Dear (Female) Friends,
As many of you know, I have been doing a fair amount of
study concerning women's health. I get some interesting comments from people concerning the fact that a veterinarian
writes about menopause, post partum depression, and hot flashes on his Website. But I do so because all of these things fit
right into the big picture that I have been trying to paint for the past 7 years. In fact, the plight of countless menopausal
women speaks volumes on this subject.
Why do many of the conditions that affect humans usually strike
men first and women later, with the females ultimately suffering from a higher incidence these afflictions (e.g. immune-mediated
diseases)? Why are
the women healthy enough to take care of their ailing children and dying husbands only to hit a brick wall when
they enter menopause? Why do
some women breeze through menopause while others suffer endless hot flashes and serious medical complications? What is a "hot flash",
anyway? Are they just an annoyance or do they serve a purpose (like every other symptom our body generates)? What is
the purpose of a fever? What else is going on in the perimenopausal woman's body and what is the ultimate outcome of
this troubling time?
I have had some interesting ideas about the hot flash-
it's origin and their purpose- for quite some time but had not done an Interent search for the "cause
of hot flashes" until recently. You can do this. Simply put "menopause, hot flash, cause" in your search and read the often
conflicting articles on the origin of these distressing occurrences. In fact, here is that Google search: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLG,GGLG:2006-16,GGLG:en&q=menopause+hot+flashes+cause
For years, the authorities thought it was low estrogen
levels that "caused" of hot flashes. But if that were the case, wouldn't all menopausal women have them as their estrogen levels dropped and
continue to have them as these levels remained diminshed? It is a bit more complex than that. In the following link (which
triggered me into finally writing this piece), they discuss the possible role of declining progesterone levels in the development
of hot flashes. Ahhhh, now we're gettimg somewhere. (To be honest with you, I'm pretty amazed that it has taken this long
to get around to pointing the finger at the deficiency of this critical hormone, except for the fact that many true causes
of illness (e.g. diet) are still relatively "unknown".) Check out this link:
http://www.news.uiuc.edu/NEWS/07/0424flashes.html- Hot flashes: Studies explore the role of genes, obesity and alcohol
Now, many of you know how I feel about "genetics" and the
over-reliance upon our genes as explanations for our health problems. You've heard me ask many times questions like
"If something is "genetic", then why does it take 40, 60, or 80 years to show up? Why does it wait? What is waiting? What triggers it to
come out hiding?" Part of the answer came when I read that scientists have determined that up to 45% of the genetic
information in our double-stranded DNA is actually viral information, both active and extinct. Yes, over the years, viruses
have incorporated their genetic information into ours just as we know occurs in the retroviruses known to cause
cancer. It is easy to understand why certain cancers run so strongly through breeds of dogs and human families. The fascinating
fact is that our DNA contains all of the "good" information (hair and eye color, proper organ formation, and normal bodily
functions) and the potentially "bad" information ("genetic diseases") for that individual.
I have also been fascinated by the term "mutated"
gene. I think I understand what scientists believe concerning the concept of how chemicals, UV radiation, and other insults
can disrupt the amino acid sequences in our DNA. But when we interject the fact that viral codes are scattered throughout
that same DNA, another mechanism comes to mind.
All we really have to grasp is the true nature of viruses and their vital role
in nature. As many of you now know, viruses play critical parts in the adaptation of plants and animals as well as variation
in nature. Biologists know this. In fact, we and the ecosystem in which we live could not survive without viruses. So why
have we demonized the little critters? The obvious answer is "because they 'cause' disease". On closer inspection, we find
that this limited idea is a very superficial one (just like the idea that "menopause results in low estrogens, and menopausal
women suffer from hot flashes, therefore low estroegn levels must cause hot flashes".)
The fascinating thing to grasp is that viruses are the
masters of adaptation. The AIDs virus is the glaring example. When challenged, many of these strange little entities can change
their antigenic appearance to evade an attacking immune system, thereby becoming "resistant" to that attack. Again, the
AIDS is the master of this. Others appear to succumb more readily. Still others invade the cell and interject their DNA into
the host cell's DNA so that it remains there indefinitely. Some of the latter allow adaptation of that host cell while
others cause "disease" later down the road, with cancer being an example. But many of you also know how I feel about cancer.
I now look at cancer as the ultimate adapation of the virus in which it forces the cell to multiply in order to protect
itself and the cell it was designed to protect. Could a tumor be little more than a protective "cocoon" that the
virus creates to protect itself against the carcinogens that triggered it to come out of hiding?
