Stress And Hormonal Health: What Cortisol Levels Can Tell You With Dr. Shawn Tassone

NWC 53 | Stress And Hormonal Health


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Stress is prevalent. It has become an inevitable part of living. But just because it’s there doesn’t mean we let it beat us up until issues erupt in our health. Giving us a great view of stress and its connections to our health and well-being, Corinna Bellizzi interviews America’s Holistic Gynecologist, Shawn Tassone, MD, PhD. Dr. Tassone is the first physician in the United States to be double board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology by the American Board of Integrative Medicine. He holds a medical degree in addition to a Ph.D. in mind-body medicine. He uses his expertise to educate us about stress as it relates to our hormones, cortisol levels, and adrenal fatigue. Confronting the stressors in our daily lives, Dr. Tassone shares how we can address them through our health choices as well as supplements. Live your best life by equipping yourself with the tools to face stress. Tune in to this conversation!


Key takeaways from this episode:

  • What stress does to the body
  • The relationship between stress and hormones
  • How to know if our cortisol levels are out of control
  • Supplements to support your adrenal glands
  • How to manage stress


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Stress And Hormonal Health: What Cortisol Levels Can Tell You With Dr. Shawn Tassone

We are continuing our coverage for Stress Awareness Month. In this episode, we’re going to dig into how stress relates to your hormones, your hormone balance, and even how you can address the unpredictable and even predictable stresses and changes that you confront in your daily lives so that you can live your best life.

As we cover this issue, I am thrilled to be joined again by Dr. Shawn Tassone. He’s known as America’s Holistic Gynecologist, and he’s the first physician in the United States to be double board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and by the American Board of Integrative Medicine. He holds a Medical degree in addition to a PhD in Mind-Body Medicine and is a practicing OB-GYN in the Austin, Texas area.

He even hosts a podcast that you’ll want to add to your cue if you haven’t already. It’s called Confessions of a Male Gynecologist with two episodes out each week. He’s been featured in many press outlets. His book, The Hormone Balance Bible, provides tools to change the lives of women for the better, no matter their age or their stage. Without further ado, here’s Dr. Shawn Tassone. Welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me.

It’s lovely to again have this chance to connect with you. I know you and I connected a bit offline about the connection between stress and cortisol levels, and I think this is something we don’t talk enough about. I’d love for you to share a tidbit or a bit of knowledge as we get started about what stress is and how it can impact our hormones.

We’ve known for decades that stress causes issues like blood pressure problems. The whole concept of psychosomatic medicine, which came out in the ‘50s, brought that to the forefront of thought. If you’re super stressed, you can have deleterious health effects. We didn’t know that it was probably because we weren’t sleeping well, we had cortisol levels, sugar, diet, and all those things that can cause it. We did know things like women who are in stressful situations lose their periods. We knew that people that were in stressful situations had more headaches and blood pressure problems. It’s been there for a long time. We just haven’t gotten down into the whys for a long time. It’s becoming more at the forefront.

I know we started with meditation and all those things. The meditation aspect has been around, but again, I think meditation personally is stressful. It’s like, “Am I doing it right? Am I doing it long enough? I’m sitting there in my closet and I can only meditate for two minutes.” You have all that monkey-mind stuff. Stress is prevalent. As far as hormones go, when you’re super stressed, your cortisol levels go up, your DHEA can go up, and then that can raise your blood sugar.

We’re supposed to have stress. It’s super important because that helps us run away from things. It helps us get energized too but we don’t have to run away from things our entire life. Unfortunately, when our ancestors had stress, it was usually physical. They weren’t eating. They were running, hunting, or whatever. Now, our stress is on money, relationships, and body image. There are so many things, and it’s all the time, so it’s prevalent.

What we’re talking about too is the ongoing assault on our systems where if we’re continually experiencing these stressors, then the challenges to our entire hormone system are going to be more consistent. They’re going to keep that battering ram hammering into you. There’s going to be a breaking point and you’re going to start to see some issues erupt in your health. I think this is, of course, something people are more likely to experience as they get a little older. You enter your 40s and 50s. There have been some interesting studies that are surveys based on thousands of individuals in the United States and in the UK before and after the pandemic.

Often, one of the drivers of stress relates to health, the health of yourself or a loved one. Those stressors increase when you’re 55-plus. Of course, they do. What are the keys that you think we should be looking at? Also, I’d like for us to connect this whole topic to adrenal fatigue because I know that was getting a lot of press for some time. Whether you think it’s more of an adrenal issue or a cortisol issue, where do we fall on the spectrum?

