Beginning at age 35 (yes, 35!), many women begin to experience symptoms of hormone imbalance. Progesterone is the first hormone that starts to decline. The first and most notable symptoms of declining progesterone are usually anxiety, mood swings, irritability and depression. These can be followed by insomnia, decreased libido, hair loss, bone loss and a decrease in HDL, or ” good” cholesterol. Between the ages of 45 and 50, the hormone estrogen begins to decline accentuating the symptoms described above and bringing more symptoms including night sweats, hot flashes, thinning skin, more wrinkles and frequent urinary tract infections.
Most women yearn for relief from this portfolio of unpleasant symptoms, so they visit their doctor and are often prescribed pharmaceutical drugs to treat the symptoms of their hormone imbalance. They are given something like Prozac for depression, sleeping pills for insomnia, or something like Xanax for anxiety. But the root cause — the hormone imbalance — is never treated, and the side effects from the toxic pharmaceutical drugs begin leading to other problems.
In other cases, the doctor might prescribe conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but many women are fearful of HRT because the media has done a good job of exposing studies showing conventional HRT can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer.
So what’s the answer?
If you listened to one of my recent radio shows (Dr. Colbert’s Health Report), you might already know the answer. The answer is bioidentical hormones.
Bioidentical hormone therapy is the natural form of hormone replacement. Unlike synthetic hormones like Premarin and Prempro, bioidentical hormones act in the body just like the hormones your body produces itself. Premarin, often prescribed for women with symptoms of low estrogen, is sourced from a pregnant mare’s (horse’s) urine. So while it may seem “natural,” it is not accepted by your body as if it were your own estrogen. Premarin has also been shown to elevate blood pressure and triglycerides, increase belly fat and cause gall stones. Bioidentical hormones, on the other hand, help restore physical and mental decline associated with hormone imbalance. They treat the root cause of the problem, thereby eliminating the symptoms. Estriol, a bioidentical hormone, has even been shown to help protect against breast cancer and is being given to breast cancer patients in Europe.
Are Bioidentical Hormones Just for Women?
Definitely not. Have you heard of “grumpy old man syndrome?” As some men age, they tend to develop a shorter fuse, hot temper and overall grumpy demeanor. This could be an indication of low testosterone. Symptoms of low testosterone include irritability, anger, loss of vitality, loss of competitiveness, decreased memory, depression, night sweats and hot flashes, increased abdominal fat and reduced muscle mass.
A decline in testosterone is usually associated with aging and occurs in both men and women. It is also interesting to note that statin drugs lower testosterone. Since one in four Americans over age 45 is on statin drugs, it is certainly not uncommon to find low levels of testosterone.
When testosterone remains imbalanced, it can lead to other problems like Alzheimer’s, diabetes and osteoporosis. It is important to find a doctor who specializes in bioidentical hormone therapy. The first thing your doctor should do is check all your current hormone levels. Women should start screening hormone levels at age 35. Men can start later unless symptoms are present.
Your doctor should also screen for cancer. Bioidentical hormones do not cause cancer. In some cases, like I said before, they actually help protect against cancer. However, if the person already has cancer, starting on bioidentical hormones might not be the best course of action.