Check out this exclusive interview with New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Reset Diet, lecturer, and featured speaker at the upcoming Women’s Wellness Conference™, Dr. Sara Gottfried, M.D. and discover:
- How to identify (and eliminate from your home) the environmental toxins that are causing serious hormone imbalances in both men and women.
- The common household chemicals that are causing women to go through menopause at an earlier age and contributing to a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Crucial hormone factors that can cause you to burn calories at a slower speed, resulting in bigger waistlines.
Transcript of “The Hormone Reset Diet” interview
David “Avocado” Wolfe (DW): Greetings everyone! This is David “Avocado” Wolfe and I’m going to be joined by a very special friend here in a moment.
We are gearing up for The Women’s Wellness Conference™. That’s coming up soon. It’s Friday, October 9th to Sunday, October 11th, 2015, at The Orange County Hilton in Costa Mesa, California. That’s right near John Wayne Airport (SNA) and just about an hour from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
We’ve got an incredible line-up this year. A lot of incredible health visionaries for The Women’s Wellness Conference™: Caroline Myss will be with us; Vani Hari, “The Food Babe“; Robyn O’Brien; Nadine Artemis; my dentist, Dr. David Villarreal will be joining us; and our very special guest right now, Dr. Sara Gottfried.
She’s a New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Reset Diet. She graduated from Harvard Medical School and MIT, so she’s got a brain on her shoulders. She completed her residency at The University of California San Francisco and she is a board-certified gynecologist who teaches natural hormone balancing in her online programs and in her books. She has a very extensive area of knowledge here so we’re going to get into that with her.
Welcome Dr. Sara Gottfried! How are you and the family doing?
Dr. Sara Gottfried (SG): We are so good. So happy to be on the line with you, David. How are you?
DW: I’m literally having the best day ever. Today we’re going to plant two cacao trees, an egg-fruit, and two mountain apples.
SG: I love it! I’ve been following your mangoes on Instagram.
DW: Alright! We are having one of the greatest mango seasons! It was a weird year. I’m in Hawaii. We had a very dry winter and a very wet summer, which is great because being here in the summer can be VERY sweltering hot. But fortunately, we’re having a kind of a cool summer, which is nice, and we don’t have to run around watering our plants or anything. Nothing is suffering, so we’re actually planting MORE.
SG: That’s awesome. I love it.
DW: So that’s what we’re doing over here. We’re keeping our hormones well, Dr. Sara, with chocolate over here, so we’re going to dig in and see if chocolate is okay and what you’re doing with your books now.
You’ve got several books out on the subject and you’ve also being doing online programs. So, let’s just jump right into it. Let’s get into what causes hormone imbalances in both men and women today. What do you believe are the top environmental factors that are imbalancing our hormones?
SG: Well, I feel like I should say not enough chocolate may be one of the factors because chocolate is very well proven to reset your hormones. Hurray for that!
But in all seriousness, I just got this poignant letter from a client who did one of my e-courses and she told me that before she took my course, as a woman in her late 30s, married with two kids, she felt like she was going nuts. This woman had been insisting to her doctor that her insomnia, and what she called, “brain overdrive,” was based in physiology, but they refused to listen to her. They dismissed it.
They said, “We think you have postpartum depression. You need to take these depression medications and these sleeping pills.”
She felt so strongly that her mood was a result of her hormones being out of balance, and I feel like that is something that we need to talk about first and foremost. Hormone imbalance is so common, especially in women because we are more vulnerable, but in the guys too, and I think it’s crucial that people realize that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. There are so many different ways that we can fix your hormones.
But to answer your question about what is making our hormones get out of whack…what are some of those environmental factors? You know how I love to go to the data. So, can we talk about a couple of new studies?
DW: For sure. Absolutely!
SG: Okay, cool. Well, I pulled a bunch from this year. There is a study from March that was really interesting to me and it described how endocrine disrupting chemicals can harm your adrenal glands, especially early in life.
