Transcript EP 309 – Owning Your Hormones with Alannah Slingsby
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Dr. Taz: Welcome back, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Super Woman Wellness, where I’m determined to bring you back to your superpower self. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about hormones, right? A lot of you ask me those questions, you’re confused, somebody new is saying something every day. Guess what? We’ve got another hormone expert on tap for you today. Please welcome Alannah Slingsby. She is the founder of Moment. It’s a fem-tech startup focused on testing and treating hormone imbalances with a whole person approach from the comfort of your own home. All right, welcome to the show, Alannah. It’s been so great chit-chatting with you before we even jumped into this.
I’ve got to be honest, this hormone thing, I was telling you I just turned in my first draft of a hormone book that I’m writing, and really, the inspiration behind that was because everyone’s confused and being told different information. My own story is about hormones getting misdiagnosed. I’ve got PCOS and had to go on this whole journey to figure it out, which actually led to me being in integrative medicine, so it was a gift. We don’t want everyone going on a 12-year journey to figure out their health issues. What got you into the world of hormones? Tell us a little bit about Moment.
Alannah Slingsby: Yeah, thank you for having me here. I’m so excited. But yeah, so I got into hormones for a personal story. I guess you’re saying it kind of… The personal… Some things are just meant for you, but I have an interesting story because it was my mom that was deeply affected by hormone drugs. This was a drug prescribed in the fifties called DES. It’s crazy not many people know about this, but basically, they were using a very, very high dose of synthetic estrogen. It turns out that it caused a lot of health issues in offspring. And so, my mom never had two periods in a row. She dealt with infertility, she had scoliosis. It’s interesting how hormones can determine if you’re going to have a birth defect. She even has bunions, which has been linked to hormones, which is crazy.
Yeah, the scoliosis and just a lifetime of health issues. And so, just living through that was so interesting to me how these little invisible messengers dictate how your body is in motion. And so after school, when I was working in finance, I was just working on a lot of wellness projects and became head of marketing at a cancer institute. And then there, you realize how hormones… The link with hormones in cancer. That’s something you… It’s startling that no one even talks about, I guess, because the first thing when you get a breast cancer diagnosis, they will look at the pathology and see how hormones change this diagnosis. That’s how powerful these things are. That’s on the extreme end, but on the less extreme scale, we have hormones causing PCOS and fibroids. And so, a lot of doctors don’t see the value in measuring or testing or understanding hormones or really understanding the truth behind what’s the best way to handle an imbalance.
Dr. Taz: I think that is… Every day, I meet somebody who says, “My doctor says I don’t need to check my hormones.” Every age, whether it’s 14 to 70. Where does it come from in our medical culture that we don’t need to check hormones and it’s irrelevant information? Because I think it’s almost criminal that we’re not routinely, at least once or twice a year, looking at hormone levels and tracking. My daughter who’s 14 has PCOS tendencies like me. Her mood goes completely unstable when she’s having an androgen spike. How helpful would it have been for parents to know this before someone could knock on an anxiety or depression drug? You know what I mean? Why don’t we address hormones first?
Alannah Slingsby: I think because they fluctuate so much when you’re younger. I’ve just heard that talking point, where they’re like, because they’re moving around so much, there’s no point in getting that snapshot in time. What we’ve done with our patients and what customers do or clients do is they measure on day, I’m sure you know this, but they measure on day 20 to see if they’re in a state of production or deficiency, just being that that hormone is so protective in the body and can be used as medicine very safely and effectively. But to answer your question, I think that is why. I’m sure there’s other reasons as they’re just not as emphasized in med school, but I think it should be. I often think about what variation of med school would be that I would come up with. I sometimes daydream about that. I think that’d be so fascinating if doctors had a different kind of training.
Dr. Taz: There are people that are dreaming up a new med school education, for sure.
Alannah Slingsby: Yeah. That’s so cool.
Dr. Taz: From what most of us received, because we got very little hormone training beyond trying to get somebody pregnant, trying to deliver a baby or the extreme endocrine diagnosis. Diabetes, thyroid disease, a true extreme disease. That’s all you are trained for. You’re not trained for this in between zone of where women shift to how it impacts their mental health, their sexual health, their brains, and so much more. Yeah, I’m game. If you want to start one with me, let me know. We’ll figure it out.
Alannah Slingsby: We have a pretty intensive guidebook for our doctors on every level. But yeah, when you consider that… Honestly, 99% of diseases are correlated to thyroid, estrogen, prolactin, serotonin, cortisol. They all drive disease in some way or another and they’re not localized. They’re all over. To ignore them in any disease is quite crazy. I was even just writing something on autoimmune diseases and 80% of women are sufferers of autoimmune disease. Does anyone want to ask why it’s women and not men? We’re all living in the world together. We all have the same environment. One of the main differences is what’s going on with our hormones. It’s clear as day, but I don’t know. You might know better why it’s ignored.
