What are hormones and why do we need them?

Hormones are essentially unique chemical messengers that are created by our endocrine glands. These vital messengers help regulate almost every biological process of the human body. They control things like hunger and mood as well as metabolism and reproduction. As we age, our hormones naturally decline. This decline in hormones can accelerate because of factors like disease, improper nutrition,  menopause, or stress. Loss of hormones is one of the major reasons for our deterioration as we get older, both physically and mentally. By balancing and optimizing your hormones through bioidentical hormone therapy, you can restore your body’s natural ability in keeping you feeling healthy and strong. Hormones are beneficial at any age, but the best long-term protective benefits are achieved if hormones are replaced when you begin to lose them, usually in your 40s.

What is the difference between synthetic hormones and bioidentical hormones?

Synthetic hormones are chemically altered so that the pharmaceutical companies can patent them and are not identical to human hormones. While they are designed to elicit the same responses in your body as your natural hormones, they have been proven to adversely stimulate the cells and lead to conditions such as cancer and heart problems. When first developed, synthetic hormones were well received because they provided some of the benefits of hormone replacement: controlling the symptoms of menopause and fighting osteoporosis and heart disease. However, the long-term results have shown that synthetic hormones sometimes elicit a negative metabolic response. For example, some women can’t tolerate synthetic hormones- often suffering with side effects such as bloating, bleeding, or mood swings. In some patients, synthetic estrogens and progestins have contributed to the development of breast and uterine cancer.

Bioidentical hormones, on the other hand, are naturally produced by plant based materials and have exactly the same structure and chemical composition as our own hormones. Hormones that are identical to human hormones are found in yams and soy. We call these “natural” because they are natural to the body. The hormones are extracted from these vegetables and then processed by a specialty compounding pharmacy into a prescription dose and form. The body accepts these hormones in our system and produce normal physiological responses upon stimulation. Bioidentical hormones are completely safe and backed by evidence-based medicine.

How are bioidentical hormones administered?

Bioidentical hormones can be administered via a topical cream, orally, by injection, as a suppository, or by implanting a pellet under the skin. Every method has its own advantages and disadvantages and differs for every patient. You should consult with your physician about the best method for you.

How are hormone levels tested?

Hormone levels can be tested via blood serum, saliva, or urine analysis. The most common method of testing in the medical community is blood serum testing. It has proven to be the most reliable form of testing.

Why doesn’t my gynecologist prescribe bioidentical hormones? 

Natural supplements such as vitamins and hormones are protected by federal regulation and may not be patented. Major pharmaceutical manufacturers are interested only in patentable drugs that are exclusive and profitable. Much of what physicians learn is from the drug companies who are promoting their products. Therefore, your doctors are primarily taught only about synthetic products. Bioidentical hormones do not come under specific brand names. Your physician must be self-educated and experienced in prescribing and monitoring natural hormones. They probably just don’t know much about them or must prescribe within the constraints of your health insurance.

What is the truth about the recent publicity about the risks of taking hormones?

The Woman’s Health Initiative (WHI) is the study that focused on synthetic estrogen (Premarin) and progestin (Provera). NOTE: Progestin is not progesterone. There were different “arms” of the study using different drug combinations. The arm of the study using Premarin and Provera (PremPro) was discontinued before completion because an increased risk of breast cancer was detected in the early stages of the study. This risk is attributed to the Provera portion of the regimen. This is not the first time progestins have been implicated in increasing risks for women. The arm of the study using Premarin did not show an increased risk of breast cancer, but was discontinued because of an increased incidence of strokes in older women. A recent study showed that natural estrogen did not have the same effects. Unfortunately, the media has misrepresented the facts of this study by targeting all hormone therapy. You just need to make sure you are receiving the right hormones (bioidentical) in the right balance. It is also important to begin hormone replacement as soon as you begin to lose the hormones to avoid any length of time without their protective benefits.

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