Answers to Your Personal Health Situation (with transcript)
Dr. Stephanie Gray is the author of the bestselling book “Your Longevity Blueprint” and the owner of the Integrative Health and Hormone Clinic based in Hiawatha, Iowa where she practices.
From gut to hormone health, optimizing your nutritional status to your genetics, and even detoxing the body, Stephanie is
excited to share her expertise with the world.
Frank Samson: Well, welcome to The Aging Boomers, I'm your host Frank Samson, of course. On our show we discuss so many of the issues facing Boomers, their parents, and of what we know is an aging a population. As always, I want to thank our listeners who are growing, and growing, of course. We're on the radio, but also have a podcast as well, which also appears on iTunes, iHeart Radio, Spreaker, Stitcher, bunch of other stations as well. Or certainly you could go to our website as well.
We have a wonderful guest with us today, someone with which we are going to talk about everyone’s personal health situation. We have with us Dr. Stephanie Gray. Stephanie is the author of the best-selling book, Your Longevity Blueprint, and the owner of Integrative Health and Hormone Clinic based in Hiawatha, Iowa, where she practices. From gut to hormone health, optimizing your nutritional status, to your genetics and even detoxing the body, Stephanie, or Dr. Gray, is excited to share her expertise with the world. Dr. Gray, thank you so much for joining us.
Stephanie Gray: Thank you for having me on, I'm excited to get rolling here.
Frank: So I know you wrote the book, Your Longevity Blueprint, and as an author myself, I'm always interested to hear kind of the catalyst for writing your book. What brought it on, and what were the steps that you took?
Stephanie: Sure, great question, I'll maybe give you the short version here of my answer. So, there were really two passions behind writing the book. One was my personal health struggle. I was born in what I consider to be a pretty healthy family, raised in Iowa here, and we were raised eating very healthy, home cooked meals, went to the chiropractor, took our vitamins, we were always engaged in some sort of physical activity, so I thought that I was pretty in tune with my body, I thought I was living a pretty healthy life, and for the most, I was. But around age 30, sitting at my desk one day, my heart rate took off and very fast. So I did not just have palpitations, which can be when you feel your heart beat through your chest, I had a very fast heart rate. And I'll never forget this day, I was a little disoriented, I couldn't even use the intercom system at the clinic because I didn't know which button to push, I wasn't sure what was happening to me. And I tried to walk down the hallway at the clinic and my nurse said I looked very pale. And long story short, I ended up in the emergency room.
It turns out I had tachycardia, which is a medical term for very fast heart rate. And this continued. It kept me up at night, and if you can't sleep you don't feel very well. I was dizzy, I was short of breath, I was exhausted. And I had a practice to maintain. So out of my desperation, very thankfully I had been practicing functional medicine, so I knew I had to implement the principles that I had encouraged my patients to implement for their health myself.
And around this same time, the second catalyst, for writing the book was the suggestion of my husband. He's our office manager at the clinic, and he said, "You know, a lot of patients come to our practice, and they don't have any idea what we can offer them." And so I took this opportunity, I was empathizing with my patients and their desperation, needing answers to their health solution, and I took the recommendation of my husband and together wrote this Longevity Blueprint.
Essentially I wanted to clarify all of what we offer at the clinic. I really wanted to create this blueprint concept and map out all the steps that I took to regain my health, but offer that as a solution also for my patients regardless of their health situation.
Frank: So the term, Longevity Blueprint, when I think of a blueprint I think of a blueprint for a home. All right, but it's kind of the same-
Frank: Kind of the same thing, I guess, right?
Stephanie: Yeah. So throughout the book I'm really comparing your health to your home, which I thought was a pretty easy analogy. Most of us probably mow our lawn, or have someone that mows our lawn. We keep hair out of our drain, we're quarterly changing our furnace filters. There are things that we just do for our home to maintain it. But many times we don't know how to maintain our body. If we want to live in our home a long time, we know we need to keep that house in pretty good shape. And the same is true with our bodies, and I'm not talking just about physical activity, and exercise, and eating clean. With my health, I was always doing those things and I needed this blueprint, found this outline, to really get to the root cause of my problem.
And so that's what I do in the book, I use functional medicine principles, and through each chapter with this blueprint concept, which I’ll go into a little bit, I'm comparing all of the different parts of our home.
Many individuals don't realize that a lot of their symptoms could originate in the gut. And so that's the first step, that's why chapter one is so important, because I want to help educate patients on how to build really good gastrointestinal health. And again, I'm comparing that to the foundation. And then I go chapter by chapter, comparing various parts of the house to various organ systems in the body, and I discuss the functional medicine testing options available, nutritional products, whatnot. And we can get into further chapters. But that's just an example of what I'm trying to convey with this blueprint concept.