This idea of latent viruses residing in our tissues and
in our very DNA is a very important one to understand. I suggest to people on a regular basis that if I could do
a Star Trek
type of scan on a person and give them a print out of all of the potentially pathogenic viruses hidden in their body,
once they woke up from fainting, they might just be motivated to take better care of themselves. We are riddled with viruses
and they are here to stay. (And many of them cause cancer. So, will we ever come up with the pharmaceutical cure for cancer???)
The good news is that these latent viruses don't "want"
to cause disease but rather are forced into it by the noxious (and obnoxious) stimuli to which we subject them. Carcinogens
are a good example. But what about chemicals, preservatives, hormones, air pollution, poor nutrition, vaccines components,
and lectins- things that are known to trigger disease states other than cancer. How do they "cause" illness? We know that many
of these trigger "autoimmune diseases" but how ? Does our immune system really attack itself for no good reason or is there something in
that tissue that the immune system recognizes as a threat and goes after. I contend that our body never makes a mistake and
the immune system always behaves appropriately. There are plenty of reasons that the immune system attacks a particular tissue,
including a cells that are becoming abnormal under the influence of chemicals. lectins, air pollutants, etc. and the viral reaction
(adaptation) to those insults.
Most readers understand that our immune system is
our protector- our internal armor that fights bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microscopic invaders that challenge our
health. It is also the governor over processes of the aforementioned cellular adaptation that takes place via viral activity.
The immune system is designed to recognize what is normal (acceptable)and abnormal (unacceptble). If a cell is trying to turn
into a cancer cell, for example, the governor sends in killer cells to neutralize the threat. This process can be happening
in all of our bodies at any given moment as we are constantly being challenged by carcinogens that are entering our body through
the air we breath, the foods we eat, and through the skin that covers us. In today's industrialized environments, they are
So why don't we all have cancer...yet? Cancer is actually
a "syndrome" resulting from the combination of carcinogens, viruses, and immune failure. When an individual develops cancer,
there has been some degree of immune failure that had to take place. The governor failed. This can (theorectically) result
from an overwhelming dose of carcinogens but more often occurs following a drop in one's immunity. For example, this
is why leukemia/lymphoma has the age incidence that is reported. We can see this form of cancer arise in the very young.
We then observe spikes at age 15 and 40 and then a steady rise incidence after age 65. Doesn't that make sense from
a "state of union" perspective, with the young having an immature immune system, the 15 year old being under hormonal, developmental
and emotjional stress, the 40 year old hitting "the wall" (over-the-hill), and the 65 and olders experiencing a declining
Right about now (or 6 paragraphs ago), the reader may be
asking what this has to do with menopause. All of the above has been groundwork to establish the true nature of the hot
flash and the reason for the menopausal woman's frequent slide into poor health. Before menopause, the hormone levels
are (hopefully) reasonably in order. I say "hopefully" and "reasonably" because there are countless women out there that do
not meet these this criteria. It is called "estrogen dominance".
There are many hormones in our body but I will focus
on two- estrogen and progesterone. Estrogens are basically inflammatory, immune-suppressive and neurostimulating and that
is why the women has a rather brief spike in estrogens at the start of the cycle, which results in the changes in the lining
of the uterus resulting in bleeding, and the development of tenderness of the breasts as they prepare for the task
of lactation. Some women experience PMS, an over-stimulation of the brain resulting in high emotions and mood swings. This
is very understandable from a physiological standpoint,especially when we see that 70% of epileptic women also suffer a major
spike in their seizures during this time.
But then comes the role of the "magic" hormone...progesterone...which
is anti-inflammatory and calming, just the opposite of estrogen. It is the "antidote" to estrogen if you will. In fact, progesterone
is a powerful
hormone, having anti-inflammatory properties that even eclipse those of cortisone. We as veterinarians utilized this wonder
"drug" (Ovaban) in the treatment of certain inflammatory skin conditions that no longer responded to cortisone. Of course,
many of those conditions turned out to be food allergy related and treatable with elimination diets but until we woke up to
that fact, the progesterone did a pretty good job of covering them up.
And that brings us to the point of this paper. The progesterone
that our bodies produce (both by the testicles and the ovaries) plays a major role in controlling inflammation. This is a normal function of this
vitally important hormone. Yes, the testicles do produce progesterone but not in the quantities that the ovaries produce, with one reason being
that men do not generate the estrogen levels that women do and thereby do not need as much of the "antidote". Could this be
the reason that men suffer from immune-mediated diseases earlier than women? Could the lack of this significant
anti-inflammatory be why men succumb to diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and atherosclerosis earlier than women? That
doesn't seem quite fair, does it?
