The REAL Truth About Hormones
August 3, 2021
Hormones are a complex and important topic so I was grateful to have the opportunity to interview America's Holistic Gynecologist, Dr. Shawn Tassone for the My Child Will Thrive Podcast. I invited Dr. Tassone to share his six-step approach to women’s hormonal imbalances called SHINES and more about his brand new book, “The Hormone Balance Bible.” As Moms under a lot of stress supporting our children to thrive, Dr. Tassone reminds us that “normal isn’t always normal” and while tests and doctors may tell you otherwise, listening to your own body is always the most important.
If you’re curious to learn more about female hormonal imbalances from the best of the best, this episode with Dr. Tassone is full of takeaways that’ll help you on your own journey.
- What prompted Dr. Tassone to decide to get into women’s health? (4:48)
- What a holistic approach to women's health and hormones looks like in Dr. Tassone’s practice. (9:54)
- SHINES: The six-step process to hormonal imbalances and the different archetypes within that. (11:22)
- The most common hormonal imbalances in women. (15:26)
- Why testing is important and the differences between each type of test (blood, urine or saliva.) (19:46)
- Lifestyle changes women can make based on their archetypes (without having to pay for testing.) (23:00)
- The top line recommendation that Dr. Tassone gives to all of the listeners. (29:26)
Resources and Links
Buy Dr. Tassone’s new book, The Hormone Balance Bible
Book recommendation by Dr. Tassone from the show: 8 Weeks to Optimum Health: A Proven Program for Taking Full Advantage of Your Body's Natural Healing Power by Andrew Weil
Articles Related to The REAL Truth About Hormones
More about Shawn Tassone
Shawn Tassone MD, Ph.D., known as America's Holistic Gynecologist, is the first physician in the United States to be double board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and by the American Board of Integrative Medicine. He holds a medical degree in addition to a Ph.D. in mind-body medicine. He’s a practicing OBGYN in Austin, Tx, hormone specialist, author, speaker, highly rated patient advocate, and creator of the world’s first integrative hormonal mapping system.
In his 20+ years of practice, Dr. Tassone has seen over 40,000 women and he is determined to remove the myths surrounding women's health. As an integrative health practitioner, he believes that you should have an active role in your care. His work includes studies and publications on hormonal imbalances, spirituality in medical care, whole foods to heal the human body, and integrative medicine.
Dr. Tassone is featured in many publications including The New York Times, NBCNews Online, Stanford MedX, and his book, The Hormone Balance Bible, published by HarperCollins, is available to order now!
00:01 Tara Hunkin:
This is My Child Will Thrive and I'm your host, Tara Hunkin, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified GAPs Practitioner, Restorative Wellness Practitioner, and Mother. I'm thrilled to share with you the latest information, tips, resources, and tools to help you on the path to recovery for your child with ADHD, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder or learning disabilities.
My own experiences with my daughter combined with as much training as I can get my hands on research I can dig into and conferences I can attend have helped me to develop systems and tools for parents like you who feel overwhelmed, trying to help their children. So sit back as I share another great topic to help you on your journey. A quick disclaimer before we get started.
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2:04 Tara Hunkin:
Hey, everyone, I want to welcome you back to the My Child Will Thrive podcast. I'm very excited to have with me today Dr. Shawn Tassone.
He's both an MD and a PhD, and he's going to talk to us about the real truth about hormones. Before I dive into that, I want to just give you a little bit more background on his amazing credentials and experience in this field. So Dr. Tassone is known as America's holistic gynecologist, and is the first physician in the United States to be double board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, and by the American Board of Integrative Medicine. He holds a medical degree in addition to a PhD in mind body medicine. He's a practicing OBGYN in Austin, Texas, hormone specialist, author speaker, highly rated patient advocate, which is extremely important to those of us that have needed that in the past and the creator of the world's first integrative hormonal mapping system.
In his 20 plus years of practice. Dr. Tassone has seen over 40,000 women and he's determined to remove the myths surrounding women's health. As an integrative health practitioner, he believes that you should have an active role in your care. His work includes studies and publications on hormonal imbalances, spirituality, and medical care, whole foods to heal the human body and integrative medicine.
