Book Review – Moods, Emotions, and Aging by Phyllis Bronson, PhD

Book Review – Moods, Emotions and Aging: Hormones and the Mind-Body Connection by Phyllis Bronson, PhD

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy

Dr. Phyllis Bronson’s book, Moods, Emotions, and Aging, could not have been published at a better time. Brisdelle, a version of Paxil or paroxetine, has just been approved by the FDA as a treatment for hot flashes, despite an advisory committee vote of 10-4 against it. Hot flashes, a symptom of menopause believed to be an effect of hormone deficiencies, may now be treated with a potent and highly addictive SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) that has extremely dangerous side effects, including suicidal thoughts.

It is time for the “silver tsunami” that is the powerful baby boomer demographic to wake up to the fact that we don’t have to drug ourselves into oblivion to address the consequences of age-related hormonal changes. Hot flashes are NOT the result of an SSRI deficiency! There are better answers and we have the power to demand them.

Dr. Bronson’s book will equip anyone facing the challenges of hormone deficiencies. Because she works with and writes about real people with serious mood and hormone imbalances, her readers may see themselves in the patient stories she tells and be inspired to take action to resolve their own health issues.

Phyllis Bronson is a rare individual who brings science to practice in her role as a clinical biochemist. Too often, the science and studies are readily available but clinicians don’t or won’t seek them out. Or, if they do, they are ostracized by their peers for stepping out of the box their medical education has defined for them.

Dr.  Bronson asks the hard questions of our organized medical providers:

  • Since the WHI studies (which are discussed at length in the book) revealed significant problems with the use of Premarin and Prempro, why are patients still being prescribed these products (albeit in “lower” doses)?
  • Why are women being offered antidepressant drugs instead of estrogen hormones, when she has seen women with low estradiol levels resolve their complaint about brain fog within an hour after supplementing with estradiol?
  • Why are women systematically being denied the use of progesterone when their ovaries are removed, when the bioidentical hormone progesterone has been shown to be protective of nerve tissue and potentially protect against cancer?

In addition to the hormones made from cholesterol in our bodies (e.g., the sex and adrenal hormones), there are also hormones derived from amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of the proteins we eat, and they become available to the body when protein is digested. Dr. Bronson found that it is easy to supplement amino acids to help balance hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. Here’s a radical thought: Instead of blocking the metabolism and reuptake of serotonin in the nerve synapse, which is what SSRIs do to raise serotonin levels, what if we supplement the body with the building block amino acids needed to make more serotonin? This is the path Dr. Bronson prefers, and she describes in her book how this has worked successfully for her clients.

In the book Honest Medicine, Dr. Burt Berkson describes how medical students are not encouraged to question or think. Their education is now just “training” consisting of whatever the current consensus determines to be the current standard of care. Unfortunately, standards of care can be influenced by people with motives that are not necessarily in line with what might be best for individual patient care.

Is your practitioner willing to go beyond the “training” received in medical school? Is she or he ready to partner with you to achieve optimal individualized care? Then Dr. Bronson’s book will be an asset to both of you as you jointly evaluate your biochemical individuality and consider treatment accordingly.

Another valuable facet of Dr. Bronson’s book is the discussions of how emotional issues can both provoke and be a result of hormone disarray. With the myriad of tools provided in this book, people who may have “lost” themselves emotionally may be able to find a pathway back.

Book Review – Moods, Emotions, and Aging by Phyllis Bronson, PhD2017-12-14T12:27:47-05:00

September is Healthy Aging Month

September is Healthy Aging Month

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy

 

In The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil and Dr. Terry Grossman write that if we manage to keep ourselves going for the next 20 years, there is reason to believe that we will have learned enough about human physiology that the potential for living indefinitely could become a reality.

This interest in healthy, successful aging has spawned several professional medical groups that are actively addressing the issues, including the American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), the Age Management Medicine Group (AMMG), the American College for the Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) and the International College of Integrative Medicine (ICIM).

Although it is not their primary focus, the practitioners in these groups support the belief that adequate and balanced levels of hormones are one of the foundations of successful aging.

