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The Hormone Cure with Dr. Sara Gottfried

I’m so excited for our first guest, Dr. Sara Gottfried. I have to thank JJ Virgin for introducing us last year. When I first met Sara, I just had a girl crush on her. I actually still do. She is so smart, and beautiful, and sweet, and she just has something very calming about her. I know you guys will love her too.

Evelyne Lambrecht: Hi, everyone! Welcome to Elevate Your Energy Radio. My name is Evelyne Lambrecht, and this is my very first show. I’m so excited for this new project. My goal is to be the best resource for women to ask questions, and find answers, and talk about health issues that matter to us.

I’m a health coach and I’m also a functional medicine consultant for Thorne Research, an amazing supplement company, and in my work, I get to meet really cool doctors and other healthcare practitioners all the time. So I’m so excited to be able to interview them and share their expertise with you.

I also have to thank my friend, Sean Croxton. He’s been a friend of mine for about seven years or so. He’s the founder of Underground Wellness. If you guys have never heard the podcast, it’s absolutely amazing. A few years ago, I used to book the guests for his show, and I’ve hosted a handful of shows on his podcast. At the beginning of last month, I was listening to this lecture at a medical conference here in San Diego. It was a psychiatrist talking about natural treatments for depression — I definitely want to have him on this show. But I texted Sean, and I said, “Hey! You really have got to interview this guy on your podcast.” And Sean said, “Why don’t you do your own show?” and I said, “Okay!” So here we are—my very first show.

I’m so excited for our first guest, Dr. Sara Gottfried. I have to thank JJ Virgin for introducing us last year. When I first met Sara, I just had a girl crush on her. I actually still do. She is so smart, and beautiful, and sweet, and she just has something very calming about her. I know you guys will love her too.

Let me read you Sara’s official bio before I bring her on. Sara Gottfried, MD, is a natural hormone expert, Harvard-educated physician, keynote speaker, and author of The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive, and Vitality Naturally with the Gottfried Protocol. They just found out last night that it hit number five on The New York Times bestseller list, which is awesome. For the past 20 years, Dr. Gottfried has been dedicated to helping women feel at home in their bodies with natural hormone balancing. After graduating from the Physician Scientist Training Program at Harvard Medical School and MIT, Dr. Gottfried completed her residency at the University of California at San Francisco, where she still teaches medical students. She’s board certified in gynecology. She has been featured on 20/20 and in O Magazine, Glamour, Women’s World, and Yoga Journal.

I have my personal little thing to add to her bio: Sara frequently quotes rap songs in her emails, including “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore, which we both know all the words to.

Dr. Sara, welcome to the show!

Dr. Sara Gottfried: Oh my gosh, thank you so much for that intro. I really appreciate it. And the girl crush is mutual.

Evelyne: Oh! [Laughs] thank you! You know, I am actually going to see Macklemore in concert tonight.

Dr. Gottfried: You are not! I am so jealous!

Evelyne: Sara, I would love to hear your story. You are not the typical OB-GYN. How did you get into this, and why did you write this book?

Dr. Gottfried: It’s true. I’m not the usual OB-GYN. I was trained in the conventional way, but I went rogue. I went rogue because, when I was in my 30s, I was struggling with PMS. I had insane sugar cravings. I was about 25 pounds fatter than I am now. I just felt like I was pushing a rock up the hill. I was a working mother, I was married, and I felt way too young to feel so old. It was at that point that I went and saw my physician. I did what many women do and I was offered an antidepressant. For me, Evelyne, that was really a defining moment, because I stared at that prescription. It was for Prozac. I stared at that prescription, I just felt like, “I’m not depressed. I’m stressed out, I’m overweight, but I’m not depressed. This does not feel right to me.” So that’s when I took my medical training, and I applied it to my own body. I realized my main problem was my hormones were out of whack. There were three main hormones that were off, and I like to call them your hormonal Charlie’s Angels. They’re your cortisol, thyroid, and estrogen. When you have those hormones out of whack, it just makes life a lot more difficult. It makes you fat, cranky, and not want to have sex.

When I figured that out, when I got my cortisol corrected within four weeks, I then turned around and offered that to women in my practice. The next 10,000 women really had extraordinary results and were able to get their hormones into balance in a short amount of time: sometimes an hour, sometimes 48 hours, sometimes four weeks or six weeks. It depends on what the issue is and how long-standing. But that, then, led me to writing this book and definitely going rogue.

Evelyne: That’s amazing, especially to see such quick results. I know that you’re a big fan of questionnaires rather than lab tests, but when would you recommend lab tests for people, and when would you say, “Take a quiz”?

Dr. Gottfried: I think it’s important to always start with a self-assessment. I’m a big fan of using quizzes. In fact, we’ve got a free one that we can have your listeners check out today. We’ll share that URL in a moment.

Evelyne: Yes, you go to You can take that free quiz from Sara.

