Wellness Articles

Archive for 'Women’s Issues'

UR Woman

I can remember being about 19 years old and looking at Milledgeville in the rear-view mirror of my Toyota as I headed up 441 to go to work in sales somewhere, or at that time, ANYWHERE else.  I felt that Milledgeville squelched my ability to grow and express myself.  I needed to find out who I really was and I didn’t think I could do that here.  I felt that I didn’t belong at all in any groups at school, my first attempt at college didn’t reveal all of life’s secrets to me, and I had no idea how I was going to support the dreams I had of being someone with something to offer others.  I set out alone and eventually found myself living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Corpus Christi, Texas, Drums, Pennsylvania, Atlantic City, New Jersey, Helen, Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia, and Orlando, Florida.  Different sales positions had a way of finding me, and I was recruited by Marriott Corporation while I was working in Helen.

I moved to Orlando and that’s where my life changed.  I suffered from migraine headaches and a friend of mine introduced me to his chiropractor.  That chiropractor got rid of my headaches and I knew then that I was destined to be a chiropractor.  If this guy could do that for me, I had to know what he did and how to help others with it myself.  For the first time in my life, I had a burning desire to find my true purpose for being on this planet.  I had spent many years wandering around and running from myself in a futile attempt to make it in a world in which I wasn’t very comfortable when I was finally shown what I was meant to do.  Once I listened to the inner-directed part of me the universe basically aligned for me and the way to become a chiropractor was mapped out.  I sold my Marriott stock, horrified my family with my announcement, and went to Atlanta to go to school.  I was 29 years old before I found my purpose in life, but was it ever worth it!!

School was very difficult but rewarding at the same time.  I worked hard and soaked up every bit that I possibly could.  I went to different technique workshops to learn different creative ways to adjust the joints of the body and I was amazed every time I learned a new thing that the body could do.  I graduated magna cum laude as a result of all of my hard work, and I remember the day I turned my tassel with the rest of my classmates.  I cried for hours bursting with pride.  I had completed what I knew was the preparation for my life’s work.  The real work was about to begin, but I could only be grateful at that moment for actually accomplishing a lifelong goal.

I had always wanted to live in coastal Georgia, and Savannah seemed like a great place to me, so that’s where I decided to move after graduation.  I did not know a soul down there, but that had never stopped me from moving to a strange town.  At least I was in Georgia this time.  My clinic partner in school, Tracy Green, and I decided to move there together and pool our resources to start our first practice.  We bought a dilapidated old Victorian house near downtown and rolled up our sleeves to renovate it on our shoestring budget.  We did all of the work ourselves and three months later opened for business.  The experience was enriching, but we were in an area where we had to dig the crack baggies out of our flower beds and run the vagrants off our front porch before we could open for business.  It was a challenge.  I found myself driving back and forth to Milledgeville often to visit my family and after two years in Savannah got the idea that this would be a good place to practice if I could talk my practice partner into it. I managed to talk her into it.  We opened our practice in Milledgeville on May 18, 2001, and it has been a roaring success for us. I now appreciate Milledgeville for its beauty, history, small town flavor, and proximity to everything else Georgia has to offer.  I get to water ski in the warm months and can easily access the cultural offerings of larger cities when I feel the need to go there.  Like many other people who have left Milledgeville only to return with a new appreciation for it, I am making my home here.  There is something about this place that gets in your blood.

Part of my education was that I was running from my own victim mentality my whole life.  My father was absent for practically all of my life, I came from a working-class family where a silver spoon was nowhere to be found, and I spent most of my life blaming others for my failures to succeed.  When I finally realized that the only way out of a private hell is to take responsibility for your own life and get busy building it, all of the reasons for me not to make it seemed to disappear.  Gandhi was once quoted as saying that we must be the change we want to see.  I have spent every day since I heard that profound statement being the change I always searched for in my life.  Success is possible for anyone who really wants it.  The change is not geographic and it is not one that comes from the outside.  The only thing that has ever changed to improve my life is me.  I will be forever grateful for that.

Hotter Than a Red-Assed Bee

It happens when you least expect it.  One day you are sitting in the living room, minding your own business, and you feel it.  The heat starts at your feet and rises in your entire body until you feel like the top of your head is going to blow clean off.  The sweat pops out on your forehead and you cannot possibly take off enough layers of clothes to cool off.  It might be forty degrees outside, but you don’t care.  You don your most loosely fitting shorts and a tee shirt and go outside to get fresh air and it hits you. If you ever laughed at your mother or grandmother or anyone else about fanning her red, sweaty face in public, it’s payback time.  Come to think of it, things have been strange inside your body lately, but you reason that it couldn’t possibly be due to the onset of this.  This was supposed to happen when you got older someday. Someday is here.

What is actually happening is a vasomotor response to lowering estrogen levels.  The nerves which regulate the dilation and constriction of all of the blood vessels in your body are responding to a change in your levels of estrogen.  The vessels dilate seemingly at whim, making it impossible to regulate your body temperature.  Hot flashes, or power surges as one dear friend of mine calls them, are the most common nuisances that result from menopause.  There are several aggravating symptoms which indicate the time change in your life.  If you have been or are there, you know what they are.  If you are approaching menopause, find a good book on the subject or go online and search for information about it.  Be informed and decisions about what to do to ease the discomfort will be much easier for you to make.  The most excellent news about menopausal symptoms is that they are transient and they are correctible.

