by Deirdre Kohley, RPh
Editor’s Note: Because I am a breast cancer survivor, for years I could not take hormones. BHRT has so improved my life—Dee, the author, is so knowledgeable and helpful. The only way to take away my compounded hormones is, as they say, to pry them from my cold, dead hands.
Hang on to your hats ladies, this information is about to rock your world. It is possible to live a longer and healthier life, feeling rested, strong, joyful and… sexy.
BHRT is the practice of “safely optimizing” hormones to a level appropriate to your age. Your normal hormone production peaks at around age 25 and gradually declines with age until about 50 when it crashes. When lifestyle choices of a poor diet, high stress, smoking, lack of exercise and diminished sleep no longer have that hormonal safety net a perfect storm is brewing and the aftermath isn’t pretty.
The list of symptoms is endless as the adrenal and thyroid glands are also affected. But, let’s just say your diet is healthy, your stress is reduced, your thyroid has been tested and replaced with adequate T3 and T4 if needed, you take adequate supplements, and exercise is a part of your life. Why then, are you still experiencing mid-section weight gain, low energy, anxiety, memory loss, breast tenderness, hot flashes, night sweats, bone loss, irregular heartbeats, vaginal dryness, loss of sexual excitement, constant urinary tract infections, weakness, depression and fatigue? I guarantee that you do not have a Prozac deficiency. It’s your lack of estrogens, progesterone and testosterone that nature deems you no longer need for reproduction.
If you are ready to go quietly into the night of fragile old age, do nothing. But if you are ready to kick up your heels and make these your best years, you need hormones. Which one do you need? All of them and at the levels right for you, made possible by individualized BHRT.
The chemical structure of a bioidentical hormone is exactly identical to human hormones and they fit like a lock and key at receptor sites on cells. They are synthesized from a plant source and they do the same job as your naturally produced hormones. Synthetic hormone analogs, like conjugated estrogens and progesTINS, that have been chemically modified and can be patented by drug companies, are not structurally the same as human hormones. Studies, like the Women’s Health Initiative, that showed negative consequences from hormone replacement scared many patients and their doctors away from hormone therapy, but it was the different structure of those drugs that created the unintentional problems like blood clots, heart disease and breast cancer.
What was discovered is that starting BHRT in early menopause or after a hysterectomy, avoiding ORAL estrogen, giving oral or topical progesterone and topical estrogens, if needed, to women improves their health and overall quality of life. It is the balance of the hormones that quell the symptoms. Estrogen dominance is a huge problem for both menopausal women and perimenopausal women with heavy periods, fibrocystic breasts and headaches, and it can be corrected with BHRT.
Estrogen has a multitude of functions everywhere in your body. If estrogen is dominant and therefore out of
balance with your other hormones, the symptoms are so vast and varied that many physicians will misdiagnose or simply call them symptoms of aging. Estrogen dominance can cause decreased thyroid function, depression, weight gain due to decreased metabolism, and increased insulin resistance. The increased fat cells make more estrone which converts to estradiol and the vicious cycle continues.
The balance of your hormones determines your overall state of well-being. Many therapies will begin with progesterone only. Progesterone balances the effects of estrogen. But both estrogen and progesterone can be low, and with the addition of only progesterone, the symptoms of low estrogen, such as, depression, hot flashes, worsening night sweats, vaginal atrophy, daytime sleepiness and fatigue may become apparent. Then it might be time to add a topical form of estrogen to the mix.
Testosterone is also a critical hormone for women. While women have one-tenth the amount that is produced by men, it is important for heart health, strength, bone health, libido and protection from inflammation that causes heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Testosterone slowly declines as you age, and more so if you have multiple pregnancies. This decline can cause depression, loss of muscle mass and fatigue. Maybe a little T instead of that antidepressant is warranted! By the way, antidepressants can also decrease libido and the ability to orgasm. There was a time when the view of menopause was that “strong women” can endure the symptoms of the “change of life” and prevail and only the “weak” that can’t tough it out need treatment. We now know that estrogen production slowly declines and then jumps all over the place before the crash. It is the extreme peaks and valleys that make the symptoms unbearable for some women. That makes the adjustment of dosing for BHRT variable as well and why your symptoms will determine how you and your doctor will approach BHRT.
So how do you stop dragging yourself around in a fog and get this BHRT? It’s possible when you are proactive about your health. Do a little research, talk with your doctor, be referred to a compounding pharmacy that can provide BHRT consultation, get your adrenals and thyroid healthy and begin the journey towards balanced hormones and a lovely life.