First, the main thing that stress does to the body is it keeps us from sleeping. When you don’t sleep, if there was one thing in your life that you should focus on, it would be that. I’m not being a hypocrite but I don’t sleep. I’ve been struggling with that myself for a while. It’s funny because I was joking with a friend online. I was texting and I said, “What I found in my expertise was that if I turned off the TV and made the room dark, I sleep a lot better.” She’s like, “Duh.” We all come to this at different levels. I’m smart about this, that, and the other thing, but when it’s your own life, it’s different.

The main thing that stress does to the body is it keeps us from sleeping.

I’ve got friends that I talk to and they’ve got their Oura ring and it says they slept eight hours. I’m like, “That would be amazing.” It’s super important. It helps with so many things from blood pressure to glucose levels to weight. You throw in things like snoring. I sleep better when I have someone with me. When I’m in a relationship, I do sleep better than if I’m alone and I don’t stress as much.

I have three pillars that I look at with stress and there’s obviously more. Health, wealth, and relationships. Your health is super important. I have a few patients that are competitive bodybuilders and athletes. That’s stress. You might think it’s good stress but it can push you past your limits. When you start having high amounts of cortisol, cortisol’s main job is to elevate blood sugars and to be a catabolic hormone. It means it gives you nutrients so that you can keep running and doing things.

What that basically means is that you start eating yourself and your muscle mass. Your body needs more nutrients so it starts consuming itself in a way. That’s not good if you’re not sleeping well. It could be different types of wealth, but monetarily, a number one stressor in our country right now is your dollar signs and people get hung up. I’ve guilty of this too and then relationships. We know that when people are in a solid relationship, they live longer. That’s been known for a long time. For couples who have been together for long periods of time, when one of them dies, the other one tends to become ill or passes away fairly shortly after. That’s a stressor.

As far as adrenal fatigue, I remember adrenal fatigue being a topic. I did the Integrated Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona back in 2005. I remember there was a book that came out then that was called Adrenal Fatigue. I remember it because it was written by a guy that was living in Tucson, which is where I was at that time. I remember the backlash and the negativity that came out because of that.

The problem that I have with a lot of what is happening in functional medicine is they have to name things like adrenal fatigue, estrogen dominance, whatever the topic of the day is. What medicine then does is they’ll turn around and they’ll say, “It’s not a thing and it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as estrogen dominance. There is no such thing as adrenal fatigue.” They’re true. Medically, that’s not a thing.

What I tend to look at with the adrenal glands is what I would consider abnormal functions. There’s high cortisol, which would be Cushing’s disease, and there’s low cortisol, which is Addison’s disease. Both of those are life-threatening illnesses. Does that mean that if it’s low normal, you don’t have an insufficiency of sorts where you’re fatigued and gaining weight you feel miserable? Yeah, I think that exists. When a doctor tells you that’s not a thing, it doesn’t always mean they’re gaslighting you. Probably most of the time, it does, but it could mean that they’re not educated in the terminology and they’re being very straightforward with you.

They don’t think it’s a real thing because technically, it’s not when I say estrogen dominance. There was a doctor out there that came after me for that term and I said, “I’m just using that because I’m communicating with my followers who understand that word.” “What if your estrogen is high and your progesterone’s low? That feels horrible.” “I know what you’re talking about.” I was trying to define it and this doctor didn’t like the definition.

I call this the Beef Stroganoff Principle, which came from a friend of mine, Larry Dossey. Doctors talk about beef stroganoff, sometimes patients talk about beef with noodles. It’s the same thing, but how we communicate sometimes is what matters. I think adrenal fatigue got caught up in the communication aspect and got bashed by the medical community.

That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t be underproducing certain things your body needs. It’s the same thing with the trickiness of the thyroid hormone. What are your TSH levels versus your T3 and your T4? How do you treat it? A lot of people like myself are hypothyroid and take medication for that. It can get confusing. Sometimes one doctor will tell you, “We only want to look at your T3 and T4 levels, but we’re not going to look at the free T3 and T4.” It’s a struggle for all of us.

There’s a doctor out there right now whose big thing is there is no such thing as hormone imbalance. She put out a blog because I follow her. I wrote a 500-page book called The Hormone Balance Bible. I guess I don’t know what I’m talking about, which may be, but I think it’s fascinating. Is that true? There are times in a woman’s life when hormone imbalances are normal, like in puberty, certain times of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause. Those are all normal hormone imbalances but they suck.

They can feel terrible.

