Sneak Peek of Dr. Brendan McCarthy’s New Book: Chapter 2

Dr. McCarthy has been up to something super secret, but very exciting! And we’re here to share some of it with you today. Dr. McCarthy has been working on his first ever book, and it is almost ready to see the light of day. But we wanted to get ahead of the curve and give you all a special preview of the book before it’s officially published and released.

This currently untitled project is slated to be released in early fall, so keep your eyes peeled for details regarding that. And we will also be throwing a celebratory launch party once the book is released!

Dr. McCarthy wrote this book to give power back to the patients — his patients and those who haven’t had the pleasure of being treated by Dr. McCarthy. Far too often women are treated poorly by the medical community. Appointments are quick, a bedside manner is nonexistent and symptoms are treated with hasty prescriptions.

This book is designed to educate and empower the reader. Read below to see a preview of chapter two from Dr. McCarthty’s soon to be released book!

Chapter 2

Julie’s Story

I want to share with you the story of a woman named Julie.

It begins at age thirteen, when Julie experiences her first period. Her menstrual cycle is compli- cated and irregular, with cramping over the first few days. Her mother assures her this is normal, but when Julie begins missing a day of school every month, her parents take her to see the family doctor. “These symptoms are normal for a girl your age,” he tells her, and prescribes oral contra- ceptive pills for the cramps. Julie’s parents assume that their doctor would warn them of any sig- nificant side effects, and they fill the prescription.

By college, Julie no longer has difficult periods, but she feels as if she has to be very strict with her diet to prevent weight gain. When Julie brings this up at the campus clinic, the nurse assures her that the weight gain has nothing to do with the birth control pills. “Just exercise more and eat less,” advises the nurse.

Julie graduates, begins her career, and at twenty-six, she meets a guy and falls in love. They get married. Two years later, she stops her birth control. By age twenty-nine, she conceives her first child.

Julie experiences post-partum depression. When she reports this to her OB, he prescribes her Zoloft for six months.

Over the next four years, Julie has two more children. After each childbirth, she experiences some depression and uses Zoloft.

Her anxiety comes back and won’t be ignored. Her regular doctor prescribes Xanax.

By thirty-five, Julie stops taking Zoloft, gets back on birth control, and goes back to work. She works harder than ever before. Every morning, Julie wakes up early to exercise, then gets the kids up and ready for school and sees them out the door. She puts in a full day at the office, then shuttles the kids to after-school activities before coming home to supervise homework while making dinner. After dinner, she cleans the kitchen, puts the kids to bed, and folds laundry while watching TV. Then she falls into bed and gets up early to start all over again.

Since college, Julie has worked hard to keep her weight in the healthy range. This all changes in her forties, when she gains fifteen pounds. Her routine of careful diet and regular exercise no longer works for her. She restricts her diet to 1,000 calories per day and trains for and completes several marathons. But Julie still can’t keep her weight under control.

Additionally, Julie now begins experiencing insomnia, low libido, fatigue, and depression. Her physician listens to the list of symptoms, runs a battery of tests, and tells her she is “fine.” He prescribes Ambien for sleep, recommends going back on Zoloft, and renews her prescription for Xanax. “Don’t forget that you need to eat less and exercise more,” he reminds her. He also im- plies that if she lost weight, her libido would return.

Julie wants to ask, “What happened to my body? What happened to my zest, my happiness? Why do I need all these medications—and then when I take them, I still don’t feel right?”

Could there have been another way? she wonders.

The Owner’s Manual

Julie is an amalgam of many patients I have seen, and her story is a universal and depressing one. As you read through the rest of this book, see if you recognize Julie—or yourself. Her plight oc- curs because, too often, doctors only focus on a patient’s symptoms. They don’t apply them- selves to the question of why she has those symptoms to begin with.

This is where we step in.

We are going to break this cycle. And it begins by understanding what is happening in your body and mind, and taking charge of both.

You may be asking yourself, “Why is this so important? I’ve lived in this body all my life. Don’t I know everything I really need to know about it, by now?”

Think of the information in this chapter as the owner’s manual to your body.

When you learn how to drive, you are taught the basics of a car and how it works. You need to know where the engine is, that it has brakes, and how the steering wheel controls the four tires. After that, you learn about which gasoline to put in it and why. You learn about oil and how it keeps the engine running. You may even choose to discover more about the finer systems that work within your vehicle.

And just as you need this information before you get behind the wheel, you also need to know the basics of your body and its functions.

This information orients you within the systems of your body. With that understanding, you also take control of your mind and your ability to do something when one of those systems misfires.

You take your car to a mechanic for tune-ups. Similarly, you see your doctor to keep everything running smoothly in your body. As most women have experienced, Mechanics are not always acting in a woman’s best interest. In the case of Julie, neither were her doctors.

