Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pyramid Fitness and Oxygen Bar Q&A

After months of anticipation, Pyramid Fitness and Oxygen Bar opened in downtown Rutland, Vermont on December 21, 2010. Lovingly called P-Fit by the Pyramid team, we are very excited to have this new venue and look forward to building a healthy environment where people can work on their fitness in a unique center offering a holistic wellness approach to fitness.

Q: What do you mean by a "holistic wellness approach to fitness?"
A: By "holistic approach," we mean looking at the whole, integrated person through a comprehensive approach to wellness. So at Pyramid Fitness, our members and guests have the opportunity to work on their physical bodies through traditional fitness methods (exercise equipment and group fitness classes), but they also have access to other offerings, such as Yoga and meditation, massage therapy, the oxygen bar, and even a halotherapy room--all designed to help address overall wellness rather than just physical fitness.

Q: Where is Pyramid Fitness located?
A: In downtown Rutland, at 79 Merchants Row. This is the second floor of the building that houses the Boys and Girls Club, and is directly across the street from Three Tomatoes restaurant.

Q: What are the hours of Pyramid Fitness?
A: Monday through Friday, 6 AM to 8 PM, and weekends 8 AM to 3 PM

Q: What equipment do you offer?
A: We currently have a full selection of equipment: StarTrac treadmills, Precor elliptical machines, Nautilus Nitro selectorized weight circuit, an inversion table, a cable cross machine, free weights up to 50 pounds, kettleballs, medicine balls, stretching mats, and more.

Q: What classes do you offer and when?
A: Currently, we offer about 20 classes per week. These are spread throughout the week at convenient times like 9 AM, 12 PM, 4 PM, 5:30 PM, and 6:30 PM during the week, and 9 AM, 10:30 AM, 12 PM, and 1 PM on the weekends. Classes include cardio kickboxing, step aerobics, group strength, core strength boot camp, karate, kabox, meditation, Yoga, and more. In addition, members receive discounts on some classes at Pyramid Wellness Center (our sister facility at 120 Merchants Row in Rutland). Between the two Pyramids, we offer more ongoing classes than any other facility in the Rutland area, taught by the best instructors around. And because our instructors have years of teaching experience, they know how to put together an incredible, safe workout, and our classes promise not to be boring or waste your time. Our instructors regularly change routines and soundtracks, creating a unique fitness experience each time.

Q: Do you have to be a member to use the Center?
A: While it is more economical to be a regular member of Pyramid Fitness, we do offer drop-in guest memberships at $6 per class, $6 for the use of the fitness equipment, or $10 for a day pass.

Q: What types of memberships do you offer?
A: At Pyramid Fitness, we believe that you should only have to pay for what you want to use. With that in mind, we have created several different types of membership packages. For those who just want to use the fitness equipment, the basic price is $30/month. For those who just want to take classes, the basic price is also $30/month. For those who want to use the fitness equipment and take classes, the basic price is $40/month. In addition, we offer a limited discounted membership for those who could come between the hours of 8 AM and 10 AM or 3 PM and 5 PM. These special memberships are $20/month and are perfect for senior citizens and students. Further, we have a deluxe package that includes unlimited everything, plus the use of the oxygen bar, as well as separate oxygen bar memberships.

Q: Do you offer any special group or family discounts on memberships?
A: We believe that our pricing is rockbottom. For that reason, we do not usually discount membership prices further. However, signing up for a year gives members a free extra month, and through our referral program, members can earn up to $10 each month off their next renewal simply by referring their friends and family to P-Fit.

Q: Do you require initiation fees or long-term contracts?
A: Not at all! We do not really understand what an initiation fee is, anyway--a fee so that we can then charge you more fees to use our facility? It does not fit with the Pyramid philosophy of making things as affordable as possible. We will also never make you join for longer than you want. We want our Center filled with happy people who really want to be there. Although many health clubs make their money from selling memberships to people who do not come back, we want to create a vibrant fitness environment with lots of people who love the place as much as we do.

Q: Do you offer full locker room facilities?
A: While we do have private changing alcoves, for many reasons we did not want the traditional locker room environment to be part of the Pyramid experience. Typically, the locker room area is the most troublesome part of a health club for its members and management; often thefts occur in the locker rooms, bacteria builds and is spread via the public showers, fights often break out in the locker rooms, people are often embarrassed or uncomfortable to change in front of others, and sometimes even seedy things can happen in locker rooms. Of course, providing showers would mean that we would have to dramatically increase the price of memberships. We want to keep our focus on providing a high quality facility that is cost-effective to our members, and we can do this much easier without the distraction of locker rooms.

Q: Do you offer child care?
A: We have partnered with our neighbors downstairs, the Boys and Girls Club, and we have worked out a great child care arrangement. During regular school days, we will be able to offer child care through the Boys and Girls Club from 2:30-7 PM (and 9 AM to 5 PM during school vacation days). The best part is the cost--only $1/child or $15 for the entire school year! (Please note that children must be at least 6 years old to use this service.)

