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Doctor, Am I a Hypochondriac?




Excerpted from
Hormones, Health, and Happiness: A Natural Medical Formula for Rediscovering Youth with Bioidentical Hormones
By Steven F. Hotze, M.D.


When thirty-two-year-old Maggie came to see me, she was experiencing a host of medical problems that had arisen after the birth of her first child two years prior. Her menstrual cycles had become irregular, with her periods occurring as frequently as one to three weeks apart, lasting as long as seventeen days, and being accompanied by severe cramps. She also experienced bouts of severe abdominal bloating, cramping, and constipation.

In the previous year, she had experienced four sinus infections and was plagued by recurrent sinus headaches. Although she had no history of allergies, she was now having wheezing attacks and allergic reactions to perfumes, hair sprays, smoke, and a variety of chemical fumes.

On top of all this, Maggie suffered from severe depression and fatigue. She complained that she was in a "brain fog" much of the time.

Maggie had sought the care of a number of physicians in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. She had been given antibiotics for her sinus infections, which had made her abdominal bloating worse, and antidepressants for her mood problems, which had provided no relief. When a friend of hers, who was a patient at the Hotze Health & Wellness Center, told her there was a natural alternative treatment for her problems, Maggie flew to Houston for an evaluation.

After telling me of her numerous problems, Maggie asked, "Dr. Hotze, am I a hypochondriac?"

Why Doctors Don't Understand Women

The physicians Maggie consulted made her feel as if her problems were all in her head. As you will see, they were wrong. Although their attitudes toward Maggie's complaints were condescending, they were not surprising. If their medical education was anything like mine, then a callous disregard for women's health problems was virtually guaranteed. Let me explain.

During my first semester of medical school, I took a class called History and Physical Diagnosis. This is a basic course in which medical students learn to interview a patient, identify the chief complaint or symptom, and then perform a review of the systems (digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and so on), asking about other symptoms the patient might be having.

The professor teaching this course instructed us that if a woman in midlife had more than one complaint during the review of systems, then she was a hypochondriac and should be placed on an antidepressant.

Now, imagine this. The class was overwhelmingly comprised of young men in their early twenties. Every man in that room had already experienced numerous problems with a girlfriend or spouse. Now they knew why. The professor was asserting that women were emotionally unstable individuals, so much so that they often needed antidepressants to make them tolerable. This was a small seed that was sown in the minds of all those young would-be doctors. It was a seed that would sprout years later when they finally began their own medical practices. The first time they had to interview a middle-aged female patient, she would typically describe a long list of complaints. Voila, they would think. The professor had been right about women. And of course they knew exactly what to do: prescribe an antidepressant.

What a sad commentary this is. The vast majority of women who have come to me for evaluations are already taking antidepressants, which are one of the most widely prescribed classes of drugs today. Now you know why.

Maggie's Story: "I Feel Like I'm Falling Apart"

When Maggie and I sat down for our first meeting, I asked her how she was feeling.

"I feel like I'm falling apart," she said. "I expected motherhood to be a time of enjoyment and excitement, but instead I feel sad and cry all the time. It's difficult for me to sleep, and I never feel fully rested. I can't focus, I have no desire for sex, and I'm not the mother or the wife I want to be."

"How has this affected your relationship with your husband?" I asked.

"He doesn't understand what is going on with me. At first he tried to be supportive but then he became totally exasperated. So I did what most women do. I went to see my doctor."

I asked Maggie what her doctor had done to help her.

"My doctor said that I was depressed and sent me to a psychiatrist, who put me on antidepressants. They both made me feel like I was a hypochondriac. When the antidepressants didn't work, I was scared they might be right. But deep down, I know I'm not crazy and that something isn't right in my body. I can't imagine living this way the rest of my life."

I reassured Maggie that she didn't have to live this way. I told her that there was a simple explanation for her symptoms and a simple solution to her health problems.

Estrogen Dominance after Pregnancy

Maggie's condition can be traced back to estrogen dominance, which can occur after pregnancy. During pregnancy, the baby's placenta produces high levels of progesterone-ten to twenty times higher than a woman normally produces. When the baby is delivered and the placenta expelled, there is a precipitous drop in progesterone levels. Estrogen levels also rise significantly during pregnancy. After childbirth, unless the ovaries can produce adequate amounts of progesterone to balance the estrogen, the condition known as estrogen dominance will occur.

