Diet and Skin Care

Monday, August 29, 2011 by Dr. Susan Lark
What natural skin care ingredients you use ON your skin are important for the health and well-being of your skin. 

But what you eat can have a significant impact on your skin, as well. For instance, refined sugar in particular can exacerbate a host of skin problems, like acne. (And it doesn't matter if you are in your reproductive years, premenopause, or menopause...all women get acne!) First, sugar prompts the secretion of androgens, hormones that cause oil glands to go into overdrive. Second, sugar causes an insulin response in the body, which leads to inflammation. When pores become blocked, then inflamed, bacteria get trapped under the skin, which leads to pimples and blackheads. This inflammatory response can also aggravate other conditions like rosacea and eczema.

So, along with taking skin-supportive nutrients, using the best natural skin care products on the market, and balancing your female hormones, give your kitchen pantry a major overhaul. Get rid of all refined carbohydrates and foods high in sugar, fat, and ingredients you can’t pronounce. Your diet should be overwhelmingly rich in vegetables and fruits (preferably organic), whole grains, raw nuts, legumes, occasional free-range poultry, and wild-caught fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. 

Restore Luscious Locks with Lavender

Monday, August 15, 2011 by Dr. Susan Lark
One of the unfortunate effects of menopause that seems to happen to many women is thinning hair. When estrogen levels drops and hormones are less balanced, hair tends to fall out faster and grow back slower. Fortunately, an essential oil has been found to help.  

One of the most widely accepted natural treatments for hair loss and promoting healthy scalp circulation is lavender. A study reported in the Archives of Dermatology indicated that 3 drops of lavender (along with 2 drops each of thyme and cedarwood and 3 drops of rosemary in a carrier-oil blend of 1/2 teaspoon of jojoba oil and 4 teaspoons of grapeseed oil) promoted hair growth and healthy scalp circulation! In fact, 44 percent of the treatment group enjoyed new hair growth, as compared to 15 percent of the control group. And there were none of the adverse side effects frequently found with conventional treatments for hair loss.

If you would like to try this treatment option, you can use lavender three ways:

1. Use a diffuser to disperse micro-particles of the essential oil in the air. 

2. Apply through your skin by bath, compresses, massage, or simple topical application. 

3. Spray infused waters in the air or onto your skin. (Lavender also is a component of some wonderful natural beauty care products.) 

Essential oils can be purchased in health food and beauty stores, but keep in mind that the quality of the oil may vary. For the highest quality, look for oils packaged in small dark blue or brown vials. Also, prices within a particular brand line will vary, as some essential oils are far more expensive than others. A product line with similar pricing throughout may be offering oils of inferior quality. 

Increase Estrogen Levels for a Wrinkle Free Face

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 by Dr. Susan Lark

Along with providing your skin with important nutrients, proper female hormone balance is essential for healthy, moist, and resilient skin, particularly because of the action of estrogen on the skin. Estrogen is responsible for the deposition of fat under the skin, which gives rise to the soft and fine-textured skin that many women enjoy during their younger years. Estrogen also keeps the skin looking and feeling plump and healthy.

During your active reproductive years, your body produces enough estrogen to properly support the structure and texture of your skin. But when you enter the menopausen, your estrogen levels start dropping, which causes your skin to become drier, and the underlying collagen connective tissue, muscle, and fat tissues that give skin its support also begin to shrink, leading to more apparent creases and wrinkles.

While that all sounds like doom-and-gloom, keep your head up because there are plenty of nutrients you can take to rebalance and restore your hormones levels naturally, resulting in plumped up and moisturized skin. The following nutrients either create estrogen-like activity in your body or help you to produce more of your own estrogen. They also slow down the metabolism and excretion of the estrogen you do produce, thereby raising your own estrogen levels. You can use as many or as few of the following nutrients as you need to achieve your desired level of hormonal support. 

