Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy

Most women associate hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with menopause, but it actually has many more uses to correct hormone concerns that arise throughout a lifetime. Naturopathic and functional medicine doctors use a special class of hormone replacement therapy, called bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), to treat not only menopausal women, but, also perimenopause, fertility, PMS, PCOS, anxiety, insomnia, and even men who are having issues with low testosterone.

Bioidentical hormones are derived and modified from natural sources, such as the Wild Mexican Yam, and are structurally identical to the hormones our bodies naturally produce. Therefore, we can expect similar results from them.

Bioidentical hormones differ from synthetic hormone replacement therapy in several ways. Synthetic hormones are chemically foreign from the hormones we produce, so, they often behave a little differently than our natural hormones. One significant difference is that synthetic hormones have been shown to bind more tightly to the receptors in our bodies, which makes the receptors work overtime and have a much more potent effect, sometimes more than what we want.

A good example of synthetic hormones hijacking the normal processes of the body is birth control. Hormonal birth control is made up of synthetic hormones that bind very tightly to the body’s estrogen and progesterone receptors and “trick” the body into thinking it’s pregnant. This can happen even in relatively low doses. In this way, we can use the synthetic hormones to our benefit for family planning, but, we don’t necessarily need this effect in our hormone balance regime.

Bioidentical hormone therapy offers several options for delivery and personalization. Bioidentical hormones are often compounded, which provides more flexibility in customized dosing and delivery form for your personal needs. The forms of bioidentical hormone therapy generally include transdermal cream or gel, lozenges, capsules, or suppositories.

Some benefits of bHRT include:

  • Lowers cholesterol and increases HDL (the good fat)
  • Maintains collagen in our skin and connective tissues
  • Improve cognition and protect brain tissue
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve mood and alleviate anxiety
  • Mitigate thermal regulation (warm rushes and hot flashes)
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Stabilizes bone health

At Hill Park Integrative Medical Center, we have several doctors who specialize in the prescription of bioidentical hormones for many different clinical applications. We treat both according to symptoms and labs and have had great success in hormone treatments across many patient populations, including reproductive age women, men, fertility, and post/perimenopausal women.

We don’t think that bioidentical hormone therapy is the only hormone balance regime – there are many solutions to hormone imbalance with the use of herbal medicine, targeted nutrient therapy, acupuncture, and many other resources. For moderate to severe concerns, bioidentical hormones can be very effective, especially in combination with other natural therapies, to correct hormone balance and are safe when applied correctly by an experienced doctor.

Understanding Perimenopause

Information about Perimenpause

Perimenopause is the window of time before menopause, which can be as long as a decade or more of changes prior to having a last period. The symptoms of perimenopause are often totally unrecognized by the general medical community, even though it is a time when women are seeking the most medical care. The hormonal fluctuations during this time influence change in our physical, mental, and emotional health that can significantly alter a woman’s sense of well-being as well as her relationships.

Many women are quite familiar with the symptoms of perimenopause: changes in her menstrual cycle: either heavier/lighter flow or more irregular than they have been, hot flashes or “warm rushes”, brain fog, difficulty losing weight, night sweats, joint pain, tendonitis, vaginal discomfort during intercourse, anxiety, depression, fatigue, palpitations, emotional lability, loss of libido, and a whole lot more.

One of the more challenging issues of perimenopause is that our brain can become like a “sieve” where words and tasks are easily lost, making multi-tasking a really difficult course of the day, at one of the busiest times of our lives.

Stress plays a significant role in the early onset and rapid progression of perimenopause. It is common that women will have hormone imbalance due to chronic stress while entering perimenopause, possibly worsening the symptoms and adding momentum to the process, which can have a negative impact on our fertility, and overall health.

Along with the overt symptoms, there are risks to the decline in hormones: bone thinning and osteoporosis, alzheimer’s disease, insulin resistance/diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. This is an important window of time to examine a personalized “risk reduction” approach to hormone fluctuations such as family history or existing conditions so that the transition toward menopause does not have a cost on the decades of health ahead.

