J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 148.We're talking all about hormones today and how hormone imbalances can affect our health and weight; stay tuned.
Hey there, my friends, thank you for tuning in to another episode of Vibrant Happy Women, I am so glad you're here. We are talking about hormones today and I have an amazing guest, Deborah Maragopoulos, who is the Hormone Queen from Ventura, California (that's what she is known as) and she is truly a hormone expert. And she's going to explain today how cortisol and testosterone and progesterone and estrogen and all those good hormones interact and play out in our bodies to affect our weight and our energy and our health and everything that's going on with us. So if you want to be a healthier person or maybe you want to lose a bit of weight, this episode is for you.
Before we jump into that, I first want to share a review from Sammy from the dairy state, thank you for leaving your review, Sammy. She wrote, “Jen, your podcast in the community that you've created through it is exactly what the world needs. I found this podcast after I spent a solid year wallowing in bed after my mom's suicide. During that year, I knew the steps that I needed to take to get better. I knew about Law of Attraction manifestation, mindfulness, gratitude, etc, and that being said, I was not taking those steps. Your podcast and the strong empowered women that you feature on it have helped me regain ownership of my happiness and get out of bed, and even better than that, I'm out of Wisconsin. Since listening to your podcast, I've moved to Colorado (a dream of mine) and continue to grow closer to fully being on my path with your help. I excitedly shared Vibrant Happy Women with my sister recently. The content is amazing, always packed with good information and tips. It's 100% of podcast worth listening to if you want to improve your life. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for inspiring me and putting out so much light, we all need it. XX- Sammy.” Oh my gosh, Sammy, what a review, I truly appreciate you writing in. I love to hear that this podcast has changed your life, it's actually changed my life too. I learned as much sitting across the microphone from these guests as you probably do out there listening; so much fun to be a part of this movement with all of you. Everyone else listening, if you haven't left a review yet, I would be so grateful if you would. I read every single one, maybe I'll share yours on the air, and you can leave yours by going to jenriday.com/review; jenriday.com/review. I appreciate them so much and they help us to grow.
Well, we need to dive into the day's episode which is all about hormones, and it is perhaps one of the most fascinating interviews I have ever done because Deborah knows her stuff. She just rattles off this amazing information about hormones and the hypothalamus and what we can do to get our hormones in balance and be our healthiest selves and really feel good again; totally fascinating. And she also shares the story of her first child being born intersex which has a lot to do with the hormones that were present when the child was in utero. So, so fascinating to think about hormones and masculinity and femininity and gender and then how it all relates to our health in the long run. Well, you're going to love this one. So I've hyped it up so much, I hope you love it as much as I did. Let's go ahead and dive in.
My guest today is Deborah Maragopoulos and she's an intuitive integrative nurse practitioner who uses her expertise in neuro-immune endocrinology and her life skills as the mother of an intersex child to help her patients and customers keep their hormones in harmony; I like the sound of that. Deborah's a published author, speaker, founder of Full Circle Family Health, Genesis Health Products and the nonprofit, Divine Daughters Unite, as well as creator of Genesis Gold; so many creations, I love it. Welcome to the show, Deborah.
D: Thank you very much, Jen.
J: So let's start off with a quote, and I can't wait to dive into our conversation today.
D: Okay. So my quote or my motto is to, “Be open to receive the gift in each and every encounter.”
J: Oh, that's great. And to see the struggles as a gift perhaps, how do you…?
D: Oh, absolutely, every… my motto is that everything has a gift in it, sometimes the wrapping’s ugly so when we first receive it, it looks like kind of an ugly, trashy kind of wrapping and we're not really sure there's any pearls or wisdom or gift in there, and time often shows us that gift when we have a little distance. But my goal and what I've been working on, you know, for my entire life is to be open in the moment in the present moment and received the gift right there and then, and it's getting easier over time. (Laughs)
J: Aww, yeah, that’s smart. And I like that analogy with the wrapping paper, you know, some isn't even very well wrapped at all or newspaper. Well, let's dive into your story of how you became the Hormone Queen as they say.
D: So my patients started calling me the Hormone Queen of Ventura County, California back in the early 90s. But how I actually began that journey was with the birth of my first child. When I got out of nursing school in 1983, I was, you know, bound and determined to work, you know, at the big UCLA Medical Center and I was going to, you know, do all this great stuff in nursing. And then I got married, I got pregnant, and I had a very premature baby, only weighed 2 and a half pounds. I was incredibly sick in the delivery, I had the type of toxemia that about 25% of women die from.
D: And it was just this emergent delivery, everything went wrong. I'm back at the UCLA Medical Center delivering this child, but I knew in my heart it was all going to be okay because I had had a dream that I had a little blonde baby boy. I actually saw this baby as not a tiny infant but like maybe, you know, 1 years old, and we had already chosen a name and I was just determined that I had this healthy baby. And even when the baby was, you know, delivered and I saw this blonde hair, I was kind of surprised because I am a dark headed Italian and my husband's Greek, and so even though I had this dream, I was like, “Blonde just doesn't run in our families.”
D: The baby was whipped away from me and taken into the NICU and ICU and I told my husband, “Follow that baby, (unclear) [06:40],” because we're at the UCLA Medical Center where I grew up, I was trained but I knew they were all residents, and you needed to stay with the baby. And they immediately came back and told my husband that the baby was going to have all kinds of issues.