That’s what I ask her. My response to that is, “Hormone imbalance, by your definition, may not be a real thing. However, if PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is not a hormonal imbalance, why do you put them on birth control pills? Why are you treating it with a hormone? It must be a hormone imbalance or you wouldn’t be treating it with a hormone.” I don’t get a response to that when I ask that question. That is where the doctor has stuck in this etymology or this wording of what I’m saying.

Yes, there are times when hormone imbalances are normal. Your menstrual cycle is an imbalance. Progesterone is high in the gluteal phase. Estrogen is high in the follicular phase. Some women that have low progesterone in their gluteal phase have PMS. We’ve been treating PMS for decades with progesterone and other things, but I’m giving it a word. I’m calling it an imbalance. You have to understand, when doctors get feisty or defensive about stuff like that, partially I think it’s because they’re losing patients to the alternative community. That’s their own fault. If you lose patients to other people, whether it’s another doctor or an alternative practitioner, that’s your fault because you’re not giving them what they need and what they want.

Let’s get back to cortisol for this very question because this has me now thinking about how you even determine what is normal. They could say, “This is a normal range,” but you’re basing it off of a population study. It may not be an ideal range. How do we know if our cortisol is out of control and needs to be addressed? Is there a specific test for that or markers that you would ask people to even assess through something like a simple questionnaire? How would they know if their body’s response to stress was out of control?

When you look at labs, we’re talking about a scenario where you’re not abnormal, so you’re still normal. What I call that is you’re in the house but where are you in the house? Are you laying on the floor in the basement of the house? Are you in the middle of the house? That makes a difference to me with things like thyroid and whatnot.

With the cortisol issue, a lot of women may fall in the low category. Some may find that in the high normal or low normal category. That could feel miserable like we’ve mentioned. The problem there is, where are you in that range? Let’s backtrack. Cortisol basically plays a big role in metabolism. It stimulates the liver to increase blood sugar. It also helps the body convert fats, proteins, and carbs into energy.

NWC 53 | Stress And Hormonal Health


It’s your furnace. It’s your flight or fight response and things like that. They’re these two little pea-sized glands at the top of your kidneys. They’re pretty tiny. When we talk about cortisol, I talked about high cortisol abnormal. It is Cushing’s syndrome. Low cortisol abnormal is called Addison’s. We’re talking about stuff in between. I would look at how you test cortisol.

Right now, blood is probably not the greatest way to check because we want to check cortisol a few times during the day. We don’t all want to do it in the morning. Although that would be the generalized test. You want to get it at certain times of the day. You want to do a waking, mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and nighttime. You could go in and have your blood drawn at four separate times but that’s going to be almost impossible for most people.

What we are currently looking at for cortisol testing are urine and saliva. I’m not a huge fan of saliva except for cortisol testing. I think it’s good for cortisol but I don’t use it for others. What you get is this cortisol pattern or trend and it’s a big spike in the morning because you’re waking up and you need to motivate. You need to get that engine going. You get a drop in the afternoon and then you get an even further drop in the evening because your body is starting to wind down and you don’t need as much when you’re going to bed. What we’re looking for is what I call those slow starters, people that have low cortisol in the morning. You’ll sometimes see a little peak in the morning after they get their coffee because coffee can stimulate that cortisol response.

Some people are super high all the time. What I love to do is look at their cortisol pattern and try to describe their day like, “You’re one of those morning people. You wake up and you’re ready to go. You have a hard time getting up in the morning.” You can usually tell that by looking at their cortisol levels. Adrenal insufficiency, let’s say it’s low cortisol. Symptoms can be things from severe fatigue and weakness to weight loss, fainting, and dizziness because of blood pressure issues and low blood sugar. Some people, if it’s abnormal, can start getting darkening of the skin. If it’s towards Addison’s disease, some of those folks even will start taking hydrocortisone or some steroid because that can be a life-threatening issue. The problem is some people will self-diagnose and they won’t test. They’ll guess.

High and low cortisol normal can sometimes be the same. The symptoms can be very similar. I have some people that will say, “I’m fatigued all the time. I must have low cortisol or I have high cortisol.” They’ll take a supplement that might suppress their cortisol function that has a licorice or some other adaptogenic herbs and they could make their problem worse. I always say test, don’t guess, especially with cortisol. Cortisol and thyroid, I wouldn’t mess with those two hormones. I wouldn’t be like an armchair quarterback with those because those are important hormones. You have to have those two to live and their balance is pretty important. I would test those before I would do any therapy.

Test, don’t guess.

