Bioidentical Hormone Replacement: A More Natural Approach to Easing Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance By Guest Writer, Tim Redline, PharmD
There has been much debate over the last several years about hormone replacement and what are the safest and most effective treatment options. In 2003 the Women’s Health Initiative study was released which threw the entire medical community into a tailspin. These results showed that synthetic hormones caused an increased risk of blood clots, strokes and breast cancer. Millions of women were immediately pulled off their hormones from this news alone. There were many problems with this study including the fact that it looked at Premarin® and Prempro® only. As you may know, these products are synthetic hormone substitutes, not natural or bioidentical hormones. In the years that followed, the results of this study were used to demonize all forms of hormone replacement including the natural or bioidentical hormones to the detriment of women across the country.
Bioidentical hormones are exact copies of what the body naturally produces. They are sometimes called “natural” but bioidentical is a more accurate term. Contrary to many medical opinions, most of which are funded by large pharmaceutical companies, bioidentical hormones are proving to be safer and more effective than their synthetic counterparts. A recent study published in the January 2009 issue of Postgraduate Medicine concluded that “bioidentical hormones are associated with a lower breast cancer and cardiovascular risk and are more effective than their synthetic and animal derived counterparts.”
This is just one example of numerous studies released showing the safety and benefits of bioidentical hormones. Bioidentical hormones are not without risk. But used appropriately with regular testing of hormone levels, they can be a safer alternative to synthetic hormones.
The concept of bioidentical hormones is very simple. If your symptoms are caused by an imbalance in one or more hormones, replace those exact hormones to improve the symptoms. It’s as simple as that. Don’t cover up the symptoms with antidepressants, birth control pills or synthetic hormones. Correct the problem at its source. Bioidentical hormones can be used to treat hormone imbalance symptoms at every stage of a woman’s life from PMS to peri-menopause to menopause or hysterectomy.
Peri-menopause starts around 10-15 years before menopause or age 35-40 years. The most common symptoms of peri-menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, irritability, depression, weight gain, poor sleep, mood swings and low sex drive. Peri-menopause is probably the most poorly understood and mistreated female condition. If you were to go see your doctor with these symptoms, he would most likely prescribe an anti-depressant medication and maybe birth control pills. Now I don’t fault doctors for doing this. This is what they were taught in school and what drug companies tell them on a daily basis. However, if all of these symptoms are caused by a hormone imbalance, doesn’t it make sense to correct the imbalance instead of masking the symptoms?
This is what bioidentical hormones are all about: restoring balance between estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA to improve or eliminate the symptoms caused by those imbalances. During pre-menopause, progesterone is the first hormone you lose. This results in symptoms of progesterone deficiency or estrogen dominance. Many of these symptoms can be improved by simply supplementing with progesterone with very little risk.
Menopause is defined as no menstrual cycles for 12 consecutive months. We will consider menopause and hysterectomy as the same condition from a hormone perspective. All hormone levels fall after menopause or a hysterectomy. However they do not fall at the same level or rate so you may not need estrogen and progesterone during menopause. You may only need progesterone. So how do you know what you need?
Saliva hormone testing can help identify hormone imbalances so that you only get what you need to improve your symptoms. This is not something that has typically been done in the past but with advances in saliva testing methods and bioidentical hormones, it is rapidly becoming the preferred way to manage hormone imbalances. Testing your hormones will tell you which hormones are out of balance and causing your symptoms.
Using the results of your hormone test along with your medical history, symptoms and bioidentical hormones is a more holistic approach to managing hormone-related problems. A healthy lifestyle is also vitally important to feeling your best and includes moderate exercise, a healthy diet and stress reduction. The most important thing for you to do is to become an informed health care consumer. It’s your body and you should know what you are putting in it and why. Many resources are available.
Some books that I recommend are What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Pre-Menopause and What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause by Dr. John Lee, The Wisdom of Menopause by Christianne Northrup and Are Your Hormones Making You Sick? by Dr. Eldred Taylor.
You can also find more information on our website at www.redlinepharmacy.com.
By Tim Redline, PharmD
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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