Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Month: July 2011 Page 1 of 2

Hormone replacement therapy. When is it right for you?

Photo - Sally Howard

(Photo credit: Sally Howard)

Feeling off?

Forgetful? Sweaty? Waking up in the middle of the night? Less interested in sex? Increasingly stressed, unfocused or irritable?

Your doctor might suggest you’re in peri or full menopause. Or perhaps you’ve had a complete hysterectomy and she wants you on hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Or, maybe your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are high, a condition that is all too common today in our stressful society, that and adrenal fatigue. Cortisol in small doses as the “fight or flight” hormone alerts you to take action. And, like all hormones it’s just doing its job. But, at chronically high levels, as in the case of constant stress, cortisol can harm your sleep and your health.

Whatever is going on your doctor (or you) may want to test your hormones and a number of other factors. The connection between hormones, neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and our mind and body wellness is intricately complex, but infinitely manageable.

*Click here for a few of my favorite natural hormone balancing products

Here’s my six-prong approach to making decisions about hormone therapy:

1. Track your symptoms. Do this for several months before and and after (if you decide) you start hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Write in a journal how you feel, your symptoms based on time of day, how your symptoms change from day to day, weekly and monthly and how you feel after you eat.

Food is the first and foremost nutraceutical we take in throughout the day, and food affects our mood, hormones, EVERYTHING. Your diligent symptom tracking will provide you and your doctor with some useful patterns and information about what hormones and neurotransmitters might be off balance.  Do you see patterns before your period? After? Sporadically?

2. Test your hormone levels (saliva testing is more accurate for several hormones). Get tested even while you track your symptoms.

3. Consult with an open minded doctor. Preferably find one who specializes in natural hormone and mood balancing. The gift of finding a doctor who listens, respects your symptoms and who understands women’s hormones and brains is beyond priceless.

Much of what I’ve learned is from my hormone balancing doctor, my own decade of research and Dr. John Lee’s books. He’s my guru for bioidentical hormones. (Dr. Braverman is my guru for mood balancing).

*Click here for a few of my favorite natural hormone balancing products

4. If applicable, start hormone therapy (HT). Ask yourself, do I feel increasingly crappy? Do I want to stay this way and accept feeling crappy as par for aging?

You have your answer.

5. Use bioidentical hormones (BH)

6. Use a compounding pharmacist.  Most insurance companies don’t cover BH, however some might reimburse a portion. You may only need progesterone. Many women do not need estrogen replacement. Progesterone often alleviates symptoms of the common “estrogen dominance” which doesn’t mean you have high estrogen (though some women do and this is referred to as “estrogen excess”) it means your progesterone is too low.  However if after balancing your progesterone you are still low in estrogen, BH estrogen is FDA regulated, therefore often covered through your health insurance and/or discount pharmacy plans.

I order my BH estrogen transdermal patches from Canada, Smart Choice Pharmacy. I’ve found their pricing and customer service to be excellent.

*Click here for a few of my favorite natural hormone balancing products

Whether you opt in or out of HRT, at least stay open to the possibility.

Read between the hormone news scare lines, don’t react against HRT until you understand the researching findings, until you understand the difference between synthetic and bioidentical hormones, until you talk to an experienced physician who understands natural hormone balancing and who keeps up with the latest research on both sides, conventional and natural hormone HRT.

 

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Considering Bioidentical Hormone Replacement? Consider a Compounding Pharmacist.

hormones,bioidentical hormone replacement, compounding pharmacist, hormone replacement, progesterone, testosterone, estrogen, vivelle-dot, climara

Consider using a compounding pharmacist for bioidentical hormones

(Photo credit: Renjith Krishnan’s)

Have you talked to your doctor because you think you might be in peri or full menopause?

Are you feeling off, forgetful, sweaty? Are you waking up in the middle of the night, increasingly anxious, unfocused, irritable and have little sex drive? Perhaps you’ve had a complete hysterectomy and your doctor wants you on hormone replacement therapy.

The first step is to measure your hormones. Saliva testing is preferable to serum blood tests, in some instances. 

(Click image for hormone testing kit)

Click for list of ZRT Labs hormone tests)

And, if based on your test results you decide to start hormone replacement therapy (HRT), consider bioidentical HRT over conventional, synthetic forms. It’s important to get your bioidentical hormones (BH) from a reputable pharmacy who dispenses with a prescription from your doctor. (Ask your doctor what your state requires as this varies).

Find a compounding pharmacist nearest you.

While over the counter (OTC) progesterone creams are available, I don’t recommend these because of the potential for inconsistency in the active compounds and dosing.  Dr. Lee however, the HRT guru I follow, recommends a few OTC formulas in his book.