Speaking as someone who’s had my thyroid checked several times, given that I was diagnosed back in 2009, I have never had my doctors mention cortisol tests to me. I wonder what it takes to do something like get these tests. Let’s say you have standard medical insurance, you’re going into your HMO or your PPO and you’re seeing your doctor for your annual, what is it that they should be asking? What should I even be asking for when I want to get blood work up done?

It depends on your doctor. If you go into a regular doctor’s office and tell them want to check cortisol, they’re probably going to say no because they don’t know how. As a gynecologist, I could count on one hand how many times I’ve worried about getting an ACTH stimulation test, which is a test for cortisol. That’s the gold standard when you’re worried about Addison’s disease or Cushing’s. Most doctors, if you twisted their arm, might order an AM cortisol. Just one. If you want a real test or look at a multiple-point test throughout the day, you’re looking at getting your own testing done. You can get a salivary test on Amazon. I think they’re $80, give or take.

It’s usually a 24-hour saliva adrenal test. It comes with a DHEA and a cortisol level. You spit in these little containers and you send a test off and they give you the results. You could go to an integrative functional lifestyle medicine person that might do Dutch testing or dried urine testing. There are a couple of companies out there. Usually, that’s not just for cortisol. It will give you cortisol, but it’ll also check for all your sex hormones. Some of the drug testings does thyroid. Some do melatonin, vitamins and organic acids, and things like that. You can get a lot of information, but those tests can run $400. They can be a little expensive. I don’t usually recommend doing that. When I have somebody come to me that’s feeling miserable, I’ll usually check everything but cortisol first.

If I can get them feeling great with regular hormones, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid, then I don’t worry about their cortisol because cortisol to me is one of the last things to go out. That’s what’s keeping you going. If the thyroids burned, if your testosterone is in the toilet, you’re menopausal, you’re not on hormones, and you’re fried, that’s when your cortisol is going to start getting worn out.

Before that, if I can fix all the other stuff and then your adrenal glands don’t have to work as hard to keep you going, I give you all the other stuff back. Usually, that comes back around and the adrenals will fix themselves. If I have that woman who I can’t quite get her there like I’ve got her pretty well balanced and she’s still suffering, then I’ll say, “Let’s do a cortisol test,” because I don’t want her to have to spend the money if she doesn’t want to. I have some patients that’ll come in and they’ll say they want to, and then we’ll do it. It’s driven by them, but most people, probably 90%, I can get them better without doing cortisol.

It’s so interesting to me too, because as we talk about this, if somebody is seeing their health go from bad to worse quickly, they don’t address their stress, and they keep going and using their willpower to go from one day to the next, if it’s that last line of defense in a way and your cortisol levels are way off, then it could be the canary in the coal mine at that point.

I had a lady come in. She was 38. She’s a pharmaceutical rep and drives a lot. She drives 150 miles a day in her car. She’s got 3 boys under the age of 7. The husband is busy so she tends to do most of the stuff, like taking care of the kids and cooking. She eats poorly because she’s a rep and bringing lunches to people so she’s sitting there. In my book, I have broken down the archetype for low cortisol. I call it the Saboteur. It’s because you’ve sabotaged your own health at the expense of taking care of everything else and everybody else. That tends to be more common in women.

NWC 53 | Stress And Hormonal Health


I started telling her this, like, “You’re taking care of your job. You’re going home. You got these three boys. You’re taking care of them and your husband. He probably wants sex at the middle of the night when you’re totally wiped out and you feel bad because you don’t want to have sex with him. You feel like you’re not yourself.” She started crying. She said, “It’s the first time anybody has ever told me that.”

In her case, she’s probably low cortisol and burned out. The way I look at this, it’s a transition from the workaholic, which is what I call the high cortisol to the saboteur. You go through the workaholic phase first. You’re burning not only the candle at both ends, but you’re burning it with a blow torch. When you finally get to the point where your body can’t do it anymore, you crash. That’s the saboteur.

However, workaholics, they’re not as fatigued usually because they’re using other things. They’re using tons of coffee. They’re drinking Red Bulls or whatever it is they got to do. Some of them are probably using substances. How many people nowadays are on Adderall that don’t have ADHD? Somebody told them they do, but they don’t. They can’t function if they’re not on their ADHD meds because they drop. They slide back and can’t perform.

That medication is putting them into a hyper cortisolic state. Underneath that, they’re probably a saboteur or low cortisol. Once they stop that medication, they crash and burn. It might seem that it came on all of a sudden, but it’s been underneath. I can’t tell you how many people I have come in that are on dextroamphetamines, Adderall, or Vyvanse. Those medications are basically turning you into a stressed-out puppet when the reality is you’re fried underneath. The medication keeps you going, but it’s fake. It’s false. It’s not real.

