This is the first book I’ve read on the subject of hormones and self-help so I have little to compare it to, other than everything I’ve read online. It is definitely worth a read. You might recognize the author as the director of the Hormone Help Center in New York, a site that has been on my sidebar for some time (and if you haven’t checked that one out yet, you should!) It covers the tests and treatments for hirsutism, PCOS, acne and alopecia, as well as menstrual cycle issues (including moods, migraine and other pain), menopause, osteoperosis, and low sex drive.
Though it is designed for you to read only the parts relevant to you if you wish, I read it from cover to cover and found it progressed very logically, starting with what hormones are and what they’re meant to do, on through the various things that happen when women like us are vulnerable to them. (“Hormonally vulnerable” is a phrase he coined, and isn’t it nicer to say “I’m hormonally vulnerable” than “I’m hirsute”?) It’s purpose is not to give you the means to self-medicate, but as I’ve often said, a little research makes a huge difference when you look for medical help. If you don’t know what you want out of a treatment plan or the best ways to get it, you could end up shelling out for laser hair removal before any blood tests and being baffled and devastated when it doesn’t work, like me. ;)
If you already have a treatment plan you are satisfied with, this will finetune your understanding. It addition, probably the most important experiences I got from this book was a sense of affirmation. The author doesn’t downplay any symptoms, but does not aggrandize them either so that the reader feels even more hopeless about their problems. So many of us are brushed off by medical professionals who think these are things we should just learn to live with, and it’s nice to be addressed as human beings with legitimate concerns.
I like that he had his criticism of the medical system, yet did not condemn doctors or a specific field of practice like we are all wont to do, myself included. How many times have I poo-pooed the helpfulness of a dermatologist, only because of my own experience with one? The author provides some perspective on the history of how these disorders and their treatments came to light, and why many have the attitudes they do towards them, so that we can understand why it is sometimes so difficult to find proper treatment from medical professionals. It helped me reevaluate my own attitude, which I thought was fairly even-keeled as it was.
I’ve seen this book criticized for favoring certain medications, and yes, he has had his hand in the development of a few. But it’s nice that he acknowledges that some medications are just too frightening for a woman to take, and that that's okay--and goes into some “natural” healing methods with a realistic approach. The section on spiritual healing felt incomplete to me, however, because it can be a highly personal way of dealing with things, it wasn’t too bad. I was glad to see it even mentioned.
I was constantly marking my favorite and most useful sections of the book, and I’ll share a few of my favorite with you to give you a taste of what you can get out of reading it:
“Too often a woman’s expectation that she should feel good and look good is dismissed as if it were unreasonable.” p14
“There are really two aspects to hormone action: the level of the hormone, which can be measured in a clinical lab, and how vigorously the cell responds when the hormone attaches to its receptor, something that tests do not tell us.” p29
“Because hair is part of skin, it is included in dermatology. Yet the cause of the most common form [of alopecia] is hormones, which are the focus of a different specialty--endocrinology. Dermatologists can recognize it but lack a background in the internal hormonal causes. Endocrinologists understand hormones, but most have not been trained to recognize and treat their effects on skin and hair.” p238
“Many feel uncomfortable being around people with physical problems, and so try to avoid them. Acne in a sense is a handicap, and it brings discrimination with it.” p279
“There is no infallible system for finding the right doctor. All you can do is ask around. The individual is more important than the specific subspeciality.” p317
“...those more vulnerable can get caught up in self-blame, as if their difficulty coping is a character weakness.” p369
“...others rarely accept hormonal disruptions as a justification for temporary impairment. It is acceptable to call in sick for the flu, but not for PMS.” p427
Above anything else, it's always nice to read something and feel understood, to be able to say out loud, "Yes! That's so me! I feel that way too!"