Here are some of the health issues they are up against in their quest for understanding how we age, and what might be explored to help improve the aging process:

  • The cardiovascular system becomes compromised as the heart struggles to pump blood efficiently and arterial walls are weakened. High blood pressure, arrhythmias, and heart failure symptoms may ensue. However, testosterone is one of the most heart-healthy hormones, and growth hormone supplementation has proven to be of great benefit to a failing heart. Dr. Broda Barnes reported that, with adequate thyroid supplementation, his patients did not get heart attacks.
  • Bones, joints, and muscles continually weaken, and pain is often a consequence when these tissues become compromised. Sarcopenia, the medical term for loss of muscle mass, also contributes to an overall frailty and weakness. These symptoms are all correlated with low growth hormone, low testosterone, low DHEA, low estrogens, low progesterone, low thyroid, and low vitamin D. The stress hormone cortisol may be contributing to tissue damage as well if it remains high over extended periods of time.
  • The digestive system becomes compromised with low stomach acid, and a tendency toward constipation increases with age. If there is not enough thyroid activity in the body, the entire digestive tract slows and stagnates.
  • Weight gain, particularly around the middle, is very common in people as they age. While proper utilization of insulin and glucose are critical, low thyroid hormones are also typically part of pre-diabetic and diabetic dysfunction. Hormones such as testosterone and progesterone help to stabilize blood sugar levels. Excess cortisol (the stress hormone) encourages fat deposits.
  • Urinary and bladder issues become a major factor in a deteriorating quality of life. Estrogens, particularly estriol, are needed to keep the urinary tract and bladder tissue healthy. Testosterone is needed to maintain the strength and integrity of the tissues.
  • “I am worried about losing my mind” is a very common concern for people as they age. All of the sex and adrenal hormones are “neuro” steroids, which means that they actually concentrate and function in the brain. Thyroid hormones contribute to keeping memory sharp.
  • Losing eyesight and hearing are also debilitating problems associated with aging. The upper eyelids droop when growth hormone is deficient. Tears need estrogen, testosterone and DHEA for an adequate composition of the fatty component. Aldosterone has demonstrated some effectiveness in treating age-related deafness.
  • The teeth may become more brittle and the gums retract. Associated with osteoporosis, these symptoms are linked to deficiencies of vitamin D, the estrogens, testosterone, DHEA and growth hormone.
  • The skin becomes increasingly wrinkled, thin, and prone to bruising. Estrogens maintain the moisture and structure of the skin. Testosterone and growth hormone are needed to retain skin thickness and structure.
  • For many people, sexuality has just about disappeared. With low testosterone and low estrogens, many men and women may not be able to function sexually, and they may not even care because those hormones also control sexual interest (the libido).

This litany of ailments sure paints a dismal picture of what lies ahead. However, this is an exciting time for medicine, and the professional focus on successful, healthy aging shows great promise. After all, what practitioner does not take great joy in seeing patients continually improve?

Our goal is to plant a seed for you—right now, during Healthy Aging month, no matter what age you are—to start exploring the knowledge and tools readily available to better prepare yourself for the aging process.

You can be tested and evaluated clinically to determine which hormones may be deficient and which may be excessive. You can choose to make important lifestyle changes so the basic needs of good food, as well as clean air and water are met. You can keep your body running smoothly by physical activity, healthy play and exercise. And, with the help of practitioners attuned to healthy aging, you can choose to replenish those hormones that decline with age and take steps to moderate the ones that tend toward excess.

September is Healthy Aging Month2019-04-25T17:12:56-05:00

Hormones, Mood & Emotion: An Interview with Dr. Phyllis Bronson

Hormones, Mood & Emotion: An Interview with Dr. Phyllis Bronson

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy

 

We had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Phyllis Bronson, a recognized expert on the influence that hormones have on moods and emotions. Dr. Bronson holds a doctorate in molecular chemistry, and she currently teaches and continues to conduct research at the University of Denver. Her doctoral thesis focused on the molecular structure of progesterone; specifically, the significant molecular difference in the fat-soluble structure of “real” progesterone and the water-soluble structure of medroxyprogesterone, and how this difference impacts a person psychologically.

Dr. Bronson’s work as a clinical biochemist enables her to continue to explore the relationships between hormones and psychology, gathering data as she works alongside practitioners while assisting them with patients. In fact, Dr. Bronson is currently working on a book with the tentative title Hormones, Mood and Emotion, Finding Balance As We Age, which intends to bring the observations she has amassed through her years of research to the general public.

One of the things we learned during our interview is Dr. Bronson’s dislike for the word “anti-aging” when it comes to describing hormone therapies. She explained that she sees the body more as a container that needs to have the appropriate quantity and proper mix of hormones and neuro-nutrients in order to create balance and optimal well-being. She added that the mistaken notions now held by mainstream medicine that women don’t need progesterone as they age, and that women who have had a hysterectomy don’t need progesterone, have left many women extremely vulnerable to anxiety, especially at a time of their lives when they may be experiencing considerable stress.