Frank: You’ve mentioned gut health quite a bit already, and I was wondering if maybe you could just clarify what you mean by gut health for us.
Stephanie: Sure. So the microbiome is kind of becoming a buzzword. Many individuals have heard about how important taking probiotics are, making sure you have a lot of good bacteria in your gut. We're learning that the majority of our immune system lies within our gut. And that is also where much inflammation gets started. So many patients don't always realize that a ... we'll just maybe for example use a skin condition could originate from poor gut health. So if someone has eczema, or psoriasis, or acne whatnot, many times those symptoms could be a result of food sensitivities. Eating foods that are causing inflammation in the gut that then is showing up on the skin.
The foods that are commonly causing inflammation are gluten, which is the protein in wheat, barley, rye, and oats, unless the oats are gluten free, dairy, specifically cow's dairy, so cow's milk, butter, and cheese, eggs, sugar can cause problems, and the list goes on and on. The best way to determine which foods could be causing inflammation impacting gut health, and impacting the gut microbiome is to test. And that's something that functional medicine practitioners offer that oftentimes conventional medicine doesn't offer. So we can test our patients to see which foods are triggering that inflammation.
Now, I use skin conditions as one example, but one of the other cases that I mentioned in the book was a good friend of mine who had chronic migraine. She struggled with migraines for years and years, and she was my college roommate, and she missed out on a lot of life because of them. It wasn't until I had started my practice, I asked her if she'd be willing to allow me to do some testing on her. And long story short, she did have Celiac disease, which is beyond a gluten sensitivity, it's full blown auto-immune disease where she will never consume gluten, so again, the wheat, barley, or rye, ever again. But to this day, her migraines are gone. And her neurologist had never once asked her what she was eating. They had never drawn that association between gut health and neurologic health. So those are just a couple examples of why gut health is so important. Inflammation there can impact any organ system in the body.
Frank: Interesting. So you've mentioned the term functional medicine a couple times, and maybe you could explain further the difference between functional medicine versus conventional medicine, and what you need to know about that.
Stephanie: You bet. So we do use that term here at our clinic. Within functional medicine what we tell patients is that we work to get to the root cause of the problem. And if you want to learn more about functional medicine, you can visit the Institute for Functional Medicine's website. But back to what functional medicine is, we do different testing, we provide different testing for patients. We tell patients we're more of a carpenter or a contractor, as I describe in the book, to help them repair and rebuild their body, and really get at that root cause of the problem.
Now, we can compare that to conventional medicine, which is more of the fire department. They're here, we need them, but they're to put out big, bad, ugly fires. But their tools are only drugs and surgery. So if I go back to that psoriasis or eczema condition that I mentioned, the first option that may be recommended is a topical steroid cream. Now that's a bandaid approach, right? That's not going to get at the root cause of the problem. So while there are times and places for medications, they are absolutely necessary especially if you get in a car accident, need surgery, whatnot, we need the fire department, we need conventional medicine. But sadly, when many patients are discharged from the hospital, they're never told how to prevent future fires. If you're hospitalized with high blood pressure, you're but on blood pressure medication, you're never necessarily told how can we get that blood pressure down? And that's really the difference with functional medicine, is we try to get to the root cause of the problem.
Frank: So what's kind of functional medicine's approach to some of the top health problems, and how does it differ from conventional?
Stephanie: Sure, maybe I'll use fatigue for example. I see patients come in all the time with fatigue. So conventional medicine may run some basic labs, but ultimately, many times patients are told their labs are normal. I have patients in my office every week that say, "I already saw my regular doc, they tell me my symptoms are all in my head, they say I shouldn't be tired, I just need to lose weight." So conventional medicine may eventually put them on a stimulant, you know, something like Adderall, to keep them awake during the day, whatnot. But with functional medicine, we're going to explore maybe there are nutritional deficiencies leading to that fatigue. There's got to be a reason why the patient is tired. So is there a vitamin D deficiency? Especially living in Iowa here, we're north of Texas obviously, pretty much everyone north of Texas can oftentimes be low in vitamin D. Maybe the patient is low in B vitamins.
Or if we jump from nutritional deficiencies to low hormones, maybe the patient has low thyroid, and they haven't had their thyroid checked comprehensively, or maybe even low testosterone. Unfortunately, I'm seeing low testosterone very commonly in my middle aged patients. Many of them are taking statin medications, which are the most commonly prescribed medications for lowering cholesterol, and sadly you need cholesterol to make testosterone to help with energy. If we're blocking testosterone, or cholesterol, with those medications, we're blocking the body's ability to make testosterone.