Once you understand the different pieces and how they work together, you can make educated decisions about your health. You can have effective conversations with your doctor to help you get everything back in balance.

You are empowered to take control of your body, your mind, and your life.

In this chapter, we will cover the physical parts of your body, including your brain, and how they work. We’ll also break down twelve of the hormones and neurotransmitters that affect your body and mind the most.



The Cost of Crash Diets – An In-Depth Examination of the hCG Very Low Calorie Diet

It’s summer. And society is screaming at you about “beach bodies!” And maybe you’re genuinely, and dangerously, overweight — and you do really need to shed pounds. Regardless of your circumstances, trendy and flashy crash diets are — sadly — always “in style,” but never any good.

And one trendy crash-diet that has been really influencing people lately (and for a long time too) is the hCG VLCD, or: human chorionic gonadotropin very low calorie diet. hCG is made by the placenta during pregnancy — and as this diet dictates, you get injected with hCG. The “very low calorie diet” portion of the process means you have a daily limit of 500 kcal (kilocalories).

Does this sound dangerous yet?

The traditional hCG VLCD is a 26-day process that involves 23 injections. In fact, quotes Dr. Simeons (the inventor of the hCG diet), “Patients who need to lose 15 pounds or, 7 kilos or less require 26 days treatment with 23 daily injections.”

But some simple research of published studies quickly shows you how detrimental this is to your health. Let’s start with the hormonal component of this diet: human chorionic gonadotropin injections.

The Food and Drug Administration warns that hCG does not aid in weight loss, and has issued joint warning letters to firms marketing hCG for weight loss. Injecting hCG as part of a weight loss treatment is not an approved usage by the FDA. In fact, the FDA attaches a warning label to approved hCG products stating, “There is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or ‘normal’ distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.”

Furthermore, hCG is a hormone, and interfering with your hormonal balance without careful supervision and testing can have consequences. hCG injections have been associated with headaches, blood clots, leg cramps, temporary hair thinning, constipation, and breast tenderness.

Now that we’ve addressed the dangerous and recklessly false promises of hCG, with help from the FDA, let’s dig into some scientific studies for some hard facts on how starvation diets will harm you.

Which brings us to the 500 calories a day part of the diet. Eating only 500 kcal a day is a starvation diet. There are no two ways around it.

Here’s one major problem: starvation diets can result in diabetes. Let’s look at a study that was published in 1996. Michael Koffler and Eldad S. Kisch examined seven initially obese individuals. All seven participants underwent “a strenuous weight-reduction program” involving severe calorie reduction and “developed diabetes mellitus: non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in five cases and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in two cases” (Koffler M, Kisch ES. J Diabetes Complications. 1996 Mar-Apr;10(2):109-12).

Starvation diets can even result in sudden death in obese patients. The abstract of a 1992 study states, “A major concern with the use of starvation or semistarvation diets for weight reduction in severely obese people has been the reports of sudden death due to ventricular arrhythmias” (Fisler, Janis S. “Cardiac effects of starvation and semistarvation diets: safety and mechanisms of action.” Am J C/in Nuir 1992:56:2305-45).

Finally a 1987 study conducted by Barrows and Snook on the effects of a very low calorie diet; this study concerned a 420 kcal/day diet — only an 80 kcal difference between this study and our hCG VLCD crash diet in question. The study’s abstract states, “A 4-6 mo study was conducted to examine effects of a very-low-calorie, high-protein diet and realimentation on energy expenditure, resting metabolic rate (RMR), and serum thyroid hormones of obese women aged 30-54 yr. Fifteen healthy women, greater than or equal to 126% ideal body weight, were placed on the diet (420 kcal/day) and lost an average of 1.1 kg/wk until a predetermined goal weight was attained.” As the study ended, it was found that “T3 values remained significantly below pre-study values” (Barrows K, Snook JT Am J Clin Nutr. 1987 Feb;45(2):391-8).

Ok, there’s a lot there. The takeaway is: the study was 4-6 months, the participants were 15 healthy yet obese women aged 35-54, and they were placed on a restrictive 420 kcal/day diet. And, “T3 values remained significantly below pre-study values.” But what does that mean in simple terms? Well, low T3 is commonly seen as an indicator of starvation or hypothyroidism — and guess what… A common and major symptom of hypothyroidism is unexplained weight gain. This is all a big and technical way of saying: a severe crash diet will actually cause you to gain weight in the long run.

So here we are in 2017, still discussing hCG and the very low calorie diet. People still believe this is a safe way to lose weight. But our secondary research has shown that there is a history of scientific studies that show the dangers of hCG and the very low calorie diet. And to be clear, just some of those dangers are: symptoms associated with hypothyroidism (like a poorly functioning metabolism), diabetes and even death.