The fairness comes in realizing that there is another factor that puts us all on equal
footing. Once again, it is called "estrogen dominance" and arises from controllable levels of estrogen being taken into the body in the
form of diet and environmental sources. There is supposed to be a balance between the estrogen and progesterone in our bodies,
with men having their balance and women having theirs. Women produce more progesterone because they require more estrogen
production. BUT, we are all consuming incredible amounts of "exogenous' (outside) estrogens which are also inflammatory, immune
suppressive and neurostimulating. These are coming in the form of dairy products, soy, the gluten grains (wheat, barkey, rye)
and other food sources as well as environmental sources such as pesticides, plastics, and other synthetics. These all throw
off the balance in our body and contribute to what we call "estrogen dominance".
And men have less of the "antidote" (progesterone)
to deal with this overabundance of estrogen. Does it show? Yes it does, in the incidence of inlammatory conditions as
mentioned...and the 6000+ cases of breast cancer men suffer each year. The principle estrogen-related disorders of women are
endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, and breast cancer. As an example, it has been written that women who eliminate dairy from
their diet can reduce the intensity of their menstrual cramps by 40% the first month. Does this now make sense? Researchers
tell us that Asian American women have a 15 times lower rate of breast cancer on their traditional diets, which are devoid of dairy, gluten grains
and contain much
less soy than the soy industry would have us believe. I contend that soy is the Asian mistake and that their breast (and prostate)
cancer rates would be even lower if they did not consume this estrogen-rich food. The bad news is that there are no dietary
sources of (preformed) progesterones like there are estrogens. This is very important to understand!
These foods are not only rich in estrogen but contain the
harmful lectins ( http://dogtorj.tripod.com/id55.html
)that I now write so profusely about. How can I not when the importance of these inflammatory proteins becomes so painfully
clear. Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) is only the tip of the iceberg but is currently serving as the poster child for
this important concept. Celiacs are the "who's who" of what can go wrong with humans as we suffer staggering rates of "autoimmune"
disorders and cancer. The damage done to the intestinal villi (which results in nutrient malabsorption and malnutrition) is
only part of the problem. Once sensitized to these lectins, the sufferes of the "big 4" food intolerances (gluten, dairy,
soy, and corn) experience a wide variety of inflammatory conditions, including type-1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis,
asthma, thyoid disease (both Graves and Hashimoto's) and neurodegenerative diseases. Lectins can be very ugly things as they
incite inflammation all over the body, especially when we become deficient in anti-inflammatories.
Not only do the natural levels of progesterone drop with
age (and the repeated insults we throw at our bodies) but so do our cortisone levels. Many start to suffer from adrenal exhaustion,
both from the overuse of these vital hormone-producing glands and from their malnourishment. The intestinal malabsorption
syndrome caused by the "big 4" contributes greatly to this adrenal exhaustionas does the bombardment of these glands with
damaging lectins. Addison's disease is now considered an "autoimmune" disorder and results when 90% of the adrenals are compromised.
(Wow. Talk about being made to last.) The adrenals also produce progesterone and the concurrent drop in these levels adds to the "estrogen
dominance". Note: If the adrenal glands did not produce both estrogens and progesterone, our pets and women would both suffer
catastrophic results from being ovariohysterectomized. But the principle sources are the gonads, which helps to explain why
spayed and neutered dogs suffer higher rates of allergies and earlier and more severe immune-mediated diseasase as do
women who have had this surgery.
So now we have a individual eating the Standard American
Diet (SAD, 75% of which is wheat and dairy and an increasing amount of corn and soy) who has entered menopause, either "natural"
or surgical, and one who is riddled with latent viruses, consuming a diet rich in estrogens and lectins, being exposed
to environmental sources of these inflammatory hormones, and very likely living with a suboptimal nutrition, borderline immune
systems, and compromised adrenal glands. Talk about a recipe for disaster, eh?. The levels of natural anti-inflammatories
(progesterone and cortisone) are dropping and, as a result, there is a sharp increase in pain syndromes (fibromyalgia,
arthritis) and immune-mediated diseases. This should now make sense.
Thankfully, a lot of these estrogens end up being stored
in the body fat and are out of the general circulation.
John B. Symes, D.V.M. ("Dogtor J")
Read- "Food Intolerance- Man and Animals versus Gluten, Casein, Soy, and Corn OR How We Won the Battle of Helm's Deep"