Are Bioidentical Hormones Right for You?
Hormones control almost every part of your body. They are like contractors who tell your cells to build or break down things. Some of the things they control are energy, weight, mood, reproduction, sexual function, and metabolism. If your hormones are not in balance with their counter hormones, you will experience unwanted effects. Mood swings, weight gain, and lack of energy are some of the most common complaints my patients tell me about. They don’t feel like themselves and it affects their quality of life.
Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance
If you have any of these symptoms, you may want to consider an evaluation of your hormones. An experienced physician can measure your levels. Moreover, determine if you are a good candidate for hormone replacement therapy.
- Can’t sleep
- Gaining weight
- Low libido
- Dry, lax skin
- Losing muscle mass
- Sweating, hot flashes
- Loss of bone
- Hair loss or hair in the wrong places
- Men: Erectile dysfunction
- Men: Enlarged breasts
Benefits of Hormone Replacement
Balancing and replenishing hormones helps people feel like themselves again. You may want to consider hormone replacement therapy if you want any of the following:
- Weight loss
- More energy
- Stable moods
- Higher libido
- Stronger muscles
- Slower aging
- Stronger bones
- Better brain function
- Deeper sleep
- Regulated temperature
What are Bioidentical Hormones?
Unlike synthetic hormones that are made from horse urine and have some of the effects of the hormones made in your body, bioidentical hormones have the exact same chemical structure as the hormones your own body makes. The type of hormone matters since the side effects may be different. Also, the route of administration can change the way the hormone acts.
Estrogen given by mouth can increase the risk of clots because it is absorbed through the stomach and first passes through the liver which makes clotting factors. If given through the skin, the risk of clots is negligible.
Progesterone that is natural has a very positive effect if given by mouth. It can help you sleep and will reduce anxiety. Although it can be given through the skin, measuring it in blood is less accurate. Oftentimes the media calls synthetic progestins “progesterone.” Don’t be fooled. Only micronized progesterone or progesterone are bioidentical. Some progestins can cause weight gain and depressed mood as well as gallbladder stones.
What Conditions Does Bioidentical Hormone Therapy Treat?
“Adrenal Fatigue” (Cortisol Dysregulation)
There is no such thing as adrenal fatigue! While under stress your brain gets flooded with cortisol, the hormone made in the adrenal gland when your body has distress. Whe it stops sending signals to gland, then levels fall. That is how you go from being stressed out to burned out. Cortisol will increase weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar and decrease muscle and bone as well as the sex hormones that make you feel good. Balancing this hormone through lifestyle and adaptogenic herbs is important, so don’t just go to someone who gives you hormones without making sure this hormone is not going to undo what you are trying to accomplish.
Hot flashes, night sweats, poor memory, dry sagging skin, loss of libido, mood swings, and lack of sleep leading to irritability are common symptoms of menopause. These can be reversed with bioidentical hormone replacement. Most importantly, estrogen must be balanced with progesterone to avoid symptoms of estrogen dominance.
Perimenopause is a state of estrogen dominance. Estrogen is in the normal range, but the production of progesterone is not sufficient to balance it. It is characterized by weight gain, anxiety, irritability, impatience, insomnia, growth of the breasts, cysts of the breasts and/or ovaries, thick uterine lining leading to bleeding, spotting, and/or fibroids. You can get hot flashes and night sweats during this time which can last 10 years. Progesterone, which is commonly given, can stop the excess growth that unbalanced estrogen causes, and women say they get their life back and feel like themselves again.
Unlike menopause, andropause is slower and more insidious. Men experience a lack of motivation, endurance, strength, and libido. They may develop an enlarged belly and bigger breasts and they feel less masculine and past their peak. Testosterone can restore their energy, strength, libido, and well-being. Bioidentical testosterone has much less of a chance of increasing red blood cells and liver enzymes that synthetic testosterone causes.
Bones get thin and fragile, increasing fracture risk. This is most often due to estrogen deficiency. The sooner you start bioidentical hormone replacement the better since it will slow or perhaps stop bone loss.
There is more and more evidence that hormone replacement may prevent Alzheimer’s or improve cognitive decline. However, it may have a positive effect on lipids and cardiovascular disease as well as reduce the symptoms of early Parkinson’s disease.
If you have any of the symptoms or risk factors for conditions that bioidentical hormone therapy can alleviate, consider a consultation with a physician with expertise in looking at hormones and their impact on your overall health.
This article is reprinted with permission from the author, Lorraine Maita, MD, and first appeared in How to Live Younger.