Aging brings changes you don’t necessarily want, from new lines on your face to thinning hair. Sometimes, however, these changes seem to spring from nowhere and significantly impact your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Rather than struggle on your own, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy from Optimal Health and Wellness in Pasadena, CA, can alleviate your discomfort and help you feel more like yourself again.
Can I Take Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy Forever?
For years, men and women have received conflicting information on the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Much of this stems from the evolution of HRT; synthetic hormones were once the norm and could, in some patients, lead to unfavorable outcomes.
With the advent of bioidentical hormones, however, we’re now able to deliver a much more accurate treatment that safely addresses your concerns. These hormones are growing increasingly popular because they have little in common with their synthetic counterparts. The Journal of Postgraduate Medicine collected information from four trials that studied women who switched from synthetic to bioidentical progesterone, and all reported:
- Greater satisfaction with treatment
- Relief from their symptoms
- Improved quality of life
The Measurement of Safety
Science confirms traditional HRT and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) behave differently in the body. The latter is proven to be safer; one clinical study followed a group of women for 18 years and found those who took BHRT for six to seven years were not at higher risks for adverse health effects than those who took a placebo.
Another study showed patients who undergo BHRT for five years or more are better protected against cardiovascular events than those who do not have treatment. It’s also an effective way to stave off osteoporosis. For these reasons, healthcare providers agree BHRT is a safe way to restore balance within the body. It is key, however, to:
- Test hormones to identify your particular imbalance
- Administer treatment hormones at the lowest possible dose
- Follow the treatment for the shortest time needed
The Final Verdict
As for our original question, most patients can enjoy the benefits of treatment for five to seven years. It’s not intended as a permanent solution. But because the symptoms associated with andropause and menopause usually resolve on their own after several years, this aligns perfectly with the recommended timeline for treatment.
Solving the Hormone Mystery
To understand the mechanisms of hormone therapy, you must first understand the hormones themselves. The body makes these chemical messengers in glands located throughout the body. Essentially, they tell other cells when and how to function and therefore control nearly all internal tasks. These include everything from growth and brain function to sexual desire and immune responses.
Hormones are the reasons your arms are the same length and your body can convert food into fuel. And certain hormones are released at certain times to help the body remain in a constant state of balance. The brain controls when they’re secreted, and in response to precise signals, hormones directly enter the blood from the glands that produce and store them. Together, these glands comprise the endocrine system.
Balance Is Everything
Hormones circulating within the bloodstream make contact with all cells, but not all cells react. This isn’t a flaw, but rather a deliberate design to ensure the body reacts in the appropriate way when a hormone delivers its directives. Internally, reactive and non-reactive cells are differentiated by receptors; only a hormone’s target cells have receptors that respond to its signal.
You can think of a hormone as a radio signal and the receptor as the antenna, without which no signal could be received to play music. Signaling continues until the circulating hormones are broken down and excreted. The body, as perceptive as it is, constantly regulates hormone secretion to prevent cells from over- or under-responding. But this doesn’t mean hormones are always in balance.
The Truth About Aging
Physiological functions gradually decline throughout a person’s lifetime. Aging is in fact characterized by a constant stream of biological changes, even in people who remain relatively healthy for most of their lives. Among the major changes that occur are those to the endocrine system; most hormones decrease naturally with time, but some remain constant and others even increase.
Endocrine function also declines with age as cellular receptors become less sensitive to their respective hormones. To compound the situation, additional factors like calorie intake and inflammation also affect the aging process and how the body responds to hormones. The end results are hormonal imbalances born of both internal and external causes.
Andropause: Myth or Reality?
The symptoms of hormonal imbalance aren’t limited just to women. Although it’s not widely discussed, andropause is a very real concern and usually afflicts men after age 40. The media commonly refers to this as “male menopause,” but this is misleading. For one, not all men go through andropause, whereas menopause is a certainty for all women.
Another point that separates the two is the ability to continue reproducing. Andropause does not necessarily end a man’s reproductive abilities, but a woman in menopause is no longer able to bear children. And, finally, the symptoms of andropause generally aren’t as severe as those of menopause, and for this reason, no specific parameters define when it begins and ends.
