Women’s and men’s bodies experience hormonal changes since the time they were born and these changes are accentuated during puberty. After this period, hormones will continue to play an important role in maintaining our health, and reproductive and immune systems.
Women experience much more hormonal fluctuation than men. During a woman’s life, her body will go through at least 300 menstrual cycles and at least few pregnancies. Additional hormonal changes are present during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Later on, women may start experiencing symptoms associated with menopause and post-menopause.
As we age, our hormone levels decline. Many women entering their 40s or 50s experience a range of symptoms from hormonal imbalance, caused by a decline in the levels on sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. A prolonged imbalance can impact the immune system, trigger premature aging and set the stage for chronic illness.
What is Natural or Bio-identical Replacement Therapy?
Natural Hormone Replacement therapy is the administration of hormones identical in structure to the ones produced by the human body. They are individually compounded at specific doses for each patient, allowing for a more personalized hormone treatment. Treatments with natural hormones are safer and pose fewer risks than the synthetic hormones manufactured by the large pharmaceutical companies. Natural or Bio-identical hormones cannot be patented by these companies like the synthetic hormones such as Premarin and Medroxyprogesterone. Because bio-identical hormones are not marketed by the pharmaceutical industry, the public has been slower to use them.
Why is it important to balance and optimize hormone levels?
With inadequate hormone levels, our organs cannot function at their best. Declining hormone levels are thought to be one of the primary causes of aging. Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy will alleviate symptoms caused by menopause and other complaints related to other hormone imbalances such as thyroid hormone, DHEA and melatonin.
What is peri-menopause and what are some of the symptoms?
Peri-menopause, also called “the menopause transition,” is the most symptomatic phase for women. It is the period prior to cessation of menstrual cycles, indicating the end of the fertility period for women. It can last five to ten years before the beginning of menopause. Most women complain of hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, irregular periods, mood swings, weight gain, thinning hair, loss of breast fullness, trouble focusing, vaginal dryness and fatigue. These symptoms are caused by a decline in the levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Smoking and genetics can influence timing of menopause.
What is menopause?
Menopause is a normal, natural event defined as the final menstrual period, confirmed after one year of no menstruations. Menopause can be natural, surgical or chemical (this last one usually occurs with chemotherapy). Surgical removal of both ovaries and destructions by chemotherapy can trigger severe hormonal imbalance symptoms in women, requiring hormone replacement.
What is post-menopause?
Post-menopause is defined as the years after the end of the menstrual cycles for more than one year. Women will experience significant body changes due to the low levels of female sex hormones. The decline of these hormones can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction and weight gain. With current life expectancy, the post-menopausal years make up 1/3 to 1/2 of the lifespan of most North American women.
What hormones are affected during pre or peri-menopause?
Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are the most important female sex hormones affected during menopause.
Estrogen is the name for a group of sex hormones: estradiol, estrone and estriol. Estradiol is the most active and is produced in the ovaries.
- Estradiol deficiency can cause: hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, poor concentration, foggy thinking, fatigue, water retention and bloating, weight gain, breast tenderness, mood swings, bone loss, vaginal dryness and dry skin.
Progesterone is produced mostly in the ovaries and a lesser amount in the adrenal glands. It regulates monthly menstrual cycles and maintains pregnancy.
- Progesterone deficiency can cause: lighter sleep, restlessness, mood swings, anxiety, water retention, bone loss, worsening of PMS, mid-abdominal weight gain, acne, swollen breasts, headaches and low libido.
Testosterone: women also produce testosterone, but only 10% compared to men.
- Testosterone deficiency can cause: low sexual drive, low energy, fatigue, dry and thinning of skin, fatigue, bone loss, increased fat mass, decreased muscle mass and incontinence.
Progesterone, estrogen and testosterone are closely interrelated and their actions in the body are in a delicate balance. Imbalances in any of these hormones will produce undesirable symptoms, affecting women’s lives.
What are the benefits of hormone replacement during peri-menopause, menopause & post-menopause?
Proper balance of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, will help return these hormones to optimal levels, slowing the aging process and improving symptoms associated with menopause. Also, it increases and restores mood, memory, strength, sleep, metabolic rate, muscle tone, bone health, libido, sleep and vasomotor symptoms. It also helps improve skin tone, facilitates weight management, and increases energy levels.
What other hormones are affected with the aging process?
- Thyroid function: The thyroid gland secretes hormones that regulate your metabolism. Aging decreases the levels of this hormone, causing a slowdown of the body’s metabolism, resulting in fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, weight gain or loss, changes in menses, high blood pressure and/or heart problems.
- Adrenal function: The adrenal glands produce several hormones, including DHEA and cortisol. DHEA is precursor to estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol among others hormones. If DHEA levels are deficient, it will decrease level of these hormones, triggering unfavorable effects throughout the endocrine system. Replacing deficient DHEA can also serve to increase low levels of estradiol and/or testosterone. The aging process, stress and certain medications can decrease the production of these hormones. The most common symptoms are weakness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, obesity and a reduced sense of wellbeing. A prolonged imbalance can impact the immune system, trigger premature aging and set the stage for chronic illness.
- Melatonin production: Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland in the brain. It possesses powerful anti-aging and anti-cancer properties, and enhances sleep. Low levels may be associated with insomnia, menstrual irregularities and/or infertility.
Are there any side effects of HRT?
As you begin hormone replacement therapy, there is typically a short adjustment period as the appropriate dosages are adjusted. You may start to notice positive changes immediately or it could take several months to fully balance your hormones. There may be some mild side effects during this time including fluid retention, spotting, acne, irritability or breast tenderness. An adjustment in dosage typically relieves these symptoms. Risk of breast cancer is still questionable. However, HRT is not recommended if a woman is receiving treatment for breast or uterine cancer.
For how long do I have to take HRT?
Declining hormone levels are thought to be one of the primary causes of aging. Many women have reported an overall sensation of well-being and increased stamina while taking hormone replacement over a long period of time. This is an individual choice.