Dr. Sara Gottfried on Elevate Your Energy Radio

“I’m a big fan of starting with your experience, starting with your symptoms and things that you may not even know are symptoms.”

Dr. Gottfried: Yay! I’m a big fan of starting with your experience, starting with your symptoms and things that you may not even know are symptoms. It can be a really important clue to what’s going on hormonally. Whether that’s PMS, or breast tenderness, or feeling tired but wired, or you’d rather mop the floor than have sex with your boyfriend or husband, I want you to realize that there’s not something wrong with you. It’s probably hormonal. So I’m a big fan of starting with a quiz.

And then you asked about laboratory testing. I am also a fan of laboratory testing, but here’s the deal. You want to knit together your experience with those laboratory tests. I can’t tell you how many people I see… I saw a woman this week named Julie, who’s a 34-year-old woman. She came to me, and she said, “I’ve just been feeling like crap for years. I had my doctor test my hormones, and he told me that they were all fine.” But she had weight gain. She had mild depression. She just felt way more tired than she should for a 34-year-old. When I looked at her labs, I actually thought that she had some abnormalities that this doctor kind of glossed over. But it’s so important to put your symptoms together with your laboratory tests.

And then the latest cutting-edge thinking when it comes to hormones is this issue of hormone resistance. That kind of adds another kink to the system because you probably have heard of insulin resistance. That’s where your cells become numb to insulin. You can have other types of hormonal resistance, like progesterone resistance, cortisol resistance (also known as glucocorticoid resistance). These other types of resistance can make your labs not necessarily reflect what’s going on inside the cells of your body. So that’s why you want to look at both. You want to do this quiz, and you also want to take a look at the laboratory tests.

Evelyne: Interesting. I actually want to back up a little bit. Can you explain what a hormone is and what it does in the body?

Dr. Gottfried: Oh, yes. Hormones drive what you’re interested in. I think of them as being these chemical messengers that get released mostly by these releasing hormones that you make in your brain. Your brain’s kind of the control system. You’ve got this system of endocrine glands throughout your body, and the ones that you probably are familiar with are, the biggest one – the thyroid, which is right in your neck. You also have your adrenal glands, which are these cute, little glands the size of a pencil eraser on top of your kidneys. You also have your ovaries in women, and then testicles. Your fat is also something that releases hormones, like leptin.

This whole system basically is a series of chemical messengers. I think of them kind of like text messages that go through your body and tell your cells to do a certain thing, like your thyroid hormone sends a text to your entire body, like every cell in your body, to either speed up metabolism or slow it down, speed up the rate that you burn calories or slow it down. That’s an example of a hormone and how it works in the body.

Evelyne: That’s such a great example, such a great analogy. You mentioned them before, and you frequently refer to them in your book, the three most important hormones in women, you call them the Charlie’s Angels. Can you tell us what they are and how they interact with each other?

Dr. Gottfried: Yes. This interaction is a really important piece. The reason why I call it your hormonal Charlie’s Angels—and, Evelyne, you were actually so great at helping me figure out the term for guys, you know, we were talking about the hormonal Three Amigos.

Evelyne: Which one did you go with?

Dr. Gottfried: I like Three Amigos, so that really works for me. For women, it’s cortisol, estrogen, and thyroid. For men, it’s cortisol, testosterone, and thyroid. For women, the way that I think about this is that cortisol is really the boss. It has a way of shutting down your other hormones. The idea here is that, with your thoughts, with the way that you perceive stress, the way that you dance with your daily stress, you are texting your thyroid and maybe your ovaries to dial down, to hibernate, that there’s something dangerous going on, a tiger is among us, and you need to slow things down.

These three different hormones definitely have crosstalk, and cortisol is what you’re going to make as a top priority. You need cortisol. It raises your blood pressure. It raises your blood sugar. It modulates your immune system. You need cortisol no matter what, and your body is designed to make that a top priority even if it’s at the expense of these other hormones.

The reason why I call it your hormonal Charlie’s Angels is that you want all three of these hormonal Charlie’s Angels working together, not working against you. When you have that, it’s just like Charlie’s Angels itself. It is like poetry when they work together.

Evelyne: I actually want to go through some of the most common hormonal patterns that you describe in your book. You guys should definitely get this book, The Hormone Cure. It’s absolutely amazing. Thanks to you and your lovely team, Sara, we’re actually giving away two copies of it. If you like the Facebook page, Elevate Your Energy, and then you click the share button to share this show post on your page, we’ll randomly pick two people.

Your team is seriously awesome. I sent them an email last week saying, “Your hormones must be really balanced because you guys are so on top of it.”

Dr. Gottfried: We try to walk our talk, Evelyne. That’s very important.

Evelyne: Right, awesome. Like I said, you outline the most common hormonal patterns that you see in women. I’d love to kind of go through these briefly and if you could share what the most common symptoms are for each of them, but also how you can bring them into balance. The first one, let’s talk about high cortisol.