Q: What is the atmosphere like at Pyramid Fitness?
A: Our facility is the choice of everyone from brand new exercisers to elite athletes. Everyone is friendly and supportive. This is not a show or a meat market. You do not have to have the perfect body or the perfect workout clothes to be part of the Pyramid family. The environment is relaxing and positive. We do not have televisions because we want you to exercise in the moment and focus on your form, and we never have loud, blaring music. We encourage people who would like listen to music to bring their own personal music player, or we have several MP3 players to loan at the reception desk. Because it is a small facility jam-packed with features, our members get a very efficient, effective workout without a lot of waste.

Q: I would like to join, but I am embarrassed about exercising in front of people. Any suggestions?
A: This is a common situation, and a big reason why people often do not go or do not continue to go to a traditional health club. At the Pyramid, everyone is welcome. We have the bare minimum mirrors so you do not have to look at yourself (except when necessary to maintain good form) unless you want to. We recognize that everyone has to start somewhere, so we have several personal trainers who are available to help you jumpstart your fitness. For those who are very shy, we do offer individual training sessions in our private Personal Fitness Center at Pyramid Wellness. Speak to a guest services member if you are interested in this special service.

Q: I have belonged to health clubs before where you cannot find anyone to help you. Does Pyramid Fitness have people there?
A: Yes! We have a professional guest services staff in your line of vision at all times. Someone is always there to help show you how to use a machine, make sure you are not injuring yourself (we will correct your form if we see you do something dangerous!), and motivate you to keep going. We will even call, e-mail, or text you if we have not seen you for a while! (Extra fee of $5/month applies to this service.) In addition, we have a personal training staff that is second to none. If you want personal service and attention, Pyramid Fitness is really a great choice for you.

Q: Is Pyramid Fitness air conditioned?
A: Yes! Although we believe it is healthy to exercise in fresh air, we do have air conditioning and will use it when it is necessary to create a healthy environment.

Q: What is an oxygen bar?
A: Oxygen bars are very popular in other parts of the country and even around the world, but until now have not been available in Vermont so we spend a lot of time trying to introduce the concept to our guests. Although humans can go three weeks without food and three days without water, we cannot go three minutes without oxygen. Oxyen is a major component of air and is a vital element essential to life, but pollution and other factors reduce the percentage of oxygen in air. An oxygen bar is a place where people can go to take in concentrated oxygen to enhance overall well-being.
The main component of an oxygen bar is the oxygen concentrator--a hospital-grade machine that splits up air into its components; everything else is released into the air, while the pure oxygen is sent into the aromarizer infuser bar. Here, the oxygen is combined with natural essential oils, and the oxygen/essential oil blend is delivered to the guest via nose cannules, similar to those used in hospitals for oxygen.

Q: Are oxygen bars safe?
A: Absolutely! Because the oxygen is mixed with the essential oils and then outside air as you breathe it in through the nose cannules, you are receiving a high quality, safe oxygen blend. We limit our guests to two five-minute sessions per day, which is considered a safe amount by the American Medical Association. Each guest has his or her own nose cannule, making it even safer. Although the Internet is filled with claims about its dangers and ineffectiveness, one Oxygen Bar session will show you what a safe and positive experience this is. (For people will severe respiratory problems, we do recommend talking to your doctor before using the Oxygen Bar.)

Q: What is the Oxygen Bar good for?
A: We must state that the Oxygen Bar is not a medical treatment and therefore we cannot make medical claims about it. Participants understand that the use of the oxygen bar should never replace proper medical treatment. That said, oxygen bars are used around the world for a variety of medical treatments. A simple Google search will pull up some of these. Athletes often use oxygen sessions for improved performance and recovery time. Some people believe that oxygen sessions help eliminate the symptoms of a hangover. Mixing the oxygen with essential oils adds the benefits of aromatherapy. Currently we have wintergreen, peppermint, cherry, lavender, almond, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and lemongrass. Our essential oils are organic and offer a direct delivery of professional grade aromatherapy.

Q: How much does an oxygen session cost?
A: Everyone using the Oxygen Bar must have a nose cannule. You can bring your own, or purchase one from us at $1. For Pyramid Fitness members, each session costs only $2. For non-members, each session costs $5. We also offer special packages--a month of oxygen sessions (up to two per day) is $20 for members or $30 for non-members.

Q: Do you have a sauna?
A: Yes. We have a 1-2 person far infrared sauna at Pyramid Fitness (and a 2-3 person sauna at Pyramid Wellness) that is available whenever the Center is open. For Pyramid members, the sauna is 50 cents per minute; for non-members, it is 75 cents per minute. People using the sauna should bring three towels with them or be prepared to rent them from us--for sanitary purposes, one towel on the floor, one towel on the seat, and one towel to wrap and wipe with. Although the temperature of the far infrared sauna runs lower than a traditional sauna, participants using it for more than fifteen minutes will break a sweat. Unlike a traditional sauna, a far infrared sauna uses the very powerful far infrared light rays rather than heat--so the rays penetrate deeper into the body, offering an excellent detox for our muscles and organs. A simple Google search will reveal the possible medical benefits of far infrared, although we do not personally make any medical claims about it. Pregnant woman and anyone with current heat or blood pressure issues should consult with a doctor before using the far infrared sauna.