D: And I told my husband that, you know, what they were saying was not correct and just stay with that baby. And in the meantime, all the grandparents and the sisters and the aunts and the uncles are like, “What did we have?” well, they didn't know because the baby was born with ambiguous genitalia…
D: … meaning that we didn't know if we had a boy or a girl. So 11 days later after a biopsy of the baby's genitalia, the outer skin of what would either be the labia or the scrotum (it hadn't differentiated at that point), we were told that the baby had male chromosomes but they called the baby an XY female. Today, we would call that child intersex, but that terminology wasn't used back then. And we were told… and so at this point out of the hospital, baby's still in the NICU, only weighed 2 pounds, and we have gathered my Italian mother and Steve's Greek mother and the 2 of us, my husband and I, are 22 and 23 years old, I'm the only one with any medical training, and we're sitting in front of the top pediatric endocrinologist in the United States.
D: And she said, “You need to choose a team, it's either boy or girl, and raise the child accordingly and have a very strong either masculine or feminine name. And I'll tell you right now that it's easier to make a hole than a pole, so we suggest you raise it as a girl.”
J: Oh my gosh, that's so horrible!
D: It is horrible. And I said to the doctor, “Doctor, this baby has been exposed to so much male hormone testosterone, wouldn't its brain be affected by that male hormone? So by the time she reaches puberty or young adulthood, will she not be confused about who she is because her body will not match her mental gender identity.”
D: And she said, “I don't know because we don't follow these kids after 18.”
J: Ah, wow.
D: So I said, “Well, I think we should not cut off anything.”
D: “I think we should raise the child to be whatever it wants to be and do only medically necessary surgeries,” which there were a couple that needed to be done. The baby had trouble urinating and defecating so there were a couple things that needed to be done early on. And so we went with my intuition. And our child, in the beginning, seemed kind of ambiguous. And we named the baby Jarys, which they were very upset with because it wasn't a strong masculine or feminine name.
J: Oh my.
D: And our idea was it could go either way.
J: Oh yeah.
D: Let the child decide later.
J: That’s clever.
D: Yeah. So I had to learn everything I could possibly learn about endocrinology, hormones, receptor sites, neuroendocrinology (how the brain is affected by hormones), and neuro immunology and endocrinology (how the immune system is affected by hormones) in order to guide my child through the medical system, because he… he was… (and I'm saying ‘he’ now because that's how he started) was the first child to be raised by chromosomes and not by genital appearance in the United States.
J: Oh! Well, so talk a little more about the XY chromosomes. I know there's a hormone present when you have the XY chromosomes typically, right?
D: So XY is male, XX is female. So basically, what the Y chromosome is, is an X that’s missing that right sided leg, okay?
J: Yes, right, right.
D: And so when the Y chromosome is there, that is when the hypothalamus (which is the master controller of all your hormones in your body) tells the pituitary gland (which is the middle manager) to tell the little fetal testes to start producing testosterone. And under the influence of testosterone, fetuses will then differentiate to male genitalia, but in the beginning, they all start the same. So if it's an XX (meaning female) and no testosterone production, the default is a female genitalia appearance, okay? You have to have testosterone to become male in the womb.
J: Yeah. Is there a hormone called androgen? That seems to be ringing a bell for me.
D: Androgen is the overall term for all male-like hormones which includes testosterone, it's derivative, dihydrotestosterone; so androgen just means male hormone, okay?
J: Okay. So, yeah, I love the technicalities of this. So what are all the ways that an XY… you know, someone could be an XY female? What are all the ways that that could…?
D: So that's the tricky part is because the differentiation occurs in a period of time in the womb. So basically what happens is all babies start off (male or female) intersex, they all start off the same. They start off with a little bud that'll either be the clitoris or become the penis, and a tiny little line that will invaginate to the vagina or become external and become the scrotum.
D: Now, in between that little bud and that little line is the urethra or the opening to the bladder. So they all start off bud, little tiny opening, and a little line, that's it.
J: Oh, okay.
D: Okay, and that's different that you see that at 8 weeks…
D: …fetal life. And then from 8 to 12 weeks, that baby's Y chromosome (if it's a male) is now triggering the hypothalamus-pituitary-testicular axis to start producing testosterone.
D: If it's a female, just the normal maternal estrogen and the babies estrogen kind of takes over. So it's that male hormone testosterone that differentiates the child, otherwise, it's going to look like a female. So in the case of my child, he was insensitive to male hormone.
D: Okay? Now, there's complete insensitivity and partial insensitivity. So he had partial insensitivity where complete insensitivity means these children grow up and they look like females.
D: They develop breasts at puberty, they have the genitalia external that looks and appears and functions female. They do not have a uterus per se, they don't have ovaries, those little gonads inside their belly are actually testicles but they're not producing testosterone.
J: Oh, interesting.
D: And what testosterone they do produce, they're completely resistant to so they don't develop body hair and facial hair. So there's a range of how these babies are going to turn out and we don't know at birth what's going to happen.
J: And what percentage of babies are born intersex?
D: We originally thought back in 1984 that it was 1 in 2000, but it's more like 1 in 1000, with inner sexuality being a range of all types of differentiated genitalia and gender identification. Does that make sense?