So, we’re talking about the kind of shampoo that your mother used, the kind of suntan lotion she put on her skin when she was pregnant with you, these early life epigenetic changes can leave a fingerprint on you that later can mess up your hormones. They can make your adrenals not as flexible, not as able to roll with the punches, and that’s what this woman who wrote the letter was basically talking about. Now it can lead to other problems too: It can make you get fat; It can give you blood sugar problems, even when your food is dialed in; high blood pressure.
The thing that gets me alarmed is it can affect the control system for your hormones. The hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal system so that you’re moody or depressed or anxious or a stress-case.
So that was a really interesting new study from March.
Another study that I think is especially relevant for women’s wellness came out in January of 2015 and it showed that the amount of endocrine disruptor chemicals that you get exposed to is linked to an earlier age of menopause.
So this is a really interesting one. It was performed by our government as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey called NHANES. It ran from 1999 to 2008: 32,000 females. So this is a substantial study and they found that the 15 worst chemicals, including phthalates and DDE, (DDE is that chemical that wiped out our bald-eagle population here in the U.S.) and Dave, I think you and I have talked about phthalates before. Last year I talked about them at The Women’s Wellness Conference™ and how they can poison women’s eggs and lead to higher rates of miscarriage. So there is definitely a phthalate connection here with the ovaries.
But, here is the punchline: Women who had the highest exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals went through menopause four years earlier than women who had the minimal exposure.
So, there are lots of different ways that the environment can impact your hormones, including the way you eat, move, and supplement and I think these endocrine disruptors are really important to pay attention to as well.
DW: Let’s talk about the basics here when it comes to hormones because a lot of us are kind of new to this conversation and one of the things that we’ve discovered is that if your hormones are off, as you were saying, everything else is going to suffer, and you can be doing all the right diets, all the right exercise, and nothing is going to change metabolically. That’s kind of the point. That’s why we go to hormones as one of the key indicators of health and longevity and one of the key catalysts because hormones are like a catalyst.
SG: They are a catalyst. That’s a great way to look at it.
You know, they aren’t the whole story. I want to make sure not to be overly reductionistic about this, but hormones dictate what your body does with food. You can be eating the most amazing food in the world, but if your insulin is off, if your leptin is off, and you’re eating too much of it, you know there are lots of ways your hormones can cause problems and lead to this gap between what you are eating and what you are assimilating…how that message is being decoded in your body.
So yes, hormones, I think, are a really crucial part of the story. I think of them as the ‘text messages’ in your body and they control everything from your metabolism, how fast or slow you burn calories, to your mood, to what I like to think about as kind of the ‘cross-talk’ between your brain chemicals, your neurotransmitters, and it’s basically a messaging system. I think of it as the neurohormonal dashboard. It’s a really important part of having the best day ever and feeling as happy as you were designed to be.
DW: Real quick, let’s talk about, you mentioned DDE and phthalates. Phthalates – that’s like BPA. That’s like plasticizers, right?
SG: Yes, Bisphenol-A (BPA) and these phthalates are plastics.
Phthalates are also used as fragrances, so the average woman puts about 515 synthetic chemicals on her skin every day and often those skin lotions and suntan lotions that have fragrances contain phthalates.
Bisphenol-A: The main way we get exposed to that nowadays is through receipts. So about 40% of retail receipts in the U.S. contains Bisphenol-A.
DW: Yeah, it’s like that plastic coating that is on receipt paper like when you get your receipt at the store, right?
SG: Yes, you should turn down that receipt. Don’t touch that.
DW: Get it emailed to you?
SG: Yes, exactly. Get it emailed to you. That’s a much better way to go.
Bisphenol-A is interesting, you know. It’s one of those, kind of, promiscuous endocrine disruptors because it’s not just a xenoestrogen. It doesn’t just screw up how estrogen is used in your body. It also is an androgen disruptor, so we find really high levels in women who can’t get pregnant and have polycystic ovary syndrome. We see Bisphenol-A also disrupting the thyroid.
So, many of these endocrine disruptors interrupt multiple hormone pathways and can lead to a lot of chaos and misfires, even when you feel like you’ve got your life pretty cleaned up.
