Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Oct 2004

An Exclusive Interview with Suzanne Somers

High-glycemic foods that cause insulin to spike have contributed to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Now, a new high-viscosity fiber blend called PGX® helps reduce after-meal insulin surges, lowers LDL and total cholesterol levels, and may help people lose weight.

Aging can be brutal for men and women alike. Women often experience weight gain, diminished sex drive, hot flashes, memory loss, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. Aging men likewise experience a loss of energy, stamina, and sex drive.

After years of being thin, fit, and full of energy, actress and best-selling author Suzanne Somers encountered what she calls the “Seven Dwarfs of Menopause”: Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful, and All-Dried-Up. Rather than live the rest of her life feeling cranky, tired, and irritable, Suzanne set out to discover how to regain her mind, body, and life. Her search led her to bioidentical hormones—natural hormones that mimic the hormones produced in our bodies, which are almost completely lost with aging. With recent medical research pointing to the dangers of synthetic hormone replacement therapy, growing numbers of women—and men—are searching for natural alternatives to relieve the symptoms of menopause and andropause.

Having regained her health and happiness, and determined to spread the word, Suzanne has written a new best-selling book, The Sexy Years: Discover the Hormone Connection. In it, she describes her own research and experiences, shares the expertise of leading doctors in the field of women’s and men’s health, and offers practical advice and tools to help aging women and men turn their lives around. Suzanne recently sat down with Life Extension’s William Faloon to discuss her book and how bioidentical hormones have enabled her and others to approach the second half of life with joy and anticipation.

William Faloon: Suzanne, let me start by saying how enthused we are that you could join us and share your message about the life-altering effects of hormone replacement therapy.

Suzanne Somers: I’m privileged to be able to put this message out because I think it’s so important. It changed my life so much, I feel it’s something that others need to know about.

WF: I had the same personal experience at the age of 44. I was testosterone deficient, and I began using testosterone cream and Arimidex®, and my life just totally turned around.

SS: My son is 40, an athlete, in great physical shape, he eats right and works out, and he has a great business. He found out that he was testosterone deficient. He just kept saying, “I’m losing my energy.” I sent him to my doctor. She did his blood work and discovered he was low in testosterone, DHEA, and growth hormone. Now, after hormone replacement, he feels amazing.

WF: Many of our members are aware of hormone replacement therapy. What’s significant is that you’re now promoting it in a way that I think everyone will understand it—unlike all these scientific books that may be over some people’s heads.

SS: I’m fascinated by physiology and always have been. I’ve been able to take the medical reports and put them into what I call “easy speak,” so we all can understand it. This information is so important, but it can seem overwhelming if it’s not explained well.

WF: It’s easy for you and I to comprehend it, yet medical doctors tell me, “Well, I don’t know how to read a hormone profile blood report, so therefore I won’t prescribe hormones.” To which I say, “Gee, the reference ranges are right there in the report, it’s not that difficult.”

SS: One of the things I uncovered in researching this book is that all doctors, including gynecologists, have only had approximately four hours of instruction in the whole hormonal system. A nurse called me on the air the other day and said, “I just finished your book, and I agree with you. When I was in nursing school, we had only four lines in our textbook relative to hormones.”

Today’s technology, which is fantastic, will keep us alive to 90 or 100 years old, but science has not made plans for our quality of life. I love the idea of living to be 90 or 100, but I don’t want to be senile or have Alzheimer’s or a weak heart or type II diabetes or tubes up my nose or be in a wheelchair.

This book was the most advantage I’ve ever taken of celebrity. I used my name to call everybody, and all the doctors I interviewed took my calls and were so forthcoming. I wanted to talk only to cutting-edge, Western-trained doctors—not naturalists, herbalists, or anybody from a health food store. The most cutting-edge doctors are endocrinologists, because endocrinology is a new subset. Most endocrinologists are on the younger side, say, 40 or 45 years old. They know what hormone replacement is all about. What they all told me is that they feel that hormonal imbalance is at the root of every human ailment and disease.

