We’re pleased to present the second in a series of engaging, enlightening essays from Sara Gottfried, M.D. … the Harvard-trained, holistic gynecologist behind The Hormone Cure
The book releases on Tuesday, March 12 … and it’s the centerpiece of the Vital Choice “Get Your Hormone Cure” Pack
we developed for Dr. Gottfried.
This pack features The Hormone Cure book, plus Vital Choice foods picked by Dr. Gottfried and her 5-part “Master Your Hormone” learning series … all at a big, 67% savings from the regular retail price of the combined items.
As Dr. Gottfried says, “I wrote The Hormone Cure
because I believe that proactively managing and optimizing health is a path to personal power.”
“I believe there’s a reason women have lost their mojo, and that reason is probably hormonal. I believe we can – and should – do something about it because I believe in women living life fully!”
For more about her and the book, see About Sara Gottfried, M.D., below her essay.
Mud, the Miracle Grandma
One of the catalysts for my headlong dive into integrative medicine and hormonal balance was my great-grandmother Mud.
“Mud” is an abbreviated version of “mutter,” the German word for “mother.”
And just as Mud had an atypical name, she also bypassed most conventions when it came to health management.
Although I wasn’t crazy about her lectures on omega-3s and avoiding wine at first, Mud’s vibrancy and approach to whole-body wellness stuck with me to later become a major influence on the direction of my own medical practice.
When I was a little girl, Mud came to visit our family. We lived in suburban Maryland and happily lived a stereotypical life of PopTarts, Charlie’s Angels and Girl Scout cookies.
My sister and I were hoping Mud would bring presents, cookies, maybe a Barbie or two. Like our friends’ grandparents.
But our great-grandmother, when she stepped off the plane from California, was pulling a suitcase full of kale, fish oil, wheat berries and Meyer lemons.
“Confused” would be a nice way to describe our reaction.
As Clear as Mud
Mud was an anomaly. She was rarely without a glass of warm water and lemon in her hand. She cheated at cards and was smart as a whip. She slept on a board and practiced yoga, decades before it was popular.
Mud had perfect teeth. Her posture would blow your mind. She looked 25 years younger than her peers and could lift her foot behind her head, as a great-grandmother.
Mud ate whole foods, believed in omega-3s, and baked carob chip cookies.
All of these small, everyday habits added up. Mud’s water-and-lemon drinking, yoga practice, macrobiotic diet and grab-life-by-the-wheat berries attitude kept her vigorous and youthful for decades longer than her contemporaries.
As Kenyan singer-songwriter-rapper Stella Mwangi sings in Haba Haba,
When I’s a little girl, my grandma told me
That it’s the little things in life that’s gonna make me happy.
She said that
Little by little
Fills up the measure
Don’t ever give up
Keep on moving.
Ancient Practice, Modern Application
Spending time with Mud (often in a mixture of awe and bewilderment), I started to understand that an entire world of prevention, healing, and repair exists through nutrition and lifestyle.
Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine prove that health can be managed through daily habits and natural remedies, from what we put in our mouths to when we close our eyes at night.
I learned that a bottle of pills isn’t always the answer. That diet is the foundation of health. That regular exercise and contemplative practice can keep your body humming right up to (and beyond!) 100.
Body, Heal Thyself
As a practicing physician who’s worked with over 20,000 patients, I know our bodies come with built-in systems designed to help us heal, manage, and basically enjoy the heck out of every day we get on this earth.
Ancient traditions illustrate it and modern science is starting to prove it: The better we treat our bodies, the more we’ll get out of them.
Like rapper and musician Macklemore says:
I wear your Granddad's clothes
I look incredible
I'm in this big ass coat
From that thrift shop down the road
- Macklemore, Thriftshop
...but, instead of wearing Grandma’s coat, I say we adopt some of those kale-eating, board-sleeping habits that Mud taught me, so that we too can put our feet behind our heads and freak out our great-grandchildren.
1. Gut Check
Health, like beauty, truly is on the inside: The millions of bacteria that make up the microbial garden of your gut are your body’s first line of defense against infections and illness.
Known as the microbiome of the gut, science is exploding with studies proving our bodies are designed – like some crazy robot of the future – to heal themselves. When they’re out of balance, bad bacteria start to cause problems, whether that means illness or hormonal issues.
I love to tell my patients to think of their bodies and their hormones as a close-knit neighborhood. Most 20-somethings I know have a frat party in their gut from too much sugar, alcohol, late nights, and unmanaged stress.
That’s where most of your most important happy brain chemicals are made, such as serotonin (Dr. Sara-tonin?), which is the boss of your mood, sleep, and appetite.
A healthy diet creates healthy bacteria, which turns you into an infection-fighting, cold-thwarting machine.
Cause you’re amazing,
Just the way you are.
– Singer-songwriter Bruno Mars, Just The Way You Are
2. Skip the Prescription. Use your Fork.
If you need a chunk of chocolate and fried chicken to get through your day, that's a sign your hormones are off – and this is not good news for your DNA.
Cravings for salt and sugar can be cries for help from your thyroid, your cortisol levels, or even a result of your sleep cycle.
Stick to whole foods, high fiber, and lots of water. Take a hormone quiz (you’ll see how at the end of this post) to see which aspects of your diet might be lacking.
3. Circadian Rhythm Off?
Humans are designed to rise with the sun and to sleep when it’s dark out. Makes a lot of sense, right?
