When you think of hormonal symptoms, what comes to mind? Anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, hot flashes and night sweats? Sleepless nights? For many, the obvious remedy is often bioidentical hormone replacement treatment (BHRT). This strategy assumes, of course, that you have diminished levels of one or more hormones. It is important initially for your practitioner to determine whether the symptoms being expressed are the result of deficiency or excess. Low or high levels of any hormone create symptoms.
Let’s say that tests have determined that a hormonal imbalance exists and that BHRT support may help. Sure enough, BHRT helps reduce or eliminate the symptoms you were experiencing. So, at first thought, you may be thinking “What’s to recover from? Aren’t bioidentical hormones natural? That’s why I went this route in the first place.” Well, things are not always as they seem. According to Louisa Williams, ND, DC, author of Radical Medicine, “Many women using bioidenticals often find themselves in the same predicament so common among women using ‘synthetic’ hormone replacement therapy. That is, saturation of the tissues in estrogen and the inevitable problems that excess synthetic estrogen produces. And why? Because bioidenticals are synthetic. They are basically the same as so-called synthetic hormones and both are pharmaceutically derived.”1
There is no doubt that for some premenopausal and menopausal women, bioidentical hormone therapy offers much needed relief and is better than the complications that often arise without them. The purpose of this article is to assist readers in making informed decisions regarding the use of bioidentical hormones and to support those who desire to safely wean off bioidenticals while supporting their hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-gonadal axis (HPAG axis). It is always advisable that women wean gradually off bioidentical or synthetic hormones under the supervision of a licensed physician or naturopathic doctor. In my experience, the weaning process can be smooth once the Wise Traditions diet is implemented daily, meal and sleep routines are consistent and certain nutritional and homeopathic supports are in place.
As we consider hormones, keep in mind that each hormone, just like each cell, needs to act in synchrony with every other hormone. No hormone works in isolation nor are individual hormones immune to the influence of other hormones.
ANATOMY OF BIOIDENTICAL HORMONES
Bioidentical hormones are hormones derived from plants, such as soy or wild yams, and are designed to be structurally identical to the hormones produced naturally inside the human body. The claim is that “they are the closest and most natural form of exogenous hormones possible and yet they are identical to our own endogenous hormones.”
According to Dr. Laura Streicher, MD, “The only thing that is natural is to drink the horse urine or eat the soy plant (both are used in the manufacturing of hormones). All plant-derived hormone preparations, whether they come from a compounding pharmacy or a large commercial pharmacy, require a chemical process to synthesize the final product, which can then be put into a cream, a spray, a patch or a pill. Promoters of compounded plant-derived hormones use the terms ‘natural’ and ‘bioidentical’ because it is appealing to consumers and implies that it is not synthetic.”2
Plant-derived estrogen from soybeans is molecularly very similar but not identical to human hormones. Contrary to popular belief, a hormone formula packaged at a compounding pharmacy is in reality no different than those formulas obtained from a mainstream pharmacy. Compounding pharmacies are working with the same synthetic raw material as the commercial pharmaceutical companies in creating creams, pills, sprays and patches.
ANATOMY OF HUMAN HORMONES
For many years, the scientific medical community believed that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) at any age would reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. This hope was dashed by the Women’s Health Initiative study, which found that taking estrogen plus progestin for more than five years places postmenopausal women at greater risk for heart attacks, strokes and several other serious problems. The study’s conclusion reads, “Overall health risks exceeded benefits from use of combined estrogen plus progestin for an average 5.2-year follow-up among healthy postmenopausal U.S. women. All-cause mortality was not affected during the trial. The risk-benefit profile found in this trial is not consistent with the requirements for a viable intervention for primary prevention of chronic diseases, and the results indicate that this regimen should not be initiated or continued for primary prevention of CHD [coronary heart disease].”3
All human sex hormones are derived from cholesterol. The body manufactures roughly 80 percent of the cholesterol needed to maintain a healthy endocrine system. The remaining 20 percent comes from exogenous dietary sources, primarily animal fat in the form of egg yolks, butter fat, lard and bacon, tallow and beef fat, duck and goose fat, schmaltz and poultry skin, fish skin, fish eggs and wild seafood. Cholesterol is the precursor to pregnenolone. From pregnenolone, our sex and adrenal organs produce estrogens, progestins (progesterone) and testosterone (as well as DHEA, DHT and androstenedione).
