Women’s Health

During a peak period in parent care, I checked in with my primary care physician for an annual physical. I reported symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, dry skin, joint aches, cold intolerance, and low heart rate – all classic signs of hypothyroidism. My doctor told me that I was depressed and suggested that I go on antidepressants. I explained that I did not feel anxious or depressed. He said, “If it walks like a duck and squawks like a duck, it’s a duck.” I passed on his advice and opted to see a naturopath instead. A simple blood test pointed to a thyroid problem. With the right medication, all of the symptoms went away.

stethoscopeUnfortunately, my experience is all too common. Studies reveal a gender-biased medical system that treats women as invisible, ignores their legitimate concerns, and belittles them. In a 2001 study (“The Girl Who Cried Pain”), men and women presented the same symptoms to their care providers. The men generally received pain-relief medication, while the women were directed toward sedatives. The presumption is that women are too emotional to report symptoms accurately. This dismissive attitude is especially troublesome given the prevailing hormonal epidemic. According to Dr. Aviva Romm, MD:

  • 85% of women experience troublesome premenstrual symptoms
  • At least 75% have painful or heavy periods
  • Up to 20% of women experience chronic pelvic pain
  • 10% of women have endometriosis, and half of all women aged 60+ will have had a hysterectomy
  • Between 5-10% of women have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • An estimated 30 million women have hypothyroidism

What has happened in the last 70+ years to have gotten our hormones so out of kilter? It turns out that our inner and outer ecosystems are no longer health promoting. We’re dealing with poor nutrition, elevated stress, substandard quantity and quality of sleep, poor digestion, a dysfunctional microbiome, toxic exposure and accumulation, excess use of over-the-counter and prescription medication, inflammation, and oxidative stress. That’s quite a lot! Mercifully,  Dr. Romm tells us that our sorry state of affairs can be reversed. We do not have to put up with unpleasant health outcomes!

In Hormone Intelligence: The Complete Guide to Calming Hormone Chaos and Restoring Your Body’s Natural Blueprint for Well-Being, Dr. Romm shares everything you might ever want to know about women’s health along with a 6-week detailed program for getting things back on a natural and balanced track. It includes:

  • A discussion on healthy eating along with detailed advice on what to eat and what to avoid for hormone health
  • An exploration of stress and its impact on hormone health along with a prescription for de-stressing your life
  • A fascinating look at the body’s natural rhythms and how to get the body’s master “clock” and peripheral “clocks” to synch up
  • A detailed discussion of the gut-hormone connection that covers topics about which I’ve posted earlier – i.e., the body’s enteric system and microbiome (Who knew that the small and large intestines would be so crucial for optimal health?)
  • A prescription for detoxifying our bodies
  • Strategies for revitalizing cellular repair

The book is so jammed-packed with great information that I’d advise female readers to keep a copy of it on their bookshelves (or Kindle) for reference. It will equip them to have a more engaged dialog with their primary care providers. To that end, Dr. Romm offers the following tips to get the best medical care:

  1. Work with a woman. Studies show that they listen more, interrupt less, and make fewer mistakes.
  2. Remember, you’re the boss. You do not have to accept your doctor’s recommendations or treatment. You are entitled to get second opinions.
  3. Trust yourself. If something is “off,” don’t let yourself be shamed out of getting help to resolve it.
  4. Be your own advocate. (Dr. Romm’s book will help you gear up for that role.)
  5. Bring an advocate who can support you during your consultation – especially a forthright and/or knowledgeable one.
  6. Know when it’s time to get another doctor. If your care provider is disrespectful, condescending, distracted, or unskilled in a therapeutic modality that interests you, find someone with whom you can forge an effective partnership.