The Los Angeles Times last week (March 30, 2013) published an article entitled “Hormone therapy risk is upheld.” The subtitle read “Breast cancer is no less deadly in women taking progestin and estrogen, a study says.” The article then goes on to discuss that the risk of cancer because of taking the hormones is real, though if a woman’s menopausal symptoms are severe enough, she might want to take the risk of using them anyway.
There is a big problem with this study that might scare women away from using hormones. The problem is that it studied progestin, not progesterone. Doctors who prescribe bioidentical hormones would never prescribe progestin. Bioidentical means the product is the same chemical formula as we have in our body. Progestin is not bioidentical. Progesterone is the bioidentical form.
Why does this matter? Imagine trying to use your house key if it is similar but not exactly the same to fit into your lock. The key might go part way, you might have to jiggle it, it would not work very well. Now imagine the hormone you are taking is similar but not just like the one in your body. It will not work as well either. Generally, our hormones have hundreds of uses in our body, not just one. Thus, if the replacement is not accurate, then some functions will not be addressed, or worse, might go awry. That is why if someone is going to use hormone replacements, the proper ones to use must be bioidentical.
Perhaps we should not replace the hormones if our body is low in them, you ask? We don’t think twice about a person taking thyroid hormone or insulin if those levels are low. We know how essential they are for healthy functioning. One can take the same attitude towards estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, pregnenolone, and melatonin because supplanting our body’s level may make a huge improvement in how the person feels. Yes, there are herbal remedies and nutrients that can alleviate symptoms. For some people however, nothing diminishes the suffering like the actual hormone. One example is a 55 year old woman who experienced terrible insomnia and hot flashes at night for 3 years. She tried herbs, acupuncture, homeopathy, nutrients. Each might help a little, yet her symptoms continued and she became exhausted. Finally, with the proper combination of hormone replacement to balance her she was able to sleep and her energy and her mood improved giving her, literally, a new lease on life.
What is essential in the prescription of hormones, as with any other medication or “natural” remedy is that the program fit the individual. There is no one dose of bioidentical hormone replacement that is right for everybody. That is why we are fortunate to have compounding pharmacies which can prepare any dose that the doctor and patient agree works best. Do not fear, these pharmacies are under strict guidelines about how they are to operate, just like any other pharmacy.
Finding the right hormone combination for an individual can alleviate even symptoms you would not think are “hormonal” like chronic anxiety, recurrent or chronic depression, irritability, low stamina, cravings for certain foods, excessive sensitivites to chemicals or increased allergies, decreased muscle strength, feeling chilled much of the time, gaining weight without changing your diet, high cholesterol, chronic infections, dry skin, and/or painful joints.
If you are wondering about your hormones, consult a doctor who specializes in the bioidentical hormone replacement therapy in your area.