It’s almost like you’re a puppet being held up by them. I have to say something to you as we’re on this show. Obviously, that woman started crying because she felt seen for the first time in a long time. I have to say, when I hear you talk about how we respond to stress, I start to picture myself in these different hormone types. When you talk about somebody who’s driven, that’s what I call workaholic. I’m probably guilty there. I will notice, for instance, when I’ve gone through periods where I’m not getting enough sleep for a long stretch of time, I might be getting 4 or 5 hours a night for a week or so at a time.

When I’m in those stretches, I have all the symptoms of ADHD. I’m overtired and my brain can’t keep on the same track. I’m a little bit scattered around and I’m trying to be as effective. Guess what? You go to the coffee, you pick up another cup, and you keep priming the pumps to keep going. There are those moments when I have to step back and go, “Here’s what I did wrong. I’m not addressing that I’m not getting to sleep at night.” I was up too late because I needed mommy time. I put the boys to bed. They didn’t go to bed until 9:00. I’m now finally getting some alone time. I’m watching some stupid TV show to let the brain go for a while.

I’ve watched TV right before bed and I’m having a harder time shutting off the brain. There’s all that exposure to blue light while watching the TV. I’m checking my phone in bed, which I know I shouldn’t do. It’s taking me too long to fall asleep. I’m getting the busy brain taking over and I haven’t relaxed into the night. I’ve created a lifestyle of problems where I’m basically creating a stressful situation. I’m creating a situation where my cortisol is going to fall out of whack and where I’m not going to be supported. It’s a no-brainer. There are so many things that you’ve said that have made sense. Pay attention to how you’re living right then, address it, pull back a little bit, and then you can live a healthier existence that’s got a more manageable level of stress in it.

People tend to also think, when you talk about lowering your stress, it’s like a catchphrase like, “You need to meditate.” “Great, thanks for helping.” Some people can’t fit that in or they don’t want to. Lowering stress is not easy for a lot of people because it’s how they live their lives. Some people enjoy it. I think they like the stress and the challenge. You wouldn’t be a high achiever like you are if you didn’t enjoy it. You’re an adrenaline junkie. That’s what cortisol and norepinephrine. Those things come from the adrenal glands. It’s part of the rush. I think some people would fear that downtime. They feel like a failure.

There’s a lot of work in there and psychological stuff too. Some of that might have to be therapy. You see a lot of people now, for better or worse, using things like ayahuasca and ketamine. Those drugs or plants are ways for the overachiever to try. Because they are overachievers, they don’t want to take the short route. They want to take the rocket ship to get there. They don’t want to take the long road. They will get you there but you still got to do the work. I always use this example, and this is in a lot of Greek mythology. When you go into a labyrinth, you get to the middle, and you find the treasure, but that’s not the end of the journey.

The end of the journey is you got to come back out. You’ve got to share what you found with people and with your life. You can get the rocket ship to the center of the labyrinth, whereas some might walk. If you don’t do the work, the therapy, or the integration to get out, you’re going to be the same person. You just had this cool trip. There are a lot of supplements and a lot of things you can use to support your adrenal glands that are different than taking the rocket ship and those are more achievable while you’re doing the work.

If you don’t do the work, the therapy, or the integration to get out, you’re going to be the same person.

Why don’t we stop there for a moment and talk about the things that can support you on that journey while you’re doing the work? What supplements do you like to turn to in these cases? What nutrition sources?

First, I would put them into two categories like vitamins and minerals, and then adaptogenic herbs and other plant or other compounds. The big mineral support going to be things like your Vitamin Bs, especially B5, Vitamin C and E, Calcium, Magnesium, and things like Zinc and Selenium Iodine. Those are going to help with the secretion of cortisol. Vitamin Bs can help calm the nervous system. The vitamins, the Bs and Cs, help neutralize their antioxidants. They help neutralize damage to the adrenal glands and free radicals. They can help normalize levels. Things like Magnesium, you hear about that all the time but that’s a very cellular process that helps with energy production and it promotes relaxation and sleep.

As far as the adaptogenic herbs and other compounds, the big support for hormone production is going to be your Omega-3s and your Omega fatty acids, which you obviously know much more about than I do, but that’s a very big piece of the pie. Most of the time, people that have cortisol issues don’t eat very well. They’re probably not getting much. They’re heavily dominant in Omega-6 and not Omega-3.