Dr. Gottfried: Yes. High cortisol is present in 90% of the women who come to see me in my practice or work with me online. These are some of the symptoms that you would see in our questionnaire. Do you want to give that URL again, Evelyne?


Dr. Gottfried: Awesome.

Evelyne: You can find it there.

Dr. Gottfried: Here are some of the symptoms. That questionnaire is basically a checklist. You can fill it out really fast, just like check, check, check. “I’ve got this. I don’t have that. I’m going to skip it.” Here are some of those symptoms of high cortisol:

  • Having the feeling that you’re running from one task to the next
  • Feeling wired but tired
  • Maybe having trouble with sleep, like you have a hard time winding down before you go to bed, or maybe you get a second wind at night. You start checking your email at [10:00], and before you know it, it’s midnight
  • Having a sense of anxiety or nervousness. High cortisol will deplete you of the happy brain chemicals that keep you calm
  • You can also have a quickness to feel anger or rage, this shows up especially for mothers as screaming or yelling
  • You can have memory lapses, this is especially common in women of a certain age, like starting between 35 and 45 where you walk into a room and you’ve got this really important goal, and then you can’t remember what it was
  • Sugar cravings, that is one of the most common problems I see in the people that I work with
  • You can lay down belly fat

The interesting thing here is that, when you have high cortisol and your body has this high perceived stress, you lay down fuel so that you can pull it up really easily. And it turns out that your belly is where it’s going to be easiest to lay it down. So high cortisol tends to make you store fat right at your belly so that it’s spilling over your skinny jeans. The problem with that is it’s not good for you. It’s been linked to problems with the heart, with diabetes, and pre-diabetes. It can give you these crazy sugar cravings and problems with your insulin and your blood sugar stability. That’s not a good thing. In fact, we know that your belly fat has four times the number of cortisol receptors on the cells as fat elsewhere. It will also give you skin trouble, like eczema, allergies. It can give you bone loss, high blood pressure. I think you’re getting the picture here.

Evelyne: Yes. You said something else scary and interesting in your book. Can you explain how having prolonged high cortisol could eventually lead to Alzheimer’s? That’s freaky.

Dr. Gottfried: Yes, I know. Everyone I know, regardless of age, is really scared of the big A. They want to do everything possible to prevent that from happening. I, especially, feel that way, and I’m sensitive to this because I’ve got a grandmother who had Alzheimer’s in her 60s, and I don’t want that for anyone.

So yes, if you have chronically high cortisol – so you’re running around like a stress case like I was in my 30s – if that’s longstanding, it actually can affect a part of your brain called the hippocampus… there must be top 40s song that we could link to the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that’s linked to your memory, like how you consolidate memory, and also how you regulate emotions. It’s a really important part of the brain that you want to love up and tend to so that you don’t develop Alzheimer’s disease. So yes, high cortisol levels over time have been linked to a greater risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Evelyne: So what can you do to bring that back into balance? What do you do with your patients?

DrSaraGottfried_ElevateYourEnergyDr. Gottfried: What I did for my own body when I was back in my 30s, my mid-30s, is I developed a protocol. I found that a lot of people who came to see me were in a hurry to get a pharmaceutical, and I think this is actually part of why the healthcare system is broken in the US, because I don’t feel like you find the answer to health in the bottom of the pill bottle.

What I developed for myself and then what I refined and applied to the next 10,000 people that I took care of was something that I call the Gottfried protocol. The idea here is that you figure out your root cause and the quiz can help you figure out what the root cause is, and then you apply the Gottfried protocol. The Gottfried protocol is three steps that are progressive and taking whatever symptom you have – say you’ve got belly fat and you’re having these memory issues, you feel tired but wired, it’s hard to wind down before you go to bed – you start with step one, which is targeted lifestyle changes and nutraceuticals. It’s basically how you eat, move, think, and supplement.

When it comes to high cortisol, there are a number of different strategies that have really been shown to be effective. I’ll just give you a few examples. This is basically chapter four of my book. Examples are: filling in the D vitamins. That’s really important. Most people know that already. Phosphatidyl Serine. Phosphatidyl Serine is one of my favorite supplements, and it can lower cortisol within an hour. When I was making that point earlier about how you can feel better within one hour, Phosphatidyl Serine can totally do that for you.

The other really important part, especially when it comes to lifestyle changes, is to realize that you’ve got to figure out how to hit the pause button. I’m a big fan of having a really long list, kind of a long à la carte menu, of different ways that you can hit the pause button. One example is, you know, I became a yoga teacher when I was struggling with cortisol when I was in my 30s. But other things that you can do include something that I call tiara time. You can get a massage. That’s actually been shown to be really effective. There’s the free app on the iPhone that helps you with this. Forgiveness, orgasm, those are all suggestions.

Listen to the full interview on Elevate Your Energy Radio or by subscribing to the podcast on iTunes. You can also read the full transcript in one of the upcoming Elevate Your Energy Expert Guides by opting in below!

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