Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is given to women to reduce menopausal symptoms, when their estrogen and progesterone hormone levels fall significantly. Bio-Identical hormones have the same chemical structures as the hormones normally secreted by your reproductive organs and adrenal glands. Our Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) program provides a customized hormone balance therapy based on an evaluation of patient-specific lab data and concerns. We use a combination of methods to administer BHRTs for a combination of rapid effect and sustained release treatments.
When levels of progesterone (which prepares the uterus for a possible pregnancy) drops, women do not usually experience any immediate discomfort, but this is not the case with estrogen. Estrogen stimulates the release of eggs; when a woman’s egg supply has ended, estrogen levels start to decline. But estrogen also helps maintain healthy bone density, as well as skin temperature. When estrogen levels fall, the following symptoms can occur:
- Fat build-up in the abdomen
- Smaller breasts
- Concentration and memory difficulties
- Hot flashes
- Irregular periods
- Lower fertility
- Night sweats
- Problems sleeping
- Thinning hair
- Urinary problems
- Vaginal dryness and atrophy
After several years, low estrogen levels can eventually lead to osteoporosis, which causes your bones to become depleted of vital minerals. Their micro-architecture deteriorates, leaving you with an increased risk of fracture, chronic pain and lack of mobility.
In addition, latest studies have shown that lowered hormone levels are often associated with “metabolic syndrome”– a combination of health-risk factors associated with obesity and insulin resistance, such as abnormal cholesterol and high blood pressure, which increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
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- Why should I consider bio-identical hormones rather than synthetic ones?
Synthetic hormones are manufactured in pharmaceutical labs to resemble human hormones, but with alterations that make each one different. Unfortunately, the alterations that make them unique, and therefore patentable – can also make them a problem to take. With less than ideal RBA (receptor binding affinity), synthetics are often poor fit with your body’s normal cells and that can cause side effects linked to cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, strokes, blood clots and Alzheimer’s disease.
Bio-identical hormones come from plants, and exactly match the molecular structure of human hormones. In other words, they are “bio” or “human-identical”, with a 100% RBA or affinity for binding to their individual receptor sites. This makes them not only effective, but safe as well. Since they duplicate the identical structure and function of human hormones, the body recognizes them and knows exactly what to do with them.
We also compound your Bio-Identical Hormones in individual doses, so we can usually achieve better symptom relief than you would get using the limited number of choices found in synthetic hormones.
- Where do Bio-Identical Hormones come from?
Bio-Identical Hormones are derived from the yam or soybean plant.
- Which Bio-Identical Hormones are used most frequently?
Estradiol (estrogen), testosterone, and progesterone are used most often, although we may prescribe others.
- What is the best way to take Bio-Identical Hormones?
While we may use gels, creams and pills, we find that pellets placed under the skin provide the best method of providing you with a constant, continuous level of hormone.
- Will my insurance pay for Bio-Identical Hormones?
Some insurance companies provide coverage. While we don’t accept insurance payments, we will provide you with a receipt and information so you can submit a request for reimbursement to your insurance company.
- Do Bio-Identical Hormones have the same risk of breast cancer as other types of HRT?
Some studies have shown Bio-Identical Hormones do not carry the same risk of breast cancer as synthetic estrogens in “The Pill”, which may not maintain the correct estrogen ratio or hormone metabolites. But because BHRT is still fairly new, studies regarding long-term use are not yet conclusive. It appears they do not increase the risk of breast cancer like the synthetic/equine-based hormones used in the Women’s Health Initiative Trial, where the average age of the women was 63. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and the Endocrine Society state that: “BHRT may be safer, but that study hasn’t been done yet.”
- Can I take Bio-Identical Hormones indefinitely?
Since side effects and health concerns increase from the time menopause first starts, BHRT should not be used indefinitely. Since hormone therapy has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, especially at 10-15 years post-menopause, most health experts recommend that women take the lowest dose for the shortest time.
- Are there side effects to Bio-Identical estrogen?
There may be mild, temporary breast tenderness at first as sensitive hormone receptors take time to adjust; this usually resolves on its own. There may also be a temporary water weight gain, which also should resolve on its own.
- How are hormones monitored during therapy?
Hormone levels will be taken and evaluated before therapy is started, and levels will be reevaluated during treatment. After the first year of therapy, hormone levels may be monitored less frequently.
- What else do I have to do?
You should continue your monthly breast self-exam and have a mammogram and/or pap smear as advised by your gynecologist/primary care physician.