Before we start doing surgery and giving out drugs, the first thing that should be done is to take a hormone panel, see where the hormone levels are, know what normal levels are for that person’s age and gender, and restore them to balance. This applies even to a toddler who a doctor would normally put on Ritalin®. There are so many children on Ritalin®, it doesn’t seem right. They should test the blood of small children and see if the reason they’re so hyperactive or have ADHD is due to a hormonal imbalance. Short-term hormone therapy is not a drug and it’s not anywhere near as harsh as Ritalin®.

WF: So you feel the benefits of hormone replacement are not limited to aging women and men?

SS: The same thing applies for teenagers with raging hormones and alarming suicide rates. The doctors predict that in the future, if your teenager’s are acting wacky, you’ll take them to a hormone specialist, do a blood test, check their hormone levels, and restore them by stabilizing their moods and chemicals.

It also applies for women who give birth. When they cut that umbilical cord from us, all our progesterone leaves us. Progesterone is our feel-good hormone, and that is what postpartum depression is all about. Just look at the case of someone like Andrea Yates, the woman who drowned all five of her children. Maybe she was schizophrenic and heard voices and that was it, but it could also have been that she was so depleted of progesterone that she became delusional, which can also happen.

For menopausal women, hormone replacement is obvious, and for andropausal men, it’s obvious. I don’t know if people know this, but we women lose 90% of our hormones over a two-year period. It’s such a dramatic change.

WF: We appreciate how often you emphasize the critical importance of blood testing.

SS: Yes, absolutely. This is not guesswork or haphazard. Hormonal balancing can’t be too much or too little. Even with bioidentical hormones—which are real hormones, as opposed to synthetic hormones that are not real hormones but are drugs—you don’t want too much or too little. Because when we were young and produced a full complement of hormones, we had a steady stream of just the right amount coursing through our bodies 24 hours a day. At my age, when 90% of my hormones left me over a two-year period, what my doctor did was take my blood work, see where my levels were, prescribe a bioidentical prescription from the compounding pharmacy, and put back exactly what I needed. When that happened, the quality of my life came back in a way that was better than it had ever been. To be in my metabolic prime with these bio-identical hormones, and then to add to it the wisdom and perspective that comes with aging, it’s about as good as it gets. It’s better than being 20, 30, or 40.

WF: What age were you when your hormones were restored?

SS: I went into menopause on my fiftieth birthday, literally at my fiftieth birthday party. I’ve been on hormones for seven years. They’ve absolutely changed my life and my husband’s life. I am so easy to live with because I’m hormonally balanced. I truly wake up happy almost every morning of my life, feeling joyous. It’s not a stoned feeling or a false good feeling like an antidepressant would give you, it’s just balanced joy.

WF: Feeling young in and of itself is a wonderful effect.

SS: Yes. For example, lets say that you’re a man on your fiftieth birthday. You’re feeling good, virile and energetic, your muscles are cut and defined, you’ve been working out, you’re in good shape, you can lift things that other people can’t, and you’ve got your creative energy, vitality, and sexual drive. Now, imagine if I said to you that starting on your fiftieth birthday, you’re not going to sleep anymore, because there are no hormones to regulate your body temperature. It feels like the worst fever you’ve ever had, off and on, all day and all night, which makes it impossible for you to sleep. You’re going to forget everything, because there are no nutrients going to your brain. You’re going to cry a lot because you haven’t been sleeping. You’re going to fly off the handle because your chemicals are so out of balance that you aren’t in control of your temper. You’re going to bloat, even if you’re not eating anything. Your ankles and wrists are going to be swollen; in fact, your whole body is going to be kind of swollen and uncomfortable. And you’re going to lose your sex drive.

If you said that to a man, he’d look at you like you were crazy. Yet women go in with these complaints and our doctors tell us we have to “tough it out.” “Tough it out” is not a medical remedy; it means just live through this suffering while you’re in a constant state of deterioration. It’s not just that you feel bad, but also that the nutrients provided by hormones to all of your bodily functions and organs are draining out. Therefore, there’s a shutdown of all those systems and organs. Young people don’t get the diseases of aging because they make a full complement of hormones. Older people have the diseases of aging because of the drain of hormones. Aging is a loss of hormones.

WF: We’ve reported on a new study showing that testosterone deficiency is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. That means that if you do everything else right—eat right, exercise, keep your cholesterol down—low testosterone by itself will dramatically increase your risk of having a heart attack.