Q: What is the halotherapy room?
A: Halotherapy is similar to the Pyramid Wellness Center's Himalayan Salt Cave (www.pyramidvt.com) except that it uses a moist delivery system. The halotherapy room is decorated like an old Polish mine and contains a saline tower that creates a fountain effect. Participants sit in relaxing zero-gravity chairs, or we can remove the chairs and offer massage and other wellness treatments right in the halotherapy room. As participants relax in the halotherapy room, microscopic droplets of Himalayan salt-infused water are spread through the room by the tower and are taken in through the mouth and nose. Again, while we can make no medical claims for this room, halotherapy is used successfully around the world to treat many medical conditions. Our halotherapy room is primarily a relaxation chamber. Like the Salt Cave at Pyramid Wellness, the cost to use the halotherapy room is $10/person/hour. Personalized treatments are available in the halotherapy room for $40 in addition to the cost of the treatment.

Q: Are there other benefits to membership?
A: Yes! Pyramid Fitness members get special disounts on many Pyramid services...$5 off ionic foot baths, special pricing on the sauna and oxygen bar, $5 off massages, $10 off personal training sessions, special discounts on Pyramid workshops, and much more.

Q: This sounds amazing! Where do I sign up?
A: Thank you--we think it is pretty amazing, too! You can stop in during regular business hours to see the place in person and join, and all of our forms are available online if you would like to get that part out of the way. www.pyramidvt.com

Sunday, December 5, 2010


It's all about community.

Over the last few months, concerned people have pulled me aside: "Are you sure you want to invest any more in Rutland? There's nothing here! People are leaving left and right, the economy is bad, and there are already some great fitness options in Rutland. The downtown area is crumbling. Why don't you do this somewhere else, like Burlington?"

I appreciate these concerns more than I can say. Believe me, I've thought about them over and over. I've crunched the numbers, I've done research about the current wellness of Vermont and Rutland County, and I've looked at how many people are actually using these fitness options. I know the economy is not as good as any of us would like, and people are having to make very careful choices about what and how they spend. There is no question--this is a challenging time to open a fitness center--or anything--in Rutland.

But those of you who know the Pyramid team members know that we are not doing what we are doing because it is easy, or because we are just interested in making money. We are here in Rutland because we feel a strong desire to help where it is needed. If Rutland is going to become the amazing place I am told it once was, we need to be part of the positive change. We cannot leave because it is challenging. We cannot ignore that Rutlanders now more than ever need MORE healthy options, not less.

We want to create a place where people of all walks of life can come and feel safe and comfortable to improve the quality of their lives. We have worked hard over the last (almost) four years to do that with the Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center and Salt Cave. We've all put our professional and personal lives on the line to create this place. Now, we are again putting our professional and personal lives on the line to create another place...Pyramid Fitness and Oxygen Bar.

While I have lots of great reasons for wanting to open this new facility, the main reason, to be perfectly honest, is that I long for another place where I can work on my wellness supported by a community of like-minded people who also want to work on their wellness. I know--it's purely selfish, I admit.

I want to walk into a place where I immediately feel welcome and at ease. I want to be greeted and feel like I've just come home. I want to know that for the time I am here, I do not have to worry about anything. I can just focus on myself and getting stronger and healthier. And I know that for this time, I will be surrounded by other people who feel the same. It's not a competition or a show...just a place of support and growth. I want to feel like my presence means something, and that my business is appreciated. I want to see smiling faces all around as people set and reach their goals.

And that is what Pyramid Fitness is all about. Do we have 200,000 square feet? No. Do we have 400 treadmills? No. Do we have 500 pieces of fitness equipment? No. What we do have, though, is a very powerful combination of what you really need in a health club in a healthy environment, supported by an amazing customer service and fitness staff.

We've designed Pyramid Fitness to have just enough space and equipment so you get a very efficient workout. We've got the classes that will keep you interested and motivated, and where you will really see results. We've got a customer service staff that is going to work very hard to get to know you, and help you stay focused on your goals. Our fitness team is going to be there when you work out to make sure you are staying on task and that you don't hurt yourself. And of course, although we do not have warehouses full of it, we have top of the line equipment that is always well-maintained. There is nothing like the Nautilus Nitro line of equipment.

Add to that our very unique offerings for Vermont--the far infrared sauna and the oxygen bar, as well as some creatively-packaged memberships, very affordable prices, and convenient hours, and I think we are on the way to creating something very special. There are definitely benefits to being a member of a well-established fitness center, but there are also benefits to being on the ground floor of a new venture; among these, our charter members will have the ability to shape the atmosphere of the club and have input in ways that you just do not have in established businesses. It is definitely an exciting time to join Pyramid Fitness!

To add to the excitement, Dr. Margaret Smiechowski, North America's foremost expert on Himalayan salt and the creator of salt caves around the US, has just announced that she will be introducing a brand new technology to North America called halotherapy, and she will be taking a break from building salt caves to build the first and only halotherapy treatment center in North America--where? Right at Pyramid Fitness!

