Oh Really?


Procter & Gamble may be a household name for washing powder, but they also have a pharmaceutical arm that has just joined with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to produce a finding that will leave you as amazed as I was – not!

One of the often reported effects of the menopause is a loss of libido. When my good friend Dr Shirley Bond and I were giving workshops on coping with menopause this often came up in the discussion. We found women fell into two camps: they were worried by it, or delighted with it – unfortunately low libido is also associated with depression so it’s hard to sort out if it is the menopause or another life challenging situation that is causing it.

This new report was found in the official journal of the International Society of Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (I often find the longer the name the less valuable the information, or is that just me?) and states at length what I just mentioned in the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Obviously brevity doesn’t bring a handsome research grant – where am I going wrong? The researchers ‘discovered’ that women with a low libido suffered physical symptoms and memory problems as well as depression. Lack of a fulfilling sex life could depress anyone, and those ‘senior moments’ are not an exclusively female characteristic in my experience. Being depressed just by itself can, and does, manifest all the same symptoms that they are describing in their report.

The research was done by phone over 1000 women in the USA by asking them to undertake a quality of life study. The women were asked about their levels of sexual desire and feelings of physical and emotional well-being or distress. Sadly they didn’t phone me, and I would hazard a guess that if they phoned women during the world cup or while trying to get dinner ready then they would have got some interesting results that weren’t necessarily typical of that woman’s everyday experience. Amazingly the women who had a low libido were more likely to be depressed and to express dissatisfaction with their home lives and their sexual partners. Having a low libido and an unsatisfactory partner can depress anyone but I am not convinced it is solely applicable to menopausal women as I said before.

Still I am sure there is another research project already under way to investigate my theory, and if you want to give your libido a boost and avoid all those symptoms, then I suggest you go to it in any way that works for you – I expect consumption of George Clooney DVD’s and boxes of chocolate to soar.

Men have a biological clock too

November 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Mens Health, Sexual Health

I don’t know chaps, can’t you let us have anything for ourselves? We would willingly pass on giving birth, at least 50% of the time, but you haven’t lined up for that one yet. What you now are laying claim to is having the same sort of biological clock that we thought was exclusive to women. Despite news stories of men fathering children at the age of 80 and upwards, the average man’s fertility does not go on forever.

Although men constantly produce sperm every 90 days for as long as they live, the actual potency of those sperm has been brought into question. We have seen numerous stories about man’s declining levels of fertility where young men today produce a quarter of the sperm their grandfathers did, and have assumed that it was just environmental factors causing greater delays in men being able to get their partners pregnant. In cases referred to fertility clinics, the ratio is now 50/50 for men and women in assessing where the medical problem lies. Now a French study has found that a father’s age could have as much of an impact on the rate of pregnancy and miscarriage as a mother’s age – obviously Charlie Chaplin was an exception.

Generally, in fertility studies, the older either potential parent is then the chances of conception are reduced, and sadly the rate of miscarriage is increased. Statistically, if the man is younger than 25, around 92% will get their partner pregnant in under a year. However, adding just 10 years to the mix certainly alters the statistics, as the number taking under a year then drops to 85%. It’s not just the increased time it can take to create a viable pregnancy. The older a man is, then the greater the risk to the child of Downs syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Also, fathers over 55 seem to have a greater potential for fathering children with psychological problems with around 37% of them having children who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder at some point in life.

It seems that for men, as for women, the biological clock ticks loudest between 30 and 35 and delaying starting a family may have sound financial reasons – but not necessarily the best health ones.

The fertile gender difference

When it comes to planning a family, looking at the couple’s diet is often a first step but this usually comes down to having a balanced, healthy diet of lots of fruit and vegetables and with minimum potential risks such as additives, fats, alcohol and smoking. However, some preliminary research from Australia seems to indicate that there may be a different factor to consider when looking at fertility and reproductive success.

This research is based on long-term studies on Australian black field crickets, so no tests on humans yet, but its finding could be highly relevant. Lead researcher Rob Brooks and his team have discovered that the lifespan of both male and female crickets is maximized on high-carbohydrate, low-protein diets, and reported this finding in the latest issue of Current Biology. But the interesting fact to emerge is that reproductive success differs dramatically between the sexes when the carbohydrate-protein balance is changed. Males have the greatest reproductive success with a diet that favours carbohydrates to protein by eight-to-one. Females have greatest success when the protein/carbohydrate ratio is just one-to-one.

More research is clearly needed, but to maximise fertility in the meantime, the best course is to follow the anti-inflammatory or wellness diet. This is based on principles that have been shown to promote longevity and reproductive health in both men and women throughout their lives, and if you would like a copy of it please contact us.