SS: And here’s why. Testosterone is not only a sex hormone, but also a hormone that is essential for both men and women. But testosterone is also an anabolic steroid. Anabolic steroids build bone and muscle, and the heart is the largest muscle in the body. There are more testosterone cell-receptor sites on this muscle than any other muscle in the body. As we lose our testosterone, our hearts lose their pumping power. The more testosterone you lose, the less pumping power you have, and coupled with that comes a loss of vitality and energy, and other degenerative issues. Don’t forget, men also require estrogen and the correct ratio of estrogen to testosterone for their maleness. When they start losing testosterone, they start overproducing estrogen. As estrogen overproduces, it diminishes a man’s ability to perform sexually.

Every doctor that I talked to, including brain specialists, told me that too little estrogen in men and women is now being linked to Alzheimer’s disease. To prevent Alzheimer’s, we need an environment of balanced hormones, including estrogen, for the protection it gives your brain. That’s why the 83-year-old woman named Eve who I interviewed in my book, who has been on bioidentical hormones now for 20 years, is as sharp as a tack. She told me, “I have to drive my friends everywhere, they can’t remember anything. I get up every morning and dance to Roy Orbison or the Beatles while I’m making my bed. Then I go to exercise class.” I asked her, “What about sex?” She said, “I don’t have sex because I carried a torch for my husband for so long that I took myself out of the market. But I have sexual feelings. If the right guy came along, I would be ready. The problem is, men my age are so low on testosterone that they wouldn’t be able to handle me.”

LE Magazine October 2004
An Exclusive Interview with Suzanne Somers

Sex isn’t why most people would want to have hormonal balance. But having sexual desire keeps us vital. It’s nature’s “de-stressor.” It’s a wonderful gift to have back, as in my case. I had so zeroed out on my hormones that I lost everything that gave me quality of life, including my sex drive, all of which has returned.

WF: How many copies of your book The Sexy Years have been printed?

SS: It’s in its eighth printing after only one month. In the first month, we sold over 1 million copies. It shows that there is such hunger for a solution to this problem. I think that’s what the big rush to get this book has been about.

I gave my first lecture in Redondo Beach. It was interesting to me because I didn’t have time to do any promotion—no print interview, no radio or television, nothing. I just showed up. To my surprise, there were a thousand women in that room with a hundred walk-ins that morning, because they’re starving for an answer to this awful condition they’re going through.

WF: You stated on “Larry King Live” that you consider writing The Sexy Years to be your greatest accomplishment. Has the book made the impact you anticipated it would?

SS: Well beyond it. I was on a Canadian radio show this morning and the host said, “You can’t imagine what is happening up here in Vancouver with this book. We’re having seminars, the bookstores are having seminars, people are getting together to discuss The Sexy Years. It has had a phenomenal effect.” And I thought “If this is all I came to Earth to do, what a privilege it is to deliver this message.”

This book originated from my own search, as all my books have. I needed to understand what was happening to me. I needed a satisfactory solution and I wasn’t able to get it from my doctors. It’s very important that your readers understand that I am not anti-pharmaceuticals or anti-Western doctors or medicine. I’ve had cancer and I needed drugs to get through my cancer. I needed my doctors and I love my doctors. But I object to doctors working outside their area of expertise. A gynecologist calling himself or herself a “hormone specialist” is like a dermatologist saying, “I also do heart bypass surgery.”

It’s not our doctors’ fault. They weren’t taught about hormones. It’s really the fault of the medical schools, and they have to change. Because our doctors are so misinformed and uninformed, all of us—men and women—have to go out and find this for ourselves. This passage of our lives takes more managing and handling than any other we’ve lived through. What you put into it is what you get out of it. It’s worth what you have to go through, and I’ve done the legwork for everyone. If you read this book cover to cover, you will be empowered with the information you need to go to your doctor, ask the right questions, and know if he or she is the right doctor or not. All the information in my book is from the latest advanced medical reports and studies.

WF: I don’t get impressed by very many books, but yours intrigued me. Dr. Eugene Shippen’s book, The Testosterone Syndrome, was another one. Your book is having an impact similar to that of The Testosterone Syndrome.