So good things are happening, and although I have been cautioned, I am willing to move ahead with a focus on the hopes of building a new community of wellness. I do not believe that Rutland is dying...and I believe now more than ever is a great time to provide people with another option for improving the quality of their lives.

Hope to see you at Pyramid Fitness!

William Kelley, Ph.D.
Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center
120 Merchants Row
Rutland, VT 05701

Memberships on sale now!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Can Rutland support another gym? No!

"Can Rutland support another gym?" someone asked over Facebook. "Aren't there already five or six? In this economy, are you taking too much of a risk?"

Some people might wonder if I have finally lost my marbles. Have I finally done too many head stands in Yoga? Why am I risking everything to create this new health facility when there are already many good ones nearby?

The truth is, Rutland CAN sustain all it has already and many more establishments focused on the well-being of the community.

Absolutely--Rutland already has some excellent health clubs and options for helping people get and stay healthy. But it is safe to say that not even five percent of the population belongs to a health club here. The existing clubs have done so much to improve the quality of life for Rutlanders, but there is still so much more to be done as Rutland County still tops off the scales in Vermont for obesity, diabetes, and other such health and wellness concerns.

According to the Southern Vermont Area Health Center, among the 63,331 residents in Rutland County, 22% smoke, 24% are obese, 16% binge drink, and 15% have no health insurance. Further, 165 per 100,000 people die from heart-related problems, 60 per 100,000 people die of stroke, and in all of these categories, Rutland County is bringing up the state-wide averages.

So, sure, there are fitness centers, but these are clearly not enough to spread the message of wellness to a community that desperately needs it.

And that is why we are starting Pyramid Fitness...not because there aren't already great exercise options in Rutland, but because we need more. We need a new mentality towards wellness. Pyramid Fitness is not just a health club or a gym--it is a wellness club. It is a place where like-minded people will come together in an effort to support each other on the path to fitness. Of course we have all of the equipment that makes this easy--brand new, safe, easy-to-use equipment. But we also have the people who will create a new atmosphere.

Pyramid Fitness isn't about wearing the brand name jogging suit or sneakers, or having the perfect body. It isn't about the elite membership fees. And it certainly isn't about filling the place with people who come for a month but pay for the service for a year. In fact, at Pyramid Fitness, we don't want your money if you are not actually using our services. We want to fill this beautiful, newly-renovated space with people who want to be healthy and are going to commit to using our services. In that light, we are going to be offering only a limited number of memberships. We want to create a vibrant community of exercisers, not frustrated people who never come back.

At the Pyramid, our members will be a name, not a number. The goals of our members will be our goals. We are a team. When you succeed, we succeed.

Of course, Rutland cannot support another gym if we define "gym" as a dirty, grungy place with old, broken down equipment where they lock you into contracts and take your money, even if you aren't going, so some off-site owner can take luxury vacations. No, in this economy, Rutland cannot sustain even one of those.

So what we are talking about here is a new breed of fitness club. A place that has everything you need equipment (but not too much--you don't need 40 treadmills--you only need one that works when you want it!), the people with the education and experience to help you define and reach your goals, and the atmosphere that makes it all possible.

And it certainly doesn't hurt that you have access to a multitude of other services--the sauna, the oxygen bar, massage therapy, homeopathy, acupuncture, Ayurveda, personal training, counseling and hypnotherapy, special classes and workshops, and of course, the only salt cave in Vermont.

I know some people probably think I am crazy...but I believe I am simply optimistic about the future health of our local Vermonters. I believe we can do this...I believe we will do this...and I cannot wait to let you know when we open our doors so you can check this incredible place out yourself.

Thanks to all of you who have expressed positive thoughts and support for what we are doing. We do hope to be open in the very near future. Watch for more information coming soon!

Be well!

William Kelley, Ph.D.
Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pyramid Fitness and Oxygen Bar - opening in October!

I was 21 the first time I reluctantly stepped foot into a health club. A very close friend had taken a job at a small Nautilus gym and was excited to show me her new place of employment. Prior to going to visit her at the club, I had actually been afraid of the gym scene. During high school and college I was pretty much a "band geek" and I was sure that fitness was not for me. However, a serious knee injury during my freshman year of college showed me the importance of exercise; had I been in better shape, my injury would have been significantly less impactful to my life, and my recovery time would have been much faster and easier. After the injury, I began working out on my own to strengthen my weak body, but was too shy to go work out in front of anyone else.

Visiting Jackie at the gym was incredibly daunting for me. I can remember the sense of dread as I pulled open the front door. But walking through that door was an incredible crossroads of my life. It was like Dorothy walking through her doorway from the black and white farmhouse to the technicolor Land of Oz.

I found myself mesmerized by the equipment. It looked so complicated, and yet I watched as person after person went to each station, seemingly effortlessly, improving the quality of their lives with each machine. The people looked energized and healthy. They were having fun, being social, and getting stronger and more fit. I knew at that moment that that was what I wanted. And oddly enough, I knew that someday I would also start my own fitness center.

