Customized Medicines

Customized Medicines
Dr. Sonja O'Bryan, Pharm.D., ABAAHP Board Certified Health Practitioner Diplomate-American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine: "Creative Medicines" for Hormones-Weight-Pain-Fatigue-Skin Diseases-Pediatrics-Autoimmune Disorders-Veterinary Needs. Using Complimentary, Integrative, Regenerative, Bio-Identical, and Lifestyle Medicine For Health and Healing.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cell Phones: Ring, Ring....Radiation Calling

Worldwide cellular connections exceed 5 billion, and some estimates project a steady growth of over 8% annually through 2015. With such broad usage, cellular phone technology is giving rise to important questions about possible long-term health consequences associated with its use. Cellular phones emit low frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs), which have been linked to health conditions such as:
  • general malaise
  • immune system dysfunction
  • male sexual and reproductive issues
  • changes in the central nervous system and cardiovascular system
  • changes in memory, cognition, attention, and other brain functions
  • elevations in blood pressure
  • skin damage
  • changes in red blood cells
Because of the immense numbers of present and projected users, some scientists and public health experts are worried that even if only a small percentage are adversely affected, that could still equate to a public health issue of epidemic proportions. We offer these ten tips to minimize your cellular phone radiation exposure:

1. Call Length and Frequency
A number of the scientific studies have shown a correlation between the length of calls and/or frequency of use, with biological changes.
TIP Reserve cellular phone use for short, necessary conversations. Keep incoming mobile phone as brief as possible and return your calls on a corded phone.

2. Distance
The concentration of radiation emissions is directly related to the power of the emitting device. The farther you can put yourself from the cellular phone handset, the less emissions you will receive. Radiation from all sources obeys the inverse square law. That is, the further you are from the source the less intense your exposure to the radiation. In fact, it drops off with the square of your distance from the source.
TIP Use your cellular phone's "speakerphone" option, permitting a substantial distancing between the user and the handset during conversations.

3. Phone Antenna
There is growing consensus that cell phone antennas may be harmful to humans due to the volume of electromagnetic waves that are concentrated around it during the receipt and placing of calls. This danger is even further aggravated by cellular manufacturers who place the internal antennas close to the earpiece.
TIP Opt for cellular phones with low specific absorption rate (SAR).

4. Signal Path
The steel construction of vehicles and buildings creates an electrical shielding effect ("Faraday cage"). As a result, using a cellular phone inside an enclosed vehicle or building causes the phone to increase the power output it needs to establish a connection, receive signals, and transmit signals, all of which causes increased radiation emissions. A presentation by the House of Commons (United Kingdom) Science and Technology System reported that using a cellular phone inside an enclosed vehicle can cause radiation levels to rise by 10 times.
TIP If using the cellular phone inside a vehicle, open the window or door (if not in motion). This will improve the path for the cellular phone signals and possibly reduce the phone's need to increase its power level.

5. Phone Mode
The highest cellular phone emissions occur when the phone is establishing a connection with a base station. When using the phone in a mobile setting, the phone is constantly re-establishing its base station connection. The emissions in the mobile setting are further compounded by signal path issues (see preceding tip).
TIP When inside a vehicle, avoid keeping the cellular phone handset turned on unless you are expecting an incoming call, or making a call.

6. Carrying the Phone
Avoid keeping the cellular phone (when switched-on) adjacent to the body. In particular, do not keep it in on-mode in clothing pockets or clipped to the waist. The soft tissues of the body – namely heart, liver, kidneys, intestines, and reproductive organs – are very vulnerable to penetration by radiation, moreso than the brain (which is protected to a degree by the skull). According to a report to the Economic Union, three sudden deaths occurred from colon cancer amongst members of a secret surveillance unit of the former Royal Ulster Constabulary (United Kingdom), all of whom had worn radio or microwave transmitters in the lower part of their backs for extended periods of time.
TIP Women: carry your phone in a purse that is carried away from the body. Men: do not carry the phone in the on-mode in your chest, jacket, or pants pockets, unless you are expecting a call or making a call.

7. Eyeglass Wearers
The House of Commons (United Kingdom) Science and Technology System report also found that cellular phone users who wear metal-rimmed glasses intensify their exposure to radiation emissions to the eye by 20% and to the head by 6.3%.
TIP Take glasses off when making or receiving cellular phone calls, or wear contact lenses when using the cellphone.

8. Proximity to Base Stations
The number of "cells" (zones of service) in the geographic area, in addition to the proximity of the cellular phone to a base station, factor into the power necessary for the phone to establish a connection and receive and transmit signals. The few the number of cells, and the farther apart the baste stations, the greater the power (and radiation emission) necessary to maintain contact with the network.
TIP Many cellular phones can display the signal level at which they are operating when turned on. When receiving or making a call, take note of the reported signal level. If it is weak, keep the call short and continue it later on a corded phone or when you reach an area where the signal level is stronger.

