Vitamin K2 – A Missing Link in the Western Diet?

Vitamin K2 – A Missing Link in the Western Diet?

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

In 1925 an enterprising dentist, Dr. Weston Price, and his wife began traveling the world and documenting their observations of healthy, remote populations. They observed significant changes in tooth arrangement and mouth and facial structure when people of various cultures strayed from their traditional diet and adopted the Western diet. Traditional diets varied greatly, but all consisted of animal protein and fat in the form of fish, fowl, land animals, eggs, milk and milk products, reptiles, and/or insects. The Western diet introduced processed foods, sugar, and grains. Narrowed mouths, crowded teeth, thin faces, and smaller arches appeared in children whose parents adopted the Western diet. Dr. Price suspected that something specific was missing from the Western diet. He called this mysterious factor Activator X. He demonstrated that Activator X was prevalent in the meat and milk products of animals that grazed on green grasses. He even showed that these facial and dental abnormalities could be reversed in the next generation if Activator X was replaced in the diet. Finally, in 2006, Dr. Price’s Activator X was identified to be vitamin K2.

Confusion With the K’s
There are a number of types of vitamin K, but only two natural forms: vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Vitamin K1 is present in leafy, green vegetables and is most identified with blood clotting. The drug, Coumadin, works to prevent blood from clotting by inhibiting the action of vitamin K1. The effects of excessive Coumadin may be reversed by administering vitamin K1.

Vitamin K2 exists in a number of distinct active forms. The two most commonly seen are designated as MK-4 and MK-7. MK-4 is present in the organs, milk, eggs and cheese of grass-fed animals. MK-7 is most abundant in a bacterial ferment of soy beans called natto. It is also present in lesser amounts in other fermented foods. Vitamin K2 does not appear to share Vitamin K1’s association with blood clotting.

A Calcium Paradox
Nutritional biochemistry is complicated. In order to learn how various vitamins and minerals work in the body, we often look at the function of one single nutrient at a time. However, when we do this, we fail to understand how nutrients work together. For example, we know that bones need calcium, but supplementing with calcium alone is unlikely to strengthen one’s bones. We need to consider how a number of nutrients work together to contribute to bone health. Each of the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K, works together synergistically. Vitamin D facilitates calcium absorption into the blood stream. Vitamin K2 converts vitamin D into its active form and also activates the hormone osteocalcin to direct the calcium to the bone. A deficiency of any one of these vitamins may cause malfunctions in the body. Specifically, a deficiency of vitamin K2 may cause calcium to be stored in other tissues rather than being directed to the bone. If calcium settles in the arteries, it can lead to atherosclerosis. Calcium may also cause problems by settling in the joints and in soft tissues like the breasts.

The French Paradox Solved?
Many find it surprising that the French eat a lot of cholesterol and saturated fat and have low rates of death from coronary heart disease (CHD). Some think it’s an ingredient in red wine that keeps them healthy. Perhaps these saturated fats laden with vitamin K2 are the protective factor.

Vitamin K2 in All Parts of the Body

  • Heart Disease: One of the most powerful tools against calcification of the blood vessels is a vitamin K2 activated protein.
  • Osteoporosis: Vitamin K2 activated osteocalcin directs calcium to the bones.
  • Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome: Vitamin K2 improves insulin sensitivity thus potentially stalling progression to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
  • Wrinkles and Tissue Laxity: May be due to a vitamin K2 deficiency causing misplaced calcium in the skin and tissues.
  • Varicose Veins: May be due to a vitamin K2 deficiency causing calcium to deposit in the veins.
  • Arthritis: Joint damage may reflect a vitamin K2 deficiency.
  • Dental Health: Vitamin K2 may be useful in treating and preventing dental cavities.
  • Pregnancy: Adequate vitamin K2 promotes the healthy development of fetal teeth and facial structure. Also, labor may be easier when vitamin K2 levels are adequate.
  • Cancer: Vitamin K2 promotes cell differentiation and may protect against metastasis.
  • Nervous System: Vitamin K2 plays a role in nervous system protection, myelin development, and signal transduction.

