MACA – Q&A on Femmenessence June 30, 2011 Hopefully you have read my maca post. If you are as intrigued about maca, especially Natural Health International’s Femmenessence product, I encourage you to read the following Q&A. I had an opportunity to chat with Natural Health International’s CEO, James Frame about maca and Femmenessence and want to share the conversation with you. James Frame, CEO of Natural Health International Q: How does Femmenessence compare to other maca products? A: A lot of people don’t realize that there are actually 13 different phenotypes of maca which are different colors, different DNA, different active ingredients and even can do different things. As an example, we found one which effects fertility in women, but a different one for men. Normal maca products are random combinations of all the different types mixed together. Femmenessence MacaHarmony is a specific phenoptype combination designed for younger women to balance hormones, reduce PMS and support fertility. In addition, Femmenessence has concentrated levels of all the active ingredients in the herb 10 – 20 times what occurs in normal raw maca. Also as many people would know maca has low bio availability and is hard for some people to digest which is why it is traditionally cooked in Peru. However as you can imagine that isn’t very scientific so Dr Meissner the head of our R&D understood that the purpose of cooking is to remove the starches and increase absorption. So he perfected a method which includes pre-gelatinization which converts normal raw maca with a 68% water solubility to Femmenessence with a 99% water solubility. However even more importantly Dr Meissner perfected the method so well that our process never goes over 104°F so is by definition raw yet perfectly absorbable. But probably most importantly the clinical trials on Femmenessence, which were published in peer-reviewed international medical journals and reviewed by major medical institutions such as the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the North American Menopause Society, and the American Menopause Foundation are the first to demonstrate statistically significant effects on hormone levels in peri and post menopausal women which not only showed reductions in menopausal symptoms but increases in estradiol, reductions in FSH, increase in bone density, reductions in LDL, body weight and much more. Below is a great break down we use to show the differences: Q: Is the recommended dose for PCOS 2 capsules of Femmenessence MacaHarmony per day? Should you start with one in the morning and then add another in the afternoon? A: Yes the recommended dose for PCOS is 1 capsule of Femmenessence in the morning before breakfast and the other in the early afternoon half an hour before your usual energy low. It is best taken without food. Q: I have heard that Maca isn’t good for certain types of breast cancer, is this true? A: We do not recommend using Femmenessence MacaHarmony or any other form of maca with breast cancer. While we have many practitioners who will use Femmenessence with estrogen dominant patients, the normal feedback mechanisms to limit the production of estrogen may not be operational in a condition like breast cancer. However, after treatment is complete and the person is in remission, Femmenessence may have a role in balancing a woman’s hormones though we recommend working with a practitioner who understands these mechanisms and Femmenessence because it is just one part of a detailed protocol involving DIM, fish oil, pH Quintessence and several other products to support estrogen metabolization, detox and immune and cell function. Q: Is it okay to use Femmenessence with natural progesterone cream? A: Yes, Femmenessence can be used with progesterone cream, oral contraceptives, and hormone replacement therapy. However, because Femmenssence optimizes the production of hormones, we often suggest using it first and then fill in any hormonal deficiency gaps with lower levels of natural progesterone cream or bio-identical hormones. Q: Is it okay to use with Metformin, birth control, Spironolactone (the popular PCOS drugs) A: In order to properly affect hormone levels long term, insulin resistance in PCOS must be addressed. Metformin and lifestyle modifications for insulin resistance may actually improve the use of Femmenssence MacaHarmony for PCOS. Femmenessence does not decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills in terms of contraception or hormone replacement however for PCOS we would recommending working with your practitioner to evaluate your condition as it may be more optimal to use Femmenessence without birth control. Spironolactone does not interact with Femmenessence. Q: Many women with PCOS are on antidepressants, sleeping aids and anti-anxiety medicatitons. Is it okay to take your product when taking these types of drugs? A: There are no herb-drug interaction with antidepressant, sleep or anxiety medications. In fact, empirically, we often see women who are taking these products work with their prescribing physician to reduce the dose or completely eliminate their use. There are some mechanisms that suggest that improving hormone balance has direct and significant effects on mental health and mood. Q: I have seen some comments about Maca being a problem for your thyroid. Can you elaborate? A: This refers to the theory that maca is a goitrogen like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower because it interferes with the thyroid gland’s ability to uptake iodine. The dose would need to be excessive to cause goiter using these compounds. However while people may see adverse effects with normal maca, in practicality, practice and our clinical research we did not see goitrogenic effects with Maca-GO. In fact, we have seen those with sluggish thyroid function lower their TSH and increase T3 hormone (improve thyroid function). Goiters are enlarged tissue and are created over a long period of time with exposure to excess TSH. On a case-by-case basis, those with moderate