SS: Absolutely. As you know, I interviewed Dr. Shippen for my book. He is doing spectacular work. Male menopause—andropause—is a really neglected subject. Most men don’t even know it exists. All they notice is a general lack of energy and vitality. They’re ashamed to bring it up.

My husband kept saying, “I don’t know what it is. I keep working out and my muscles are shrinking.” I would notice that he was sleeping and napping all the time, didn’t want to go out, didn’t want to get dressed up, wasn’t very interested in the business. Completely contrary to the man I had known. I sent him to my doctor. She took a blood test, found out he was low in testosterone and DHEA, and prescribed a bioidentical hormone compound customized just for him. It’s incredible what’s happened to him since then and the difference it has made. Men can lose their testosterone at any age.

WF: You’ve been on “Larry King Live” and the Home Shopping Network, done radio shows, and made book appearances. Is there anything else you’ve been doing to promote your book?

SS: One of the things I want to do is lecture to groups so that they can really understand hormone replacement. I would love to see the gynecologists embrace it. I know they didn’t learn it in medical school, but I did the research and found it, and I’m a layperson. They can learn it, too. Doctors want to heal instead of putting women on a one-pill-fits-all prescription drug. With all of the health problems that arise from synthetic hormones, women come in and complain that they’re still not feeling well, and doctors don’t know what else to do, so they prescribe an antidepressant or antipsychotic.

As I was interviewing women, I couldn’t get over how many women were on Prozac®, Paxil®, Zoloft®, etc. Once you’re on that, you’re on it for life, because it makes you feel better. But when you stop, you feel bad again, so you go right back on it. The thing that seems to affect women the most is that if you stay on antidepressants, you’re going to get fat, because everything slows down, including your metabolism. You’re not going to have any sex drive, and it creates hormonal imbalances. So the remedy just exacerbates the problem. My hope is that I can turn people on to bioidentical hormone replacement, and then each person who does it will turn on another 10 people.

The doctors are the problem, because I’ve seen it on my website over and over again. Women run to their doctors and say, “I read this book by Suzanne Somers and I want bioidentical hormones.” The doctors, who don’t know anything about it, first dismiss me. “You’re listening to Suzanne Somers? About hormones? What does she know?” That’s the first obstacle. The second thing they say is that it doesn’t work. That’s the problem.

WF: You are empowering patients. We know what that’s like. When we introduced coenzyme Q10, cardiologists would say it’s not worth anything. But when patients keep telling their doctors, “This is how it has to be done,” at some point the doctors do change.

SS: They do. I think that’s how it will happen. I’ve talked to more women who have brought this book to their gynecologists and said to them, “I would appreciate if you could read this so that you know what I’m doing and you and I can work on this together.” I think that’s what you have to do. Your doctor’s going to be embarrassed when he doesn’t know about it. When doctors don’t know something, they dismiss it. You are going to have to demand of your doctor, “I want bioidentical hormones.” I forced my doctor to spell it out for me. It’s on pages 78-80 in my book. You say, “The first thing I want you to do is to get my baseline hormone levels through lab work.” Then you take those levels to your compounding pharmacist, who will know that if you’re within this or that range, then you need this much estradiol, this much progesterone, and this much testosterone.

Women who lose their sex drive think all they have to do is get testosterone cream from their gynecologist, slap that on, and it stirs things up a little. But here’s what happens. If you stay on that, you’re going to create additional hormonal imbalance and get fat. On testosterone, you’re going to gain weight if you’re not balancing all the other hormones. The other thing that’s going to happen is that your voice will deepen, you’ll grow a beard, and you’ll get oily skin and pimples. None of that is pleasant. Then, after a while, when your hormones get further and further out of whack, even the testosterone cream can’t jump-start your sexual drive. It all has to be in balance, it can’t be too much or too little. That’s why it has to be done through blood work and a qualified doctor.

[Editor’s note: Suzanne Somers was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer almost four years ago. She describes in meticulous detail her diagnosis, treatment, and recovery in The Sexy Years.]

WF: You were able to access the cancer drug Iscador®, which is not approved by the FDA. Iscador® is frequently prescribed in Europe as a complementary treatment in addition to conventional cancer therapies, radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy. We believe American cancer patients should have the right to access any drug they want. What are your feelings about the FDA making it difficult, if not impossible, for most cancer patients to access experimental therapies?

