Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cortisol and Estrogen Connection in Lipedema Recovery - Part II

by Maggie McCarey

Sorry, for taking so much time to write part 2 of cortisol and estrogen connection.  Studying it was like learning a new language (which is ironic since my life depends on knowing speaking it to my primary). After reading about cortisol and estrogen until my eyes crossed, I came across one doctor, Alfred J. Plechner, who brings the adrenal gland into our estrogen discussion and oddly makes the discussion understandable.  He writes:

I have long regarded adrenal dysfunction as a well-spring of excess estrogen which may contribute to hormonal imbalances, immune destabilization, and increased vulnerability to disease. As a practicing clinician, I have consistently found elevated total estrogen as part of an endocrine-immune derangement present in many common diseases of dogs and cats.
Wait.  What?  Dogs and Cats?  Yes, Alfred J. Plechner is a veterinarian, but before I discuss Dr Plechner’s findings, I want to share why I am so interested in this topic.
I am looking for 1) why lipedema spikes during female reproductive stages;  2) how to stop lipedema in its tracks during these reproductive events; and 3) how to stop my ever-present hormonal surges, sore breasts, occasional bleeding, premenstrual crampiness, and peaking emotions since post-menopause 8 years ago.  (Yes, I have had the traditional medical tests designed to detect cancer but otherwise do not address serious medical issues)

Like many of you, one or more hormonal events triggered a lipedema spike in my body. Mine: huge weight gain at menses and at the birth of my first child, a boy.  Then weight loss when my daughter was born and during peri-menopause.  A weight gain, all-time high at menopause with a new addition of much immovable weight gain in my stomach which had been no more than a pouch.  And now, post-menopause, no more weight gain, as I have lost slowly and steadily for the last three years but with much unexpected hormonal activity even though my reproductive stages have supposedly ended.
Because women are finally sharing their collective history of post-menopause with such consistency, a new understanding of menopause is being forged and a new phase, perhaps, will be named.  Oh wait, in my research, I discovered there is such a name. Are you properly strapped into your ruby red slippers?

After menopause, every woman will be affected differently and they will be at higher risk for breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, fibroids, post-menopause weight gain, urinary incontinence, a thin, watery vaginal discharge tinged with blood signaling vaginal wall atrophy, hair loss, and  osteoporosis.  At the same time ovulation ceases, progesterone drops to zero while estrogen drops 40 - 60% from its pre-menopause level.  In order for the body to be healthy, estrogen and progesterone need to be in balance, and when they are, women are disease-free. This is called post-menopause syndrome.                                   

I just want to repeat the salient sentence in the above paraphrase: 

In order for the body to be healthy, estrogen and progesterone need to be in balance, and when they are, women are disease-free. When the estrogen and progesterone are not in balance, a woman sufferers from post-menopause syndrome. 

Is it possible to ascertain cortisol level in the human body? Yes, with a non-invasive, inexpensive, simple 24-hour urine test and now with hair analysis which tells the history of cortisol in your body.  Is it possible to test one’s progesterone and estrogen levels? Through blood tests, yes, and more accurately, saliva testing is the most accurate test to determine steroid hormones (i.e. progesterone, estrogen, DHEA, cortisol, and testosterone) levels. Saliva testing is much more accurate and useful than any blood test when attempting to determine who needs hormone replacement. (  

Why then are the mammogram and pap smear the only yearly tests offered to determining women’s health when inflammation, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and testosterone levels can easily and cheaply be measured? And let’s not forget DHEA, a naturally occurring hormone secreted from the adrenal gland to help with weight loss and muscle strengthening.
It is important at this point to understand the adrenal gland.  Its purpose is to secrete hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, steroids, cortisol, and cortisone, and chemicals such as adrenalin (epinephrine), norepinephrine, and dopamine. I have often heard that a weak adrenal gland is the root cause of most disease and the good news is that you can test your adrenal function at home.  It is called the paradoxical papillary reflex test.

To take the test:
Standing in front of a mirror in a dark room, take a flashlight and shine the light into one eye at a 45-degree angle from the side. Watch your pupil. When in the dark, your pupil should be dilated (open). When you shine the light it should constrict.  The duration of constriction can indicate adrenal function, though there are other causes for a positive finding on this test. Wait 30 seconds in the dark before repeating with the other eye.

