Patient Journey: Hormone Imbalance

  1. What health issues were you struggling with when you began to work with Dr. Angela?

I had/have been really working through a few different issues. Mainly, trying to have a menstrual cycle without the use of drugs along with my mental well-being. I have struggled a great deal with self-image, self-worth, depression and anxiety for many years and am exhausted from the strain of these mental issues.

  1. What treatment methods had you tried prior to Dr. Angela’s program?

My main treatment for these issues was medicine – a pill for my period, a pill for my depression & anxiety, and yet another pill for my distracted and “busy” brain.

I had also been to see a few different therapists who were helpful at the time but never seemed to permanently resolve my issues.

  1. What health benefits did you gain from working with Dr. Angela?
  • Natural weight loss
  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Confidence in my state of mind
  • How to improve my self-worth

4. What was your biggest struggle during the transition to a healthier lifestyle?

The biggest struggle was learning/knowing what to eat and planning ahead in order to prepare meals.

I also struggled with not letting the very anxiety I was trying to get rid of, hold me back from getting better. It was scary to learn the truth about the meds and I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to give them up. I had no idea how to act or who I was supposed to be without my meds.

5. What did you find most beneficial to you in the program?

My favorite and most helpful parts of the program were the face to face meetings and the homework given.

Dr. A. gave me so much perspective and really helped me work on my frame of mind. The transition to a healthier lifestyle was less confusing and less frustrating knowing that she was there to help us!

6. Did your food options taste good?

The food took some getting used too but once my mind and taste buds got used to the change, the natural foods tasted delicious. I love eating fruits and veggies along with other clean food options and find myself seeking out those foods more – even at gatherings where other dishes are in abundance.

7. Did you have an ah-ha moment that helped you commit to the change? If so, what was it?

This has been such a huge transition in my life and because of that there was not been just one single “ah-ha” moment, there were several. A few of those being…

  • watching my husband become himself again with his improved mental and physical health
  • On a random day discovering that I feel strong and healthy mentally and knowing that it isn’t just a phase but who I really am ;)
  • Stepping on the scale after several months only to discover, without even paying attention, I had lost weight!
  • Really feeling and understanding what sleeping well does for me

8. If you were going to give a piece of advice to someone on the fence of following a program like Dr. Angela’s, what would you say to them in order to help them decide?

Please give the program a chance and just try it!!!

Be honest with yourself about who you are (or who you think you are) and where you REALLY want to go. Love Ok, at least try to “like” yourself enough to sit and just listen to what Dr. A. has to say – you just might be amazed what you can learn about yourself…

Dr. Angela’s perspective:

There were a lot of moving parts to this case including anxiety, hormone imbalance, low self-esteem, and many medications.   This case happened to have issues with low progesterone.  It took some tweaking with her supplementation to balance that, restore her period, and maintain normal cycles.  Along with her hormone balance came symptoms of weight gain, hair distribution issues, skin issues, mood disturbance, and blood pressure concerns. It was definitely more than supplementing to get hormones in balance; it was lifestyle work AND HEAD WORK.  What you tell yourself on a daily basis creates your reality.  It was such a pleasure to watch this entire family transform before my eyes.  I often did these appointments on Friday nights, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  It capped my week off with a full feeling because of their ability to be honest, vulnerable, and willing to examine all the aspects of life we brought to light.  Although many medication paths will lead women to believe there are quick pill fixes, or that it’s just your biology, I am here to tell you otherwise.  Your hormones decide so much about how you feel and look, and they should not be relegated to a mere band-aid solution.

The Reason you Need Medication?

No one ever takes stress seriously.  We all have it, we all know it, we all feel like the activities that remove it from our life mean we are self-indulgent slackers.  Heaven forbid someone get a massage once a month.  Heaven forbid someone say “no” to one more commitment.  Call the police if someone needs a nap.  Let’s be mean behind someone’s back because they don’t want to work 80 hours a week.  We are a society of work, work, work….therefore, we are a society of constant stress between work and kids and extracurriculars.  This constant state of fight or flight in addition to lack of sleep, poor food choices, no time for exercise, sitting all day, etc. may be the reason you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, hormone issues, and osteoporosis.  Stress may be causing you to be fat, flabby, sick, and prematurely old!  I was reading one of my books from graduation again and this entire chapter focused on stress and the biochemical effects.  I thought it was important to relay the info….so you have doctor’s permission to eliminate some stress from your life!