to severe iodine deficiencies should be monitored more closely. Therefore, our only precaution regarding thyroid conditions is in thyroid medication use. Q: Many women with PCOS are hypothyroid and are often on medication for it. A: Thyroid medications are one class of prescription drugs that may have an interaction with Femmenessence. We have suggested that these medicines be taken at least one hour apart from Femmenessence. Because Femmenessence is adaptogenic in nature and works through the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, it has the potential of reducing thyroid hormone when circulating levels are high. Just after administration of a thyroid medication, circulating levels are raised. Most of these medications are to be taken without food, so, in these cases, many women take Femmenessence after breakfast instead of first thing in the morning. However it is important to note we have also seen Femmenessence increase thyroid function in patients with low thyroid and been able to reduce their medication. For that reason again it is important to work with a practitioner to get the protocol which is just right for you. Q: What is the protocol for giving your body a rest from the Femmenessence. I have seen some maca products suggest for every week have one day off, for every 2 weeks have 2 days off, and for every 2 months have 2 weeks off. A: It all depends on a woman’s stage of life. A young woman trying to regulate a cycle is different to a woman addressing PCOS which is different to a woman who is post menopausal. Any time someone begins or stops taking Femmenessence, their body must balance and regulate multiple glandular functions. If you are having issues with those glands and you haven’t corrected the condition stopping may not be of benefit, or if you are post menopausal and ovarian function has shut down completely. Therefore it is different for every woman; however as a guide it is important to give the body a break from anything which is invigorating its function. For that reason we always recommend when women first start taking Femmenessence stay on it for four months continually. Then assuming they are in balance after that initial period (if not keep taking it without a break) we recommend a week break. Then a week break every 2-3 months. However, we have had reports of women waiting six months and only taking a five day break as well as some women taking a week off every four months or whatever is right for them. Dosing is also important as many woman may stay on Femmenessence but reduce the dose to one capsule a day, rather than having a break. The reason for this is because intensity, frequency, and duration of stimuli are what affect results and just like a training program, the body can adapt to these stimuli. We avoid any plateau effect by utilizing this break. The healthier a person is, the faster they can adapt. Therefore, those suffering with complex conditions do not need to “change their routine” as often. Q: I found out that maca has a significant amount of iron. Is there a concerned of iron over-absorption. Would you please give me your guidance on that? A: As mentioned before there are many different types of maca and many different locations (soils) which it comes from. For that reason you can’t make a blanket statement however in relation to Femmenessence which we know the exact amounts and effect, the only time iron over-absorption is of concern would be with conditions such as hemachromotosis or excessive amounts of vitamin C. Under normal physiology, the body down regulates absorption of iron as circulating levels rise. We see this with many minerals, but calcium and iron are the common examples. The larger the bolus of minerals, the lower the rate of absorption. If someone is concerned about this, simple blood tests can evaluate iron status. Q: How does maca interact with caffeine? A: While caffeine and maca do not directly interact, users of both may experience additive effects. People often think adaptogens balance and regulate. However in fact they nourish systems in our body which balance and regulate and actually have a stimulation phase. For this reason they can over stimulate energy, increase bowel motility and mental acuteness when take together. Therefore, if these results are seen in excess, the dose of either or both may need to be reduced. Q: Is the maca you use for Femmenessence a sustainable crop, is it organic and is it also fair-trade? A: Maca cultivated for Femmenecence grows exclusively on land controlled by Natural Health International to ensure that crops grow in their natural habitat, cultivated under strict avoidance of artificial fertilizers and pesticides, and observing 5-year land-rotation practices. Locally employed farmers grow, harvest, select, dry, and process plants in line with traditional farming practices to ensure sustainability, fair trade, ecological viability and cultural integrity in every step of the process. International, independent, third-party certifying organizations16,17 regularly monitor Natural Health International’s agricultural and manufacturing practices, and supervise the entire production process to meet or exceed USDA, Japanese, and European Union organic, Kosher, Halal and good manufacturing process (GMP) guidelines. Q: If a woman with PCOS wants to try your product do you offer any support? A: We have a team of doctors and educators who are able to answer medical questions including Dr Tori Hudson on our medical board. Dr Hudson and our whole medical team are not only available to talk to you but as importantly to talk to your practitioner in medical terms which they will respect and listen to. Our team has put together integrated protocols for PCOS and can talk them through with you and your doctor. It is important to remember so many variables exist with this syndrome, that it’s no wonder it can be hard to come up with a definitive diagnosis and the right protocol for you. However working with our team and your practitioner to get the solution for you is key.