Vitamin K2 and Hormones
Vitamin K2 has an important relationship with estrogen and bone health. Estrogen and bone density both decline during menopause and postmenopausal women are often markedly deficient in vitamin K2. Bone health may be improved in postmenopausal women by restoring adequate vitamin K2 levels as vitamin K2 acts in the bone loss pathway in a number of areas specific to the loss caused by low estrogen levels. Vitamin K2 also plays a role in estrogen metabolism itself. Additionally, testosterone levels and sperm production may be improved by osteocalcin, the hormone activated by vitamin K2.

It is remarkable that it took decades from Dr. Weston Price’s careful observations and characterization of Activator X to finally identify vitamin K2 and a number of its myriad functions. We are still not sure of the appropriate supplement dose to use or the amount of vitamin K2 rich foods to eat. Tests are being devised to help evaluate our vitamin K2 status. In the near future, we will be able to measure vitamin K2 levels as readily as we test for vitamin D now. Research has only scratched the surface of the potential of this fascinating vitamin!

Vitamin K2 – A Missing Link in the Western Diet?2018-04-05T11:10:21-05:00

Hormones for Hot Flashes

Hormones for Hot Flashes

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

The FDA approved the first and only non-hormonal treatment for hot flashes in 2013. Brisdelle (paroxetine) belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications are used primarily to treat depression. Before Brisdelle was approved, estrogens were the only FDA-indicated treatment for hot flashes.

A new study highlights an increased risk for bone fractures in women taking SSRIs for non-psychiatric conditions like hot flashes. Statistics from an insurance claims database indicate that female patients, aged 40-64 without mental illness who started SSRIs from 1998-2010, had an increased risk of breaking a bone compared to a similar group that started using proton pump inhibitors for stomach disorders. It may be time to reevaluate the use of SSRIs for the treatment of hot flashes.

Estradiol is FDA-approved for the treatment of hot flashes as well as for the prevention of osteoporosis. Misinterpretation of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Study has generated apprehension regarding the use of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) for hot flashes.

Dr. Kent Holtorf has reviewed numerous published papers and concluded that BHRT is safer and more effective than conventional hormone replacement therapy. Individualizing therapy and balancing hormone benefits vs. risks is the key to successful management of menopausal hot flashes. There is no need to substitute an SSRI for the real-deal.

Read more in the Women’s International Pharmacy Connections Newsletter on Menopause.

  • Sheu YH, et al. SSRI use and risk of fractures among perimenopausal women without mental disorders. Inj Prev. 2015 Jun 25. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2014-041483. (Epub ahead of print)
  • Holtorf K. The Bioidentical Hormone Debate:  Are Bioidentical Hormones (Estradiol, Estriol, and Progesterone) Safer or More Efficacious than Commonly Used Synthetic Versions in Hormone Replacement Therapy? Postgrad Med. 2009 Jan;121(1):1-13.
Hormones for Hot Flashes2019-05-22T11:11:49-05:00

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

Cherry Angiomas

Cherry Angiomas

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


Do you have bright red, sometimes raised, sometimes flat spots that seem to appear on your skin out of nowhere? Did your doctor tell you they are harmless and people get them as they age?

In his book Dr. Chi’s Fingernail and Tongue Analysis, Dr. Chi says cherry angiomas are created when estrogen attacks peripheral blood vessels, causing an aneurysm. This suggests hormones may be a major factor in cherry angioma formation.

While we don’t know for sure what causes cherry angiomas, they have been associated with excess estrogen and copper, bromide toxicity, and a vitamin C deficiency leading to weakened blood vessel walls. Cherry angiomas have been observed in pregnancy and with immune system suppression including chemotherapy. Also of note, a significant presence of human herpes virus 8 has been detected in cherry angiomas.