DW: You said something that was really profound: 500 plus chemicals that we are putting on our skin.
I remember when I was writing the Longevity Now book definitely putting phthalates and DDE or any of these kind of endocrine disruptors, fake estrogens or hormones, on our skin is actually possibly more dangerous than eating it. Right? Because at least if you eat it you get it passed through the liver, but going directly through the skin, you don’t. It goes directly into the blood. Can you comment on that?
SG: Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think a lot of people are being careful about their food. You know, they eat organic, they are watching the quality of the food they are eating, and don’t realize that the majority of their exposure now is through their skin.
So you are exactly right. I can tell you that 15-20 years ago I would eat out at a restaurant and I wouldn’t pay attention to the kind of meat I was eating. I’m sure I was eating a lot of grain-fed CAFO meat from concentrated animal feeding operations that was chock full of hormones. That caused a disruption in my body. Now, hopefully our listeners don’t do that anymore! You don’t eat toxic meat. But that’s an example of how eating hormones, or getting exposed through your mouth, it then gets processed by the liver, you get this ‘first pass effect’, where the liver filters your blood, pulls out some of those hormones, and then sends it to the fat, where it gets stored.
But your skin is one of your largest organs in your body and it’s a place where you get exposed to a lot of chemicals, such as the plastic on the receipts that contains Bisphenol-A (BPA).
You know, Dave, last year when I saw you at The Women’s Wellness Conference™ I remember we talked about sensory acuity and developing that sense of when you are getting exposed to something toxic. Maybe you smell a fragrance, an artificial fragrance when you’re at somebody’s house, or maybe you haven’t taken a look lately at your shampoo bottle and whether there is any sodium lauryl sulfate in it.
We want to develop that sensory acuity so that you are limiting your toxic exposure.
DW: Now let’s talk about another issue that comes up a lot. Of course there is toxic chemicals we are putting on our skin – perfumes, deodorants, all kinds of things like that – but what about clothing?
The amount of pesticides and herbicides that is used in cotton just in this country: 7 sprays a season! I was looking that up and it was something like 30-something percent of the pesticides in the clothing can be absorbed through the skin. That’s another exposure area.
SG: You know, this is a really interesting area.
Just as we’ve gotten the message that we need to eat organic food, I don’t think we’re wearing organic clothing, and that is on our skin all the time.
I got really interested in this topic when I met a woman who has as her life mission to develop natural dyes and to wear clothes that are within 150 miles of where she lives. You know, fibers that are raised nearby, so that she is reducing carbon footprint and also reducing the environmental exposures that we have.
So you are exactly right, I mean, if you look at a pair of jeans, for instance. The average woman in the U.S. has about seven pairs of jeans in her closet. The amount of pesticides that are used to make a single pair of jeans is just astronomical. I can’t remember the number off the top of my head, but it’s like a few pounds of pesticides. And so I agree with you that it is a key exposure and one that we know very little about. We know very little of the science.
We do know that if you look at some of the places that produce jeans, like there is one location in China that makes something like 50% of the jeans used worldwide. If you take an aerial view of that factory, it’s on a place called the Pearl River, which is kind of ironic, you can see this toxic black sludge surrounding the factory from all the heavy metals, cobalt and other things, as well as just the load, the agricultural load, of pesticides and fungicides, etc. So I do think that is a key area.
So wear organic. I think that is the way to go.
DW: Alright. Cool. I’m doing that actually right now. I love to wear organic clothing.
Let’s talk about resetting our hormones. Your basic protocol. The stuff you’re going to be talking about at The Women’s Wellness Conference™. Give us a little bit of a sneak peek as to some of the key things we need to do to reset our hormones and get back to hormonal health. You know, the birthright that we really have of being healthy and happy late into our lives – 60, 70, and beyond.
SG: I’ve been taking care of patients for 25 years now and as I’ve gotten older, I feel like the complexity of resetting your hormones has actually gotten simpler, at least in my mind. So, I hope to be able to share that.
