Minerals and Hormonal Balance: Meet Joy Stephenson-Laws

May 7, 2018

Meet Joy Stephenson-Laws, a Salonpas® Wellness Warrior, who refused to sit idle and accept the fate of many women like herself who were over 40 and impacted by menopausal issues.  Instead, she questioned and researched and found alternative answers.

Stephenson-Laws is a 30-year healthcare attorney and founder of the non-profit pH Labs’ and author of a new book Minerals, shares her personal story with Salonpas® about how she battled menopausal issues:

How come few of us understand the role of mineral supplementation for our health?

That is a great question and it’s what prompted me to write Minerals: The Forgotten Nutrient – Your Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy. We have an incredible team of healthcare professionals at pH Labs, and while discussing with them the importance of various nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins, it became apparent that we knew relatively little about minerals. Indeed, many of us did not even appreciate the fact that minerals were one of six critical nutrients along with vitamins, water, fats, carbohydrates and proteins. This lack of information about minerals prompted me to obtain more research about them in order to give you that information in a way that is understandable and usable.  As part of this research, I also learned that, as far back as 1618 when Epsom Salts were discovered, minerals were far more visible – and were of much more interest – in the medical community and consumers alike than they are today.

What happened? Well, other than what I call the “celebrity minerals,” such as calcium and iron, the rest of minerals were literally pushed aside in the early 1900’s by vitamin research. Shortly thereafter, these nutrients with their alphabet names took the spotlight and have been in the forefront ever since.  So, it’s not much of a surprise that many of us don’t know much about minerals let alone how important they are to our health. They are so important, in fact, that none other than the two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling once said that every disease and every ailment can be traced to a mineral deficiency. While this may be a slight exaggeration, it is fair to say that minerals play a critical role in our health.  And that is exactly why I wrote Minerals.

What can a person do to get mineral testing?

Getting mineral testing is important for everyone since symptoms for mineral imbalance can be vague and nonspecific, and it may not be easy for you to know that you have mineral deficits or excesses. Furthermore, mineral imbalances are more likely to affect people over 40 years. It generally takes a long time for the effects of mineral imbalances to manifest themselves in healthy people. It is therefore important to be proactive and routinely test for nutrient imbalances. Understanding and testing for imbalances during childhood is also important since they can lead to a number of developmental disorders or impairments. In addition, it is important to choose a knowledgeable expert to interpret your mineral test results.

To get this testing, you should first check with your health care provider to see if he or she offers this service and, if so, how comprehensive the test will be. If your health care provider doesn’t offer full-spectrum mineral testing, you can easily get this test by contacting Proactive Health Labs. To arrange this testing, visit phlabs.org or call 855-PHLABS1. And even more important is that as a non-profit, pH labs may be able to negotiate more reasonable rates for these tests and pass the savings on to consumers.

When women enter menopause, what minerals are they most generally deficient in?

There are several minerals that are especially important during and after menopause. Either a deficit or surplus of them can impact how a woman experiences menopause and the effect it can have on her health in general. These include:
* Calcium – Calcium is important in maintaining hair and nail health in menopausal women. The National Institutes of Health recommends foods rich in calcium for the menopausal population to prevent osteoporosis, which is the thinning of bones that can start during this period. Calcium has an established role in bone, nail and hair health in menopause, but you also need to consume healthy fruits and vegetables and increase your physical activity for overall health.
* Zinc, Iron, Copper and Magnesium – Women who have low levels of these minerals may be at greater risk for hot flashes and menopausal osteoporosis. Check your levels of these minerals and work with a qualified doctor to optimize them for your health.
* Selenium – A drop in the levels of the hormone estrogen during menopause may cause a drop in selenium levels. This drop may contribute to an acceleration in aging, as selenium is an antioxidant. This decrease in selenium, however, is not seen in healthy menopausal women who consume a diet rich in selenium.

Probably the most bothersome symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, mood swings and insomnia. Magnesium, zinc and iron may help with your mood swings, along with vitamin B6, according to many studies.

What is your feeling about treating menopause with HRT?  Is there a role with mineral supplementation and HRT or does appropriate mineral supplementation eliminate the need for HRT?

