Health: Relief from the menopause blues
INTEGRATE YOUR HEALTH
“Bioidentical Hormones for WOMEN”
When: Monday, August 10th, 6 p.m.
“Weight Loss the Integrative Medicine Way”
When: Monday, August 24th, 6 p.m.
Reserve a seat by calling 970-245-6911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Do women suffer from an acute Prozac deficiency when they hit menopause? Or do their blood levels of Xanax suddenly drop? And what about weight gain, poor sleep, fatigue, and loss of sex drive – is that just something they have to deal with after menopause? The answer is a resounding no!
For many women, despite being in previously great health, and continuing good diet and exercise habits, their body goes “out of control” at menopause. In addition to the symptoms on the surface, silent aging processes such as thinning bones and artery plaque begin after menopause. With the correct type of hormone replacement women can safely and effectively treat the symptoms of declining hormone levels, not only to feel better but also to prevent disease.
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT)
Hormones are chemical messengers that help the body function normally. They work in concert with the nervous system by responding to commands that regulate everything from growth and development, to reproduction and the aging process itself. Hormones control metabolism, mood, energy, sleep and sex drive. Simply put, humans are designed to be healthy with optimal levels of hormones.
Bioidentical means identical to our biology. A bioidentical hormone has 100 percent exactly the same chemical and molecular structure as the hormone that is normally found in the body. By contrast, many drugs are similar to natural hormones, and will activate hormone receptors, but are not identical. Birth control pills, for example, are much stronger than our natural hormones, yet not identical.
For women, the natural ovarian hormones include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and these hormones plummet after menopause. In the world of hormone replacement, there are synthetic look-alike drugs such as brand name Premarin for estrogen and Provera for progesterone. Both of these drugs have effects beyond that of their natural hormone equivalent and, as one would expect, numerous side effects not observed with bioidentical hormones.
If the exact replica of a hormone were available for use in humans, then why would we ever use a synthetic drug that was not bioidentical? Because you can’t patent something that is naturally occurring, and thus if you are a pharmaceutical company you can’t make any money on it. Enter the invention of a drug that is similar enough to bind and activate hormone receptors, but unique enough to warrant a patent. The patented drug is then worth the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to get FDA approval, and in the case of hormone replacement for women generate billions of dollars in sales each year, for decades.
Unlike drugs such as Premarin, which contains ten estrogens derived from pregnant horse urine, none of which are the same as the three naturally occurring estrogens in the human body, bioidentical hormones are derived from plant sources and synthesized into the exact same chemical found in the human body.
Evidence of Safety
In 2002 a Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study shocked doctors and patients alike with the revelation and proclamation that “hormones cause cancer.” More specifically, the non-bioidentical look-alike to progesterone, called Provera, caused a 26 percent increase in the rate of invasive breast cancer. Provera also caused a 200 percent increase in blood clots, a 41 percent increase in stroke, and a 29 percent increase in heart attack, or death, from heart disease.
It is worth noting in a case of missing the forest for the trees, that for the treatment group in the WHI, the decreased mortality from hip fractures and colon cancer offset the increase in breast cancer and 97.5 percent of women on treatment had no adverse events.
Bioidentical progesterone has been studied extensively, in dozens of studies head to head with Provera, and simply stated, for just about everything bad with Provera, progesterone does the opposite. As an example, in the largest study involving progesterone, the European EPIC study involving over 50,000 women taking hormones, it was found that progesterone actually lowered the risk of breast cancer by 10 percent.
Evidence of Efficacy
HRT is not about treating menopausal withdrawal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats or mood swings. Although it does treat those symptoms quite effectively, HRT is really about preventing disease and maintaining quality of life. It’s about keeping the body operating well. Not having optimal hormone levels is like letting a fine automobile just run out of oil, then declaring it is “growing old” as the red light comes on and it overheats.
Bioidentical hormones were being used long before drug companies even came into existence. They are available in a few commercial forms, but mostly we employ the compounding pharmacist to make BHRT formulations that are specific to each patient and uniquely available in either a tablet that dissolves under the tongue or a topical cream.
There isn’t anything magical about BHRT. It is a well researched and proven branch of medicine that is growing rapidly as more and more people discover its health promoting benefits. If you wish to take a proactive approach to health and aging, and maximize the quality as well as the quantity of life, then you might research and consider BHRT.
Free Press health columnist Scott Rollins, M.D., is board certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions. He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.com). Call 970-245-6911 for appointments or more information.
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