Hormones are made in the pineal gland, hypothalamus, pituitary, parathyroid, thyroid, adrenals, thymus, pancreas, ovaries, testes and adipose tissue. Each of these glands play a role in the symphony of hormone production. It is the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-gonadal axis that is the big player in producing sex hormones. For simplicity’s sake, we will focus on the production of the primary sex hormones—estrogens, progestins and androgens—and later, adrenal hormones and their influence over the transition known as menopause. Estrogens (estradiol, estrone and estriol) are produced in significant quantities by the ovaries, and a very small amount is secreted by the adrenal cortices. Estradiol is primarily produced in the ovaries; much of estrone is secreted in the peripheral tissues from androgens secreted by the adrenal cortices; and estriol is derived from both estradiol and estrone, with its conversion occurring mostly in the liver.
The most important of the progestins is progesterone. Progesterone should be secreted by the corpus luteum in significant amounts in cycling women during the luteal (second half) of the twenty-eight-day ovarian cycle. Testosterone is also a player in creating balance of female hormones throughout a woman’s life. All three, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, are steroids, made largely from cholesterol derived from the blood but to a certain extent also from acetyl coenzyme A.4 Dietary cholesterol plays a key role in providing precursors for the proper production of sex hormones for both women and men.
THE LIVER PLAYS A ROLE
It’s important to understand the liver’s role in relationship to sex hormones. Once hormones have done their job, so to speak, they are transported to the liver to be conjugated to form glucuronides and sulfates. The liver is responsible for converting the resulting potent estrogens (estradiol and estrone) into the less potent form, estriol. Of these substances, about 20 percent are excreted in the bile and then eliminated through the colon. The remaining products are excreted via urine.
If the liver’s detox pathways, glucuronidation and sulfation, are impaired due to toxic overload from environmental factors (toxic chemicals in the air, food, etc.) the result will be weakened function which will actually lead to increased harmful activity of the estrogens in the body. Estrogen is an anabolic hormone. This means that its primary function is to encourage cellular proliferation and tissue growth. When estrogen is not properly balanced with progesterone and when the liver’s detoxification functions are impaired, excess uncleared estrogen can lead to cancer and other destructive metabolic processes. This creates a state of estrogen dominance.
Symptoms of insufficient clearance of estrogens or estrogen dominance include acne, endometriosis, cervical dysplasia, gallbladder disease, loss of concentration, migraine headaches, premenstrual syndrome, bloating, weight gain, water retention, irritability, uterine fibroids and breast and ovarian cysts, to name a few. If a history of these conditions exists, one should pay special attention to supporting the liver and, in particular, these two pathways. We will discuss dietary and therapeutic supports further in this article.
Louisa Williams states that “The hormone replacement therapy debacle is just one example of allopathic medicine’s malfeasance through emphasizing quick fixes in the form of a pill over the more time-consuming process of searching for the underlying cause of each patient’s unique symptoms and prescribing a personalized treatment protocol.”5 To delve deeper, let’s look at underlying causes that contribute to hormonal dysfunction and how we can best create an internal milieu to support the body’s natural desire for balance.
ADRENAL HORMONES TO THE RESCUE. . . OR NOT
The primary function of the adrenal glands is to secrete into the bloodstream adrenaline, followed by cortisol, for the purpose of supplying additional energy in times of stress. Constant stress means constant stimulation of the adrenal glands. Due to the fact that adrenaline is capable of dissolving bone, overactive adrenal glands can be devastating to the skeletal system. The adrenals slow down their bone-dissolving hormones around age sixty-five, which is why bone loss decreases at this time.
Additionally, the adrenal glands are involved in the control of fluid balance throughout the body via the production of aldosterone and mineralocorticoids. The adrenal synthesis of cortisol and glucocorticoids assists in stabilizing blood sugar balance. Control of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses to injury also is dependent upon healthy, functioning adrenal glands.
The ease of one’s transition into menopause is largely dependent upon the strength of one’s adrenals and the state of one’s mineral stores and general nutrition. One of the functions of the adrenal glands is to gradually take over the production of the various hormones that the ovaries have been producing (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone). Along with ovaries, testes and peripheral tissues, adrenal glands produce small amounts of sex hormones (DHEA, progesterone, estrogen and testosterone). These hormones are vital to overall health, strength, energy and stamina. Steroid hormones are essential to maintaining a healthy mood and emotional status. In essence, the adrenals provide a back-up system for sex hormone production.