Interesting article I wanted to share from my Anti-Aging Resources.  It really makes you think about the use of cell phones and the physical implications we might see in the future.

To your good health,
Dr. Sonja

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Time Always Tells

Just wanted to take a few minutes to highlight new data published in the journal Menopause (and highlighted in Endocrine Today magazine) for those of you out there in Blog-land who have experienced blood pressure issues since going through "The Change".  And for the rest of you who haven't journeyed there yet, educate yourself now, because this blog may be a heart saver in the years to come. 

First, I need to go back and remind you of something that happened more than a decade ago.   In ~2002 (if my memory serves me right), The Womens Health Initiative pushed out a statement proclaiming that hormone replacement therapy was harmful for women.  This caused many women to be informed that they should go off  their hot flash, irritability, and insomnia controlling hormones and basically just suffer through it.  Oh for joy right?  That was such a significant decision (probably the biggest ever in the world of women) and one that I claimed would show up later with a negative impact.  Sure enough, in 2012, that study was revisited and determined to have a lot of study flaws. we are back to the concept that hormones are GOOD FOR YOU!!  Go figure right? I continued to provide customized hormone replacement therapies, despite the bad press, because I'm trained to read the study appropriately and without bias.  The published study had many question marks and problems. So the problem we have now is the loss of 10 years of "life" improving hormone therapies which are now showing up in cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, alzheimers disease, and more.  This brings me to today's blog.  They say "time always tells", and in this situation it certainly does.  If you remained on hormone therapy during that time, you may have lowered your blood pressure risk significantly.  The data is proving in favor of the hormone therapy women.  Those that took hormone therapy did not need high blood pressure medicine when compared to those that ditched their hormones.

Here's what the evidence now shows us in quick and understandable terms.  Various physicians and researchers in womens health decided to conduct a retrospective study of those women (over 300) who were withdrawn from hormone therapy versus those who continued on the therapy.  Here's the big takeaway statement. "We found that women who stopped their hormones were almost twice as likely to be on high blood pressure medicine," "Those who stayed on hormones had a better quality of life and were more apt to be working.  This is important, as it has been thought that hormones may protect the cardiovascular system if started at the normal age of menopause."

There's a tremendous amount of  research and published data concerning the positive impact of hormone replacement therapy and the reduction of cardiovascular disease in men and women.  Interestingly, when it comes to hormone replacement therapy, the big issue for women is cancer. 

All Females, All Ages Percent*
1) Heart disease 24.0
2) Cancer 22.2
3) Stroke 6.3
4) Chronic lower respiratory diseases 5.9
5) Alzheimer's disease 4.5
6) Unintentional injuries 3.5
7) Diabetes 2.8
8) Influenza and pneumonia 2.3
9) Kidney disease 2.0

Yes, it is important to screen patients with a strong family history of cancer and to advise them accordingly,BUT notice that cardiovascular disease actually takes more lives than cancer.  (See statistics above from the Centers for Disease Control) Screening patients for a history of family heart disease is equally or more important due to the number of lives lost to heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure problems.

Hormones can be evaluated simply, conveniently, and affordably. The DIY-@-Home kit and an informational packet can be shipped to your home.

To your good health,
Dr. Sonja

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Disease In A Box? Frozen Meals, Microwave Popcorn, Protein Bars & More

With so much misinformation out there about food and how it affects human health, making healthy food choices for you and your family can be difficult and confusing. There are a number of specific foods; however, that you will want to avoid in almost every circumstance because they provide virtually no health benefits while posing plenty of health risks. Here are nine foods you should never eat again if you care about preserving your long-term health: 

1) White bread, refined flours. By definition, white bread and refined flours in general are toxic for your body because they have been stripped of virtually all vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other important nutrients. Because of this, the body does not know how to properly digest and assimilate these so-called foods, which can lead to health problems. Refined white flour has also been bleached with chlorine and brominated with bromide, two poisonous chemicals that have been linked to causing thyroid and organ damage. 

2) Conventional frozen meals. Most conventionally-prepared frozen meals are loaded with preservatives, processed salt, hydrogenated oils and other artificial ingredients, not to mention the fact that most frozen meals have been heavily pre-cooked, rendering their nutrient content minimal at best (especially after getting microwaved again at home). With the exception of a few truly healthy frozen meal brands such as Amy's and Organic Bistro, most frozen meals are little more than disease in a box, so avoid them in favor of fresh foods. 

3) White rice. Like white bread, white rice has been stripped of most of its nutrients, and separated from the bran and germ, two natural components that make up rice in its brown form. Even so-called "fortified" white rice is nutritionally deficient, as the body still processes this refined food much differently than brown rice, which is absorbed more slowly and does not cause the same spike in blood sugar that white rice does.  