Those are just a few (very serious) examples of why we don’t take diets lightly at Protea. Our mission hinges on helping you live a healthy and happy life — and health and happiness don’t come from quick fixes in a syringe… or from starving yourself.

Everyone’s path to their healthiest self is different. That’s why we take the time to deeply and thoroughly examine our patients. We run extensive labwork, and we talk with you. We use hard data, as well as insight gained from speaking with you, to determine how we can help you enhance your life — with an actual lifestyle change. And with that lifestyle change, that we discover together, you will find your version of success.


Works Cited:

  • Medication Health Fraud – Questions and Answers on HCG Products for Weight Loss Center for Drug Evaluation and Research –
  • “How to Do the hCG Diet – Original Diet hCG” Dr. Simeons’s hCG Diet WebMaster,
  • Koffler M, Kisch ES. “Starvation diet and very-low-calorie diets may induce insulin resistance and overt diabetes mellitus.” J Diabetes Complications. 1996 Mar-Apr;10(2):109-12,
  • Fisler, Janis S. “Cardiac effects of starvation and semistarvation diets: safety and mechanisms of action.” Am J C/in Nuir 1992:56:2305-45,
  • Barrows K, Snook JT. “Effect of a high-protein, very-low-calorie diet on resting metabolism, thyroid hormones, and energy expenditure of obese middle-aged women.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1987 Feb;45(2):391-8,

I Can Breathe Clearly Now

A few weeks ago, I went for a sunrise run, feeling energized in the breezy almost dawn. Toward the end of my usual 3-mile loop I noticed the pretty play of pink sun rays against yellow flowers on the trees.

As I stopped to take a photo, I realized something: I was running outside, during allergy season. Right above me, dogwood trees were in full bloom. I took a deep breath in and realized the following:

-My eyes weren’t stinging.

-My chest wasn’t congested.

-I was breathing in what felt like broken glass.

-My sinuses were clear.

-I had no headache.

At one point five years ago, we lived in Mesa where the trees bloomed against a man-made lake. For a few consecutive weeks every April, both my husband and I had to sleep with pillows propped behind us, halfway upright, with an inhaler near by. I could not breathe otherwise with severe allergy symptoms, which seemed to get worse every year. Runny nose, cough, trouble breathing, horrible headache and watery, red eyes.

Many people suffer from allergies in Arizona when the trees bloom, and we just get used to it. We push through what should be a magic time of year before the weather heats up for the summer: pool season, patio dining, early morning runs, barbecues and long evening walks.

Hard to enjoy any of those things when you can’t breathe well.

I put myself through an elimination diet in September 2015, to figure out why I couldn’t get to my goal weight, why my skin remained congested, why my stomach hurt in a vague but constant state after I ate. I guessed that dairy would most likely be the culprit, but I wanted to be sure before I cut out this beloved food group.

I journaled, first cutting out gluten, then egg, then dairy. I wrote down symptoms, thoughts, reactions. Before I started dairy, I got on the InBody scale at Protea. I work out 4 times a week, do yoga, consume lots of veggies, eat about 75% clean and drink a ton of water. I felt healthy, besides allergies, skin issues and low grade headaches.

When I got on the scale on 9/1/15, I weighed 157.2 with a body fat percentage of 19.3.

Five days later, I weighed in at 151.4 with a PBF of 17.8.

I couldn’t believe it. Not only did my stomach feel less bloated and my skin considerably less congested through my cheeks, but my stomach didn’t hurt. At all.

It wasn’t allergy season, but I imagined that if it were, I wouldn’t be as inflamed. In researching this phenomenon, I started to realize something powerful: an inflammatory response to food can trigger a myriad of health concerns. Our immune systems are designed to recognize an invader and rally troops, as it were, to attack.

Severe allergic reactions, like some children have with peanuts, are easier to spot. The low-grade ones can be tricky. If we are in a constant state of immune irritation from foods that our systems can’t process correctly, we will experience inflammation. An inflammatory response can present as swollen joints, headaches, skin breakouts (since skin is our body’s largest organ), and IBS, to name a few.

Many doctors don’t look to food as a possible source for allergies. Seasonal allergies come straight from air-borne particles, which trigger immune response a few times a year until the pollen dies down. But if your system is overburdened by eating something almost every day that irritates the lining of your gut, causing the inflammatory system to activate, your body is already taxed.

Working overtime to react to an inflammatory food, the immune response to airborne particles goes into hyperdrive. Reactions against an invader substance has already been engaged, as in my case with dairy. Like the adrenal system, our immune system when working correctly elevates when it senses danger and calms down when things return to normal.

Being systematically inflamed on a constant basis is not a state of normalcy. Something will break down, and our body tries to correct this breakdown. But if we can’t isolate the trigger, we can’t eliminate it. Without eliminating it, the cycle of an overburdened immune system continues.

