The Hormone Solution: Stay Younger Longer with Natural Hormone and Nutrition Therapies
By Thierry Hertoghe, M.D.
I developed tools like these in pursuit of my own hormonal balance as well as for my patients. Since I'm forty-five, my glands aren't doing it on their own anymore. I started taking thyroid hormones to correct hypothyroidism when I was very young, thanks to my father. (This disease typically goes undetected in young people, and especially in young men.) I also take Cortisol, DHEA, testosterone, melatonin, and growth hormone on a daily basis-and have for years. I depend on these supplements to maintain my mood, energy, and physical fitness. Of course, I also follow the basic principles of a healthful diet and use a handful of vitamin and mineral supplements to support the hormonal balance I'm after.
I started taking thyroid supplements as a child. As an adult I switched from a diet heavy in dairy products and meat to a diet moderate in protein and rich in fruit, and I was soon able to reduce the dose of thyroid hormone I took by two-thirds. I still do need the supplement, however; when I don't take it, I'm tired and stiff and cranky in the morning, and I don't think clearly.
Without supplemental Cortisol, I have powerful sugar cravings. I need to eat absolutely anything put in front of me. I could put away an entire box of chocolates in one sitting. Maybe worse, I could eat all day long. You make more Cortisol when you eat, so overeating was my body's way of getting the hormone balance I needed.
Without enough Cortisol, I also feel drowsy and can't concentrate. Every stress feels like too much to handle. (Too much Cortisol, on the other hand, leads to an unhealthy feeling of euphoria, so it's important to be vigilant about the doses.) I'm getting a cosmetic benefit from Cortisol as well. On my father's side of the family, everyone's face thins out unattractively with age-a classic sign of insufficient Cortisol. Thanks to my Cortisol supplements, I've avoided that particular family trait.
Growth hormone is the supplement I'd be least willing to give up for any reason. I started taking it seven or eight years ago for reasons of vanity: I was starting to get jowly. Taking growth hormone stopped and reversed that process, but I found I also reaped other amazing benefits.
I'm now able to work more and sleep less, without any negative side effects. I'm cool, calm, and cordial even in the midst of heated conflict. I'm less anxious and more decisive. When half my house burned down-only days before a huge conference presentation-everyone thought I would lose it. But I was able to keep going, deal with the fire, comfort my wife, and deliver my speech without a hitch. Thanks to the growth hormone.
I started taking 0.35 mg daily of natural growth hormone in my thirties. As often happens, the supplement rejuvenated my own pituitary gland and I started to secrete more of the hormone. When my hands and feet started to swell slightly, I knew I had to cut back. Now I use 0.02 IU a day, which gives me all the benefits with no side effects. Unbelievable as it might seem, growth hormone is usually prescribed at forty times my current dose, though the young adult body normally only makes between 0.2 and 0.5 mg a day. To make matters worse, growth hormone is often prescribed on its own rather than in balanced combination with other hormones-the way I recommend it.
Balance Is Everything
Of course not everyone needs as many hormone supplements as I do. I have quite a few deficiencies, and given the pace of my life, I also need higher levels of some hormones than the average man my age. But there are usually at least three hormones involved in regaining anyone's natural balance. Standard hormone therapy is often ineffective or plagued by unpleasant side effects because only one or occasionally two hormones are given, and given without regard to context-which only serves to create further imbalance in the system as a whole.
Whether I'm treating myself or my patients, I always prescribe the smallest effective doses, in a plan carefully customized to the individual. Random or recreational pill-popping is never an option. Hormones are powerful medicine-which is why their appropriate use can improve your life so dramatically-and are not to be taken irresponsibly.
To create the right hormonal balance for your own body, fine-tuning and readjustment must be an ongoing process. I always encourage my patients to become aware of the signals and messages carried in their bodies. As you learn how to listen to your own biochemistry, you'll sense when doses need to be increased or decreased depending on circumstances on a particular day or season. For example, you might need more thyroid hormone when it's cold and less in warm weather. You might need increased doses of certain hormones, such as growth hormone and Cortisol, in times of extreme stress. Or you might need to use a particular hormone only occasionally, the way I use aldosterone only when I have to sit or stand for a long time (to combat the negative effects of low blood pressure).
I am not recommending self-medication. I am, however, strongly suggesting that everyone can become more aware of his unique hormonal profile. Your body usually tells the truth. Listen carefully to what it is saying. But you must always talk to your doctor before making any changes in medication.
The delicate dance of hormones throughout your body is exquisitely designed to keep you in optimal health. But as you add more candles on your birthday cake, you need to give that system some active support to keep reaping all the benefits. The unique blend of low-dose natural hormones and nutritional balance I'll explain in this book restores your birthright: a strong, healthy, attractive body and a clear, quick, and powerful mind for nearly all of your life.