Dr. Tassone is featured in many publications, including the New York Times, NBC News Online, Stanford Med X, and his book, which we're going to talk about today, The Hormone Balance Bible, that's been published by Harper Collins and it's actually available now. It just came out. So I want to welcome Dr. Tassone to the podcast and thank you, thank you for being here with us today.
3:54 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
Thanks for having me. Yeah, today's actually publication day.
3:59 Tara Hunkin:
That's right. I forgot. Well, we're recording this on July the sixth 2021. And this is a big day for authors. So congratulations.
I want to talk to you about, so as we've talked about, a lot of the listeners here are moms and there are some dads too, and practitioners that work, they have children that have neural developmental issues. Typically those of us that come do this type of work, like I do, come here because we have a history with it. So tell me how you got into working in women's hormones, especially when we have a male doctor speaking with us today about specializing in women's hormones.
4:48 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
Well, I think when you go through your obstetrical training, would you go in, well, in your third year of medical school, you kinda start making decisions on what you want to do. And I think on a superficial level, I chose OBGYN because generally, it's a happy profession for the most part. You're delivering babies and there isn't much in the way of a lot of bad disease or death or cancer. There's some obviously, but it's not overriding.
And so, and then I liked the other doctors, like it just had a personality about it. The physicians generally were more approachable and nicer, and I think that's the same for family practice and pediatrics too. So it just kind of fit my personality. A I got into it a little bit more when I was a second year resident, like a hundred years ago it seems, my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. And so I knew a lot about the disease process. I knew about the treatment plans and all that stuff.
What I was not expecting, and I'm an only child, so I was kind of it. And not only was I functioning kind of as a physician, but I was functioning as a child and trying to advocate for my mom. But what I didn't expect was that she was going to have a lot of problems in-between chemo treatments, calling with joint pain and hair loss and just not sleeping well.
And, and then she was 51 I believe at the time, they wouldn't prescribe hormones. So, you know, having all of the side effects of menopause on top of all this stuff. And so I felt really pretty much completely hopeless and helpless. Couldn't even help my own mom, which was kind of humbling in the sense that I was like, well, if I can't even help my own mother, how am I going to help patients that are going through this. Fast forward five years, she passed away at 56 and when she passed away, I was, I just thought to myself, I just felt so limited. I had to figure out a way to educate myself more on just quality of life stuff. Not just giving a pill or whatever, but helping people.
And so I was reading, whenever you're having a spiritual crisis, you seem to go to Sedona so that's where I was. And I was reading a book at the time, it was probably 2005. I was reading a book by Andrew Weil called "8 Weeks to Optimum Health." And this 15 years ago, he was talking about fish oil and COQ10 and all this stuff that I just was like, oh my God, this is so crazy. And so actually I was living in Tucson at the time and his fellowship was in Tucson. So I was just like, this is serendipitous. So I signed up for it and did the two year fellowship.
And what was interesting was in that two year fellowship, there was an eight week course on spirituality and health that really just kind of opened my head up a lot. And so when I was done with that training, I was like, I feel like I've got to do something more. And that's when I did the PhD in philosophy, but that was more of a personal spiritual journey for me.
Six years later and I really focused on mind-body medicine, like healing, working with shamans in different countries and just learned about different ways to do healing. And so the book is kind of a combination. And what I like to stress to people is that this is not me telling women what to do. This is the 40,000 women that I've sat down with over the years and me listening to their stories and those stories coming out through the book.
8:39 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah. And that's what I love about the work that you're doing and what you've done with the book is because one of the things that I think will resonate with everybody here is just not feeling listened to whether it's with their children or with their own health leading up to having their children and then after their children as well. We are often told that everything that it'll run the gamut and you will have heard a lot of it from people I'm sure telling you that before, when they've talked to other practitioners, but with their children, for example, that has autism and they have terrible diarrhea, they call it autistic diarrhea when it's clearly not. The diarrhea wasn't caused by the autism, it's the other way around.
But so we're all used to not having people listen to us so it's really nice to see that that's how you have shaped your practice and your book that you've just launched and how you do your work with people. Why don't we dive more into hormones themselves, but in what a holistic approach to women's health and hormones looks like in your practice?
