Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy,…Who Needs It?
One of the most common questions I get asked as a physician is “Do I need hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?” The answer is, it depends. We survived for thousands of years without taking any kind of exogenous (taken in from outside of us) hormones, so why all the fuss now?
The answer to that is our current life style. For millennia, we lived pretty simple lives, even boring by today’s standards. The only ‘stresses’ we faced were more life threatening but much less often. Today, our stress levels are lower than say, being eaten by a lion or trying to catch a turkey for dinner, but it’s continuous. Deadlines, traffic, job pressures, teenage children, constant media and global pressures raise our stress levels these days, and the list goes on and on.
Like the commercial says, ‘life comes at you hard’. The big problem is that our nervous system was designed for the first, more boring life style, and frankly nervous systems just don’t evolve that quickly. The physical effect of this new kind of stress creates a more challenging time for our bodies to remain balanced, which is the job of hormones. They are the cellular communicators and regulators in the body. When hormones decline or are out of balance, cells can’t talk to each other properly, and symptoms ensue.
If you are having symptoms during menopause, which is when most women begin to think about taking hormones, your symptoms may be brought into balance easily with certain foods in the diet, and much needed stress management. Deep breathing, massage, soothing teas and gentle, mindful exercise can go a long way. Two foods that I have seen correct the imbalance in about 80% of women experiencing symptoms during menopause are Flax seeds and Evening Primrose oil. Flax seed is very close in chemical structure to estrogen. It does not force estrogen on the body, but simply gives you the building block to make estrogen on your own, much more easily. It’s like a carpenter building a modular home instead of beginning with bricks and mortar. Taking two tablespoons, ground freshly each day during your estrogen time (from menses to ovulation) or, if you are no longer cycling use the lunar cycle- new moon to full moon (visit our web site: prescottnaturopathicdoctors.com for lunar chart) can increase your natural excretion of estrogens. Plus, fresh ground seeds have the wonderful ability to aid in detoxifying bad fats and aid in weight loss and eliminate cellulite
Evening Primrose oil is very similar in chemical structure to progesterone. Taking 1200-1800mg a day during progesterone phase can resolve many uncomfortable symptoms. Progesterone time is ovulation to the beginning of next menses - or full moon to new moon - if you no longer have menses. Our bodies are made up mostly of water, and as such we are influenced very strongly by the moon. Women almost always feel better when they menstruate with the new moon, and ovulate with the full moon.
If you are one of the 20% of women that this simple treatment does not work for, then you may be a candidate for HRT. Natural or Bio-identical HRT is prepared at compounding pharmacies (there are several here in the Quad Cities area) with a prescription from your physician. Your doctor will first test your saliva or blood to determine if you have deficiencies, imbalances or excesses before prescribing a hormone combination specifically for you. Hormones may be made in topical cream (my favorite), lozenges, vaginal gel , suppositories, capsules, and tablets.
Contrary to what many doctors believe there are copious, good quality, long term studies supporting the safety and efficacy of natural bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. Other common uses for HRT include:
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- Postpartum Depression
- Menopause and Perimenopause
- Female Sexual Dysfunction
- Testosterone Deficiency
- Chronic Fatigue
- Andropause (Male Menopause)
If you have a family history of estrogen cancers and are concerned that you might be at risk, there are new tests which measure six important estrogen metabolites and their ratios to help women, and even men, assess whether he or she is at risk of developing estrogen sensitive cancers.
In summary, evidence proves that natural, plant based bio-identical hormones, when used correctly, are not only safe but help protect the body from the effects of aging, especially heart disease. Ask your doctor if it is right for you.