The Cortisol Connection

The Cortisol Connection:

How Adrenal Hormones Affect the Health of Pets (And Their Owners)

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

cortisol connection pets

Steroids are a class of medications that are used to treat inflammation, allergic reactions and pain in pets. Synthetic steroids, such as prednisone, dexamethasone, prednisolone, and triamcinolone are already widely used in veterinarian practices. Synthetic steroids have a long list of side effects and may be dangerous to use for a prolonged period of time.

Dr. Al Plechner devised another treatment approach. He used hydrocortisone, a steroid hormone bioidentical to the cortisol produced in the body, to supplement the pets’cortisol levels. His book, Endocrine-Immune Mechanisms in Animals and Human Health Implications, describes this series of events that may lead to many chronic illness symptoms and shortened lives:

Cortisol disruption can occur in a number of different ways. The adrenal glands may not produce enough cortisol. Or, cortisol may be produced, but be unavailable for use because it is bound tightly to proteins. Or, variations in enzymes or receptors may lead to less actual cortisol activity.

When the pituitary gland senses cortisol disruption, it compensates by sending more and more stimulation to the adrenal glands. If cortisol activity remains uncorrected, the pituitary signals continue and stimulate estrogen and androgen production from the adrenal glands. Dr. Plechner is convinced these estrogens and androgens come from the adrenal glands rather than the ovaries or testes because 90% of the animals he treats are spayed or neutered.

An increase in adrenal estrogen production triggers the body to produce binding proteins. Like cortisol, thyroid hormones can be made unavailable for use by the body when bound to proteins. Usual lab tests may show normal thyroid levels because the thyroid hormones are present, but they are unavailable for use by the body. Cholesterol and triglycerides also may be high.

Symptoms in pets related to low thyroid function include:

  • excess sleepiness
  • sluggishness
  • excess pigment in the in nose, pads of the feet, and abdomen.

Ultimately, the immune system may be disrupted. Testing, performed by Dr. Plechner, revealed that many important immune proteins were low in pets with the imbalances described above. He theorized that the high levels of adrenal estrogen were responsible for these changes in the immune system along with the lack of cortisol activity.

He found supplementing with hydrocortisone made up for the lack of adrenal activity and, within a very short period of time, total estrogen levels dropped and immune proteins improved. More importantly, the health of the dog or cat was restored.

Interestingly, adequate thyroid hormones are needed to help break down cortisol in the body. Many dogs needed thyroid supplementation in addition to hydrocortisone to restore their health. Cats did not generally display the same thyroid deficiency problems, and so fewer needed thyroid.

Dr. Plechner writes that the area of the adrenal gland which produces cortisol is the most sensitive to assaults by chemicals, toxins, and continued stress. Inbreeding of pet animals has led to serious weaknesses with the adrenal production and activity of cortisol. Once cortisol activity has declined, serious impairment of the immune system likely follows. Dr. Plechner has linked the following conditions to this imbalance: infertility, endometriosis, cystic ovaries, heavy bleeding during menstruation, malabsorption and digestive disorders, allergies, lung problems, urinary tract problems, liver dysfunction, behavior changes, epilepsy, obesity, deadly infections, periodontitis, vaccinosis, autoimmunity and cancer.

Dr. Plechner believes that this situation also occurs in humans. He proposes that the work presented by Dr. William Jefferies in “Safe Uses of Cortisol” illustrates the human equivalent. Dr. Jeffries also found the use of low doses of supplemental hydrocortisone to be helpful for a large spectrum of disorders.

It is amazing to think that this cascade of hormone and immune dysfunctions could be behind so many different maladies. On the positive side, laboratory testing of cortisol, thyroid, and total estrogens can easily confirm this imbalance. Although it is not yet a standard practice, treatment with hydrocortisone is inexpensive and, according to Dr. Plechner, extremely effective and even life-saving. If you or your pet suffer from any of the conditions mentioned in this article, it may be worthwhile to discuss testing and hydrocortisone with your veterinarian and/or personal health care practitioner.

