Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Female Health Concerns

I attended a seminar last weekend in Miami and thought I would share some of the high points. My chiropractic license requires 40 hours of continuing education every two years. However, my nutritional diplomat requires 12 hours each year. Some of the hours can overlap, but for the most part I take different classes for each requirement. The nutrition classes are by far the more interesting.

The class composition is always quite eclectic when nutrition is the topic. We had MDs, DOs, acupuncture physicians, naturopathic physicians, registered dieticians, a few chiropractors, and some of the staff from the UM School of Medicine. The instructor, Michelle J. Pouliot, ND practices naturopathic medicine in Connecticut. She specializes in women’s issues and over 80% of her practice is comprised of adult females.

The seminar focus was on PMS, perimenopause, menopause, osteoporosis and female sexual issues.

On the surface all these health issues appear to be hormonal and to a great extent they are. Dr. Pouliot frequently uses botanical herbs like Chaste Tree, Black Cohosh, White Peony, and Wild Yam to treat her patients. She is even more enthusiastic about Chaste Tree than I am. However, she also provided great information about the neurological aspects of female health concerns.

Did you know that the corpus callosum (central portion of the brain) is 3 times larger in women than in men? The corpus callosum acts like a switchboard receiving input from the body and sending it to various locations in the brain. As a result women store memories in several locations, while men store memories in only one or two sites. That is why women can recall past events with such clarity. The interaction of the limbic portion of the brain with the endocrine system is also amplified. As a result women have significantly more neurological impact from these hormonal changes.

St. John’s Wort is an herb that I use frequently to treat sciatica or any form of neuropathy. Its traditional use in US is as an antidepressant. However, it can be very effective in resolving hot flashes. This is a direct result of its effects on the nervous system rather than the endocrine system. I have been using Black Cohosh, Wild Yam, and White Peony in a liquid blend for treating hot flashes. I look forward to adding St. John’s Wort to that mix.

We covered the FRAX bone density studies in detail, along with the ill-fated drugs used to treat osteoporosis – bisphosphonates (Fosomax, Boniva, etc.), SERMS (Evista), and monoclonal antibodies (Prolia). FRAX was developed by WHO (World Health Organization) to identify people at high risk for fracture. It uses bone mineral density, age, gender and clinical risk factors to access this risk. Of course, in the US, we ignore all the risk factors, using age and bone mineral density as the sole criteria in evaluation. As a result, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) routinely rates women as having a “high risk of fracture” 10, 20 or even 30 years prior to WHO guidelines.

I frequently have to counsel women on their real risk of fracture as the FRAX reports have them frightened into thinking they are vulnerable for hip or spine fracture. Bone density is only one factor in bone strength. Please see my blog “Much of Bone is Shock-Absorbing ‘Goo’ that stops it from Shattering” posted on April 7, 2014.

The last hour was on female sexual issues. I hadn’t realized that most of the men had slipped out of the seminar at the break to avoid this topic. Dr. Pouliot was quite frank and sometimes even graphic in her presentation. However, she provided excellent insight in the host of issues biochemically associated with declining libido in many postmenopausal women. There are natural remedies for sexual desire disorders, sexual arousal disorders, vaginal dryness, and even orgasmic disorders. Normally 50-70% of women don’t have orgasms from vaginal penetration.

Our knowledge about female health issues is ever increasing. There are a variety of natural remedies that work as well as, or better than the pharmaceutical treatments without all the side effects. If you suffer from any of these issue, please consult a qualified nutritionist.

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