We cannot talk about hormonal imbalance symptoms without discussing inflammation. Inflammation is often expressed as pain. Pain is our body’s way of getting our attention. Inflammation is now thought to be the root cause of the majority of chronic diseases. The adrenal hormone cortisol is used by the body to put the inflammatory fire out. (Cortisone shot, anyone?) Cortisol is made from cholesterol. If you experience chronic inflammation, your body preferentially makes cortisol to put the fire(s) out at the expense of making the sex hormones. The hormonal symptoms experienced may simply be a natural compensatory imbalance secondary to inflammation. Those people with lower cholesterol levels are even more susceptible to this imbalance.
Our adrenal glands are our glands of survival. They produce numerous hormones that are necessary in assisting the body to handle inflammation and stress. Ideally, we function best living in a state of acute or occasional stress and long periods of rest or peace. Unfortunately, many people living in our modern hurried culture experience just the opposite—chronic stress with occasional rest.
The body prioritizes hormone pathways to address chronic stress and inflammation by directing the lion’s share of pregnenolone down the adrenal steroid pathway. The result is unavailable pregnenolone for the creation of sex drive. (Can you say “low libido”?) In the body’s wisdom, one cannot successfully deal with chronic stress and procreate, especially in the absence of adequate cholesterol to provide the necessary parts for both the adrenal and sex hormone pathways. The bottom line is to take care of the inflammation issues first and give your body the chance to self-regulate your challenges.
Common stressors that can lead to adrenal dysfunction include:
• Unresolved emotional stress (anxiety, fear, worry, anger, guilt, depression)
• Late hours, insufficient sleep
• Overwork, either physical or mental, including excessive physical exercise
• Nutritional deficiencies
• Refined sugar (white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, dextrin, high fructose corn syrup, etc. found in most processed foods)
• Overconsumption of caffeine (coffee, black tea, chocolate, soft drinks)
• Chronic pain and/or illness
• Chronic or severe allergies
• Trauma, injury, surgery
• Corticosteroids (prednisone, cortisone)
• Synthetic vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
If you have afternoon sluggishness, think adrenal insufficiency. Other signs of adrenal weakness include general fatigue, difficulty falling asleep despite exhaustion, lack of libido, sugar cravings (especially for a “lift”), low blood pressure, arthritic tendencies, increased perspiration, swollen ankles, allergies, tendency to asthma, poor circulation, cold hands and feet, constipation, aversion to hot weather, low cholesterol, dizziness, salt cravings, brown spots or bronzing of the skin and nervous exhaustion.
DON’T FORGET THE THYROID
If you have morning sluggishness despite adequate sleep, think “thyroid.” The number one symptom of low thyroid function (hypothyroid) is fatigue or exhaustion. Brain fog may also be a part of the hypothyroid picture. Hair loss and chipping or peeling nails without other symptoms is usually not thyroid. Look for the classic signs first. Other symptoms can include ovarian cysts, tinnitus, tendon and ligament problems as well as the propensity towards injury (chronic muscular and skeletal injuries). Also commonly seen in hypothyroidism is infertility, insulin resistance, constipation, anxiety, depression and night blindness, which is often due to the liver not converting beta-carotene to vitamin A. Ringing in the ears, edema (especially of the face) and weight gain, though not always, are common symptoms of low thyroid function. Those persons with primary hypothyroidism tend to prefer warm weather (whereas adrenal insufficiency people prefer cool weather).
Hypothyroidism is often overlooked. It is important to work with a trained practitioner who understands the merits of extensive thyroid testing along with observation of one’s symptoms. Thorough thyroid testing includes serum levels of TSH, total T4, total T3, free T4, free T3, T3 uptake, reverse T3, free thyroxine index T7, thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG), thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO ab) and thyroid antithyroglobulin antibody (TAA). Assessment by a trained health care practitioner experienced in supporting thyroid disorders is key.
Additional tests that are useful in any hormone-balancing endeavor include temperature charting, DUTCH Test (sex and adrenal via dried urine), salivary hormone testing of sex and adrenal hormones, serum testing of hemoglobin A1c, Comprehensive Metabolic Panel along with phosphorus and a Complete Blood Count. Also, an in-office Ragland’s test is helpful in monitoring adrenal status as well as a Page graph for an understanding of inherent endocrine function potential.
GET STARTED ON BALANCING
Foundational to recovery from bioidentical hormone therapy and to hormone balancing is establishing steady blood sugar levels as well as a healthy sleep routine. One of the common complaints of menopausal women is sleep disruption. Either falling asleep is a challenge or staying asleep is a problem.