  • Boron is a trace mineral found in apples, grapes, almonds, legumes, and dark-green leafy vegetables. There is some evidence that boron enhances estrogenic activity. In one study, when women on estrogen therapy supplemented their normally low-boron diet with 3 mg of boron, their blood levels of estrogen were significantly elevated. Based on this research, I suggest taking 3 mg of boron per day.
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) is a fat-soluble B vitamin necessary for the production of folic acid. It helps to safely and effectively impede the breakdown of estrogen in the liver. I recommend taking 400–500 mg of PABA a day in divided doses.
  • Wheat germ oil is rich in vitamin E, which has mildly estrogenic properties. In fact, wheat germ oil contains the fatty acids and other nutrients that your body needs to support and produce hormones such as estrogen. I recommend taking 2,000–2,400 mg of wheat germ oil in capsule form a day, in divided doses.
  • Cobalt slows down the excretion of estrogen, thus allowing you to better maintain your own production of estrogen. It is able to do this by stimulating the production of heme oxidase. This, in turn, promotes the breakdown of cytochrome p450, a substance that normally metabolizes and detoxifies estrogen. By breaking down this substance, cobalt helps to prevent estrogen metabolism and excretion. I suggest taking 400–500 mcg of cobalt a day. To further improve your cobalt status, you can also take 100–500 mcg of vitamin B12 a day. Research shows that cobalt is supplied in your body by B12. If you have adequate levels of B12, you likely have adequate amounts of cobalt, as well.
  • Black cohosh is an estrogenic herb that was often prescribed in colonial times to treat a variety of menopausal symptoms. I recommend taking 40–80 mg of a standardized extract of black cohosh twice a day. This dose should contain 2–4 mg of the active components (triterpenes, calculated as 27-deoxyacteine). 

Best Natural Skin Care for Reducing Facial Hair

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 by Dr. Susan Lark

Excess facial hair, called postmenopausal facial hirsutism, is a fairly common effect of menopause--especially in those who have decided to not use conventional hormone replacement therapy. Understandably, this condition can be extremely upsetting.

The following strategies are free of side effects and address the underlying problem so that the growth of facial hair actually stops. Because hair grows in cycles, these treatments require about two to three months of use before you see results. In the interim, you can remove the worst of the hair by plucking or sugaring. Like waxing, sugaring removes hair at the root, but it doesn’t damage the surrounding skin. And it’s painless! I recommend using the wonderful sugaring product from MOOM to remove unwanted hair while you treat the underlying problem.

First, if you’re in your perimenopausal or menopausal years, female hormone balance is key to reducing unwanted facial hair. Refer to my recommendations throughout this blog for achieving female hormone balance.

In addition, there are natural botanicals that, when used topically on the face, are known to inhibit 5-alpha reductase—the enzyme that activates testosterone in facial follicles, causing facial hair.
• Green tea extract (epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG) inhibits 5-alpha reductase and also has been shown to reduce skin inflammation. 
• NDGA (nordihydroguaiaretic acid), an extract of chaparral, blocks receptor sites for 5-alpha reductase and also inhibits the skin’s pro-inflammatory cascade.
• Zinc, azelaic acid, and vitamin B6: Even at low doses, zinc and azelaic acid (from the yeast Pityrosporum ovale) are potent 5-alpha reductase inhibitors because they work synergistically. Vitamin B6 enhances their activity and their ability to penetrate the skin. In a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, when very low doses of these agents were applied together, their combined activity blocked 5-alpha reductase by an amazing 90 percent. 

You can find most of these nutrients sold separately at health food stores or vitamin shops. Or you can use a product called Reductase-5, which contains these botanicals.


Exercises for Estrogen-Deficient Slow Processors

Friday, April 8, 2011 by Susan Lark
If you are an estrogen deficient–slow processor, I recommend keeping your female hormones balanced with high-intensity activities such as power walking, cycling, running, triathlons, racquetball, tennis, and fast-paced styles of ballroom dance like the tango, foxtrot, and swing.

Women with these hormone profiles tend to be instinctively drawn to strenuous types of exercise that are more contracting and acidifying to counter their natural tendency toward alkalinity. I’ve seen women with these hormonal profiles maintain this level of intense physical activity well into their later years. In fact, it is not unusual to see slow processors participating in triathlons and bodybuilding well into their 70s and beyond!

Stretching and flexibility exercises are also important parts of your workout routine. Stretching keeps you limber and helps your muscles and tendons function well into your older years. The best stretching exercise is Pilates, as it tends to include more intense and faster-paced movements. In addition, yoga is beneficial for these women—particularly the high-energy Bikram (hot), ashtanga, and power yoga.

Another benefit of these exercises? They help reduce menopause symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats!

My Blog Entry About a Blog!

Friday, March 18, 2011 by Susan Lark
I like to read other blogs, and recently came across an entry posted by a woman blogging about menopause symptoms. 

