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