Typically, those who have trouble falling asleep are experiencing an inverted cortisol pattern. Rather than cortisol being at its lowest point at bedtime, cortisol actually climbs to its highest level. Many experience this in the form of a “second wind.” Several factors can contribute to this inverted cortisol pattern: prior use of birth control hormones, overconsumption of caffeine, chronic stress and working or living in bright lighting at night.
Correction of elevated cortisol that is keeping one from falling asleep at a decent hour (between 9:00 and 10:00 PM) can be achieved by a multi-faceted approach. This involves establishing a consistent rhythm in one’s day, including regular wake and sleep times, as well as regular meal times and time outdoors. Often it is necessary to support the hypothalamus and pituitary glands via nutritional therapy. The use of protomorphogens, particular to these glands, has proven very effective. In my nutrition practice, we use Standard Process’ Hypothalmex, Hypothalamus PMG and Pituitrophin PMG. Additionally, real food sources of the whole vitamin E complex provide nutrition for the pituitary glands.
Regardless of the nature of one’s specific imbalances, the following steps are always vital to hormone balance:
• Eliminate obstacles to balance
• Eat a Wise Traditions diet
• Correct digestion and blood sugar control
• Manage chronic prolonged stress
• Establish rhythm and spend time outdoors
• Support detoxification and elimination
• Address specific hormone imbalances
• Do regular movement and exercise
• Sleep restfully.
ELIMINATE OBSTACLES TO BALANCE
It is vital to eliminate as many obstacles as possible that block the endocrine system from staying in a state of homeostasis or balance. The following destroy health and may encourage estrogen dominance. We will discuss some of these in more detail in the following sections.
• Lowfat, high-sugar, high-carb diet
• Over-committed lifestyle
• Caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, sodas)
• Alcohol and recreational drugs
• Chronic infections
• Gut permeability
• Electro-magnetic fields, radiation
• Antibiotics and other prescription and over-the-counter medications
• Toxic personal care and cleaning products, most of which contain known estrogenics.
SUPPORT LIVER FUNCTION
As important as it is to eat right for our hormones’ sake, we must also nourish our bodies well for proper liver function. Most people interested in health these days are aware of the concern regarding certain genetic mutations that affect liver function and detoxification. The most talked about mutation influences the liver’s methylation pathway. Methylation is involved in almost every bodily biochemical reaction and occurs billions of times every second in our cells. Methylation mutations, as with all genetic mutations, exist because of what was inherited at birth. However, the genes you inherit from your parents are not your destiny. They are simply your tendency. Epigenetic factors can change genetic expression and that is why a Wise Traditions diet along with lifestyle factors and changes are so empowering. When most people think of methylation, what immediately comes to mind is MTHFR genes. The tendency in many health circles is to hyper focus on this one mutation and its potential effect on liver function and hence, hormones. However, there are multiple genes that tag team with the MTHFR genes in the process of methylation. For this reason, it is not wise to just start supplementing with the typical recommendation of high-dose methylcobalamin (methylated B12). Many with MTHFR SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms, the most common type of genetic variation among people) react poorly to methylated B12 due to other related genetic mutations involved in methylation. MTHFR is a vital enzyme in the folate cycle and is required in the conversion of folic acid into L-methylfolate. Synthesis of neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine) can be halted by lack of active folate due to MTHFR and other mutations.
Rather than blindly supplementing with methylated B12, start by consuming foods that are methyl donors daily. Your body knows what to do with the nutrients in food. Cooked dark leafy greens, soaked and cooked lentils, liver and beet kvass are all excellent methyl donors and should be consumed regularly. By increasing dietary sources of methyl donors, including vitamin B12 and folate, the liver’s methylation process is supported in the most natural way.
SUPPORT GLUCURONIDATION AND SUPPORTIVE FOODS
Glucuronidation takes place in the liver and is often involved in the metabolism of substances such as drugs, pollutants, bilirubin, androgens, estrogens, mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, fatty acid derivatives, retinoids and bile acids. The body uses glucuronidation to make a large variety of substances more water-soluble, and, in this way, allow for their subsequent elimination from the body through urine or feces (via bile from the liver).
Factors such as hypothyroidism, overweight, excessive estrogen, a compromised immune function and smoking affect the rate and efficacy of one’s glucuronidation process.
Cruciferous vegetables support this pathway. They should be cooked (steamed or sautéed) or fermented. Raw cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, mustard greens and bok choy are very goitrogenic. This means they can lower thyroid function, which in most cases, we do not want to do.
Gotu kola is a perennial plant that is native to the wetland regions of Asia. It can be used for a variety of reasons. It supports the glucuronidation pathway. It is known to enhance microcirculation by increasing blood vessel and collagen growth with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties while preventing swelling. Think of it if you are have skin concerns (such as premature wrinkling, poor scar healing) and edema.