4) Microwaveable popcorn. This processed food is a favorite among moviegoers and regular snackers alike, but it is one of the unhealthiest foods you can eat. Practically every component of microwaveable popcorn, from the genetically-modified (GM) corn kernels to the processed salt and preservative chemicals used to enhance its flavor, is unhealthy and disease-promoting. On top of this, microwaveable popcorn contains a chemical known as diacetyl that can actually destroy your lungs. If you love popcorn, stick with organic kernels that you can pop yourself in a kettle and douse with healthy ingredients like coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and Himalayan pink salt.  

5) Cured meat products with nitrates, nitrites. Deli meats, summer sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and many other meats sold at the grocery store are often loaded with sodium nitrite and other chemical preservatives that have been linked to causing heart disease and cancer. If you eat meat, stick with uncured, nitrite and nitrate-free varieties, and preferably those that come from organic, grass-fed animals.  

6) Most conventional protein, energy bars. By the way they are often marketed, it might seem as though protein and energy bars are a strong addition to a healthy diet. But more often than not, these meal replacements contain processed soy protein, refined sugar, hydrogenated fat, and other harmful additives that contribute to chronic illness. Not all protein and energy bars are bad, of course -- Thunderbird Energetica, Organic Food Bar, Boku Superfood, Vega Sport, PROBAR, and Zing all make healthy protein and energy bars. Just be sure to read the ingredient labels and know what you are buying. 

7) Margarine. Hidden in all sorts of processed foods, margarine, a hydrogenated trans-fat oil, is something you will want to avoid at all costs for your health. Contrary to popular belief, butter and saturated fats in general are not unhealthy, especially when they are derived from pastured animals that feed on grass rather than corn and soy. And if animal-based fats are not for you, stick with extra-virgin coconut oil or olive oil rather than margarine. 

8) Soy milk and soy-based meat substitutes. One of the biggest health frauds of modern times, the soy craze is a fad that you will want to skip. Besides the fact that nearly all non-organic soy ingredients are of GM origin, most soy additives are processed using a toxic chemical known as hexane, which is linked to causing birth defects, reproductive problems, and cancer. Soy that has not been fermented is also highly estrogenic, which can throw your natural hormone balance out of whack. 

9) "Diet" anything. Many so-called "diet" products on the market today contains artificial sweeteners like aspartame (Equal) and sucralose (Splenda), both of which are linked to causing neurological damage, gastrointestinal problems, and endocrine disruption. Many diet products also contain added chemical flavoring agents to take the place of fat and other natural components that have been removed to artificially reduce calorie content. Instead, stick with whole foods that are as close to nature as possible, including high-fat foods grown the way nature intended, and your body will respond surprisingly well. 

*as highlighted in the anti-aging newsletter.

To your good health,
Dr. Sonja

Monday, May 20, 2013

Low Testosterone? Women Have It Too!

When I mention the hormone Testosterone, people automatically associate it with men.  Maybe that's because if you sit down for any length of time and watch TV, you will probably notice an advertisement pop up regarding low levels of Testosterone (low T) in men along with a loooooong list of reasons one should not take it.  Sometimes I wonder why they even bother paying the high price to advertise because by the end of the commercial you want nothing to do with any treatment that's promoted, not just T.  The truth (in real life), however, is that men with low T who begin therapy tend to do very well, and improve in many different areas of need.  In fact, the list of men seeking hormone replacement therapy is growing significantly as medical studies continue to prove that testosterone is important for prevention of cardiovascular disease, brain protection, and various other concerns of aging men.  But, testosterone in women is incredibly important as well.  In fact, Testosterone does so many things for women and I encourage you to do your homework on the benefits.  No doubt with aging, Testostosterone production from the ovaries and adrenal glands begins to decline right along with the other major hormones.  This is so important that the FDA now has several products on the docket for the treatment of low T in women and soon I expect that you will see some of the same commercials being promoted for women's issues.  Here's what we already know and why we have been providing Testosterone for women for a very long time.  It's not uncommon for me to recommend Testosterone therapy in women and often just a very mild dose will correct most of their troublesome symptoms. 

Testosterone does the following things in the body:
Increases sense of well-being
Increases muscle mass and strength
Helps maintain memory
Helps in combatting saggy skin
Decreases excess body fat
Elevates neurotransmitters in the brain promoting better mood
Decreases bone deterioration and maintains bone strength
Increases libido

So how do you know if you might have low Testosterone ladies?  ...

These symptoms may correlate with a lowered amount of Testosterone in your body: 
Muscle wasting, despite exercise
Weight gain
Low self-esteem
Decreased HDL (good cholesterol)
Decreased sex drive
Mild depression
Less dreaming
Dry, thin skin, with poor elasticity
Thinning and dry hair
Droopy eyelids
Thin lips
Hypersensitivity and hyperemotional

Menopause is not the only reason for Testosterone going down, down, down.  Here are some other links:

Adrenal stress and burnout
Psychological trauma and strain
Birth control pills
Cholesterol lowering meds (the "statins" in particular)

Occasionally when women decide to evaluate their Testosterone, it is discovered that they have a high amount in their body. 

