Hi! I hope you’re all enjoying a diet filled with fresh seasonal vegetables, low glycemic fruits, protein predominately from fish, turkey, chicken, wild game and some clean red meats, whole grains and nuts in moderation (eaten separately from other foods), healthy fats such as avocados, olive and grapeseed oils, and occasional clean cheeses. In this newsletter and the next, I’m going to take a look at what I mean by clean meat. Be aware–this information isn’t all pretty, but I think you’ll agree it’s worth knowing what you’re putting in your body!– Dr. Robin
Many of you have probably seen hormone-free labels on beef at local grocery and health food stores. You’ve probably also noticed that this meat is considerably more expensive! Some of the labels at other markets may say “grown without antibiotics” or “free range,” but that may not necessarily mean the meat is hormone-free unless specified.
Do you know what hormones are used in meat and why they’re used? Have you wondered what these hormones might do to us when we eat them?SEX HORMONES
U.S. farmers have been giving sex hormones to cattle to fatten them up since the 1970s. The hormones increase the amount of meat the cattle produce without requiring extra feed. Cows are given six hormones, including estradiol-17 (a powerful estrogen), progesterone, and testosterone, as well as additional synthetic hormones that mimic testosterone and estrogen. These hormones are very stable and are not broken down at high temperatures, meaning that they are still in their complete form when we eat the meat.
This use of hormones for artificial growth stimulation has caused quite a stir Europe. In fact, due to concerns about early puberty, tumors, cancer risks, and genetic problems, the European Union has banned hormone use in cattle. The FDA has said there is no evidence these hormones are dangerous. However, Europe’s scientific committee found in three separate studies that no acceptable safe daily intake could be established for any of the six hormones. (I guess we don’t need a daily intake of synthetic testosterone, after all!) It also found substantial evidence that estradiol 17 is a complete carcinogen, meaning it shows both tumor initiating and tumor promoting effects!
Girls in the US are reaching puberty at younger and younger ages, often menstruating as early as age 8. Breast size in young adolescent girls, and even some boys, is increasing. Obesity, due to estrogen dominance created by the hormones we eat unknowingly, is of epidemic proportions in the United States.GROWTH HORMONES
An additional hormone, called rBGH, or rBST, is even more controversial. Given to as many as 30 percent of the cattle in the U.S., rBGH is a genetically engineered growth hormone designed to increase milk output. rBGH causes slightly higher levels of an insulin-like growth factor in cows’ milk. This protein–found in milk and dairy products from cows treated with rBGH–has been linked to cancer, and it is possible it could lead to diabetes in people prone to the disease.
The FDA approved its safety in 1993, after reviewing a 90-day-study of rats fed the growth hormone.
Six years later, Canadian scientists used results from the same study to reject the use of rBGH in Canada. These scientists were disturbed by the fact that the hormone was absorbed into the rats’ bloodstreams and that it weakened their immune systems! In addition, they noted that U.S. farmers were forced to give antibiotics to cows to counteract rBGH’s tendency to cause udder swelling. (More on antibiotics in meat in the next newsletter!)SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
Although there are differing views on the safety of hormones in meat, what it really comes down to is whether you want to risk introducing synthetic hormones into your body. For your body to be healthy, it needs to find balance–particularly endocrine balance! I encourage you to avoid all sources of synthetic hormones, including hormone-riddled meat and dairy. WHAT TO KNOW WHEN YOU SHOP . . .
Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry, so your main concern will be in buying beef.
Many dairy products contain labels indicating that they come from rBGH-free farms.
Hormone supplementation is not currently an issue with U.S. fish. Although farm-raised fish are not fed hormones, wild fish are superior. Always choose wild fish if possible for the better taste and the higher fatty acid content. (Do check labels when shopping for fish. Fish in China and Cuba are being genetically engineered to produce enormous “super fish.” Although genetically engineered fish haven’t been approved for consumption in the U.S., they are sold here!)
On beef, look for the specific label “No Hormones.” Farmers can use this label only if they prove their meat is hormone free. The terms “Natural” or “Organic” don’t necessarily cut it; neither of these labels ensures your meat is hormone free.
Try to restrict most of your red-meat consumption (which should be moderate anyway) to home, where you know what you’re getting!