Sulfation is a final phase in the liver’s detoxification process. Sulfoxidation transforms toxic sulfites into sulfate for elimination from the body. Sulfation plays an important role in hormone regulation and metabolism. Cell signaling and inflammation control also rely on sulfation. The body uses sulfation to eliminate many toxic environmental compounds including mercury, acetaminophen, xenobiotics and food additives like aspartame and sulfites, as well as endogenous toxins from intestinal bacteria, hormones (thyroid, cortisol and other steroidal hormones) and neurotransmitters.6
According to Stephanie Seneff, PhD, one of the world’s foremost glyphosate experts, glyphosate depletes the liver of much needed sulfate. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup and is used in conjunction with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Seneff believes that glyphosate disrupts the transport of sulfate from the gut to the liver and pancreas. The result is a plethora of diseases. Autism as well as celiac and other diseases of the gut are all linked to faulty sulfation pathway function.7 Elimination of GMOs from the diet is crucial for wellness.
Foods that offer excellent support for the sulfation pathway include organic garlic, leeks, eggs, raw cultured dairy, wild fish and shellfish, liver, lamb, beef, chicken, pork, duck, goose, turkey, properly soaked and cooked lentils, soaked and cooked oatmeal, and barley. Ginger and mustard also offer good support for sulfation.
CORRECT DIGESTION AND CONTROL BLOOD SUGAR
Another essential function for obtaining optimal hormone balancing is optimal digestion and blood sugar control. To start, eliminate improperly prepared grains and refined vegetable oils. For serious digestive issues, consider the GAPS Diet, especially the GAPS Introduction Diet, a therapeutic diet designed to heal the gut.
The inclusion of digestive bitters or raw apple cider vinegar before meals will stimulate the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid and pepsin, both of which are designed to begin the process of digesting proteins and minerals. Bile insufficiency or thick sluggish bile is often seen in estrogen dominance. Common signs of bile insufficiency or biliary tract stasis are constipation, light colored stools and stools that float (indicating a malabsorption of fat). The addition of supplemental ox bile can help correct this condition. Consuming beet kvass, a traditional Russian lacto-fermented beverage, prior to meals is also extremely effective in thinning the bile stored in the gallbladder. This allows bile to be delivered into the duodenum of the small intestine more easily, thus enhancing the digestion of fatty foods.
As mentioned above, blood sugar regulation can be the cause of waking at night for many women. Following closely the Wise Traditions diet will be the most important step in creating stable blood sugar. Next will be establishing three regular meals daily. Do not skip meals or do intermittent fasting until blood sugar is steady.
Along with regular meals and meal times, use Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s recommendation of incorporating her butter-honey mixture (see page 38) into the diet in between meals.8 This in-between-meals snack is designed to give the body longer sustaining energy in the way of butter with just enough raw honey to satisfy sugar cravings. As time goes on and blood sugar normalizes, one will need this snack less and less in between meals and in many cases, will feel perfectly satisfied until the next meal.
Insulin resistance, as well as sugar cravings, can be addressed in the same manner as above. The inclusion of therapeutic dosages of Mediherb’s Gymnema can be very beneficial in both stopping sugar cravings and re-sensitizing cells to insulin. In many cases, Gymnema will need to be used for up to nine months, but the results are well worth the effort.
Evening primrose oil or black currant seed oil are also extremely useful in reversing insulin resistance. Additionally, they support hormone balancing in cycling as well as menopausal women. Evening primrose oil is especially suited for younger women, while black currant seed oil supports perimenopausal and menopausal women best. As with all plant oils, it is imperative to seek out high-quality therapeutic sources such as those provided by Mediherb and Standard Process.
Lastly, avoid eating after 7:00 PM (6:00 PM to support weight loss) to ensure that the bulk of the digestive process is finished before going to bed. Managing chronic stress and going to bed between 9:00 and 10:00 PM are essential steps in restoring blood sugar regulation.
MANAGE CHRONIC PROLONGED STRESS
Considered by many physicians and health care practitioners to be the most common culprit for inflammation and chronic illness, prolonged stress must be addressed in order to achieve long-term hormonal balance. The first step in managing chronic stress is to create more margin in one’s day and schedule. This requires prioritizing and being realistic.
