Did you know that with hormone support we have the ability to minimize the damages done by aging? Did you know that with appropriate hormone support we have the ability to stay at or near our optimal weights, recover from illnesses more quickly, and protect our bones, hearts and brains from deteriorating? Best of all, did you know that with hormone support we can actually age gracefully AND feel great?
Last week I shared my personal story of two decades of suffering with insomnia, hot flashes, and weight gain without any real knowledge of declining hormones and how critical they are to our health and disease prevention. Today, I’m going to share with you the answers to the questions I hear most often regarding hormone supplements. They were my questions at one time too! Read on…
First, let me say that I learned as we age our hormones also begin to fade, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help get them back in balance for optimal health and feeling as great as we deserve to feel! (for men AND women!)
What are bio-identical hormones?
According to Dr. Erika Schwartz, “they are the juice of life!” She adds, “the best hormones to use are the bio-identical ones. They are prescription medications that include estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid and adrenal support. They are pharmaceutically made to mimic the hormones our own bodies make when we are young and healthy.” Dr. Christiane Northrup adds, “their molecular structure is designed to be an exact match of the hormones found in the human body.” (pretty cool!)
What are bio-identical hormones made of?
Human forms of ovarian hormones are the building blocks found in wild yams and soybeans. Since these hormones are recognized by our bodies, the benefits are more in line with how our normal body chemistry works, offering a lower risk of the side effects found in synthetic or non bio-identical hormones.
Numerous clinical studies substantiate the safety and efficacy of these “natural to the human body” hormones extolled by Dr. Schwartz, Dr. Northrup, Suzanne Somers, and tens of thousands of anti-aging doctors and their patients. Details can be found in a Life Extensions article by William Felloon in 2009-see Sources below.
Both Premarin and Prempro ( two non bio-identical hormones often prescribed ) contain horse estrogen extracted from pregnant mares urine. Unlike bio-identical estrogen creams that provide the hormones found naturally in the human female body, horse estrogen contains equilin and other equine estrogens found exclusively in horses.
The human female body contains enzymes to metabolize the natural proportion of estriol, estradiol, and estrone, but not horse estrogens such as equilin. These horse estrogens produce estrogenic effects that are much more potent and longer lasting than those produced by natural human estrogens. (Life Extensions – William Faloon.)
Are bio-identical hormones FDA approved?
Since bio-identical hormones are plant based, they cannot be patented and therefore are of no significant financial benefit to pharmaceutical companies. It seems to be more about economics. Thus, they are not FDA approved. As I understand it, non bio-identical, synthetic hormones are made by altering the molecular structure of a hormone enough so that it can be patented.
Other differences between synthetic and bio-identical hormones?
One can find many types of these FDA approved hormones over the counter at drugstores. However, the dosages are all standardized. What’s important to remember is that our bodies are all different and the “one size fits all” notion isn’t really going to provide the optimal benefits for any of us. What I’ve come to appreciate is the regular monitoring (twice a year) of my hormone levels with my doctor. When they shift, the dosage shifts. By using these compounded hormones, I am getting the best possible hormones for my body chemistry. Voila!
Can hormone replacements cause cancer?
There has been much controversy over the years regarding this subject. What has come to light is this: breast cancer risk actually increases with hormone imbalance and estrogen dominance. There is also growing evidence that testosterone can play a part in slowing and decreasing breast cancer diagnoses. (Women In Balance Institute)
In a 2005 French study, 54,000 women with an average age of 53 looked at breast cancer risk in relation to different types of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The results revealed that women on HRT combinations containing the old and synthetic versions had increased risks while those using bio-identical hormones had no increased risk. To view the abstract of the study, click here.
It has also come to light that estrogen replacement used alone can increase the risk for breast cancer. I’ve learned that it’s critically important to establish balance with the precise combinations, thus the recommendation for using a doctor trained in bio-identical hormones. If there are more cases of estrogen-dominant breast cancer diagnoses, then yes, it tells us something… we are not in balance.
How would I find a doctor or practitioner who is trained in bio-identical hormones?
The best news is that the list is growing! Eleven years ago, I was just lucky to have met Dr. Scwatrz. And at that time there weren’t a lot of options. I know Dr. Schwartz has done lots of training over the years. The best way to find a doctor is by word-of-mouth, but you can also check this website for one in your area:
Will insurance pay for bio-identical hormones?
More good news-many insurance companies are starting to pay for these health benefits. Sometimes it’s a good idea to find a doctor that specializes in integrative medicine. These doctors take into account the whole person (body, mind and spirit), and use both conventional and alternative healing modalities in their practices.
A good first step: Check with your health provider and inquire as to their reimbursement policies. I’m also providing two websites that offer good information regarding insurance reimbursement.
What is the cost of bio-identical hormones?
My prescriptions run about $100 per month, and that includes estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This may vary by state or region so check with a local compounding pharmacy or ask your doctor.
What causes estrogen dominance and excess in our daily lives and environments?
Last but not least, I need to address this very important subject. I truly believe we must become our best health advocates and recognize that we live in a very different world than our parents and grandparents were raised in. We live in a world of modern conveniences that include plastics, cosmetics and foods laden with pesticides. Many of these contain endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen. When we put these items on our bodies or in our homes and offices where we breathe them, we are adding to estrogen overload.
According to Dr. John R. Lee, he has adopted a simple set of three rules covering hormone supplementation: “When these rules are followed, women have a decreased risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes. They are much less likely to gain weight, have poor sleep or short term memory loss, fibrocystic breasts, mood disorders or libido problems. And the rules are not complicated.” Click here to read his Three Simple Rules for Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement
Of course our hormones are going to be out of whack. Many of you have heard the term “endocrine disruptors.” These are also hormone disruptors. Click here to read more about endocrine disruptors that can be avoided.
We can look at the world as a scary place with so many things being unhealthy for us. On the other hand, we can take charge of our lives and health.
I’m a big proponent of hormone health, especially when it comes to the “estrogen dominance” and link to cancer. It affected me and I don’t want other women having the same diagnosis. I’m not saying hormones are a cure. I’m saying there’s an opportunity for less hormone-related breast cancer diagnoses with proper attention paid to hormone balance in addition to proper diet and lifestyle.
Dr. Schwartz says optimal health is “All about prevention!” I’m also saying that as a breast cancer survivor, taking advantage of bio-identical hormones, I love having the quality of life I had in my twenties (for the most part-wink). Aging doesn’t have to leave us physically and mentally diminished. We can have energy, strong bones, mental clarity, reduce our risk for a stroke and be heart healthy. So what’s wrong with that?
Of course, all that I’ve shared today is just that-sharing. I am hoping you will glean some insight that helps you moved forward with your health. There is a lot of great information out there regarding hormone replacement therapy. I’ve given you a bit of what I’ve learned and my personal experience. Some of you may still be afraid of hormone replacement therapy, others may want to learn more. Either way, I encourage you to pick up a copy of one of my suggested books to consider hormone balancing if you think you might benefit from it! Ask around, talk to your friends, find an integrative doctor. It might just change your life!
Peace, Prevention and Great Health!
Dr. Axe-Food is Medicine-Endocrine Disruptors – How to Avoid Excess Estrogen
Dr. Christiane Northrup — www.drnorthrup.com
Dr. Erika Schartz — https://drerika.com
Dr. John R. Lee — www.johnleemd.com/
Web MD-Alternative therapies and Insurance
WebMD-Oprah Winfrey-January 2009
Suzanne Somers Loves Bio-Identical Hormones (March 2009)
Women in Balance Institute (National College of Natural Medicine)-Hormone Balance: The Key to Breast Cancer Prevention