What hormone doctor tell their friends

So stressed your hair is falling out? Can’t get rid of belly flab no matter how many miles you jog? Falling asleep before grown-up bedtime? The advice endocrinologists give their BFFs could help you—finally—figure out what’s up with that. BY LISA MULCAHY

Always exhausted? Get your thyroid checked.
“When one of my friends shares that she’s feeling wiped out on a regular basis and she’s pursuing a pretty healthy lifestyle like exercising and eating a balanced diet I urge her to get a thyroid blood test, specifically to see if hypothyroidism, meaning an underperforming thyroid gland, is the culprit. Other symptoms: feeling depressed for no reason and unexplained weight gain. What if you do have it? Hypothyroidism is an autoimmune
disease that can’t be reversed, only managed. You will have to be on daily lifelong meds to replenish low levels of thyroid hormone. The benefits to treatment are huge, though.
You’ll quickly have more energy than you’ve enjoyed in a long time, so don’t delay seeing
your doctor.”

—Jacqueline Kung, M.D., an endocrinologist and director of the thyroid disease clinic at Tufts Medical Center in Boston

Yoga can actually change the hormones in your brain
“When friends ask me about yoga, I encourage them to try it. Data shows that it can affect brain chemistry and reduce stress and improve mood. Specifically, it increases a chemical
called gammaaminobutyric acid [GABA]. One study showed that after a single yoga session, GABA levels increase enough to stimulate the areas of your brain that stop you from feeling depressed and anxious. That said, yoga isn’t for everybody, and other exercises and meditation also have benefits to mood. The key is to explore and find what works for you.”

—Maria Collazo-Clavell, M.D., an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN

Chocolate is better than a happy pill
“One food that I always tell friends to try when they need a mental-health perk is dark chocolate. It contains a substance similar to valproic acid, which is used to stabilize moods.
Data has suggested specifically that 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate eaten every day for two weeks will improve mood by reducing the stress hormones in your brain—so feel free to indulge every day!”

—Barbara Soltes, M.D., a reproductiveendocrinologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago

Perimenopause starts earlier than you think
“I had just picked my kids up from school recently when, out of nowhere, a woman who knows I’m a hormone doctor banged on my window and said, ‘I didn’t get my period this
month—why?!’ Of course, my kids were horrified, but I was happy to offer her my advice. I explained that a skipped period might be a sign of perimenopause, though many women in their late 30s and early 40s don’t consider themselves old enough to be heading there. Perimenopause can actually last up to 15 years, and shifts can begin around age 35. You may notice your periods are getting heavier and the intervals between them are getting shorter. Once you reach your 40s, you can hit hormonal chaos: One month you’ll ovulate and have a heavy period, and one month you might skip your period altogether. You may also be dealing with hot flashes and fatigue. If you’re suffering, see your doctor, and ask  to be screened for conditions that could mimic perimenopause, like diabetes or thyroid disease. Once you’re sure perimenopause is the issue, hormone therapy can help ease discomfort with hot flashes, as can lifestyle changes like getting enough sleep. And don’t
blame yourself—so many women tell me they feel guilty about perimenopause, like they’re bringing it on by being too stressed out. Perimenopause is a physical hormonal
condition It’s so not your fault!”

—Sarah Berga, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC

Here’s when to worry about that hair growing on your face
“When women I know in their 30s show me unexpected hair growth on their faces
and arms, I say, ‘Go talk to your mother,’ because it could just be hereditary. But if Mom
didn’t start growing the same kind of hair when she was your age, it might be polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal condition that can jeopardize your fertility. In other cases, if you rapidly grow hair on your upper lip out of the blue or if the hair coming in on your arms and legs feels coarse, your body could be producing excess male hormones, which could signify an adrenal or ovarian tumor. See your doctor, and bring a picture of yourself
before the hair growth—and don’t shave your legs or underarms before the appointment. Your doctor can often tell the specific problem just by looking at it.”

—Rasa Kazlauskaite, M.D., an endocrinologist and preventive medicine specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago

You can regain your MIA libido
“One of the biggest complaints I hear from women I know is that their sex drive starts to wane in their late 30s and early 40s; they often worry something’s wrong with their
relationship. Frequently, though, the problem is physical. Estrogen levels in your body start to dip as you get older, and because estrogen is the engine of a woman’s sexuality, you just aren’t going to be as interested in sex. Estrogen patches, gels, or creams can be used any time after you’ve hit your mid-30s—talk to your doctor about a dose that’s safe for you. The added benefit to these treatments for some women is that they can cut down on PMS, too. Win-win.”


If you’re trying to run off belly fat, you’re wasting your time
“I have friends in their 30s and 40s who complain to me that they are getting fat around their abs—which is really common at this time in a woman’s life. The thing they’re most frustrated by is that even if they up their cardio, it’s not making a difference in helping them lose this belly fat. What they’re always surprised to learn is that hormone-related weight gain can be aerobic-resistant to a significant extent. You need to focus on resistance training
instead, like the plank move, or doing sit-ups while holding a dumbbell in front of your chest and pressing it forward as you crunch up. I tell my friends to do 150 minutes of
exercise per week; that should include at least two or three days of resistance training. Of
course, cardio won’t hurt, as long as you don’t skip the resistance!”