While some women are just moderately inconvenienced by these symptoms, they can be quite severe for other women. Often times the medical messaging is to just “live with it”, but this is pretty dated, and frankly… not sufficient. There are many treatment options that integrative medicine and naturopathic doctors offer to effectively balance hormone fluctuations and minimize symptoms while not interrupting the natural process of perimenopause.

Women have been finding their own medicines to balance their health since the beginning of time, but sometimes we need help when our own approach is not quite enough, or uncertain. After a detailed medical interview, if necessary, one of our doctors can help to test your hormones levels, along with thyroid and adrenal hormone levels, or any additional tests that may be important for you. We can then formulate a treatment course that will be personalized to your symptoms, hormone balance, and overall wellness.

Perimenopause and hormone health can be a smooth, safe, and even enjoyable experience with the support of nutrition, herbal medicine, bioidentical hormone therapy, self-care, acupuncture, and an experienced doctor to help find the right course for you. Contact us at 707-861-7300 to reach out to the office staff.

Keys to Maximize Exercise Recovery

Keys to Maximize Exercise Recovery

By Dr. Michaela Falkner

Exercise in some form is always an essential part of any health regimen. But, how do you keep at it when you are sore from your last gym session? The very physiology of exercise involves inflammation, muscle breakdown, and lactic acid buildup. So, how do you get back at it sooner and safer than before?

Before starting any regimen, its best to talk with your doctor and discuss options for faster recovery and a healthier you. Here are some quick tips by alternative medicine physicians in Sonoma County help to alleviate muscle soreness, decrease inflammation, and keep you at your peak:

Magnesium Gel
  • Magnesium is great at increasing blood flow, decreasing cramps, and helping your mitochondria (powerhouses of your cells). We can only absorb so much magnesium through our gastrointestinal tract before it can cause diarrhea. A way to concentrate magnesium to a specific area is magnesium gel. This can decrease inflammation and alleviate cramps and soreness when applied topically. Magnesium can also be optimally absorbed through vitamin injections, such as our Active Body vitamin injection.
Contrast showers
  • Many athletes swear by ice baths after a tough workout. There are increasing studies showing that muscles recover faster and performance increases when contrast baths are used. Contrast showers are easy to do at home. You run a hot shower and stand in it for about 5 minutes. Turn the water to cold and stay under it for 30 seconds. Repeat this 3 times. A study of rugby players showed that athletes performed better and reported being less sore the day after contrast baths versus 5-minute ice baths.
Castor oil
  • Topical castor oil is amazingly anti-inflammatory and can be used for everything from detox, to hormone balancing, to aching joints and muscles. Just be careful, it stains!
Herbal formulations
  • There are many herbal formulations you can make yourself and find that offer great relief from muscle soreness. Some examples are passionflower, Siberian ginseng, Cramp bark, and cordyceps. Let us know if you would like us to custom formulate for you.
Proper Nutrition: Protein, Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
  • Don’t forget to give your muscles the building blocks to repair and grow. A good protein powder and BCAAs are integral to fast recovery and muscle repair. Feeding your body is one of the most important things to do in helping to build muscle and alleviate soreness. Other amino acids that aid in increased blood flow, increased growth hormone secretion, and muscle building are: choline, glutamine, and arginine.
Mitochondrial Support
  • The mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell. These little organelles (organs within the cell) need the proper nutrition to function properly and make the proper “juice” to make your muscles go and recover. Carnitine and acetyl L-Carnitine have been shown to decrease inflammation and carnitine is one of the key components in energy synthesis of cells, including muscle cells. B-vitamins are also imperative to make those powerhouses run. Hill Park offers a few customized nutrient injections that target mitochondrial support like Active Body or Performance Enhancer.
Hormone Optimization
  • Make sure your testosterone and DHEA levels are optimal so you can grow your muscles and recover faster. Also making sure your thyroid and adrenals are in tip top shape will also help to recover and get the most from your workout. Also, try our Hormone Balance nutrient injection to boost levels faster!
SLEEP!
  • Sleeping at least 8 hours a night will not only help you wake rested and energetic for another gym session, but also helps to increase growth hormone. Growth hormone is secreted by your anterior pituitary gland mostly at night during deep, restful sleep and while doing strenuous exercise while fasting. Growth hormone production is interrupted by EMF (electromagnetic fields). So, make sure to keep that alarm clock and your phone, at least 6 feet away from your bed.
Massage and Homeopathy
  • All of these are great for maintaining health, balance, and alleviating soreness. See your practitioner for help with these different modalities.

