Whether you are a man or a woman, your hormones govern most of the basic functions of your body. They are like an internal guidance system that allows cells to communicate throughout your body. They are responsible for coordinating everything from growth to your appetite to your digestion, as well as libido, mood, and immune system function. If your hormones are not in the correct balance, it can really take a toll on your overall health and sense of well-being. Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy has helped many people deal with symptoms caused by fluctuating hormone levels.
Hormone replacement therapies have been found to ease symptoms whenever hormones become imbalanced or drop. Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) has become extremely popular recently due to its ability to offer a more natural solution to hormone problems. If you are a woman and are considering BHRT, you will need some solid information about how it differs from other hormone replacement treatments and what is involved in the treatment process, as well as understanding what a hormone imbalance is and how it can affect you.
The Menopause Years
Menopause is the time in your life when you stop having menstrual periods. This period of life is marked when your ovaries cease making estrogen, a sex hormone that governs your menstrual cycle. The occurrence of menopause means that your reproductive years have ended. Women pass through menopause at an average age of 51 years of age.
Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause. Starting in your thirties and forties, your estrogen levels start to fluctuate. Changes in your menstrual cycle are one of the hallmarks of perimenopause. The length of time that you menstruate can grow shorter or longer. You may even skip periods. Your flow amount may grow heavier or lighter. Abnormal bleeding is a warning sign that should prompt you to report this development to a healthcare professional.
Perimenopause: Signs and Symptoms
Some women are fortunate and have no perimenopause symptoms or just a few mild ones. Other women can have severe symptoms that include the following:
* Hot flashes: Hot flashes are a sudden rush of heat to the face and upper body. They can only last a few seconds or a few minutes or longer. You may experience hot flashes only a few times monthly, while others have to deal with them multiple times a day. Night sweats are hot flashes that occur at night. They can interfere with your sleep and make you feel sluggish and tired during the daytime.
* Vaginal and urinary tract impacts: When your levels of estrogen begin to decrease, your vaginal lining may grow thinner, less elastic, and drier. Pain during intercourse may be due to vaginal dryness. You may also experience more frequent vaginal inflections. Your urethra can grow irritated, inflamed, or dry, leading to increased urination and a greater risk of developing a urinary tract infection.
* Sleep difficulties: When you are going through menopause, you may have difficulty falling asleep or may wake up more frequently throughout the night. Your sleep may also be disrupted by night sweats.
Bone Changes After Menopause
It is normal for those who are 35 years or older to lose a small amount of bone mass. However, women lose bone more quickly during the first few years after beginning menopause. This increased rate of bone loss is due to decreased estrogen levels. Osteoporosis can develop when too much bone is lost. This condition will increase your odds of suffering a bone fracture. The bones that are affected most often are the hip, spine, and wrist.
Additional Health Risks
The estrogen that women’s ovaries produce helps to protect them against strokes and heart attacks before menopause. When estrogen levels decline during menopause, much of this protection is lost. Midlife is a time when heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity are more prevalent. Combined, these factors can increase the odds of suffering a heart attack or stroke among menopausal women.
Is Hormonal Testing Needed?
To determine if a woman has the correct amount of hormones, hormone level testing may be necessary. With that being said, since hormone levels can fluctuate by the day, even during the day, certain types of testing cannot provide an accurate reflection of the body’s hormone levels. The right course of action for you will be determined during your initial consultation.
What is Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT)?
Hormones are chemicals produced by your own body. They are messengers made by your glands that signal to other parts of your body how to function. Hormones govern almost every task necessary in your body. This includes brain and sex function, your growth rate, and the metabolism of food. Whenever your hormones are imbalanced, you can develop symptoms.
Bio-identical hormones are synthetically created hormones that mimic those produced by your own body. These types of hormones are used as a form of treatment for both sexes when their natural hormones are out of balance or low. Some bio-identical hormones come in prescription forms that are manufactured by a pharmaceutical company. Others are developed by a pharmacist. This is known as compounding.
The FDA has approved a number of bio-identical hormones that are identical molecularly to hormones produced by the body. Before becoming available to the public, they are thoroughly tested for both purity and safety. Generally speaking, both compounded and FDA-approved hormones are available in a range of doses and methods of delivery, including pills, gels, sprays, creams, and vaginal inserts.
What About Other Treatments?
There are a number of antidepressant medications available for treating hot flashes. Prescription drugs that are used to alleviate hot flashes and deal with sleep difficulties during menopause include an anti-seizure medication called Gabapentin and a blood pressure medication known as clonidine. Painful intercourse caused by vaginal dryness can be alleviated using a class of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) that work by acting on tissues affected by estrogen. As you may know all too well, some people don’t want to take medications.
Of course, there are some plants and herbal supplements that are sometimes used to alleviate menopause symptoms. However, not many of these substances have been thoroughly studied to determine how safe and effective they are. These substances are also unregulated, meaning there is no guarantee that they contain what they claim to, or even contain effective doses. When taking any of these products, be sure to inform your health care provider.
Some over-the-counter products claim to be useful in alleviating symptoms like painful intercourse and vaginal dryness that are symptoms of menopause. They have no effect on the elasticity or thickness of the vagina since they do not actually contain hormones. Vaginal dryness can sometimes be alleviated to some degree using vaginal moisturizers every few days as needed. However, for many women, the use of bio-identical hormones is the option that they desire due to how safe and effective it is.
Traditional Versus Bio-Identical Hormones
Bio-identical hormones differ from traditional hormones due to the fact that they are chemically identical to those produced naturally by the body, being created from natural sources.
Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy Benefits
BHRT is commonly employed for patients who have gotten older and are experiencing dropping hormone levels. It is often used for women who are experiencing menopause or perimenopause. BHRT helps to increase hormone levels that are dropping and alleviate menopause symptoms, including:
* Hot flashes and night sweats
* Mood changes
* Weight gain and sleep issues
* Loss of libido
Besides alleviating symptoms, bio-identical hormone replacement can lower your odds of developing other issues or diseases, such as diabetes, cataracts, and tooth loss. Some studies have found that it can even enhance skin thickness, elasticity, hydration, and reduce lines and wrinkles. However, it all depends on the unique case, as results vary from patient to patient.
Bio-identical hormone replacement has also been found to help those undergoing treatment for cancer that affects their levels of estrogen. It has been shown to enhance their quality of life and general well-being. One study of such patients found that BHRT offered relief from symptoms like incontinence, migraines, insomnia, and low libido among those whose symptoms were caused by their cancer treatment.
BHRT is a therapy designed to replace hormones lost due to the aging process. Consequently, hormone levels rise and symptoms will be alleviated. At your initial consultation, we will go over your treatment options and develop a customized treatment plan based upon your needs and preferences.
The Different Bio-Identical Replacement Types
BHRT is available in a number of forms, including injections, creams, patches, gels, and implanted pellets. We are proud to offer pellet therapy at our office due to the number of benefits it provides. You may need to be regularly monitored after beginning BHRT to assess your response.
When you are on bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, you will be monitored very closely by a qualified medical professional. Typically, we adjust doses based upon your symptoms and needs. The focus of treatment is maintaining the dose at the minimum level needed to achieve your goals. Your dosage may be adjusted based upon your fluctuating hormone needs.
If you are ready to take action to alleviate symptoms of menopause or perimenopause, please reach out to us at New You Bio-Hormones to start the journey of improving the quality of your life with a bio-identical hormone replacement consultation. Our office is located in Kennesaw, and we happily serve men and women throughout the surrounding areas. Contact us today to book an appointment and get started. We look forward to hearing from you!