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Book Review

"Hormones - The Woman's Answer Book"

Lois Jovanovic, M.D.
Genell J. Subak-Sharpe, M.S.

If you are looking for a book that gives you hard numbers regarding dosages and effects of hormones for replacement therapy or transsexual pre-surgical therapy, this is not it. But if you want a wide ranging and easy to read exploration of the bigger picture: how hormones and the organs of the endocrine system interrelate, you will find plenty of meat here.

Many of us enter hormone treatments and even complete our surgeries unaware of what we are really doing to our bodies. Of course we all want soft skin, less body hair, and larger breasts, but what else do hormones do to our bodies?

In this book, the authors carefully explain how each independent organ is connected to all the others through the interplay of hormones. Some glands secrete tropic hormones that have no direct on the body but serve only to stimulate and regulate other organs to produce hormones that do act upon the body proper. Once desired levels are reached, a complex feedback system triggers the instigator organs to either cease producing the tropic hormones, or triggers other glands to produce tropic hormones that in turn tell the instigator gland to stop producing ITS tropic hormone. All in all, the endocrine system is not to be thought of as just testosterone or estrogen.

Of note is the great detail the authors draw in regard to the glands of the brain - hypothalamus, pituitary, and pineal, and how they are related to the thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal glands. This keen and easily upset network controls body functions and conditions from skin, hair and nail growth, temperature, appetite, intestinal function, to the tremendous emotional effects. On this last point, the book is perhaps weak in its concentration on the physical effects, while the emotional and psychological areas or only lightly touched upon.

Fortunately, the style is fairly conversational, and though at times it gets bogged down in technicalities, these passages are usually brief and segue quickly into more understandable material.

One technique of interest is that although the focus is on the female system, whenever certain hormones also appear in the male, this is noted and briefly explored, showing how sometimes the same hormones can have radically different effects on each sex.

An aspect of the book that I found personally very helpful was the sprinkling of useful tidbits of information throughout the book that described symptoms of hormone use that I had experienced but not connected with hormones. For example, from a clear complexion, over my four years of hormone therapy, I developed a heavily freckled face, mostly on the cheeks and under the eyes. I assumed it was the result of electrolysis until I read that this is caused by large doses of estrogens and even occurs with some regularity in women using birth control pills. I had used skin bleaches to some success, but the freckles always cam back. According to the book, once hormone doses are lowered, the freckles may remain, but then they may be successfully bleached with fade creams. So, now that I am on lower levels since surgery, I will give that a try again and fully expect it to work. Definitely useful information in my case. Of course there are many other little side notes of that nature that you are sure to find good preventative or curative information.

In conclusion, it is simply a dangerous idea to jump into hormone therapy without an understanding of just what one is doing to one's body. Doctors frequently leave us in the dark, preferring to tell us to trust their experienced judgment. NEVER DO THIS!!!! Some hormone doctors are experts in their fields while others are nothing more than quacks. Before you begin hormone therapy, or even more so if you are currently in therapy, take the time to learn about what you are doing to yourself. A good place to start is with this book.

--Hormones - The Woman's Answerbook is available in paperback in better bookstores at a list price of $4.99 U.S., $5.99 Canada.

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