These are more common symptoms of increased T if that is the case:
Low Blood Sugar
Salt and Sugar Cravings
Facial Hair
Irregular menstrual cycles
Fluid retention
Hair loss on the scalp and growth in unwanted areas

The long and short (literally) of Testosterone analysis is testing.  If any of these things are going on with you, it would be good to have a saliva hormone panel. I mention saliva because it is a great indicator due to the way that Testosterone moves across the cell wall and to the target receptor sites where we need it.  About one percent of the testosterone you make is "free", and the rest is in a bound form making it less usable by the body's system.  Women with increased Testosterone have more free T which is very specific to the way that saliva testing is assayed.

As with everything else that you may be reading about hormone replacement therapy, it is important to balance ALL hormones.  For instance, estrogen is needed to help testosterone work better.  And there are conversions of one hormone to another that need to be considered in those needing therapy.  Too much of something is rarely ever a good thing and can happen with hormone replacement therapies if no one is paying attention to these key details.  I happen to know the metabolic cascade of hormones which is essential in taking good care of men and women.  I also know the complimentary options in helping to rid certain hormones from the body if you happen to be high in particular hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and Testosterone.  AND.. Natural or Bio-identical Testosterone is definitely the way to go over synthetic options that are available on the market.  That's why both men and women are seeking this customized approach to their care. 

We've been providing testing kits and customized bio-identical hormone replacement therapies for almost 15 years now. You are uniquely designed and that's why we are interested in giving you the personalized therapy that you need to get back to looking better, feeling better, and living better.  It's the BEST way to do hormone replacement therapy and to get rid of these unwanted symptoms. 

Call us for a testing kit today. 

To your good health,
Dr. Sonja

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Are You Sure You Want That Soda? What Happens Years Later....

More Americans now drink sugar-sweetened sodas, sport drinks and fruit drinks daily. Sugary beverages not only may raise the risk of becoming overweight, but may prompt the onset of chronic disease (such as type-2 diabetes), and may compromise a person’s healthspan – the length of time that we are able to live productively and independently.
Research suggests that drinking sodas, which contain high levels of phosphates, may accelerate the aging process. A team from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (Massachusetts, USA), studied the effects of high phosphate levels in three groups of mice. The first group was missing a gene (klotho), which when absent, causes mice to have toxic levels of phosphate in their bodies. These mice lived for 8 to 15 weeks. The second group was missing the klotho gene and a second gene (NaPi2a), which when absent at the same time, substantially lowered the amount of phosphate in their bodies. These mice lived to 20 weeks. The third group, like the second group, was missing both the klotho and NaPi2a genes, but was also fed a high-phosphate diet. Like the mice in the first group, all of the mice in the third group died by 15 weeks. Demonstrating that phosphate has toxic effects in mice, the findings raise a stark possibility that the compound may have a similar effect in humans.
University of California/San Francisco (UCSF; California, USA) researchers utilized the Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) Policy Model, a computerized model of the national population age 35 years and older, drawing on data from major epidemiological studies, including the Framingham Heart Study, The Nurses Health Study and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The team determined that the increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages between 1990 and 2000 contributed to 130,000 new cases of diabetes, 14,000 new cases of coronary heart disease, and 50,000 additional life-years burdened by coronary heart disease over the past decade. Further, the team estimates that the additional disease caused by the drinks has increased coronary heart disease healthcare costs by US$ 300 to 550 million between 2000-2010. They also conclude that over the last decade, at least 6,000 excess deaths from any cause and 21,000 life-years lost can be attributed to the increase in sugar-sweetened drinks.

Boston University (Massachusetts, USA) researchers conducted a progressive follow-up study, commencing in 1995, on 59,000 African American women, ages 21 to 69 years. The team found that the daily consumption of two sugar-sweetened soft drinks raised the risk of type-2 diabetes by 24%, and the consumption of two fruit drinks a day increased the disease risk by 33%.
A team from the Harvard School of Public Health (Massachusetts, USA USA) completed a meta-analysis that pooled 11 studies, involving over 300,000 subjects, examining the association between sugar-sweetened beverages and Type-2 diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome. The researchers found that drinking one to two sugary drinks per day increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 26% and the risk of metabolic syndrome by 20%, as compared with those who consumed less than one sugary drink per month.