SS: Cancer is such a devastating diagnosis. It sends you into a tailspin. Going from oncologist to oncologist, I found they were prescribing for me the recommended common course of therapy, which is surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and then follow-up drugs for breast cancer like tamoxifen.

WF: Or they prescribe Arimidex® to suppress as much estrogen as possible.

SS: Right. And how is that supposed to help you get your health back, when you’re battling hormonal imbalance on top of it? That’s the other thing they recommended to me—giving up my hormones. Tamoxifen is the first thing I researched, and I was shocked. I said to my doctors, “Is this the best that you have to offer women? For a 10% better chance that the cancer won’t recur, I get in exchange a 40% increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism, as well as a complete blunting of all my hormones such that I’ll be in a state of depression for the five years they want me to stay on this drug?” Would you take it? It does not make sense.

Everyone has to take an individual approach to chemotherapy. When I looked at chemotherapy, I thought, “I’ve worked so hard to balance my system, get my metabolism working optimally, and build my healthy cells. Now you want me to take something that’s going to kill all my cells and hope that the good ones come back?” It just didn’t appeal to me. I took the most massive dose of radiation that my body could tolerate just because I was scared.

Then I came across Iscador®. I’ve always admired the Rudolph Steiner clinics in Europe, which have used Iscador® since the 1920s to treat cancer in place of chemotherapy. According to them, it has the exact same results but with no side effects. Once I started looking at Iscador®, I then talked with the medical circle I’d gathered from writing my books. I thought, this appeals to me because Iscador® builds the immune system to be so strong that anything that tries to invade or attack it cannot. I thought that between Iscador®, balanced hormones, and the way I eat and take care of my body, I’m going to treat my cancer myself.

I can’t tell anybody to do what I do because I’ve got another year of therapy before I’m officially out of the woods, but I haven’t been sick in the four years that I’ve been on this. I feel strong and I judge good health by nails and hair. My manicurist always says, “You’ve got the strongest nails,” and my hairdresser is always saying, “You’ve got such great hair, it’s so thick and shiny.” I think that indicates I’m on the right track.

WF: Are you measuring blood tumor biomarkers?

SS: I am. I don’t do it too often, because you can drive yourself crazy. I just had a major full-body MRI at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. I also had my first breast MRI done at City of Hope, which is also near Los Angeles. Only two machines in the country are doing this. Next week I’m going to do the other breast. For some reason, they can only do one at a time. I had a large tumor and there’s always the chance that rogue cells might have broken off somewhere else. I don’t want the cancer back. I also don’t want anyone saying, “Well, if she was on hormones, no wonder.” The hormones, to me, are my best defense against a recurrence.

From all the reading I’ve done, I firmly believe that an environment of balanced hormones prevents disease. Every doctor I talked to concurred. The other day I was talking to Dr. Robert Greene, who wrote the forward to my book. He said, “I put women who are diagnosed with breast cancer on bioidentical hormones, because I understand that radiation, chemotherapy, and tamoxifen are going to constantly blunt all their hormone production. Restoring that production on a daily basis and keeping a woman in balance is her best defense against the recurrence of cancer.”

I think that further down the road, we’re going to find out—as all the doctors have said to me—that hormonal imbalance is at the root of every human ailment and disease, and that we should look there before we start with surgery and drugs.

LE Magazine October 2004
An Exclusive Interview with Suzanne Somers

WF: You’re getting your blood tested for the presence of cancer markers periodically but not too often, because the blood levels do fluctuate.

SS: They do fluctuate and you could go crazy, but I get tested once a year. The good thing about MRIs is that they can find everything, including things that may have been dormant. You always have to weigh that when your film comes back. I like to do an MRI every year so I can say, “Well, that was there last year, let’s look at this year. If it’s still the same size, it’s probably benign; if it’s grown a little, let’s check into it.”