D: It's a rainbow, it's not black and white. And we were asked in 1984, “Okay, it's black and white, it's girl or boy, there is nothing in between.” But what's really interesting is, in Aboriginal cultures, from the beginning of time, they have always recognized a middle sex.
D: The Native Americans have 5 genders. So they've always recognized there's not a definite male and female, there's also these people that are in between. And in fact, they're revered for their special gifts and talents, which is interesting, because when your brain is exposed to both male and female hormone, it develops in a way that is way beyond just female and just male.
D: And so these children, these people are completely connected in their brain chemistry, even though their body doesn't fit the typical male or female body types.
D: So they have the emotional intelligence that you often see with females and that, you know, high focus you see with males and the ability to multitask. And, I mean, it's kind of a crazy thing but it's awesome.
D: You know?
J: So really, aside from just being intersex, wouldn't you say there's just variation and some women have more testosterone than other women and therefore…?
D: Well, absolutely.
D: So gender is really a rainbow, it is not black and white, and what determines gender identification is more social norms than actually what's going on in the person's body and in their brain and in their hormone and their chemistry.
D: So we as the society say, “Okay, this is what makes male and this is what makes female.” So for instance when we were told to choose a varied… if we're going to go male in raising this baby, we need a definite name. And interestingly enough, I'm a nurse, nurse practitioner, my husband was a police officer, he's retired now, so they were saying, “Okay, those are real definite like male/female roles,” we’re like, “Are you kidding? There's female police officers and there's male nurses, that's not that definite.” And my husband loves to cook and clean. (Laughs)
D: And we have these kind of merged kind of roles and is great at child care, especially infant care, you know, the ultimate manny per se, it didn't make any sense to us. So we just allowed our child to develop in whatever way they wanted to develop to the point when they became a young adult, decided they wanted to be non-binary, meaning they didn't want to choose male or female, they didn't want to say male or female on the gender, they wanted to be in between. And in California, we have that status and Jarys is one of the first citizens in California to be recognized as non-binary.
J: Hmm, that’s so cool. And so what…? Then it gets tricky, how do you refer to him…
J: … with the pronouns, you know?
D: That's really hard. So right now, Jarys is asking us to use the word ‘they’, and that's been happening for a few years, but I have a really hard time with it because we used ‘he’ for a very, very long time. It's just like my family, I have not gone by my nickname, Debbie, since I was 18 years old, but all of my family and all of my friends from high school and younger cannot help but call me Debbie. (Laughs)
D: But everybody from my adult life knows me as Deborah…
D: … because that's what I identified at, so they constantly are slipping. And so it's just… it's a hard thing when you, you know, you raised one way, but we're doing our best. One of the things that happened which I think is… was kind of an incredible thing is, when Jarys was about 23 years old, I called the grandmothers, the Greek grandma, the Italian grandma, and the great-grandma on the Greek side to come together and explain to Jarys what had happened at their birth, because at that point, he was getting really involved (and you hear me slipping back and forth between the pronouns) with the transgender, queer, bi groups that were up in the San Francisco area where he'd gone to school. And they were basically saying, “You know, your parents didn't raise you correctly. I mean, you should… all these things shouldn't have happened.” And so what I decided to let the grandmothers, in their lay terms, explain to Jarys what had happened.
D: And so we had a grandmothers’ council. I just listened and left them alone with grandmas. And the grandmothers basically said, “You know, Jarys, we were so afraid that your mother was going to die (because she almost did) and that you were going to die (because you almost did), and we were just so happy to have a baby, we didn't care what sex you were, what gender you identified with.
D: And his great-grandmother at this point was 90 years old and said, “And at this point, we don't care who you love, you could love a crocodile as long as that crocodile loves you back…”
J: (Laughs) Right.
D: “… because you're our Jarys.” And that's the way our child was raised.
D: And so there was a lot of love and acceptance for whatever they wanted to turn out to be and however they wanted to express themselves. So it's been a learning experience but it opened my eyes to the possibilities of what hormones do in the body and how it affects, not just our sexuality, but our identification as a being.
J: Mm-hmm. Wow, that's such an amazing story and I'm so impressed. And I'm glad Jarys is, you know, ‘he’ or ‘are they’… is that how I say it, “Are they doing well?”
D: Mm-hmm, they're doing very well, they're doing really well. And in fact, right now, at this point in their life, they're actually lecturing in the Bay Area to hospitals, medical professionals and legal advisors on how to deal with the intersex and trans population.
J: That's so awesome.
D: So using their own experiences going through the systems.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Well, I love thinking about the hormonal side of it instead of, you know, just what genitalia you're born with. But I was thinking, you know, really, all people, intersex or not, have varying degrees of testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, all these things, and I'm sure, you know, way more; these are the few hormones I talk about. And then we all have varying degrees of that masculine versus that feminine energy. So for me, for example, yes, I was born with female genitalia and I have XX chromosomes, but I'm kind of a masculine woman. I'm an achiever, I'm driven, I would imagine I have more testosterone than the average person. But, I guess, speak to what those hormonal differences can look like just in the average person.
D: Well, one of the things that I kind of pride myself on as a hormone expert is being able to read people's hormones kind of vibrationally or energetically and also be able to see how the hormones affect them in their, you know, the difference between phenotype and genotype. Genotype are your genes and phenotype is how they're expressed.
