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Suzanne Somers on Bioidentical Hormone Replacement - Show Recap


Original Air Date:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Hormone Replacement Therapy Conversation:

Oprah received a huge number of comments from viewers after the first show on hormone replacement therapy aired on January 22, 2009 with Dr. Christiane Northrup and Robin McGraw. Women shared how they were tired of feeling dull in their lives and were ready for the information and answers they needed to make a change. Oprah provided the initial information and extended the conversation by inviting author and bioidentical proponent Suzanne Somers to the show to share her knowledge.

Suzanne Somers' Experience with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy:

Suzanne Somers has been a supporter of BHRT for more than a decade because of the great effect the hormones had in her own life. Suzanne shared her story of going through menopause at 50 and having her hormone imbalance drastically change her quality of life. From sleepless nights irritability, gaining weight and changes in her skin and hair, Suzanne expressed how her journey through life being miserable from menopause lasted for 3 years until she was able to start replacement therapy. Now Suzanne says that the BHRT gave her her life back.

Criticism of Suzanne Somers:

Suzanne Somers' opinions have not always been taken lightly by professionals in the medical community. Suzanne has been criticized by doctors and pharmaceutical companies because of her lack of expertise in the profession. Suzanne's response to the criticism is on one side, an understanding for the concern over her lack of training, and on the other a stand for her to continue her quest to get her story out to women. Suzanne shared her thoughts that when menopausal women feel good, it reduces the need for a number of medications she was offered as a solution, including sleeping pills and antidepressants.

A response from Dr. Wulf Utian, Executive Director of the North American Menopausal Society, was shown as a criticism of Suzanne Somers' proactivity for BHRT where he stated that because many of her claims are unsupported, she is not a good source for medical information and women should seek the guidance of a medical professional.

Losing Your Zest for Life:

A panel of women Skyped into the show for more information and to share their stories. One woman shared that her side effects from hormone imbalance happened overnight and has since caused her life to become a struggle. Suzanne's response included opening up about the imbalance causing a loss of sex drive. She shared, "I call it the Seven Dwarfs of Menopause: Itchy, Bitchy, Sleepy, Sweaty, Bloated, Forgetful and, my favorite, All Dried Up."

Suzanne's Daily Schedule:

Suzanne welcomed Oprah's camera into her home to share a bit of her daily routine with BHRT and supplements. Suzann's schedule includes an estrogen cream on her left arm daily, a progesterone cream on her right arm 2 weeks out of the month, a daily vaginal injection of estriol, and 60 dietary supplements daily - 40 in the morning and 20 in the evening. In addition to supplements and hormones, Suzanne also controls her diet and exercise. Weekly yoga and a diet consisting of organic vegetables grown in her own garden help Suzanne feel great every day.

BHRT Concerns:

Dr. Lauren Streicher who is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University and also an ob-gyn at Northwestern Memorial Hospital expressed concern on the show over the information being provided about BHRT. Dr. Streicher worries that many women will feel that getting bioidentical hormones will make them safe and free of side effects which is not true. Any hormone therapy will come from synthetic sources, says Dr. Streicher, and thus hold some risk. The best way to be safe, share the doctor, is to work closely with your doctor and use an FDA approved pharmacy.

Compounding Pharmacies:

Many people are confused by compounding pharmacies, which make their own form of a prescription drug, because they are not regulated by the FDA and therefore may not always be completely honest about the quality of the product. Dr. Oz spoke to owner Sharon Steen from Central Pharmacy in Santa Monica about the practice in her lab. Sharon described the process where the lab takes a powder form hormone and turns it in to individualized creams, suppositories and capsules based on the doctors prescriptions.

Concerns from the FDA:

The FDA has expressed concerns over BHRT because there are no long term studies on the effects of taking the hormone regularly and because the way the product is make is inconsistent with each lab that produces the supplements. The FDA released a statement that recommended women take a lose dose for the shortest amount of time needed for the safest possible outcome.

Suzanne and Dr. Northrup responded to the criticisms by agreeing that women be smart in their use of the therapy, but also that they work with their doctor to get the treatment that is needed for them - HRT is not one size fits all, but personalized.

Needed Tests:

Dr. Northrup released a list of tests that women should consider if they are feeling that their hormones are out of balance:

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone - high FSH and irregular periods are a sign of perimenopause
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone - thyroid problems are common during menopause
  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone

Dr. Northrup suggests being conscious of diet, exercise, amount of sleep, caffeine and alcohol as all can effect hormone levels. Be in tune with your body to understand when things have changed and seek help when needed from your doctor.

Michelle, Robin McGraw and Dr. Hall:

On the previous HRT episode, viewer Michelle was given the opportunity to visit Dr. Prudence Hall with Robin McGraw for a hormone assessment. The results came back with Michelle as follows:

  • Estradiol: normal= 200; Michelle= 7
  • Progesterone: normal= 10-20; Michelle= .3
  • Testosterone: normal= 50-80; Michelle= 24

Michelle's tests also revealed that her TSH was very low. After the test results, Dr. Hall prescribed Michelle with specific hormone replacements for her specific needs. Michelle appeared on the show via Skype after being on HRT for 9 days and the transformation in her life had been drastic. Wearing a bright red jacket, Michelle expressed that the effect of HRT is a dose of joy and she doesn't remember ever feeling as good as she did then.

Is HRT Right For You?:

Dr. Streicher and Suzanne Somers shared 2 different sides of BHRT. Dr. Streicher agreed that Michelle needed hormones, but doesn't want women to buy all the marketing and feel that it is always safe, no matter what. Seeing a gynecologist and FDA approved pharmacy is what Dr. Streicher recommends as the safest route. Suzanne looks at the replacement as doing just that - replacing the exact amount of hormone her body needs to live a full and happy life - that it's about a woman's choice.

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