The writer quotes a doctor who says he still prescribes conventional hormone replacement therapy to certain groups of women, despite the risks--which I found quite disturbing. However, this doctor did acknowledge the benefits that black cohosh and soy can have in safely and naturally relieving the effects of menopause--namely night sweats and menopause hot flashes.

I say ditch the dangerous HRT and use natural. Along with black cohosh and soy, you can find a variety of solutions for your menopause problems throughout this blog and on my Web site.

High-Dose Hormone Replacement Therapy--Still Being Prescribed?!

Thursday, March 17, 2011 by Susan Lark

According to a study that appeared online December 2, 2010 in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society states that many doctors are still prescribing high doses of conventional hormone replacement therapy for menopause hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia, even though the risks have been thoroughly proven and documented, and even though lower dose hormones are effective in alleviating these menopause symptoms.

I find this news so upsetting, considering how dangerous convention hormone replacement therapy has been proven to be--greatly increasing the risk of diseases like breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, to name just a few.

If you are one of those women still taking conventional hormone replacement to find menopause relief, please talk to your doctor about cutting back or stopping altogether. You can find many, many safe, suitable natural therapies for your  menopause symptoms throughout my blog.

And for more information on female hormones and natural menopause relief, please visit my Web site.

Beneficial Bioidentical DHEA

Friday, February 11, 2011 by Kimberly Day
There are various preparations of DHEA on the market, as well as yam extracts, which are beneficial bioidentical DHEAsometimes purported to be a substitute for DHEA. It is important to understand the differences between these products.

The conversion of the extract to DHEA can be achieved only in the laboratory, not in the human body. Therefore, natural yam extract, while it does have some of its own health benefits, does not increase blood levels of DHEA. This was confirmed in a study published in Life Science.

Seven men and women, aged 65 to 82, were given yam extract for three weeks with no change in their DHEA level. In contrast, when the same group received 85 mg of DHEA a day, their blood levels of DHEA doubled.

Supplementing With DHEA

DHEA is most often taken in the form of capsules, which come in 5 mg, 10 mg, 25 mg, and 50 mg dosages. Once absorbed, the DHEA travels to the liver, where much of it is converted into androgens and estrogen. Because of this, not all the DHEA ingested enters the general circulation.

Micronized DHEA (the hormone broken into tiny particles) is more efficiently absorbed by the body because the small size of the particles allows them to enter first the lymphatic system and then the general circulation, initially bypassing the liver. Since DHEA is a fat-soluble hormone, it is better absorbed when taken with food. DHEA taken orally is quickly absorbed, and blood levels rise within one hour.

However, much still needs to be learned about optimal dosage, timing, and how the hormone is best administered. There is a question of whether it is appropriate to raise DHEA to youthful levels or simply to a level that is adequate, given a person’s age. Clinical trials are under way; in the meantime, clinicians who regularly prescribe DHEA generally agree on a certain range of starting dosages and recommend a gradual increase if needed.

Dr. Lark has found that DHEA supplementation may be most beneficial for women after menopause. Beginning dosages should range from 5–15 mg a day, then be increased by 5–10 mg a day, as needed. DHEA dosages in women should not exceed 25 mg per day.

Conversely, there is no reason for women who have not reached menopause or perimenopause to consider taking DHEA replacement therapy. Women with normal menstrual cycles have no need for supplementing with DHEA, since their bodies are making sufficient amounts of this hormone.

Some physicians recommend taking DHEA in the morning to reflect the body’s own production of the hormone by the adrenal glands. Taken later in the day, DHEA can have a stimulating effect and sometimes causes insomnia; however, for a person suffering from a condition such as chronic-fatigue syndrome, this energizing effect could be of benefit.

Note: Women should have a mammogram and Pap smear test done before beginning DHEA supplementation to avoid the risk of stimulating a preexisting cancer of the reproductive tract, since DHEA will increase the levels of the major sex hormones.

If you elect to use DHEA without a physician’s guidance, buy the lowest-dose products available in your health food store or pharmacy, begin to use it cautiously, and do not go above 25 mg on your own. Let your physician recommend dosages at higher levels, and be sure to carefully monitor the effects on your body.

Note: DHEA is generally considered safe when taken in recommended dosages of 25 mg or less. While some sensitive people may experience side effects with dosages as low as 5 mg, side effects usually occur only when DHEA is taken in much higher amounts.