D: So basically what you look like, color of your hair, eyes, height, etc. So I can see… we live in California, Southern California, so we'll go to the beach, and of course, people have very little clothes on at the beach. And just seeing these people's bodies, I can tell which hormones are out of balance and what are in balance.
D: And I'm not just talking about estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, I'm talking about cortisol and thyroid hormones. I mean, that's this kind of expertise that I've developed over the years trying to become, you know, that hormone whisperer and really understand what's going on in the body because we don't really have good tests for it. You know, blood tests, saliva tests, urine tests are all just… they're just not specific enough to look at the activity of what's happening in the body. So the expression of who you are as a woman and who I am as a woman (which I also identify as such) is going to be different according to how we were raised because that kind of affects it too. If you're raised in a stressful environment and your cortisol surging, you may actually favor more masculine androgen type activities and behaviors because when cortisol surges, another hormone called DHEA surges and it gets converted into testosterone.
D: And that's not a bad thing because if you're under stress and you got to like put on, not just your big-girl panties, but your knight in armor suit to fight off the danger, that's what you have to do.
J: Ah, so fascinating.
D: Does that make sense?
D: So we’re set up for survival, and thank goodness we have a buffet of hormones at our disposal. And our hypothalamus will say, “Hey, this is needed right now.” It's kind of like frogs (we're not like frogs but we… it's kind of). Have you ever heard that in a population of frogs, if there's all female frogs that have survived, some of the frogs will convert themselves to male, they'll turn…
J: No. Oh, that’s so cool.
D: … yes, in order to… so it's an amazing aspect of life that our DNA is not set in stone but it's literally dancing to the vibration and the music of our environment, our belief systems, and our hormones are singing and telling those that DNA what to do. That's why I call it hormones in harmony because it's all about this vibration.
J: Huh, that's so, so interesting. Well, speaking again about cortisol…
J: … I'm obviously thinking about my own family, people have commented that my husband and I and all of our kids are very confident, which would, to me, tell me that we have maybe higher testosterone, all of us. And I'm wondering, you know, yeah, that's probably been present because my husband and I both got PhDs, we were stressed, we're driven. You know, so that's a very masculine type of energy, this whole alpha energy going on in our family. But the big thing these days is everyone saying shift into that state of ease and flow and more of that feminine energy, which is, you know, healthier in so many ways, can you speak to that?
D: Well, we're calling it masculine and feminine but it's more of that Yin/Yang or the ability to relax and receive and then also the ability to act.
D: So I more see it in that way because, I mean, I have very masculine men in my life and in my practice who have a lot of Yin kind of feminine receptive energy, okay? They're not in your face, they're not approaching you, you know, with their genitalia first, you know, like as if it's a sword and they're going to fight everything off, you know?
J: Right, right.
D: They’re very much receptive to what's going on but, you know, if something happened, they're like, they'll jump up and be the protector, okay?
D: Not that women can't be the protector, so does that make sense?
J: Yeah. And when I use masculine energy, that to me is yang and feminine energy is yin, and that all genders have a mix of both; that's kind of how I look at it, right.
D: Exactly. All genders, no matter how you identify, have all the hormones within you in different ratios, okay? And it's affecting your behavior, it's affecting how your brain functions, it's affecting how your body actually looks.
D: So I'll give you an example. I understand what you're saying because I always believed that I was kind of more masculine than feminine in my early life. Now, if you looked at me, you would never say that because I have a very feminine shape, I'm petite, I am, you know, very long luxurious hair. I mean, I look very feminine but I felt very masculine inside because I grew up in the world of medicine. And if you didn't pull on that lab coat and, you know, and could hold your own, you were out.
D: You know, even today, even today, female doctors and female nurse practitioners make way less than the males do, okay, it's just crazy. So you have it like really like buck up and put on the boots and get the sword and, you know, do your job or you were going to be cut. So I felt this really strong kind of masculine energy and I worked it out, not just in my being top and, you know, valedictorian and the top of my class and leading my… the nurse practitioners, you know, the entire State of California, 14,000 of us, I mean I like, you know, took the helm…
D: … but I also was a competitive athlete. And what I found is, during my menstrual cycles when I was menstruating (I wasn't always menstruating regularly because I let my body fat go down too low; that's on a whole other hormonal challenge), but during my menstrual cycles, right before my period would occur was my best races. And that's when testosterone kind of surges because your estrogen falls.
D: If I could actually arrange my triathlons during that time of my cycle, gosh, darn it, if you were ahead of me, I was going to catch you. (Laughs)
J: So if your period begins on day 1 of the cycle, what day of the cycle would you say is that highest testosterone time? Is it…?
D: There's 2 times. There's when you're ovulating…
D: … okay, so you get… so right after your period. So during your period, your hormones are at the lowest, and then about day 5 to 7, they start to pick up and the estrogen starts to peak because your follicles are developing and spilling out all the estrogen and your uterus is starting to get rich and lush to prepare for the potential fertilized egg, but you haven't ovulated yet. Estrogen peaks and then it falls a little bit, and as it falls, that's when ovulation occurs.
D: But because estrogen is falling, testosterone which is actually about the same all month long is all the sudden unbound by estrogen, it's not competing with estrogen, and you're feeling the testosterone, which now you're wanting to mate because you've got that egg is ready. (Laughs)
J: Yeah, yeah.