Following this visit, I signed up for the gym and became a regular member. Then when life circumstances changed and I moved on to new things, I always made finding and joining a gym part of what I do. Although I was a bit shy to exercise in front of someone else at first, it quickly became easy and comfortable, and as I got in better shape, I felt my confidence increase. Going to the gym was not only what I did--it was who I am. By 1995, I was managing a 5-star resort's health club and spa (even though I honestly knew nothing about maintaining a pool). Out of necessity, I became certified in teaching all sorts of fitness activities (because instructors and trainers would often call in sick, and as manager, I would need to provide a last minute substitute activity). I later worked as a trainer at a YMCA. In the last 20 years, I have belonged to, taught or trained at, or managed more than twelve gyms--an amazing accomplishment for someone as shy as I am, who couldn't even step into a gym without feeling fear.

When I moved to Vermont in 2000, I was very excited to find many high-quality fitness centers. I quickly joined the staff at Fair Haven Fitness and then later the Gymnasium, where I taught for almost ten years. The call to have my own fitness center was quiet as I enjoyed teaching at these outstanding facilities. However, a recent turn of events has caused me to leave both gyms, and for the first time in 20 years, I no longer have a gym as my second home.

Sure, we have lots of fitness classes, training, and options at the Pyramid. But I have honestly missed the original Nautilus circuit that I fell in love with years ago. I miss the excitement of feeling like you are part of a group of people all wanting to be healthy at the same time in the same place. And so that call to have my own fitness center has returned--this time louder than ever. And this time I am listening!

Although I may be insane to do this in this relatively unstable economy, I have realized that now is the time to open a new fitness center! Through the generosity and help of many people, including the amazing Pyramid staff, we expect Pyramid Fitness and Oxygen Bar to open in early October.

Q: What makes Pyramid Fitness and Oxygen Bar so special?
A: Over the last three years, many of our clients have repeatedly asked us to create a membership-based fitness offering for the community beyond what we already offer. This facility will offer low-cost memberships where you can pick the exact level of membership you want. The equipment will be very high quality, featuring the Nautilus Nitro Plus circuit. Our hours will be convenient, as we will be open every day. The facility will be sparkling clean. It will be both air conditioned in summer and heated in winter. Although located on the second floor, we do have an elevator for those who need it. Most importantly, the facility will be staffed by the Pyramid team members you have come to know--and our customer service will be second to none.
We will also be the only health club in Rutland to feature a far-infrared sauna, and I believe we will be offering the only Oxygen Bar in Vermont.

Q: What is an oxygen bar?
A: Oxygen bars are very popular in other parts of the country, especially in California. These are gathering places that instead of offering alcohol offer concentrated oxygen infused with essential oils.

Q: What are the benefits of the oxygen bar?
A: Many athletes use oxygen before and after workouts to improve performance. However, everyone can benefit from using oxygen because it is believed to improve bodily function, increase energy, enhance sexual pleasure, support weight loss, detox, and improve sleep. Of course, we cannot and will not make any medical claims for the oxygen bar, but we believe that it will bring a big city service to Vermont that has otherwise always been lacking.

Q: Are there any negative effects from or contraindications to the oxygen bar?
A: This is actually a controversial question. Under proper management, an oxygen bar can be safe for almost anyone. However, the problem is that most places that have oxygen bars (like night clubs, airports, etc.) have no medical staff to supervise their use. Pure oxygen intake is actually harmful to people who have lung problems and other medical conditions. Our bar will feature a safe concentration of oxygen mixed with regular air and essential oils, and we will carefully limit the amount of time that people spend using it. In our carefully controlled environment, there will be no safety problems or negative effects.

Q: Is Pyramid Fitness located in your current Pyramid building?
A: No! We are opening a brand new facility in a separate building in downtown Rutland. It is within walking distance from our current location and close to lots of easy parking.

Q: Will you be closing the current location of the Pyramid?
A: No--this is just an expansion of our operations. Everything at the current Pyramid will continue to operate unchanged, including the Personal Fitness Center for those clients who will not feel comfortable working out in the open gym. Some of the classes will be moving to the new gym, but otherwise everything will continue as before. Of course, Pyramid Fitness members will receive special discounts on Pyramid services and massage.

Q: Will you be selling advance memberships?
A: Yes! Watch for announcements. Pre-membership specials will run later in September.

Q: What else is special about your new facility?
A: We will be widely expanding our fitness products and supplements, and new product lines will be available at the new location. We will also not use membership cards (a waste of resources!) but will use an electronic finger print capture to allow entry. Our facility is also going to be a true wellness club--our members will get to vote on which pieces of equipment we buy in the future, etc. We will have lots of holistic classes that are not usually offered in a health club. And we will also have a beautiful massage room in the facility for those who want an on-the-spot massage. And we hope to work with other area health clubs to offer joint special promotions and packages so that the community gets an incredible array of options. In short, there has never been a club like this in Rutland or anywhere!

Stay tuned for more information coming soon...