Osteoporosis drugs questionmark

Some years ago I set up the Natural Progesterone Information Service to provide women with the latest news on natural hormones rather than synthetic ones such as HRT. One of the things that John Lee talked a lot about all those years ago was how in his opinion the biphosphonate drugs given for osteoporosis were actually weakening the bone rather than helping to build it. He had seen great results with women using natural progesterone to build bone density, though the medical profession did not accept that progesterone could work more effectively than the drugs. Now after all these years, more questions have emerged about whether long-term use of bone-building drugs for osteoporosis may actually lead to weaker bones in a small number of people who use them. Case reports show an unusual fracture pattern in people who have used bone-building drugs, the biphosphonates, for five years or more.

If you are taking such drugs please ensure you are also having regular bone scans to check your progess and it would be worth looking at your diet and natural supplements that can help build bone such as horsetail and silica. If you would like information on natural progesterone for osteoporosis and HRT replacement (I no longer have any connection with the service since I gave up running it) you can obtain a booklet from the Natural Progesterone Information Service, tel: 07000 784849 or visit their website at www.npis.info.
Wellspring Trading in Guernsey also have an excellent free booklet on natural progesterone cream which is written by my good friend and colleague, Dr Shirley Bond – a private GP who specialises in hormone therapy for women. Wellspring’s telephone number is – 01481 233 370.

Progesterone use for endometriosis

July 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Sexual Health, Womens Health

Last week I talked about progesterone and mental health, and just like buses along comes another story about this key female hormone. I have myself written for the endometriosis society in the past about how progesterone can help with endometriosis, and now a study on female rhesus macaques monkeys at the the Oregon National Primate Research Center has brought more proof of the hormone’s effectiveness.

Apparently, female macaques in captivity are prone to endometriosis – a painful, debilitating condition where bits of tissue scattered around the pelvic cavity behave like uterine (endometrial) tissue, filling with blood and then releasing it. Conventional medicine hasn’t had much success in treating endometriosis safely and effectively, but Dr.John Lee, noting that women with endometriosis often get better when they are pregnant, recommended using high doses of natural progesterone and indeed, many of his patients found relief, though not a cure, by doing this.

In the Center’s study, seven monkeys with advanced endometriosis were injected with capsules that released progesterone continuously for up to 20 months. All of the monkeys showed significant benefit within the first two weeks and although two monkeys then got no further benefit, the other five continued to do well. If you know someone suffering from this painful condition it would be worth suggesting they talk to their doctor about obtaining natural progesterone in cream or sub- lingual form – don’t treat it with yam cream which converts insufficient progesterone in the body to be of use.

Natural progesterone cannot be obtained in the UK without a doctor’s prescription, but you can buy it over the internet and import it for your own use with no restrictions.

A delicate topic for a delicate area

June 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Sexual Health, Skincare, Wellness

Assuming that you are like the majority of us, you get into the shower or bath and go to it with the soap or shower gel over your entire body. What you may not know is that many natural practitioners advise against using soap in the genital area because it can cause you problems. Soap should not be used to clean these ‘no-go areas’; the vaginal opening, the tip of the penis, and the anal sphincter. Why not? Because regularly applying soap to these areas can cause the mucosal lining to become dry and unhealthy and that in turn can lead to a number of uncomfortable health conditions. The two most common ones are chronic inflammation and a greater tendency to experience infections.

So please keep the soap away from those delicate openings and use it sparingly on the rest of your body. Nature has already rather cleverly designed your skin so that it is lined with sebaceous glands that secrete an oily substance called sebum, which is what keeps your skin waterproof and resistant to infection by undesirable microorganisms. It’s sebum that prevents soap from drying out skin to a point where significant health challenges can arise, but the mucosal linings of the genital and anal area don’t secrete sebum so they don’t offer the same offer the same protection against the drying effects of soap. So am I suggesting you don’t wash those areas at all? Certainly not, but just stick to using warm or hot water – the continental use of a bidet has a lot to recommend it. You may never have experienced any problems with using soap, but if someone is particularly sensitive to infection or inflammation then it is advice worth passing on.

Postponing a family? New menopause predictor

May 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Sexual Health, Womens Health

Today, many couples often postpone having children until after age 30, although many do not realise that a woman’s fertility is linked to her menopause and some women are sterile as early as their thirties, according to a report in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism by Dr. van Disseldorp of the University Medical Centre, at Utrecht in The Netherlands. It is clear that knowing when menopause may occur could greatly affect their decision on when to start a family, and now there is new research to show that a easy-to-measure hormone may be a better predictor of menopause than actual chronological age.

Women are born with all of the eggs that they will ever have, and they lose them throughout life until menopause, when none are left. The Utrecht study has revealed that the age when menopause begins might be easily predicted by a hormone correlated to the number of antral follicles in the ovaries. Antral follicles are small, about 2-8 mm in diameter, but they can be seen, measured and counted with ultrasound.

