EP 8: Impact Our Hormones Have On Aging

 

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Women’s Health Initiative (0:56)
  • Hierarchy of hormones (4:40)
  • Adrenals are our gas tank (5:08)
  • Check your hormone balance (12:48)

Show notes:

  • Safe Hormones Smart Women by D Lindsey BerksonDr. Jenny
  • Hi, this is Dr. Jenny Sechler and welcome to the art and science of defying aging today’s episode is about the impact our hormones have on our aging process and what to do about it. Now that I’m in my fifties, I’m experiencing some not so pleasant effects of my own aging hormones. My skin’s becoming a little saggy. I’m seeing some wrinkles. It’s not really a very good visual, my energy Isn’t quite what it used to be. I’m not sleeping quite as well. All these things kind of got my attention to put the microscope on my own hormones. So I want to start by sharing some basics, the human body secretes and circulatee some 50 different hormones. Your body’s endocrine system controls and circulates these hormones. They regulate and influence our metabolism, the utilization of our nutrients, support our sleep cycle, our muscle mass, our sex drive, our mood and our energy. 

    Dr. Jenny (00:56): They are critical players in how we feel on a daily basis and how we age. Anybody else remember Suzanne Somers and her hormone books? I’ll admit I thought she was a little crazy at first with all her hormone talk, but over time, as I read the research and got through the half-truths that we’re exposed to, I learned to become friends with my hormones and learn the value of how to test them and how to support them. Anybody else remember the women’s health initiative? We all heard really bad things coming out, and it initially it scared me too. But I put my head back in my books, I learned that we really weren’t given all the information. Some of it wasn’t even really correct. Now, I’m going to just cover a couple of parts of the women’s health initiative.I’m not going to go back and recall all the info but I will list the resource here shortly, I will summarize a few points. 

    Dr. Jenny (01:45): The resource I’ll put at the end of the podcast, but it’s a book called Safe Hormones, Smart Women by D Lindsey Berkson. So to summarize just a few parts of this, that initiative, it was started back in 1991, and it was intended to run for 15 years and it was set up by the National Institute of Health. It was prematurely stopped in 2002 and suddenly HRT was regarded as dangerous. You know, initially everyone was so excited about this study. I remember that I worked with a woman who was in it. Expectations were exceedingly high and hoping to learn good things. The intention of the study was to learn what to do about aging while looking at common causes of death and disability and women’s heart disease, cancer, and bone loss. It was conducted at 40 clinical studies nationwide. It was made up of 161,000 women ages, 50 to 79 years old. And the first trial was women on combined hormone therapy. 8,000 women on Prempro was horse estrogen plus synthetic progestin and group two was 8,000 women on a placebo. There was a second trial and it was made up of 5,000 women without uteruses who got estrogen only Premarin, only other 5,000 women or on a given a placebo. 

    Dr. Jenny (03:04): Now it started and years past and in 2002, the first trial ended abruptly with lots of bad press with information stating the hormone therapy was giving the very diseases the hormones were supposed to or thought to treat or prevent. It was announced the risks were greater than the benefits and women got terrified. Women stopped taking it and doctors refused to write the prescriptions anymore. 10 years later, the second trial also ended prematurely in 2,004 and more bad news. It seemed to increase the risk of stroke while not helping the heart from then on estrogen therapy was really abandoned. But the truth was something that got misinterpreted. 

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    Dr. Jenny (03:49): From doing all the reading. I realized the truth was something that got lost in the translation. This study really had demonstrated encouraging results about estrogen and breast cancer that no one even recognized. Over the next several years, numerous well-respected scientists and physicians scrutinized the results and the results were absolutely wrong. They discovered the design of this study didn’t even show what it said it showed. 

    Dr. Jenny (04:20): So the bottom line is that we’re giving a lot of inaccurate information and we’ve all believed it for so many years. And I’m not here to convince you to change your mind about anything related to hormones. What I am  doing though is encouraging you to ask questions and spend some time, really reading some good research about what the studies really showed us. 

    (04:40): So I want to move on and I want everyone to understand that there’s actually a hierarchy of our hormones. Do you know what the most powerful hormone in the entire body is, its cortisol. Now cortisol is made in the adrenal glands. We have two pea size glands that sit on top of our kidneys and their job is to handle all the stress in your life. So when cortisol goes high or it goes low, it can wreak havoc in your body and influences the rest of your hormones. 

    Dr. Jenny (05:08): Now the next most powerful hormone is insulin. We hear a lot about insulin today related to our dietary choices. It’s related to our metabolism and obviously related to our weight, the next most powerful set of hormones are our sex hormones: our estrogen or testosterone and our progesterone. And lastly is your thyroid. I often think of your thyroid like your gas pedal. Do you see why it might be important to know the levels of all of these common hormones? So let’s talk a little bit more about what happens to your hormones as we age. Most of these hormones actually decrease in production and they lose the ability to be utilized as well as producing changes in our bodies. let’s get a little more specific as to the more common hormones. I think that people are familiar with 

    Dr. Jenny (06:01): We mentioned a few of them earlier. Dhea is a precursor to helping your body make all of your hormones, our sex hormones. We just mentioned our estrogen or progesterone and our testosterone. Our cortisol is all our about our stress hormones our thyroid and melatonin which is what we often take at night to help us sleep. Now we rarely ever even test these hormones or even know how to support them. And typically we won’t even think about her hormones as women until we experienced peri- menopause or go through menopause itself. So the average age of menopause is about 51.2. Well, men experience their own menopause of a different kind. That can also be very unpleasant. Honestly, we only pay attention I think because it gives us unwanted symptoms, unfortunately, symptoms are what drives us as people. So instead of seeking to understand the functionality of our own bodies and how our hormones function and how they change and how to support them, we’re just driven by our symptoms. 

