Hormones and Long Life

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Our body's control systems are managed through a series of chemical messengers called hormones. These hormones regulate everything from energy production/ metabolism to reproduction. Unfortunately, the glands that make these hormones age as we do and many of the chemicals in our environment interfere with hormone function. A classic example is DDT which, by interfering with estrogen function, almost drove the bald eagle to extinction. Excessive stress, nutritional deficiencies, infections and autoimmune injury can also damage glands. In addition to causing fatigue, pain and depression, suboptimal hormonal function may cause premature aging and death. Fortunately, natural hormones and other products are available that support hormone health--allowing us to stay young and vital late into life.

Let's look at how you can tell what hormones you are deficient in and how to treat these problems easily and effectively. Addressing each of these hormonal deficiencies, when present, can result in dramatic benefits. It can leave you feeling great while allowing you to die very young--very late in life!

GROWTH HORMONE
As we age, growth hormone levels decrease and this contributes to our "planned obsolescence." Some people take regular injections of growth hormone at a cost of approximately $12,000 a year. Although many excellent physicians take this approach, I do not recommend it. Besides the cost and the hassle of sticking yourself with needles regularly, there is the possibility that these injections may increase the risk of certain cancers. More importantly, there are easier, cheaper and more fun ways to raise growth hormone levels. These include:

• Sleep. Growth hormone is largely produced during deep sleep. Because growth hormone is critical for tissue repair and proper insulin sensitivity (two reasons why it keeps us young), lack of sleep leaves you looking and feeling older. This is why insomnia often results in pain as well. The term "beauty sleep" is in fact also quite accurate. The elevation in growth hormone that occurs from getting eight or nine hours of deep sleep at night can result in your losing weight and looking younger. Until 100 years ago, when light bulbs were developed, the average American got nine hours of sleep each night. We ate now down to six-and-a-half hours a night. Unfortunately, stress can also decrease our ability to sleep, resulting in insomnia and low growth hormone levels. In most people this can be easily handled by using herbal sleep remedies. My favorites are wild lettuce, Jamaican dogwood, theanine, hops, valerian and passionflower. All of these are combined in the Revitalizing Sleep Formula by Enzymatic Therapy.(*) If you want to stay young and healthy and raise your growth hormone inexpensively, get at least eight hours of sleep a night.

• Exercise. Growth hormone can increase by 800 percent after an even modest workout.

• Sex. Growth hormone is increased when you have sex. One study showed that people who had sex three times a week landed up looking 10 years younger than those who didn't because of the elevation in growth hormone.

• DHEA. Much of the effect of growth hormone is carried out by DHEA (see below).

HYPOTHYROIDISM--YOUR BODY'S GAS PEDAL
The thyroid gland, located in the neck area, is the body's gas pedal. It regulates the body's metabolic speed. If the thyroid gland produces insufficient amounts of thyroid hormones, metabolism decreases and the person gains (and is unable to lose) weight. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include intolerance to cold, fatigue, achiness, confusion and constipation.

The thyroid makes two primary hormones. They are:

• Thyroxine (T[sub4]), is the storage form of thyroid hormone. The body uses it to make triiodothyronine (T[sub3]), the active form of thyroid hormone. Most synthetic thyroid medications, such as Synthroid and Levothroid, are pure T[sub4]. These synthetics are fine if your body has the ability to turn them into T[sub3] properly. Unfortunately, many patients find that their bodies do not have this ability. Because of this I find that natural thyroid hormones, which also contains active T[sub3], usually work much better than Synthroid. In addition, iodine, selenium and amino acids are critical for proper thyroid function.

THE PROBLEM WITH THYROID TESTS
Many years ago, while I was in medical school, physicians were taught to diagnose hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, by using the newly discovered, method of measuring the metabolic rate while the patient ran on a treadmill. Doctors thought that this was a wonderful new test and that they finally had a way to identify patients with underactive thyroids. We congratulated ourselves on being so clever, but then a new test came out. The new test measured protein-bound iodide (PBI). When doctors began using the PBI test, we realized, "Oh, we missed diagnosing so many people with a low thyroid, but this new test will now pick up everybody who has a problem." We patted ourselves on the back and told all our newly discovered thyroid patients that it turned out that they were not crazy--they just had a low thyroid. Doctors were comfortable that we could now determine with certainty when someone had a thyroid problem.

