Aging can be brutal for men and women alike. Women often experience weight gain, diminished sex drive, hot flashes, memory loss, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. Aging men likewise experience a loss of energy, stamina, and sex drive.
After years of being thin, fit, and full of energy, actress and best-selling author Suzanne Somers encountered what she calls the “Seven Dwarfs of Menopause”: Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful, and All-Dried-Up. Rather than live the rest of her life feeling cranky, tired, and irritable, Suzanne set out to discover how to regain her mind, body, and life. Her search led her to bioidentical hormones—natural hormones that mimic the hormones produced in our bodies, which are almost completely lost with aging. With recent medical research pointing to the dangers of synthetic hormone replacement therapy, growing numbers of women—and men—are searching for natural alternatives to relieve the symptoms of menopause and andropause.
Having regained her health and happiness, and determined to spread the word, Suzanne has written a new best-selling book, The Sexy Years: Discover the Hormone Connection. In it, she describes her own research and experiences, shares the expertise of leading doctors in the field of women’s and men’s health, and offers practical advice and tools to help aging women and men turn their lives around. Suzanne recently sat down with Life Extension’s William Faloon to discuss her book and how bioidentical hormones have enabled her and others to approach the second half of life with joy and anticipation.
William Faloon: Suzanne, let me start by saying how enthused we are that you could join us and share your message about the life-altering effects of hormone replacement therapy.
Suzanne Somers: I’m privileged to be able to put this message out because I think it’s so important. It changed my life so much, I feel it’s something that others need to know about.
WF: I had the same personal experience at the age of 44. I was testosterone deficient, and I began using testosterone cream and Arimidex®, and my life just totally turned around.
SS: My son is 40, an athlete, in great physical shape, he eats right and works out, and he has a great business. He found out that he was testosterone deficient. He just kept saying, “I’m losing my energy.” I sent him to my doctor. She did his blood work and discovered he was low in testosterone, DHEA, and growth hormone. Now, after hormone replacement, he feels amazing.
WF: Many of our members are aware of hormone replacement therapy. What’s significant is that you’re now promoting it in a way that I think everyone will understand it—unlike all these scientific books that may be over some people’s heads.
SS: I’m fascinated by physiology and always have been. I’ve been able to take the medical reports and put them into what I call “easy speak,” so we all can understand it. This information is so important, but it can seem overwhelming if it’s not explained well.
WF: It’s easy for you and I to comprehend it, yet medical doctors tell me, “Well, I don’t know how to read a hormone profile blood report, so therefore I won’t prescribe hormones.” To which I say, “Gee, the reference ranges are right there in the report, it’s not that difficult.”
SS: One of the things I uncovered in researching this book is that all doctors, including gynecologists, have only had approximately four hours of instruction in the whole hormonal system. A nurse called me on the air the other day and said, “I just finished your book, and I agree with you. When I was in nursing school, we had only four lines in our textbook relative to hormones.”
Today’s technology, which is fantastic, will keep us alive to 90 or 100 years old, but science has not made plans for our quality of life. I love the idea of living to be 90 or 100, but I don’t want to be senile or have Alzheimer’s or a weak heart or type II diabetes or tubes up my nose or be in a wheelchair.
This book was the most advantage I’ve ever taken of celebrity. I used my name to call everybody, and all the doctors I interviewed took my calls and were so forthcoming. I wanted to talk only to cutting-edge, Western-trained doctors—not naturalists, herbalists, or anybody from a health food store. The most cutting-edge doctors are endocrinologists, because endocrinology is a new subset. Most endocrinologists are on the younger side, say, 40 or 45 years old. They know what hormone replacement is all about. What they all told me is that they feel that hormonal imbalance is at the root of every human ailment and disease.
Before we start doing surgery and giving out drugs, the first thing that should be done is to take a hormone panel, see where the hormone levels are, know what normal levels are for that person’s age and gender, and restore them to balance. This applies even to a toddler who a doctor would normally put on Ritalin®. There are so many children on Ritalin®, it doesn’t seem right. They should test the blood of small children and see if the reason they’re so hyperactive or have ADHD is due to a hormonal imbalance. Short-term hormone therapy is not a drug and it’s not anywhere near as harsh as Ritalin®.
WF: So you feel the benefits of hormone replacement are not limited to aging women and men?
SS: The same thing applies for teenagers with raging hormones and alarming suicide rates. The doctors predict that in the future, if your teenager’s are acting wacky, you’ll take them to a hormone specialist, do a blood test, check their hormone levels, and restore them by stabilizing their moods and chemicals.
It also applies for women who give birth. When they cut that umbilical cord from us, all our progesterone leaves us. Progesterone is our feel-good hormone, and that is what postpartum depression is all about. Just look at the case of someone like Andrea Yates, the woman who drowned all five of her children. Maybe she was schizophrenic and heard voices and that was it, but it could also have been that she was so depleted of progesterone that she became delusional, which can also happen.
