A 30-year-old woman came to see me recently, two months after she had broken up with her boyfriend. She was depressed. She'd gained weight. She was exhausted. She had trouble keeping up with her work. She had been in psychotherapy but it wasn't helping. I asked her what she was eating and it turned out that there were a number of dietary patterns that were contributing to her emotional state. After I took a careful history of her dietary habits, I discovered that she wasn't so much overeating as having coffee and sweets at times of the day when she was starting to feel tired. She not only gained weight, but the coffee and sweets induced a hypoglycemic cycle, so her blood sugar levels were irregular--which was already making her feel anxious. It was as though at a certain time of the day she was going into a withdrawal phase and the caffeine and sugar would help bring her back up.
So the first part of her problem was this hypoglycemic cycle. The other thing she was suffering from was PMS, which had gotten worse over the past few months. She had always had PMS and thought that this was normal, that this was what women had to live with. This is a misconception that many women have. Her lab work revealed that she did have a fairly low fasting blood sugar level. I prescribed some dietary changes for her. To handle the hypoglycemia, I put her on chromium. For the PMS symptoms, I prescribed magnesium, B6, and an herbal compound that contains dong quai and other herbs. Of course I also recommended regular exercise. After a month on this regimen, she was feeling much, much better. She started to feel like she had some control over the break-up with her boyfriend and over her work problems. She was able to take control of her problems rather than allowing these factors in her life to control her.
This was one case of depression where the combination of herbal and natural remedies, diet, exercise, and psychotherapy--but not psychotherapy alone--was really what she needed.
Here's what I use to treat women with PMS: For the first two weeks of their cycle, I put women on a dong quai herbal combination; then for the second two weeks, they take a PMS combination. These supplements also contain ingredients that detoxify the liver, which is very important in treating PMS.
Another young woman, a 26-year-old whom I had been treating for several months, was finally helped when I pinpointed the problem as PMS. She had been to several doctors--holistic, alternative people that tried a variety of herbs--and she still complained that she wasn't getting better. One day she came into the office and said, "I'm tired of all this. You're not helping, no one is helping." She wasn't just complaining; she was in a really nasty mood. And I asked, "Are you premenstrual right now?" And she said, "Yeah!" And I said, "Are you aware of how you sound?" So first, as her therapist, I got her to see how provocative she was; then I asked her how she was feeling. She was miserable, she was bloated, she really couldn't think straight.
At that point I decided to prescribe natural progesterone creme. It's a creme that you can put on the skin of any fatty area of the body where it can be readily absorbed. I gave her instructions on how to use it, and almost immediately she began to feel better. The next cycle she began to use it a week before she was expecting PMS and throughout that part of her cycle. At the end of the month, she told me that she'd had the most comfortable menstrual cycle ever.
The kind of progesterone I recommend is a natural progesterone, not the progesterone that's in the regular phamaceutical birth control pills or the hormones that are administered by prescription. It's a derivative from wild yams that's available in health food stores. It's also useful for menopausal symptoms.
Not long ago I had a 48-year-old woman who came in complaining ofjust feeling her life wasn't working. She had been a very successful professional. She had a great marriage. Her children were grown and in college and they were doing well. Her husband was successful. She really had a very good life, and yet she was unhappy. Now you could call this a midlife crisis. However, when I took a psychological history, aware that this was a time of life for her to start looking inward, to evaluate her life, at the same time I asked her about her menstrual cycles. She said she was still menstruating. Her periods were changing in frequency and amount, but with no other symptoms. I sent her to the lab and it turned out she was very low in progesterone, low in estrogen, but particularly low in progesterone. So I put her on the progesterone creme. It really helped. Her irritability went way down. She started to realize that a lot of the uneasiness she was feeling was really chemical. It wasn't simply a psychological, personal issue. It really had to do with what was going on in her body, that her hormones were changing, and that it had been such a subtle change over time. Although she was still menstruating, she was peri-menopausal. Peri-menopausal women will often think that it's psychological, and not think to look at what's going on biochemically in the body. Aside from the progesterone creme, I also put her on the herbal formulas, and that really did the trick.
Even though people do have psychological issues to deal with--and its important to deal with them--it's important also to look at and treat the underlying chemistry. Often the psychological problems will lessen in severity or even disappear with treatment of biochemical imbalances.
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