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (Florida, USA) studied data collected on 2,564 participants enrolled in the Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS), launched in 1993 to examine stroke incidence and risk factors in a multi-ethnic urban population. A total of 3,298 participants over 40 years old (average age 69) were enrolled and continue to be followed. Researchers asked subjects at the outset to report how much and what kind of soda they drank. Based on the data, they grouped participants into seven consumption categories: no soda (meaning less than one soda of any kind per month); moderate regular soda only (between one per month and six per week), daily regular soda (at least one per day); moderate diet soda only; daily diet soda only; and two groups of people who drink both types: moderate diet and any regular, and daily diet with any regular. During an average follow-up of 9.3 years, 559 vascular events occurred (including ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by rupture of a weakened blood vessel). The team found that the subjects who drank diet soda every day had a 61% higher risk of ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, as compared to those who reported no soda drinking.

~American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine tip of the day.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

BPA: Canned Soup, Baby Bottles, Thyroid Disease, Hormones, and More

 I couldn't help once again seeing the words BPA FREE stamped on various products throughout the store.  Many consumers may not pay attention to these little details, but when you specialize in hormone replacement therapy and see the impact of our environment on patients, it means a great deal more.  I'm constantly seeing information on BPA through the Anti-Aging and alternative medicine network sites that I'm involved with.  Today I wanted to cover that little tidbit of information that you see on various plastics in our stores these days, BPA FREE.   And then I want to highlight an article that I came across showing the results of spiked BPA levels found in the urine samples of those eating canned soups. (Harvard Medical School)

What's the big deal?  Well, it actually is a big deal and I hope you learn something today.

BPA.  What is it?
BPA is an acronym for Bisphenol A.  It's essentially a synthetic hormone (estrogen) structurally and functionally related to Diethylstilbesterol (DES).  Now I probably should back up and explain that chemical a little too.  DES was banned in 1971 for use in pregnant women using it (3 decades of use. gasp!!) to prevent miscarriage because it was found to increase cancer risk at least 40x more than the general population. Sadly, it was striking young women and they were termed "DES daughters". At birth, DES daughters commonly had defective reproductive organs.  As women, these "daughters" faced a 2 in 3 chance of failing to produce a live baby with each pregnancy.
DES was also added to animal feed to promote growth in chickens, sheep, and beef cattle.  DES use in meat production continued until 1979.  Today, sadly, they just use different hormones in production. (I'll save that for another blog)  There are many farmers who are producing hormone free products and their businesses are booming.

Now back to BPA.
BPA was first considered for use as an estrogenic human drug, but DES took the forefront instead.  However, in the 1950's it was found that BPA could be used to create epoxy and plastic resins.  In the U.S., BPA use amounts to 2 billion pounds per year, much of it in clear plastic bottles, food containers, BABY BOTTLES (gasp again!!), and metal and INFANT FORMULA cans (bad bad bad). Today nearly 93 percent of Americans carry detectable amounts of BPA in their urine (Centers for Disease Control).  Why might that be?  Over 6 billion pounds of BPA is produced and over 100 tons released into the atmosphere worldwide annually.  (yes, that's every year)  Does that make you want to hold your breath or what?!?!

Canada has banned the use of BPA in baby bottles.  Minnesota and Connecticut have also joined Canda in banning BPA from some baby products.

What about problems with general health and hormones?  (I'm glad you asked. lol)

BPA binds to Thyroid and Estrogen receptors and inhibits their normal effect causing thyroid and hormone disruptions. Xenoestrogens are tricky to the endocrine system, and cause the body's normal production to be out of whack with the external influence of these chemicals.  It's a medical fact and cited in numerous books and articles from experts throughout the U.S.

Just for fun, walk through your house and look at all the plastics.  Structurally similar molecules to BPA are found in many things: toothpaste, mouthwash, soaps, deodorants, shaving creams, cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, trash bags, clothing, bedding, and childrens toys.

What can you do to help yourself and your family?  Well, here's a few little things to get you going.
Minimize plastic exposure by using glass, ceramic, and stainless steel containers.  Avoid microwaving in plastic containers.  Read labels and look for potentially harmful chemicals.  Buy "certified organic" or "hormone free" as much as possible.  Its' very sad to me that you have to pay so much more for these safer alternatives.  I think the government should invest in those farmers who are producing truly "organic" products. (my two cents)

I would love to hear your comments or personal insight on this topic.  It's a very broad subject, to say the least, and I'm always in tune to the term "environmentally friendly" these days .  That term is "all fine and good", but what about the impact on patients health, disease risk, and hormone imbalance to produce mass quanities of something that is supposed to be considered safe.....and convenient.  Some things we just cannot afford to wait 30 years to find out that it's wrong.  And especially when it affects the health of people.

What about canned soups?
By John Gever, Senior Editor, MedPage Today 
Published: November 22, 2011 
Reviewed by Dori F. Zaleznik, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston and 
Dorothy Caputo, MA, RN, BC-ADM, CDE, Nurse Planner 

Levels of bisphenol A, a plasticizer suspected of causing a range of adverse health effects, shot up nearly 20-fold in people who ate canned soup daily for five days, researchers said. 