The red color is due to broken blood vessels inside the cherry angioma and any trauma to a cherry angioma may cause significant bleeding.

Even though they seem innocuous, cherry angiomas may be an early warning sign that something is amiss. The location of the angioma may be helpful in determining which organs are affected. Cherry angiomas on the abdomen may indicate liver or hormonal problems. Cherry angiomas near the hairline area or on the head may indicate a potential risk of stroke or aneurysm.

It is important to check your skin for these tiny red spots and pay attention to what they are telling us so we can make the appropriate changes to optimize our health!

  • Cohen AD, et al. Cherry angiomas associated with exposure to bromides. Dermatology. 2001;202(1):52-3.
  • Borghi A, et al. Detection of human herpesvirus 8 sequences in cutaneous cherry angiomas. Arch Dermatol Res. 2013 Sep;305(7):659-64. doi: 10.1007/s00403-013-1346-5. Epub 2013 Apr 2.
  • Chi T. Dr. Chi’s Fingernail and Tongue Analysis. Third Edition. Anaheim, CA: Chi’s Enterprise, Inc.; 2010.
  • Delgado A. Cherry Angioma. Healthline. George Krucik, MD, 17 July 2012.
  • Scheinfeld NS. Vascular Nodules and Papules. The Clinical Advisor. 12 July 2011. Web.
Cherry Angiomas2018-04-03T17:34:50-05:00

Book Review – An MD’s Life Saving Health Solutions by James A. Schaller

Book Review – An M.D.’s Life-Saving Health Solutions by James A. Schaller

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

Although not apparent from the title of this book, An M.D.’s Life-Saving Health Solutions: A Gynecologist’s Advice, Dr. James Schaller shares some very interesting thoughts about hormones from his long clinical practice in obstetrics and gynecology. He writes in an engaging fashion, almost like you were sitting in his office and having a conversation with him.

He is very clear that progestins (which he calls castrating drugs) are not progesterone. He calls the large Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study ill-conceived and and says it fails to answer the question that that they sought. The question asked by the study was “Can hormones delay the onset of chronic disease in women?” Because the study used only Premarin and Premarin with medroxyprogesterone (progestin), we only learned that the synthetic or non-human identical hormones do not delay the onset of chronic disease in women.

Dr. Schaller discusses the relationship between hormone balance and body fat at great length. He states ideally, a woman should have about 22% body fat. Less than 13% body fat and low estrogen at menopause is a real concern because there is not enough fat to allow for adequate estrogen storage. Consequently, very thin women have more sensitivity to swings in estrogen which occur throughout the cycle or in perimenopause. “Fat cells store, produce and release estrogen. The number of fat cells affects all hormonally-related effects,” Dr. Schaller claims.

Very thin women can experience stopped monthly periods because there is not enough estrogen available to build up the endometrium. Recall that cycling begins in a young woman who has at least 13% body fat. These women are also at higher risk for osteoporosis.

On the other hand, women who are overweight with more than 30% body fat, store plenty of estrogen in their fat cells. They have a life-long imbalance in progesterone needed to balance the estrogen they accumulate and store. Periods may also stop for obese women but they will likely experience abnormal bleeding.

It is important women understand normal ovarian function. Young girls usually experience pain during the first one to two days of their periods indicating that an ovulation has occurred. After a vaginal delivery this pain may stop. Pain can also occur at mid cycle or two weeks before bleeding begins. This pain can be stabbing or a dull ache and represents the pain of the follicle bursting through the ovary wall. He recommends avoiding strenuous activity when this happens. The ovaries can actually sway with rigorous exercise and prevent healing of the rupture in the ovarian wall.

Dr. Schaller’s book contains many more practical hints. He warns against using psychoactive drugs, medications that have an effect on mood, behavior, or thinking processes, for PMS when progesterone addresses the underlying issue and is less expensive too. He says statins are very dangerous. He notes that cholesterol-lowering drugs do not save lives but actually increase mortality and produce depression and memory problems.