    Dr. Jenny (07:04): And sadly, by the time these symptoms reveal themselves, things are pretty imbalanced. So I want to talk about one of the critical pieces that influence our hormones. It’s called the oat axis. It stands for the ovarian adrenal thyroid axis. I mentioned earlier that that the thyroid was at the gas pedal and we want to press on that to create energy. Well, our adrenal glands are like our gas tank. So you must have a full tank of gas for your thyroid to create energy. And those adrenal glands as mentioned before their job is to handle all the stress in our lives. Do you have stress in your life? I know I do. And they can get tired and they can cause stress on the rest of our systems in our body. They can often time produce fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, and just an overall decreased zest for life. 

    Dr. Jenny (07:57): And lastly, then your ovaries as they produce your sex hormones. They can influence the adrenals and your thyroid both positively and negatively. So what do you think happens if you keep pressing down on the gas pedal without gas in your gas tank, nothing is going to happen. I think of these parts being like a footstool, as each aspect, the thyroid, the adrenals always has like a leg to the footstool. And when one part gets imbalanced, it affects all the other parts. And standard standard lab testing is not sensitive enough to pick up these subtle imbalances. Even if they are tested, commonly the adrenal glands are rarely ever mentioned or even tested. And typically the thyroid is where everyone goes to test. It’s commonly really only the TSH that’s tested, which is really not an accurate indicator of overall thyroid function. Yes it’s a marker, but you also need to know your free T3, your T4 and reverse T3, which all portray a big part of your overall thyroid function. 

    Dr. Jenny (09:00): All of these markers help to reveal a picture of how your thyroid is really working or not working. I want to share with you a common scenario. You feel fatigued, you go to your doctor, you get some labs drawn and they give you a thyroid medication. You initially feel better. You’re thinking everything is going well, you’re grateful. But then eventually that feel good feeling goes away. So you go back to your doctor, they commonly will raise your medication, but nothing really changes. So you go back again, labs are redrawn. Your TSH is redrawn, for example, and your numbers are fine. They’re saying, you know what? Your thyroid looks good. And that’s when the frustration really sets in because only one part of that footstool is being looked at. It’s common. I hear from many of my patients that they spend months and years blaming themselves and not really feeling good and getting so frustrated. 

    Dr. Jenny (09:54): And sometimes just giving up, just thinking to themselves, I guess I”m just aging. This is just the way it is, but you know what? That’s just not true. So instead, if you can connect with an integrative or functional medicine provider who knows how to test all of your hormones and understands the changes that occur with age, then you’re likely to experience an increased wellbeing and balance. The bottom line is these hormones are chemical messengers. They communicate within ourselves. They should function as a balanced symphony. As we age, our symphony does not play as well, and our instruments need to be tuned and cared for. So first just acknowledge our hormones are vital to our health and aging. Well, knowing our hormones fluctuate with aging while most decline and oftentimes produce unwanted symptoms, so, ideally we should really start monitoring our hormones in our thirties, but we don’t. 

    Dr. Jenny (10:57):
    It’s rare that anybody ever says, Oh, let’s go ahead and check your hormones to see or get a foundational basis to see what you might be looking at. As we age, it’s usually about the age of 40 whenI commonly see women, they start to come and say, you know, I just don’t feel quite as well as I used to be. Things are just a little bit off. And what research is showing us is 40 is typically for many women, not everybody, but commonly when many women start to experience some peri-menopause symptoms. They have mild, subtle symptoms show up, but usually they’re just brushed off to stress and all these other issues that we have in life, plus we don’t get enough sleep. Our job is stressful. Our family is stressful. So we just ignore those issues. So instead of getting them checked, we just say, Oh, this is just my life right now. 

    Dr. Jenny (11:49): And those hormones become more imbalanced year after year. So a lot of times when women come in and they’re in their early forties, we look at their hormones. Most of them are already on thyroid medication. And as the example I mentioned before, they said they felt good early on, but then it just kind of faded. Well, it faded because nobody else did the rest of the testing and look at the adrenal function and the ovarian function. Many times they told me, they were told it was too early for menopause. That’s not your issue. And no one really ever thinks about the adrenals as causing a havoc or blocking the rest of your hormones from functioning optimally, they’ll say, Oh, get some more sleep. Now, getting more sleep is also helpful, but actually taking a really close look at the functionality of your hormones on a day-to-day basis can give you some really good answers to why you might have some symptoms that are just not going away or changing. 

    Dr. Jenny (12:48): The bottom line is this: Hormones are chemical messengers that communicate with our cells and they function as a balanced symphony. As we age our symptoms just doesn’t play as well and our instruments need to be tuned and cared for. 

    First just acknowledge our hormones are vital to our health and aging well. Know our hormones fluctuate with aging while most decline producing unwanted results. Ideally we should start monitoring our hormones in our 30’s because at the age of 40 perimenopause starts for many women. So regardless of whether in your thirties or you’re in your fifties, your hormones are affecting how you think, how you feel and how you see life. It’s never too late to check your hormones. I know that I’m much happier. I just feel better overall now that I’m fine tuning my hormones to play that symphony in greater harmony. So if you don’t know, be curious about your own hormone status, connect with a provider that can offer you a specialized lab testing, they can identify imbalances and support aging hormones through your diet, through your lifestyle and offer bioidentical supplementation when appropriate. Because when you can offer these things, it often equates into healthier skin, more energy, better sleep, better mood. It’s an overall increased sense of wellbeing. 

    So thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time. 

 

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