Additional Resources:

Book Review – Paleo Dog

The Cortisol Connection2017-12-15T11:23:41-05:00

Healthy Sleep and Rest

Healthy Sleep and Rest

Written by Gina Besteman, RPh, & Michelle Violi, PharmD – Women’s International Pharmacy

One of the more common symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause that patients complain of is difficulty sleeping. There is a significant amount of research showing how hormones affect healthy sleep. healthy sleep

Progesterone affects GABA receptors which are responsible for non-REM sleep, the deepest of the sleep stages. Progesterone also affects breathing. It’s been shown to be a respiratory stimulant and has been used to treat mild obstructive sleep apnea.

The role of estrogen in sleep appears to be more complicated than that of progesterone. Estrogen is involved in breaking down norepinephrine, serotonin, and acetylcholine in the body. It has also been shown to decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, decrease the number of awakenings after sleep occurs, and increase total sleep time. Low estrogen levels may lead to hot flashes, which can also affect sleep.

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It normally peaks in the early morning followed by a slow decline throughout the day and night. However, chronic stress can alter healthy cortisol production and lead to sleep problems if cortisol is low in the morning and increased in the evening and at night.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain that regulates sleep and wakefulness. Normally, melatonin levels begin to increase in the mid to late evening, remain elevated throughout the night and drop in the morning. In general, melatonin levels decrease with age and melatonin production can be shut off by bright light. If melatonin levels are disrupted, sleep may be disrupted as well.

In addition to hormones, sleep can be affected by a number of external factors. It is important to maintain proper sleep hygiene as follows:

  • Avoid napping during the day
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime
  • Exercise can promote good sleep, but avoid vigorous exercise too close to bedtime
  • Food can be disruptive right before sleep
  • Ensure adequate exposure to natural light during the day
  • Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine
  • Associate your bed with sleep
  • Make sure that the sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing and free from light pollution, e.g., lighted alarm clock faces, street lights through open windows, and cell phones/tablet devices
  • Eichling PS. Evaluating and Treating Menopausal Sleep Problems. Menopause Management. Sept/Oct 2002.
Healthy Sleep and Rest2017-12-14T15:01:55-05:00

Holiday Stress and Hormones

Holiday Stress and Hormones

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

Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed spoke at the Integrative Health Symposium conference in October, 2015, highlighting the complexity of how stress affects hormone activity. holiday stress

Research has sought to identify the unique characteristics of hormones for decades.  This is difficult, however, because hormones do not act in a vacuum, but have distinct relationships with each other.

Introducing the Hypothalamus, Pituitary Gland and the Adrenal Glands
One of the more complicated hormone relationships involves the HPA axis. The HPA axis is a set of interactions and signals that exist between the Hypothalamus, the Pituitary gland and the Adrenal glands. This relationship is an indispensable part of our existence.

The hypothalamus is a very tiny area in the brain with an enormous number of functions. Some of these functions include the regulation of body temperature, hunger, attachment behaviors, thirst, fatigue, sleep, and circadian rhythms. The hypothalamus produces a number of hormones which directly stimulate the pituitary gland.

The pituitary gland is also located in the brain and produces hormones that play a role in regulating the thyroid gland, ovaries, testes, and adrenal glands among other things.

The adrenal glands are located above each kidney and produce hormones that help the body control blood sugar, burn protein and fat, react to stressors like a major illness or injury, and regulate blood pressure.

An example of HPA axis activity (i.e., the interaction between these three glands) is as follows: In response to stress, the hypothalamus produces corticotropic releasing hormone (CRH) which signals the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then signals the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine to be used by the body to respond to the stressor. Uniquely, women experience more stimulation to the HPA axis under conditions of stress than men do.

The HPA Axis is Self-Regulating
Not only does the HPA axis work to produce hormones to respond to stress, it also regulates itself so the body stops producing stress hormones when they’re no longer needed. When cortisol is released by the adrenal glands into the blood, receptors in both the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are able to detect this rise in cortisol. The activation of these receptors turns down the production of CRH and ACTH ultimately resulting in a decrease in the production of cortisol. Ideally, the interaction between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands creates an environment of stability and consistency using these feedback loops.