In 75 healthy volunteers participating in a blinded crossover trial, urinary levels of BPA averaged 1.1 mcg/L when they ate homemade soup for five days, but reached 20.8 mcg/L when they ate canned Progresso soups, reported Karin Michels, ScD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues. 

"The absolute urinary BPA concentrations observed following canned soup consumption are among the most extreme reported in a nonoccupational setting," the researchers wrote in a research letter published in the Nov. 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, for example, indicated that the 95th percentile for urinary BPA was 13.0 mcg/L, Michels and colleagues noted. 

BPA is used in a wide range of consumer and medical products to soften plastics. Studies have shown that BPA can mimic the action of female reproductive hormones and may be linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and liver abnormalities. Infants' exposure is a particular concern because they may be more sensitive to these effects than adults. 

Last month, researchers found that children whose mothers had high urine levels of BPA during pregnancy were more prone to behavioral problems. 

The U.S. government, after initially dismissing concerns about BPA in baby bottles and other consumer products, reversed course in 2010 and promised a major research effort to pin down the health risks. 

Because BPA is also used in food can linings, Michels and colleagues sought to examine whether canned soups would be a vehicle to increase human intake of the chemical. 

They used five varieties of vegetarian Progresso soups, including tomato and minestrone, and five similar homemade soups. Participants were randomly assigned to start with the commercial or homemade soups, eating a serving of each variety at lunchtime daily for five days. After a two-day washout period, participants who first ate the canned products then had a week of the homemade soups, and vice versa. 

Participants could otherwise eat what they pleased during the study. 

Urine samples were collected in the late afternoon on the fourth and fifth days of each period. To minimize intraindividual variations, each person's samples from consecutive days were mixed prior to analysis. 

BPA levels in urine were adjusted for dilution, using a formula that included the samples' specific gravity. 

All the participants had detectable BPA in their urine after eating the canned soup, whereas 23% of samples in the homemade-soup phase were BPA-free. 

The mean individual difference between mean adjusted urinary BPA levels following canned versus homemade soups, 22.5 mcg/L, was highly significant, with a 95% confidence interval of 19.6 to 25.5 mcg/L, Michels and colleagues reported. 

Results were nearly identical for participants who started the trial with canned soup compared with those initially assigned to the homemade soups. 

The researchers did list several limitations to the analysis. The study involved one institution (all participants were students or employees of the Harvard School of Public Health) and the canned soup came from a single manufacturer. 

More important, Michels and colleagues indicated that "the increase in urinary BPA concentrations following canned soup consumption is likely a transient peak of yet uncertain duration. The effect of such intermittent elevations in urinary BPA concentrations is unknown." 

But they argued that the magnitude of the peaks seen in their study is great enough to cause concern. 

"Even if not sustained, [it] may be important, especially in light of available or proposed alternatives to [BPA-containing] epoxy resin linings for most canned goods." 

To your good health,
Dr. Sonja

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You Snooze, You Lose! The Connection Between Insomnia and Weight Management

The problem of sleeplessness is more common than one would think with an estimated 40% of Americans suffering from sleep related problems.  In fact, 26.6 million prescriptions were written for Ambien in 2005, despite all of the class action lawsuits filed claiming that Ambien causes behavior changes and nocturnal eating disorders.  Can you imagine people getting up in the middle of the night and raiding the refrigerator without even knowing what they are doing?  It happens! I know...crazy, right?  Sadly, the cost to ongoing insomnia can be tremendous.  I read a study not long ago that linked sleeplessness to automobile accidents and other terrible events with the commonality of victims not paying attention appropriately.  Have you ever interacted with someone who has been up for hours on end.  I have!  In fact, I visited not long ago with a mid-30's gentlemen who had not been asleep for close to 72 hours.  His insomnia was due to medication withdrawal, but I won't soon forget it.  The conversation with him was very disturbing as he seemed extremely impulsive, edgy, and overly talkative.  I probably could have recommended anything and he would have purchased it without question.  He was desperate, but thankfully, I was able to reign him back a bit and recommend a safe and stepwise approach to help him get some rest.

There are certain medical disorders that are associated with a reduction in quantity and quality of sleep (i.e. arthritis, heartburn, lung disorders, sleep apnea, menopause, and pre-menstrual syndrome or PMS). However, the most common causes of insomnia in the medical literature point to stress, depression, physical illness, and pain.  Dietary consumption of caffeine, night TV and computer surfers, and shift workers also have difficulties in getting a good nights sleep.  In todays blog, I want to point out another link (noted in the photo) for those reading and following.  WEIGHT GAIN!!  I've had plenty of people ask me through the years if I can create a magic pill for weight loss.  I suppose the answer to that would be yes, but my response back is always a question.  What are you eating?  Are you exercising?  Are you SLEEPING well?