(click image for more information)

One  of Dr. Lee’s OTC progesterone cream recommendations is Emerita. Yet, I order my progesterone and testosterone from a local compounding pharmacy. I mail or fax the pharmacy my Ob & Gyn ordered prescription and the staff fills my script through the mail upon request.

So what exactly is a compounding pharmacy?

Writes Wikipedia:

Compounding pharmacies use commercially-available bulk drugs to create new formulations which differ (in form or dosage) from those manufactured on a large scale by pharmaceutical companies.

Custom-compounded BHRT is (bioidentical hormone replacement therapy) almost wholly restricted to the United States, where pharmacy compounding is governed at the state level while the FDA has regulatory authority over the compounded product. Some internet-based compounding pharmacies understate harm and claim benefits of compounded BHRT beyond what can be proven by evidence-based medicine, and many of their claims exceed those made by other, more mainstream, BHT practitioners.

Find a compounding pharmacist nearest you.

In the United States, compounding pharmacies are licensed and regulated by their respective state like all other pharmacies. National standards have been created by Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board (PCAB). Compounding pharmacies were the subject of the United States Supreme Court decision Thompson v. Western States Medical Center (535 U.S. 357, 2002).

I pay a small extra fee to have my compounding pharmacy dispense my creams in a dose-monitored pump to ensure I easily apply the exact amount of progesterone and testosterone cream my doctor prescribed. (Note: Testosterone is a controlled substance and is not available over the counter).

Syringes with tick measurements on the side are often given to customers. These work fine and usually don’t cost more.

Verify your pharmacy and the pharmacist is legitimate. I won’t mention the name, but a certain pharmacy in our area was charged (okay the pharmacists were, not the local chain) for dispensing steroids in and out of state, without a prescription.

Find a compounding pharmacy nearest you.

Before I bought my prescription from the pharmacy I now use I met with the doctor on staff (a former Ob & Gyn who specialized in hormone and brain balancing) and the compounding pharmacist.

I order my bioidentical estrogen patches, Vivelle-dot (I used to use Climara but the bi-weekly Vivelle is offers a more continuous delivery of the active ingredient because you change the patch twice a week) from a Canadian Pharmacy. Because Vivelle is not a compounded substance, it IS FDA approved. I order mine from a verified Canadian pharmacy.

Will insurance cover bioidentical hormones?

Many insurance companies don’t cover compounded medications, it’s important to ask if they pay some, all or none of the cost. Some insurance plans will cover bioidentical estrogen patches (e.g. Climara, Vivelle-dot) because these biodientical estrogen patches are regulated by the FDA.

I have a health savings plan and pay out of pocket, so I price my hormones all the time.  For years I’ve found that even if my estrogen patches were covered under my insurance, it was (usually) less expensive to order them out of pocket from my Canadian pharmacy, even after including the shipping charges.

I use Smart Choice Pharmacy and have been nothing but pleased over the years. Their customer service is polite, efficient and prompt.

Hormone replacement therapy decision checklist:

  1. Track symptoms for several months before and after starting HRT
  2. Get tested (saliva preferable in many cases)
  3. Consult with open minded doctor who understands or specializes in women’s medicine, natural hormone and mood balancing.
  4. Start hormone therapy if applicable. Monitor your symptoms over time, realizing that your body may feel worse the first week or two before you feel better as you adjust ot the hormones.
  5. Use bioidentical hormones, BHRT (my preference), using the least amount to achieve desired results (reduced or no symptoms).
  6. Use a compounding pharmacist for your BHRT creams and compare your health insurance and pharmacy plans for bioidentical estrogen patches if applicable. Many women find they don’t need estrogen HRT, only progesterone.

Obtaining your BHRT creams from a compounding pharmacist rather than over the counter increases the likelihood that the progesterone and/or testosterone cream you use is formulated to the dosing and purity your doctor prescribed, which is critical to relieving your menopausal symptoms.

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Calcium and Vitamin D Synthesis Involved in PMS & PMDD Symptoms

Research suggests there’s a link between premenstrual dysphoric disorder and how some women synthesize estrogen, vitamin D and calcium during menses.

While 30% of women suffer from PMS each month, up to 8% suffer from a more extreme form, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Although the exact cause is still largely unknown, research suggests an increase in estrogen with changes in subsequent vitamin D and calcium synthesis may be involved.

PMDD Emotional Symptoms More Severe Than PMS

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is an extreme form of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) with monthly symptoms that can be severe, even disabling for some women.

While PMS and PMDD both manifest with physical and emotional symptoms, PMDD causes more extreme mood shifts in women that can interfere with their work and relationships. PMDD symptoms occur during the luteal phase (latter part) of the menstrual cycle and are virtually non-existent during the follicular phase.

