What Bioidentical Hormone Replacements Are Available?
Bioidentical hormone replacement is often used to relieve the symptoms of menopause. Bioidentical hormones are also being used to treat male menopause, or andropause. As we learn more about human aging—including the natural decline of sex hormones—the use of bioidentical hormone replacement is increasing. Many hormones—not just reproductive hormones—diminish with age, and it is becoming more common to replace those hormones in an attempt to "turn back the clock" and prevent or reverse aging.
Bioidentical hormone replacement to counteract the effects of aging can be as simple as slathering on some progesterone cream daily to deal with the hot flashes of menopause. Or it can be a complex and individualized treatment regimen based on careful monitoring of the levels of several hormones in your blood.
Age Management Therapy
One aspect of age management therapy is bioidentical hormone replacement. Hormone levels are adjusted to bring your hormone levels back to what they were when you were 25 or 30. This involves careful monitoring by a physician, frequent measurements of the levels of hormones so that your bioidentical hormone replacement can be adjusted, and taking creams, shots and pills on a daily basis.
Sex hormones are among the ones that will be replaced. Although we think of estrogen replacement for women and testosterone for men, both men and women normally secrete several sex hormones. Estradiol (the most common form of estrogen), testosterone and progesterone are monitored and replaced in both men and women. Of course, men require more testosterone and women more estrogen, but both are necessary for both sexes.
Human growth hormone is another common bioidentical hormone replacement. The decline in HGH is thought to be responsible for aging. Although HGH-releasing supplements are available, they do not replace HGH. They stimulate your body to increase its own production, but the result is not predictable. In age management therapy, HGH is usually replaced with injections of the hormone.
DHEA is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that diminishes with age. The decline in DHEA production is also thought to be responsible for aging. DHEA is taken as a pill.
Thyroid is not a hormone we think of with aging, but the secretion of thyroid hormones does diminish with age. It is the most commonly prescribed hormone, and is taken by pill.
Melatonin is a hormone that influences normal sleep cycles. We secrete it in response to darkness, and our production of melatonin diminishes with age. Many people believe this is why elderly people often do not sleep well. To return hormone levels to 30-year-old levels, physicians recommend taking a melatonin supplement after about age 50.
In addition to bioidentical hormone replacement, physicians may monitor the levels of insulin and cortisol. Although the production of these hormones do not decline with age, abnormal levels are common. Cortisol is produced in response to stress, and high levels indicate a need for stress reduction or management. Insulin levels (not blood sugar levels) are measured to make sure your body is still able to produce and utilize insulin.
Age management therapy is a relatively new treatment to prevent aging and maintain health as long as possible. Bioidentical hormone replacement is an important element of age management.
What Are the Risks of Bio Identical Hormone Replacement?
Many women have turned to bio identical hormone replacement as an alternative to traditional HRT. Any medical treatment, however, has risks. Bio identical hormone replacement therapy is no exception. Bio identical hormone replacement is a safe and effective treatment for some women, but not for every one. It's important to understand the risks and benefits of any treatment you are considering.
Risks in Manufacture
Because bio identical hormones are identical to natural hormones, they cannot be patented. That means that drug manufacturers have no interest in making them because there is no profit for them in it.
The FDA does not control the manufacture of these hormones, either, and anybody can make them. That means that the quality can be poor. The amount of hormone may not be consistent in the product, there may be foreign substances, or it could even be contaminated with bacteria. You simply do not know.
It is important to choose a reliable manufacturer to supply bio identical hormone replacement products.
Risks of Allergy
Bio identical hormone replacements are manufactured from soy and/or wild yams. Allergies to soy are increasing, and it is one of the five foods people are most likely to be allergic to. Although the hormones made from soy are changed so that they are chemically identical to human hormones, the possibility of an allergic reaction always exists.
Risks of Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy has risks, whether you use bio identical hormone replacement or not. Recent studies indicate that, just like traditional hormones, bio identical hormones can cause or worsen some breast cancers. Some women choose to take bio identical hormones even if they have a history of breast cancer. Suzanne Sommers has become a spokesperson for bio identical hormones, and is very outspoken about her decision to take them after she had breast cancer. This is an individual decision, and you should consider the risks carefully before making it.
Women with a history of blood clots should not take estrogen because it increases the risk of another blood clot, including a fatal clot to the lungs. It is not known if bio identical hormone replacement carries the same risk of blood clots as synthetic hormones, but it probably does. A woman's endogenous estrogen can increase the chance of having a blood clot, so bio identical estrogen probably does, too.
There are other risks of hormone therapy, and we do not know if bio identical hormones are safer than synthetic ones in these areas. Bio identical hormones probably are safer than synthetic ones, but we need more research to determine which women will benefit most from bio identical hormone replacement.