9:54 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
When I was writing the book, what I did was I had for 15 years had been listening to women talk to me about, like you said, not being heard and what the stories were of how they were feeling. What I found was there were some pretty common threads amongst the stories. And I came up with 12 different storylines. And what I found was that I was talking to patients about their hormone imbalances, like say estrogen dominance. They would kind of glass over a little bit.
And I thought, I've got to figure out a way to talk about this in a way that's not so medical. And so I really like archetypes, I like narrative medicine. And so I attached an archetypal story to each of these imbalances. So estrogen dominance is called the queen. And when I talk about estrogen dominance in the book, I talk about the story of the queen. And most women will be like, oh my God, that is totally me. And it shifts because I've heard so many thousands of stories. So then as I came up with that idea, I was like, well, now I've got to figure out a way for women to be able to help themselves and not necessarily need to go to the doctor to fix it. Because when they go to the doctor, they're told they're normal, or they're just getting older or sleep more or whatever. I can't sleep. Well, sleep more. well What are you talking about?
11:22 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
So I came up with a six step protocol for each of the 12 imbalances and I call it SHINES and of the six steps, only one of them do you actually need a physician and that's the H part. So S is a spiritual practice, and that means a lot of different things. So for queen, what is it about a queen that helps her spiritually, helps her flourish? Well, queens need good advisers. So a woman that has estrogen dominant, she tends to be more irritable, she's not sleeping well. She's not the person that she wants to be. So what makes a good queen? You don't want to be an off with your head type queen, which is what estrogen dominance can feel like. So surround yourself with advisors, find women that you can surround yourself with, friends, family, whatever.
And really rely on them to help you do things, especially with moms like you have that are super busy with family lives and taking care of children. Getting a support group, a good, a good set of advisors, and really tapping into that maternal archetype in your family. H is hormones. So that's pretty self-explanatory. The I is what I call infoceuticals and infoceuticals kind of run the gamut of energy medicine. I wanted to throw something in for the women that like to try or believe in vibrational, energetic healing. So things like acupuncture, Reiki, healing touch, essential oils. So that's one of the steps. And then the N is nutrition. The E is exercise. And the S the final S is proper supplementation.
And I'm very simplistic when it comes to supplements. I like to use as few as possible to save money, and I like to target them to specific issues. So I don't like to use a lot of proprietary formulas. If I need to help someone sleep, I'm going to use magnesium, not a sleep formula that's got a set of 10 different things in it. So usually you can pick, you don't have to do all six of those steps. You might find one that helps more than another one, but usually what'll happen is most women will have help with hormones themselves, but then I'll also add in some of the other aspects of that healing process. And it's a journey just like healing usually is.
13:48 Tara Hunkin:
It's really nice to have that framework. I know you also, you have a quiz on your website too, that people can sort of go through and find out what the different symptoms of that along within, in the book itself.
14:02 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
Yeah. So the quizzes on my website www.tassonemd.com/quiz. Or if you get the book, I'm trying to find it here. There's actually a QR code in the beginning of the book that I threw in there, because I wanted to make it easy for women to get the quiz. There is a QR code in the book it's in one of the first pages, and you just scan it on your phone and it'll take it to the quiz.
And it's totally free. Now, obviously a quiz is not the same as getting blood drawn, but for women that are up at midnight and are just searching the internet and want to know what's going on, it's a good starting point. I've had 30,000 women take the quiz so far, and the feedback is wonderful. It's actually, it's not your typical 5-questions quiz.
It's like 36 questions. It's pretty detail oriented. And then on the back end, I have a really big algorithm that calculates the numbers. So it's pretty accurate if you answered the questions honestly.
15:03 Tara Hunkin:
It's great and in-depth, but even though there's lots of questions, it's very simple to take and use. So I highly recommend people go and we'll put the link to that as well in the show notes, as well as a link to the book. What do you find in your practice in all these years and all the women that you've seen, what is the most common hormonal imbalance you see, and what symptoms does that typically include?
