Adding fish oil and vitamins to your diet is a key to health, finds Gill South.
I'm perfectly normal. Dr Frances Pitsilis tells me most new patients leave her office feeling a bit shell-shocked with information overload. I have enough material for four columns.
I've always thought of Frances, an integrated specialist in stressed, burnt-out women, as the "fish oil queen" - she would like to see fish oil tablets made available through prescription. Omega 3 improves mood, anxiety, reduces cardiac risk and reduces bowel and breast cancer. When I interviewed Frances a few years ago, she urged me to find a house cleaner. It changed my life. I would have to be very poor to go without one again.
Speaking of very poor, the first thing you have to prepare for on a visit with the redoubtable Frances, who operates from the Village Medical Centre in Milford, is that you will emerge lighter in the pocket. She warns you beforehand about this - a first appointment costs $440 and, if you take her advice to start taking supplements, that's another several hundred as you leave. Whimper.
And you have to do your homework before the first appointment. I have filled in a multiple-page questionnaire on everything from my family history to my dietary habits. She's impressed that my memory and thinking processes are still intact. (Is that what I have to look forward to, becoming brain-addled?)
We go through my most recent blood results, which show relatively low levels of the DHEA hormone. Frances calls this the "quality of life" hormone and advises taking a bio-identical hormone for this. While my thyroid results are normal, I have a cold handshake apparently and my palms and the soles of my feet are unusually yellow. When she knocks on my ankles they don't respond. Frances concludes that I probably have an underactive thyroid, caused by chronic stress.
Magnesium and zinc are important for thyroid problems. The thyroid gland uses iodine (found in foods such as seafood, bread, and salt) to produce hormones, so she prescribes some iodine drops.
A blood test a few months ago showed me deficient in vitamin D - Frances is not convinced that this has been arrested yet. Vitamin D is a "hormone messenger" she says - deficiency can contribute to melanoma and bowel, lung and breast cancers. She gives me a prescription for more calciferol. Vitamin D is so often the answer to aches and pains, she says. She also prescribes 4-6 Omega 3 fish oil tablets a day for me.
Diet is more important than giving supplements, adds the practical doctor. It's around avoiding things that harm you - alcohol, caffeine, sugar (the fun stuff, in other words).
Next week: I've decided I need more nurturing, so I visit a massage therapist specialising in hot stone treatments. I'm hoping this is not the instrument of torture it sounds.