Modern culture has imparted high demands on individuals with our pervasive use of technology. It takes a great deal of self-control to create healthy boundaries and safe spaces, if you will. But without boundaries and safe spaces, quiet is all but stolen from our existence. Take steps to limit your availability via email and cell phones. Learn to say “no” to excessive commitments. Refuse to be driven by the tyranny of the urgent. Very few “urgencies” are truly such. Make it a practice to turn off devices before dinner. Guard your safe spaces, giving yourself regular time outdoors daily without the presence of devices. Practice quietness on a daily basis. Journal, pray, meditate. Be still!
Another area of chronic stress comes in the form of unhealthy relationships. Look honestly at those relationships that bring repetitive stress into your day. Take positive action through the counsel of trusted friends, therapists, pastors, priests or rabbis or other counselors. Find solutions to rebuild strong relationships. Spend time with those people who encourage you and do likewise to others.
Medical researcher T.S. Wiley once wrote, “We always knew that there were certain rules for staying alive in harmony with all other living things—how much you could eat, how long you could stay awake, and how much stress you could endure.”9
Finally, a key ingredient to stress management is to make a commitment to restorative sleep. More on that later.
ESTABLISH RHYTHM AND SPEND TIME OUTDOORS
Our hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-gonadal axis is designed to receive signals from the sun, in a roundabout way. These signals are initiated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the anterior hypothalamus. The SCN is the master clock controlling circadian rhythms. In essence, our biological time clock, or circadian rhythm takes its cues from sunlight.
Prior to the advent of electricity, it was easy to go to bed at an ideal time, two hours after sunset. As the eye perceives darkness, a message is transmitted via the optic nerve to the anterior hypothalamus and then to the pineal gland. Once received, the pineal gland, a neuroendocrine gland, initiates the production of melatonin. It takes the body roughly two hours from receipt of this signal to produce melatonin in levels sufficient to induce deep sleep. What happens if we live in bright artificial lights all day until late night? You guessed it. We miss the natural signals that should be transmitted. We live in a perpetual state of summer. Long days of light which translate to less sleep.10
SUPPORT DETOXIFICATION AND ELIMINATION
Gentle detoxification and biotherapeutic drainage provide crucial support for balancing hormones and recovering from the use of both bioidentical and synthetic hormone therapy. As a complement to biotherapeutic drainage, simple home therapies such as castor oil packs, dry brushing, dry sauna, liver-gallbladder flushes and coffee enemas may be incorporated. The goal is to eliminate the toxic liver stressors and their effects due to past use of over-the-counter and prescription medications, estrogenics and xenobiotics from food, water and personal care products as well as synthetic hormones. Ensuring regular daily bowel movements is also critical in this process.
Dr. Dickson Thom, DDS, ND, explains biotherapeutic drainage in this way: “Drainage is the process of detoxifying the body by opening the emunctories and then discharging the toxic accumulations. However, in reality it is a much more complex process in that it provides a support for the natural progression and maturation throughout life.”11
Drainage (or biotherapeutic drainage) is often confused with detoxification. The two terms are closely related but have specific differences. Detoxification refers to the process of cleansing a particular organ or gland or using therapeutic support to eliminate a toxin such as a toxic metal, parasite, chemical or pathogenic yeast. Detoxification tends to employ commonly used remedies without considering the individual’s elimination ability based on many factors.
Drainage takes into account each person’s unique metabolic status and requires a knowledge of the individual’s health history, level of health and elimination patterns and tendencies, among other factors. Biotherapeutic drainage was developed in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. There are several forms of drainage remedies. These include gemmotherapy or plant stem cell remedies, single remedy homeopathy and complex homeopathy (such as UNDA Numbered Compounds).
In order for the body to heal, toxins must be released and affected tissues regenerated. It is always ideal that the release of toxins be done as gently as possible. Drainage therapies are designed to do just that. In addition to the aforementioned remedies, drainage includes simple therapies such as massage, dry saunas, castor oil packs and hydrotherapy. These therapies can enhance homeopathy and gemmotherapy.
UNDA Numbered Compounds are complex homeopathic remedies that comprise homeopathic dilutions of both plant and metal sources. Being homeopathic, there is no plant or metal elemental form present in these remedies. The presence of the homeopathic dilutions (at a 12X potency) of the various metals allows the remedies to cross the cell membranes and stimulate intracellular detoxification. The seventy-five individual UNDA Numbered Compounds can be combined to create eleven hundred different protocols, providing a wide range of options tailored to the individual’s needs.