The other adaptogenic herbs, things like the medicinal mushrooms like Cordyceps, reishi, and Rhodiola, which is a plant that reduces fatigue and brain fog. Passionflower is for people that aren’t sleeping very well at all. It eases and helps calm stress. Phosphatidylserine, which I believe Omega’s help with as well. Phosphatidylserine helps block the harmful effects of cortisol in the body. Things like eleuthero and astralagus are good as well.

Going to the Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs that help to handle the adaptogens is what it sounds like. Rhodiola is also well-used for anybody going into high altitudes. It’s very helpful. It’s the same thing with eleuthero or Siberian ginseng.

It’s because high altitudes cause you to not be able to breathe. That’s very stressful.

My older sister lives at about 10,000 feet elevation. It’s high up there in the Colorado Mountains. My dad bought a cabin across the street so he could be close to all the grandkids and everything. The cabin is up this steep driveway and doing that short walk, everybody who’s new to the area will get winded fast.

That’s why their blood counts are so much higher because they adapt. Your body makes more blood cells to carry the oxygen. That’s why people that live in St. Cuzco, which is 13,000 feet, chew cocoa leaves. They will give you cocoa leaves to chew when you go to Peru because it’s a stimulant and it helps your blood flow faster so you’re oxygenated. There are a lot of cool things that people have discovered evolutionarily and your body adapts.

Thank you so much for that. Yes, of course, since Orlo is the presenter of this show, you can find out more about Omega-3s which are in the polar lipid form and highly absorbable at Readers of this show get 20% off at checkout with a code NWC20.

I’ll be getting a case of it myself.

That would be a little bit much for us to manage. Get 20% off with NWC20 or you can subscribe and save 15% every day. I wanted to, for a moment, take this journey into the method that you’ve designed, the SHINES method. I offer you the opportunity to talk about it. Also, what can people expect when they do pick up your book? As a 500-page tome, I think it deserves the name Bible. It can help people manage their hormonal health. That does, of course, involve cortisol and stress responses too.NWC 53 | Stress And Hormonal Health

The reason that I came up with the book in the first place was because of that lady I described. The woman I talk about, I didn’t feel at times I was connecting. I could say, “Let’s talk about cortisol. Your testosterone is low.” It sounded very sterile. What I found was at that time, years ago, I was reading a lot of Caroline Myss and Sally Hogshead. They all talk about archetypes. Archetypes are stories. Who doesn’t like a good story? Who can’t connect to a good story? What I did was I took the hormones. I looked at estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid, and cortisol. I looked at high and low. I made a couple of blended ones too.

I came up with these twelve archetypes or stories. Low testosterone is the nun. High cortisol is the workaholic. Low cortisol is the saboteur. Each of these stories, I would put in the book. I also came up with a six-step process called the SHINES protocol, which you got to have a cool acronym if you have a book. That’s the rule. It stands for Spiritual Practice, Hormonal Modulation, Infoceuticals, which is the energetic information that your body gets, Nutrition, Exercise, and Supplementation. Each of these twelve archetypes has its own SHINES protocol. That’s why the book is so long because I had to describe each of the archetypes and then the SHINES protocol for each of the archetypes. It’s not necessarily a book to be read from front to back.

The beautiful thing about it is you can get your archetype by either getting your blood tested, which would be ideal. I also wanted people that are surfing the internet at midnight to be able to take a quiz. I know everybody has a quiz. Everybody is like 5 to 10 questions. I have a 38-question quiz that, on the backend, is weighted because of the way you answer the questions, not me at all, totally me, and various in betweens, I have it mathematically weighted on the backend. You will get your archetype based on your score of how you answered those questions. It’s It’s free. It’s a starting point and it could change.

I had a lady email me. “I wanted to let you know your quiz is wrong.” I was like, “It’s a quiz. It’s not magic.” She said, “It said that I was hyperthyroid, which would be the overachiever, when I’m hypothyroid, which is the underdog.” I said, “Are you taking meds?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “When was the last time you had your thyroid checked?” She said, “It’s been nine months.” She emailed me back three weeks later and said, “I had my labs checked and I’m hyperthyroid,” because she was taking too much. It’s how you answer the questions. If you’re honest with how you’re answering them, then you’ll get an answer that describes you. When I also say spiritual practices, that could mean anything from yoga to journaling to going outside.

There are different things. It doesn’t mean it’s religious. It’s different spiritual practices. For the nun, which is low testosterone. It becomes a problem when you’re a nun because nuns don’t ever want to leave the house because they have no motivation and no energy. They stay in the house. Cloistered nuns are nuns that never leave their monastery.