Major sex hormones - Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, DHEA, and Cortisol

The major sex hormones to assess are estradiol, progesterone and testosterone. The main adrenal hormones are DHEA and cortisol. These five hormones will provide crucial information about deficiencies, excesses and daily patterns, which then result in a specifically tailored treatment approach and one far more beneficial than the old “shotgun" approach. Below is a brief description of each of these five hormones:

Estrogen: there are three forms made by the body: estrone, estradiol and estriol. The form used in past hormone replacement therapies is estradiol, often in the form of concentrated pregnant mare’s urine (premarin). It is a proliferative (causes growth) hormone that grows the lining of the uterus. It is also a known cancer-causing hormone: breast and endometrial (uterine) in women and prostate gland in men. It will treat menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia and memory-loss. With the bio-identical formulas estriol is matched with estradiol (biest) to provide protective effects and additional estrogenic benefits. The other major protector in keeping estradiol from running amok is progesterone.

Progesterone is called the anti-estrogen because it balances estradiol’s proliferative effects. It is considered preventive for breast and prostate cancers as well as osteoporosis. In addition too little progesterone promotes depression, irritability, increased inflammation, irregular menses, breast tenderness, urinary frequency and prostate gland enlargement (BPH).

Testosterone is an anabolic hormone (builds tissue) that is essential for men and women. The proper level of testosterone is necessary for bone health, muscle strength, stamina, sex drive and performance, heart function and mental focus.

DHEA is an important adrenal gland hormone, which is essential for energy production and blood sugar balance. DHEA is a precursor to other hormones, mainly testosterone.

Cortisol is your waking day hormone (highest in the morning and lowest at night). It is necessary for energy production, blood sugar metabolism, anti-inflammatory effects and stress response.

Some of the common imbalances identified through testing include estrogen dominance, estrogen deficiency, progesterone deficiency, androgen (testosterone and DHEA) excess or deficiencies, adrenal dysfunction and adrenal fatigue.

Estradiol and progesterone are 2 hormones that are often tested together. At Labrix when you test these 2 hormones together we also provide you with a Pg/E2 ratio. This ratio allows you to determine if the patient (male or female) has “Estrogen Dominance". Estrogen dominance is a risk factor for breast cancer and osteoporosis in females and prostate gland enlargement and cancer in males.

The term “Estrogen Dominance" is less related to the amount of circulating estrogen and more related to the ratio of estrogen to progesterone in the body. Menopause and PMS are not the result of estrogen deficiency; although, estrogen levels do decline during the latter phases of a woman’s reproductive cycle. More relevant is that the estrogen levels drop by approximately 40% at menopause or during periods of stress while progesterone levels plummet by approximately 90% from premenopausal levels. It is the relative loss of progesterone that causes the majority of symptoms termed estrogen dominance. The disproportionate loss of progesterone begins in the latter stages of a woman's reproductive cycle, when the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle begins to malfunction. The malfunction is initiated when the corpus luteum, the primary source of progesterone, begins to lose its functional capacity. By about age 35, many of these follicles fail to develop creating a relative progesterone deficiency. As a result, ovulation does not always occur and progesterone levels steadily decline. It is during this period that a relative progesterone deficiency, or what has become known as Estrogen Dominance, develops.

Typical Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance Include:

Irritability/Mood Swings
Irregular Periods
Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
Vaginal Dryness
Water Retention
Sleep Disturbance
Hot Flashes
Short-term Memory Loss
Weight Gain

The Progesterone/Estradiol (Pg/E2) reference ranges are optimal ranges determined by Dr. John R. Lee MD. While they are not physiological ranges, they are optimal values for the protection of the breasts, heart and bones in women, and the prostate in men. Salivary values within these ranges have been shown by Dr. Lee to decrease both breast and prostate cellular proliferation, thereby providing protection to these vital tissues.

Testosterone is often tested because the patient talks of low libido. Declining testosterone levels are the number one cause of low libido in males, and plays a contributing factor in females.

Declining testosterone levels are commonly seen in men beginning in the fourth decade of life. Suboptimal or low testosterone levels in males are often associated with symptoms of aging and are referred to as “Andropause" or male menopause.

Testosterone is an important anabolic hormone in men. It increases energy, prevents fatigue, helps maintain normal sex drive, increases strength of all structural tissues such as skin/bone/muscles; including the heart and prevents depression and mental fatigue. Testosterone deficiency is often associated with symptoms such as night sweats, insulin resistance, erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, decreased mental and physical ability, lower ambition, loss of muscle mass and weight gain in the waist. The primary cause of this increase in girth is visceral fat, not excessive subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin).

The visceral fat cells are the most insulin resistant cells in the human body. As a person ages hormone levels change in favor of insulin resistance. The insulin levels rise while progesterone, growth hormone and testosterone decline. The visceral fat cell begins to collect more fat in the form of triglycerides. A vicious cycle is initiated, which if not interrupted with natural hormone balancing will lead to abdominal obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. This phenomenon is known as “Metabolic Syndrome". In males, metabolic syndrome results in lower testosterone levels, however, in females metabolic syndrome results in high testosterone levels and a phenomenon known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (see below).