Stress Response in the Body:

1. Increased cortisol (more stress hormone)

2. Increased catecholamines (excitement)

3. Increased heart rate (racing heart)

4. Increased vasoconstriction (vessels get smaller)

5. Increased blood pressure (hypertension!)

6. Increased blood glucose levels (diabetes!)

7. Increased blood lipid levels (fat in the blood…)

8. Increased blood cholesterol levels (increased LDL: decreased HDL) (now your doc wants  you on statins)

9. Increased clotting factors (risk of stroke?)

10. Increased protein degradation of muscle and connective tissue (getting flabby)

11. Insulin resistance (getting fat)

12. Increased feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and depression- decreased short term memory, ability to concentrate, and learn

13. Decreased serotonin levels; increased noradrenaline levels (getting depressed)

14. Increased sensitivity of sensory systems including those for pain and other emotions (something always hurts!)

15. Decreased cellular immunity (catching all the bugs around town)

16. Decreased anabolic hormones like growth hormone and testosterone and luteinizing hormone, etc. (getting old…way too fast!)

17. Bone loss, muscle fiber changes, decreased R.E.M. sleep (bags under the eyes and osteoporosis!)

18. Decreased sex hormone binding globulin (hormone issues now?!)

19. Increased excretion of calcium and magnesium

If you think this is you…unfortunately, it probably is!  An adrenal test is simple, easy, and can tell you exactly where you are in terms of stress affecting your body.  Everyone should take one just to be able to take REST seriously!!!! You have no idea how many people refuse to admit their levels of stress until a cortisol panel acts as their lie detector.  Only then, will they decide to cut themselves some slack.  This may be the first window into being able to get you off your pesky medications….

Stress and Autoimmunity (Part IX)

Stress is something that is unavoidable.  We will all experience stress on a daily basis in some way shape or form.  Stress can be anything from mental and emotional stress to exercise and food sensitivities.  All of these things have a breakdown mechanism in the body that elicits the the same physiological response.  Stress activates the autonomic nervous system and you can’t control this.  It’s very difficult to recognize that is happening and actually stop it.  For example, when you lie, your body has a stress response.  This is the reason people say “Secrets keep you sick.  Or Secrets kill.”  This is the exact reason we use lie detector tests!  You can tell your conscious brain to settle down or you’re not nervous all day long, but most of the time, if it is stressful, you still express stress physiologically.  Your palms get sweaty, your voice may waver, your heartbeat increases, and you breathe a little more rapidly. We use those to our advantage to detect stress but what about the hormonal response?  The release of cortisol, the decrease in immune cell production, the disruption in hormones and catecholamines?

The more you experience stress, the more your body runs on sympathetic (fight or flight) dominance.  This leaves you feeling like you wish you could just disappear tomorrow.  Maybe disappear to an island far far away where you could be in silence.  This is often why most people cry at the thought of coming back from vacation.  You body is exhausted from living in this state and if you fall asleep on the couch an hour after coming home from work, you know what that exhaustion feels like.  This is probably hitting home for a lot of you right now in a very doom and gloom way.  Why? Because heaven forbid you have an autoimmune disease, feel there’s no way to get away from stress, you are slowly killing yourself, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  I’m here to tell you that without changing your situation at all, you can reduce stress.

The most important thing you have control over is your thoughts.  They will creep in and try to dictate, but simply recognizing that and repeating what’s really happening in that moment, you won’t get carried away by “what ifs. ”  I see this a lot with people when it comes to work relationships.  A boss said something the wrong way so the employee gets instantly freaked out that they may lose their job, and if they lose their job they will have no money, if they have no money they will lose their home, if they lose their home then their kids will get taken away, then they will have no insurance and they’ll just die because they won’t have any healthcare options for their illness.  STOP!  If this is the type of road your mind takes you down, get good at recognizing when you start down the path.  Bring yourself back to present.  Close your eyes and breathe deeply in one nostril and out the other.  Do not let yourself entertain ideas of things that may or may not happen UNTIL THEY HAPPEN.  The funniest part is that I have asked every single person whether any of these things have actually happened and not a single one has lived this story.  All that time slowly killing our cells over something that has no real likelihood of happening!

Step one is controlling your thoughts from spiraling down a path of worst case scenarios.  The second step is to smile and laugh.  EVEN FAKE ONES.  You heard me right.  There’s also a proverb that laughter is the best medicine because it REVERSES the physiology of the stress response.   You could say that it’s impossible to be stressed and joyous simultaneously.  Go to a funny movie, watch a hilarious youtube video, talk to your friend about old time shenanigans, go to a comedy show.  Smile at everyone you see.  When they are real, they have a huge impact.  When they are fake, they STILL have the same impact.  Laughing reduces cortisol, soothes the nervous system, and improves hormone regulation.  In our society, we tend to become more and more isolated by technology and busy schedules.  Keeping your social connections is so important.  It is not a luxury.  It’s actually good for your health!  I may even dare to say that having a beer with a good friend has more positive effects on your physiology than negative despite the fact that your consuming glutinous alcohol!  That’s how important these things are to your health.  Even a tough love doctor is telling you laughing with friends is possibly more important than what you eat in some instances!