How do you get to a nun? You go outside. You go hang out with your friends, even though you don’t want to. Break that pattern of cloistering. That’s a spiritual practice for you going out on a girl’s night or going out with your kids or your family to a movie. That’s breaking that cycle. That would be a spiritual practice. Hormones, obviously, are easy. Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, bioidentical, DHEA, and sometimes Vitamin D and others. Infoceuticals can be things like acupuncture or essential oils. Nutrition is pretty self-explanatory. Exercise is the same and supplements are huge. People spend money on supplements all the time but are they using the right things? That’s the premise of the book.

I know on your podcast, you recommend four specific supplements for about everybody. The interesting thing I see as a common thread between all of them is that they help to manage things like stress, sleep, and hormones. All three of these things seem to be intertwined and connected in a way that’s difficult to tease out. One of them is Maca. Another is the Omega-3s and then I believe it’s Magnesium. You have specific forms you recommend and then I’m forgetting what the fourth is. Please help me round this out.

I had them in my head. Maca, Magnesium, and Vitamin D. Vitamin D for obvious reasons. Vitamin D is important for tons of things. The problem is I would say 95% of the women that I test are deficient. When I say deficient, it’s normal. If normal is 30 to 100, most people are coming in around 32 to 35. I want to see it up around 60 to 80.

There are a couple of times I’ll find people that are taking too much. In Vitamin D, you got to be careful because it’s fat-soluble. You’ll store it and you can overdose on it. Magnesium is probably the most underrated essential element that we have. You can also overdose on Magnesium, but you’d have to take a lot. Magnesium comes in different forms. I tend to use Magnesium glycinate because it gives you a lot of the beneficial effects without a lot of the side effects like diarrhea.

Some people, if they take Magnesium oxide or other forms can get diarrhea, which is fine if you’re constipated because it’ll loosen your stools. Mag 3 and 8 are good for people that are having sleeping issues because it crosses the blood-brain barrier easier. All magnesium will help with sleep. Maca is interesting because we don’t know the exact mechanism of action as to why it works, but it does work.

I look at Maca as if the hormones are the tiles on the wall in the bathroom, the Maca is the grout. It fills in the gaps. Some women might normally say, “My hot flashes are better. I’m not quite sleeping all the way or I’m still having 1 or 2 hot flashes here or there.” I don’t want to increase their estrogen, Maca is where it helps.

The Omega-3s, we make our hormones from Omega fats and that’s where they come for cholesterol. Unfortunately, I’m hoping this is going away with that fear of cholesterol in our culture. I remember my dad’s friend. I must have been 7 or 8 at that time. He had a massive heart attack. He was young. He was in his 40s. The doctors were telling him at that time, “No butter, no eggs, but go ahead and eat margarine.” That was when margarine was big, which now is the worst thing they could have told him to do. Cholesterol isn’t the culprit. It’s inflammation. If you have a lot of inflammation in your body and you’re eating a lot of horrible cholesterol, it could be bad.

I wouldn’t eat a stick of butter like some other influencers do, but you shouldn’t also be afraid of it. The problem is are we getting a good quality Omega or are we eating rancid fats? Are we cooking inappropriately and heating them and then they go rancid when we eat them? You can cook with olive oil, but if you scorch it, it’s not good for you. One of the books out there that changed my view on certain things was Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill by Udo Erasmus. That shows the canola industry and exposes that. Even though you think canola is good for you, it’s not. They put bleach in it to clean it and then they got to take the bleach out. It’s crazy how things are made.NWC 53 | Stress And Hormonal Health

That’s why I gravitate towards a company like yours as I was looking for sustainability and whatnot for my patients because I started feeling a little guilty about the fish part. Are they getting over-harvested? It goes rancid because people will go to a big box chain and they’ll buy this gallon jug of Omega-3 capsules that have probably been there for 6 months and then they sit in their house for 2 years before they even try them. That’s the thing too with supplements. Sometimes you got to pay extra for quality. Cheaper doesn’t always mean better.

There’s one through line I would draw to that because I’ve spent as long as they have working in the Omega-3 space. A comment on rancid oils, especially as we’re working to clean up our kitchen routines. Let’s say you aren’t cooking as much with those oils. They’re sitting in your cabinet for a little longer. You don’t necessarily know that they’ve gone rancid on the shelf in your pantry. You can check it and there’s a very simple way.

I would say typically, you could smell it and tell, but some people aren’t able to do that. What I would say is to run it through your fingers. Rub your fingers back and forth together. If it’s slippery, then it’s probably fine. If you go to separate your fingers and it feels almost like you stuck glue on your fingers like it’s sticky, that is an indication of rancid fat. You don’t want to consume rancid fats.

