As previously mentioned, I will be publishing an abbreviated collection of themes, ideas and direct quotes from podcasts and books that I find impactful. I hope it will be especially useful for those who can’t find the time to read a book cover-to-cover or dig through a two hour podcast. I will be titling them “reviews” but it is helpful to understand they are not necessarily “critiques”; they are simply notes with which to re-view the material in a concise manner.
Did you miss my first “review”? Find it here:
If something resonates with you, let me know by dropping a comment at the bottom of this page. Or, go ahead and make a recommendation if you think there’s a book, documentary or podcast you think I’d like and I’ll check it out.
Title: Resetting Hormones, Weight & the Conversation Around Women’s Health
Who: guest OB-GYN Sara Gottfried, M.D. + Goop CCO Elise Loehnen
Listen to the full episode: goop.com/the-goop-podcast/resetting-hormones-weight-the-conversation-around-womens-health
About the guest: Dr. Sara Gottfried helps women reset their out-of-whack hormones. She is a functional doctor, backed up by science, and the author of The Hormone Reset Diet.
Please note, in transcribing this conversation, I have made minor edits for clarity.
How scientific studies fail women
[3:13] Gottfried: Women are not just little men. We are very different… Our hormones fluctuate wildly; we have babies…I don’t mean to minimize or oversimplify men, but our issues are very different.
[4:35] Loehnen: It’s interesting what you said, that women and men are so different, yet aren’t all scientific studies done on the 155-lb elusive male?
[4:52 ] Gottfried: They are. So many of the studies – I would say 85% of them – have been done on men and it’s kind of assumed that the same applies to women.
Gottfried’s personal journey from conventional to holistic medicine
[9:03] Gottfried: I felt way too young to feel this old. All I wanted to do was stay in and drink a glass of wine and watch TV. You don’t want that at 35. That’s not the life we’re meant to have.
What [my doctor] said to me was really important because he dismissed me. He said, “You’ve got young kids, you’re getting older. There, there.” And at first I was humiliated and then I had that righteous indignation that I think can move mountains, and can foment a revolution. I felt like my hormones were out of whack, and he didn’t want to hear about it. He said, “If that’s the case, why don’t you go on a birth control pill?” That has its own set of problems. And he also offered me an antidepressant. So here I was, feeling this gap between the demands of my life and what I had physiologically to meet those demands. I was asking for help and he was writing a quick prescription that didn’t solve the problem. It didn’t address the root cause… In fact, it’s linked to a lot of other problems…
I left his office. I was fortunate to have this medical training and I could apply what I knew about the female body to my own situation. I went and checked my hormones and my hormones were totally off. My cortisol was three times what it should have been. My thyroid was sluggish. My estrogen was way high and my progesterone was way low. That’s like nature’s Valium; that’s why I couldn’t soothe myself.
That’s what got me on this path of looking at what are the levers for getting your hormones back in balance so you can feel that sense of grace in your body. That’s your birthright. That’s what we deserve.
A few ideas that explore how hormones get out of whack
[11:53] Gottfried: There are flame retardants in the fabrics you’re sitting on…there’s air pollution. All of those things conspire to change your hormonal balance. We run into endoencrine disruptors all the time through environmental toxins. [12:35] Gottfried: Detoxification, which I used to think of as a luxury, is now a necessity.
Prioritizing functional medicine
[15:13] Loehnen: At Goop we talk a lot about a detox lifestyle, which I know is one of those things that is wildly refuted. It drives people crazy, this idea that your body can not detox itself. And obviously it can to a certain extent… How do we build the evidence and the research to support this idea?
[15:43] Gottfried: You tackle it with data… it’s what’s going to change how conventional medicine looks at detoxification, adrenal function and natural hormonal balance.
[16:30] Gottfried: We know that the healthcare system is broken. 70% of the trillions of dollars we spend on healthcare in the US is preventable disease. Preventable! Like, lifestyle medicine would solve it.
Genes vs. environment
[25:45]Gottfried: Genetic testing is the next 10 to 20 years of medicine. I think within a few years we’re all going to have our entire genetic code in our smartphone or in a chip in our wallet. But genetics aren’t everything. This is an important point. If you look at all diseases, genes are only about 10% of your risk of disease. 90% is your environment. So the way you eat, move, think and supplement, that’s 90%, much of which is modifiable. Genes give you the blueprint, they give you your trajectory over time but your environment, much of which you can control, modulates you risk of disease.
The significance of modulating weight as you age
[28:18] Gottfried on a Harvard study: In this study they looked at what women weighed at age 18 and then they looked at age 55. On average, those women gained 28 lbs, which is a lot. The women that gained this much, which is considered moderate, had two to three times the risk of disease. That includes high blood pressure, diabetes, blood sugar problems, obesity-related cancer, breast cancer. So you can totally change your risk of diseases just with how you modulate your weight.
Postpartum hormone panel
[30:40] Loehnen: I think it’s so much easier after you have a baby, getting on top of your hormones…instead of feeling like you can’t control it ever again, which I think is what happens to a lot of women; they never recover.
[32:31] Gottfried: It’s an invitation to say, okay, let’s look at your biology. It’s not a moral failing. It’s not like you are incapable of coping with motherhood. This is not you incapable of figuring out a diet. Let’s check your biology. Let’s measure your hormones. Let’s start there.
[7:06] Gottfried: It often takes a type of [personal] crisis to get a conventional physician to look at the human body more holistically and in an integrated way.
[13:00] Gottfried: I think this tend-and-befriend response needs to be integrated into our day; hanging out with benevolent women really makes a difference.
[17:28] Gottfried: “Healthspan”: that period of time you feel fantastic versus “diseasespan”, the period of time where you’re slowly getting worse. Autoimmune conditions, hypertension, heart disease – all those things you don’t want to have.
[29:33] Gottfried: Your greatest wealth is your health.
Food for thought
When new studies are published, we might take greater interest in noting whether the participants were male and if the outcomes were simply assumed to be true for women.
Gottfried points to endocrine disruptors. We can attempt to reduce the toxins we encounter, but many are a result of harmful chemicals hidden in manufacturing processes. Did you know that in the European Union, there are 1,300+ banned cosmetic ingredients, while the USA’s FDA has banned just 11?* Canada’s Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist prohibits 599 ingredients. Effectively, Gottfried means to convey that we can attempt to reduce toxins in our environments, but there are limits; that detoxing, and then measuring and managing hormones might mitigate the negative effects of unavoidable endocrine disruptors.
If 90% of all diseases are determined by risk factors in our environments, we effectively have a lot of autonomy in managing our health.
Women (and men) can not afford to incrementally gain weight as they age.
Tend-and-befriend: ladies, you need to drop your toxic relationships and conversely, draw support from relationships with benevolent women with whom you share positive, stable attachments.
My greatest takeaway
This podcast affirms the notion that we must become advocates of our own health. Functional medicine is defined as “medical practice or treatments that focus on optimal functioning of the body and its organs, usually involving systems of holistic or alternative medicine“. I’m interested in being proactive and optimization; thinking about health not only when my body is ailing me. mindbodygreen.com words it perfectly: “Health is not just the absence of disease, but a state of immense vitality.”
In the next few months I’m going to be seeking out a naturopath and having hormone and micro-nutrient labs performed. While I generally feel well now, I think that there’s value in establishing a baseline for the future when subsequent pregnancies and menopause will undoubtedly cause my hormones to fluctuate. You can be sure that I will detail my vitality journey.
Thoughts? Comment below!