Key forms of drainage that I use most often are gemmotherapy and UNDA Numbered Compounds. Gemmotherapy remedies are plant remedies. They are specifically derived from the most embryonic part of the various plants that have been identified for their abilities to drain, regenerate and restore function to particular organs and glands. These remedies are made from young plant parts that include buds, rootlets, shoots or stems. The targeted portions of the plant are gently extracted and diluted using water, glycerin and alcohol. Gemmotherapy remedies are very supportive in recovering from the consequences of bioidentical hormone therapy. The key gemmotherapy remedies are Sequoia Gigantea, Quercus Pedunculata and Ribes Nigrum.
For specific adrenal support, Ribes Nigrum, a gemmotherapy extract from the black currant bud, is one of the most beneficial supports for regeneration of the adrenal glands. Ashwagandha, an herbal extract tincture, is also an excellent adaptagenic support for adrenals and especially for those who are creating high levels of reverse T3.
For thyroid support, the gemmotherapy Prunus Amgydalus serves to help restore and balance function. Additionally, for those with hypothyroidism, Mediherb’s Thyroid Complex provides bladderwrack, bacopa and ashwagandha along with trace minerals, including iodine. This is an excellent formula for improving sluggish metabolism. It is especially beneficial for those persons who are underconverting T4 to T3. In my practice, we find this effective along with complex carbs in moderation.
Support for estrogen dominance should always include liver drainage. Two gemmotherapy remedies that are time tested for efficacy of detoxing estrogenic compounds are rosmarinus (extract from rosemary buds) and juniperus (from juniper buds). Milk thistle, as a tincture, is also a very effective herb for assisting the liver in breaking down and eliminating estrogen and estrogen-like compounds. Daily inclusion of kelp for iodine and beet kvass further support the liver’s challenges from poor clearance of excess estrogen.
In cases where estrogen deficiency exists, the gemmotherapy Sequoia Gigantea is a great therapeutic remedy. Black cohosh and wild yam can also be used to support low estrogen. Both these herbs should be used under the guidance of a trained health care practitioner. Please note that black cohosh is a powerful herb that should not be used during pregnancy as it can induce early labor and cause complications in the developing baby. However, homeopathic dilutions of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa or Actaea racemosa) and blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) can be safely used during the end of pregnancy to induce and stimulate labor. The subtle energy of homeopathic remedies makes them safe alternatives to aggressive pharmaceuticals.
Progesterone insufficiency is a very common challenge in modern perimenopausal and menopausal women. A very effective support for low progesterone is a combination of the gemmotherapy remedies Ribes Nigrum, Sequoia Gigantea and Quercus Pedunculata. This trio assists the body in naturally balancing. Quercus Pedunculata is particularly helpful in encouraging the production and balance of testosterone. Herbs such as chaste tree and wild yam complex can also be incorporated to correct insufficiencies. The use of whole food concentrate products like Drenamin to support the function of the adrenal glands and Ovex P to supply precursors for the production of progesterone are also superb options. All of these should be used under the guidance of a trained health care practitioner.
Don’t forget the importance of regular exercise. The best exercise is the one you will do. Exercise stimulates the lymphatic system as well as the lungs and cardiovascular system. Exercise relieves stress as well. Find a routine you enjoy and stay with it. Don’t be afraid to try new activities. Variety eliminates boredom.
Sleep is one of the most restorative therapies we have and it costs us absolutely nothing!
Before you grab for that bottle of melatonin, understand how the production of melatonin works. The hormones melatonin and prolactin are the drivers of our biological clocks. Melatonin production by the pineal gland is stimulated two hours after the eye perceives darkness. While melatonin can provide relief in acute situations, when taken long term it decreases natural production by shrinking the pineal gland.12 If supplemental melatonin is used, it should only be in small amounts (1-3 mg) and infrequently, not on a nightly basis.
Instead, try a warm cup of bone broth or raw milk before bed. Both are teeming with minerals that are helpful for inducing a good night’s sleep. Rubus Idaeus and Tilia Tomentosa are two gemmotherapy remedies that help the nervous and endocrine systems balance and bring relief to insomnia, irritability, depression and hot flashes. Two side effects of low progesterone are insomnia and snoring. Clinical research suggests that chaste tree increases melatonin secretion, especially at night. This, along with daily time outdoors, assists the body in having restful sleep.
In the pursuit of hormone balancing, we must strive to consider the long-term effects of our chosen therapies. Whenever possible, choose non-toxic therapies that encourage your finely designed hormonal system to adapt to the changing seasons of life. Ignore the media’s many messages that tell us we are to be forever twenty. Honor the changing season of life by embracing with joyful expectancy the new adventures ahead. And never underestimate the regenerative and recuperative powers of the incredible human body. It is possible to restore strength and balance to your endocrine system at any age.
