By Danielle Dodder
Dr. Joseph Lang is used to defending himself for thinking outside the conventional medical box. From his OB/GYN residency days at the University of Arizona, he bucked the one-pill-fits all approach for menopausal women long before the landmark NIH study that raised safety flags about blanket use of hormone replacement therapy. Today, Dr. Lang is a board-certified OB/GYN who has operated his Marco practice since 2005. His years of experience treating women in menopause gave rise to a sister practice: Island Diet Center, as part of a holistic approach to women’s health challenges.
“For years, I’ve been treating patients during menopause and I just see that for many women, weight keeps going up. It’s clear that it’s more complicated that just diet,” says Lang.
The concept of integrative medicine, which leverages nutrition, supplements and lifestyle changes alongside conventional medical therapies to treat health issues, was first pioneered by Dr. Andrew Weil and continues to gain traction with mainstream medical practioners who see that pharmaceutical-based products alone can’t manage a patient’s symptoms. For Dr. Lang, this integrative approach is what ties both of his practices together and leads to successful outcomes for his patients.
“The traditional medical model was estrogens: all [menopausal] women should be on it. Premarin was the biggest selling drug, but it’s an animal-derived estrogen and it contains many different compounds that the body doesn’t recognize,” he explains.
In 2002, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), shut down its landmark study on hormone replacement therapy after preliminary results were showing unacceptable risks for women, including breast cancer, strokes and heart attacks. Now, the giants of medical theory, including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology admit that the risks of traditional therapies are unknown and recommend the shortest possible duration of their use.
Lang had long searched for alternative effective therapies as he saw untreated hormonal imbalances as the source of many a menopausal woman’s weight loss difficulties. “People don’t need more hormones they need a balance of those hormones.” He began attending seminars by the American Academy of Anti-Aging and now has a professional affiliation with it.
“Modern medicine has made amazing strides in emergency care and in treating acute problems, but we fall down with chronic problems. We ignore the nutritional problems. The human body is so complex, it’s designed that way so one thing doesn’t kill us.” The trouble with relying solely on conventional medicine is that it ignores the impacts of nutritional depletions, due to stress for example, toxins, like those in plastics, and pollutions, on chronic illnesses. “There’s an amazing amount of data on [the benefits] of supplements,” Lang adds.
Lang incorporates the use of biomedical hormones, which are often plant-based, to treat menopausal symptoms, and the weight gain that results from it, when he thinks a patient is a candidate for them. “It does take patient involvement. We have to work towards a balance.”
The quick answer, he believes, doesn’t provide long term solutions for good health. “Xanax will calm you down, but are you going to take it for the rest of your life?” Bringing the challenges of menopause full circle with Lang’s diet center also led to providing help for the male partners in his patients’ lives.
“By the time a man hits 50, he’s losing testosterone. They become increasingly grumpy.” This process of andropause creates its own hormonal chain reaction that Lang has been increasingly addressing at the diet center. Compensating for testosterone loss with cortisol creates adrenaline imbalances. Testosterone loss accelerates with weight gain and muscle loss; it converts into estrogen. As with women, Lang recommends hormonal balance in conjunction with diet and lifestyle changes to improve quality of life, and marriages.
“I claim that what we’re trying to do is tease out why each individual hasn’t been successful. You’ve got to be motivated to do it. What are you eating?” Lang points out that the digestive system has a big impact on a patient’s issues with weight loss and his practice incorporates blood testing and saliva testing to find food sensitivities, which oddly enough, provoke cravings in us for the very things that irritate our system, according to Lang. “As an example, wheat or gluten turn on inflammation which may cause chronic problems for some patients. Others may have yeast overgrowth in their digestive tracts which can cause a desire for sweets.”
Working towards balance – in mind, body and spirit- during the often turbulent menopausal years is the goal of both Lang’s diet center and women’s health practice. “If my patients are successful then I’m successful.” Lang also received training in the use of Botox and fillers after seeing successful weight loss patients complain of newly looser skin or wrinkles. “I’ve been doing it for a year now.”
Dr. Lang’s wife, Lisa, is an RN and the primary counselor at Island Diet Center. They have three children and on occasion, you can catch them onstage with the Marco Players fulfilling their love for the theater. Dr. Lang has been in practice, since 1995, and on Marco Island since 1995.