Stress management, exercise, proper nutrition, dietary supplements, and androgen replacement therapy have all been shown to raise androgen levels in men and help counter male metabolic syndrome symptoms. The “trick" is to know how much testosterone is required for each individual male. This is where knowing the salivary testosterone levels come into play. Initial salivary testing and following salivary monitoring are crucial for determining the most optimal prescription.

Metabolic Syndrome and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in females results in the same visceral fat pattern, insulin resistance and triglyceride formation as in males, however, the female patients with PCOS and metabolic syndrome had high levels of testosterone and often DHEA. This results in a typical symptom pattern seen in women with metabolic syndrome – acne, increased facial and body hair, hair loss on the head, trunkle obesity and infertility. Salivary testosterone and DHEA levels are diagnostic for this syndrome and follow up testing is key for monitoring treatment. It is important to note that women do not need to have their ovaries to have metabolic syndrome. The adrenal glands in women who have a predisposition to metabolic syndrome can produce above normal levels of testosterone and DHEA.

DHEA is often thought of as an adrenal hormone and in fact it is, however, DHEA is also made in the ovaries. When we measure DHEA we are eliciting information about both the adrenal glands and the ovaries. This is particularly important when DHEA levels are high. High levels of DHEA can mean that the adrenal glands are increasing DHEA production on response to stress or high glucose levels, or that the ovaries are increasing the production of DHEA as part of the PCOS cascade. High levels of DHEA are often seen years before a female develops metabolic syndrome and should be used as a risk factor marker for insulin resistance.

Low levels of DHEA are seen in evolving “Adrenal Gland Fatigue" (hypoadrenia). As acute stress becomes more chronic, the constant demand by the body for adrenal gland hormones begins to wear out the adrenal glands and DHEA and cortisol levels fall. It is for this reason that DHEA is often measured in combination with cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress and blood sugar levels. Cortisol secretion has a diurnal rhythm. Normal cortisol levels should be highest one hour after waking in the morning and drop gradually throughout the day. Measuring the diurnal rhythm with 4 cortisol levels throughout the day gives a very accurate measure of adrenal gland function and their ability to cope with stress. Adrenal fatigue occurs in stages. The stage at which a patient is at can be determined by looking at the diurnal cortisol graph and DHEA levels. Symptoms of evolving adrenal gland fatigue include fatigue, sleep issues, inability to cope with stress, anxiety, nervousness, irritability and allergies.

Hypothalamic Pituitary Axis (HPA) Dysregulation is due to chronic stress with the resultant excess cortisol production and down regulation of cortisol receptors in the hypothalamus. In other words the negative feedback loop that normally shuts down the production of ACTH release is blunted and cortisol production by the adrenal glands is uncontrolled. If this continues, hypoadrenia always evolves. The symptoms of HPA and hypoadrenia are essentially identical but salivary testing easily distinguishes the two. This is crucially important as treatment of each can be very different.

Measuring cortisol and DHEA levels will also diagnose complex diseases such as Addison’s Disease and Cushing’s Syndrome. Addison's disease occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough of the hormones cortisol and DHEA. The disease is also called adrenal insufficiency, or hypocortisolism. It has however, no relationship to end stages of “adrenal gland fatigue" described above. The two illnesses have very different mechanisms of action. Most cases of Addison’s disease are caused by autoimmune destruction of the adrenal cortex. Symptoms include chronic fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, and hyperpigmentation of the skin.

Cushing’s Syndrome results in excessive production of cortisol by the adrenal glands. Symptoms include rapid weight gain of face, trunk and back of neck, hirsutism, depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Roll with the Punches

Perhaps the biggest lesson that I have learned in my life came when I was 16 and had the opportunity to spend the summer touring Europe with a band--not a rock band, but a 120-piece symphonic band where I was lucky enough to be able to play both the alto and tenor saxophone. To a 16-year-old who had never left North America, it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. The thought of spending the summer touring Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein (yes, Liechtenstein!) was almost more excitement than I could take. The other members of the band were students like me from all around New England. We spent my sophomore year preparing the music on our own, and then at the start of summer, we came together for a week of very intense practice to build our program. Then we were off, spreading the joy of music to anyone who wanted to hear.

Before we left for the intense week of practice, my band leader warned the six of us from our school who were going. "This experience is going to be one of the most memorable ones of your life," he said. "But I need to warn you. Coordinating 120 students and ten chaperones for months of travel in several different countries can be very difficult. Things never go as planned. No matter how well you prepare for something like this, the unexpected can happen and things can turn out nothing like you plan. So I am going to ask you all to be as flexible as you can going in to this and know that rolling with the punches is going to become your motto. View this as an adventure, and no matter what happens, it is what is supposed to happen."