Earlier in the month, I was invited to give a presentation about hormones at a Women Empower meeting in North Austin. What I wanted to get across at the meeting, in addition to basic information about the endocrine system, is the importance of choosing the right healthcare practitioners and of trusting your intuition. Here’s a summary of the presentation. Enjoy! Dr. Robin
Deborah invited me to speak tonight about hormones and their impact on women’s lives. I realized that in only giving me 20 minutes, she is preventing me from boring you to death with the biochemical reasons why estrogen is bad, progesterone is good, and both of those statements aren’t always true. What I would like to give you instead are some bottom line things to think about.
First, when I say hormones, I am referring to the endocrine system, which is much, much more than just the sex hormones or monthly menstrual cycle hormones. The endocrine system runs a vast majority of your body functions and has long-reaching effects. You may be surprised at what symptoms are your body’s hormones giving you a signal that something is amiss.
So here’s the bottom line:
If you are tired, check your thyroid.
And just because your doctor says that your blood work says your thyroid is fine, keep checking. Find someone else to check it, if necessary. There are excellent tests available that are far more comprehensive than those offered by most doctors.
If you are depressed, check your adrenals and blood sugar.
If your doctor doesn’t know how to do this, go elsewhere. It isn’t all in your head, nor do you suffer from Prozac deficiency syndrome. Seventy-five percent of people with depression have physiological imbalances in their bodies.
If you have lost your sex drive, check your entire endocrine system with a saliva test.
Blood tests are limited, and results are very dependent on what part of the month, even what time of day, you’re test.
If you have panic attacks, check your adrenals and change your diet.
If you have asthma, again check your adrenal glands.
Asthma is not a lung issue; it’s an adrenal issue.
If you have gallbladder problems, check your estrogen and cortisol levels.
If you have high cholesterol, check your thyroid.
If you can’t sleep, check your thyroid and estrogen levels.
If you have heartburn, check your adrenal glands.
If you crave sweets, check your blood sugar.
If you have allergies, check your thyroid.
If you have hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia, check your estrogen levels.
If you have PMS, cramps, migraine headaches, irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, lack of fertility, check your progesterone levels.
Now I’ve just told you to “check” all these different systems of your body. How do you go about doing that?
The endocrine system–the thyroid, pancreas, adrenal glands, parathyroid gland, ovaries, testes, the pituitary gland and pineal gland–is a beautiful feedback system similar to an orchestra.
When stresses occur, the adrenal glands are the squeaky wheel that gets the most attention. Your adrenal glands are a survival gland. This means that you can’t live without them and that they have the priority in the body to steal hormones from the other glands. Over time, this “theft” can lead to hypothyroidism, decreased progesterone, DHEA, and pregnenolone, and sometimes even decreased testosterone.
The adrenals are a fight or flight mechanism, meaning they respond to stressful situations. Keep in mind that your body views a stressful situation as “anything that isn’t neutral.” So anything that creates heart palpitations–good or bad–such as anxiety or excitement, causes the adrenals to work harder. From their point of view, a perceived stressor is the same as a real stressor, meaning that the thoughts and feelings that run through your head constantly have a huge impact on your adrenal glands, and therefore, on your endocrine system. Adrenals glands are vital, and in this day and age, are often literally physically exhausted and running down.
It’s often when the adrenal glands start to become exhausted that people end up in my clinic, asking me, “What’s wrong? I just don’t don’t feel good anymore. All my blood work says that I’m fine, and all my doctor offers me is an antidepressant.”
It’s important to keep in mind that the medical profession attracts the kind of thinkers that need to have a clearly defined solution to a problem. Balancing the endocrine system isn’t clear-cut; it can take time and patience to uncover what’s happening in each person’s unique body. This is why so many women are turning to alternative healthcare.
Checking and re-balancing your endocrine system isn’t easy. It requires you to be an active participant in your healthcare. Educating yourself is an important first step. It’s not that you need to become an expert on medical procedures, diagnosis, herbs, homeopathics, or chiropractic care. Rather, you need to educate yourself on your options.
It’s also important to become an expert in listening to and honoring your intuition about your health and your body. Handing over your power to a medical professional will not serve you. Instead, keep in mind that you are hiring doctors to help you with your health. If they’re not serving you, fire them! Don’t discount your intuition when confronted with the cold logic of the western medical model. Research your symptoms online, read books, and ask friends for references. Austin is filled with incredible alternative and conventional resources. If you don’t agree with a diagnosis or solution, keep looking.
Honor your intuition.
Let me know how I can help you in your journey to health and well-being!
May the Blessings Be,
* The information in this article cannot be substituted for medical advice about your unique body.