Did you know that sleep deprivation causes changes in hormone processes that regulate gastrointestinal function and appetite?  Some researchers today go so far to say that type 2 diabetes is inextricably linked to the lack of sleep.  Therefore, along with addressing blood sugar issues (even hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia), I suggest that insomnia should be included in a patient evaluation. 

Research has shown over and over that there are measurable decreases in leptin and increases in ghrelin (hunger satisfaction hormones) related to sleep deprivation.  Progesterone deficiency is also quite common in both PMS and in Menopausal women who complain of insomnia.  Furthermore, there are innumerable reports of carbohydrate craving with sleep loss.   If you are not sleeping, you will most certainly crave carbohydrates to keep your system alert and focused but then crash not long after you consume them.  It's a viscous cycle.  What's even more frustrating is to feel exhausted and then not be able to sleep.  I hear this over and over and over in my office as I do private consultations with patients.  Fix sleep, fix a LOT of what's going on.  It makes me think of the Irish proverb, "A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures for anything."  So true!! 

There are various approaches to helping someone with restful sleep and there are many key agents that can be initiated before going the route of prescription medications.  That's where those in Anti-Aging, Functional, and Regenerative medicine work best.   We are trained to help with the complimentary agents, hormone balancing, vitamins, and nutritional supplements. So, don't stay away another night. Call me if I can help you get to the root of your restlessness.  In the end, you'll feel better and live better, ...longer. 

To your good health,
Dr. Sonja

Monday, May 6, 2013

Is Hormonal Imbalance Making You Fat?

As the incidence of obesity climbs ever higher in the United States and other industrialized countries around the world, so does the number of theories on what are the causes and solutions to the problem. The science becomes ever more specialized as researchers debate the possibility of a genetic predisposition, a lifestyle effect, a socioeconomic effect, or an ethnic component. People struggling to lose weight receive a plethora of dietary advice – eat low carb, eat more whole grains, eat low fat, eat less meat, eat more protein, etc., and no-one seems to agree on the best diet for weight loss. But are we becoming too focused on the details and losing sight of the big picture about how our bodies really work?
Let’s think of the human body. It takes in foods and digests them to supply itself with what it needs to function. A normally regulated body knows when it is hungry and when it has eaten enough. So how does it “know” these things? The whole panoply of bodily functions related to hunger and satiation is orchestrated by chemical messengers that are produced in response to messages from the brain as well as external stimuli that affect us all the time. These chemical messengers are known (and defined) as hormones.

So can it be argued that “my hormones are making me fat”? This blog looks at one family of hormones, the steroid hormones, that have been closely linked with how your body manages to control your weight, and when “out of balance” may result in weight gain. This family of steroid hormones can be grouped into the sex-hormones and adrenal hormones. The sex hormones include the estrogens (estradiol, estrone, and estriol), progesterone, and testosterone. The adrenal hormones include DHEA and cortisol.

Estrogen and testosterone

Estrogens are known as the female sex hormones and testosterone as the male sex hormone. While both estradiol and testosterone in fact have a wide variety of functions in both sexes, women in their youth have about ten times more estrogen than men, and men have about 10 times more testosterone than women. These stark differences in estrogen and testosterone levels in women and men define many of the characteristics that make men and women look and behave differently, including the way our body fat is distributed.

Women tend to have fat stores under the skin (subcutaneous fat), around the hips, and in the breasts. This results in the characteristic female curves that contribute to the characteristic hour-glass figure. When estrogen levels are high, excessive fat deposition occurs primarily around the hips and thighs leading to the typical pear-shaped body type, referred to as “gynoid obesity” or female type obesity.

Normally, healthy men have very little estrogen and subcutaneous fat. When they start gaining weight, it tends to be in the belly, in the intestinal space, and is known as “visceral fat” or “central weight gain”. This results in the characteristic apple-shaped body type, known as “android” (male type) obesity, when weight gain becomes excessive. However, this is also the type of fat that is the most metabolically active and therefore easiest to lose – men generally lose weight more easily than women for this reason. Visceral fat is very easily mobilized in response to adrenalin (the “fight or flight” hormone) and strenuous activity. Think of the hunter-gatherers from which we are descended – the males would store visceral fat preferentially when food was plentiful so that it could be easily used as fuel for the muscles when hunting for the next meal.

The picture is a little more complicated in postmenopausal women, when estrogen levels become very low while testosterone continues to be produced from the ovaries and adrenals. Normally estrogen rules over testosterone at the tissue/cellular level, but when estrogen levels drop at menopause and testosterone levels remain the same this estrogen/testosterone ratio shifts in favor of testosterone dominance. The presence of testosterone that is not counteracted by estrogen, a relative “androgen excess”, tends to promote the male type body fat distribution, and women who tend to gain weight during and after menopause often find that their waistline thickens and they become rather more apple-shaped than pear-shaped. The same effect is seen in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), who over-produce androgens. Studies of estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal women consistently show that this can prevent central weight gain, by maintaining a relatively higher level of estrogens than testosterone.