Sex Hormones
The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland also play a role in regulating the production of sex hormones. The hypothalamus produces gonadotropin releasing hormones (GnRH) which stimulate the pituitary gland to produce luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which in turn stimulate the production of estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone by the ovaries and testes. The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland monitor and regulate the ebb and flow of sex hormones with a feedback loop similar to the one used by the HPA axis.

Failure of the HPA Axis Feedback Loop
If the body believes it is under constant stress, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland continue to produce CRH and ACTH to stimulate more and more cortisol production. Eventually, however, the system starts to malfunction. Chronic high cortisol levels damage the production of GnRH from the hypothalamus and, as a double whammy, increase the production of a gonadotropin inhibiting hormone (GnIH), which disturbs the production of sex hormones from the ovaries and testes.

What Happens Next?
Infertility is a significant consequence of the disruption of the delicate hormone symphony. Continued, elevated levels of cortisol are thought to be a prime cause of infertility:

  • Stress may increase the production of prolactin from the pituitary gland which can inhibit ovulation.
  • Cortisol increases inflammation in the uterus which may cause cramping, spasms, and even miscarriage.
  • Increased spasms may cause damage to the egg in the fallopian tube.
  • Disruptions of the HPA axis are thought to be an underlying cause of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition associated with infertility in young women.

Weight gain is another potential consequence when the HPA axis is disrupted:

  • Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the stomach which contributes to the feeling of hunger. Once food is consumed, ghrelin production is turned off with some help from a neurotransmitter named dopamine. Cortisol can interfere with dopamine activity which may leave one feeling hungry even after eating.
  • Another hormone called leptin, which is produced in fat cells, inhibits food cravings and initiates fat burning. Cortisol can block the release of leptin. Fat deposited in the abdomen has 30% more cortisol receptors than the rest of the body’s fat, so the cortisol blocking effect on leptin release may be further enhanced in individuals with an excess of abdominal fat.
  • Cortisol amps up insulin release in response to grains and fruits possibly leading to increased food cravings.

What Can We Do to Reverse This?
The most obvious step is to take measures to relieve chronic stress. This can include massage, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, exercise and diet. Natural supplements can also be used. Lactium, a peptide isolated from milk may be used to re-sensitize the hypothalamus to cortisol and re-establish the feedback loop. Herbs like magnolia, ashwaganda, schizandra can moderate cortisol production. Theanine from green tea and the amino acid GABA can also mitigate stress reactions. Judicious use of bioidentical hormones may also help break this cycle of dysfunction.

The takeaway point from Dr. Kendall-Reed’s presentation is that high levels of stress and persistent high levels of cortisol affect the very intricate and complicated balance of many hormones. Learning to manage stress with life style, nutrients, hormones and perception may help restore more balanced functioning to many of the body’s systems.

  • Kendall-Reed P. Lecture presented at: Integrative Health Symposium; October 2015.
Holiday Stress and Hormones2018-04-02T15:28:29-05:00

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Gets a Name Makeover

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Gets a Name Makeover

Written by Kathy Lynch, PharmD – Women’s International Pharmacy

In February of 2015, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) put forth a proposal to change the name and the diagnostic criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). People who suffer from this condition are often made to feel that their symptoms are psychological or a figment of their imagination. Patients may see multiple practitioners in an attempt to find symptom relief for their CFS.

The name “chronic fatigue syndrome” was coined by the Centers for Disease Control in 1988. The Europeans prefer to call this condition myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) which focuses on central nervous system (CNS) inflammation with muscle pain. Many experts now call this condition ME/CFS.

Since CNS inflammation and muscle pain are not universal components of ME/CFS, an IOM panel undertook the task of defining the major symptoms suffered by people with CFS. They concluded that the most prominent and universal symptom of CFS is a lingering depletion of energy after minimal physical and/or cognitive exertion. The panel recommended that CFS be renamed systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) or post-exertional malaise (PEM) for short.