D: And so you get a little surge there, and then so ovulation occurs. And then there's another surge of… a little… another little surge of the estrogen, and in the meantime, progesterone is coming off the charts peaking, trying to keep everything stable in the uterus so that implantation could occur if fertilization occurs, right? And in the meantime, that testosterone is kind of back in its same level, and then if fertilization doesn't occur, implantation doesn't occur, those hormones, estrogen, progesterone fall, and as they fall, testosterone surges again. So it's that period about a day or 2 before your period occurs and one to 2 days into the period where you feel a little surge of testosterone. And a lot of women will notice they get like maybe even a little pimple or 2. (Laughs)
D: That's part of that testosterone surge, and maybe a little more irritable, that's part of it too. And in my case, I was very competitive.
D: So that's part of that test… and maybe even a little more… your libido is a little higher then too.
J: Oh, that’s fascinating.
D: Okay. But so I can't tell you exactly what day that is because every woman's cycle is a little different.
J: Right, right.
D: Anywhere from, you know, 24 to 34 days is considered normal.
J: So you were having this surge of testosterone normally right before your period, so you wanted a cycle, you know, match up your races if you could.
D: Yeah, I just kind of notice that. In fact, my daughter was… she was a competitive gymnast for like 14 years. And so I wanted her to really have a really beautiful period experience, and so I got ready for my cycles because they really… it wasn't built up in my family, it was like, “Oh, you get your period,” you know? My Nana was like, “It was the curse,” and my mom was like, “It's not the curse but, you know, just, you know, take care of yourself and, you know, don't… we’re not going to talk much about it,” kind of a thing. So I wanted a whole different experience, so I wanted my daughter to feel like it was super special. So I kind of started a Red Tent experience for myself…
D: … probably a few years before she went into puberty to really start taking care of myself during that time. And I literally wore like a beautiful red and gold colored skirt when I was like on the first couple days of my period to signify to my family that I was on my period and I needed to be like treated super special.
D: And… you know, and I would take care of myself so my daughter could not wait to get her period. Of course, it took her a little bit longer because she was a competitive gymnast. She's about 13 and a half, she finally starts her period and she is so excited to wear her period skirt and be treated like a princess.
D: But then of course, trying to deal with periods and being a gymnast and bleeding, right, having a period while you're in a leotard…
J: Yeah, ugh.
D: … little tricky so we had to teach her, you know, tampon use very early. And so all that's happening, but at the same time, you're also like a little bloated, you're a little crampy, your breasts are a little tender, and she's trying to compete. So we convinced her and she ran with it that she did had her best meets during her period, she… we’d call it the Power of the P. “I have the Power of the P, I’m winning this meet,” you know?
J: That’s the best!
D: It was so great though.
J: Oh my goodness!
D: Going from one aspect to together like, “Yeah, we're princesses right now, but we're super powered too.” (Laughs)
J: Power of the P.
J: The period princess, ooh, I’m so stealing that, oh my gosh.
D: Isn’t that great? But, you know, it just… because like all she could think of is, “Oh my gosh, what's going to happen? And what if I bleed all over the place?” I'm like, “You know, we figured out how to make that…” you know, help her through that but really helping her emotionally feel like, “You know, this is not a down time, this is you have the power now.” (Laughs)
J: Right. Oh, that’s so good.
D: And she believed it and she would do so much better because she believed it.
J: Ah, that's good. Finally, periods don't have to be fully negative, that's nice.
J: Well, earlier, you mentioned being at the beach and being able to look at a body and know what hormones were out of balance. So…
J: … tell some of what you've seen on the beach and what you know from it.
D: So for instance, one thing I can see like with men. So you know how when a young boy he's going through puberty and, you know, he may start off as a skinny kind of kid and then all of a sudden, the back of his arms get really developed, it's called the posterior deltoid; it's the upper part of the arm. You've got 3 parts, you got the anterior in the middle and the posterior, it's the kind of the bulky part of the arm. The very back part of that muscle, it's right above the triceps so it's right between the shoulder and the middle arm, you know how men have that kind of…
J: Yeah, yeah.
D: … when they're developed. So testosterone is what develops the posterior deltoid. As hard as my daughter worked in gymnastic and she was ripped, it's really hard to develop the posterior deltoid in a female because we don't have enough testosterone, but it's testosterone that triggers that. So I can see men with their flat posterior deltoids back of their arms look kind of flat instead of that nice rounded shape, that muscle…
D: … their testosterone is fallen.
J: Oh. What would cause that?
D: Well, they're going through… well, a couple things. Either they're middle-aged and they're going through their own pause, men have a pause too, it's called andropause. (Laughs)
J: I have not even heard of that, oh my gosh.
D: Yeah, it's male menopause per se. I mean, we have something to show for it because we have periods for, you know, 35 years or so and then we stop and so we call it the menopause, right?
D: But there's that period of time before that perimenopause where your hormones are all over the place, men have the same thing. They go through a pause per se, but it doesn't stop, it just goes down low enough that it affects their health, and I can see it on their arms.
J: So the testosterone just goes down because, you know?
D: Yeah, that contributes to what, you know, erectile dysfunction and lack of confidence. And I see so many male patients that come to me and, you know, they're put on cholesterol-lowering agents and their cholesterol just rose because their testosterone dropped. Testosterone, as well as estrogen and progesterone, cortisol and DHEA are made from cholesterol. That's why we call them steroid hormones, they have a cholesterol, a sterol, in the middle of them. So when your hormones are low because you're going through the pause or you're stressed out, your cholesterol naturally rises.