Dr. Schaller is accepting of some doses of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for ovulation pain; however, he says using NSAIDs in excess can cause serious problems because of their potential for gastric ulceration. Drugs which are used for excess stomach acid actually prevent absorption of critical nutrients and bisphosphonate drugs used for osteoporosis interfere with normal bone metabolism.

It was a privilege to read this book and reap the benefits of the observations of a physician in practice for over 40 years. I am sad to see our medicine system turning into one which allows patients only a few minutes with a practitioner and uses treatment plans based on algorithms instead of treating people like individuals and tapping into the vast stores of knowledge and experience from physicians such as Dr. Schaller.

Book Review – An MD’s Life Saving Health Solutions by James A. Schaller2018-01-22T10:56:17-05:00

Sex Hormone Binding Globulin

Sex Hormone Binding Globulin

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


Hormone levels in the blood must be just right. Steroid hormones, including testosterone, estrogens, DHEA, and progesterone, among others, are fat-soluble, but our blood is mostly water. Therefore, hormones and the blood do not mix very well. The body’s solution to this problem is sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a protein created by the liver which connects with the fat-loving hormones. The resulting complex becomes water-soluble and can move freely in the blood stream, carrying these hormones throughout the body. It also acts as a reservoir for the hormones it carries and protects the hormones from hyperactive liver metabolism and kidney excretion.

Hormones combine with SHBG to different degrees of affinity or attraction. The most strongly bound hormone is dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the active form of testosterone, followed by testosterone itself.

Although to a considerably less degree than DHT and testosterone, SHBG also shows affinity for estrogens, DHEA, and even progesterone. Estrogens increase SHBG production in the liver if the liver is functioning correctly. Adiponectin, a hormone released by the fat cells, is also involved.

Hormones related to testosterone decrease SHBG production by the liver. Insulin, hypothyroidism, and liver disease may also decrease SHBG. Low levels of SHBG are predictive of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, sleep apnea, PCOS, kidney disease, and obesity.

A useful test for checking hormone levels involves collecting urine for 24 hours and measuring the amount of hormone leaving the body that day. If a patient has low SHBG levels, testosterone will come out in the urine in greater amounts and may be interpreted as the patient having plenty of testosterone when their level is actually low. In order to accurately interpret the urine test results, the urine test should be accompanied by a blood test to measure SHBG.

An interesting scenario happens when testosterone is used as a supplement. As mentioned previously, testosterone decreases SHBG production by the liver. With less SHBG available over time, the supplemental doses of testosterone are more rapidly excreted by the body and don’t have an opportunity to build up in the blood and get to the tissues. It is important to test for SHBG especially if testosterone supplementation does not appear to be working.

Low SHBG causing low testosterone availability puts one at risk for sleep apnea. Poor sleep can, in turn, cause a decrease in testosterone, SHBG, and growth hormone production, creating a viscous circle. Regaining weight after weight loss can be predicted by low SHBG, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is also characterized by low SHBG.

If SHBG levels are too high, both testosterone and estrogens are bound. High levels of SHBG increase one’s risk for osteoporosis because the testosterone and estrogens needed to assist with bone formation are not available for use. Birth control pills can increase SHBG greatly, and high SHBG can be predictive of blood clot formation while on these drugs. High SHBG can also be predictive for cardiovascular disease.

Understanding SHBG is another tool to use in evaluating hormones. We are often tempted to label functions in our bodies as “good” or “bad” and some might apply this thinking to SHBG levels. There isn’t good or bad SHBG, just the levels that provide the best functioning for our bodies.