WISE TRADITIONS DIET
The Wise Traditions diet, which is a varied diet based on the findings of Dr. Weston A. Price, is always the diet of choice for those with hormonal challenges. The Wise Traditions diet ensures adequate intake of a variety of healthy traditional fats, moderate to small amounts of pastured or wild sources of protein, generous servings of organic vegetables and fruits, lacto-fermented vegetables and fruits for gut health, raw and cultured dairy products and moderate to small amounts of properly prepared grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Iodine is critical, especially for thyroid function. Adequate iodine is essential to optimal health. Eat wild fish and wild seafood and sea vegetables. Use unrefined Celtic sea salt. Avoid bromide. Bromide interferes with utilization of iodine in the body (in glandular tissues like the thyroid, breasts, ovaries, uterus, prostate). Bromide competes with iodine receptors, displacing iodine. Receptors will bind with bromide in its presence. Bromide is found in commercial breads, pasta and refined cereals. Avoid pool treatments that utilize bromine, as well as pesticides.
Selenium is probably the second most important mineral for thyroid function. It is a vital component of the enzymes needed to remove iodine molecules from T4 when converting it into the more active form, T3. Selenium is also an antioxidant, protecting the thyroid gland and immune system. The best dietary source of selenium is Brazil nuts. One to two Brazil nuts daily will provide one with plenty of selenium.
Sulfur (MSM) also provides major support for the thyroid and liver and is involved in the liver’s conversion of T4 to T3, the most biologically active thyroid hormone. Sulfur-rich foods include whole eggs, garlic, onions, leeks and others.
Zinc is necessary in order to make enough active thyroid hormone. It is also necessary for proper conversion of T4 to T3. Oysters are a delicious source of zinc, as is red meat. Copper and manganese help protect the thyroid from free radicals.
Vitamin D is required for the conversion of T4 to T3 and is needed for TSH production in the pituitary. Sunshine, lard from pastured pigs, raw milk and unrefined cod liver oil are excellent sources of vitamin D. Vitamin E is another antioxidant important for optimal thyroid function, protecting the thyroid from cellular damage.
Vitamin A helps to balance the correct levels of thyroid hormones. Adequate vitamin A levels are needed for proper thyroid and liver function. Vitamin A is found only in animal fats (butter, ghee, egg yolks, raw cream, liver, oysters, unrefined cod liver oil, fish skin, poultry skin, etc.) which are a vital part of the Wise Traditions diet.
Magnesium is another mineral essential for thyroid function and the regulation of conversion of T4 to T3. Cooked dark leafy green vegetables should be included on a very regular basis. The vitamins niacin and riboflavin regulate thyroid activity and contribute to the prevention of either an overactive or underactive thyroid. Niacin additionally works as an antioxidant.
BUTTER-HONEY MIXTURE FOR BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION
1 pound butter or ghee or coconut oil (cultured, grass-fed and organic is best, but any will do)
1/8 to 1/4 cup raw honey
Bring butter to room temperature. Blend with raw honey. Store in refrigerator. May keep jar in purse or backpack as needed during day. Take 1-2 tablespoons every 30-60 minutes during waking hours for a minimum of two weeks.
1. Personal conversation with Louisa Williams, MSc, DC, ND in November 2017.
2. Steicher, Lauren. Buyer Beware: “Bioidentical” Hormone Myths. November 9, 2011. doctoroz.com/blog/lauren-streicher-md/buyer-beware-bioidentical-hormones-myths.
3. Rossouw JE, et al. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results From the Women’s Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2002. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/12117397/
4. Guyton, Arthur & Hall, John. Textbook of Medical Physiology. Tenth Edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 2000.
5. Williams, Louisa. Radical Medicine: Cutting-Edge Natural Therapies That Treat the Root Causes of Disease. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2011.
6. BioFoundations. Enhancing the Six Phase II Detoxification Pathways by Consuming the Necessary Nutrients. Interdiscip Toxicol 2013;6(4):159-184.
7. Seneff, Stephanie and Anthony Samsel. Glyphosate, pathways to modern disease II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/
8. Campbell-McBride, Natasha, Certified GAPS Practitioner Training. Dallas. November 2011.
9. Wiley, T.S. Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 2000.
11. Thom, Dickson. UNDA Numbers: An Energetic Journey to Homeostasis and Wellness. Scottsdale, AZ: JELD Publishing, 2013.
12. Wiley, T.S. Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 2000.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2017.