Bioidentical Hormone Replacement:
Bioidentical hormones are derived from plant substances in soybeans and yams. They are an exact replication of human hormones as the chemical structure is the same. When replacing hormones in humans it is important that the chemical structure must exactly match the original so that they can attach to the same receptor on the surfaces of the body’s cells. Synthetic hormones on the other hand are different in structure. Common bioidentical hormones include estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), progesterone, testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).
These hormones can be life changing in the treatment of perimenopause, menopause, and andropause. Hormones start to decline around the age of 40. The first hormone to decline is progesterone. This happens ten years before menopause. During this time, there is a stage of low progesterone to estrogen ratio. This can lead to excessive menstruation (lasting longer than 7 days), insomnia, irritability, migraine headaches, mood swings, weight gain, decreased libido, anxiety, and increased risk of breast cancer. Progesterone replacement in perimenopausal women counteracts the “estrogen dominance” improving all the above symptoms. In the menopausal period, progesterone therapy is needed not only by women who have an intact uterus but also valuable for women who have had a hysterectomy. Synthetic progesterone is called “progestin.” It is dramatically different structurally from natural progesterone, and it has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer and has serious cardiac side effects. It is known to cause fluid retention and increased LDL levels.
The estrogen family is the fountain of youth in women. These hormones play a critical role in maintaining bone, muscle, collagen, increasing metabolic rate, memory retention, energy, mood, libido, and has an overall risk reduction of heart disease by 40 percent. There are three forms of estrogen: estrone (E1) , estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). The postmenopausal stage is dominated by E1, while E2 and E3 decline, leading to increased risk of breast and uterine cancer. Low E2 and E3 levels also lead to hot flashes, dull dry skin and hair, vaginal dryness, and night sweats. Replacement treatment with E2 and E3 is extremely beneficial at this time. This helps decrease fatigue, decrease LDLs, increase HDLs, maintain memory and healthy bones, and maintain the vaginal lining. Oral synthetic estrogens like Premarin contain horse based estrogens which do not fit into the cell receptors in the body. They must be detoxified in the liver. They can lead to an increase in estrone, triglycerides, blood pressure, blood clots, weight gain, and carbohydrate cravings. Estrogen should always be used transdermally as it does not impact liver synthesis of proteins the same way oral estrogen does.
Estrogen and the Brain
Estrogen has many protective functional effects on the brain. It decreases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, improves memory and cognitive function, increases verbal fluency, articulation, mood, and feeling of well being. Studies show that women who take estrogen are more likely to remember names than those that did not receive estrogen supplementation.
Testosterone is made in the adrenal glands and ovaries. As women age, the ovaries produce less testosterone. It is important in improving bone health, decreasing body fat, increasing muscle mass, strength and tone, and maintaining memory. Optimal testosterone levels lead to emotional well-being, self-confidence, and motivation. Intravaginal testosterone treatment is important for libido.