D: So rather than treating cholesterol, I treat hormone issues and it usually works. (Laughs)
J: So for a man going through the andropause, is the goal to get the testosterone back up?
D: Yeah, and we can do it lots of different ways. I mean, there's testosterone replacement therapy, I use bioidenticals. I also build up that testosterone as well by improving the communication between the hypothalamus and the testes.
D: Now, most people haven't heard of the hypothalamus but it's a part of your brain that's kind of a primitive brain structure that controls all of your hormones, your entire immune system, and all of the amino acids that become neurotransmitters for your brain. It controls pretty much everything, every system in your body, your weight setpoint, your temperature regulation, your ability to reproduce, your libido, your day/night cycles, your thyroid, your adrenals, your ovaries or testes, brain chemistry, it controls everything.
J: Mission control, yeah.
D: Yeah, master control. It's like this head boss of everything.
J: So how do you get it to function better?
D: Well, that's kind of interesting. I actually was challenged by patients in the late 90s and that's when I kind of rediscovered the hypothalamus. It's not like it was missing, we learn it at medical school but we ignore it, we don't pay any attention to it because you can't measure the hormones from it. So in the late 90s, I was seeing a group of patients that were overweight, their sex steroids were low, their cortisol levels were either super high or super low so they were dysfunctional, their thyroids were low, and their glucose metabolism was off. They were either already type 2 diabetics or they were insulin resistance, they were depressed and they couldn't sleep, okay? So they came in with a bunch of drugs and they wanted to be put on natural things, all kinds of supplements and bioidenticals. So I switched them over but I thought, “You know, what?” because I have an integrative practice and, “I'm making them just as dependent on all this natural stuff, I haven't really fixed the root issue.” So I started doing some research and I came across a study about fat white mice, and these fat white mice had all the symptoms of my patients. It was in the scientific America in 1998, I found this study, there was no Google back then, right, so I'm like literally looking at a regular magazine and they had all the symptoms of my patients. Of course, they killed the mice to figure it out and they found this huge hormone in the hypothalamus that was that balance.
D: Now, in order to study that hormone, we've got to kill the lab rat, we don't do those to humans of course.
D: So I was like, “Oh my gosh, I am just treating the wrong… I'm tuning up all the instruments and I'm not paying attention to the maestro of the entire symphony. How do I do that?” So I couldn't find the one thing to feed them. I really felt like if I could feed the hypothalamus… the hypothalamus isn't protected by the blood-brain barrier so nutrients affect it but… and so do toxins and bacteria and hor… everything affects it. So I thought, if I could feed it, maybe I could actually heal these patients. So I told you earlier on that my intersex child and all people who have brains exposed to both hormone levels can have like brain functions that are like off-the-charts and their empathy and capacities. And so this same child says to me… he’s about 14 at the time and I'm trying to figure out, you know, this hypothalamic question. And I'm using the computer, it's a big old desktop and he's rubbing my shoulders because my energy, he says, is messing up the computer and he's got homework to do. And he says, “Mom, what are you stuck with?” and I'm like, “I need to find the one thing that I can feed the hypothalamus and fix my patients.” And he said, “Maybe you should meditate this and see what comes in dreams.”
J: (Laughs) No way! And wait, when was he 14? What year was he 14 in?
J: Yeah, because people didn't talk about that back then.
J: So he was so intuitive, oh my gosh.
D: Yeah. So I went… I did, I meditated and I went to sleep and I had a dream in which I was standing in front of the Tree of Life and I'm holding a chalice, like a golden cup, like an old-fashioned, you know, King Arthur kind of golden cup, and there's a drink, a liquid in it. And my worst patients would come to me and they would drink from this cup, we never spoke, and I knew intuitively they were better. And I woke up in the morning and said, “What is in the cup?” and just started writing. I had the same dream for 3 months, every night for 3 months. And what I wrote down were chemicals and herbs and ingredients, I literally came up with a formula. And so it took me about 3 years to put the formula together, and because of the cup being gold and because it felt like, in the beginning, I've called it Genesis gold and I started feeding it to my patients, voila, the hypothalamus is fed and their hormones get in balance.
J: So their testosterone goes up if they're men, and for women, what's going up, progesterone?
D: Estrogen and progesterone start to balance out. So it's not about going up, it's about finding that harmony between the 2 of them because they balance each other. Think of estrogen as the fertilizer, it makes everything grow but it doesn't know the difference between the weeds and the roses. Progesterone’s the gardener so it knows the difference between the weeds and the roses. So it allows the things that should be growing like the uterus lining and the breast to prepare for a potential pregnancy to grow, but if the pregnancy did not occur, there's no fertilization, it immediately starts stopping that growth and clearing the slate, it'll tell cells that may become cancerous to die; so progesterone picks the weeds.
J: Oh yeah, super important.
D: Testosterone, I call the motivator. (Laughs)
J: Yeah, yeah. Well, so you were saying before we even began recording that menopause is happening much earlier than it used to, why do you think that is?