All of our vitamin injections are available on a walk-in basis, no appointment is necessary.

As a doctor and a fitness enthusiast, I’d love to help you recover faster from workouts and keep your nervous and endocrine system healthy while you gain strength, endurance, and health!

I offer complimentary 15-minute introductory consults to learn who I am as a doctor, my approach, and if our Hill Park Integrative Medical Center is the right direction for you.

Call our team to schedule at 707-861-7300.

Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine for Cancer Care

Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine for Cancer Care

Acupuncture is a beneficial and very important part of cancer care in all its stages. Chinese medicine, alone or when integrated with conventional care, can amplify the desired benefits of current treatments, prevent recurrence and metastasis of early tumors, promotes foundational health, improves quality of life, and may prolong life even in advanced stages.

Some of the successful alternative cancer care methods in Sonoma County such as acupuncture and other ChineseAcupuncture and Chinese Medicine for Cancer Care -Hill Park Medical Center medicine methods can further optimize conventional treatment outcomes by limiting side effects of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, enhance immune function and extend one’s life. Jennifer’s experience in preventing and lessening side effects such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, alopecia, anxiety, depression, insomnia, mouth ulcers, cystitis, skin rash, diarrhea, cardiac toxicity, hepatic toxicity, immune suppression have brought numerous patients much relief and support along their path toward healing.

Fu Zheng Therapy

Chinese Medicine has been used for the treatment of tumors for over 3,000 years. In regards to cancer care: Fu Zheng therapy is specifically applied in cancer care, which translates as “to strengthen what is correct and to secure the root”. This results in enhancing immune fortitude and preserving the function of the internal organs. This also counters chemotherapy-induced immune suppression or the decrease in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Guiding Qi through its channels, acupuncture aims to achieve continuous balance and harmony. Over the course of time, various treatment protocols have been developed to:

  • Reduce tumor size, pain, swelling and inflammation
  • Prevent the initiation, formation and development of cancer
  • Increase the function and activity of the immune system
  • Enhance the regulating function of the endocrine system
  • Enhance and protect the structure and function of the organs
  • Strengthen digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • Improve metabolism
  • Protect bone marrow and generation of new blood cells
  • Increase effectiveness of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and hormonal therapy
IV Therapy Support

Acupuncture can greatly augment the benefits of IV therapy, especially High Dose Vitamin C treatment. Acupuncture works synergistically with IV therapy in the overall desired effect, as well as allows each individual to relax and fully receive the benefits. Jennifer Monin provides a unique service at Hill Park Medical Center in supporting patients with nurturing and strengthening acupuncture treatments in conjunction with their IV therapy for cancer care.

Pre and Post Surgical Support

Therapeutic and reconstructive surgery often introduce a variety of unwelcome conditions including pain, anesthesia-induced nausea, bruising, anxiety, fatigue, constipation, and scarring that can be relieved with Chinese Medicine. Treatments can increase peripheral blood circulation to increase nutrient supplies, hasten wound healing, assist nerve regeneration, minimize scarring, enhance immunity, and prevent lymphedema.

Hormonal Therapy Support

Chinese medicine can support the side effects of early menopause and night sweats, decreased libido, vaginal dryness, osteoporosis, cardiovascular health.