This book explores the entire spectrum of human hormones and their properties symptom by symptom. More important, it provides specific natural hormone and nutritional prescriptions proven to erase the negative signs of aging by balancing your unique hormonal profile.
Setting Life in Motion
The word hormone comes from the Greek, meaning "to set in motion." Hormones are made in the endocrine glands, then flow into the bloodstream and are carried to every part of the body to produce their varied effects. Some, like the thyroid hormones, act on practically every cell of the body. Others act in a more focused manner on just one or two organs, like aldosterone, which works in your kidneys to retain water and salt in your body, thereby maintaining blood pressure.
Hormones direct and coordinate the body's cells to ensure their proper functioning. From the blood they penetrate deeply into the cells, usually acting on the genes in the nucleus, unlocking a portion of the genetic code, accessing the information the cells need to do their jobs (including making hormones). With hormonal deficiencies, the cells simply won't-can't-function as well. Total absence brings total disorganization. To take just one example, the complete absence of thyroid hormones would turn a human being into an unconscious organism, incapable of forming the simplest thought or feeling the most basic emotion. In a sense, we wouldn't even be human without hormones.
When it comes to hormones, the brain acts more or less as project manager. The brain influences the production of hormones by most endocrine glands through two other small but powerful glands-the pituitary gland and the pineal gland-though the effects are not direct, but rather the result of chain reactions. Hormones secreted by other peripheral glands influence (usually by slowing down) the secretion of hormones by the pituitary and pineal, forming a system of checks and balances to make sure the body gets enough of what it needs, but not too much. In addition, one hormone might stimulate, or sometimes inhibit, the effect of another hormone on target cells.
Hormones are interactive, mutually pumping each other up or slowing each other down. If just one is missing or insufficient, many others will no longer act with the same effectiveness and the health of the body suffers. On the other hand, with a harmonious balance of levels the body functions properly and good health prevails. The effects of the various hormones are synergistic; combining them is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
The complexity of all these systems accounts for the importance of proper dosage and multihormone balance when using supplemental hormones.
For years we enjoy hormonal abundance. But then, gradually, we all experience some degree of glandular deterioration and so some decrease in hormone secretion. Toxins from an ever more polluted environment accumulate in the glands and damage them. Additionally, our blood vessels-which carry the blood, which carries the hormones-get worn out or collapse over time, and blood circulation toward organs and endocrine glands gets more and more difficult. Oxygen and nutrients (and hormones!) end up arriving drop by drop rather than in a steady stream. Poor diet aggravates the situation, weakening the glands by depriving them of what they need to maintain themselves and what they need to create hormones. Repeated exposure to microbes, bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi destroys glandular tissue and function, either suddenly or gradually, depending on the situation.
But the major cause of low hormone production with age is the inevitable aging of the glands themselves. They simply get used up and worn out. They can no longer replace their own dead cells, and waste products build up and get concentrated in the remaining cells, which slows down their activity and reduces their effectiveness.
Deficiencies appear progressively, though the signs are not always noted or understood They might become obvious only late in life, though by then there might already have been irreparable damage. That's why I advocate a proactive, preventive stance.
Most fifty-somethings have hormones that have tapered off to insufficient levels far below the ones they enjoyed in their twenties and into their thirties. No one with a normal life span will escape hormonal deficiencies without hormone replacement. In fact, most of us would benefit from it starting in our mid-thirties. Each person is unique, with an optimal hormonal and nutritional state all his own. If I ran the world, I'd have people get a baseline assessment of their hormonal and nutritional status when they are young and in optimal health, between eighteen and twenty-three for women and between twenty-one and twenty-five for men. At that age, people rarely show large deficiencies, and the hormonal levels can be considered (for that particular person) optimal. That would give us a target as to what is to be maintained through later hormonal supplementation as it becomes necessary.
From this good start, hormonal levels could be regularly monitored. If they were, we'd see the subtle shifts starting somewhere in the mid-twenties to mid-thirties, ahead of the signs becoming visible (at least to the perceptive observer), generally between forty and fifty years old. Under this plan, most people would probably start using supplemental hormones somewhere between thirty and forty-five years of age.
Of course, some people need to be treated with hormones at much younger ages-even from birth, in some cases-though they are clearly the exception. I believe the rest of us should do everything we can to optimize our hormonal levels through diet, supplements, and natural hormonal treatments from as young as possible.
Besides simply growing older, difficult periods in anyone's life can increase his need for vitamins, minerals, and/or hormones. Any long-term stress increases hormone consumption while decreasing production. Malnutrition, to take just one kind of long-term stress (as in anorexia, for example), causes a drop in hormone levels. The same goes for overeating, immoderate consumption of alcohol, smoking, drug use, infections and illnesses, exposure to pollution, and intense athletic training. All of these stress and strain the body, ultimately weakening it and wearing it out and influencing the pace at which it needs supplemental hormones.