As women age they have less eggs remaining, and therefore they have less antral follicles visible on ultrasound. The researchers in Utrecht took this a stage further and looked at the levels of the anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), which is closely correlated with the number of antral follicles. So a simple blood test for this hormone can accurately predict the age of onset of menopause. The average age in the West is 51, but women planning on a late family may want to have a more accurate assessment before leaving it to chance.

Testosterone for women?

February 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Sexual Health, Womens Health

Testosterone for women may seem like a strange idea, but it is being used increasingly to help women improve their sex drive and perk up their libido. You may be surprised to learn that women have testosterone, but it is one of the three main hormones in our bodies along with oestrogen and progesterone.
When women reach menopause, their progesterone and testosterone levels may drop by as much as 50 percent but before you rush to talk to your doctor about it (though your partner may try and beat you to it) remember that all hormones are powerful substances and not to be taken lightly.

The method of taking testestorone currently is orally in pill form, but the medical authorities have recently declined approval of a testosterone patch designed for women. The product was found to be only slightly more effective than a placebo patch, while the side effects included liver dysfunction, acne and unwanted hair growth. You might want to try some more natural, and safer, ways of boosting your sex drive first.

Fortunately, there are a number of plants and herbs that have been shown to enhance sexual drive and enjoyment by helping to maintain balanced hormone levels, including testosterone. For instance, saw palmetto (commonly used to promote prostate health) has been prescribed for centuries as a sexual stimulant for both women and men. The ancient Mayans used an herb called damiana to energize sexual vitality and it is freely on sale in my local health shop, along with Siberian ginseng which has the reputation for arousing sexuality and enhancing stamina in women. Anyone for Nettle tea? This also has been used as an aphrodisiac for centuries though you might want to add some honey to it first!

More on Health Texting

December 7, 2007 by  
Filed under featured, Health, Lifestyle, Sexual Health

It may seem like a gimmick, but there is serious money being invested around the world in setting up systems to send mobile phone text messages for a variety of health situations. Some companies are beginning to capitalize on the concept by selling a service that companies can then provide to their employees or customers. They will send text, email or voice-mail messages reminding users to take their pills, refill prescriptions, get to appointments or check vital signs such as blood pressure or blood sugar levels. Interested parties include drug companies, insurers and large employers hoping to improve efficiency and decrease absenteeism and next year, a direct-to-consumer service is being launched that for $60 a year will offer you a personal email, text or voice-mail reminder about prescriptions and appointments. In the older age groups, 60 plus, they showed little interest in the service as generally that age group are more averse to using new technology.

The advantages are fairly clear. Text messaging is fast, cheap and private. Unlike voice mail, it is easier to recall and easier to respond to. In England, women have received text reminders to take their birth-control pills, and Rifat Atun, professor of international health management at Imperial College in London, says several hospitals in England already text-message appointment reminders and test results. AIDS patients are helped to keep to adhere to complicated drug regimens by text in Australia, and German researchers are examining how text messages can offer psychological support to bulimics.

The San Francisco Health Department started a texting service for sexual-health information last year, in response to rising venereal disease rates among adolescents and young adults. A text-message number was extensively advertised on posters, and on public transport and urged young people to call and they will get texted responses to common questions. This is similar to a programme running in the UK aimed at the same age group, and in case you wanted to know, the top three messages that were accessed by users were:

1 “what 2 do if ur condom broke,”
2 “2 find out about STDs,”
3 “if u think ur pregnant”

For the older generation, yes I do know how to spell, and those messages are exactly as they appear on the phone! It’s why I struggle with texting, I spell everything in full which takes me so long it’s much quicker just to phone someone!

Chlamydia and male fertility

November 7, 2007 by  
Filed under Mens Health, Sexual Health, Womens Health

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis. In the UK, the number of new diagnoses has been steadily increasing each year since the mid-1990s, and it has now become the most commonly diagnosed STI.

There has been much publicity about the devastating effects of chlamydia on fertility in women, where, if left untreated, it can affect the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. It is estimated that sexually active women aged under-25, have a 1 in 10 chance of getting chlamydia but scientists from Spain and Mexico have now established that it presents similar risks for men.

They have estimated that men who are aged between 20 and 30 are most at risk of becoming infected and that it can make men infertile by damaging the quality of their sperm. As chlamydia often has no symptoms, in both men and women, it can often go undiagnosed, but is easily treatable in the early stages. It is when it is well established that damage can occur so prevention is the best plan by always using condoms and having regular checkups. STI clinics can perform a simple urine test, or there are also home testing kits available.

*** Editors Note ***
Always use a condom, if you’re not sure how to put on a condom, check out this how to put on a condom video.

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