I think certainly there are some people who have a broken metabolism or have some pretty rough, deep-set hormonal issues that need more than a quick fix. But what is so exciting to me is that you have the tools that you have right now to reset your hormones and I think that is so empowering.
So, let me give you a couple of examples here.
In my family, pretty much every woman has genes that make them fat, diabetic, and stressed out and I know this because I have tested pretty much everyone.
DW: Now, when you’re saying this, you’re not talking about the jeans made in the factory in China, you’re talking about the genetic code.
SG: No, we’re talking about DNA. Yes, we’re talking about fitting into those jeans that are made in China..or fitting into the organic jeans.
SG: So, what’s happened in my family is almost every woman has had difficulty getting pregnant. They have either the lean or slightly overweight version of polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is the number one reason for infertility in the U.S. and so they end up getting prescribed this medication called metformin. That is a chemical that makes you more sensitive to the hormone insulin.
I’m the only person who didn’t have to take metformin and I want to tell you that there is this knee-jerk response in conventional medicine where you see someone who can’t get pregnant, when you see someone who has blood sugar problems, maybe some issues with testosterone, and you just automatically prescribe metformin.
There are much better ways to do it.
One of the best ways to reset your insulin, which is what I talk about in Chapter 4 of my new book, is to cut out sugar and artificial sweeteners. Now that includes alcohol. You have to cut it out for 21 days, which is also an important diagnostic test, and I think it is then crucial to track your fasting blood sugar and keep it in this very tight range, an optimal range, which is 70-85 mg/dL and you can even go look at a recent lab test that you’ve had done with your doctor and see where you were.
If you were above 85, there is a good chance you have a problem with insulin. You have insulin resistance, and if those things don’t fit your insulin, you can get additional help from a plant medicine like berberine.
DW: So, berberine, that’s interesting about that particular compound because that is found in a lot of berries and it’s actually found in a lot of different plants…because that’s actually a yellow pigment, if I recall, and it’s in many berries, but it’s also found in clover, as well.
SG: You’re exactly right. I mean it’s a really interesting herb that has been used for thousands of years. It’s been used in China and also in Ayurvedic medicine and it’s very powerful.
We’re just uncovering the molecular reasons why it helps you reset your blood sugar, but it’s been compared – here’s another cool study that just came out just a few years ago – it’s compared head-to-head in people with polycystic ovarian syndrome with metformin and it was actually BETTER than metformin.
So that’s what I think is really exciting – when plant medicine trumps conventional medicine in terms of helping people reset their hormones.
DW: Yeah, for sure. I’m always interested in that as well, and it seems like that is kind of where we are going.
Everyone realizes, “Hey, I want to get these things naturally. I want to get those things in my diet from my food.”
That’s kind of what our listeners right now are thinking, you know, like, “What do I need to eat now that really helps me?”
One of the things, berberine, you know where it is really prevalent? One of the highest sources is goldenseal. That’s another one. I’m pretty sure, if I recall, berberine is a yellow pigment.
You know, this is that thing about the pigment, the colors of these compounds, that actually indicates that, “Hey, this is something you actually need to be looking at that’s an actual COLOR.” You know, the colors indicate. For example, the yellow color indicates that it’s immunological. It indicates that it’s happy. That it’s something that can influence your mood.
SG: For sure, and it’s got antimicrobial activity, which ties in with what you’re saying about the immune system.
Berberine is, I think, one of the most amazing supplements out there and I agree with you that it’s great to get it from food.
When you take it as a supplement you have to be a little bit careful. You can’t take it if you’re trying to get pregnant or if you are pregnant, and you also don’t want to take it for more than 8 weeks, and I’ll talk more about that at The Women’s Wellness Conference™.
DW: Okay, cool. Awesome.
Tell us what else is going on? I mean, you do so many programs. You’ve got so many interesting things happening on the hormone front, give us a little bit of the background and basics because, you know, we hear so much about testosterone and estrogens and estradiol and estrone and DHEA and all that.