Dr. Taz: I think you’ve already nailed it. It’s training. It’s the pharmaceutical-based medical system. I mean, really, we’re trained in that, which lends to a prescription. Prescription-based training is really the issue. How did Moment get started? What is Moment?
Alannah Slingsby: Women can test their hormones from the comfort of their home. It’s a blood prick on their finger. This doesn’t hurt at all, but some people get nervous about that little clicker on their finger. I don’t think it hurts. Yeah, you can do that at home and you don’t have to go into a lab. And so, it’s very convenient. And then, you can just order the test yourself. You don’t have to wait for someone to send you a lab slip. And so, we get the results and we’ll review it with you on a Zoom call. The basis of what we do is come up with a really thorough, innovative plan for your symptoms. We’re using all bioidentical hormones for the most part, but we’re also including other innovative substances. We do a lot of ethylene blue, a lot of niacinamide. We even do peptides.
And so, our goal is really the most safe, effective solutions on the planet. That’s, I think, what we do best. When you look at other places, they are going to consider antidepressants and some birth control, which perhaps someone might find that to be their best use case. But as far as a risk assessment goes, in our opinion, there’s just safer and effective substances to utilize. And so, that’s what we do. We’ve had amazing results like fibroids being shrunk, cysts being shrunk. People sending us emails being like, “This has worked amazingly well.” I love that word. They said amazing. They didn’t say it worked. They said amazing. It just makes me so happy. But yeah, that’s the basic process. And then, continual follow-ups and monitoring. It’s really a long-term wellness partner through the lens of, are your hormones balanced? Because like I said, most diseases, they do have this hormonal component that we can really investigate and solve for. Yeah, that’s how it works.
Dr. Taz: Let’s talk a little bit about hormones. Let’s break down hormone testing first. You guys are doing blood prick.
Alannah Slingsby: Yeah.
Dr. Taz: There’s venous lab draws. You’ll have some people argue, how can you get accurate information in a blood prick? Then, there’s saliva, there’s urine. Can you break down the pros and cons of maybe some of these different types of hormone testing for folks listening today?
Alannah Slingsby: Yeah, we get asked this all the time. What we have found is that the blood prick is the most reliable. Obviously, we are using real substances. We use testosterone, we use estrogen, we use progesterone. Precision is a really big value for us, I think. Obviously, as far as a customer experience, would we prefer saliva? Yes, perhaps, because you don’t have to get blood. But I think that goes to show just how much we do value precision. We’ve done a lot of lab samples and have honestly just found that to work better. As far as saliva goes, saliva and urine, those are both secretions leaving the body. And so, they may not be the best representation of what’s going on inside the body, because secretion can be different from what’s inside. And then as far as urine goes, I think there has been this emphasis on metabolism of estrogen, estrogen metabolism.
I by no means think it’s useless to look at. But as far as a starting point and a diagnostic baseline of what’s going on, I think what we have found is that really understanding the hormones in the body first before we dig into that, and perhaps that’s peeling back the onion, maybe that’s the next step once we get to know you a little bit better, but that’s why. I think about this a lot, on whether metabolism is even something that should be a goal, because the literature is really mixed. That’s just quite honestly… The literature isn’t set in stone on whether metabolism dictates whether you’ll get cancer or breast cancer or is a true factor on whether you’re going to thrive or not. The emphasis on the 16 hydroxy is kind of… They want to switch it to optimal ratios.
But again, that there’s studies that show that the opposite ratio may actually be better. I think this is something that needs more research on, for sure, on the urine side of things. Besides the fact that it is a pretty big price ticket, would I love to see that data? Yeah, I think it could be valuable with a blood test, but I think we’re also considering this as a patient that may never have had their hormones checked. It may be overwhelming. How much do we want to over-diagnose, over treat? We do want to stay focused on someone’s symptoms and improving their life without any flop and without any bells and whistles. We’re really… I would say we’re pretty focused on making the patient well and getting them relief as soon as possible through the safest ways possible.
Dr. Taz: We’ll do, at our practice in Center Spring, we’ll do all of it. We’ll do the blood and either saliva or urine to get that 360 degree understanding of what’s going on, but it is detailed. It is intensive. It is almost like a craft to a certain extent, because we’re really pulling away a lot of information and then trying to curate these personal plans for everyone. It’s very fulfilling work. But for mass appeal, it is a little bit challenging. It’s hard for everybody to, first of all, grasp it, have access to it, and then even be able to implement it.