Anyone taking over 50 mg a day of DHEA should be under a physician’s supervision. Elevated doses of DHEA can actually prevent the adrenal glands from making the quantity of DHEA they normally produce.

For more information on all female hormones, visit Dr. Lark’s Web site.

Hormone Replacement Therapy Settlement

Thursday, February 10, 2011 by Susan Lark
A while ago, I wrote about and linked to an article that discussed tactics Wyeth (a division of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer) used to market its conventional hormone replacement therapy drug Prempro, even though executives were aware of the risks associated with hormone replacement, like breast cancer.

To follow up on this, yesterday, a report came out saying that Pfizer is paying $330 million to settle 2,200 claims from women who blamed Prempro for their breast cancer. This amounts to about $150,000 per person--WAY less than the costs they incurred during their cancer treatments, I'm sure.

I cannot reiterate enough the dangers associated with conventional hormone replacement. Protect your heart, protect your breasts, and protect your overall health by exploring the many natural therapies for hot flashes, night sweats, and other menopause symptoms that I discuss throughout my blog.

And for more information about natural menopause relief, visit my Web site.

Are You DHEA Deficient?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 by Kimberly Day
Of all the female hormones in your body, DHEA is the most prevalent and circulates in the Are You DHEA Deficient?bloodstream in the highest concentrations. Women produce about 1–2 mg of DHEA-S per day. This production declines with age.

A fetus has relatively high amounts of DHEA, which functions to ease the birth process. However, by the time an infant is six months old, DHEA production all but ceases, and only revives at age six to eight in preparation for puberty. Peak DHEA production is between the ages of 25 and 30; after this, production declines by as much as 10 percent per year. A person may feel the effects of this by their mid-40s. At age 80, you make only about 15 percent of what you produced in your 20s.

A study appearing in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences documents this. Sixty-four volunteers, between the ages of 20 and 40, had four times the levels of DHEA-S as 138 volunteers over age 85. Patients with major diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s also have significant deficiencies.

The physical and psychological well-being enjoyed in youth may well depend in part on having sufficient levels of DHEA. For many years, little attention was given to the effect of DHEA on humans, especially in terms of aging and the decline of performance functions. Most of the research on DHEA had been done on rodents and focused on disease.

Then a study by Morales et al. investigating the effects of DHEA in older individuals was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Volunteers in the study described a list of benefits that made DHEA seem like a fountain of youth. They reported increased energy, improved mood, better sleep quality, and a greater ability to remain calm and handle stress.

Poor lifestyle habits—especially excess stress and a lack of exercise—can also affect DHEA levels. In addition to producing DHEA, your adrenal glands manufacture other hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol is released during times of extreme stress, be it physical, emotional, or mental. When you produce too much cortisol and not enough DHEA, you can throw your adrenal glands out of balance, and eventually strain them to the point of exhaustion. Because DHEA levels are already naturally decreasing as you get older, this imbalance can aggravate both perimenopause symptoms and menopause symptoms.

Additionally, too little exercise may be linked to decreased DHEA levels. Fortunately, a study from Age and Ageing found that regular, moderate aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, or biking increased DHEA production in older people. This is another one of the many health benefits that regular exercise provides for women (and men) of all ages.

Are You DHEA Deficient?

To begin to determine whether your body’s supply of this hormone has lessened enough to affect your ability to perform at your best and maintain optimal health, Dr. Lark created the following checklist. If you answer yes to four or more of these questions, you very likely need to increase your DHEA levels.
  • I am over the age of 50.
  • I experience menopause symptoms such as hot flashes.
  • I have low libido.
  • I suffer from insomnia.
  • I am unable to handle stress.
  • I am easily upset.
  • I have a negative outlook on life.
  • I am often unable to recall details of recent events.
  • I have a history of osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone mass).
  • I have a history of cardiovascular disease.
  • I have significant excess body fat.
  • I am at risk for diabetes.
  • I have a history of autoimmune disease, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, and/or AIDS.
  • I have a weak immune system and am prone to colds and flu.
  • I am at high risk for cancer, especially bladder cancer.
  • I suffer from asthma.
  • I lack muscle mass and strength.
  • I tend to tire easily; my level of stamina is low.

If your responses suggest that your DHEA level is low, then your next step is to get your hormone levels tested.

The DHEA in the blood is a combination of DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S) and unbound, or free, DHEA. It is generally thought that unbound DHEA is most active and that DHEA-S is not fully metabolically active. Therefore, it is important that any lab assessment distinguish between the two.

