I bought a book a few weeks ago called The Schwarzbein Principle II by Santa Barbara endocrinologist Diana Schwarzbein. The book was timely for me because I’ve had a few boring little age related issues pop up recently. I have high energy levels and lead a healthy lifestyle but I’ve made a few big health related mistakes over the years which I’ll explain.
Whenever I come across something I think would be useful to others I want to share it. I see women my age and much younger suffering with weight issues, mood swings and decreased or non-existent libidos and if I know I have found potential solutions to their problems, I am ecstatic to share. We women truly want to help each other be the best we can be physically, professionally and even emotionally. We are nurturers.
Diana Schwarzbein is a proponent of a largely unknown, natural product called bio identical hormones used in hormone replacement therapy mostly for women but also men to a certain degree. She also emphasizes the importance of a “five step program” to a productive, healthy, active, disease free lifestyle at all ages, the basis of her book.
I first heard about Diana in a book called The Sexy Years by Suzanne Somers that I purchased in 2004 but I didn’t utilize the information on bio-identicals till probably 2006. Most recently, I’m following the rest of her lifestyle recommendations as well.
Eating real, high quality foods in a balanced manner–the key being balanced proportions: good quality protein (wild caught salmon, free range poultry, eggs, minimally processed cheese like Feta, fresh Buffalo mozzarella, ricotta and chevre), non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, eggplant), real carbohydrates (beans, quinoa, brown rice, whole grains) and high quality fats (olive oil, avocado) and omitting all packaged foods. I’m a vegetarian so I avoid all meat and cow’s milk products.
Manage your stress: this includes sleeping a full eight hours, controlling caffeine intake (this really surprised me), doing daily relaxation techniques like taking a slow walk, doing Yoga, meditating, praying, managing your work load, and taking time for yourself and your favorite activities.
Cross training exercises: at levels that don’t cause stress. Yoga and other stretching exercises, low impact aerobic exercises and resistance training exercises (weight machines and free weights). Diana stresses the importance in exercising the whole person, not just the heart or just weight training. Stretching is important to for calming yourself as well as range of motion. She warns against over exercising (another surprise to me).
Lastly, for those of us who need it (most women over 45) bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.
One of the differences between synthetic hormones and natural bio-identical hormones is that your body recognizes bio-identicals as the hormones you create yourself. Synthetic ones (like Premarin) are toxic and better off avoided completely. This is something each person has to investigate by reading, not necessarily by talking to your doctor because many doctors (who according to the book, receive all of four hours teaching on hormones) are still largely uninformed about bio-identicals. Bio-identical hormones are natural and are therefore not patentable. What that means is, if the pharmaceutical companies can’t patent them they can’t profit from them. Doctors largely sell what the pharmaceutical companies tell them to sell. To get real answers, read books by the endocrinologists listed in this blog and make your own informed decisions. Bio-identicals are usually cremes, applied topically every twelve hours and are produced in a compounding pharmacy. They are made from yams which have been synthesized in a laboratory and as I said before, mimic your own hormones “identically”, thus the name.
What surprised me most is how much I underestimated the harm sugar and caffeine cause. I was lulled into a false sense of confidence because I have always eaten so healthy and exercised consistently. I wrongly believed it was okay to consume a sweetened iced coffee or two a day and several glasses of sweet iced tea. After all, I didn’t eat desserts every weekend like I did in my twenties and thirties. I eat a big salad every day. I do twenty five minutes of sustained aerobics six days a week and alternate Yoga and weights every other day. Why should I give up one or two little vices? My answer came when I started developing considerable weight around my midsection, horrible pain in most of my joints particularly my neck and thumbs, and daily heart palpitations.
Sugar, caffeine and stress aside, my biggest mistake turned out to be following an ill informed doctor’s advice on how to administer bio identical hormones. According to Dr. Schwarzbein and Dr. Uzzi Reiss a woman should not take progesterone on a daily basis, but rather fourteen days out of the month. She should take estrogen daily. She should have annual blood tests to make sure her hormones are balanced. And she should pay attention to her symptoms such as mood swings, bloating, energy levels, etc.
So my lifestyle changes include consuming less sugar, caffeine and alcohol, managing my stress better, and balancing my hormones. I expect to be playing a mean game of singles tennis in a few months with a pain free neck, and rocking a trimmer midsection by summer.