15:26 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
I used to think that it was going to be estrogen dominance. I see, I thought I saw it a lot and that it was going to be number one. But after looking at the quiz far and away in all the age groups, it's low testosterone. What I call the nun archetype, and it's not even close. The estrogen dominant queen is second but far and away, it's testosterone deficiency. And I think it's because we tend to be in this country a little more overweight as we age, and that will lower testosterone levels.
Birth control pills for younger women, lower testosterone levels and obviously birth control pills are used a lot. And I just think that we are running ourselves kind of on that hamster wheel. And that's going to lower testosterone if you're just kind of a workaholic kind of a person. And so yeah, far and away. And the other thing that's a double whammy with testosterone is that it's kind of ignored by the medical community.
It's almost thought that women don't need testosterone. I mean, there's outlets and stuff now that I'm not a big fan of, but those almost go in the other direction and make your testosterone too high. So, but yeah, testosterone and what that feels like. It's pretty simple. I say if it was a t-shirt, testosterone deficiency would just say, meh.
It's just kind of like I'm okay, but I just don't care. That drive, that desire, that thing that motivates you is just kind of gone. And then another is also fatigue, especially like at four or five in the afternoon, you just want to take a nap, that's testosterone deficiency. And then decreased libido. But the decreased libido comes from taking care of kids all day. And then you're just exhausted and then your spouse comes home or whatever your significant other and they're ready to relax and have sex and do stuff. And you're just like, nope, I'm good, I want to go to bed. So, but that's far and away what I see.
17:33 Tara Hunkin:
That's really interesting. And I think that a lot of people agree. You talk about - women tend to also be fearful of testosterone in terms of thinking that they're raising their testosterone levels that are going to become bulky and you'd on male features. Obviously you're saying that we'll get rid of the meh feeling. What are the other things in terms of how does it impact their health in other ways?
18:01 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
Well, obviously muscle mass, if you workout, you can gain some muscle. The beautiful thing about muscle mass is that for every pound of muscle, you burn an extra 50 calories just sitting on the couch. So, and usually it's not about, there's a normal range for women and testosterone. And I always look at hormones when I talk to patients, you're either in the house or you're not in the house - so it's normal or abnormal. But then where are you in the house?
So a lot of women like the lady I just talked to before the interview, normal testosterone, but she's laying on the floor in the basement. So she couldn't go any lower, but you can look at it and go, well, it's normal, you should be fine. But maybe life would feel better if you were kind of up on the main floor. And so what I'm doing is not, you're not going to be outside of the normal range for a female, just kind of higher up in the range.
And so that's what I try to do. I think some of these programs like hormone pellets and things, I've got women whose testosterone is six times normal. That's where you start having some of the hair growth and stuff like that and that's not good. But when I do things, it's always just to stay in that normal range, but to make you higher in the normal range.
19:21 Tara Hunkin:
It was really important. So what do you recommend someone - what testing do they do if they think they're experiencing hormonal imbalance, because obviously there's the testing that you see, which is not a lot, typically at a typical well visit at your MD. So what types of testing do you typically recommend?
19:46 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
So one of the sections in my book is on specific testing. So there's the three ways you can test are saliva, blood, and urine. Saliva, I'm not a huge fan of because it's just not really reliable or reproducible and its results, but it is good for cortisol. So it's a good way to check cortisol levels.
Blood - probably 80% of the testing I do is blood based because I take insurance so blood is usually covered by insurance. And the other thing about blood is it's extremely accurate because it's what's in your blood stream at the time, the needles in your arm. But that's also a limitation because it's only telling me what you're doing while the needles in your arm.
So it's more of a snapshot of you than a story. However, if we gather data over time, I'll get a better picture of that. When I order blood, I will usually order estradiol, progesterone, free and total testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin, free T3, which is thyroid free, T4, TSH, a DHEA, and a vitamin D.
And sometimes I'll add some other things like thyroid antibodies, if I'm worried about Hashimoto's and things like that but that's the core set. The limitation in with blood is, again, it's just it's only accurate while the needle is in your arm. So the doctor needs to know where you are in your cycle, when you took your medications if you're menopausal, and just knowing that you can definitely dial things in.