At least you can be on top of these things now. Modern medicine is fantastic because you can see inside your body, head things off at the pass, keep yourself hormonally balanced, and fine-tune and tweak your health the way athletes have done for years. For instance, I know that the first symptom that my hormones are getting out of whack is that I’ll be talking to you and for no reason, I’ll be scratching my lower ankle. I’m finely tuned to being symptomatic, so I then call my doctor and tell her my ankle itches. She snaps right to and asks, “Okay, what are your stresses this month? Are you having a normal or abnormal month, stress-wise?” Stress blunts hormone production. Every time we face a death in the family, a business crisis, or a teenager going crazy, we’re blunting our hormone production. That’s when you should pay attention to your symptoms and get a blood test, if necessary.

WF: Do you mind revealing to our readers what doses of estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone you’re now taking?

SS: At this time in my life, I require 3 mg of estradiol a day, spaced throughout the day in three doses. I take 1 mg in the morning, 1 mg around midday, and 1 mg at night. On days one through fourteen, I take 90 mg of progesterone twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Now that I’m in such balance, I’m not taking any testosterone replacement. I have taken it at different times. When I get very stressed, I’ll call my doctor and say, “My libido is way down.” She’ll take a blood test and say, “Well, of course, your testosterone’s down.” I take DHEA every day, 5 mg in the morning and 5 mg at night.

WF: DHEA often keeps a woman’s testosterone levels up. In women, DHEA cascades down into testosterone very frequently. You’re using oral capsules of estradiol and progesterone? You chose not to use the creams?

SS: The capsules make it easy for me to remember. I know I’m getting exactly how much I want. But I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to take it. I think creams are as good as capsules, capsules are as good as drops, and it’s just what works best for you. What I don’t think is a good idea is for men to get testosterone injected into their buttocks. The reason why is that they get a huge surge upon insertion and then, for lack of a better term, it kind of peters out over the rest of the month. From what I understand, when you’re young, your body is producing an even, steady stream of hormones throughout the day and night. That’s what we’re trying to mimic. An injection is not the way the body would normally produce hormones, so I don’t favor injections.

WF: I agree. We always recommend a topical testosterone cream. You’re easily able to adjust it, and if you overshoot it, just use less.

SS: Exactly.

WF: To reduce recurrence of breast cancer, are you taking a bisphosphonate drug like Zometa® to maintain bone integrity and guard against bony metastasis, and also to prevent the release of growth factors from bone that can stimulate cancer cell proliferation?

SS: No.

WF: The six or seven doctors you refer to in your book—are they now overwhelmed with new patients?

SS: Yes. It’s going to take patience to become one of their patients, but they will see you. One has closed her practice. She told me, “I cannot take another patient, I’m working 18 hours a day.” As hormone replacement becomes the way medicine is practiced, more doctors are going to go into it. If you can’t find the right doctor, pages 78-80 in the book provide the blueprint for how you can get your doctor to do this for you.

What I now look for in my internist is a Western, Eastern, and holistically trained doctor who first tries to heal with supplements and herbs, and uses Western medicine and antibiotics as a last resort. Iscador® is anthroposophical med-icine from plant extracts, which means it has to be prescribed by a doctor but is not approved by the FDA. You can now legally obtain Iscador® in the US from your doctor. At first, I had to get it illegally from Switzerland. Like so many of your cancer patients, I had to go outside the country to do what I had to do to save my life.

WF: This is a day-in, day-out battle that we wage on behalf of our members. We find drugs for them in other countries, but often the drugs are seized. We’ve actually sued the FDA on behalf of our members to help them obtain a lifesaving medication.

SS: What a great service you’re providing.

WF: It’s life or death, and our objective is to keep our members alive. When they have a problem, we’re there to help. What supplements are you currently taking to reduce the risk of recurrence of your breast cancer?

SS: I take coQ10, evening primrose oil, amino acids, vitamin C, a multivitamin, Isocort™ (which stimulates cortisol production), Adrenal-180 (which stimulates your adrenals), carnitine, folic acid . . . I believe in supplementation. I don’t think our food and water supplies are providing all we need. With the pollution and environmental issues out there, we really need to supplement our diet.

I try to eat only natural foods and avoid chemicals, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and preservatives. I always tell my readers to shop the periphery of the supermarket, because that’s where the real food is. Every market is laid out the same: on the side aisle is meat, chicken, and fish; across the back are all the dairy products; and down the other side are fruits and vegetables. In the center are processed foods. There’s no way our bodies can convert those foods into usable hormones. I think the benefits of foods like soy and yams are fantastic. I try to keep them in my diet at all times.

