Menopause means that your hormone factories (your ovaries) have shut down for the rest of your life. It does not mean just having some hot flashes that may or may not go away, and then it is over. Once it starts, menopause is never over until you die. Unless you replace your hormones, you are living in a state of serious hormone deficiency from then on, and there are hundreds of studies that show that this is not good for your health.
Most women feel their best when they are in their 20’s and 30’s before major hormone levels decline, and that is no coincidence. However, some women have been on birth control pills for so long they don’t even know what it feels like to have natural hormones, and even some young women are not perfectly balanced hormonally.
But today, you do not have to just accept hormone loss as part of getting older. Replacing bioidentical hormones to youthful levels is the cornerstone of anti-aging medicine! The balancing of all of the major hormones creates a beautiful symphony – looking and feeling your best!
Symptoms of hormone decline can include: brain fog, word-finding difficulty, memory problems, dry skin and hair, thinning and extra wrinkling of skin, painful intercourse, urinary leakage, lack of libido, decreased ability to enjoy sex, weight gain, loss of muscle tone, temperature dysregulation, irritability and low mood, poor sleep, fatigue, and increased risk for osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia! These things don’t sound good for you, because they are not good for you. Hormones are important to our health and wellness.
Bioidentical Hormones for Women
There are many important hormones in our bodies, and if we are deficient in even one of them, we will not be optimally healthy. It is important to test for, and treat, all hormone deficiencies in order to feel our best. There are hormone receptors on every major tissue in the body – which speaks to their importance to our health. The loss of some hormones will not kill you right away, but without them, you may not feel well, and may have a shortened life span with a lesser quality of life and greater risk for the degenerative diseases of aging. Science is showing more and more each year the importance of hormones to our overall health. Stopping hot flashes is only the tip of the hormone iceberg.
The hormones that we test for and can replace to optimal levels if needed include: Thyroid (T3 and T4), Cortisol, Progesterone, Estriol, Estradiol, Estrone, Testosterone, DHEA, Pregnenolone, Human Growth Hormone, and Melatonin.
Synthetic, drug company, non-bioidentical, estrogen-like compounds and progestins (progesterone-like compounds) have been found to increase health problems, including breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke, and should be avoided whenever possible. These compounds include Premarin, Prempro, Provera, Depo-Provera, and others. For example, Premarin comes from the urine of a pregnant horse – Pregnant Mare Urine. In other words, it is horse estrogen – not human estrogen – which mother nature never intended to be in a human body. In contrast, millions of years of evolution designed bioidentical hormones to be in our body, and mother nature knows best!
Some women are afraid to take hormones because they have heard that they cause cancer. Cancer has many causes – toxins in our environment is probably the biggest factor, lack of important nutrients, genetic risk factors, obesity, and hormone imbalance can all contribute. No doctor can ever guarantee that any patient will never get cancer. Some women who took hormones get cancer, but many women who never took a hormone get cancer. For example, while water is essential to our health, too much water can kill you. With bioidentical hormones, it is essential that the doses are correct, that they are all balanced with each other, and that your body is metabolizing them properly. When all of these factors are monitored with proper urine testing, most integrative doctors consider the risk for cancer from bioidentical hormones to be insignificant in comparison to the health benefits that you get from taking them.
Even if a hormone is still technically within the bottom of the normal reference range, the level may not be optimal for you. Hormone replacement is not a “one size fits all” treatment – every person is different in the doses that they will need. What we want is optimal levels. Your hormone levels will be assessed at your current baseline, and then a starting dose will be prescribed and adjusted. The best indicator of whether or not the dose is correct is how you feel on it. We will work together to figure out the optimal levels for every person. Performing 24-hour urine tests will make sure that your doses are maintained at physiologic levels in your body, and that you are metabolizing it properly. Too much of a hormone is bad for you, just as too little is also.
There are alternatives to taking bioidentical hormones, such as some herbal compounds that can temporarily ease some of the symptoms of hormone loss, but these do not replace the actual hormones themselves or provide the long-term health benefits for the brain, bones, and heart that bioidentical hormones do. Even if a woman has sailed through menopause without suffering a single hot flash, she could still benefit from bioidentical hormone replacement to stay her healthiest as she ages. Even patients who report not feeling particularly bad prior to taking hormones, usually feel better after taking them. Patients who do proper bioidentical hormone replacement feel like themselves again, and can feel good in the knowledge that they are keeping their body younger at a cellular level than those who don’t take bioidentical hormones!