Urine is a great test. It's a 24 hour test. So it's a bigger picture of you, checks all the sex hormones, also checks breakdown products. So how do you get rid of your estrogen levels? How do you process your testosterone? Checks melatonin, checks cortisol, vitamin B6, B12, dopamine, neuro-transmitters, things like that. So it tests a lot of things. It's limited by the fact that it doesn't check thyroid or vitamin D and it's about $350 so it's not covered by insurance and it takes about three weeks to get the results back. So those are the limitations. So they're all good. There's no necessarily right or wrong way. I usually go blood or urine.
I have some patients that do both - they'll do blood and then they'll do the urine the same day and we'll back up the blood tests with the urine results that I get a few weeks later.
22:18 Tara Hunkin:
And then it goes back to once you get those results, you're looking for making sure people on that optimal, where they are in the house zone, I assume. Right?
22:30 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
22:31 Tara Hunkin:
So when it comes to, so if we get the right testing and we're have someone that's great. In the end, the testing are only as valuable as the person that then can help you interpret them. So we highly recommend you're reaching out to the right person to do that. What types of lifestyle changes can people make like today without even necessarily having any testing that can help them with those different archetypes?
23:00 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
Dietary-wise, it depends on what the imbalance is.
I do think that if I was to pick kind of a good way to meet overall, I'm a fan of - it's funny because nutrition is highly debatable. You go on Instagram for more than 20 minutes, you'll see that. I do like intermittent fasting. I think that a 16:7 fast or 12:12 fast as many days a week as you can, it rests the gut, which we know is important for hormones and just general health. It also reduces calories. So for those of us that maybe eat too much, it will help with that.
And then when you do eat, I'm more of a whole food kind of person. So meats and fruits and vegetables, get your cards from fruits and vegetables and try to stay away from the processed foods, which we all talk about that, but it is important. And I'm just as guilty as anybody else of having a processed food. I'm having my dark cashew chocolate covered cashews right now, but I'm not always snacking that well.
So those would be two big things. And then really focusing, not being afraid of good fats, avocados and eggs and things like that. And if you're a meat eater just eating lean grass-fed meats, free range kind of stuff. If you can afford organic for your fruits and vegetables, that's great too. But those are if I had to just say what overall works pretty well. I think those two things. I have a lot of women that will do intermittent fasting and a lower carb - I'm not talking totally keto - but lower carb food. And on average lose probably six pounds a month, if that's one of their goals.
24:55 Tara Hunkin:
I also agree, it's nice to have a simple set of rules as opposed to a complex diet. I mean, a lot of times parents are choosing to do therapeutic diets with their children and it is difficult and they can be very, very helpful for a period of time, but it is also nice to have an overlying set of principles that can be good for both the parents and the kids at the same time. And it certainly makes meal planning a lot easier. What else do you typically recommend in terms of lifestyle, beyond nutrition, around things like exercise and sleep?
25:38 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
So, exercise is also one of those things that it's going to vary. So like somebody who's, there's an archetype in the book called the saboteurs, and those are women that have really low, abnormal cortisol levels that are fatigued. And those women are, I call them saboteurs because they sabotage their own health because they're too busy taking care of everybody else which is probably a lot of the people that listen to your podcast. They're so busy doing other things for other people. They never think that they're the last ones to get the benefits of anything once everybody else is okay.
And usually everybody else isn't okay. So they're always taking care of other people. So that person, that's a saboteur. I have a good example in my book, a lady who's a pharmaceutical rep, she's driving hundreds of miles a day in the car. She's eating horrible lunches because she's buying lunches for the doctors. She's got three boys under the age of seven.
So she gets home at five, whips up food, takes care of everybody, baths and everything. And then her husband comes home and she's exhausted - well, she had this kind of saboteur archetype. But my recommendation for her was actually to not work out. She needed to learn how to say no and take care of herself.
And if she worked out, maybe do walking or yoga, something that was just not strenuous, like not high intensity interval training. Now somebody who is maybe a queen archetype with a lot of estrogen, maybe a little extra weight, that would be a great setup for high intensity interval training, like a program like F45 or Orange Theory or something like that, but a saboteur, she would make herself worse. So that's why the book has got different diet and different diet and exercise plans for the different architects.