For menopausal women, hormone replacement is obvious, and for andropausal men, it’s obvious. I don’t know if people know this, but we women lose 90% of our hormones over a two-year period. It’s such a dramatic change.
WF: We appreciate how often you emphasize the critical importance of blood testing.
SS: Yes, absolutely. This is not guesswork or haphazard. Hormonal balancing can’t be too much or too little. Even with bioidentical hormones—which are real hormones, as opposed to synthetic hormones that are not real hormones but are drugs—you don’t want too much or too little. Because when we were young and produced a full complement of hormones, we had a steady stream of just the right amount coursing through our bodies 24 hours a day. At my age, when 90% of my hormones left me over a two-year period, what my doctor did was take my blood work, see where my levels were, prescribe a bioidentical prescription from the compounding pharmacy, and put back exactly what I needed. When that happened, the quality of my life came back in a way that was better than it had ever been. To be in my metabolic prime with these bio-identical hormones, and then to add to it the wisdom and perspective that comes with aging, it’s about as good as it gets. It’s better than being 20, 30, or 40.
WF: What age were you when your hormones were restored?
SS: I went into menopause on my fiftieth birthday, literally at my fiftieth birthday party. I’ve been on hormones for seven years. They’ve absolutely changed my life and my husband’s life. I am so easy to live with because I’m hormonally balanced. I truly wake up happy almost every morning of my life, feeling joyous. It’s not a stoned feeling or a false good feeling like an antidepressant would give you, it’s just balanced joy.
WF: Feeling young in and of itself is a wonderful effect.
SS: Yes. For example, lets say that you’re a man on your fiftieth birthday. You’re feeling good, virile and energetic, your muscles are cut and defined, you’ve been working out, you’re in good shape, you can lift things that other people can’t, and you’ve got your creative energy, vitality, and sexual drive. Now, imagine if I said to you that starting on your fiftieth birthday, you’re not going to sleep anymore, because there are no hormones to regulate your body temperature. It feels like the worst fever you’ve ever had, off and on, all day and all night, which makes it impossible for you to sleep. You’re going to forget everything, because there are no nutrients going to your brain. You’re going to cry a lot because you haven’t been sleeping. You’re going to fly off the handle because your chemicals are so out of balance that you aren’t in control of your temper. You’re going to bloat, even if you’re not eating anything. Your ankles and wrists are going to be swollen; in fact, your whole body is going to be kind of swollen and uncomfortable. And you’re going to lose your sex drive.
If you said that to a man, he’d look at you like you were crazy. Yet women go in with these complaints and our doctors tell us we have to “tough it out.” “Tough it out” is not a medical remedy; it means just live through this suffering while you’re in a constant state of deterioration. It’s not just that you feel bad, but also that the nutrients provided by hormones to all of your bodily functions and organs are draining out. Therefore, there’s a shutdown of all those systems and organs. Young people don’t get the diseases of aging because they make a full complement of hormones. Older people have the diseases of aging because of the drain of hormones. Aging is a loss of hormones.
WF: We’ve reported on a new study showing that testosterone deficiency is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. That means that if you do everything else right—eat right, exercise, keep your cholesterol down—low testosterone by itself will dramatically increase your risk of having a heart attack.
SS: And here’s why. Testosterone is not only a sex hormone, but also a hormone that is essential for both men and women. But testosterone is also an anabolic steroid. Anabolic steroids build bone and muscle, and the heart is the largest muscle in the body. There are more testosterone cell-receptor sites on this muscle than any other muscle in the body. As we lose our testosterone, our hearts lose their pumping power. The more testosterone you lose, the less pumping power you have, and coupled with that comes a loss of vitality and energy, and other degenerative issues. Don’t forget, men also require estrogen and the correct ratio of estrogen to testosterone for their maleness. When they start losing testosterone, they start overproducing estrogen. As estrogen overproduces, it diminishes a man’s ability to perform sexually.
Every doctor that I talked to, including brain specialists, told me that too little estrogen in men and women is now being linked to Alzheimer’s disease. To prevent Alzheimer’s, we need an environment of balanced hormones, including estrogen, for the protection it gives your brain. That’s why the 83-year-old woman named Eve who I interviewed in my book, who has been on bioidentical hormones now for 20 years, is as sharp as a tack. She told me, “I have to drive my friends everywhere, they can’t remember anything. I get up every morning and dance to Roy Orbison or the Beatles while I’m making my bed. Then I go to exercise class.” I asked her, “What about sex?” She said, “I don’t have sex because I carried a torch for my husband for so long that I took myself out of the market. But I have sexual feelings. If the right guy came along, I would be ready. The problem is, men my age are so low on testosterone that they wouldn’t be able to handle me.”