Book Review

The Sexy Years: Discover the Hormone Connection - The Secret to Fabulous Sex, Great Health, and Vitality, for Women and Men

Suzanne Somers
Crown Publishing Group

A must read! Suzanne Somers has given compounding pharmacists a great gift with the publication of this book.

This easy-to-read, 357-page book is so good that you won’t be able to put it down. I haven’t read any of Somers’ other books but after reading this one I may. Even though she is a celebrity and not a physician, she really has done her homework on bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). In this book she comes across as inspirational, passionate and genuine. Much of the book covers her own path through menopause, including some detail on her ordeal with breast cancer. There are six chapters in which she interviews physicians.

The first physician interviewed, Dr. Diana Schwarzbein, is Somers’ personal physician, an endocrinologist and the author of several books, including The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy, and Feeling Younger,1 coauthored with Nancy Deville, and The Schwarzbein Principle II: The “Transition,” A Regeneration Program to Prevent and Reverse Accelerated Aging,2 co-authored with Marilyn Brown. Dr. Schwarzbein has an interesting philosophy about the manner of prescribing BHRT. She advocates cycling progesterone because “continuously combining an estrogen with a progestin on a daily basis makes the patient more insulin resistant.” Schwarzbein goes on to explain that the results of the Women’s Health Initiative published in July 20023 are a perfect example of why continuous combined therapy is not a good idea. She blames the increased incidence of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and breast cancer not only on the type of hormones used in the study but also on how they were given. Dr. Schwarzbein states that “Insulin is a much bigger hormone relative to breast cancer than estrogen will ever be, because insulin is a major growth hormone and estradiol is a minor growth hormone.” She even goes so far as to say “When we finally get around to studying bioidentical estradiol, it is going to be shown to be protective against cancers because it is an antioxidant in the human body.” Dr. Schwarzbein advocates cycling a woman’s BHRT forever and keeping her on bioidentical hormones for life. This is an issue that will be hotly debated by compounding pharmacists. Dr. Schwarzbein works with compounding pharmacies, and she tracks her patients by using blood levels to monitor the results of therapy. She explains how stress and body type affect a woman’s needs for estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Finally, the four rules that Dr. Schwarzbein uses for the replacement of any missing hormones are the following: 1. Don’t take a hormone that’s not low or missing. 2. Take only bioidentical hormones. 3. Mimic normal physiology as much as possible. 4. Track the hormone levels and their effects.

The second physician interviewed by Somers was Dr. Uzzi Reiss, obstetriciangynecologist and author of Natural Hormone Balance for Women: Look Younger, Feel Stronger, and Live Life with Exuberance. 4 This book has always been one of my favorites, and I was happy to see Somers choose Dr. Reiss as one of her subjects. Dr. Reiss also advocates cyclic therapy for BHRT, blood tests and working with compounding pharmacies. He explains that when estrogen and progesterone are out of balance the “imbalance creates disease.” He believes that cancer is not caused by estrogen but by a deficiency of progesterone. Dr. Reiss discusses the importance of testosterone, DHEA, thyroid and the adrenal hormones.

Two more physicians were interviewed by Somers, Dr. Jennifer Berman and Dr. Laura Berman, the Berman sisters. These two innovative ladies are the creators of the Female Sexual Medicine Center at the University of California (UCLA), Los Angeles, and the Berman Center in Chicago, Illinois, stars of “The Berman and Berman Show: For Women Only” on the Discovery health channel and are authors of For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide to Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction and Reclaiming Your Sex Life,5 co-authored with Elisabeth Bumiller. Dr. Laura Berman, a female sex therapist, and Dr. Jennifer Berman, a urologist, each have a separate chapter in Somers’ book in which they discuss the effects of hormone dysfunction on sexuality. Both physicians discuss the use of testosterone in various dosage forms for treatment of female sexual dysfunction. Somers refers to testosterone as “sex in a capsule.”

Finally, there is an interview with Dr. Eugene Shippen, an endocrinologist and author of a book on male menopause, The Testosterone Syndrome: The Critical Factor for Energy, Health & Sexuality — Reversing the Male Menopause,6 coauthored with William Fryer, and an interview with Dr. Michael Galitzer on natural hormones and anti-aging. She really covers it all in this book!

Throughout her book Somers shares personal insight, patient stories and testimonials. She believes that the menopausal years, “The Sexy Years,” are the best years of a woman’s life. Despite her recent bout with breast cancer, she continues to use bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and feels that it will actually prevent a recurrence. She states that it is the “secret elixir” and the “fountain of youth.” Somers explains that “synthetic hormones create hormonal imbalance, and hormonal imbalance leaves you open to disease.” Her personal hormone replacement therapy plan is the following: 1. Check hormone levels with a doctor through blood work. 2. Buy hormones based upon a prescription at a compounding pharmacy. 3. Take estradiol (her dose is 0.5 mg) twice a day, every day of the month. 4. Take progesterone (her dose is 100 mg) the 10th through the 18th day of the month. 5. Have regular checkups and additional blood work if needed to re-evaluate hormone levels.

Somers also uses testosterone drops, 2.5 mg per dose, twice daily when her levels go down.

There is also a chapter in Somers’ book about her sister, Maureen, a 63-year old breast cancer survivor, and “she even went so far as to say that she thinks the quality of life is so spectacular that even if bioidentical hormones were to shorten her life, it would be worth it.”

Suzanne Somers has given compounding pharmacists a great gift with the publication of this book. It validates what we do as compounding pharmacists, as well as provides free advertising. Somers is truly a patient advocate. She includes a quote by Barry Manilow that sums up her attitude: “I believe we are who we choose to be. Nobody is going to come and save you. You’ve got to save yourself. Nobody is going to give you anything. You’ve got to go out and fight for it. Nobody knows what you want except you; and nobody will be as sorry as you if you don’t get it, so don’t give up your dreams.”

Reviewed By:  Dana Reed-Kane, PharmD, FIACP, FACA, FCP, NFPPhC
In:  Jul/Aug 2004