Many women feel as if life is over for them when menopause comes.  This is far from true.  It signals the end of fertility, but not the end of productivity or fun or a very full and fulfilling life.  Menopausal symptoms can begin as early as the mid-thirties and continue until the mid-to-late fifties for most women.  Since childbearing is over by the mid-to-late fifties, estrogen is not necessary in such high quantities as it was during childbearing years.  It is a natural progression of life for estrogen production to decrease as we age.  Yes, it is uncomfortable to become accustomed to a decrease in anything we feel is serving us well.  But truly our bodies have other ways to get the estrogen we need to keep us going.  Our adrenal glands, fatty tissue, and pineal glands take over and keep estrogen present in our bodies when our ovaries stop producing it in high quantities.  The main problem with menopause is that at the peak of it our bones refuse to absorb calcium.  The risk of osteoporosis is greater during this time if we are predisposed to it or if we are unprepared for these years of decreased calcium absorption.  If a lifestyle of regular weight-bearing exercise and a diet that is not Twinkie-based are adhered to, preparation for the time of decreased calcium absorption should not be a problem.

Until last summer, many women were taking estrogen regularly to replace that which their ovaries no longer produce.  A landmark study called The Women’s Health Initiative was being done to study among other things the effect of estrogen replacement on women’s heart health and breast cancer risk.  The study was canceled last year because the FDA analyzed the study and found that the health risks of hormone replacement therapy far outweighed the benefits of it.  As a result of this major move by the FDA, warning labels are being ordered to be placed on hormone replacement products.  An increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, invasive breast cancer, and blood clots in the lungs or legs was found in the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) users involved in the Women’s Health Initiative study.  If you are currently using HRT, talk to your doctor and find out why.  It has been stated by respected members of the staff at George Washington University and Columbia University that HRT should be used in as small a dose as possible for as short a time as possible.

The symptoms of menopause are not going to plague you forever, and there are things you can do to ease the discomfort caused by them.  Early lifestyle modifications can be immensely helpful.  There are workable alternatives to estrogen, and my next column will outline some of the best ones.  Until then, turn the thermostat down, avoid high amounts of sugar in your diet, drink at least 64 ounces of clean water every day, and treat your body well.

Alternatives to HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)

As promised, this week’s column is a continuation of some work I have done in the interest of women’s health.  My last column discussed the perils of pre-menopause and menopause for women and the need for hormonal balance.  We also explored the Women’s Health Initiative, a landmark study that was cancelled last summer due to the health risks associated with HRT (hormone replacement therapy).  Being blessed with early menopausal symptoms myself, I have a vested interest in finding the healthiest ways to get my body in shape for the rest of my life and maybe you too can benefit from my curiosity.

For obvious reasons, women everywhere are drawn to studying natural alternatives to HRT.  There are several viable alternatives, but why don’t we hear about them without doing a lot of digging?  Why don’t our mainstream medical professionals tell us about the natural alternatives?  I do not particularly subscribe to conspiracy theories and generally furrow my brows when I hear them; however, just a little bit of common sense will make you think about this issue.  Mainstream medicine remains skeptical about natural alternatives to HRT because there is very little published data available to doctors about the efficacy of intrinsic natural hormones like progesterone, for example.  There is little data because there are very few clinical trials.  There are few clinical trials because there is no funding.  There is no funding because most funding for clinical trials is done by pharmaceutical giants with the hope and promise of billions of dollars in return from patents owned by them on the drugs being studied.  Natural hormones cannot be ‘owned’ under a patent, so the injection of millions of research dollars by the pharmaceutical companies simply will not happen.  Synthetic HRT is extremely profitable to the pharmaceutical companies, so they push doctors to prescribe the drugs manufactured by the sponsoring companies.

Without the clinical data available, women are forced to come upon information about natural alternatives as best they can.  There are very few double-blind, randomized studies on alternative therapies.  This negates their promise in allopathic physicians’ minds in many cases.  Having made that disclaimer, here is some information on what have been for me very beneficial alternatives to HRT.  Many women have used these therapies for many years very effectively, and I suggest that you explore them for yourself and discover what works best for you.

In 30 clinical trials that they performed, researchers from George Washington University and Columbia University found that black cohosh and foods that contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) are effective in reducing hot flashes and night sweats.  Black cohosh is an herb traditionally used by Native Americans to treat a variety of gynecological disorders.  Other sources for phytoestrogens are flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, soy, clover, and alfalfa.  Phytoestrogens contain among other things chemicals called isoflavones which act like weak estrogens in the body.  They are used primarily to reduce cholesterol, protect against heart disease risk, help prevent osteoporosis, and decrease anxiety, according to nutrition expert Ann Louise Gettleman.  Black cohosh has been used widely in Germany for over 50 years in the treatment of hot flashes.  Studies were performed there in the 1980’s to prove its effectiveness.

One of the components of HRT is progesterone.  The problem with it in HRT is the form that is present.  As stated above, naturally-occurring substances cannot be patented, so synthetic forms of hormones were developed to make the cash register ring.  Progesterone in a natural form is very beneficial to the body, and should be investigated by every pre-menopausal and menopausal woman.  Find Dr. John Lee’s books, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause and What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Pre-Menopause.  These books give detailed and sometimes quite technical information about natural progesterone.  Natural progesterone starts with a plant extract and through several steps is converted to a substance that has the same molecular structure and properties as the progesterone produced by the body. It is used in a cream form which is applied to the body usually in the throat and face area for maximum absorption.  According to the Health Science Research Institute, some of the benefits of natural progesterone are that it helps use fat for energy, facilitates thyroid hormone action, is a natural antidepressant, is a natural diuretic, normalizes blood sugar levels, restores libido, helps prevent endometrial cancer, and helps protect against breast cancer.

It is much easier sometimes for someone to give us a magic pill and take away our personal responsibility for our own good health.  The maze of alternative therapies can sometimes be staggering, but at the end of the maze is a healthy, wholesome life that is uncomplicated by synthetic chemicals that do us harm.  There is no magic pill and the responsibility for your health lies with you.  Do some extra work and discover what is going on in the realm of natural alternatives to HRT.  Treat your body well.