  • Fogle S. SHBG: What is it good for? Presented at the Age Management Medicine Group meeting, Las Vegas, NV: 2014 November.
Sex Hormone Binding Globulin2018-04-04T17:28:24-05:00

Book Review – Adrenaline Dominance by Michael E. Platt, MD

Book Review – Adrenaline Dominance: A Revolutionary Approach to Wellness by Michael E. Platt, MD

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

We know what a surge of adrenaline feels like. It is the hormone that gives us the strength for “fight or flight.” Our hearts beat harder, stronger, faster. Blood is diverted from less important things like digestion to our muscular tissue. Thought processes seem to happen at lightning speed. There are many stories of superhuman feats performed under extraordinary circumstances with surges of adrenaline.

Dr. Michael E. Platt has written his book Adrenaline Dominance because he feels that practitioners and their clients lack understanding of this very important hormone. He finds that knowing how adrenaline functions enables him to successfully guide his patients towards wellness.

Adrenaline is produced by an inner part of the adrenal glands. Dr. Platt explains that there are two reasons for adrenaline to be released: One reason is in response to stress as described above, and the second reason is to ensure that the brain has received enough sugar (glucose). The body uses adrenaline to help create more glucose from protein as well as stimulate the release of glucose stored in the liver. Consequently, as glucose releases, insulin releases. These two hormones are intimately involved with adrenaline.

Dr. Platt organized his book according to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” the classic Clint Eastwood western, to illustrate that adrenaline has both desirable and undesirable effects. He believes that right-brained creative thinkers acquire those qualities from plenty of adrenaline ensuring lots of glucose to the brain. Superb athletes also get their edge from adrenaline. These are “good” mental and physical effects of generous amounts of adrenaline.

It starts to get “bad” when adrenaline output is too generous or our bodies don’t have the ability to moderate the high adrenaline. High adrenaline can be tied into depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, headaches, restless leg syndrome, addictions, and bedwetting. It gets “ugly” when syndromes such as fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, road rage, autism, or post-traumatic stress disorder appear.

Progesterone, which is also produced by our adrenal glands, is the natural modifier of excess adrenaline. Dr. Platt recommends progesterone in men and women, as well as children. Along with progesterone, Dr. Platt guides his patients with their food choices. Dr. Platt recognizes the relationship between glucose and insulin and claims the timing and types of foods ingested can make significant changes in the presentation of excess adrenaline.

It is not difficult to imagine the ramifications of adrenaline being out of balance since Dr. John Lee introduced us to the concept of “estrogen dominance.” Many practitioners surprisingly don’t recognize the significance of progesterone in moderating both the effects of estrogens and adrenaline. Thanks to Dr. Platt, we can raise our awareness on an ever enlarging picture about hormone balance. He reveals his evidence and thinking in great detail in his book, which is sure to expand every reader’s thinking about our bodies.

  • Platt ME. Adrenaline Dominance: A Revolutionary Approach to Wellness. Michael E. Platt, MD; 2014.
Book Review – Adrenaline Dominance by Michael E. Platt, MD2018-04-03T16:34:47-05:00

The Lyme Disease Merry-Go-Round

The Lyme Disease Merry-Go-Round: Hormones, the Immune System, and Yeast

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


Patients with chronic Lyme disease have weakened immune systems which may allow intestinal yeast to overgrow. Antibiotics, the mainstay of Lyme disease therapy, destroy the beneficial gut bacteria which keep yeast overgrowth in check. Yeast, in turn, depresses the immune system even further. It also binds up estrogen, making it unavailable to the cells that need it the most. Thus patients with Lyme disease may get sicker and sicker due to a compromised immune system, hormone imbalance, and yeast overgrowth.

A low sugar, low carbohydrate diet can kill off yeast while strengthening the immune system. Acidophilus and other anti-yeast supplements like aged garlic extract can help as well. (See our A Connection with Yeast newsletter.) Practitioners who treat yeast with immunotherapy can be found at the American Academy of Environmental Medicine website.

Marlene Kunold, a German practitioner who specializes in the treatment of Lyme disease, believes that healing may be incomplete until the adrenal and thyroid glands are adequately supported. Researchers have found that the adrenal glands have a positive effect on immunity. And natural killer cells, part of the immune system’s first line of defense, are more active when thyroid function is optimal.