Dr. Taz: Just standing back and observing ourselves just saying, “Hey, I get it.” Now, what are some of the most common hormonal issues that you guys are hearing from women? Again, this is a lot of what I do day in and day out, but curious outside of my world what people are saying. Give me a sense of that as well.
Alannah Slingsby: Yeah, I would say there tends to be this cascade of issues, that there’s not really just one issue. Although most people do seek out hormonal issues for menopause, just hot flashes. Obviously, if something super salient like a fibroid, like PCOS, then that requires a pain point that someone really needs to search out solutions. But what we’re really seeing is this big cascade of issues. It’s brain fog, it’s fatigue, it’s weight gain, it’s possibly a hormonal manifestation as a cyst or fibrosis or fibrocystic breast. And so, it’s really this cascade of issues, which makes sense, because hormones are acting all over you. You have such a high concentration of hormones in your brain. If something’s off balance and it’s showing up in your breast, it’s probably showing up in your brain as well or in your energy levels. I’ve rarely seen a chart where someone’s like, “I just have one issue.” It’s a series of things, but that makes sense when you think about how hormones are acting all over you. They’re not localized to your ovary or anything.
Dr. Taz: Would you agree with me that we’re seeing an increase in PCOS? PCOS, by the way, polycystic ovarian syndrome, fibroids. Is there an environmental component that you guys are picking up on? Is it the stress? What’s your sense of what’s happening?
Alannah Slingsby: Yeah, yeah. I think overall, people are just even talking about it more, the PCOS and fibroids. But for sure, I mean, we’re having girls enter puberty younger and younger, possibly because of this environmental soup that we find ourselves in, whether it’s xenoestrogens, the plastic exposure, phytoestrogens. Just an improper diet can be one of the biggest factors. The diet, it’s hard to ignore because the confusion and the noise that let everyone just completely lost on what to eat is one of the biggest driving forces of all of this. Medications, birth control, even antidepressants can very drastically alter your sex hormones. Yeah, I mean, it’s serious. But PCOS and fibroids, those happen more in the reproductive years, whereas they tend to be… I think a light goes on early on. What you experience in menopause is really an accumulation of how you live your life.
But these issues that happen when you’re younger, those are little feedback loops that you need to make a change, you need to look into this. And so, they shouldn’t be ignored. But what’s happening is people go to their doctor and they don’t know what to do. It’s just pretty much birth control, maybe a few other interesting options. But as far as a comprehensive plan, I think that’s not going to show up as much. But something like fibroids and PCOS, those are very estrogen dependent diseases. There’s actually never been a case in the literature of a fibroid pre-pubescent, which just goes to show how important these hormones are. Obviously, pre-puberty, you don’t have an onset of hormones. And so, there’s really never been a case found, which is fascinating. And then, PCOS is a little bit different in fibroids because the ovary’s fluid-filled rather than a fibroid, which is muscle and tissue.
That just goes to show that the estrogen may be playing a role because what estrogen does is it causes the cells to swell up with water and the cyst is fluid-filled. And so, there’s a lot of parallels between the actions of hormones and then what’s going on with everything. I would say with both those two, it’s harder to ignore thyroid. With a thyroid, we do have a lot of success with actually addressing thyroid before anything else, which is interesting. Yeah, with PCOS, it’s always this blend. We put this blame on the bystanders on all of these things, so we’re putting the blame on testosterone, we’re putting the blame on DHEA. If you look at my labs, honestly, Dr. Taz, you would be like, “Wow, this girl’s testosterone and DHEA is so high,” and it is really high, but I don’t have any symptoms. I don’t have any PCOS.
And so, that just goes to show that there are deeper issues that we need to acknowledge. It’s like what we’ve done with so many health issues these days. We blame cholesterol for what canola oil did or whatever. It’s the same thing with PCOS. We’re blaming testosterone and androgens for something that’s like accumulation of cortisol, prolactin, thyroid, estrogen, low progesterone.
Dr. Taz: I think all of it delves back to cortisol though, because what the studies are really finding and talking about is that the cortisol levels have gotten consistently higher generation after generation. That’s why women are going into puberty earlier and earlier. And then, we’re stressed. We’re a more stressed generation. You combine the high cortisol stress, the right genetics, and I think that’s what lends itself to the high testosterone.
Alannah Slingsby: How do you guys do it there? What is your mechanism for reducing cortisol? What’s your thought process there? Just curious.