WF: How often do you have your blood tested for hormone levels?

SS: I probably have my blood work done four times a year. That’s because I live a high-stress lifestyle and because of what I do for a living. Every time I make an appearance, my adrenaline starts pumping like crazy. When your adrenaline is pumping like that, you’re blunting your hormone production. Because of my breast cancer and because I’m a messenger on this subject, I want to make sure that I’m in the best health possible.

For a normal woman, once or twice a year is probably sufficient. If a woman doesn’t smoke or drink and has a happy marriage, she probably won’t have to go more than once a year or once every two years. We all need to understand that, at this age, we’re working at such a hard pace that we’re breaking down our major hormones. We need to give ourselves equal time to rest and build back up.

WF: A startling number of women contract breast cancer every year. Do you think the federal government is doing enough to find a cure?

SS: I think we need to stop looking to the government for cures. Look at the progress women have made in fighting breast cancer, which used to be a death sentence. Because women have marched, screamed, and demanded better care, breast cancer, if detected early, can be survived 90% of the time.

Yes, it would be nice if the government could help. From a grassroots standpoint, however, women have made remarkable progress against breast cancer. I’m alive because of the progress made by women demanding better care. When women demand better hormonal care, I think you will see breast cancer no longer being an epidemic. Right now breast cancer is such an epidemic that I look at every woman and I don’t think, “if,” I think, “when.”

WF: There’s no question: one in seven women now contracts breast cancer.

SS: The numbers have continued to increase since the 1940s. To go to one in seven, that’s remarkable.

WF: I mentioned Arimidex® earlier. Another one is Aromasin®. These are aromatase inhibitors, and that’s what doctors are now prescribing to most breast cancer patients. They deplete estrogen dramatically from a woman’s body, which potentially increases her chances of survival but also makes her miserable.

SS: I think that misery, the stress caused by it, is as damaging as anything. My girlfriend was diagnosed the same week I was, with exactly the same cancer in exactly the same place. I know every woman is different. But she no longer talks to me because she’s so angry that I’m living a full life and she is not. It’s irrational, but I know that it’s because she has no hormones.

When I was writing this book and was told I had to give up my hormones and have chemotherapy, radiation, tamoxifen, etc., I had enough information to empower me to say, “That’s not how I want to do it.” My girlfriend, on the other hand, was terrified not to do it, so she did everything they told her to do. She’s now gone through six bouts of chemotherapy. The cancer is recurring all over her body. Every week the doctors drain her of any estrogen that she may have in her body, thinking that if they remove all the estrogen, the cancer can’t grow. I think it’s ludicrous, and that putting all the hormones back in balance is your best defense.

My girlfriend is a mess. She has not one hormone in her body, which is riddled and wracked from the chemotherapy. We’re the same age, yet she looks at least 30 years older than me. She’s angry, irrational, and depressed, her husband is miserable, and her young son is having trouble at school because he’s so afraid she’s going to die on him. I think to myself, “The medical practitioners are doing this to her. Can they possibly feel good about it?”

WF: It’s horrendous. Those cancer cells, regrettably, learn to proliferate in the absence of estrogen. That’s one reason why estrogen-suppression therapy does not always work in the long term.

SS: Right. The misery she’s going through—she’s going to die and these last four years have been absolute torture. The reason she can’t talk to me is I made it through the rains and did it my way. Maybe we’re just completely different, but it was exactly the same cancer, in the same spot. I never tell anybody to do what I’m doing relative to cancer unless they come to that conclusion themselves and it makes sense to them.

LE Magazine October 2004
An Exclusive Interview with Suzanne Somers

WF: Absolutely.

SS: But I do hope that when it comes to hormone replacement, women will look at me and say, like Meg Ryan said in the movie “When Harry Met Sally”: “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Scanning electron micrograph of a breast cancer cell, the most common form of
cancer in women. The tumor starts in the breast and spreads quickly when not treated. If it is found during the very early stages, it can be surgically removed.

WF: How many of the Hollywood celebrities that you know are following some sort of antiaging program?