The panel proposed the following diagnostic criteria:

  • Extreme fatigue lasting more than six months
  • Post-exertional malaise
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Either cognitive impairment or orthostatic intolerance (symptoms made worse by standing and relieved when reclining)

Wisconsin researchers recently published an interesting study in this area. Thirteen CFS patients and 11 healthy controls exercised to their maximal capacity. Researchers obtained blood samples and administered symptom questionnaires before and up to 72 hours after exercise. They measured gene expression for metabolite, cortisol, adrenaline and immune system receptors. Individuals with CFS had a significant increase in the number of cortisol and adrenaline receptors up to 72 hours after exercising compared to control subjects.

Could low cortisol levels be a factor in CFS? A review of multiple scientific studies found significantly low cortisol levels in people with CFS. Hydrocortisone supplementation may be an important piece of the recovery puzzle for people with chronic fatigue.

  • Tuller D. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Gets a New Name. The New York Times. February 10, 2015.
  • “Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) Key Facts” by Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
  • Meyer JD, et al. Post-exertion malaise in chronic fatigue syndrome: symptoms and gene expression. Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior. 2013; 1(4): 190-209.
  • Lineke M, et al. Meta-analysis and meta-regression of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in functional somatic disorders. Biol Psychol. 2011; 87: 183-194.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Gets a Name Makeover2018-04-02T16:18:01-05:00

Book Review – The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal

Book Review – The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal, PhD

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

Stress is bad, right? It damages our body, causes depression, shortens our lives…the list goes on and on. We say things like, “All this stress is giving me an ulcer!” or, “This stress is killing me!” Your practitioner, if unable to pinpoint the source of your malady, may advise that you reduce your stress level. We have whole industries designed to decrease stress in our lives: yoga classes, meditation courses, massage therapy, breathing exercises, exercise, and life style coaching.

Dr. Kelly McGonigal urges us to rethink the idea that “stress is bad” in her book, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at It. Dr. McGonigal is a health psychologist who teaches at Stanford’s School of Medicine Health Improvement Center and the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism.

A Little History
Dr. Hans Selye, an endocrinologist, found that introducing any sort of unpleasant experience produced a loss of muscle tone, ulcers, immune breakdown, and ultimately death in his lab rats. Having already seen human patients who experienced similar breakdowns in their health, he drew from his observations and his rat experiments to define stress as any demand made on the body. Further, he felt that just about anything that happened to someone in life (good or bad) was toxic.

Dr. McGonigal argues that Dr. Selye’s definition is much too broad. She believes there is a huge difference between the body’s response to near death experiences and electric shocks as the lab rats endured (she calls it The Hunger Games for rats!), and the everyday stresses of living life in the modern world that humans commonly experience.

Fight or Flight
The classic description of the body’s response to stress is “fight or flight.” The body reacts to a stressor by stopping all non-essential processes, like digestion and fertility, and releases a flood of energy and oxygen needed to flee a dangerous situation or to fight for survival. Although this process has served human beings and other animals well throughout millennia in their survival efforts, “fight or flight” may not be always appropriate in modern life. It isn’t very effective to run away from a disagreement with your boss or an argument with your spouse, and it isn’t possible to fight for survival against past due bills or an IRS audit. Dr. McGonigal points out our stress responses have adapted over time and aren’t limited to this one “fight or flight” response. We have developed many more coping strategies.

A More Finely Tuned Stress Response
Dr. McGonigal describes three types of stress responses in addition to “fight or flight,” which all serve to handle stress in such a way that may have a positive effect on the body:

  • Rise to the Challenge: This stress response allows us to focus our attention, heightens our senses, increases motivation and mobilizes our energy. This stress response is of benefit, for example, to an athlete who is about to compete.
  • Connect with Others: This stress response activates the need to protect our tribe and dampens fear and increases courage.
  • Learn and Grow: This stress response helps us integrate experiences and helps the brain learn.

