The very word ‘hormone’ is often associated with cancer, dangerous side effects and risk of disease. However, not all hormones are created equal. In fact, hormones play a critical role in how our body functions and in maintaining wellness. If we want to enjoy a healthy quality existence, then hormones must be balanced and properly functioning. Dr. Jack Monaco, Medical Director of Nashville Hormone & Integrative Medicine, explains.
Bioidentical Hormones Vs Natural Hormones
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Treatment (BHRT), is quite different from the conventional hormone replacement treatments often prescribed. ‘Bioidentical’ or human identical hormones are identical in both structure and function to our own hormones. Most of the negative publicity associated with hormones refers to synthetic hormones and not the bio-identical ones. The main hormones used to restore hormone balance are oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Oestrogen has over 400 functions in the body from cardiovascular protection and prevention of bone loss to maintaining cognitive function and a healthy youthful skin. Progesterone balances all of the functions of oestrogen and also helps with sleep, blood pressure, anxiety, depression and protects the breast. Testosterone is not only important for sexual function but is needed to maintain strong bones, relieve vaginal symptoms of dryness and lack of natural moisture and maintain lean muscle.
Knowledge And Expertise Required
However, simply giving bio-identical hormones is not good enough. Hormone restoration requires knowledge, skill and experience to achieve proper balance and thus receive the benefits of hormone restoration. Secondly, proper dosing is critical to avoid increasing risks and side effects. Properly trained doctors will use ‘physiologic’ dosing to restore balance. Knowing the average daily production of hormones typically seen in healthy individuals in their early to mid-thirties, hormones are administered in small doses to achieve these levels and proper balance. Using the smallest possible doses not only increases the margin of safety of hormones but avoids over-stimulation of cellular receptors resulting in a decreased response of these receptor, a phenomenon called tachyphylaxis.
Lastly, hormones are not given to simply relieve symptoms. Properly balanced hormones will restore the sensitive relationships of our different systems resulting in symptom relief. If hormone levels are in optimal range, balanced and symptoms persist, then there is something else that needs to be corrected. In this case, simply increasing the dose will not solve the problem. It will, in fact, make it worse by over stimulating the sensitive receptors and resulting in a decrease response or tachyphylaxis.
Are Bio-identical Hormones Safe?
One of the best review articles on this topic was published in Postgraduate Medicine, January 2009 by Dr. Ken Holtorf. He reported on his review of 196 scientific papers on hormones concluding that bio-identical hormones have some distinctly different, often opposite, physiologic effects to those of their synthetic counterparts. With respect to the risk for breast cancer, heart disease, heart attack and stroke, substantial scientific and medical evidence demonstrates that bio-identical hormones are safer and a more efficacious form of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) than commonly used synthetic versions.
Patients are becoming wary of contemporary medical therapies, especially hormone replacement and are seeking out practitioners who are willing and trained to offer them evidence based alternatives. ❞ Dr. Jack Monaco
Does The Route Of Administration Make A Difference?
The majority of bioidentical hormones are applied topically. Absorption through the skin is nearly 100 percent. This bypasses the ‘first pass’ through the liver where metabolism occurs. Instead, hormones are delivered directly to the tissue in an unaltered state. This allows the use of smaller doses which, in turn, reduces risks. Compounding these hormones by a competent compounding pharmacist allows great flexibility in dosage, combinations of hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) in the same cream, with doses specific to each patient’s needs. In summary, properly prescribed bio-identical hormone restorative therapy has been shown to be a safe, effective alternative to conventional hormonal replacement treatment which can not only relieve the troublesome symptoms of menopause but can provide the health enhancing benefits of hormones.