrogen may truly be needed. An entire chapter is dedicated to preventing and treating osteoporosis, and another addresses estrogen-related cancer risks and provides information on hormone replacement therapy for cancer survivors. Martin also emphasizes the importance of preventative care and the use of holistic adjuncts where appropriate to support the healing process. The final section of the book suggests lifestyle changes that center on developing a healthy, balanced diet to support the hormonal system. Key herbs and vitamin supplements proven to assist hormonal function are featured. Various forms of diagnostic testing are discussed, with specific resources provided. Several detailed appendices follow, dealing with such subjects as methods of hormone application, natural infant formulas, resources for cancer patients, clinical studies and research reports, and sources of natural progesterone. These informative appendices include lists of useful books, websites, products, compounding pharmacies, and more to support the reader in taking positive action.
  9. 9. In this book, Martin advocates for educating oneself about all the options available and working with one’s healthcare providers to make informed decisions, considering those treatments with little to no side effects before entertaining options that may pose serious risks. The holistic template she presents, which is applicable to any health concern, is grounded in an awareness of the shortcomings of the conventional medical paradigm. Given its rich detail and extensive documentation, The Estrogen Alternative would be an important addition to any health practitioner’s library. All women could benefit from this compelling read, which can help them achieve a deeper understanding of their bodies and learn to take greater responsibility for their health. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Monet Euan is a health and wellness writer, researcher, and consultant based in Los Angeles, California. She founded Transcend by Monet, an integrative health support system, to provide others with information and resources that can help them explore their options and make informed health decisions. For more information, visit