What andropause does mean is a decline in testosterone production that can cause such symptoms as:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low sex drive
- Irritability and mood swings
- Poor concentration and memory retention
- Reduced muscle mass
A woman enters menopause after 12 consecutive months of going without a period. At birth, most females have between 1 and 3 million eggs that are gradually lost with time. To illustrate, a girl around the age of 11 or 12 only has an average of about 400,000 eggs left. Menopause, therefore, occurs naturally as the ovaries run out of functioning eggs.
Unfortunately, menopause doesn’t just “happen.” Instead, the body takes years to adjust and, in the meantime, experiences such drastic changes as hot flashes, abdominal pain, and difficulty sleeping. This transition phase, marked by fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone, is known as perimenopause. It usually starts between ages 45 and 55 and can last anywhere from seven to 14 years.
A Variety Of Changes
As estrogen levels drop, a woman can become more vulnerable to fractures because bone density also decreases. The body likewise uses energy differently so that fat cells change and weight gain may become markedly easier. Additional symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Breast cysts
- Anxiety and/or panic attacks
- Dry, brittle, or thin skin
- Heavier menstrual bleeding
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hot flashes
- Diminished sex drive
- Ovarian cysts
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering
- Vaginal dryness
It’s important to note women don’t experience menopause in a universal way. Some experience pain during sex, while others have only spotty periods. And because women are also commonly dealing with other transitions at this time, such as caring for aging parents, the symptoms associated with menopause can seem impossible to manage.
The Role of BHRT
The goal of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is to restore the body to a state of balance. Once this happens, symptoms of both andropause and menopause can improve. The hormones used in therapy are made specifically for each patient and prescribed only after we conduct tests to determine exactly which hormones need to be supplemented. Those we most commonly use include:
Your care doesn’t stop, however, once your treatment plan is set in motion. We will continue to supervise your progress to ensure the hormones you’re taking are appropriate to your needs. If at any time we need to adjust your therapy, such as increasing or decreasing your dosage, we can act swiftly to ensure you feel better.
What to Expect With Treatment
BHRT can be administered in a variety of methods, including pills, pellets, and patches. The most important component of treatment, however, is staying diligent with your plan. Each patient will experience slightly different results, but the best outcomes are associated with consistency.
Once we administer your personalized bioidentical formula, symptoms will gradually but surely fade. This can mean more than relief from mental and physical ailments; it can also lead to an overall improvement in your quality of life. You can expect to feel better in as little as two weeks, but full results will continue to develop over a course of several months.
When used for the purpose of testosterone replacement, therapy can yield the following results in men:
- Relief from fatigue, anxiety, depression, and irritability
- Greater sense of well being
- Increased sexual performance
- Decreased fat mass
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Restored muscle mass and strength
Many men don’t realize that as testosterone wanes, their confidence similarly takes a nosedive. Treatment can reinforce self-esteem and give you back the vitality you knew in your younger years. Patients additionally report sustained energy for personal, professional, and social activities. And in balancing testosterone levels, BHRT also normalizes secondary hormones influenced by testosterone, including estradiol and dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Relief From Menopause
The Endocrine Society, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and North American Menopause Society agree that hormone therapy reduces menopausal symptoms. It is, in fact, labeled the most effective therapy for symptoms like vaginal dryness and hot flashes. While the former can often be treated with a lower dose of estrogen, the latter generally requires a higher dose that will impact the entire body.
Women who still have a uterus usually need a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Treatment periods are individualized for each patient although, again, the recommended guidelines are five to seven years. Women who have had their uterus removed can often take estrogen alone, and treatment times can likewise be more flexible.
Symptoms That Can Be Alleviated
Menopause presents symptoms that range from minor to severe. Those that may dissipate the most quickly include:
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Night sweats
- Acne and other skin disorders
- Sleep disturbances
- Recurring urinary tract infections
Therapy may also mitigate the following severe complications:
- Heart disease
- Elevated cholesterol counts
- Fracture risks
Benefits of Treatment
The bioidentical formula created for you will be almost identical to the hormones your body naturally produces. Cells won’t detect a discernable difference and will thus use these hormones in the same manner as if they were naturally produced. Synthetic blends, on the other hand, tend to cause unwanted side effects like acne, headaches, and high blood pressure because the body treats them as invaders.