The Main Stress Hormones
The hormones cortisol (also called hydrocortisone) and DHEA produced by the adrenal glands are considered the primary responders to stress. The outpouring of these hormones can affect the body positively rather than negatively. For example:

  • Research has shown that supplementing these stress hormones to enhance the stress response has been beneficial to those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic attacks.
  • Psychiatrists have begun using these stress hormones before a therapy session and surgeons before surgery to improve outcomes.
  • Experiments designed to measure stress hormone responses find that those with the largest increase in DHEA are the most resilient under stress. DHEA can act as a neuro-steroid and actually help your brain grow stronger after stressful events.

Many More Hormones
While cortisol and DHEA are the main stress hormones, there are a number of other hormones involved in the body’s stress response.

  • Adrenaline (also called epinephrine) pours out of the adrenal glands with cortisol and DHEA, and serves to activate and focus our senses. The pupils of the eyes dilate to let in more light and hearing sharpens. The liver starts to dump fats and sugars into the blood stream to provide more energy for the brain and the muscles.
  • The release of endorphins, testosterone, and dopamine, along with adrenaline, actually provides a feeling of exhilaration that many find enjoyable. This “adrenaline rush” is the feeling thrill seekers are after when they skydive or ride roller-coasters.
  • Oxytocin is produced by the pituitary gland. Oxytocin increases our ability to bond with others and during times of stress, it allows our courage to dampen our fear. Interestingly, heart tissue contains many receptors for oxytocin which allow for regeneration and repair. Many believe that stress will give you a heart attack; however, the outpouring of oxytocin may actually strengthen your heart.

The Mindset
Early in her career, Dr. McGonigal , like many, believed that stress produces negative effects in the body. Then she came across a study that she just couldn’t reconcile with her belief system. This study documented that people who were exposed to stressors had different outcomes dependent upon their mindset about stress. If people believed stress was bad and produced unhealthy effects, it was so. If people believed stress was a part of life and a challenge to meet, they were healthier and even had enhanced life spans when compared to those with low levels of stress.

After this, Dr. McGonigal turned her career around. She no longer teaches fear of stress and stress management. She sums up her change in mindset in the introduction of her book: “The latest science shows that stress can make you smarter, stronger and more successful. It helps you learn and grow. It can even inspire courage and compassion.” She shares the tools to change one’s mindset in her book. Better yet, science shows that mindset is malleable for all of us.

Book Review – The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal2018-05-02T11:18:19-05:00

Book Review – Female Brain Gone Insane

Book Review – Female Brain Gone Insane by Mia Lundin, NP, RN

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

How many women have felt like her world was falling apart at some stage in her life? Assailed by symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, irritability, weeping, brain fog, and loss of focus and concentration, she seeks help from her trusted medical practitioner. Traditional medicine offers her symptomatic relief with pharmaceutical chemicals such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety agents, and sleep aids. Side effects from these medications sometimes lead to the addition of more medications. When this option fails, the medical practitioner, at a loss, may tell her, “It’s all in your head.” This roller coaster of symptoms can make any woman think she is going insane.

This happened to Mia Lundin, NP, author of Female Brain Gone Insane, after she gave birth to her second child. Although resistant, she did turn to antidepressants for a time. Prior to using antidepressants, she noticed an injection of progesterone dramatically relieved her symptoms for a few days. Ultimately, her curiosity about hormones, sparked by the benefit she experienced with progesterone, led her to a 20-year clinical practice using bioidentical sex, adrenal, and thyroid hormones along with amino acids to help with neurotransmitter production in the brain.

Neurotransmitters are made in the body from amino acids obtained by digesting proteins in the diet. Neurotransmitter balance is a key component of brain function. There are over 50 known neurotransmitters, but those we understand the best are serotonin, GABA, norepinephrine (or noradrenaline), and dopamine. The first two have calming effects and the second two are excitatory. Neurotransmitters do not operate alone, but are greatly influenced by sex, thyroid, and adrenal hormones.

A woman’s hormone levels may be especially affected at certain times during her life. Hormone fluctuations may occur cyclically before a woman’s period, after childbirth, and during perimenopause. Low hormone levels are common during perimenopause, menopause, and surgical menopause. These hormone level changes may produce changes to the hormone-brain chemistry balance.

