The body’s hormones work as a choreographed dance. All must be working and in sync for the body to function properly.
That means if your thyroid is not working properly, eventually it will affect the adrenal function and sex hormone function. Treating one hormone imbalance without checking and treating others creates a shift but not necessarily a correction and a balance. You might trade fatigue for hot flashes or improve insomnia but have more thinning hair. So, if you are thinking that you are menopausal or peri-menopausal (periods have not completely stopped but are not as regular and frequent as they used to be) and you are considering hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, be sure that your provider also takes the thyroid and adrenal hormones into account.
What You Should Know About Hormone Replacement
While there is some controversy out there about the value of BHRT vs. HRT vs. no hormone replacement, I like to use some common sense when balancing and replacing deficient hormones. Sex hormone imbalances can occur from natural menopause, natural aging, surgical removal of hormone producing organs such as the ovaries or prostate, and secondary hormone failure from problems such as toxins, infections, and nutritional deficiencies. BHRT, or bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, uses hormone compounds that are identical to those in the body. They are often laboratory made vs. natural. Some brands of hormones for estrogen replacement have been around for years. Those commercially available by prescription vs. compounded for prescription are crafted using compounds that are not the same as those we use in the human body. Some are crafted from other species of animal. Our estrogens are not the exact same compounds that other species use. I doubt that comes as much of a surprise. Plant hormones can be used sometimes to help with symptoms but are limited as they are not the correct compounds that humans use. So, when we take them we must break down the hormone and recraft it in some ways inside ourselves. Maybe the body does it and maybe not. Everyone is different. Doesn’t it just make sense to use the identical chemical compound that we use in the body anyway?
I am not a fan of "maximizing" hormone replacement as some others profess to be. Again, it makes sense to optimize the hormones and get them to an age appropriate level so the bones, skin, and brain are protected. When the hormones are optimized, other processes of aging are minimized without significantly increasing the risk of side effects such as encouraging the growth of estrogen receptor positive cancers.
BHRT, Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy Customized for Your Needs
Bio-identical hormones are compounded individually for each patient. Not everyone needs the same dose of estrogen. Some women need a touch of testosterone with it and some don’t. Some need a lot of progesterone. Using compounded BHRT, the pharmacist can create a mix of hormones that is the best for you, not the common denominator. Topically applied creams are the most convenient way to use BHRT. However, there are other routes when necessary or more convenient to some.
If you are not sure whether your issues include hormone imbalances there are some great lab tests using saliva and/or urine to help determine hormone function in the tissues vs. what is floating around in the bloodstream.
The body needs balance. That is my goal when treating all of my patients and that can include prescribing BHRT.
Cathlene Heideman, A.N.P., L.Ac. As a Board Certified Nurse Practitioner and Board Certified Acupuncturist, Cathlene blends Western and Eastern philosophies of medicine for optimal results. Her areas of focus include holistic primary care, acupuncture, anti-aging medicine, bioidentical hormone therapy and women's health.