PMDD disappears at menopause, remits during pregnancy, and improves with ovarian hormone suppression therapy. In both PMS and PMDD, women experience symptoms in the last week of the menstrual cycle which generally improve a few days after menstruation begins.

PMDD and PMS both share symptoms of bloating, breast tenderness, fatigue, and changes in sleep and eating habits, but women with PMDD often experience a combination of the following emotional and behavioral symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of being “keyed up” or “on edge”
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Persistent irritability
  • Marked anger

While the exact cause is unclear, research has shown a link between calcium deficiency and mood abnormalities which suggest PMDD may be linked to extreme fluctuations in calcium-regulating hormones in some women during their menstrual cycle.

Calcium Improves PMS & PMDD Symptoms

In a 2007 study on calcium and PMDD, lead author Susan Thys-Jacobs writes, “women with PMS were shown to have exaggerated fluctuations of the calcium regulating hormone across the menstrual cycle with evidence of vitamin D deficiency and secondary hyperparathyroidism.”

(flickr,photo credit)

Thys-Jacobs’ research team investigated calcium’s role in PMS and PMDD based on earlier evidence linking mood disturbances and calcium metabolism. “On the basis of previous studies linking abnormalities in mood,” writes the author, “this investigation has now found that the pattern of cyclical fluctuations in the calcium-regulating hormones, specifically ionized calcium, urine calcium, and 1,25 (OH)2D (vitamin D) differs between women with PMDD and those without.”

Although there’s still no consensus among scientists the degree to which calcium-regulating hormones vary in women with PMDD, the 2007 study indicated that serum calcium declines at three points during a woman’s cycle: at menses, at mid-cycle, and during the late luteal half of her menses.Vitamin D Synthesis Involved in PMDD Symptoms

The research team found that although women with and without PMDD symptoms were low in vitamin D, women with PMDD metabolized vitamin D differently during their menstrual cycle than women without PMDD. Asymptomatic women had more access to stored calcium in their body during their menstrual cycle than women with symptoms. Researchers believe vitamin D plays a role in regulating the level of calcium released during the menstrual cycle.

Estrogen is likely involved as well. Estradiol, a component of estrogen, peaks during the ovulatory and luteal phase of menstruation to regulate vitamin D metabolism and to help prevent bone loss by keeping bone from being reabsorbed. When estrogen inhibits calcium from being released from bone, it lowers serum calcium which leads to a rise in the parathyroid hormone, triggering an increase in 1,25(OH) 2,D synthesis. Elevated 1,25(OH) 2,D may contribute to vitamin D and calcium deficiency, and subsequently cause PMDD symptoms.

While the exact cause of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is still unknown, a growing body of evidence suggests there may be a link between elevated estrogen levels and how vitamin D and calcium are metabolized in some women during their menstrual cycle.Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

Footnotes:

  • Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Bendich A, Johnson SR, Willett WC, Manson JE. “Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome.” Archives of Internal Medicine, June 13, 2005.
  • Khajehei M, Abdali K, Parsanezhad ME, Tabatabaee HR. “Effect of treatment with dydrogesterone or calcium plus vitamin D on the severity of premenstrual syndrome.” International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, May 2009.
  • Thys-Jacobs S, McMahon D, Bilezikian JP. “Cyclical changes in calcium metabolism across the menstrual cycle in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, May 2007.
Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
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PMS Symptoms May Improve With Tulsi, Ancient Revered Indian Herb Lowers Cortisol

holy basil, pms, pmdd, herbs for pms

Holy basil may reduce symptoms of PMS, PMDD

While millions of women suffer with a long list of premenstrual symptoms each month, a number of natural solutions are available to reduce symptoms. Tulsi an ancient and revered herb, has adaptogenic qualities that can lower cortisol levels in the body and in turn, may alleviate some of the emotional stress associated with PMS.

The Centers for Disease Control’s National Women’s Health Information Center cites that 30-40% of women experience some impairment of their daily activity due to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), 75% experience at least some symptoms, and 3-8% have severe premenstrual symptoms, a condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Yet the exact cause of PMS and PMDD, and therefore most effective treatments, remain elusive, largely due to the variability of underlying triggers across women. Writes Dr. Tori Hudson, a naturopathic physician, on her website: “It is difficult to identify the cause in a condition that overlaps so broadly with normal physiology, affects so many, and has such a wide array of symptoms. Many theories have been explored and none found completely satisfying. Most likely this is because it is such a complex interaction of factors both physiologic and social.”PMS symptoms vary according across women and can change in severity each month, generally however, women experience some combination of physical and emotional changes including, according to WebMd:

Physical:

  • Acne
  • Bloating and tender breasts
  • Food cravings
  • Lack of energy
  • Cramps
  • Headaches
  • Low back pain

Emotional and Cognitive:

  • Feel sad, angry, or anxious
  • Be less alert
  • Find it hard to focus on tasks
  • Want to withdraw from family and friends
  • Act in a forceful or hostile way.