Dr. William Hrushesky believes that estrogen dominance can decrease the activity of natural killer cells and other immune system components. Low estrogen levels can do the same thing. Progesterone can help offset estrogen dominance but may cause yeast overgrowth in susceptible individuals. It is important that patients with Lyme disease have access to medical professionals with knowledge of hormones, the immune system, and yeast.

The Lyme Disease Merry-Go-Round2018-04-05T13:15:46-05:00

Ingrid Edstrom’s Proactive Breast Wellness Program

Ingrid Edstrom’s Proactive Breast Wellness Program

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


Our current medical system has been designed to take our hands and give us direction when disease has become evident, but it has left us sadly wanting when it comes to prevention. Finding and accessing the information necessary to prevent disease is difficult and time consuming. And, even if we do find it, interpreting it and understanding it may take some help.

Thankfully, a comprehensive compilation of what we currently know about keeping our breasts free from disease, including breast cancer, is available as an engaging multimedia presentation offered by Ingrid Edstrom, FNP, MEd, CTT. The Proactive Breast Wellness Program is her magnus opus and a labor of love.

A nationally certified family nurse practitioner, Edstrom combined her nursing degree with a minor in clinical nutrition. She also earned a master’s degree in Health Education, and has completed clinical training programs at the Mind Body Medical Institute. Ingrid Edstrom has skillfully combined all of her educational and clinical skills, and gift wrapped them in a delightful presentation so that we would have the resources we need to keep our breasts healthy.

Edstrom includes information about the various effects that hormones have on the breasts, the type of diet and foods that can be used to improve breast health, and the environmental issues affecting the breast. She even includes a meditation so that listeners can help reduce high cortisol, making us aware of the emotional and spiritual aspects of dealing with our breasts and our bodies.

The Power of Progesterone

Edstrom’s presentation covers a complete program for breast health, but let’s just focus in on one section she calls “The Power of Progesterone” as a sample. She states that after age 35, many women cease having ovulatory cycles, even though they continue to bleed regularly. This lack of ovulation increases the estrogenic dominance by 100 times. Add on the burden of many environmental exposures to estrogen-like compounds (which she also covers extensively) and the normal counter balance of progesterone for estrogen is greatly diminished.

Quoting Dr. John Lee, Edstrom maintains that progesterone should be used for breast cancer protection, during breast cancer treatment, and after breast cancer treatment. She also cites Dr. Susan Love, a breast surgeon, who recommends that any breast surgery should be done on days 13 through 28 of the menstrual cycle (progesterone levels are higher then) or, if that is not possible, progesterone cream should be applied to the breasts for two weeks before the planned surgery. Published studies have documented better outcomes when progesterone plays a role.

Edstrom discusses the problems with artificial progestins and brings up the issue of California’s mandatory cancer warning labeling on the over-the-counter progesterone products. She points out that California rule makers depended upon compilations of studies that primarily involved progestins, and then concluded erroneously that the required warning should pertain to progesterone as well. Progesterone, itself, has not been proven to be a carcinogen but instead offers protection. She cites the studies that demonstrate this.

Edstrom also discusses various dosage forms at length and details her preferences. She gives practical hints on how to use different dosage forms and offers some clinical suggestions. For example, she recommends that progesterone creams not be applied to the abdomen because this application may have the most significant effect in slowing gut motility. She learned from compounding pharmacists that progesterone cream applied directly to dense or thickened areas of the breasts may have the best results. She likes to use progesterone drops prepared with organic jojoba oil, and warns that progesterone is in suspension in this dosage form and should therefore be shaken very thoroughly before using to ensure proper dispersion.