But unfortunately, most of us are guilty of too-late nights and days spent indoors, cooped up in a cubicle. Sure, there are morning people and night owls, but your hormones are released according to your sleep/wake cycle.
Get your Circadian rhythm in order, and your body will produce the hormones you need when you need them.
Try to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day, and to expose yourself to sunlight. There’s no better way to tell your body it’s time to wake up.
4. Restore, Rejuvenate, Refresh
Accelerated aging, wrinkles, moodiness, low energy ... these are all signs that your body hasn’t had a chance to repair itself.
Cell repair is an important process that happens every night, but late bedtimes and not enough sleep can curtail its effectiveness.
10pm … lights out. I don’t want to sound like your mother but ... go to sleep by 10pm as many nights as possible (ideally 5 of 7 each week). Getting in bed by this time is the magic hour to facilitate repair benefit to your body, cells, and muscles.
The ratio of catabolism (wear and tear) to anabolism (growth and repair) shifts while you sleep, and the hours before midnight are especially auspicious. In other words, this is how to Botox. Do it.
5. Symptoms are Message from your Body (Not a Cry for Pills)
Think about a health problem as a message from your body.
Hard-to-lose belly fat? Your cortisol could be high.
Low sex drive? Testosterone and estrogen levels may be off.
Memory loss? Estrogen and cortisol could be factors in this equation.
Moodiness is not a Lexapro deficiency - it's a sign that your sky-high and unmanaged stress might have hijacked your neurohormonal dashboard and burned through your happy brain chemicals.
Decode your body’s messages! Get to the root cause. Up the omega-3s in your diet, try GPS for the Soul
and take some vitamin B6.
These are just a few of the gentle, prescription-free ways you can care for your body, and pretty much everyone will benefit from them. Always try lifestyle tweaks such as diet or exercise solutions before you reach for the pill bottle.
6. I Stress, Eustress...
Don't confuse hyperdrive, late-night bursts of energy and other stress-junkie symptoms for productivity.
Yes, elevated cortisol is bad for you, but so is low cortisol. Ideally, you get a burst of cortisol in the morning that wakes you up and gets you going.
Over the course of the day, your cortisol levels should slowly decline so that when bedtime rolls around (10pm, remember?), it’s easy to relax and fall asleep.
Cortisol needs to be in the “Goldilocks” position: not too high, and not too low. Modern life has convinced many of our brains that everything is a stressful situation, from a presentation at work to making a sandwich when you just can’t find the mustard.
“Eustress” means good stress, because we all need some cortisol in our lives. It’s what gets us going!
The healthy solution is to change your reaction to stressful situations; approach them as a challenge, or try some deep breathing, yoga, or meditation.
7. Be a Good Neighbor
Think of your body as a neighborhood: a busy community of hormones, bacteria, and hard-working organs. Many of these work together – known as “cross talk” – which means that if one aspect of your health is off, chances are it’s affecting something else.
High cortisol often results in low thyroid, which means a stressed-out mind and a slowing metabolism. No, thank you.
Figure out what your body needs, and do it! Returning this interconnected system to balance may have positive effects you didn’t even think of!
Healthier skin! More flexible joints! The ability to cope with stressful situations without a glass of wine or three!
Nerd Out with Bio-hacking
Bio-hacking (made famous by Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek) is the act taking personal control over your own health – “hacking” your own system.
It involves measuring and tracking, with intense focus, different aspects of your life to gain insight...then making small tweaks, and obsessively tracking them again.
Everything from the calories you consume, to the amount you sleep, to the exercise you do each week falls under this umbrella.
I believe that this approach, combined with our knowledge of ancient practices and modern science, is the future of health management.
Love Up Your DNA
Science is at a point where the cost of sequencing your DNA is $10,000, but is expected to be $100 by 2015.
There’s a revolution coming, and these techniques will help you navigate the brave new world of "personalized medicine" - where you know your DNA, and you apply the promise of epigenetics (managing your genes on a personal level) to improve 50-80% of gene expression with how you eat, move, think and supplement.
By making lifestyle changes, such as reducing your alcohol consumption, exercising more, and losing weight, you can potentially encourage a gene that tells your body to make more of the “good” estrogens instead of the “less good” estrogens.
Overall, there’s no change in your DNA sequence, but non-genetic triggers can cause your genes to behave, or express themselves, differently. This is where being proactive establishes your hormone cure.
Now It’s Time for Your Hormone Cure
You can start the path to your own hormone cure by purchasing my book, The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive, and Vitality Naturally with The Gottfried Protocol
There you’ll find quizzes, case studies, and advice on a personalized strategy to manage your hormones. As a thank-you for reading, you can get started on your hormone balance today and take the quiz online
The Vital Choice “Get Your Hormone Cure” Pack
features The Hormone Cure
book, plus Vital Choice foods picked by Dr. Gottfried and her 5-part “Master Your Hormone” series, which includes text (PDF) and audio (MP3) … all at a big, 67% savings from the regular retail price of the combined items.
Cummings SR, Tice JA, Bauer S, Browner WS, Cuzick J, Ziv E, Vogel V, Shepherd J, Vachon C, Smith-Bindman R, Kerlikowske K. “Prevention of breast cancer in postmenopausal women: approaches to estimating and reducing risk.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 101 (6) (2009): 384-98.