Something as simple and effective as an elimination diet can illuminate what we may miss in our normal day-to-day eating: a slow build up of immune activity based on a food you can’t process anymore.

Maybe as a kid you were able to eat dairy or gluten, before your system began to react against it. As you get older, with adrenal fatigue, stress, hormones, etc, the immune system takes a hit. And suddenly you have bloating, headaches, inflammation that may seem out of the blue. In reality, your body may have been signaling you for a long time.

My life changed once I eliminated dairy, as I realized that day this Spring during my run. I have no more seasonal allergies, even though the trees continue to bloom every year. My immune system functions better without the constant burden of dairy intolerance. I can keep those pounds off with my normal exercise and eating routine, give or take a few splurges.

When I do have an occasional slice of late night pizza or eat eggs fried in butter (the standard in most restaurants) I feel the effects immediately. They go away after a few hours or sometimes a day, depending on what other stressors I put on my system. I can’t deny my body’s reactions, which keeps me away from dairy even on days when I am especially tempted to reach for some brie or sprinkle parma over my pasta.

It just isn’t worth it. I like breathing clearly in the Spring, my clothes fitting better, and going for runs in the morning, allergy season or not.

Have you wondered if you have a food intolerance? Do you feel bloated when you eat certain foods? Have you gained a few pounds and can’t figure out why or where they came from?

Elimination diets can be customized for your life, done over a period of one to two months or faster if you start first with the top 5 inflammatory food groups: dairy, soy, eggs, gluten and nuts. Start there, and expand out to other foods if you still seek answers.

We’d love to help guide you towards a less inflamed life, with better understanding of your body’s reactions to the food you eat. Knowledge is power, and food holds the key.

Food Allergies & Weight Gain

Our bodies are complex. Many of our day to day habits can affect us in areas of our lives we’d never expect. For example, I have seasonal eczema which is exacerbated by all soap products and even certain temperatures of water. Now, I value cleanliness… I never once thought that my soap usage was actually doing more harm than good. But it was. I took it upon myself to recalibrate my relationship with soap based products. I use far fewer soap products these days. My eczema has been nearly nonexistent for two years now. I also save money now, because I’m not buying “conditioning” products which were developed to undo the “damage” soap can do to the skin.

This is all to say: you may have food allergies that you’re unaware of. Those food allergies could be causing problematic weight-gain, and associated issues like bloating and other gastrointestinal problems. A more apt analogy is how seasonal allergies release histamine in our bodies, thus making breathing hard due to swelling. Many food allergies lead to issues like bloating and swelling, which only exacerbate weight gain.

Many food allergies lead to issues like bloating and swelling, which only exacerbate weight gain.

Another example of weight gain caused by foods is the relationship between cortisol and fat storage. Cortisol is a stress hormone which makes your body want to store fat. Cortisol is found in dairy products, and if you’re sensitive to it, you may find yourself gaining weight from it. This is only made worse by the fact that our bodies produce cortisol when we are stressed. So let’s say you consume way too much dairy for your body’s own good. You may have no idea that your body is sensitive to the effects of cortisol found in milk. So you continue to consume dairy products. Your body will be storing fat, you will see this but have no idea why. This cortisol-created-confusion caused from consuming dairy will stress you out. Understandably so. But that unchecked stress will only cause more cortisol in your body, thus increasing your body’s fat retention.

We test our patients to discover what food allergies they have. It is essential to cut foods that are harmful to your body out of your diet. Doing so will put a stop to the symptoms you’re experiencing. Our purpose, and passion, is to help you live the best life you can — and your health is at the center of that. We’re committed to helping you learn how to not simply diet (we don’t like “diets”) but to actually make a lifestyle change that will positively impact your quality of life.

Topical Hormones: Convenience at the Cost of Safety

Topical hormone treatments are seductive. They’re seductive because they are simple. But, in this case, something that is seductive and simple is far from safe. But man doctors still prescribe topical hormone treatments. And, hey, we get it… What’s simpler than rubbing a cream on your skin? Well, few things are as simple as that, but that simplicity comes at a cost you may not have considered.

The fact is: topical hormones can be easily transferred from the user to her clothing, pets, friends and family — basically anything and anyone you touch. One study showed the effects of a woman’s topical hormone use on her family. Within two weeks of using topical hormone therapy, one woman’s spouse and children had increased estrogen levels due to her transferring it. Regarding transferring topical hormones to a spouse: topical hormones can cause enlarged prostates and male pattern baldness in men.

At Protea we do not prescribe topical hormone treatments. If you are currently using topical hormones, or are considering it, please contact us and learn how we can help you. We will sit down with you, evaluate you and your needs, and discuss the many other options to manage your hormone health.