PUPIL CONSTRICTION                                           POSSIBLE FINDING
Stays constricted for at least 20 seconds                    Healthy adrenal function
Fasciculates (pulses) after 10 seconds                        Fair adrenal function
Fasciculates (pulses) in 5-10 seconds                         Poor adrenal function
Immediate pulsation and dilation                               Adrenal exhaustion

And now finally back to Dr. Alfred J. Pletchner who is accredited with applying his research with dogs and cats to something that applies to humans as well: Pletchner’s syndrome.  He explains his findings as follows:

A. Imbalanced CORTISOL allows for the pituitary gland to over-stimulate the production of excess ESTROGEN. This excess estrogen not only causes an inflammation of the lining cells of all arteries in the body, including those arteries to the intestines, but causes the B and T immune cells to become deregulated. It also causes the B cell to reduce its production of antibodies. This in turn causes further turmoil in the gut. When regulated, the B cell protects the body against bacteria and makes protective antibodies to vaccines and other intruders. When the T cell is regulated it protects the body against viruses and plant invaders like yeast and fungi. The hormonal antibody deregulation is why all of these intruders can cause medical effects (illnesses and diseases). Many substances are used to combat these EFFECTS, but while this is being done, the CAUSE must also be corrected, otherwise the EFFECTS will continue. The continuous use of antibiotics and anti-yeast and fungal medications alone will not correct the problem since they can only be managed effectively through replacement and correction of the hormonal antibody imbalance.

So, first things first.  Take your home test or go to your doctor and ask for all of the tests that are available to you so you can know exactly what your adrenal gland needs.  It’s a very important thing to do because before considering any medication aimed at hormone replacement you should know adrenal function, blood sugar balance, and gastrointestinal function.  Understanding the state of your adrenal gland seems to be one of the most important pieces of information you and your primary can have, especially if you are about to enter a hormonal reproductive event that can be monitored via hormone balance.

Relationship between cortisol and estrogen, part I
Relationship between cortisol and estrogen, part III


  1. Hello, I would be extremely interested in reading part III of your article! Have you posted it yet? I couldn't find it anywhere but maybe I haven't looked for it well enough?
    Thank you so much in advance for your reply!

  2. Maggie didn't get around to part III, but I'll bring it up with her.

  3. Hello! Is Part 3 completed yet?

    1. It isn't, I'm afraid, but I will check with Maggie.

    2. Your repeated requests have gotten Maggie researching and writing again. Part 3 will dig a little deeper into the theory, but part 4, which she promised to write real soon, will get to the 'how to counteract' part.

  4. Hi. Thank you for your really interesting article. What concerns me is that once my daughter has had the tests for cortisol levels and the saliva hormone tests who is going to interpret them for us and once they do what are they going to do about it. Bearing in mind that most doctors don't know about lipedema or if they do they don't know how to deal with it. Doctors also seem to have very broad ranges that they use as guidelines for their tests. My daughter who has just turned 17 found out she has Lipedema 2 years ago. She is maintaining it but my search continues on things we can do. She had these exact tests and was told by the naturopath that all levels are fine??? How does that work if she has Lipedema. Also if we did find someone to read these tests and say that there is something out of balance, is there anything we can do to balance out the hormones???

  5. I am really interested in your study , I have been searching for many years, I was thin and normal size until I had my tonsillectomy at the age of 8 years , shortly after I had gained about 4 stone and then at the age of 9 years was 9 stone in weight , my legs then after the age of 13 years grew to an unslightly size and after the birth of my daughter ( although during pregnancy I only gained 5 lbs through the 9 months of pregnancy ) but after the birth I gained 9 stone , in less than 3 years ,making my weight 24 stone, (I also would like to note that for a few years in my teenage years, on the pill , also I had a significant weight loss), It has always been a family joke about all the women with big fat odd shaped legs , my mother has the odd shaped legs and her mother before her , although my size and weight are much bigger than both my mother and grandmother, Although now I am 52 years old this year and I have noticed over the past few years my legs and shape of the top of my legs have become thinner , far from a normal thin ,still the extra extra large odd shape but the top outer side of my legs has thinned down a great deal , My mother also when she reached the age of 53 years lost weight and found it easier to keep within a more normal weight , Now I have stopped my period one year stop this April , I too havent gained weight and the loss of fat from my legs is happening and lost weight and shape of the top of my legs on the outer side of my legs , I know I Have Lipedema stage 3 looking at the pictures although no doctor has ever said anything and I havent had any treatment , I really think , after years of suffering and pain , I would like some real help to deal with this disease, I have always said I dont deserve to have fat legs and the fat is so distorted and the years of anxiety , I feel have also a bearing on the hormone imbalance of oestrogen and adrenaline and the connection with lipoedemia , I truly hope some help is found , as I have suffered over 43 years, and my painful fat , that I have never lost is a disease and not just obesity .