Can you kind of give us like the big picture of all that stuff and put it into a format where we can go, “Oh, okay, now I kind of see the overall picture of all this.”
SG: When I was first looking at this, I thought it was pretty complicated and as I learned the biochemistry I found it kind of overwhelming, but the way to really get the big picture, to get the 30,000 ft view, is really to go back to your stress response.
What kind of a person are you in response to the stressors of the day? Are you someone who is able to roll with the punches pretty well? Or are you someone who gets hooked or runs into trouble?
I say this because I have found in my own body, you know my story, Dave, of struggling quite a bit in my 30s with stress and PMS and low sex drive and other things like that, and part of my story here is that I fixed it for myself, and then I started to fit it with the people in my practice. It’s been just a really helpful strategy to help women get their hormones reset.
So, I think the key is to go back to the control system. So, rather than trying to tweak every little thing like, “I’ve got to dial in my estrogen! I need my testosterone-to-estradiol ratio to be this! I need my TSH to be this, and my P3 to be this, and my DHEA to be this!”
What I think is important is to go back to the control system and the control system really starts with the stress response, what’s known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA).
That’s a little complicated, but if you focus on what is going on with the cortisol levels in your body, like, how is cortisol getting signaled? How is it talking to the relationship between estrogen and progesterone? How is it talking to your androgen system, your DHEA and your testosterone? That’s a way of keeping it simpler and if you dial in your cortisol, it just helps improve all the other hormones.
So it’s like the simplest tweak to make and it has the greatest payoff. It has the greatest downstream benefit in terms of fixing your other hormones.
DW: What about, let’s talk about progesterone. This is something I’m always asked about.
My feeling is that somebody high up in the pharmaceutical ivy towers knows that progesterone is not a progestin, but they deliberately confuse that issue.
I want to talk about that because progesterone is such a dominant female hormone, it’s one of the things that makes a woman different from a man in the way, not just physically, but internally, like what’s going on in the way the brain works.
It’s definitely one of my go-to choices in terms of understanding how the whole system works.
Progesterone is able to neutralize so many estrogens, it’s like a 300:1 and progesterone is so protective, according to the research I’ve been doing. Give us a little bit of the skinny on progesterone.
SG: Yes, progesterone is super interesting. I think of it as nature’s valium. It’s the hormone that really soothes women. It soothes men too, but it’s much more concentrated in women and it’s interesting because it’s gotten a lot of attention lately because of its effect on the brain.
So, I think you were suggesting this Dave, progesterone itself acts like a neurosteroid and that’s actually a positive thing. So, it’s like a bomb for the brain. So, if you have an inflamed brain, if you have a problem with your microbiome, if you’re stressed out and you’re anxious and it’s really hard to soothe yourself, you probably need some progesterone.
Now we can do testing around that to kind of see if you need progesterone and if so, how much and which type is better – a topical, versus a troche, versus oral – but I think it’s a really crucial hormone and it’s a little bit in the shadows. You know, I feel like estrogen in some ways gets all the attention.
You know, there are about 16 different estrogens that we pay attention to and there is just one progesterone, which is the natural progesterone that you make, and progesterone balances a lot of those 16 different estrogens.
So, one of the things we track if we’re looking to see if someone has estrogen-dominance, too much estrogen compared to progesterone, we look at that progesterone-to-estradiol ratio, which you just mentioned is 300. So you want 300 progesterone molecules to every estradiol molecule in the female body.
Estradiol is the main reproductive estrogen that women make.
DW: Elevated estradiol late in life can be a problem. Let’s say you’re 63 and your estradiol is where it was when you were 13, that’s like a pending reproductive cancer problem, isn’t it?
SG: So, when it comes to these different estrogens, there are some estrogens that are protective and there are some estrogens, I think your term for it is “they do a black flip”. They become dangerous and provocative in the female body. Estradiol is really good and healthy in the female body as long as you have the right amount before you go through menopause.
After you go through menopause, it can cause more problems because it can do that backflip and be converted into some dangerous and provocative estrogens, like the catechol estrogens, which cause DNA damage, the forms of estrogen that are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, for instance.