Then the T[sub4] level thyroid test was developed and we said, "Oh, that silly old PBI test. It missed so many people with a low thyroid, but this new test will find everyone." Then the T[sub7] test, which adjusts for protein binding of thyroid hormone, came out and then the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test. Modern medicine is now into the fifth generation of TSH tests. Current estimates are that less than one quarter of people with an underactive thyroid have been diagnosed and properly treated--even if they have had thyroid testing done. Even minimal thyroid deficiencies can result in elevations of cholesterol and premature death. Fortunately, some doctors are finally starting to catch on. One has to treat the patient and not the blood test.

If you suffer from chronic fatigue, achy muscles and joints, heavy periods, constipation, elevated cholesterol, easy weight gain, cold intolerance, dry skin, thin hair of a body temperature that tends to be on the low side of normal, you should consider asking your doctor to prescribe a low dose of natural thyroid hormone (Armour® Thyroid). If your doctor won't prescribe it, you may wish to consult one who will discuss it.(**) Before seeing a new doctor, call and ask if he or she sometimes treats people with thyroid hormone if their symptoms show they need it, but the blood tests are normal. As long as you do not have underlying angina and you follow up with a blood test to make sure that your thyroid levels are in a safe range (going above the upper limit of normal may aggravate osteoporosis), a trial of natural low-dose thyroid hormone treatment is usually very safe and may be dramatically beneficial. In addition, if you have muscle pain or fibromyalgia and an underactive thyroid that is not treated (even if your blood tests come back normal), your pain simply will not resolve.

ADRENAL INSUFFICIENCY--THE STRESS HANDLER
Your adrenal glands make cortisol, which helps you deal with stress. If you think back to your biology classes in high school, you may remember something called the fight-or-flight response. This is a physical reaction that occurs during times of stress. During the Stone Age, when a caveman met an animal that wanted to eat him, the caveman's adrenal glands activated multiple systems in his body that prompted him to either fight or run. This reaction helped the caveman survive. In those days, however, people probably had a couple of weeks or months to recover before facing the next major stress. In today's society people often experience stress reactions every few minutes (think of your average rush hour drive if you're late for work). Because of the physical and psychological stresses of modern life, I suspect that many people suffer from exhaustion of their adrenal glands.

Hypoglycemia deserves special mention. Many people sometimes become shaky and nervous, then dizzy, irritable and fatigued. These people often feel better after they eat sweets which improve their energy and mood for a short period of time. Most people with hypoglycemia have underactive adrenal glands. This makes sense because the adrenal glands' responsibilities include maintaining blood sugar at an adequate level. Sugar is the only fuel that the brain can use. When a person's blood sugar level drops, he or she feels poorly.

TREATING ADRENAL INSUFFICIENCY
People with hypoglycemia can treat low blood sugar symptoms by cutting sugar, processed carbohydrates and caffeine out of their diets; having frequent, small high protein meals; and increasing their intake of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables. An even more effective approach however, is to support your adrenal glands directly. Nutritional support, such as taking vitamin c 500-1000 mg/day, pantothenic acid 50+ mg/day and chromium 200 mcg/day often helps smooth out hypoglycemic symptoms. More directly, treating the underactive adrenal problem with adrenal glandulars and licorice (I recommend Adrenal Stress End by Enzymatic Therapy) can dramatically improve adrenal function and how you feel. Licorice supports your adrenals. It contains glycyrrhizin, a compound that raises the body's levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol. This occurs because licorice slows the breakdown of cortisol produced by the body.

The adrenal gland makes other hormones in addition to hydrocortisone. Especially important is DHEA. Although DHEA's function is not yet fully understood, it appears to be important for good health. Studies suggest that the higher a person's DHEA level is (within the normal range), the longer that person will live and the healthier he or she will be. For example, several studies have shown that DHEA is effective against osteoporosis and may even be more effective than estrogen. In addition, other studies suggest that DHEA improves cholesterol, decreases the risk of heart attacks and diabetes, decreases depression and can even decrease the damage done by lupus. For many patients, in addition to long life, when a low DHEA level is treated, the result is a dramatic boost in energy.

If your DHEA-S (not DHEA) level is low (under 120 micrograms per deciliter [mg/dL] of blood for females or 325 mcg/dL for males), I recommend beginning treatment with the dosing used in my study. See graph above.