Screening Methods

A cornerstone of Edstrom’s presentation, as well as her clinical practice, is the use of breast thermography as a tool for early warnings of issues presenting in the breast. Thermography is not an invasive test but captures the subtle differences in the temperature of the skin in a color scale. As might be imagined, the hot spots indeed appear as yellow to red colors, while normal temperatures appear in the blue and green ranges. The temperatures and color differences show areas of increased metabolic activity in the breast tissue long before a mass that could be palpated would form or would appear on a mammogram. This imaging allows for early interventions and also allows for a measure of the success of the interventions.

While mammograms are firmly entrenched in our medical system, there are some negative aspects with this type of testing. Mammograms introduce radiation (a known carcinogen) into our bodies. Mammograms do not prevent breast cancer and are not the best tool for an early warning. Both false negatives and false positives are common. Mammograms can actually damage or spread cancerous cells because of the high pressure applied to breasts in order to obtain the imaging. Breasts that are lumpy or have thick tissue present problems for accurate diagnoses with mammograms.

Thermography, on the other hand, measures physiologic changes rather than physical. As a cancer tumor develops, new blood vessels are formed feeding the tumor. This enhanced metabolic activity is easily detected with thermograms. Additionally, the increased metabolic activity can show up three to eight years before a tumor has actually developed. A suspicious thermogram can be followed up with an MRI, and neither of these diagnostic techniques subjects the body to radiation.

Edstrom thinks that thermography may replace mammography as the primary early screening tool in the not too distant future. She says that other screening methods are also being developed, such as a way to test fluid expressed from the nipples for cancer cells, and a saliva assay to test for a protein linked to breast cancer.

A Proactive Approach

As the incidence of breast cancer has steadily risen, we probably all know someone who has been affected. Ingrid Edstrom’s Proactive Breast Wellness Program is information that every one of us can use and benefit from, whether we are worried about breast cancer, are undergoing breast cancer treatment, or need to know how to prevent a reoccurrence.

If Ingrid Edstrom can be successful in her proactive approach to breast health, then the pink ribbon campaigns will become history. Just imagine the progress that would be made if women gathered in their neighborhoods, or their book clubs and coffee shops, and listened to presentations like this together, with the chance to discuss and disseminate the valuable information she offers. Let’s change the campaign from “breast cancer awareness” to “breast health awareness.” We encourage you to take advantage of Ingrid’s gift to us!

We were pleasantly surprised to see that Edstrom references several of our Connections newsletters when she covered the topic of hormones and balance. She also links to a collection of abstracts on hormone therapies that we compiled and published. Please feel free to explore these resources for additional information that may contribute to your breast health awareness.

Ingrid Edstrom’s Proactive Breast Wellness Program2018-04-02T16:49:13-05:00

Can Estrogen Help Migraines?

Can Estrogen Help Migraines?

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

Forty percent of women and 20% of men experience migraine headaches in their lifetime. Up to 60% of female migraine sufferers have headaches associated with menstruation. According to the International Headache Society, menstrual migraines without aura (a pre-headache visual, sensory, motor or verbal disturbance) can begin two days before to three days after bleeding starts.

Possible triggers include a decrease in estradiol, release of inflammatory substances from the uterine lining, low magnesium, decreases in certain brain chemicals like serotonin and GABA, dehydration, suspected foods and insufficient sleep. Some migraine specialists believe that a decrease in estradiol levels is the most likely trigger.

According to Dr. E. Anne MacGregor, raising premenstrual estradiol levels can help to avert or minimize the effect of these migraines. Maintaining estrogen in a range of 45-75 pg/ml may reduce the intensity and frequency of migraine headaches. Estradiol 1.5mg gel, applied six days prior to bleeding and continued through day 2 of menses, has been shown to effectively decrease the number of migraine days in some women. Extending this time period beyond day 2 and tapering the dose may help prevent “withdrawal” headaches caused by stopping estradiol abruptly. Progesterone may also help decrease these headaches because progesterone helps regulate pain and pain perception through GABA receptors in the brain.

Additional Resources:
Can Estrogen Help Migraines?2018-04-02T17:23:55-05:00