Haims column: Helping men and women with bioidenticals
There are many reasons that hormone levels in both men and women may become imbalanced. Unfortunately, such changes are not isolated to “old” people. Changes in hormonal levels are seen in people as early as their 30s and occasionally earlier.
For women, the 40s are often when changes in hormones occur. Such changes may often be the result of ovary production. As women age, the ovaries produce less of the hormones progesterone and estrogen. This decrease in hormone production often leads to unpredictable menstrual periods, irritability, anxiety, changes in mood, tension, and an overall feeling like you may be overwhelmed and have little control.
Other hormonal changes that may occur could be related to the thyroid. As your thyroid ages, it can begin to function less effectively and either produce too little or too much of the thyroid hormones. According to Dr. Daniel Einhorn, M.D., an endocrinologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla:
“Thyroid disease, generally, comes in two flavors: over- (hyperthyroidism) and under-active (hypothyroidism). The symptoms of hyperthyroidism — including weight loss, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, irritability, heat intolerance and a constantly “wired” feeling — generally catch women’s attention sooner than those of hypothyroidism. A common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid.
“An underactive thyroid, called hypothyroidism, however, is a whole different story. The symptoms are usually mild and nonspecific, so it’s easy to attribute them to many other things … like menopause, for instance,” Einhorn says. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, an underactive thyroid can lead to fatigue, brain fog, irregular menstrual periods, weight gain, depression, constantly feeling cold, and even hair loss — all of which also can occur during perimenopause and into menopause.
A bioidentical approach
Bioidentical hormone replacement (BHR) can be used, specifically for women, to help mitigate the symptoms of general hormonal imbalance in addition to menopause and perimenopause symptoms.
Charla Blacker, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, explains that, “Unlike conventional hormone therapy that uses synthetic hormones or animal-based hormones that are slightly different from a woman’s own hormones, bioidentical hormones are biochemically the same as those made by the ovaries during a woman’s reproductive years.”
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) involves medications containing female hormones to replace the ones that a woman’s body no longer makes. Typically, HRTs consist of a combination of estrogen plus progestin and are made from synthetic hormones or animal-based hormones that are slightly different from a woman’s own hormones. They are commonly available in tablets, transdermally (through the skin); subcutaneously (a long-lasting implant) and vaginally.
Until recently, the combination of estrogen and progestin made up most hormone replacement therapies and was considered to be an effective treatment for menopause. However, side effects of HRT have led many people to seek other options.
Known side effects of HRT include breast cancer, blood clots, stroke and heart disease. The risks and benefits of HRT need to be weighed individually and in conjunction with your doctor.
Women’s Health Initiative
In 2002, The Women’s Health Initiative study (WHI) brought to light concerns about HRT. It was a randomized, controlled clinical trial of hormone replacement therapy and is one of the most definitive, far-reaching clinical trials of post-menopausal women’s health ever undertaken in the U.S.
While the WHI study has shown that hormone replacement therapy has had life-threatening risks, research is still being conducted on some of the potential benefits. The beneficial effects on colorectal cancer risk and large colon adenomas are still of interest to researchers and the medical community.
Bioidentical hormone replacement is thought to be effective in helping to regulate hormones without the side effects of the therapies using synthetic ingredients. Unlike conventional hormone therapy, bioidentical hormones are thought to be biochemically the same and have the same molecular structure as those made by the ovaries.
Bioidentical hormone therapy has been supported with sufficient trial data that warrants a look. If you are interested, you can research the web and try speaking to your local pharmacist, who may be educated in preparing bioidenticals.
Locally, we have no compounding pharmacy certified in providing bioidenticals. The closest compounding pharmacies are in Edwards, Frisco and Grand Junction.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt, and Aspen. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526
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