Childbirth is not the only cause of estrogen dominance. It can also occur at puberty, after discontinuing birth control pills, after tubal ligation or hysterectomy, or simply as a woman moves through her menstrual life. Imbalances in the levels of estrogen and progesterone are inevitable for women in their thirties, forties, and beyond. Regardless of the cause of these imbalances, the health problems that arise are often severe and debilitating. For Maggie, the dramatic change in her hormonal balance following the birth of her child stressed her adrenal glands, altered her thyroid function, and triggered her allergic disorders.

Maggie's Treatment Program

I reassured Maggie that her symptoms were common to women in her age group and could be easily treated. We started by addressing the imbalance in her female hormone levels. Since Maggie was producing adequate estrogen, boosting her progesterone levels would be the key to restoring proper hormonal balance. This could be accomplished safely with a natural, biologically identical progesterone supplement to be taken on days fifteen through twenty-eight of her menstrual cycle.

Maggie's history indicated that she was suffering from low thyroid function, so I prescribed Armour Thyroid, a natural thyroid hormone, to correct this deficit. Because Maggie's hormonal imbalance had stressed her adrenal glands, I also advised her to take a small dose of the natural adrenal hormone Cortisol.

Maggie's recurrent sinus infections are a classic feature of allergies. Skin testing enabled me to determine the level at which to start her allergy treatment for common airborne allergies. Rather than giving her a series of shots to desensitize her to allergens, I prescribed sublingual (under-the-tongue) allergy drops. I explained that this innovative approach to the treatment of allergies is safe, convenient, and very effective.

Maggie was weaned off antidepressants, which were replaced with a natural mood-elevating compound, 5-HTP. This molecule is the precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating both mood and sleep. Maggie started a customized program of nutritional supplements and nutritionally balanced eating.

Because Maggie's antibiotic use had contributed to yeast overgrowth and digestive problems, I explained that it was important for her to remain on a yeast-free diet for at least three months to restore health to her digestive tract. She was prescribed medication to kill yeast, along with preparations of Lactobacillus acidophilus to replenish the beneficial bacteria in the colon that are so important to intestinal health.

Maggie responded beautifully to this comprehensive program. Within one month of beginning treatment, her depression and fatigue had resolved and her menstrual cycle had normalized. She was sleeping well and feeling rested upon awakening. Her energy levels were so much better that she even began a daily jogging program.

Two years later, Maggie gave birth to her second child. Because her hormones were balanced, she bounced back quickly and had none of the postpartum problems that she had experienced after her first pregnancy. When she returned to the office recently for follow-up, she told me, "I feel healthy, energetic, and happy. Thank you for giving me back my life."

A Road Map to Recovery

Women like Maggie are seen at the Hotze Health & Wellness Center every day. Many travel from out of state, and most have already been evaluated by several doctors before we see them. They have been prescribed numerous drugs to treat their hormonal imbalances, menstrual irregularities, depression, allergies, infections, and other health problems. Yet despite the fact that they have been given "the best that medicine has to offer," they feel no better than they did before they took the drugs prescribed to them. In fact, they often feel worse.

This is no surprise to me. The simple fact is that, with few exceptions, prescription drugs are not cures; nor are they intended to be. By and large, prescription drugs are designed to relieve symptoms. But just as putting a new coat of paint on a house won't fix a cracked foundation, prescribing a drug to alleviate a patient's symptoms will not restore the patient to good health. It's no wonder many women who come to me tell me they feel like they are falling apart.

In the next chapter, I will tell you more about how and why I stopped practicing drug-based medicine and began to explore safe and effective alternatives to help my patients restore their health. As you will see, I didn't venture off the beaten path without a struggle. After all, I had been inculcated with the belief that practicing medicine was virtually synonymous with prescribing drugs. The truth is, I left mainstream medicine reluctantly and only-after a series of events in my personal and professional life convinced me that there was a better way, a more natural way, to help my patients regain their health and vitality. Once I began to witness the amazing recoveries of my patients as they implemented these natural therapies, there was no turning back.

This book is a road map that will guide you to the path of health and wellness that thousands of my patients have traveled. It is a map that you can use in your own quest for good health, abundant energy, and the joy that comes from living life to the fullest.



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