So in those patients complaining of fatigue, we're going to check their hormones. I'm going to assess if they're on medications that could be part of the reason why they're tired. And circling back around to gut health, maybe they're eating foods that are dragging them down. When I have gluten, not only does my heart race, I feel lethargic, almost intoxicated, I feel so tired and out of it.
Stephanie: And so maybe the patient needs to modify their diet to really improve the fatigue. So those are just three examples of kind of how we would approach that common complaint of fatigue through functional medicine principles.
Frank: So you've brought up gluten a couple times, and we're seeing in our average grocery store sections of gluten free, and many hearing about many more people that are gluten free because they need to be, or are gluten free because they want to be. How is it that this has just become a phenomenon now, and how come it wasn't an issue years ago? Or maybe it was and we just didn't realize it.
Stephanie: Sure. So it's not just gluten. I think food allergies in general are on the rise. Peanuts aren't even allowed in schools anymore because so many children have full blown not just sensitivities, but peanut allergies. So my personal opinion, my personal answer to that, is that unfortunately in our country, we allow so many herbicides, and pesticides, and genetically modified foods, that our immune systems don't know what to do with these structures, and so our body mounts this attack response and says, "We don't like these foods that you're putting in our system."
Personally, on my honeymoon about five or six years ago, my husband and I went to Europe and I did eat bread there, and I felt fine. So clearly there's a difference between what they were allowing in their country, and what we allow in ours. I think sadly our food in this country has become so tainted, not only with the chemicals that are used, but our food sources are also extremely nutritionally deficient. Our soil should have trace minerals, producing foods rich in the same, but our soils have been over farmed, and the use of all these chemicals is really robbing our food of nutrients.
USDA agricultural figures will really even show that the mineral content in food these days is nothing compared to what it was three generations ago, it could be down 50%. Which is really sad, because then we actually now need to supplement. We don't need to just eat right, we need to supplement to make up for those potential nutritional deficiencies.
Frank: You know, on our show, and based on its name, we talk a lot about aging and memory loss, and dementia, and there's a lot of discussion on that on many of our shows. And I'd like for you to talk a little, in your book, on optimizing hormones to help fight aging. Like memory loss, osteoporosis, you mentioned fatigue earlier. But can you talk a little bit more about that and how that could be beneficial to our listeners?
Stephanie: Sure. I'll talk about boosting hormones two ways here. So first I'll talk about the younger patient, who may still have all of their organs. And then I'll talk about the population that may have had, for instance, the females who have had hysterectomies and hormone replacement therapy. If the patient still has the organs that produce hormones, there are some things that we can do to help those organs really boost hormones, because hormones are essential in preserving memory. That's why a lot of women go through ... and men, go through the change, they go through menopause or andropause, and suddenly their memory, their cognition, their retention is just not where it used to be.
I do have a PDF on my website, YourLongevityBlueprint.com, a free PDF you can download, on the top three tips to boost hormones naturally. So I'll briefly go through these three tips.
The first tip is to reduce stress. Stress is our body's biggest hormone hijacker, so many of us have years and years where we're experiencing fight or flight. We have so much on our plate, so many responsibilities, and stress is only working against us. So really taking time, it may sound silly, but literally to help preserve memory and preserve your hormones, taking time for yoga, deep breathing, meditation, allowing your body mental down time, is so important.
Secondly, really reducing your toxin exposure. I already alluded to the chemicals on the food. If you can eat organic, that is very helpful. If you can choose safe, personal care products that aren't laced with parabens and phthalates and all these chemicals we're now hearing about, which essentially can impact our endocrine system, really even avoiding things with fragrance, fragrance can be just a nasty word that contains a lot of chemicals, that have those hidden endocrine disruptors. So reducing our toxin exposure will help.
And then thirdly, I alluded to fixing nutritional deficiencies. So many of us drink coffee in the morning, coffee will deplete magnesium. It depletes not only magnesium, several other nutrients. So taking a high quality multivitamin, taking the vitamin D, fish oil, whatever nutrients you need, which we actually can test for at our clinic, we can run a comprehensive nutritional evaluation looking at vitamin, mineral, amino acid, antioxidant, and omega need. Fixing those nutritional deficiencies, reducing your toxin exposure, and reducing stress are three things that you can do to help your body produce hormones naturally.