The fish oil capsules are sold en masse, in bulk, and shoved into the biggest container they can find and sold at Costco. I happen to know a lot about sourcing in that space. I would not consume that. If you are taking things into your body that are rancid or that are inferior when it comes to this particular space, you could be doing more harm than good. You invest in something that you know to be health-promoting and you’ll absorb it. You can get the benefit from it. You don’t need to necessarily take as much as is being told to you because you’re getting a fresher, more absorbable product.

I had a lot of patients that would complain about the burping. For a long time, I was having them use a product that either had lavender or lemon and you burp lavender instead. That’s another reason why I like your product because you don’t get that. Here’s the thing. I can tell people to take it and it’ll help, but if they’re not going to take it because of a side effect, then it doesn’t do them any good.

The most expensive supplement is either the one that you don’t take or the one that you don’t absorb. It ends up being expensive excrement. Sadly, the case is spending $2 or $3 per day on something and we work to keep things affordable.

That’s why I always joke about Vitamin B because not only does it make your urine glow in the dark, but people always think, “Was it helping?” I’m like, “That’s probably expensive pee, but yeah.” In our culture, we do have enough food but do we eat the right food? We probably don’t need half the supplements. There are some that are super important and those are for women and for guys. There are Macas for guys and magnesium, Omegas, and Vitamin D. Even for men, they’re the same four.

One more thing I want to mention on magnesium because I’m a big fan of it as well. If you want to understand it from a physiologic perspective, magnesium helps your muscles relax and calcium helps them to contract. There are these two polar opposites that you need to have an imbalance in your system. We tend to get a lot of fortified calcium in our diets, but I don’t know a single food that is fortified with magnesium. You need to consider that from an outside source.

I also am fond of taking the standard magnesium that might create a little bit of a diarrhea situation if somebody had too much of it, but I’ll use it a little bit before bed in a beverage. I’ll make myself a chamomile tea and I find that I sleep soundly when I do that. I don’t get muscle cramping in my legs or anything like that. It’s literally like a light switch. I appreciate that about it so much.

I want to say how much I appreciate your time. I would love to do something a little bit different. I know that you have your beautiful book out and I want to be able to do a simple giveaway to our readers. If anybody goes ahead and emails, we’re going to be selecting one person to receive a free copy of Dr. Shawn Tassone’s book, The Hormone Balance Bible, and also a kit of Orlo’s Omega3s with the immunity boost. I want to inspire our audience to reach out. Tell us what you loved about the episode and maybe even if there was something you didn’t, questions you have, or whatever it is, send that email and you’ll be added to the list to win this. Thank you so much.

I want to say one thing. I got a shirt from Orlo because I like your logo ,so you’re kind enough to send me some shirts. There was one in the box that was a XXXL, so I decided to wear it as a pair of pajamas. My eighteen-year-old said, “What are you wearing?” I said, “I’m being silly,” but he said, “Can I have one?” Now I have to give him one of my shirts.

I’ll have to throw one of those into the bin. It’s made of organic cotton. It’s cut, printed, and stitched here in California and it also is printed with algae-based ink. We’re not using petrochemicals and it’s super soft. I love that shirt too. We’ll do a giveaway. Why not? Thank you so much, Dr. Tassone. This has been awesome.

Thank you.

As we close this episode, I have two reminders. One is if you can’t wait for those Omegas and you’d like to place your order, you can come to and use that coupon code NWC20 for 20% off of Orlo Nutrition products. A simple ask. I hope that you’ll raise a cup of your favorite beverage with me as I say my closing words. Here’s to your health.


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About Shawn Tassone

NWC 53 | Stress And Hormonal Health

Shawn Tassone MD, Ph.D., known as Americas Holistic Gynecologist, is the first physician in the United States to be double board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and by the American Board of Integrative Medicine. He holds a medical degree in addition to a Ph.D. in mind-body medicine.

Dr. Tassone is a practicing OBGYN in the Austin, Tx area, hormonal expert, author, speaker, highly rated patient advocate, creator of the world’s first integrative hormonal mapping system, and host of the Confessions Of A Male Gynecologist podcast. In his 20+ years of practice, he's listened to over 50,000 women's stories and is determined to remove the myths surrounding women's health. As an integrative health practitioner, he believes that you should have an active role in your care. His work includes studies and publications on hormonal imbalances, spirituality in medical care, whole foods to heal the human body, and integrative medicine. Dr. Tassone is featured in many publications including The New York Times, NBCNews Online, Stanford MedX, to name a few. His latest book, The Hormone Balance Bible, published by HarperCollins, is available for purchase worldwide.

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