SS: More than you realize. When you’re in this business, the way you present yourself is how you get your work. It’s not about how you look, but you have to be in the best form that you can be for your age and the type of work you do. Particularly movie stars, who not only are on camera, but also are larger than life. Who could handle having their face blown up to 500 times its normal size on a movie screen? Every nook and cranny shows.

WF: I was just going to ask you, as an insider, what percentage of celebrities are aggressively taking action to slow their rate of aging.

SS: A lot of them, but then a lot of them don’t get it at all. They drink, smoke, stay up late, and party. I think you get out of life what you put into it. It’s a choice. Some people just want to have a great time, party their brains out, and die early, and that’s fine with them.

WF: But some actually do both. They abuse themselves and then take a lot of supplements trying to make up for it.

SS: Right. Then there are others like myself. I certainly like to have a good time, but I long ago grasped the concepts of “I am what I eat” and “I am what I put into my body.” So I think about everything I eat and put into my body.

WF: Well, you’re doing a lot of the right things. The hormones you recommend can be obtained in other countries for less money, even less money than in an American compounding pharmacy. Do you think that individuals should have the right to import these hormone drugs, with a prescription, from Canadian and European pharmacies?

SS: Absolutely. I’m someone who does it.

WF: Do you feel that everyone should have the right to obtain medications not approved by the FDA from other countries?

SS: I do. Because when you decide to tackle your particular illness and dig deeper and deeper, and then find something that gives you what I call an “aha! moment,” it’s frustrating not to be able to get that because of the legal system. I encountered that with Iscador®. It had to be sent to me from Switzerland, like I was some kind of criminal. It shouldn’t be that way.

WF: Have you ever considered a time in the future when science will gain complete control over human aging?

SS: I have. I think that’s what everybody’s working on. I don’t see that we’ll ever be able to prevent ourselves from dying. We lose cells as we age and there’s nothing so far that we can do about it. But we can optimize our health, energy, and vitality, and live a disease-free life. In the future, I think that will be more the norm. Antiaging doctors and endocrinologists who are working with cutting-edge antiaging medicine are doing us the greatest service because they realize how we lived 50 years ago does not apply to the lifestyle we live today.

WF: Just to give you some optimistic news, there are two specific mechanisms by which we could conceivably gain control over aging. One is to be able to genetically engineer our cells so they continue to divide. The reason they discontinue dividing is we are programmed, from a genetic standpoint, to stop cell division and go into death mode. We’re working in one of our research facilities on ways to “turn back on” the genes that keep cells young, and “turn off” the genes that promote cancer and cellular senescence. There’s also the promise of stem cell replacement therapy, so that even if we lose the ability to continue cell division, we could simply replace old cells with youthful stem cells.

SS: That’s exciting. Wouldn’t it be great to live to be 100 or even 200 years old, as long as you had your energy and felt good? It’s all about feeling good.

WF: Statistically, if cancer patients are depressed, they don’t live very long.

SS: And if you’re that depressed, who even wants to live? In the two years it took me to find hormonal balance—going from doctor to doctor—the quality of my life deteriorated drastically. I have a happy nature. I see the bright side of life. I always look to take the high road. But during those two years, I could not see any light anywhere. I could not find happiness. I was struggling so hard just trying to keep some kind of perspective. When you’re just hot, like you have the worst fever of your life all the time, it is miserable. In public, I’d be sweating so badly, I was mortified. I was so embarrassed. The exhaustion was doing me in.

By the end of my search, I was reaching a point where I was thinking, “This is not worth it.” And I’m a happy person, I love my life, and I have a great marriage. So imagine what your life becomes if you’re not happy, don’t have a great marriage, don’t love your life, and you’re dealing with this.

WF: It would be miserable. Hormone restoration certainly is a major factor in all of this. Month after month, we bring such life-changing concepts to the attention of our readers. Typically, we’re several years ahead of what other people in medicine are thinking and doing. We’re constantly looking at the published scientific literature. We also deal with research scientists and have our own research laboratories that are actively seeking ways to slow aging.

SS: How great. I think this is a fantastic magazine and I want to read it every month. I’m interested in what you’re interested in.

WF: We really appreciate everything you’ve written and said. Thank you for sharing your message with our readers.

SS: Thanks so much. I loved it.