Dr. Taz: I always layer my gut up, so to speak. A big part of Chinese medicine, aggravated medicine, is that the gut is ground zero. A lot of it is starting with the gut, balancing the microbiome, cleaning up the liver. That whole conversation involves the right diet, sleep, stress management, acupuncture, yoga, getting people in that mindset. And then, once you do that work, then moving on up to actually looking at what sort of hormone management you need to do, whether it’s an androgen blocker or a progesterone supporter or things like that, we’ll choose from the world of herbs and supplements before we get into the hormonal world or into the medication world and go from there. I think what’s fascinating though to me, as you have mentioned, is that PCOS, like many other hormonal diseases, are also mental health issues.
There are also autoimmune issues. There are also reproductive issues. I mean, there’s so many layers to this. And so, I think that I’m seeing a lot of young women come in with this triad of PCOS symptoms, anxiety and depression, maybe even an eating disorder. And then, having some other third variable, whether it’s the thyroid or estrogen or whatever else. All of that to say that it’s all very related and interconnected. I don’t think it’s easy to give people a simple answer on some of the stuff because our environment is the way it is, and because cortisol levels are higher than they have ever been before. It’s fascinating to me, but at the same time, my healing story personally was going gluten-free, balancing my thyroid, going on a little tiny bit of progesterone. That got me out of the world of hair loss, acne.
That doesn’t work for everybody. There are people that don’t tolerate progesterone, so they actually need to do something differently. Again, it’s trying to find that formula that works for everybody and how we can focus on it and get everybody healthy, but I think the first step is to know your hormones. Understand where they are, check them a couple times a year, track them. Because then, let’s fast forward, we’re talking about young women, fast forward to women 50 plus, when they’re not feeling good and you’re trying to optimize them from an anti-aging and wellness standpoint and even a disease prevention standpoint, it’s important to know what their normal was, because your normal and my normal might be different. I think that information is really important as well.
Alannah Slingsby: A hundred percent on the cortisol. It’s hard because a lot of that onus is on the patient. At some point, you have to get real of the origin of what’s causing this. You can keep taking as many things as you want, but if there’s something going on in your own personal life, that’s not something a doctor can solve for. That takes a lot of internal work and that’s not even something that the medical world is optimized to do. And so, it’s almost this emotional journey that someone has to figure out for themselves. We all have different ways of doing that. We see a lot of patients with high cortisol, and it’s one of the hardest things to deal with because if someone’s dealing with infertility, the body’s not going to want to produce a baby when you are high stress in this high stress zone.
And so, how do you give the gift of strength to a patient even through the screen? I know it’s possible. My mom’s a medical doctor and she does it. I’ve seen her do it, but not everyone’s lucky to see her. Yeah, I think the cortisol thing is a puzzle. But we use a lot of great things. We use niacinamide, we do use progesterone even on the, like you said, dealing with the food and going out deep in the basics of going outside and all of that. Yeah, I always love looking at extremes. And so, when you look at Cushing syndrome, Cushing syndrome is just caused by a high cortisol and sometimes by no one’s fault, it’s caused by a tumor or by injections where they’ll give too many cortisol shots. The results of the… I mean, it’s wild if you look up the symptoms. It’s fatty liver, it’s weight gain. It’s this moon face, it’s fat pads.
But you see a lot of those symptoms do overlap with something like PCOS, so you can see that cortisol is definitely playing a role in terms of skin changes, delayed wound healing and just basic weight gain in PCOS. Yeah, without a doubt, cortisol is playing a role. It seems to be the cherry on top for disease. It’s exasperating everything. That’s why studies show with breast cancer metastasis, a main driver is cortisol, which is really to be expected that that would be this driving force in disease. Yeah, it’s pretty wild.
Dr. Taz: That argues for checking it, understanding where cortisol levels are, knowing maybe proactively that, hey, I’m in a high stress state. What can we do? I think if we have these tools to educate us constantly, then we could correct behavior. Speaking of the emotional journey, I think what many people don’t realize is there is a huge… I mean, Chinese medicine talks about this. Your emotions live in your organs. For example, anger lives in the liver in Chinese medicine. The liver is responsible for hormone metabolism, sits right on the breast meridian. All of these things are very intricately connected. Many times, people are so deep in their personal journeys. I know I was. ER doctor, night shifts, day shifts all over the place, different goals. You’re so deep in your journey that you can’t see what’s driving the numbers. You don’t have the emotional, I call it bandwidth for lack of a better term, you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to sit back and evaluate, where am I today on the emotional spectrum?