Estrogen affects serotonin activity in a number of ways. Estrogen makes tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to serotonin, more available in the brain to make serotonin. Estrogen also supports serotonin levels by enhancing the removal of the enzyme, monoamine oxidase (MAO), that breaks down serotonin in the brain. Additionally, estrogen sensitizes serotonin receptors and fluctuating estrogen levels may impair the production of serotonin. Loss of the calming effect of serotonin may trigger symptoms of agitation, sensitivity, and uneasiness.

Adrenal cortisol may become depleted when the body is under continuous stress. When this happens, estrogen and progesterone can become unbalanced. GABA levels may be affected because progesterone stimulates GABA production. Serotonin stores may also become depleted.

On the other hand, if adrenaline and cortisol are high, as during a response to acute stress, and estrogen is out of balance with progesterone, thyroid activity may be inhibited. Low thyroid function can contribute to low serotonin levels and low serotonin levels can contribute to low thyroid function.

In Female Brain Gone Insane, Lundin does much more than describe how the disruption of hormones affects brain chemistry. She supplies lists of symptoms to help identify hormone deficiencies and excesses, provides suggestions on hormone testing and how to have it done, and she suggests ways to approach medical practitioners to find assistance with hormone use. She provides questionnaires and charts for those who want to help themselves. In short, she provides the framework for an entire lifestyle makeover. Women who feel that their world has fallen apart can find guidance back to themselves in this book.

This book is an excellent primer for those who want to learn more about bioidentical hormone therapies. Further, it is so well-referenced that practitioners who want to start learning about identifying and helping their patients with hormone-brain chemistry imbalances will find what they need here.

Book Review – Female Brain Gone Insane2018-06-14T10:49:33-05:00

Adrenal Estrogens

Adrenal Estrogens: Are we missing something?

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


Dr. Al Plechner, veterinarian, has authored books about the importance of cortisol produced by the adrenal glands in preventing allergies, autoimmunity, and cancer. Citing Dr. William McK. Jefferies’ classic book, Safe Uses of Cortisone, Dr. Plechner stresses that low cortisol production by the body due to stress, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and other factors contributes to the same conditions in humans as it does in animals.

Low levels of cortisol in the body cause the pituitary gland in the brain to produce more and more ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) in an attempt to stimulate the adrenal glands to make more cortisol. However, when the adrenal glands are fatigued and unable to produce more cortisol, the continuous stimulation of the adrenal glands by ACTH causes them to produce estrogens and androgens like DHEA instead.

Dr. Plechner maintains that estrogens produced by the adrenal glands contribute to inflammatory diseases. He suggests that we measure total estrogen levels in the body to see the entire picture. If a practitioner only measures estradiol levels and then supplements with estrogen when the estradiol levels are low, this could lead to an excess in total estrogen levels in the body leading to problems resulting from too much estrogen.

As more men and women turn to testosterone supplementation, Dr. Plechner reminds us that we should pay attention to the aromatization (conversion) of testosterone to even more estrogen. He recommends measuring total estrogen levels in both women and men prior to supplementation with testosterone to avoid potential complications resulting from excess estrogen.

  • Plechner A. Elevated Estrogen is Feared by the Medical Profession; However the Medical Profession Does Not Measure Total Estrogen. Townsend Newsletter. 2015 April: 79-80.
  •  Jefferies WM. Safe Uses of Cortisol. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas; 2004.
Adrenal Estrogens2017-12-08T12:37:49-05:00

A New Treatment Program to Improve Memory Loss

A New Treatment Program to Improve Memory Loss

Written by Kathy Lynch, PharmD – Women’s International Pharmacy

In spite of hundreds of clinical trials over the past ten years, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has no effective treatment. AD affects 5.4 million Americans, predominately females. It is estimated that women have a greater chance of developing AD than breast cancer.

Research supports the theory that an imbalance in brain nerve cell signals causes this disorder. Specific signals make nerve connections to cement memories while others allow irrelevant memories to be lost. This signaling system becomes imbalanced so that new memory connections are inhibited while more information is forgotten. Reversible metabolic processes may be involved in the early stages of AD.

