At Living Wellness Medical Center, we, as naturopathic doctors, specialize in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. In this blog post, we are answering some questions we have received from our patients.
Question #1: Dr. Khalsa, what is the difference between non-identical and bioidentical hormones?
Dr. Khalsa: So, basically, it’s like the name implies, how it sounds. Non-bioidentical hormones are not identical to what our bodies naturally produce, while bioidentical hormones are identical. So, our bodies have seen them (bioidentical hormones) before and know how to metabolize them in a healthy way. This is why people tend to do better and feel better with bioidentical hormones.
Question #2: Dr. Brouwer, can you give us an overview of all of the hormones relevant to our discussion of hormone replacement therapy?
Dr. Brouwer: Sure. There are a lot of hormones in the body that control different body systems. But the ones we mostly think about are reproductive hormones, our thyroid hormones, and our adrenal hormones.
Adrenal hormones are DHEA and cortisol. Thyroid hormones are T3 and T4 thyroid. The reproductive hormones for females are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. For men, we mainly focus on just testosterone.
Question #3: Dr. Khalsa, what are some of the symptoms of low estrogen?
Dr. Khalsa: So, one symptom of low estrogen is heat. Women tend to have a lot of hot flashes and night sweats. And all that heat tends to dry everything up, so women tend to have vaginal dryness and really dry skin. You might also start to notice weight gain. You know, maybe an extra 10 pounds with no change in diet and exercise. Sometimes there are also sleep issues and mood issues. Those are the main symptoms of a lack of estrogen.
Question #4: Dr. Brouwer, can you tell us what are some of the symptoms of low progesterone?
Dr. Brouwer: Well, progesterone is essential in a female body. It’s our most important calming hormone. So agitation, anxiety, and poor sleep are symptoms when progesterone is low. Those are the main things that we see. Low progesterone can also contribute to vaginal dryness and sexual functioning and response. The main low progesterone symptoms that I see are predominantly right around menopause: women have a tough time sleeping, which is generally a sign of low progesterone.
Question #5: Dr. Khalsa, so what are some of the symptoms that you see related to low testosterone?
Dr. Khalsa: Low testosterone is slightly different for men and women, but similar, too. There’s some crossover there. For women, low testosterone symptoms are typically low libido. That’s the main symptom, but also weight gain and not being able to build muscle the same way they used to with the same level of exercise.
For men and women, a significant low testosterone symptom is fatigue.
In men, low testosterone symptoms are also low libido and a lack of zest for life.
Question #6: Dr. Brouwer, can you tell us the different types of ways you can take hormones?
Dr. Brouwer: There are many delivery methods for hormone replacement therapy, so we can make sure that we get the mix just right for our patients. It can be anything from hormone creams to pellets, which a doctor implants under the skin. There are patches. There are oral forms, like lozenges, that dissolve in the mouth or capsules that you can swallow. There are also injectables, but they are less popular even though they work really well. So, there are lots and lots of ways to get them in so that we can make sure that the ones that we choose are just right for our patients’ unique needs.
Question #7: Dr. Brouwer, can you tell us what are some of the theoretical or hypothetical risks associated with hormone replacement therapy, and tell us your opinion on those hypothetical risks?
Dr. Brouwer: Yeah, that’s a great question because there’s so much misinformation out there about hormone replacement therapy. Not only does the misinformation spread on the internet and through the media news sources, but even other doctors that don’t study bioidentical hormone replacement can spread myths.
A popular myth is that taking estrogen itself is going to increase your risk of breast cancer. This is not true. There are very safe ways to give estrogen to women that do not increase the risk and can reduce the risk.
Also, a poorly done study was put out several years ago that said that there was an increase in heart disease in men when they did testosterone therapy. Actually, the study showed the opposite of that, but the way it was reported was false, so there are a lot of myths about it.
There are no health risks with bioidentical hormones, but there can be side effects that we can mitigate. Bioidentical hormone side effects can include things like maybe you could get acne or increased facial hair or stuff like that. But these are things that we can work around, so they are not really risks, but perhaps some little side effects.
Question #8: And here’s a question for all of us: At what age should someone stop taking bioidentical hormone replacement therapy?
Dr. Turner: Well, I think the question is, how long would somebody like to continue to enjoy the benefits of hormone replacement therapy? I’d like always to have the benefits of those hormones, so I think that it depends on what the patient is most comfortable with.
Dr. Brouwer: And, because, again, there aren’t risks. There’s no need to get off hormone replacement therapy at a certain time because it’s going to cause you harm. It’s actually helping to prevent certain diseases and decreases aging. So the longer you use hormone replacement therapy, the less of those declines, like muscle atrophy and poor libido and quality of life issues, you will see. So, personally, when I’m old, I’m not going to stop.
Dr. Turner: Cheers to hormones!
You can call 480-588-6856 to schedule a FREE brief meet and greet with a naturopathic doctor. So if you are interested in chatting with one of us, we can talk with you about what some of your symptoms are and what our approach to might be to solving those symptoms for you.