That brings me to the third thing that you can do to reduce stress.  Exercise outside.  We can make this life scenario even more appealing by saying “Go for a walk with a friend, tell stories, laugh, and “touch” goodbye.”  I say “touch” because anything from a hug, a high five, a kiss, whatever, it all has a positive impact.  Movement helps distract the nervous system from obsessive behavior.  It likes to move forward.  You see this with dogs, too.  They are much more behaved in a pack, walking because it is calming to their nervous system.  We are animals, too.  Going to a group fitness class is the same thing.  Moving with friends, laughing, and making connections.  Doing some of this outside is that much better because of the air quality and restorative nature of nature.  No pun intended. ;)

The last and final thing you can do is engage in physical touch.  In my profession, I would be touching people all day long.  However, sometimes patients would come in and that would be the first touch they experienced all day.  I am not a touchy feely person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t experience the same physiological effects of touch.  I’m just more choosy about who I touch! hehe, I couldn’t resist.  Back on track.  Hug your child or spouse goodbye, hug a friend when you see them, get a massage, go to the chiropractor, hire a professional cuddler (that really does exist), have sex or kiss your partner.  These things are not luxuries either!  They are hugely necessary to our well-being as humans.  They counteract stress.  We are hardwired to need touch.  Think about yourself as a child.  Everyone wanted to hold you, give you kisses, touched you constantly to help you maneuver the world.  Then you became a little more developed and touch can be misconstrued as sexual so it happens a little less.  That is until you go looking for it from a teenage boy/girl.  What if you find yourself as a single adult.  You may literally go days without touch.  Heck, the way we greet people in ANY country has to do with TOUCH.  Maybe its a handshake or a kiss on the cheek.  May it’s a hug.  It has and always will be imperative to normal nervous system function.

These are simple, free, yet hard things for some people.  For those less expressive, it may be good to start with the thoughts and movement.  From there start planning social activities to get out there and connect with friends and family!  If you are a single person with an autoimmune disease, even seeing a massage therapist can gain you touch benefits.  Hope you guys are enjoying the series as it is coming to an end!  I will have one final article to address a few questions people had for me.  If you have a question you would like answered in that article, please let me know!


Wednesday: The Day Anything (stressful) Can Happen

I totally got schooled Wednesday morning by a patient about Wednesday being the day anything can happen.  Apparently that’s from the Mickey Mouse Club?!  I’ll take his word for it!  What he didn’t know was that even though it was first thing in the morning, many “anythings” had already happened!  Since the toll road is having issues, I have been taking an alternate route to the office I am filling in for, which extends the drive a little bit, but is worth it if I can avoid sitting in standstill traffic.  Monday: fine.  Tuesday: raining but fine.  Wednesday: accident that shut down 94!  Ok, I left myself time.  Just take the detour maps gives you.  Detour route…closed.  Umm…now I am DEFINITELY going to be late.

In my younger years, this would’ve been disaster.   I had an agenda, planned ahead, thought of all the possible issues and accounted for them.  I would’ve freaked out for two reasons: 1. I am going to be late!  How bad does that make me look?! 2. I’m being detoured off the highway into some random place in Gary!  How am I supposed to know where I’m going?!  In my older age, none of this even bothered me.  It was sort of life’s metaphor for having a path, but not being stressed about detours.  You’ll get to where you’re going eventually.  I planned ahead, I was doing everything I could, and it DOES NO GOOD TO STRESS ABOUT THINGS YOU CAN’T CONTROL.  Getting worked up, upset, stressed, worried would not get me or anyone else anywhere faster!  How many times a day do things not go as planned?!  A lot!  Do you find yourself stressing about the circumstances out of your control?  That unneeded stress is killing you.  Well, maybe not you yet, but your adrenals.  They can’t keep up with the constant barrage of stress!  Give them a break!  They already have to keep up with stress over things you CAN control, vigorous exercise, caffeine, and all that wine you are drinking.  Quit demanding more from them or you will find yourself in a heap of hormone hell, eventually.

I wanted to tell you this story because this is an everyday situation like many that my anxiety patients would get into a tizzy about.  Always evaluate a situation calmly.  Things don’t get done faster because you are yelling, or crying, or complaining about how it didn’t go as planned.  Ask yourself one simple question: Is this something I can control?  If not, relax.  Do your best.  It is what it is.  Silly human.  To think you could control things in the world, sort of makes the universe laugh.  In my case, I used the extra time to turn up the radio and sing to my jams.  Not because I didn’t care that I would be late, but because I couldn’t control an accident that shuts down the highway and puts me an extra hour and a half behind!  When I showed up, I was more than ready to give 100% to my patients, good vibes for days, and it all worked out in the end.  I would’ve made my biochemistry a mess by worrying, and what kind of doctor could I be to my patients if my mind is stuck in panic mode over something  I can’t control.  Breathe.  You’re a tiny speck on a spinning planet in the middle of the universe.  It’s going to be ok.  I promise.