Individualized Treatment Plans

Treatments are targeted to be effective regardless of the stage a patient is in: immediately upon diagnosis, before or after surgery, in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation or in the following years as a supportive preventive therapy. Dietary and lifestyle suggestions are provided to promote better general health and improve long-term optimal health.

Jennifer MoninLAc has been practicing acupuncture for the past 20 years. She has extensive experience supporting individuals with cancer – including work at the National Institute of Oncology and Radiology in Havana, Cuba and as a long-time volunteer at Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic in Oakland, CA. She is honored to support patients in all stages of cancer at Hill Park and is also available for treatments pre and post IV therapy.

Small Intestine Bowel Overgrowth

By Dr. Michaela Falkner, ND

Small Intestine Bowel Overgrowth is a common and often overlooked cause to chronic digestive health concerns.

Small Intestine Bowel Overgrowth (referred to as SIBO) is an accumulation of normally occurring bacteria in the small intestine, not necessarily in high numbers, but in a region that they don’t belong. Often mistaken for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), SIBO is the cause of 60% of incorrectly diagnosed cases of IBS. It is generally less responsive to changes in stress and mood than traditional IBS, so while many patients report pretty good results from stress reduction techniques, they still have persistent symptoms.

The research on SIBO is still new, but we know that SIBO tends to result from a few different factors including stagnant bowels and lack of proper movement, lack of sufficient stomach acid, and a few more structural issues. SIBO can also be an indicator or accompany many underlying conditions such as autoimmune diseases, adhesions from surgery, post infections, and many others.

The small intestine is supposed to have relatively few bacteria in it, but due to the above causes, bacteria will set up shop and start digesting our food for us in the small intestine as opposed to the large intestine. This causes an abundance of gas that becomes trappped temporarily in the small intestine until it can move onto the large intestine. This is where many of the symptoms of SIBO originate.

So what does SIBO look like? Common symptoms are bloating (especially after eating healthy foods that are high in fiber and prebiotics), reflux, gas, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, or combination diarrhea-constipation. This bloating is further exacerbated by carbohydrates and sugar. A keynote symptom I often see in patients is that the “healthier” they eat (salads, veggies, etc), the worse the gas and bloating.

Does this sound like you? Have you tried pro-biotics and your gut issues worsened? Have you attempted to eat a better diet only to feel much worse? Do you commonly go to bed looking a few months pregnant, but wake up with a flat stomach in the morning and feel great fasted? SIBO even interferes with your absorption of vitamins and minerals, leading to hair loss, fatigue, depression, and low iron stores.

The best way we can diagnose SIBO is through a breath test. A special diet and fast is followed, then a patient blows into a little bag to establish a baseline. The patient then drinks a lactulose solution and breaths into the bag multiple times over 2-3 hours. The samples are then sent in and analyzed for methane and hydrogen gas. By looking at how much those gases increase over the 2-3 hour timespan can help your doctor determine if you likely have SIBO or not.

If you have been diagnosed with SIBO, there are various things we at Hill Park Medical Center can do to support you. We can provide nutrient IVs to boost energy and immune function to support you while you are undergoing treatment. SIBO often causes difficulty in absorbing key nutrients like B12, iron, and magnesium, which can leave us feeling depleted, so a quick IV can help add those nutrients back into your body.

We have developed our own Hill Park Medical Center SIBO herbal compound that has been shown to be effective to eradicate the bacteria residing in your gut while supporting healthy movement of the bowels. Some of the herbs we commonly use are garlic, oregano, goldenseal, and caprylic acid. We then accompany these herbs with different factors that help “reteach” the bowels to move appropriately such as B6, 5HTP, ginger, and our bitters formula. There are also various diets to explore, including FODMAP, SCD, and elemental diets. This overall approach serves to correct the root cause of the concern and decrease chances of recurrence.

Our doctors have extensive firsthand experience with SIBO and know that there is no one way to correct it. Let us help you to find your solution to the discomforting symptoms, including embarrassing gas and bloating that you might be experiencing! Make an appointment to get started!