DW: Yeah, I’m thinking of, it’s like 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone is one of those metabolites that is an indicator of pending reproductive cancer that is a metabolite of estradiol. I think that was one of them that came up, and there is a number of those, aren’t there?
SG: There are a number of those. There is the 2-hydroxyestrone, you can track your 2-to-16 ratio of the hydroxyestrones and I think the key part here is you want to make more of those protective estrogens.
Another key part here that we are just beginning to understand is how much your gut flora plays a role in determining your estrogen levels.
So, if you have dysbiosis, if you’ve got too many of the bad bacteria in your gut compared to the good bacteria, you’re going to make more of those dangerous and provocative estrogens, like the 16-hydroxyestrone and less of the protective estrogens.
So, this is another part of what I think is really exciting about the next 10-20 years of medicine is we are learning more and more about the gut flora, the microbiota and their DNA, the microbiome, and how much they modulate your hormones.
DW: I would love to hear a lot about that at The Women’s Wellness Conference™. Are you going to be talking about that subject right there? That’s a great subject.
SG: Absolutely! We’ll be talking about the estrobolome, the subset of the microbiome that controls estrogen levels, and you can pretty much throw any hormone in there. I’m going to make up this word, the “testosterobolome”. We’re going to talk about all of those.
DW: The estrobolome. The subset of the microbiome that affects or control estrogen. That sounds like a heavy metal band.
SG: It does sound like a heavy metal band, one I would definitely want to listen to.
DW: Okay, alright. Nice, me too.
For everybody who is listening, this is Dr. Sara Gottfried and I’m David “Avocado” Wolfe. We are going to be together at The Women’s Wellness Conference™ that’s coming up Friday, October 9th – Sunday, October 11th, 2015 at The Orange County Hilton in Costa Mesa, California.
This is our favorite venue, by the way. We have done at least a dozen events in this venue. We know this hotel really well. This is a hotel that orders organic food for our crew when we come in there, I mean, that’s how amazing this hotel is, and we are going to have the full run of the place so make sure if you are booking, check out all the details at www.womenswellnessconference.com and book early so you can get into that hotel and be part of what we are looking at somewhere between 800 – 1000 folks coming in from around the world to be at this event.
Dr. Sara, any parting words, any teases for The Women’s Wellness Conference™ that you’ve got for us?
SG: Well, I think the last thing I want to mention today is that I realized after studying hormones, eating, drinking and sleeping them for the past 25 years, I’ve gotten really aware of how you can think your way into a hormone balance. I find that shocking.
A lot of people know they’d benefit from meditating, there is so much science showing how it grows your brain and makes you happy, but they don’t consider the opposite, you know, about toxic thoughts and how the ‘monkey mind run amuck’ is maybe causing cortisol problems with stress hormones, or a slow thyroid, or a leaky gut, or autoimmunity, or estrogen dominance by blocking progesterone and just general hormonal chaos.
So, I think that’s one piece I’d like to leave our listeners with, that just as you can think your way into a hormone imbalance you can think your way into hormonal harmony, and I’m so excited to be talking about that at The Women’s Wellness Conference™.
DW: Great! I love that: “hormonal harmony”.
Everyone, this is Dr. Sara speaking to us and she is just a wealth of knowledge and a great asset to health in America and in the world today. Her online courses are very well attended. She is very well loved. She is the author of The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Reset Diet, so you need to get those books so she can educate you at home.
I’ve got your books actually on my desktop right here. You sent me them as kind of, pre-printed galley copies, so I get to reference them on my computer which is just wonderful.
Make sure that you stay on top of the information. We live in a toxic world and folks like Dr. Sara can guide us out.
We’re going to be focusing on this issue of hormones and many other issues, how we can stay thin, detoxify our bodies, slow down the aging process, at The Women’s Wellness Conference™. www.womenswellnessconference.com. We will see you there October 9th – October 11th, 2015 at The Orange County Hilton.
I’m David “Avocado” Wolfe wishing you the best day ever!
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