I am a firm believer that all medical treatments, nutritional supplements, and prescription and OTC medications play an important role in helping us get and stay our healthiest. That said, I also firmly believe that we before we explore HRT, we should ensure that we are nutritionally balanced and be engaged in some form of regular physical activity. As we age, we may become deficient in certain nutrients which are responsible for keeping us healthy and prevent insomnia, hot flashes, depression and bone loss. It is for this reason why it is necessary to strive for nutritional balance.
Being nutritionally balanced means that we have the right balance of vitamins, minerals, water, protein, fats and carbohydrates in our bodies. I made the decision to first have my mineral and other nutrients tested to see where I was deficient. Armed with this information, I then did what I could to have the appropriate levels that my body needed to stay healthy and eliminate menopause symptoms. And I am glad to say that a combination of nutrition and physical activity helped me successfully navigate the menopausal process without having to rely on HRT. However, if that process did not work for me, I would have relied on HRT and other medications.

What minerals are generally found deficient in people suffering from depression?

Given the prevalence of this debilitating disease, there has been a fair amount of research on how mineral and other nutritional deficiencies or imbalances can either help or exacerbate depression’s symptoms. In fact, pH Labs has done a whole series of blogs on the topic which can be found here. Minerals that have, to date, been found to play important roles in the prevention and treatment of depression include magnesium, chromium, iron, selenium, zinc, copper, manganese and calcium. Anyone suffering from depression, or who has a loved one who is, should talk with a qualified health care professional about having their mineral levels checked and including them in their treatment plan.

Why doesn’t the medical community run mineral testing in the same way they run general blood tests to assess iron deficiency and other issues?

Based on conversations I have had with many doctors, including the pH Labs medical team, it has to do with a lack of information on the topic. Nutrition is not generally a focus in most medical schools. Most physicians do not feel comfortable discussing nutrition with their patients, and most medical students readily admit that they do not get enough training in nutrition during medical school. And studies confirm this, indicating that most U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals lack adequate nutrition-related training. Medical students spend many hours memorizing the intricacies of cellular metabolism, but very little emphasis is placed on the practical application of assessing and managing the nutritional problems of patients. Once they more fully understand the role minerals play in getting and staying healthy, the vast majority endorse mineral testing.

Describe a typical day in your life from the time you wake up to when you go to bed.

I am an early riser and really enjoy getting up before dawn and before my family is awake. This gives me time to organize myself for the day and catch up on emails and various work activities. By about 8 am I will drink a full glass of alkaline water or water with lemon (room temperature). I find that this is the best way to “wake up” my body and get all my organs and body systems up-and-running. I will generally grab some type of nuts like almonds and cashew with raisins and take a drop of liquid vitamin B-12 and go for a hike with my dogs to get some exercise and fresh air. Since I live in Southern California, I am blessed that I can hike most of the year. On those days when I don’t hike with the dogs I will play golf early in the day and walk the course.

I will usually have a light breakfast of fruits and a smoothie after my hike before starting my work day. During the work day, I make sure to drink plenty of water, have healthy snacks on hand at all times, take exercise/walk breaks throughout the day and have a light lunch – usually some type of salad or soup. In the evening, I will usually unwind by playing with the dogs, watching movies or game shows or playing dominoes with the family. In our household, food is a necessity and there are very few family dinners. I generally have a light meal consisting of protein and veggies before 8 pm. I generally interact with my family by just talking, playing various games or watching the news. I never have difficulty falling asleep and usually get to bed by 10 pm after drinking my favorite ginger, hibiscus or lemon tea.

Tell us about the role mineral supplementation plays in your own life?  What minerals do you take daily?  How do you measure the efficacy of your mineral supplementation?

I am a firm believer in practicing what I preach, so I follow pH Labs’ researched and medically vetted advice on how to make sure I maintain an optimal balance of minerals that my body needs. I am careful to purchase mineral supplements from reputable sources. In the past, I have taken magnesium and iron. More recently, my magnesium levels have been optimal but my iron levels needed boosting. As a result, I found a great tasting liquid iron supplement which I take about once each week especially when I am extremely active. Finally, I try to identify those foods that are rich in minerals and incorporate them in my diet like figs, cherries, cherimoyas, avocados etc.