This can be done using a 24-hour urine test. Some practitioners also think it is important to monitor DHEA levels if an individual has a significant illness, and that at age 40, all people should obtain a baseline reading.
  • Range of DHEA blood levels in adult men: 180 to 250 ng/dl
  • Range of DHEA blood levels in adult women: 130 to 980 ng/dl
  • Ranges of DHEA-S blood levels in adult women:
    • Aged 31–50: 2 to 379 µg/dl
    • Postmenopausal: 30 to 260 µg/dl
  • Range of DHEA salivary levels in women:     40 to 140 pg/ml

If your results indicate that you are deficient in DHEA (or if you scored high on the questionnaire), you may want to consider using bioidentical DHEA. I’ll tell you more about this on Friday.

For more information on all female hormones, visit Dr. Lark’s Web site.

Menopause Hot Flashes and Breast Cancer Risk

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 by Susan Lark

A recent study published in the online edition of the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention has tied hot flashes with a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Researchers questioned 1,437 postmenopausal women between 55 and 74 years old, 988 of whom had had breast cancer at some point. They were asked about the severity of their menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and anxiety. They found that the women who had the most hot flashes had a very low risk of developing breast cancer.

It is known that high estrogen levels increase the risk of breast cancer. What this study shows is that, yes, drastically reduced levels of estrogen can lead to miserable menopause symptoms, but can also significantly protect you against breast cancer.

Of course, if you have hot flashes and other menopause symptoms, you can reduce them by using nonhormonal methods. I talk about many of these options throughout this blog. And for more information on natural hormone support, visit my Web site.

Say No to Antidepressants for Hot Flashes

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 by Susan Lark
I've been seeing a lot of stories in the news lately touting the use of antidepressants for the treatment menopause hot flashes. A recently conducted study showed that taking the antidepressant Lexapro for eight weeks dropped the number of menopause hot flashes in women from about 10 a day to an average of just over five a day.

I find it troubling that antidepressants could now be the recommended treatment-du-jour for menopause hot flashes. A decade ago, conventional hormone replacement therapy was the standard treatment, and that supposedly "safe" protocol turned out to be an indescribable health disaster for millions of women. And it's well-known that antidepressants do have side effects, including weight gain, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction--which also happen to be common menopause symptoms, too! So, while you may have fewer hot flashes when taking an antidepressant, you will likely experience other unpleasant symptoms that could make other aspects of your life challenging.

I urge you to try one or more of the many NATURAL menopause hot flash solutions I have discussed throughout my blog, including black cohosh, soy, and vitamin E.

And to get more tips on menopause relief, visit my Web site.

Exciting New Natural Remedies for Weight Loss

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 by Susan Lark

In my most recent newsletter issue, I shared some exciting new discoveries in the world of natural weightloss. I'd like to share some of them with you this week. Let's start with a vitamin I have discussed many times in conjunction with bone health, immunity, and even female hormone balance, that now also has been shown to play a critical role in maintaining a healthy weight--vitamin D!

In one very recent study, overweight or obese individuals in a diet and exercise weight-loss program, who concomitantly took supplemental vitamin D, lost significantly more weight than those who were not taking vitamin D. Here’s the twist: Those who had ample blood levels of vitamin D at the start of the weight-loss program did not benefit weight-loss wise from those ample levels. It was when vitamin D levels in the blood increased over the first six months of the two-year study that their weight-loss success blossomed.

I recommend taking 1,000 to 4,000 IU vitamin D3 daily (D3 is more effective than D2). This dose will get your serum levels increasing towards that target level and give your natural weight loss plan a boost. 

For more tips on improving your natural weigtloss efforts, visit my Web site.

Sex After Menopause

Monday, January 3, 2011 by Susan Lark

Lack of sex drive later in life is a menopause symptom that many women are reluctant to discuss. Fortunately, there are supplements you can take that can help boost your libido naturally--without the risks of conventional hormone replacement therapy. Here are two supplements that can help relieve this common effect of menopause:

• L-dopa is the natural precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Among other benefits, dopamine is a powerful physical arouser. A woman’s natural levels of dopamine decline after age 45, and by about 13 percent every 10 years. That’s one reason a woman’s ability to achieve physical arousal can get progressively weaker over time. High doses of L-dopa (which requires a prescription) are used to treat Parkinson’s disease and often cause a profound increase in arousal, called hypersexuality, as a side effect. To capitalize on the arousal without taking it that far, I recommend using an extract of the herb Mucuna pruriens, such as Herbal Powers Mucuna Pruriens.