D: Because of stress. So if you're under a lot of stress, now, stress is basically a physiological response, how you react is physiological. What you consider a stressor is personal but your hypothalamus perceives all your stressors, whether you're sitting in traffic late for an appointment or you have financial concerns or you're freaking out about, you know, a long line in the grocery store or a tiger’s actually chasing you, it’s the same reaction. So in a meet… so as soon as you perceive danger, you produce adrenaline that makes your heart rate go up and your blood pressure go up so you can get away from the danger. And as soon as the hypothalamus perceives the adrenaline (which is a neurological response to the adrenals), it tells your adrenals to produce cortisol to fuel the fight-or-flight. That's what the cortisol's job is, is to release stored sugar from the liver, from the muscles, and fuel the fight-or-flight, okay? And then DHEA, which is the more androgenic adrenal hormone is how you metabolize protein and fat. That gets produced after the cortisol (because most of us get some kind of damage if we're fighting or running away from a tiger) to actually repair the damage. But if you're sitting in traffic and you're freaking out and stressed out and the hypothalamus is reacting as if you are being chased by a tiger, what are you doing with that cortisol and DHEA? Cortisol is actually catabolic, it breaks down tissue and it starts to damage the tissues, okay, instead of actually feeding the
fight-or-flight because there is no fight-or-flight. And so if the stress becomes chronic, meaning every day you're dealing with this stuff, I mean, in nature, you wouldn't be chased by a tiger every day, either you'd outsmart the tiger or the tiger’s going to get you, okay?
D: It's not going to keep happening. So this chronic stress that were under every single day where we don't turn off our lights at night, we're on digital devices and we don't sleep very well, we’re eating tons of sugar and fast foods and we're working really, really long days and we're experiencing life as stressful, we don't meditate, we don't relax, it's like we're always being chased. So cortisol then becomes damaging instead of saving us.
J: So the opposite is true, to bring that cortisol down, we put our devices away, turn the lights off at night and actually sleep, work less, less sugar and fast food and then more meditation and relaxation.
D: Exactly, exactly. I mean, one of the biggest things that this audience that's listening right now could do is, after dusk, do not get on your digital devices. The blue light coming from those digital devices, the iPhone, you know, the phones and the iPads, the computers, even from your TV screen, actually will block your melatonin production, okay? Dusk, the pink light of the sunset, blocks the blue rays of daytime which tells the pineal gland via the hypothalamus, the hypothalamus actually controls that hormone to say, “Oh, it's getting nighttime now, we need to turn everything down,” and the pineal gland starts producing melatonin. But if you get on those digital devices, you delay that production by as many hours as you were on the device after dark.
J: Right. And cortisol is metabolized while we sleep, is that right?
D: Cortisol goes down while you sleep, it's at the lowest level while you sleep.
D: It should be. Now, if you're waking up in the middle a night like, “(Gasps),” anxious, that's a cortisol surge; that should not be there. That's usually a dyscircadian rhythm, it's out of balance day/night cycle, and your cortisol is kind of surging I like you’re the village watcher and you heard something out there. Cortisol actually should be rising, it starts rising right after dawn, usually between 6 and 8 AM, you'll see a rise in cortisol. Before that's too early, it should be at the lowest level. So cortisol is kind of… it suppresses melatonin production as well at night; you need it during the day. The natural cortisol is from… the highest levels it's from 8:00 in the morning till 2:00 in the afternoon, which is why most of us feel a little tired, you know, after 2:00 that… you know, around 3:00 o'clock slump, that's a normal slump. Well, now, what we do here in America, we just power the caffeine and sugar and try to work our way through it, but a lot of countries take a siesta then.
D: You'll notice your dogs and cats are all taking a nap.
D: That's normal cortisol slump.
J: Yay, I do that, I nap almost every, day, so…
D: Yeah, just… or just relax or just… you know, if we can do that, if you can break up your day, that would be perfect. You'll have another little surge afterwards of cortisol to kind of, you know, get through your evening and get your meal prepared and get ready for the evening and then it'll come down again. When the hypothalamus perceives that it's dark, it's night time is happening, it'll start shutting the adrenals down so that the pineal gland can do its job and put you to sleep.
J: Oh, that's brilliant. Well, we could go for days, I'm so fascinated by this, but if someone's listening and they suspect, you know, well, let's say they're overweight or they have these cortisol surges in the night and they wake up anxious or maybe there's a man listening with impotence issues, what would be your advice for anyone listening who suspects they have this kind of hormonal imbalance happening?
D: Well, if you suspect you have a hormonal imbalance, I mean, I definitely would go to your health care provider and bring up your suspicions. Unfortunately, it's difficult for them to read your blood work or what's happening with you because most of the blood tests are set for the worst case scenarios and they don't look at slight imbalances. Because we don't like measure you when you're young and healthy and vibrant, we wait… you know, you come in when you're feeling like crap and then we measure you, and what's your norm?
D: So that's a little bit of an issue. But I would say the biggest thing to do is if you're feeling out of balance is to, first of all, turn off those lights and try to get some, you know, deeper sleep; I mean, that is going to help more than anything. Second of all, make sure that you're eating a really, really healthy diet with lots of color in it, not just all white stuff, okay? Make sure you're getting enough protein, enough healthy fats, and lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. Try not to eat super late because that kind of delays your sleep cycle, and make sure you're exercising and try to exercise in the morning rather than later. And the reason for that is it sets your metabolism to higher when you exercise earlier in the day.