For women, I suggest keeping the DHEA-S level at around 150 to 180 mcg/dL, which is the middle of the normal range for a twenty-nine-year-old female. For men, I keep the DHEA-S level between 350 and 500 mcg/dL, which is the normal range for a twenty-nine-year-old male. The low ends of the normal ranges are normal only for people over eighty. If you use too high a dose, however, you can get side effects such as acne, or if you ignore the acne, darkening of facial hair. Because of this, it is worthwhile to check your blood level of DHEA-S and decrease your dose if it is too high. Effective forms of DHEA (some are not) are available without a prescription.(***)

LOW ESTROGEN AND TESTOSTERONE
Many people going through midlife develop fatigue, poor libido or depression. This includes men and women alike. Researchers have found that if the estrogen level in females or testosterone level in males or females is low, a trial replacement of these hormones using natural hormones (from soybeans) can bring about dramatic improvement and is therefore worth considering. An underactive adrenal gland can also aggravate this problem, as the adrenals make half of a woman's testosterone.

LOW TESTOSTERONE--NOT ONLY A MALE PROBLEM
Low testosterone is associated with many problems including fatigue, poor stamina, muscle wasting and poor libido. In addition, using natural testosterone to raise low testosterone levels to mid-normal has been associated with decreasing diabetes, cholesterol and angina. Testosterone is critical in females as well as males.

In many women, estrogen replacement can also be very helpful. I suspect that most of you have read the studies showing that taking pregnant horse urine (Premarin) is dangerous. This came as no shock to holistic physicians who have been saying this for decades. On the other hand, natural estrogen can often be used safely and effectively. Interestingly, using estriol (the estrogen that goes up during pregnancy) likely decreases the risk of breast cancer.

It is important to remember to also get optimum nutritional support. Because there are so many key nutrients, the easiest way to do this is to use a powdered formula. I recommend the Energy Revitalization System by Enzymatic Therapy. One good tasting drink and one capsule replaces 35 tablets daily (containing 50 nutrients, including all of the ones discussed in this article). You can stay young and vital late into life!

Author's note:
(*) Revitalizing Sleep Formula by Enzymatic Therapy is available at health food stores and www.vitality101.com

(**) If your doctor won't prescribe it (Armour® Thyroid), visit my Web site at www.vitality101.com for a list of over 900 health professionals, who may be open to this. You may wish to consult one who is favorable to the idea.

(***) Effective forms of DHEA are available from compounding pharmacies, Enzymatic Therapy, www.Vitality101.com and General Nutrition Centers.

SYMPTOMS OF ADRENAL INSUFFICIENCY
If your adrenal glands are underactive, what might you be experiencing? Low adrenal function can cause, among other symptoms:

• Fatigue

• Recurrent infections

• Difficulty shaking off infections

• Poor response and "crashing" during stress

• Achiness

• Hypoglycemia

• Low blood pressure and dizziness upon first standing.

Legend for Chart:

A - DHEA-Sulphate umoL/L
B - DHEA-Sulphate mcg/DL
C - RX mg/d

A B C

In Males

0-2.7 0-100 50
2.8-5.4 101-200 40
5.5-7.6 201-280 25
7.7-8.7 281-320 10

In Females

0-0.8 0-30 25
0.9-2.2 31-80 20
2.3-3.0 81-110 10
3.1-3.8 111-114 5

From the study "Effective Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
and Fibromyalgia -- a Placebo-controlled Study." Senior author
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D.
~~~~~~~~

By Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D

Dr. Teitelbaum is a board certified internist and director of the Annapolis Center for Effective CFS/Fibromyalgia Therapies. Having suffered with and overcome these illnesses in 1975, he spent the next 25 years creating, researching, and teaching about effective therapies. His office is in Annapolis, Maryland (410-573-5389). He lectures internationally. He is the senior author of the landmark study "Effective Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia--a Placebo-controlled Study." He is also the author of the best-selling book From Fatigued to Fantastic! and the just released Three Steps to Happiness! Healing through Joy His Web site is www.Vitality101.com

Types of Hormonal Dysfunction
The hypothalamus is our body's master gland, controlling the activity of most other glands in the body through the pituitary. The effects of diminished function of the body's hormone levels can include:

• Low thyroid hormone. This can cause decreased metabolism, weight gain, elevated cholesterol, fatigue, pain and low body temperature.

• Low growth hormone. Also called the "Fountain of youth hormone," growth hormone is critical for tissue repair and is associated with looking young, increased muscle strength and increased vigor. Growth hormone also stimulates production of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and contributes to energy levels and a general feeling of well-being.

• Decreased cortisol. Low levels of this "stress hormone" cause immune dysfunction, hypoglycemia and hypotension and the tendency to "crash" in stressful situations.

• Low ovarian and testicular function. Low estrogen can contribute to insomnia, aging, depression and pain--as well as the well-known symptoms of hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Low testosterone (in both mates and females) can cause loss of libido, depression and increased risk of diabetes and heart attacks.

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