The key difference between bioidentical and synthetic hormones is their structure; the former are derived from natural plant sources and molecularly identical to human hormones. Synthetic blends may act similarly on certain biological pathways, but they do not provide the same efficacy at the molecular level. And each dose of bioidentical hormones is tailored to your individual needs rather than what a pharmaceutical company offers in a package.
A Boost In Energy
Both men and women can experience fatigue and depleted energy levels as progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone drop. This can make it hard to get out of bed, much less get through an entire day, and fatigue often impacts daily activities, work, and relationships. Chronic fatigue can become so great that patients stop doing the things they love. But hormone therapy can give way to higher motivation levels and increased alertness.
Renewed Interest In Sex
With a return to normal hormone levels, men and women can experience an increased desire for sex. Many patients additionally describe a more satisfying experience with their partners after therapy. These effects can improve intimacy, relieve pain, and even lower blood pressure (a catalog of health benefits accompany intercourse).
More Restful Sleep
Sleep quality can suffer in a number of ways when hormones are imbalanced. Women often experience insomnia made worse by repeated hot flashes throughout the night. Men suffering anxiety can likewise feel their minds work overtime in the dark as sleep becomes more elusive. Therapy can restore balance to your life, improve overall wellness, and help you get the rest you need.
Better Health Outcomes for Men
Hormone therapy is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events in men. A multi-year study from Salt Lake City’s Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found that balancing testosterone can reduce incidences of heart attacks and strokes in older men. Conversely, patients who did not receive therapy showed an 80% greater chance of suffering an adverse event.
Therapy can also increase your workout intensity. As we mentioned earlier, testosterone helps boost muscle mass and is the key component of broad shoulders and slim waists many males exhibit in their younger years. Thus, by stabilizing testosterone, therapy can help you reach more challenging fitness goals and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
Disease Prevention for Women
Estrogen is responsible for so many functions within the female body that it’s impossible to list them all here. What we can say, however, is that normalizing this hormone with therapy can lead to:
- Stronger blood flow throughout the body
- Potential drop in blood sugar levels
- Possible decrease in Alzheimer’s incidences
- 37% less risk of developing colorectal cancer
- 37% fewer hip fractures caused by osteoporosis
Frequently Asked Questions
Patients often ask when they should start therapy, and while this varies from person to person, our best advice is this: the longer you suffer from hormonal imbalances, the greater your body’s decline in health will be. Women, in particulary rely on repeated cycles of estrogen and progesterone to keep the entire system in balance; once this cycle stops, the degenerative process accelerates. In short, the longer you wait, the faster your body will age.
How Do I Know My Hormones Are Imbalanced?
Symptoms of lost energy, mental fog, and increased irritability are common indicators that you could benefit from bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. A simple test can indicate your current hormone levels and identify those that need to be regulated.
Does Hormone Therapy Cause Weight Gain?
You’re more likely to put on weight without treatment. Men and women alike often complain they eat less and exercise more but still experience weight gain, especially around their mid-sections. Balancing hormones can help you achieve and maintain a more stable weight.
Can Treatment Help Me Cope With Stress?
Hormones play crucial roles in stress management, so the short answer is yes. When you’re body isn’t running optimally, it’s easy to feel the potent hold stress can have over a person. Restoring balance once more puts life situations into perspective so you feel calmer and physically stronger.
Why Do Hormones Need to Be Tested?
It’s essential we test your hormones throughout the course of treatment to administer the correct dosing and provide symptom relief. Regular testing also encourages patient compliance with the treatment plans we develop.
Keep in mind hormones are intricate chemicals. We therefore rely on a combination of lab results, symptom reviews, and medical history to steer your treatment. Ongoing testing alerts us to any changes that need to be made so we can, in turn, ensure optimal patient outcomes.
Which Method of Treatment Is Right for Me?
Earlier, we mentioned hormone therapy can be administered in a variety of ways. Several different factors – including your age and medical history – will help us determine the method that’s right for you.
A Path to Balance
At one time, people widely accepted the symptoms of aging as inevitable. Today, that belief is replaced by more positive thinking; you can regain control of your life and look and feel younger with bioidentical hormones. They’re crafted to give your body exactly what it’s missing and can therefore relieve the symptoms of andropause and menopause. Schedule your consultation today by calling Optimal Health and Wellness in Pasadena, CA.