Adrenal Fatigue: Understanding Cortisol

This is a condition that really doesn’t discriminate between healthy and unhealthy individuals.  I have had countless patients end up at my door with relentless fatigue when they believe they live a healthy lifestyle.  They workout, they don’t eat excessive carbs, they have successful jobs, and they take their daily supplements!  Then why are they SO tired all the time?!  These cases are almost always issues with cortisol production and the ability of the adrenals to keep up with stress.  Athletes especially can be affected by this issue because of overtraining, chronic stress, or lack of appropriate recovery.  Sometimes less is more, but let’s take a look at what actually happens in someone with adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal Glands: You’ve go these two little organs that sit on top of your kidneys that are responsible for releasing epinephrine and norepinephrine, aldosterone, cortisol, sex hormones, and precursors such as DHEA.  Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is responsible for all kinds of things in the body including:

  • mobilizing protein stores
  • water excretion and electrolyte balance
  • mobilizing fatty acids from adipose (fat tissue)
  • precursor to cortisone (and anti-inflammatory agent)
  • directing immune function
  • stimulation/inhibition of gene transcription
  • affecting bone calcium
  • affects behavior, mood, and hormones
  • affects numerous CNS biochemistry

Basically, it has a hand in tons of things.  Like most body chemistry, it is definitely not on an isolated island!  When stress levels are high, the demand for cortisol production goes up.  However, the building blocks are things like progesterone and pregnenolone which are needed for the production of other hormones.  When your body starts stealing these building blocks to keep up with stress, it will eventually let your other hormones like estrogen and testosterone suffer in order to keep up.  This is important because many people are known to have hormone imbalance, but if you never assess the adrenals, how do you know this isn’t the reason?  If it is, then the answer is not hormone replacement, the answer is stress reduction that will in turn lower cortisol demand.

When you start thinking about how important hormones are to the body, one may ask why on earth your body would make that kind of sacrifice?!  The simple answer is that our body is still expecting stress to be a short-lived event driven by a life or death incident.  In that moment, we would sacrifice anything in order to get out alive.  We never adapted a mechanism to take care of chronic stress.  Stress that never goes away. Stress that takes all we have.  Stress that leaves us feeling defeated at the end of the day and dread the start of the next.  Am I ringing any bells here?  Life is HARD these days!  We have all kinds of stress!  Work!  Kids! Relationships!  But, we also have stresses that people don’t think about like food sensitivities, sleep deficit, overtraining at the gym, and infections.  There are ALL stress to the body.

This is how people can function from day to day, still go to the gym, think they are doing it all, and still feel like crap.  When I run cortisol panels, it’s not uncommon for me to find cortisol levels that are in no way keeping up with the demand.  There are symptoms many complain about:

  • hypoglycemia
  • chronic fatigue
  • ligament/cartilaginous injuries
  • depression/anxiety (this one I see a LOT!)
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • short term memory issues
  • pain that persists
  • poor wound healing and workout recovery
  • frequent colds
  • hypothyroidism (tons of my ladies out there have this along with adrenal fatigue!)
  • PMS
  • infertility
  • menopause symptoms (can we say hot flash club?!)
  • insulin resistance
  • fat around the trunk

The test for this is pretty simple, but it’s important to have it checked multiple times throughout the day.  So, many physicians will test it once.  That is not helpful unless there is pathology.  We are looking for optimal function.  Therefore, we want to see a high number in the morning and a gradual decrease until it bottoms out at night so you can go to sleep!  If we don’t see that, we need to assess where we are in order to know where to go from there.  In the early stages, people will make too much.  They usually don’t come in for help at this stage because they are “keeping up” as far as they’re concerned.  By the time we hit stage 2 or stage 3, we are starting to not be able to keep up and we start stealing those building blocks from other hormone pathways.  THIS IS USUALLY WHAT BRINGS THEM IN!  On top of fatigue, they now have stray hairs growing in random places, excessive fat that won’t budge, inability to recover from their workouts, trouble sleeping, up and down emotions, loss of sex drive.  At this point, we can’t just fix it with food, typically.  We need to “help your body over the hump” so it can catch up and produce enough cortisol again on its own.  This not only takes time, it takes lifestyle changes that may include cutting things out that are contributing to stress.  This is the toughest thing for patients to do.  If they don’t workout as much, say no to responsibilities, sleep more, etc, they feel LAZY!  You wouldn’t call a cancer patient LAZY!  This is taking care of yourself, and I can’t stress it enough (no pun intended).

If this sounds like you, and you like help, my door is open.  The saliva test I use to measure cortisol, DHEA, hormones, and melatonin is around $200 and it is done at home.  Doesn’t get much easier than that for a little piece of mind and direction.