At the time I did not really understand what he meant. But as soon as our plane landed at Heathrow International, I started getting a sense. Have you ever tried to travel with two suitcases and two saxophones by yourself? It was just like an "I Love Lucy" episode. I hadn't quite figured out how to carry everything yet, so the director told me he would carry my second saxophone--so I set it down prior to going through Customs, thinking he would pick it up. When we met up again on the other side of Customs, we chuckled at how long it had taken. Then we realized that neither of us had my second sax, but we could see it just over the line on the other side. In our post-9-11 era, this makes more sense, but to me, then, it made no sense...I asked one of the guards if I could just reach over the line and get the saxophone, but of course he would not allow that. They had to search the saxophone case and me, and I held up the entire group while they made sure I was not an international terrorist. And of course it just kept getting more and more bizarre. In our first night in London, one of our band members was sexually assaulted. In Paris a group of anti-Americans broke into our tour bus and stole everything--all of our passports, money, wallets, and cameras. (And a French horn, but we were not exactly sure why they would take that!) Then our tour bus broke down in Austria. Someone had a death in the family and had to arrange and emergency departure (which was delayed because we still did not have our passports back). During our last week, when most people were feeling very homesick to begin with, we visited Dachau, the concentration camp in Germany, where the stench of rotting flesh and spiritual energy of the pain that had happened there just forty years earlier was more than most of us could take. It was a sobering reminder of how life isn't always what you want or expect. I remember my very wise band leader telling us "just think of it all as a journey. It's all a ride. It's still going to be wonderful. You just can't let the troubles get you down."

For me, a small-city boy from New Hampshire, it was absolutely incredible to be halfway around the world, connecting with people who might not even speak our language. I took my band leaders' advice, and the day I got seperated from the group in Switzerland and had to walk through a French-speaking town to our concert site with two saxophone cases in the full heat of summer, lost and afraid I would miss the concert and be sent home, I chose to look at it like an adventure. Sure, there were members of our group who were upset that things didn't go just as the itinerary had outlined. People were angry because they were not able to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower due to high winds. People were angry and shocked that the people of Paris were not thrilled to have Americans there. People were angry because the bread tasted weird in Germany. And it was then that I realized that life is what you make of it. You have the power to choose. You can choose if you are going to go down that path of "poor me" or if you are going to look at life as an adventure.

And so since then but especially over the last three years of my life, I have tried to remember this lesson. Floods? Shoplifting? Family deaths and illnesses? What a ride! World issues? Earthquakes? Hunger? Horrible but part of the human experience.

In these times, we can either sit back and feel like victims, or we can roll with the punches. What can we do? Well, we can start by taking care of ourselves. You are no good to the world if you are not at your peak level of wellness. Many people sit at home and feel bad for the people of Haiti. Isn't it horrible? Yes, of course it is! But if you sit there and watch it on CNN and do nothing, nothing gets better. But if you are physically active and healthy, you might actually considering organizing a relief effort, or going down to help. Or maybe Haiti isn't where you feel compelled to help. Maybe you feel drawn to help people closer to home...putting together a collection drive of food for our local friends who are struggling this year.

The media talks a lot now about the doom and gloom prophecies of the world ending in 2012. Of course, these theories are loosely based on facts, but when you look at the actual prophecies themselves, you see that it is not the world that is ending, but the human systems that are currently in place. Communication, finances, social welfare...all of these things are changing. And for more humans, change is difficult. We had better learn to roll with the punches, or we are going to have a very difficult time as the world shifts.

Yes, life is tough. There is no question. As this New Year rang in, I looked back at my own life...all of the things that had happened in 2009. So many good things happened, despite the difficulties. And I realized that many people would be making their own New Year's resolutions. By this week in January, 70% of all New Year's resolutions are broken already. So my challenge to you is to do two nice things for yourself every day. To those of you who already do this and more, I commend you. You are in the minority now. So please take this as a reminder to continue your efforts. But for everyone else, consider which two things you would do for yourself if you could.

One thing is easy. Maybe you drink a glass of water. Maybe you go to the gym. Anyone can do one thing. But honestly, if you only do one good thing for yourself all day, that is not enough in this world to maintain wellness. What if you also got a massage, or went for a walk with a friend, or listened to your favorite music? What would the world be like if we all felt empowered to be the best we could be? What if we turned off the television for one night and did something? What if we all made our own health a priority?

Most of us use excuses about why we cannot focus on our wellness. Well, the car broke down, or I had a surprise visitor, or I ran out of cash easlier than I expected this week. Or it is too cold outside to walk so I am just going to stay inside until April. We all do this from time to time. We let the stressors and surprises of life prevent us from focusing on the most important thing in our lives.

But what if we took that same roll with the punches attitude about our wellness? Okay, so it is cold outside. Perhaps I could join a gym, or walk around the mall. I could climb stairs in tall buildings. So my car broke down...perhaps I have a friend who would also like to go exercise and would be willing to give me a ride. My surprise visitors showed up? What if I told them how happy I was to see them, but that I have to use this time to do Yoga--would they like to come with me, or would they prefer to wait here at home until I get back?

Believe me--I am not saying I am perfect. I never procrastinate about my own wellness and the wellness of others--but there certainly are other areas of my life that I do not focus on as much as I should. And I do understand how hard life can be sometimes. I understand that probably as well as anyone.

But I think if we all do at least two things every day for our wellness, this will be a major improvement for society. So I challenge you...try it for a week. See how it feels to focus on you and not let anything else prevent that. Roll with the punches, and see how far you can roll! I imagine that even you will be surprised at how far you can go!

Be well!
William Kelley
Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center