Dr. Bredeson and his colleagues at UCLA believe that a comprehensive, personalized approach is the best way to treat memory loss. They have developed a program that optimizes diet (no simple carbohydrates, gluten, or processed foods), utilizes meditation and yoga, and emphasizes the importance of sleep, hormones, good oral health, and exercise. Patients may use supplements as well as medium chain triglycerides like coconut oil or Axona.

The researchers believe that free T3 and T4, estradiol, testosterone, progesterone, pregnenolone, and cortisol need to be optimized. Nine out of ten patients in this pilot program had cognitive improvement.

Additional Resources:

For more resources from Women’s International Pharmacy, see our Mental Health Resources page.

A New Treatment Program to Improve Memory Loss2018-04-04T15:44:16-05:00

Controlling Stress Promotes Healthy Aging

Controlling Stress Promotes Healthy Aging

Written by Kathy Lynch, PharmD – Women’s International Pharmacy

Controlling cortisol and insulin levels are essential strategies in the quest for healthy aging. These hormones cause an increase in metabolic stress which leads to abdominal weight gain, chronic inflammation and telomere shortening. Metabolic aging can be partially offset by an increase in DHEA and testosterone coupled with a decrease in cortisol and insulin. Low hormone levels can be aided by supplementation. Exercise has been shown to increase DHEA and decrease cortisol and insulin levels.

Certain personality types experience an exaggerated stress response with higher than usual cortisol and insulin levels. It is theorized that individuals with anxiety or low self-esteem, who suppress negative feelings like anger and fear being evaluated by others, are prime candidates for premature aging. Progesterone, particularly in capsule form, has a calming effect on the nervous system.

A small study of 36 menopausal women found an association between pessimism and an increase in Interleukin-6, an inflammatory substance, as well as shorter white blood cell telomere length. Both are probable markers of premature aging.

  • Epel ES. Psychological and Metabolic Stress: A Recipe for Accelerated Cellular Aging? Hormones (Athens). 2009 Jan-Mar;8(1):7-22.
  • O’Donovan A, et al. Pessimism Correlates with Leukocyte Telomere Shortness and Elevated Interleukin-6 in Post-Menopausal Women. Brain Behav Immun. 2009 May;23(4):446-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2008.11.006. Epub 2008 Dec 11.
Controlling Stress Promotes Healthy Aging2017-12-08T12:41:21-05:00

Foot Fat Pad Atrophy

Foot Fat Pad Atrophy

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


Here’s another one to add to the number of signs and symptoms of declining hormones: Is the heel or bottom of your foot causing you pain? Are you finding yourself seeking relief in the Dr. Scholl’s section of the pharmacy? It could be due to foot fat pad atrophy.

The foot fat pads are the tissue that protects your foot on the ball of the foot and at the bottom of the heel. Atrophy means shrinking or disappearing. The foot pad tissue under the foot does decline with age. Menopause and surgical menopause increase the rate of decline. Obvious mechanical issues, such as being overweight, can also have a negative impact and hasten the loss of the plumpness of this tissue.

If plantar fasciitis (painful inflammation of the bottom of the foot) has been an issue, your practitioner may have used one or more injections of “cortisone” to relieve pain. Unfortunately, this “cortisone” is not the same as the cortisone hormone the body produces; it is actually a synthetic analog that can lead to even more atrophy of the foot pads.

In addition, as Dr. Sergey Dzugan points out in The Magic of Cholesterol Numbers, cholesterol levels elevate when the body senses a deficiency of the sex and adrenal hormones, which are normally produced from cholesterol. So statin users beware! When taking statins, not only do cholesterol levels fall, but the ability to make hormones drops even further. Statin drug use may be a source of foot pain from accelerated foot fat pad atrophy.

If you are experiencing foot pain, have your practitioner check for hormone deficiencies, including vitamin D (which is also made from cholesterol). These deficiencies may be the underlying cause of your foot pain.

Foot Fat Pad Atrophy2017-12-14T15:16:50-05:00