Bioidentical Hormones: An Alternative to Synthetics

In this month’s newsletter we said, “At Protea we believe your health comes before our bottom line.” That statement couldn’t be more true. That statement is the seed idea behind certain big choices we make. E.g., we don’t treat people with synthetic hormones, instead, we use bioidentical hormones.

Bioidentical hormones are identical in molecular structure to the hormones women make in their bodies. Technically speaking, the body can’t tell the difference between bioidentical hormones from the ones produced by a woman’s ovaries. Meanwhile, synthetic hormones have a different molecular structure than what is produced in the body. Bioidentical hormones are synthesized, from a plant chemical extracted from yams and soy.

The main reason we don’t use synthetic hormones is they can cause cancer in patients. Specifically, synthetic progesterone can lead to breast cancer in patients. Meanwhile, natural progesterone cannot cause breast cancer. In fact, it kills cells that cause breast cancer. Another key factor we look at is that synthetic hormones can be patented — this is a hallmark of something that is created. Bioidentical hormones, however, cannot be patented because they occur naturally. And “natural” is what we’re about at Protea.

Hormone therapy is not something to trifle with. We want to make sure our patients receive the best and safest treatment possible. This is why we are a natural medical practice. We are dedicated to advancing your health safely and naturally.

Contact us to learn more about bioidentical hormones and how we can help you.

The Road to the Cupboard

“I do really well in the morning and throughout the afternoon, but during the evenings it is really hard to stay on point.”

When it comes to your eating habits, does this sound familiar?

It sure did to me during a recent nutrition consult. With elevated glucose levels and liver enzymes, this patient’s labwork pointed to a diet too high in refined carbs. Yet her weight was healthy, her body fat percentage at 27.1, just within the normal range of 18 – 28 for women.

When I asked about her vegetables, she stopped and smiled.

“We don’t do a lot of veggies in my house.” With two little kids and both parents working full time, she struggled with meal prepping and incorporating veggies into their days.

I see many patient with these similar concerns. When we leave the house early and rush around all day, healthy eating can be a challenge. For some of us, we take the time to make something substantial like eggs and avocado for breakfast, eat a salad at lunch and munch on nuts during the day. But when we get home? All bets are off.

When evening kicks in, so does the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) does a fine job during the day to keep us active and efficient. It elevates adrenals to help us make quick decisions, get kids from school, stay on task at work, etc. When we return home, our systems begin to shift.

The rest and restore part of our days biologically begins around sunset, even though our minds don’t always cooperate. The PNS plays a crucial role in helping us unwind, calm down, and destress so our brains, cells, nutrients and more can go to work to keep our bodies healthy as we sleep.

But we keep moving. We may go out to run a last minute errand, help with homework, catch up on housework. When we finally sit down, the daily tasks done, our brains are still buzzing though our bodies are craving quiet.

We sit down to watch TV at 8 pm. Sometimes we may not even be hungry, or are still digesting dinner. Right away, our brains say “you need something to snack on.”

Has this happened to you? Have you found yourself in front of the cupboard during a commercial, searching for something sweet or salty to much on?

Sometimes, we skip dinner and find ourselves ravenous during this crucial time of the day. In either scenario, we face an uphill battle with temptations lining the shelves.

Part of shifting a pattern begins with recognizing it. All of us are confronted with cravings; we are biologically hard-wired with rewards sensors. We crave comfort and pleasure in our food, especially if we live with high stress.

Don’t beat yourself up about these evening “bad choices” or cupboard searches. They’re part of being human, of making good choices all day and wanting a break from overthinking when we slow down. We want to graze, munch, wind down, socialize over snacks.

Strategies in combating evening munchies differ. I’ve heard some patients say they brush their teeth and go to bed early rather than feel tempted; others will replace the craving with something smarter. Some will allow a small serving only of a familiar treat, or go for a walk instead of feeling deprived.

LaCroix or Perrier soda waters can satisfy a beverage craving, with their fizzy consistency and slightly sweet flavor. Flavored nuts can be a great salty and crunchy choice, as can a small tangerine or apple to replace a cookie fix.

You can try eating before you feel yourself get hungry. Grab an apple or orange ahead of the brain sending a craving signal to your belly, or before your belly tells your brain it needs food. Our brains love the fast track to Crave Town.

Mary’s Gone Crackers or more nutrient dense crackers will always trump potato chips. If you’re on a high fat low carb diet, go for celery or cucumber slices with a favorite dip. With this option, you get taste, crunch and sound if you are a texture eater.

Roasted veggies can be delicious as a snack. So can veggies sautéed in oil and topped with roasted pine nuts or almonds. It may seem sacrilegious to view a vegetable as a treat, but try them. As you learn to prepare veggies with different flavor and texture, your body will start to crave them.