• L-arginine is an amino acid that is the direct precursor of nitric oxide (NO). NO relaxes specific arteries, which results in improved blood flow through the same pathway used by the drug Viagra. Recent studies show L-arginine to be very effective in sending much-needed blood to the clitoris, thereby improving physical sensitivity and arousal. In a recent study using a proprietary supplement called ArginMax® For Women, 51 percent of postmenopausal women in the treatment group saw significant improvement in their sex life, versus only 8 percent of the placebo group. I recommend either taking ArginMax for Women or 500 mg of L-arginine one to three times daily.

For more information on relief of menopause symptoms, visit my Web site.

Kick-Start Your Natural Weightloss-Step 5

Wednesday, December 22, 2010 by Susan Lark

The final step in controlling emotional eating and kick-starting your natural weightloss is to take the following supplements, which have been proven to help curb the cravings associated with emotional eating:

  • Saffron has long been used as a seasoning and coloring agent by gourmet cooks. But saffron also has amazing medicinal value that is beginning to turn heads, including benefits that can help free you from the clutches of emotional eating. Scientists have identified at least two of its active ingredients: safranal, which has been found to promote levels of the well-being neurotransmitter serotonin, and crocin-1, which inhibits the neurotransmitters dopamine (believed to condition you to expect “rewards” from comfort food), and the acute stress hormone norepinephrine. Saffron’s effects on these brain chemicals is believed to be one mechanism by which it combats mild to moderate depression; increases a sense of fullness and satisfaction; helps blunt the triggers of emotional eating; and promotes not just weight loss, but reduction of fat mass. A new, patent-pending, clinically proven optimized saffron extract, developed in France from Mediterranean saffron and used in the study above, is available as a supplement called Satiereal. I recommend one capsule, twice daily.
  • Sublingual 5-HTP. Your brain is a major source for the production of the appetite control neurotransmitter called serotonin, and 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan) is serotonin’s main ingredient. In a placebo-controlled study of overweight women, eight weeks of treatment with an under-the-tongue form of 5-HTP resulted in a significantly greater sense of fullness and satisfaction, and reduced body mass index, skinfold thickness, and hip measurement. I recommend Life Link’s 5 HTP lozenges .

To  learn more about appetite control techniques and ways to aid in your natural weight loss plan, visit my Web site.

Prevent Holiday Bingeing

Monday, December 20, 2010 by Kimberly Day
About a month ago, my lovely husband informed me that I always gain about five pounds prevent holiday bingeingaround the holidays and did I want to repeat that again this year? (Thanks babe.)

After a few not-so-nice words…and even more thoughts…I had to admit he was right. I love to bake for the holidays, and even though my treats are wheat- and sugar-free, they still have carbs and calories.

So, this year, I decided to go defensive and nip my treat habit in the proverbial tastebuds. If holiday binging is an issue for you (especially Christmas week), then these tips will help you too!

Eat Plenty of Vegetables

Eating lots of veggies, along with your preferred source of protein, is key to any natural weight loss plan. This type of diet is high in fiber, therefore slowing the release of sugars into your bloodstream. This prevents blood glucose and insulin surges, as well as insulin-driven cravings for sweets and starchy foods.

A diet high in plant-based foods also helps you balance your brain chemistry, as well as your progesterone and estrogen levels. In contrast, a diet high in refined foods disrupts your brain and hormonal chemistry—triggering mood imbalances. So get those veggies!

Choose Carbs Carefully

While my biscotti are delicious and a holiday staple, they are carb-heavy. So I limit myself to two a day and then stick to brown rice and fruits the remainder of the day. This way, I am sure to avoid surge-driven cravings.

I also lean on flaxseed to help keep me full and satiated. I just sprinkle it on salads, add to hummus, or scoop into a morning smoothie.

For more tips on avoiding holiday weight gain and sticking to your natural weight loss plan, visit Dr. Lark’s Web site.

Sugar and Spice Aren’t Always Nice

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 by Kimberly Day
In case you haven’t noticed by my previous posts, baking is a big part of the holiday tradition in sugar-free holiday cookiesmy family. You cannot walk into my mother’s, grandmother’s, or my kitchen in the month of December and not smell something sweet that has just come out of the oven.

