THANKS FOR ASKING
Virginia Responds to Reader Questions
DRUG EXPERIMENTS ON WOMEN
Q: Thanks for your article, Lybrel is Launched: The Next Big Drug Experiment on Women. I would like to point out a recent article in the New York Times, After Sanctions, Doctors Get Drug Company Pay, that exposes how much money drug companies pay doctors to test their drugs on patients. Many of the doctors willing to make money by testing experimental drugs are convicted criminals who prey on patients that are mentally ill and/or poor and ignorant. How can we stop this?
A: The bottom line for Big Pharma is profits. Big Pharma is a nickname for the giant pharmaceutical companies that, hand in hand with HMOs, control how medicine is practiced in the U.S. Michael Moore’s upcoming documentary Sicko will reportedly entertain us and illuminate for us just how far-reaching and powerful these influences are.
But let's get back to the bottom line—money. When Americans become more thoughtful and discriminating about buying (and buying into) prescription drugs, Big Pharma will lose its stranglehold on medicine. The only way Americans will stop buying prescription drugs and asking HMOs to pay for them is by taking better care of themselves. If every American took just one step over the next year to improve their health and get off one prescription drug, Big Pharma profits would plummet. It really is that simple, and that complicated. See ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple for details.
YOGURT, SNICKERS AND SUGAR
Q: I just received one of your emails, which I really appreciate. At the same time I have to take exception to the information in the article, Yogurt Smoothie vs. Snickers Bar. The complaint about sugar in yogurt seems somewhat uninformed. Yes, some yogurt companies add sugar. However, all yogurts contain natural milk sugars (lactose). There is no way to avoid that unless you also want to avoid having the benefits of the live culture. Not making these distinctions helps no one.
What would be helpful would be if the yogurt makers were required to break down the sugars to show “sugar added” as opposed to natural lactose.
A: Milk products do contain the sugar lactose and it would be wonderful if they would make the distinction between the milk sugars and the added sugars.
One cup of plain, whole milk Stonyfield yogurt contains 13 gms of sugar, which represents the lactose. (I checked with them and they do not add sugar to this product.) This means the 10 oz. Stonyfield Peach Smoothie contains about 25 added gms of sugar—some of which will be the natural sugars found in peaches.
To put this in perspective, let’s look at the glycemic index (GI) of the foods represented here. The GI is a measure of how quickly a food makes your blood sugar rise:
Table sugar: 64
Whole milk: 30
Plain yogurt: 14
The higher the glycemic index of a food, the faster your pancreas is going to have to yank your insulin levels up to get your blood sugar back in balance. The lower the glycemic index, the slower your blood sugar rises. Overall, it’s healthier to have blood sugars rise gradually, making plain yogurt the healthiest food on the list above. Constant consumption of high glycemic foods combined with obesity is an almost guaranteed way to get Type II diabetes.
And by the way, the saturated fat in whole milk yogurt is good for you. As soon as fat hits your tongue it starts sending out signals that you’re satisfied and full, making portion control easier. Fat helps blood sugar rise more gradually. Fat is the building block of your hormones. Fat protects the nerve cells in your brain. And that’s just for starters.
Whole milk yogurt with live cultures (and without added sugar) is one of the great health foods—I would put it on my top five healthiest foods list. People who can’t tolerate dairy products in general can often tolerate yogurt, and that includes many children who are lactose-intolerant. Yogurt is a great source of protein, calcium and of course, probiotics, the good bacteria that populate the digestive system. If you need a little sweetness in your plain yogurt, stir in just a teaspoonful of fruit jam or honey. Or add a teaspoon of plain table sugar—that's still way better than nearly six teaspoons of added sugar (27 gms).
SIGNS OF FERTILITY
Q: I just read your article What’s a Woman to do about Birth Control? and was disappointed that modern methods of Natural Family Planning are still referred to as “the rhythm method.” The body's natural signs of fertility do not rely on a calendar but instead rely on the natural discharges that occur during her fertile time in her cycle. A woman does not have to be cycling regularly to use NFP, she just needs to learn how to observe her own body.
Many women can benefit from the healthy NFP Methods. Here is a web site to visit: www.woomb.org.
A: Thanks for the link to woomb.org, an informative website about the Billings Method of natural family planning that’s based on the observation of vaginal discharge. Particularly interesting are the discussions of some of the health problems that can cause irregular patterns in vaginal discharge, and the animated diagrams that show the phases of the menstrual cycle.
In Hormone Balance Made Simple, we stress that timing for progesterone cream use should be based on the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle, not the first two weeks, and the diagrams clearly show why.
As much as I like the idea of natural family planning, the reality is that its efficacy is largely based on the willingness and ability of the couple using it, and in particular puts the onus on the woman to be aware of her cycles and communicate clearly with her partner. A wise old friend once said, “The willingness to do gives the ability to do,” and that certainly applies to couples using this method of birth control.
Success also depends on a certain amount of discipline. If we were able see the release of sex pheromones, those chemical signals we give off that are designed to attract the opposite sex, an ovulating woman would no doubt be surrounded by lovely pink clouds of “come hither” molecules. Mother nature designed women to be desirable and desiring at the peak of fertility. The good news, as the Billings folks point out, is that abstinence can improve a couple’s sex life by increasing desire.