Find Keto-friendly dessert ideas online – there are dozens of websites. Plan ahead, making baggies for the week so you grab a small portion instead of a whole bag.

Whatever strategy that works for you, follow it. Instead of depriving or punishing yourself, embrace the following:

1. You are human. You are hardwired to want comfort food and tasty snacks.
2. You are deconstructing an old pattern and creating a new one.
3. You every day are understanding your own body better and how to read its signals
4. As you learn what foods work best for your unique metabolism, you are better equipped to make good choices when it comes to snacks.
5. You will make a “mistake” and indulge in that craving every once in a while, whether it be pretzels or red vines in your kids’ “treat” jar.
6. You will get back on track.
7. Your body is smart, and so are you.

We would love to hear your best strategies for making optimal snack choices. We can encourage each other to replace instead of repress cravings, and together create an environment of success. Instead of dieting, we want to implement “life eating” to empower you.

And that is the best feeling of all, something to relish and enjoy. Maybe – just maybe – you will start to crave it more than that rogue sleeve of Thin Mints.

Corrective Diets for Weight Loss & Issues with Insulin

In the medical community we don’t offer “diets” as solutions, we guide people on lifestyle changes — and adopting a healthier diet is a large part of that lifestyle change. But it’s important to understand the different meanings of the word “diet.” Diets that are marketed to people on TV and through books are rarely positioned as actual lifestyle changes based on science and what your body needs. “Diets,” let’s call them “fad diets,” often offer unhealthy short term solutions in the hopes that you see and feel some sort of results — and continue to spend money on the fad diet. 

We do not condone short term diets, except in extreme circumstances — and we come to that decision after extensive lab work. Sometimes people have metabolic irregularities, and we need to give them short term corrective diets. Those are very specialized moments. Let’s look at some of the reasons we’d change a person’s dietary lifestyle. And then we’ll close by looking at when and why we use short-term diets with patients.

Someone may eat perfectly, but whenever they get on the scale they see weight-gain no matter what they eat or how much they eat. This situation most likely hinges on blood sugar levels.

Let’s say you go out to lunch. When the average person eats, they bring their blood sugar up to a normal level. Your pancreas should sense that blood sugar increase and then release insulin to match your blood sugar levels. The insulin escorts the sugar to your cells to be used as an energy source. Your blood sugar starts to go down because it’s being taken up by your cells, and your insulin goes down with it as well. This is ideal. This is healthy.

Sometimes we see patients who have type 2 diabetes or are pre-diabetic. Chances are they regularly eat too much, causing their blood sugar to soar too high. These people may be over indulging on a regular basis, resulting in high blood sugar levels. Their pancreas is likely responding with a lot of insulin. They have high insulin and high blood sugar. The insulin will still escort sugar into the cells to be used for energy, and the insulin levels will drop. But this person is setting themselves up to for diabetes, if they aren’t diabetic already.

Now let’s look at someone with type 1 diabetes. They don’t produce insulin, their pancreas doesn’t make it. That person can eat a salad, or an orange, (something small), and their blood sugar will start to go up. But since their pancreas isn’t secreting insulin, the blood sugar is not escorted to the cell to be used for energy. Blood sugar levels continue to soar. These people will have a level of blood sugar that is three to four times higher than normal. You may think this person should be overweight, but they usually aren’t. People like this are usually under weight. 

Sometimes we have a patient who has trouble loosing weight no matter how hard they try. We do a hemoglobin a1c test, that shows what their average blood sugar is over the course of three months. Their blood sugar is very low, we know that from lab work. They calorie restrict, but it doesn’t matter — their body is trying to gain weight. So in our labs we also test their insulin, and we find that their insulin is astronomically high.

Basic physiology shows that insulin preferentially takes whatever you eat and does everything it can to store it as fat. it’s like living with a hoarder who takes part of your paycheck every time you get paid. Instead of using that money for the upkeep of the house, they’re hoarding it away. This person’s blood sugar isn’t being used as an energy source, it’s being stored and held onto, as fat. These people are now left with a small amount of energy. They’re fatigued and gaining weight. And perhaps eating a low calorie diet. A lot of times these people are also exercising — they want to lose weight.

A low calorie diet will not help this person. She wouldn’t loose any weight and she’d feel worse. We have to address the insulin issue.

The standard american diet has a bit of fat, a good amount of protein and a lot of carbs. This could be a healthy diet, but most of the time it isn’t. Most of the time we load up on carbs by eating junk food. We just do. But you could do this healthily, carbs can be found in fruits and vegetables. But low calorie diets simply change the volume of fats, proteins and carbs. As soon as this person eats carbs, it stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. They are over responding to carbs with too much insulin. So what’s our solution for that? There’s a few and we’re going to talk about the ones that work best for us.