But I realize some of our listeners may say, "Well, I've had a hysterectomy, so what can I do now to boost hormones?" Hormones, specifically I think I should get into also just the benefit of. So briefly, estradiol, probably heard of estrogen before, men and women both have estrogen. But estradiol specifically can help with hot flashes, night sweats, the memory that I alluded to, bone density, and vaginal dryness. Progesterone is the most soothing, calming hormone, it's great for sleep, anxiety, and moodiness, and also bone density. And testosterone is great for mood, motivation, drive, libido, energy, bone density, and also maintaining muscle mass. Hormones really help us feel good, and they also can help improve our relationships. And when we feel good and more like ourselves, we are kinder to others, and we are in a better mental state. So if you've had a hysterectomy, or if you haven't but we can't get the body to produce hormones at higher levels, I'm very much for natural hormone replacement therapy. And whenever we talk about hormones, the cancer word comes up. So I want to diffuse some myths, and differentiate natural hormones from synthetic hormones.
Stephanie: And this is very much heavily discussed in chapter six of my book, where I'm comparing the heating and cooling system of the home to the endocrine system in the body. So, many of our listeners are probably aware of the Women's Health Initiative study. This was done on many women years ago, and these women were given Premarin, which is essentially pregnant mare's urine, it was a synthetic estrogen given by mouth. And in that study, there were increased risks of cardiovascular disease and cancers, and the study was stopped.
So naturally, I try to not replicate what was done in that study in my practice for my patients. So instead, there are bioidentical, or natural hormones available that are not horse urine. Instead they come from a plant based source, usually yam. They are made by a compounding pharmacy, and they're usually not taken by mouth. There are other routes available to take the hormone. And I believe very strongly when given the hormones in the right dosage, or the right form, the plant form, and then given in a safe route of administration, they can be used very safely long term. In fact, the benefits are phenomenal. I've had patients greatly improve their bone density. I've never seen any drug improve bone density as much as hormone replacement therapy.
Frank: That's great information. Great information. So you had mentioned vitamins, or certain vitamins, vitamin D, and supplements. Kind of give us the scoop on supplements. I mean, how can really people determine what is best for them. Can you give us some guidance on that?
Stephanie: Sure. I actually have another blog on my website titled How to Select High Quality Supplements. I do think many of us need to supplement, and I think we need to read labels. So there's a lot of false marketing available, that say, "Women's one a day vitamin, it's going to have everything you need." Well, if everything you need is in one teeny little pill, and it's heated and compressed into a tablet, you might just hear a clink in the toilet, it might not even really get properly absorbed. So high quality multivitamins are usually not going to be in tablets, they're going to be in capsules, maybe liquids or powders. And to be honest, the dosage is probably going to be two, four, six, or even eight per day. So if they're saying one per day I usually tell patients that's likely not the way ... likely not a high quality product.
You want to make sure that you also think of the reputation of the company that you're purchasing the products for. So we all are familiar with Consumer Report. We may look at that if we're going to purchase electronics, like a TV or something. There actually is a report out there also for supplements that ranks various brands. And so I tell patients from a five star rating, five stars being the highest, you want to select the highest star ranked brand, that has met United States Pharmacopeia standards, and good manufacturing practice of products. And so that's a book we have in our clinic that patients can certainly look through.
Generally speaking, if the supplements are purchased a licensed clinician office like our clinic, at a chiropractor's office, at a pharmacy, they're probably going to be a little higher quality than other over the counter products. But reputation of those brands really does matter.
And you want to have realistic expectations as far as what you're going to purchase. What you're going to pay for. So if you're getting a month's supply of probiotics for $10.00, probably not the highest quality, right? I don't want me patients wasting a little money on junk products, we want to make sure they're getting the best bang for their buck, the most available form of nutrient. And that's something that licensed clinicians like myself can really recognize, if a product is high quality or if it’s cheap. But go check out that blog post, and really finding a functional medicine provider can help you really select those high quality products also.
Frank: Great. Well you're a wealth of information, and I know there's probably a lot more information in your book, and on your site, and your blog, so why don't you share with our listeners how they can get your book, and how they could learn more about all this great information.
Stephanie: Sure. Sure my practice website is I-H-H Clinic.com. That stands for the Integrative Health and Hormone Clinic. Again, like you mentioned, we're in Iowa. And then my book at supplement website is YourLongevityBlueprint.com. And for the audience we are offering 10% off store wide purchases, and the book of course as well. YourLongevityBlueprint.com is where you're going to find the most information, and all of our links to our social media sites as well. The code is Thank Aging Boomers, and then you will get 10%.
Frank: Very nice. Very nice. Great. Well, Dr. Gray thank you so much for joining us on The Aging Boomers, it's again, a wealth of information, really appreciate it, and continued luck with your book. I just want to thank everybody for joining us. And just be safe out there, and we'll talk to you all soon.