D: Okay? And so those are 3 things you could do right off. You know, I just think it's just so important to keep ourselves in balance and it's a very difficult thing to do when we don't get a lot of advice from the healthcare profession because it's… you know, endocrinology is more of an art than it is a science.
J: Yeah, yeah.
D: It takes… it's more of a practice, and every time you see a patient, it's a whole other canvas you're dealing with because everyone's different. We just talked about that with my intersex child, it's kind of a rainbow of possibilities of what those hormones are doing in your body. So you're not looking… you're looking at the person when they're sitting in front of you as a medical professional and you're seeing that patient usually at their lowest, you don't know what their vibrant look is; does that make sense?
J: Yeah, yeah.
D: So my goal is to try to teach my patients to get really in touch with their bodies so they can start feeling into when they feel out of balance and not waiting till things crash.
D: And when you feed the hypothalamus, what's really cool is that you start to become your own body whisperer, you start to be able to like crave the things you need and start listening to these signs and symptoms that are happening. And you can guide your health care practitioner pretty easily because you become a really good owner of this vehicle, you know, because that's what the body is like a vehicle and you start to like pay attention to it. It didn't come with a manual…
D: … so you're going to have to pay attention to the subtle signs.
J: And if someone wants to, you know, learn more about you and what you're doing get some Genesis Gold (sounds good) feed their hypothalamus, where can they find you?
D: My website is genesisgold.com and I actually have a freebee digital there that you can download right there on the homepage, it's the 7 secrets to healthy hormones, it's kind of a synopsis of what we just talked about. Once you download that, it's free, it'll plug you into my also free hormone reboot training where I give you a PDF copy of my book, ‘Hormones in Harmony’, and take you through it and teach you about your body. And it's… it's been really popular with my audience to learn more about how their body works and they really enjoy the interaction with the video and the audio, and I have a hormone support group on Facebook that it plugs them into and so they all start talking about hormones and what they're dealing with, and it's just a really, really great way to figure things out. And it's not just women, there's men in there too because, yes, men have hormones too. (Laughs)
J: Right, right. You know, I think that pendulum swinging back, you mentioned the male menopause but it’s time we paid attention to them too. (Laughs)
D: Well, the thing of it is, is the majority of my male patients come in because my female patients start feeling better on what we're doing and they drag their partners and spouses in and say, “Could you fix him? Because obviously he's out of balance.” (Laughs)
J: Right, right, right.
D: So, you know, oftentimes it's, you know… but I do find that if a woman takes care of herself and focuses on her health, body, mind, and soul, okay, it really starts healing her family, her partner, her community. I'm very much focused on women's health, not because I don't believe men deserve to have that focus, but because I think that women are the core of the universe of their community.
D: And so when we help to heal a woman, she naturally… because she's going to eat better, she's going to have a better attitude, she's going to start to de-stress, she's going to start modeling healthy behaviors for her children and her spouse, it just becomes a ripple effect from her. So it's very much worth it educating my female patients because they will affect everyone around them.
J: Ooh, wow, I couldn't say it better myself. Well, Deborah, this has been amazing, I'm so grateful. I will have links to everything you talked about…
J: … on my show notes page, everyone, that will be at jenriday.com/147. Well, thank you so much for being on the show, it was amazing, and you want to share one last thing to say goodbye?
D: Well, you asked about a happiness quote.
J: Oh yeah, yeah.
D: I do have a happiness equation.
D: My happiness equation is maintaining my vibrant health body mind and soul, plus living in loving relationships and fulfilling my sole purpose.
J: Hmm, that's beautiful. And do you feel like you're doing that?
D: I'm working on it every day and learning every day just like the rest of us and trying to share my… what I've learned with those who I come in contact with, and now, a little bigger audience with your audience. So blessings of health and may your hormones be in harmony.
J: Mm, thank you so much, Deborah.
D: You're welcome to, Jen, bye-bye.
J: Take care.
Hey, thanks for listening today and go do at least one thing that will help you have more hormonal harmony. Maybe that's your 8 hours of sleep tonight, maybe it's no phone in the bedroom or putting that phone away as soon as the sun sets. I would love to hear what you're doing so here's my invitation, follow me on Instagram and send me a DM and let me know; what are you doing to improve your hormonal harmony? I might try to read one of those on the air. My Instagram is @jenriday; let me talk about that for a minute. I used to have Jen Riday and then I closed it and I thought I would reopen Jen Riday and they won't let me reopen it. So I am Jen.Riday, don't forget the dot(.), Jen.Riday on Instagram. I'm going to be posting a lot more pics there, I go live and share things that are happening with my kids, I add to my Instagram story regularly, and the Vibrant Happy Women retreat is coming up soon and I'm going to be posting pics of all of you amazing vibrant happy women who will be there. Well, I will be back next week talking with Sara Bates who is sharing how she chose to stop trying to be perfect and just be curious about her life and notice how everything she did made her feel. And she's still doing it, she does the things that help her feel the way she wants to feel; peaceful, calm, relaxed, happy, stimulated, whatever those are. It's a great lesson for us and I can't wait for you to listen to that. And that will be coming up in our next episode. Thank you so much for listening today, I will see you over on Instagram again @jenriday there. I will see you then, until then, make it a vibrant happy week. Take care.