Let’s look at the standard American diet. Your protein will be moderate, your carbs will be high and your fats will be low. The problem is high carbs lead to high insulin. This diet will not help, even the lower calorie version of it.

What about a high protein diet, like paleo or Atkins? That type of diet is high in protein, low in carbs and has a little bit of fat. That could work, but the problem is you only need so much protein in your diet. As soon as you exceed a certain point, your body will bioconvert protein into carbs using gluconeogenesis. And that’s when high protein diets no longer work. These people are eating too much protein, the protein gets turned into carbs, and the carbs stimulate the pancreas to create more insulin.

In our experience the diet that works in this case isn’t a diet that’s sustainable — to be honest. This is why it is one of the rare times we implement a short term diet solution. the diet is: you eat as much protein as your body needs, as low a level of carbs as we can get away with, and we level it out with fat. This is a crazy diet, it is not good long term. it isn’t safe. But after a period of time this diet leads to a regression in insulin. At this point we pivot and take the patient off this potentially detrimental diet, now that it’s done its job.

Every decision we make is based on extensive and continual lab work — whether we are offering a short-term diet to mitigate the dangers of metabolic irregularities, or we are changing a patient’s lifestyle long-term. We base all decisions on lab work that pertains to each individual patient of ours. No two people are alike, and no two plans are alike. 

Women & Testosterone

Most people go through life thinking estrogen is for women and testosterone is for men, but things aren’t that simple. For example, men need estrogen. And when men lack estrogen there is a genetic irregularity. This leads to health problems. There’s a lot of good research on men and estrogen. But there hasn’t been much research done on women and testosterone. But that’s changed over the last 10-15 years.

At Protea, we run lab work to figure out why women may need testosterone. In this blog we’re going to cover why we treat some women with testosterone, symptoms of low testosterone in women, and the risk and benefits associated with testosterone in women.

In women, testosterone is produced in the ovaries. Testosterone is produced all month long, with a little spike sometime around ovulation. Testosterone binds to muscle tissue to help fortify muscle tissue, including your heart.

Currently, the most common use of testosterone in women has been for anti cancer treatments. Testosterone helps mitigate the pain caused by breast cancer, and inhibit breast cancer growth. But testosterone also has a profound effect on brain chemistry.

In the brain there is the limbic system. It’s a deeper part of the brain, and it has centers associated with confidence, assertiveness, aggressiveness, libido, risk taking and boundary setting. These are deep drives within the human brain. Then there is the cortex, the upper part of the brain.

A young man (around 17/18 years old) may exhibit a lot of these traits: abnormal libido, they take too many risks, and they have over abundant confidence. This is because a young man has a very thin cortex. I.e., he doesn’t have a lot of judgement. If you have a thin cortex you feel those drives more intensely, this is only compounded by the amount of testosterone a young man has.

Women have much thicker cortexes than men. Especially adult women. Adult men have tick cortexes as well, but cortexes develop slower in men. Your cortex is where your experiences live: your upbringing, your values, friends, beliefs, spirituality and etc.

Healthy amounts of testosterone filtered through a woman’s thicker cortex means they have a healthy level of risk taking/risk management. They don’t act aggressively in a harmful way, but they are aggressive in regard to pursuing their dreams and what matters to them. Women with healthy levels of testosterone can more easily set emotional boundaries and adhere to them. This all allows women with healthy testosterone to be able to be more confident, more assertive and also have an increased libido.

A lot of women want these traits. A lot of books are written telling women how to be more assertive and take more risks in their lives. But the issue with being told “how” to be more confident and assertive is that it’s an external “solution.” When you read a book and intellectually process that information it lives in your cortex. The info you just absorbed is not rooted deep within your limbic system. So you may be aware of these concepts, but it’s harder to act on them because they are merely concepts in your cortex. We want to stimulate the actual centers of confidence and assertiveness which live deep within your limbic system. Testosterone in women helps to do that. Let’s look into this some more.

Why would women have low testosterone? Well, women aren’t supposed to have a lot of testosterone. A man’s level of free testosterone is at 20-25, for women it’s four. Four is a good number. Now, when we say “free testosterone” we mean testosterone that is unattached to anything in your blood. One of the reasons women can have low testosterone is because of sex hormone binding globulin — a protein made by the liver.

Sex hormone binding globulin is like a magnet. It looks for testosterone that’s in circulation and binds it to the protein. Any testosterone bound to that protein becomes inert. Anytime a woman has too much sex hormone binding globulin, she won’t have any free testosterone available to do anything in her body. Well, what could increase sex hormone binding globulin? Oral contraceptives.

So when a female patient comes and says she lacks confidence, assertiveness and drive and etc, we look at what her sex hormone binding globulin level is. We then ask if she have a history of oral contraceptives? We gauge what her testosterone levels are. We measure what amount of testosterone is bound to the sex hormone binding globulin protein. And then we look at what is her amount of free testosterone.

