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.