Choose medical experts and science over unqualified celebrity advice
(This blog continues the topic introduced in Dr. Santoro’s blog Bioridiculous, which is about the confusion over unregulated hormone products women take due to misinformation.)
Now let’s talk about menopause. It’s not pretty for many of us women. A series of changes occur to a woman when she approaches 50.
This is often concurrent with the presence of teenagers in your home, which tends to make everything a little more trying.
All of a sudden, sleep is a precious gift to which you are not necessarily entitled. Then you get a few hot flashes. You think: what’s the big deal? I can do this. Then you get a few more. And they are worse. Then sex can become . . .painful! And sometimes you feel exhausted, moody and even depressed.
It’s time to turn to an expert in hormones, an endocrinologist. We don’t cost much. We will give you behavioral strategies and, when appropriate, medication to help you deal with these symptoms, and we will tell you the best news: for most women, this is a temporary state. Treatment need not be a lifelong commitment. We will explain to you what is happening within your body, and for many women this information is sufficient.
We are not one-trick ponies: we have treatments that are hormonal and non-hormonal that can mitigate menopausal symptoms. We will talk with you, get a sense of your worst symptoms and your preferences, and make recommendations. These recommendations will be based on your medical history and scientific evidence.
There’s actually a lot of scientific evidence, and the experts are more in agreement than ever on the risks and benefits of the various treatments for menopause. We are in an era where high-quality clinical trials are being conducted all the time in women in this age group.
Why, then, do women turn to predatory, non-scientific methodologies for coping with this common life passage? Why are women taking high doses of cortisone for ‘adrenal fatigue’—a condition that cannot be defined?
There is nothing inherently evil about producing compounded medication. It is a choice that is made when FDA approved alternatives either do not exist or are not appropriate for an individual. It is a technique that our pharmacist colleagues wish to preserve, and it is an important option for the rare patient who is allergic to the colorings or fillers in common medications. Yet, the marketing of ‘bioidentical hormones’ (see Bioridiculous blog) as a truly safe and effective alternative to FDA approved hormone treatments for menopause cannot be condoned when FDA approved preparations that are exactly the same as the hormones made by the body are available and will work superbly well for almost everyone.
Suzanne Somers’ pseudo science
Enter Suzanne Somers. Under treatment by her ‘doctor’ expert, TS Wiley (who has no medical degree nor does she hold a doctoral degree of any kind), Ms. Somers throws her powerful persona firmly and wrongly behind many ‘alternative’ medical treatments. She has taken unregulated hormones for many years and has sustained both breast and endometrial cancer due to misuse of these treatments.
With friends like Oprah Winfrey giving her air time, she has publicized a number of books promising women eternal youth. Her most recent book about alternative treatments for cancer may have finally gone too far and reduced her credibility (http://www.newsweek.com/experts-slam-oprah-and-somers-take-menopause-82463).
Yet, we must ask the question: what was credible about these claims in the first place?
How does a celebrity who:
- has no medical credentials whatsoever
- is best known and loved for playing a ditzy blond on ‘70s TV
- advertised the Thighmaster and later admitted to Larry King that she herself had had thigh liposuction
- has had not one, but TWO types of hormonally sensitive cancers
have any credibility at all? I don’t mean to get personal here, but I’ve completed 13 years of training and 27 years of research, much of it on the issue of treatments for women going through menopause, and if anyone had ever told me that I would be struggling with Suzanne Somers—Chrissy, for crying out loud!—for scientific credibility, I would have laughed long and hard.
Unlike the idealogues, I don’t favor one thing over another. My goal is to treat you and have your symptoms get better or go away completely. So if I don’t appear passionate, and refuse to take sides in the estrogen wars, that’s just because I don’t see it as a conflict.
I have a toolbox of treatments—there are over 100 FDA approved compounds that have potential to alleviate common menopausal symptoms—and I will use the best tool I’ve got for you to do the job when prescription medications are indicated. If you are interested, I will show you the data and let you decide what you want to try. Many medications for menopausal symptoms have a fairly wide range of safe doses, so there is plenty of room to tweak the regimen to get it just right.
My point? There is very good reason to beware the inflated promises made by the bioidentical industry (see Bioridiculous blog) and to take better care of yourself during your menopause transition by going to the real experts—licensed medical professionals who have knowledge of both the process of menopause and its treatment.
Be leery of websites and experts that provide only their own product and recommend only their own tests. If it sounds too good to be true—it probably is. There are better and safer ways to cope with this important life transition, and most women will not require treatment for more than a few years, when risks remain very low.