For example, Dr. Bronson told us of a woman who had a long history of seizures, and a mood that had always been overly anxious and irritable. The practitioner had prescribed a combination of estradiol and estriol daily, along with 200 mg of progesterone during only one week per month, but this was not working to produce the desired results. Dr. Bronson suspected that it was not the right formula for this patient. From her research, Dr. Bronson knew that progesterone creates calmness, so she recommended 400 mg of progesterone to be used nightly, with an additional 100 mg dose during the day. Not only did this diminish the woman’s seizures, but it gave her an overall sense of calm that had been missing her entire life! What a gift!

Dr. Bronson explained that many women in mid-life have become part of the “sandwich generation,” having to care for elderly parents and still look after their children, which can cause incredible stress. As women age, the list of stress-producing factors seems to grow, including their adult children or adult siblings, divorce, step families, career changes, and financial concerns. As the stress mounts, Dr. Bronson observed that a rapid drop in estradiol occurs.

At menopause, the production of estrogens shifts from ovarian-produced estradiol to estrone, which is produced in the fat cells from DHEA. When the available estradiol drops below about 50 pg, the first symptom many women experience is “brain fog.” The brain contains both alpha and beta receptors for estradiol, which makes it extremely sensitive to fluctuations or deficiencies. Adequate estradiol is also a limiting factor on the neural degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease. One of Dr. Bronson’s recommendations for maintaining healthy brain function as women age is to get the estradiol level back up to a healthy level, and maintain it.

In her book, Dr. Bronson will relate lots of stories about women and how they live, survive and thrive in their various relationships. Her philosophy is to integrate Jungian psychology while also paying attention to the biochemical changes that occur. She also observes that sometimes higher doses of progesterone, estradiol and testosterone may be needed so that “you can be happy being you” no matter what age you are. Dr. Bronson believes one of the keys to successful aging is being able to “hang out with uncertainty,” especially during such a transitional period in one’s life.

  • Bronson PJ. www.phyllisbronsonphd.com. Last accessed: April 2018.
  • Bronson PJ, Bronson R. Moods, Emotions, and Aging: Hormones and the Mind-Body Connection. Lanham, MD. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 2013.
Hormones, Mood & Emotion: An Interview with Dr. Phyllis Bronson2018-04-09T13:21:28-05:00

Interview with Elena McHerron

Interview with Elena McHerron

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy

Elena McHerron just celebrated her 80th birthday. She claims that the best thing about getting old is that she has learned so much. Because she is more than willing to share what she’s learned, she describes herself as a motivator – and many of her followers agree.

Today, Elena is active and feeling good, but that wasn’t always the case. When she was most ill, she remembers a voice in her head saying “You will be a part of the transition of medicine,” which has fueled her interest in and passion for solving health problems.

Since the early 90s, this remarkable woman has opened her home to the Candida Multi-Allergy Support Group, which helps people deal with health issues that have stymied the medical profession. Members of the support group bring food to share that must be wheat-, milk- and sugar-free.  But the most important function of the support group is simply to have somebody that believes you. So often, people suffering from health problems that are difficult to diagnose don’t have sympathetic confidants within their own family and circle of friends. They think this person might just be a complainer, or worse, it’s all in their heads. The support group validates their concerns and helps get them on a path to better health.

So, how did Elena get into health activism and become a motivator to others? It built up over many years of personal health problems, including severe PMS. The advice she was given then was to avoid salt! After the birth of her eldest daughter, she suffered with mastitis. She was hospitalized and went through many courses of antibiotics, which was likely the beginning of her yeast-related health problems. Then, after the birth of her youngest, she was hospitalized with post-partum depression. Since she was still having the same symptoms two years later, she was re-diagnosed as bipolar. She had shock treatments and lots of lithium, to no avail. Through the years, Elena collected a lot of personal experience with health-related symptoms, misdiagnoses, and less than helpful treatments.

Elena before . . . and after.