27:33 Tara Hunkin:
I think it's really good to hear you say that. And also listen to the stories, although I have to, I love the irony of the pharmaceutical rep buying bad meals for doctors.
27:44 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
I mean, we literally, because it's fast, right? So they'll buy sandwiches, which you think are good, but it's like chicken salad and there's mayonnaise everywhere or pizza or so we have to specifically say, I have a salad place here around the corner and sometimes you want something bad, so we'll take the bad food, but yeah. You've got to specifically tell them because they have their favorite restaurants that they go to and or that deliver now. And so it's just, yeah, it's a, it's hard to eat right for her because, and it's all about meal prep.
Like you said, for her, that could be a spiritual practice. You could meal prep on Sundays and make it just a part of your day where it's almost like church, that's what you do on Sunday afternoons is prep for the week. And that way you can make sure you have nutritious food and snacks and things like that on the road.
28:41 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah. It is incredibly difficult to do, but that's why I love the archetype system and realizing that there's no one specific way of going about things for all of us. We have to figure out where we fit in. Before we wrap up here, just what's the best advice that you like to give. At least I know you like to give personalized and individual care to everybody. But if you could give one piece of advice to the women that are listening today in terms of what they can do now, aside from picking up your book, which we absolutely recommend they do, to improve their hormonal health and their health overall, what's the top line recommendation that you usually make?
29:26 Dr. Shawn Tassone:
Well, one is the mantra of normal isn't always normal. So nobody knows you like you know you. So if you go to the doctor and they tell you that your hormones are normal, but you don't feel normal, then something's not normal. I mean just the way it is. And that's where I talk about the house analogy. It's like, yeah, your thyroid is normal, but you're laying on the floor in the basement.
So you have to advocate for yourself. You have to find the physician or somebody that you have a rapport with. And I don't think you need to spend thousands of dollars to do that either. I know a lot of women do, but you don't need to do that.
Second to fun things well, debatable if they're fun or not, but two things that you can do that will help your hormones, your cortisol, restart your day, set-up your day. One is when you're taking your shower in the morning at the very end turn it all the way cold and stand there as long as you can. If you can do a minute, that's great. That resets your cortisol, it wakes you up. It starts your day. It's a good practice. Like people that do those cold pools, they just, but you don't need a pool, you can just do it in the shower.
The second is every day you can eat one or two squares of chocolate. Unfortunately it can't be milk chocolate, it's gotta be 70% or higher of cacao. I just did a reel on Instagram where I sampled all the way from milk chocolate to 95% cacao. And Lord, I'll tell you, you start getting up above 70, 85 90. It's pretty rough. Even seventies. Okay. Seventies, pretty tolerable, but it's not like eating milk chocolate, but the cacao is really good, it's a great antioxidant. It's good for your vascular system. And it's a good fat.
31:17 Tara Hunkin:
I absolutely love the recommendation of listening to yourself and saying, if it's not normal for you, it's not normal. You know you better than anyone else. We say that all the time here about parents knowing their kids.
And there's no one that's spending obviously more time with yourself, but also with your children. So that's why we always say they're the best judge of what's going on with their children and not giving up when they really feel that there's something that's not quite right, or that there's more that can be done. So thank you so much for that advice.
Thank you for writing the book, I know how much work goes into these things. So I highly recommend everybody picks up a copy and we'll have links in the show notes to that as well as to Dr. Tassone's website any other things that we can think of that can help you out on your journey with your hormones today.
Thanks again, Dr. Tassone for joining us. And if you enjoyed this interview and you want to hear more from us, please be sure to subscribe to the My Child Will Thrive podcast. And if you can take the time to give us a review, we'd really appreciate that. Thanks again. And I look forward to doing this again soon.
32:31 Tara Hunkin:
So that's a wrap. Thanks for joining me this week on My Child Will Thrive. I'm so passionate about giving you the tools and information you need to help your child recover. And as they say, it takes a village. So join us in the My Child Will Thrive Village Facebook group, where you can meet like-minded parents and stay up to date on everything we have going on at My Child Will Thrive.
This is Tara Hunkin and I'll catch you on the next podcast or over at mychildwillthrive.com
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