Unfortunately, the sugar and spice that often create these amazing aromas are not ideal for female hormones, and certainly don’t help when it comes to natural appetite control!

Eating large amounts of sugar, especially in a short period of time, can trigger low blood sugar. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but here’s how it works: Sugar is rapidly absorbed from the digestive tract into the circulation. In response to these elevated blood sugar levels, the pancreas secretes insulin to enable the sugar to be cleared from the bloodstream and be taken up by the cells, where it is used as a source of energy.

In response to large amounts of ingested sugar, the pancreas often overproduces insulin, which causes the blood sugar to fall too low. As a result, hypoglycemia occurs, causing an individual to feel anxious, tremulous, and jittery.

The solution? Avoid sugar, obviously. And if you do indulge, make it a treat, not a meal.

You can also try one of my sugar-free recipes, such as gingerbread or chocolate biscotti. Just remember, even though they are sugar-free, they still have calories, so don’t overindulge.

For more information on female hormones and healthy estrogen levels, visit Dr. Lark’s Web site.

Hormone Replacement Therapy: The Bad News Continues

Friday, October 22, 2010 by Susan Lark
Conventional hormone replacement therapy--specifically the brand Prempro--was in the news again this week. Follow-up studies published in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association have found that Prempro increased women's risk of breast cancer, and these cancers were more likely to spread to the lymph nodes. Even worse, researchers found that the women who took Prempro were more likely to die of breast cancer.

This is disturbing news indeed--but definitely not surprising at all. I've discussed the dangers of conventional hormone replacement therapy many times in my newsletter, and Kimberly and I have written about it here on my blog. If you are currently taking hormone replacement therapy to ease your hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and other menopause symptoms, I strongly encourage you to look into more natural methods for menopause relief. Simply search through this blog to read about the many safe, natural options available to you. And to learn more on how to achieve menopause relief safely and naturally, visit my Web site.

Lycopene for Prostate Cancer

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 by Kimberly Day
In honor of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to share another nutrition tip on how you can help the men in your life prevent this awful disease.

One of the most important health benefits of lycopene is its ability to reduce the risk of cancer, particularly cancers of the reproductive tract in men. In fact, researchers have make landmark discoveries on the benefits of lycopene in reducing the risk of prostate cancer.

Years of observation have shown that Italian and Greek men who ate a diet rich in tomatoes have a low incidence of prostate cancer. A 1995 study conducted by Harvard researchers confirms this observation. They found that men who consumed the greatest amounts of lycopene had a 21 percent decreased risk of prostate cancer compared with those who ate the least.

Additionally, the study discovered that the men who ate more than 10 servings of tomato-based foods a week had a 35 percent lower risk for prostate cancer than the men who ate less than one and a half servings per week.

Lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, is one of the most concentrated carotenoids found in the blood, organs, and tissues of the body. The potent antioxidant capabilities of carotenoids neutralizes free radicals, which have long been believed to be risk factors for many age-related degenerative conditions, including cancer.

The Harvard study regarding prostate cancer risk concluded that men should eat 10 servings of cooked tomatoes or tomato products every week to reduce their prostate cancer risk. Just be sure to mix the tomatoes in an oil base, such as olive oil, to enhance lycopene absorption. For example, tomato sauce would be a much better source of lycopene than a raw tomato.

If you do not want to eat this much tomato-based food due to allergies, the highly acidic nature of tomatoes, or you simply dislike their taste, then lycopene supplements are a good alternative. Dr. Lark recommends 5 to 10 mg per day. There have been no reports of negative side effects from high intake of lycopene and it is available in most health food stores.

For more information on hormone health, visit Dr. Lark’s Web site.

Fibroid-Fighting Recommendation #5

Friday, September 3, 2010 by Susan Lark
My fifth recommendation to fight fibroids naturally is to supplement with natural progesterone.

The late John Lee, MD pioneered the use of natural progesterone to reverse estrogen dominance. ProgesterAll cream is what I recommend you try. The dose is 1/8 tsp to 1/4 tsp massaged once or twice daily into your face, neck, inner thighs or the palms of your hands.

If you are still menstruating, use the cream from day 14 to day 28 of your menstrual cycle. Women in menopause not taking estrogen may use progesterone for three weeks each month. 

For more information on estrogen dominance, balancing female hormones, and much more, visit my Web site.