Back in 1952, Elena received a bachelor’s degree in home economics, and she began a career as a home food demonstration agent for the New York State Extension Service. While she agrees that there have been tremendous advances in food science since then (for example, there were no known health issues related to wheat and sugar back then), she is astounded at how much her interest in nutrition, coupled with the hands-on skills she learned about finding things out for herself, served her well in her search for answers to health questions over the years, and still serve her well today. Some of Elena’s personal health discoveries include the following:

  • Elena credits Dr. Steven Bock at the Rhinebeck Health Center in Rhinebeck, NY for a major turning point in her quest for wellness. Elena was in her 50s when Dr. Bock prescribed estrogen and progesterone for her (provided by Women’s International Pharmacy). She remembers asking herself, “Why didn’t somebody do this sooner?” To this day, she remains a strong advocate for bioidentical progesterone cream and plans to never stop using it herself.
  • About that time, Elena also discovered that she was allergic to wheat, and she now adheres to the principles set forth by Dr. Peter D’Adamo in Eat Right 4 Your Type. Another important discovery came after meeting Nancy Appleton, author of Lick the Sugar Habit, which helped Elena understand the real dangers of sugar.
  • As Elena continued to explore the relationships between nutrition and her health, she was exposed to Dr. William Crook’s The Yeast Connection and his other books. She wrote to Dr. Crook and began years of correspondence with him. In fact, Dr. Crook was so impressed with her observations that he invited her to join the advisory board for his International Health Foundation. Elena believes she influenced Dr. Crook to write about the importance of thyroid and adrenal hormones in his later books.
  • Elena also found Dr. Steven Langer’s discussion of the hypothyroid connection in Solved: The Riddle of Illness to be helpful in her search for answers to health questions she encountered. She credits Dr. Langer with the suggestion to first explore the possibility of low thyroid function when experiencing any type of depression.

Today, Elena is careful about nutrition, uses bioidentical hormone therapies, and takes probiotics (Dr. Crook advised her to “take as much as you can afford!”). People from all over the world seek Elena out for advice on their unexplained health issues. And, because she walks her talk, it gives her plenty of credibility. Elena says, “I listen to them and I motivate them” to explore possible solutions to their health problems. She motivates them to persevere, as she did, by sharing her wealth of knowledge and collective personal experiences. She believes that “when people overcome their problems, they become experts in solving that problem.”

Elena also writes an occasional newsletter, called Grass-Root Expressions, which is an eclectic combination of information she has gleaned from her research and contacts over the years. Elena has an extensive reference library and now also uses the internet to help people find reliable resources. Who knew, Elena muses, that when she started her degree in home economics when she was 20, it would help her be so useful to so many people today?

Interview with Elena McHerron2018-04-09T13:52:05-05:00

Book Review – The Immortality Edge by Michael Fossel, MD, PhD; Greta Blackburn; and Dave Woynarowski, MD

Book Review – The Immortality Edge by Michael Fossel, MD, PhD; Greta Blackburn; and Dave Woynarowski, MD

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy

On October 29, 2009, Carol Greider, Elizabeth Blackburn, and Jack Szostak were awarded the Nobel prize in medicine. Their work concentrated on the role of telomeres and chromosomes and the discovery of an enzyme called telomerase. They may have discovered the very key to immortality.

Telomeres appear at the ends of DNA and are a repetitious sequence that appears to be able to protect the functional part of the DNA strands while the cells are dividing. The age of cells can be measuring by measuring the telomere strand. Embryos have the longest strands, adults have shorter strands. Longer-lived adults have longer strands. Shorter telomere strands have been linked to chronic diseases.

The most exciting piece of this research is the discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that actually can lengthen the telomere strands.  This book discusses the search for methods to increase or stimulate telomerase and what life styles support keeping the telomere strands long.

In a questionnaire designed to predict your telomere age, you can add an extra 50 points (good!) if you are on bioidentical hormone therapy. The authors remark that these add function and vitality to a person’s life and men, in particular, benefit from improved levels of testosterone and growth hormone. In fact, higher growth hormone levels have been correlated with longer telomere length. The authors also believe that levels of DHEA and vitamin D should be optimized.

Nutrition is thoroughly discussed; the Paleolithic diet is preferred, although some alterations are given. Exercise is important, and the type of exercise that is most beneficial also has the best improvement in growth hormone levels. Finally, taking time to meditate is discussed.

Chronic stress shortens telomeres. Professor Blackburn was able to study a group of women with a chronically ill child and compare them to mothers with a healthy child. She found that the high stress mothers had telomere shortening equivalent to 9-17 years of extra aging. She believes that chronic stress is a large factor is wearing down the telomeres.

This book offers not only the possibility of living more vitally but living longer as well. Time will tell if this promise is achieved.

Book Review – The Immortality Edge by Michael Fossel, MD, PhD; Greta Blackburn; and Dave Woynarowski, MD2017-12-14T12:23:15-05:00