Giving a woman dosages of testosterone is not our ultimate goal. Our goal is to find a woman’s free testosterone that isn’t bound to the sex hormone binding globulin, and bring that testosterone to a healthy level — naturally.

You might be wondering, “what if we do have to use testosterone?” “What are the risks?” “What are the benefits?” Testosterone in women is probably one of the hardest things we deal with in our office. Because the way it’s naturally secreted by the ovaries is very slow and gentle. When we give a women an injection of testosterone, her levels shoot up, but then harshly drop after seven days. Meaning the process needs to be repeated. Which means the patient is on a tumultuous cycle of hormone dosing. That’s a roller coaster. Some women don’t notice that roller coaster, and everything is fine. But some women do notice it, and that roller coaster ride of testosterone can be immensely difficult to deal with.

In most cases we’ll insert a sub-dermal pellet that lasts for four months, and releases very slowly and steadily. This is our preferred method of treatment. This does not spike testosterone levels. After the four months, it dissolves and leaves the body. This is far gentler on the endocrine system than injecting testosterone into the body.

It’s important to note that side effects of testosterone can be mitigated as long as you’re receiving a healthy dosage. As long as the dosing is healthy, any side effects can be managed and reversed. We view testosterone as a subordinate to progesterone in women. Testosterone helps progesterone do its job. Progesterone is your body’s natural anti-anxiety agent. And finding natural solutions to your health problems is what we’re passionate about at Protea.

We want to work in concert with your body, not against your body. That is our philosophy at Protea, and it has lead us to success with our patients. We invite you to contact us to learn more about how we can help you live a healthier and happier life — naturally. That is the Protea promise.

Deconstructing Patterns

I wanted to talk a bit about patterns this week. Patterns of behavior are usually learned, not innate, and can take a while to take hold.

As a baby, you learned patterns of language by mimicking and copying until eventually you made your own words and phrases. As a kid, you learn how to act and behave through trial and error: in school, at home, with your friends. You don’t grow up automatically understanding that you must say “please” and “thank you” or where to put your homework when you unpack your backpack in the classroom.

We learn social patterns, how to drive a car, how to study for a midterm, how to give and receive gifts. We are taught how to cook by watching and then helping our parents until the patterns become ingrained.

Patterns become a part of the tapestry of our days so much that we forget the work involved in the process.

I am currently teaching my kids a pattern on how to snack after school. How to eat the rainbow on their plates, to include a protein, a healthy fat, a carb and a fruit or veggie. I show them how to read labels to look for sugar grams, make a list for a recipe, shop for the ingredients, and put everything away when they get home.

Patterns become a part of the tapestry of our days so much that we forget the work involved in the process. When we learn patterns, our frontal cortexes are engaged: our powers of concentration, forming new neural pathways, and repetition fire up until we “get it.” Once this happens, we can’t imagine not knowing.

Unlearning patterns of eating is a tricky process. It can be discouraging, starting to understand that how you ate at 20, 30, 40 does not work for your metabolism right now. For those of us who were children/teenagers in the 80s, learning that eating “fat free” didn’t deliver on the promise of “thin” can be disheartening. We were programmed to believe something so deeply that it can be daunting to unlearn it.

Daunting, yet incredibly empowering.

Once you start to understand macronutrients and eating for your particular biochemistry, the hard work begins. We begin to deprogram our brains with knowledge that makes sense to how our bodies feel now – not at the moment years before when the first patterns formed. At the same time we deprogram, we learn new ways of thinking about food and our bodies.

Our brains love to hold onto established patterns and resist the shift we towards eating a new way. We feel better, and get excited by less inflammation and bloating or brain fog. But our brain patterns and memories can sabotage our newfound knowledge, because food is so much more than just nutrition.

Don’t forget the hard work you are doing in deprogramming a set of patterns and learning new ones. Take heart knowing that when you “mess up” on a diet, you are still doing great work. Creating a new nutrition plan deserves success and celebration as much as it does discipline and dedication.

If you have a craving, know that your body is sending you a signal. If you indulge the craving, do it mindfully and then notice how you feel afterwards. Be easy on yourself. If you choose to replace the craving with something that aligns with your new eating pattern, celebrate the win.

We encourage eating for life rather than “dieting” at Protea. Understanding the process in creating a new pattern not only keeps you from going crazy with “fails,” but also helps you stay the course.

It can be a delicate balance, but an encouraging one, as you eat for your body now rather than who you were before, or based on what popular culture tells you. Diet books are tools, but only one part of the pattern you make for yourself.

We believe in the body’s wisdom and the power of your brain to create a successful nutrition pattern that allows you to thrive.  One step, one meal, one day at a time.