Fat tissue itself is an endocrine (hormone-producing) organ. It contains the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone to estradiol and androstenedione to estrone. In obese postmenopausal women, estrone can become the predominant circulating estrogen, rather than estradiol. Estrone is about ten times less potent than estradiol and its presence in the absence of estradiol is a hallmark of menopause.


DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is the precursor for the production of estrogens and testosterone in tissues where they are needed, and it therefore circulates in the body in significantly greater quantities than the other steroid hormones. Studies of DHEA supplementation have found no significant effect on body weight, but one of its natural metabolites, 7-keto DHEA, is known to increase the metabolic rate and has been found to help with weight loss.


Progesterone is well known for its ability to balance and optimize the effects of estrogens. With each monthly cycle, estradiol stimulates the proliferation of the breast epithelial cells and those of the reproductive tissues. Progesterone produced in the second half of the menstrual cycle then slows the estrogen-stimulated proliferation, allowing for tissue specialization and differentiation. For the same reason, progesterone is needed to balance estrogen replacement therapy to prevent excessive growth and proliferation of the uterine lining to reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. We know that synthetic progestins are also used for this purpose, but while they effectively suppress endometrial proliferation they have been found to have adverse effects in other areas, notably the cardiovascular system and the breast. Natural progesterone is without these adverse effects, and indeed has many beneficial effects in the body. But some women find that it can contribute to weight gain or bloating. Studies have found that women tend to have an increase in appetite and food intake in the latter half of the menstrual cycle, and during pregnancy, when progesterone levels are higher than usual. An encouragement to eat more in preparation for a pregnancy and during gestation would make sense physiologically, but we don’t need excessively elevated progesterone levels otherwise. Some forms of progesterone replacement therapy may lead to excessive progesterone levels that can increase the risk of insulin resistance, which will promote fat storage rather than utilization for energy. It is important to monitor progesterone levels, as with all hormones, during supplementation to ensure that levels are not out of physiological range and well balanced with estradiol and testosterone. Bloating or weight gain could mean you are using too much progesterone.


Cortisol is an adrenal hormone essential for blood glucose regulation, fat storage and utilization, and control of other body functions like the immune system. Cortisol acts in synergy with many other hormones to help regulate their actions. Cortisol is released from the adrenal glands in response to stressors sensed by the brain. These stressors come in many different forms and include low glucose levels, emotional or physical stress, or invasion of the body by pathogens. Cortisol mobilizes glucose from the glycogen stores in the liver to be used as short-term energy for the muscle. While normal physiological levels of cortisol are essential to survival, excessive levels caused by chronic stressors shut down non-essential body functions, such as the immune system, and by suppressing the production of other hormones, such as sex hormones, growth hormone, and thyroid hormones. When stressors are present for extended periods the system goes awry and we develop a chronic stress condition and persistently elevated cortisol levels. When this happens, the effects of cortisol on blood sugar result in an increased appetite, particularly for carbohydrates (“stress eating”) and storage of more glucose as fat, especially in the visceral area, which has more cortisol receptors than other types of fat tissue. Stress-related weight gain can be treated by finding and reducing sources of stress, as well as relaxation techniques to reduce the harmful effects of stress on the body.


When you understand more about your body and how it is hormonally regulated, it is easier to see that hormones, when in balance, are friends rather than foes. The entire endocrine system includes many more hormones than are mentioned above, which are involved in metabolic processes and other bodily functions that can affect our weight and our overall health. But even taking just the reproductive hormones and cortisol, and a little common sense, we can conclude that:

  1. We have changing reproductive hormone levels as we age. In our attempts to replenish hormone levels back to youthful levels, we sometimes upset the balance as we replace hormones to levels outside an ideal range, and we don’t recognize the effects this hormonal imbalance has on weight gain.
  2. Weight gain itself affects hormone balance.
  3. Our bodies have highly efficient stress responses, but the extreme, prolonged stresses of modern life have created an unhealthy hormonal imbalance (excessive cortisol) that has contributed to weight gain.

It is important not to ignore the elephant in the room, the highly palatable and refined foods that dominate the “Western” diet, which are clearly associated with the obesity epidemic. These are not the foods our ancestors ate.Our bodies have not adapted hormonally to the challenges of regulating fat stores when presented with these foods in excess.

Keeping our hormones in balance while maintaining a healthy diet, following an exercise program, and aiming for a stress-reduced lifestyle is key to optimal wellness and longevity. 
Article provided by ZRT Laboratories. 

Dr. Sonja O'Bryan is a trained professional in customized hormone therapy for men and women. 
Testing is affordable and simple to do from the convenience of your own home.  Why wait?  We bill most insurances for customized therapies specific to your individualized needs.