by Mara Soloway, I Start Wondering Columnist
The human body is really quite a feat of nature. At that fateful moment when egg meets sperm, our individual systems that function as a whole – chemical, mechanical, electrical, structural, pleasure and pain – begin formation. Hopefully, all goes as it should. Hopefully, these systems work in tandem for a good many years.
However, as we age, these systems age along with us and operate less reliably. Women I know in their 60s and beyond are facing chronic diseases that don’t have a cure or that require surgery. Some have lasting effects of health issues they ignored for too long. As one friend said, there is no guidebook for getting ill at our age. And medical advice doesn’t address the emotional reactions – including fear and anger. Therapy is sometimes a must-do.
Thankfully, sometimes we can find the right solution.
On the Right Trail
A few years ago, after years of routinely taking the prescription Synthroid for hypothyroidism, I realized that I still had most of the symptoms that the drug is supposed to help with – dry skin, low metabolism, and weight gain. I asked the physician’s assistant in my primary care physician’s office to recommend a savvy endocrinologist.
On my first visit with Dr. B, I knew immediately she had the tenacity to find a solution. I let her know up front I was looking for someone who would go beyond the cycle of a yearly blood test, followed by a yearly thyroid prescription. I was looking for someone who would figure out what would work for me in my 60s.
Besides delving deeper into my hormones as a whole, Dr. B recommended I read Dr. Aviva Romm’s first book on women’s hormonal health. Dr. Romm finds interconnectivity in our bodily systems – heart, brain, hormonal – and takes us beyond the silo approach of modern medicine. If you’ve ever felt women are at the mercy of their hormones, reading this book will change that attitude into one of empowerment.
I followed some of Dr. Romm’s tenets, and, I won’t say life is completely stress-free, but I feel I have a better handle on handling stress. I also went down one clothing size; this was not a magic bullet — staying at that size requires I keep up with her program.
The book is The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution: A Proven 4-Week Program to Rescue Your Metabolism, Hormones, Mind & Mood by Aviva Romm, M.D. (2018). (I haven’t yet read her 2021 book, Hormone Intelligence: The Complete Guide to Calming Hormone Chaos and Restoring Your Body’s Natural Blueprint for Well-Being.)
On her website, Dr. Romm describes herself as “an M.D., midwife, and herbalist who sees health and medicine a different way than a lot of doctors.” A practicing family physician with a specialty in integrative women's health and obstetrics, she was a founding member of the Yale Integrative Medicine Program and teaches and lectures internationally on women's health.
The epigraph of The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution is a Chinese proverb, “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” Romm wants to see a revolution in women’s healthcare--starting with the medical profession listening to women. Through this book, Romm encourages her readers to take back their health and gives a 28-day plan that can help us do so. Viva la revolución!
Her message in this book is that our bodies are innately wise and want to naturally work toward balancing our health. By taking charge of key lifestyle choices like diet and exercise, we can reduce our chronic health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
The roots of our imbalances include stress, poor sleep and overwhelm, obesity, depression and anxiety, and autoimmune disease.
Getting to the Root of the Problems
Dr. Romm feels chronic health issues are connected by what she calls Survival Overdrive Syndrome – SOS, which occurs when the body is overloaded by stressors and compounded by emotional and mental stress, food triggers, gut imbalance, toxic overload, and stealth infections.
Because of the structure of our medical system, patients are sent to specialist doctors in areas such as endocrinology, gynecology, internal medicine, etc. This approach is like the proverbial “having too many chefs in the kitchen,” making it easy for physicians to focus narrowly on their one area of expertise and miss the overall problem.
Romm lays out her solution to “strengthen and balance multiple systems in your body by healing the root imbalances that are impacting you the most.” By removing what is harming us and supplying the missing elements our bodies need for healing, we can move toward health and a balanced system.
You are going to earn a minor in endocrinology by delving into The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution! The very broad overview is:
The adrenal system and the thyroid control so many of our bodily functions (mood, hormones, inflammation, immunity, energy, weight, willpower, blood sugar, and more). We don’t want to stress these systems.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis controls the stress response.
When we feel stressed, our bodies go into survival mode to heighten our awareness. The adrenal glands pump out the chemical adrenaline and also the steroid hormone cortisol.
The system works well unless we are triggered too often or for too long (e.g., for hours on end at work or at home).
The body needs to turn off being in survival mode—and we should not operate in this stressful state long term. When it is not turned off, it ramps up blood sugar and insulin release – the root of many health problems.
Romm’s 28-day process is designed to Reboot, Reframe, Repair, Recharge and Replenish. Each section includes dietary tenets (including herbal remedies), actions to take (e.g., meditate, walk, have sex), improving gut health, and more.
Reboot: remove triggers (including cutting out caffeine because your body reacts to the stimulant as a stressor and moves into survival mode), restore self-healing
Reframe: calm your mind and mood
Repair: heal your gut, boost immunity, support detoxification, and balance your hormones
Recharge: nourish your adrenals and thyroids
Replenish: eat for life (recipes included in the book)
The book is quite in-depth, and I feel it is worth it to delve into and understand how to improve your metabolism and overall health. Get your own copy so you can answer the quizzes and fill in the tables.
As with the brain health books I recently reviewed, there’s a lot to consider at this time – such as blood testing, dietary changes, and supplements that could cause an upheaval in your current routine. Take it slow – consider what you might tackle first. It’s a 28-day program, but it could take you that long to sort out all the information! If you have a great health professional like I do, start discussing the topics in the book with her.
(Because I’m a layperson, I’m basing my summary of this book on my understanding. Please do further research on your own — including talking to your doctor or another health professional – to get a full scope of information that is tailored to you.)
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Tell me what you think. What are you doing these days to improve your health? Which medical professionals do you recommend reading and listening to?