That’s just not a priority. But what information will do and what your body will force you to do is to have that conversation so that you go on a journey and try to understand how you’re reacting. I think information and seeking of information is so important. I would tell everybody out there listening, again, whether you’re 13 or 14 or you’re 70, know this information because it educates you even when sometimes you’re unaware and unsure of what’s happening, for sure. The body’s always talking to you and telling you the story.
Alannah Slingsby: So true. Yeah, there’s always feedback loops. I mean, the truest form of knowledge is your body’s feedback loop because it doesn’t lie. It’s not susceptible to the loudspeaker of society or what some influencer on Instagram said. Your feedback loop from your body is the most honest, innocent thing there is. And so, sometimes we override the voices that we’re supposed to listen to because, like you said, you really get trapped in the cycle of whether it’s what you’re supposed to do or what you think you’re supposed to do. But there is that voice inside you that’s tugging you, I think, always.
And so, we have to give ourselves permission to tune out everything else so that we can value ourselves more than anyone. Because honestly, no provider is going to care about you the way you do. If you’re living from study to study and provider to provider, really, it’s the quest for truth and true knowledge that you have on your own that’s really going to guide you to the answers. That’s why every health challenge does take you to the next level in the most amazing way. And so, our challenges are truly meant for us. It’s about our interpretation of all these things. Because like you said, you went through this journey, and yes, possibly things do stay with us in our breast, and actually, they say the breast is truly the nest of unrest. And so, when a woman goes through divorce, things manifest in…
Dr. Taz: Totally.
Alannah Slingsby: … in the breast, yeah. But what can change that is truly the interpretation of the events in our lives. And so, we don’t have to carry things around, although they are with us in a lot of ways, but as long as we adjust our framework and our interpretation of these things, then we’re cut loose from everything we’ve been through.
Dr. Taz: That’s the journey. That’s the journey in itself. When these things happen, for good or for bad, how are we going to tell that story? How are we going to reframe that story? We can have a story of being a victim, of being hurt, of being angry and not being able to forgive. Or you can have a story of, okay, lesson learned. I am ready to move forward. I’m ready to release this. I’m ready to learn from it or whatever it is. But that is so true, the harboring… For men, it’s in the heart often. For women, it’s in the breast, but the harboring of these negative emotions is what leads down the road to disease and to all this other stuff. Firmly believe that. But anyhow, we went a long way. We went from hormone testing, nice and simple conversation, to now, we’re deep in the emotional world over here.
Alannah Slingsby: We’re in a therapy session with each other.
Dr. Taz: Goodness gracious. Talk to me about what’s next for Moment, and if folks are interested, how can they connect with you and all the other good stuff?
Alannah Slingsby: Yeah, so you can sign up on momenthealth.co if you’re going through any hormonal issue. We focus on bioidentical hormones. But also, it’s definitely a 360 approach dealing with nutrition and recommended reading and tools to improve your life. Like you said, how do you become a superhero for your entire life? There’s just so many tangible things we can utilize in medicine and just in lifestyle that makes you feel good for as long as possible. That’s our goal. Whether it’s PCOS or fibroids, they’re all different manifestations of each other and different sort of imbalances in the body that we can optimize for, correct for. These things are very solvable.
If there’s a metabolic component, if there’s a hormonal imbalance component, they are very solvable. And so, that’s what we optimize for. You can sign up on momenthealth.co or you can always just reach out if you have questions. I’m always answering DMs or emails or calls if someone has more questions. I find women do want to walk through it first and understand what they’re signing up for. Yeah, just get a read on everything, what to expect. And so, sometimes the interface on the screen doesn’t really hold the answers, although we try to. Yeah, long way of saying momenthealth.co.
Dr. Taz: I love it. It’s been delightful to get to know you and talk to you. Thank you so much for joining us for this episode of Super Woman Wellness. I really appreciate it. For all of you listening today, you know that I’ve been ringing that hormone bell for quite a while. I hope this will motivate you to maybe get your hormones checked. Not just for you, for your children, maybe even for your parents. It’s all important. Actually, it’s really important for men too. We didn’t talk about men as much, but even for men, it plays a huge role in their mental health, their cardiovascular health, their overall sense of wellbeing. Even for the men in your lives, it’s really important to get hormones checked and stay on top of it.
Alannah Slingsby: Yeah, we do treat men. A lot of women will bring in their male partners, which makes me feel good that they feel comfortable. Because a lot of times women, they’ll make a decision and men will sit back and just not do anything.
Dr. Taz: Of course. Living that one. Anyhow, thank you all so much for watching and listening to this episode of Superwoman Wellness. Don’t forget you can rate and review it and share it with your friends. If you send me a copy of your review to firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll send you a free bottle of Boost. I will see you guys next time.