A number of factors are thought to contribute to PMS and PMDD such as inadequate vitamin B6, calcium, or magnesium intake, lack of exercise, too much caffeine, hormonal changes that contribute to the symptoms of estrogen dominance, and neurotransmitter imbalances such as a drop in serotonin levels. Stress can also exacerbate symptoms. The underlying relationship of stress to PMS, while still not entirely understood, is likely related to differences in the stress-regulation feedback system in women as they enter their cycle.

Click here for PMS and PMDD products

Click here for holy basil products.

Click here for products to lower cortisol, support adrenal health

Premenstrual Syndrome and the Cortisol ConnectionCortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone,” is produced and secreted by the adrenal glands. In excess cortisol has been linked to abdominal obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and an inflammation state in the body, the cause of numerous diseases. Cortisol increases in response to chronic stress, triggering the body to make glucose from amino acids which causes blood sugar to rise. Cortisol is primarily released in response to feelings of fear, danger or even a sense of competition.

As with any hormone, when cortisol is left to do its job and kept in balance, it isn’t harmful to health. Emma Adam, Northwestern University assistant professor of Education and Social Policy, explains cortisol’s role in the body, “Cortisol helps us respond to stressful experiences and to do something about them,” she said. “It is necessary for survival — fluctuations in this hormone assist us in meeting the changing demands we face in our daily lives.” A stress-cortisol-activated body that never comes back into balance however, is at risk for health problems.

Click here for PMS and PMDD products

Click here for holy basil products.

Click here for products to lower cortisol, support adrenal health

Cortisol works within its own circadian rhythm with levels increasing before people wake up in the morning so their body can prepare for the stresses of the day. Levels generally drop during various times of the day and evening hours, yet if cortisol remains high or surges at night, the disruption to the circadian rhythm can lead to insomnia or early waking. Lack of sleep alone can exacerbate symptoms of PMS, yet physical or emotional stress produces higher than normal levels of cortisol, which can make some premenstrual symptoms worse.

Dr. John R Lee M.D, writes in his book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Premenopause, [Warner Books, 1999], the way in which cortisol, stress and hormones contribute to PMS, “Since cortisol and progesterone compete for common receptors in the cells, cortisol impairs progesterone activity, setting the stage for estrogen dominance. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can be a direct cause of estrogen dominance, with all the familiar PMS symptoms,” writes Lee.PMS and Cortisol: The Blood Sugar, Food Cravings and Weight Gain Cycle

High cortisol also levels affect blood sugar, sending glucose into the cells, a process that may partially explain the common food cravings many women experience during PMS. The initial flood of glucose may at first feel good, but a half hour later or so the body has to work overtime to produce more glucose.

The result? High cortisol promotes cravings, pushing people to grab candy bars, cookies and potato chips in an attempt to get their blood sugar (glucose) and energy back up. The vicious cycle continues with the long term affect of eating empty calories, negatively affecting mood and packing on the pounds, explains Lee.

The fluctuations in blood sugar also prompts another type of negative feedback cycle. High blood sugar stimulates the release of adrenaline, which in turn stimulates the release of cortisol which stimulates cravings for quick calories, and so, the cycle continues.

Tulsi Lowers Cortisol Levels, May Improve PMS Emotional Symptoms

(Flickr, photo credit)

In a 1998 study Boston researchers studied women with varied intensity of premenstrual symptoms in relation to their cortisol output. Results showed that during the follicular and luteal phases (the latter is the day after ovulation that runs through the remainder of a woman’s cycle); women experienced statistically significant differences in symptom severity.

Researchers also found that during the luteal phase (but not the follicular) there was a difference in cortisol output among the women. The authors of the study suggest that during the phases of the monthly menstrual cycle some women experience changes in the stress regulation-feedback system in relation to their cortisol output.

Reducing cortisol levels may help reduce premenstrual symptoms in some women, and Tulsi or Holy Basil, a highly honored herb in India with numerous medicinal properties, can decrease cortisol output.

Click here for PMS and PMDD products, books, vitamins

Click here for holy basil products. New Chapter is excellent so is Gaia, Enzymatic Therapy & Nature’s Way.

Click here for products to lower cortisol, support healthy adrenal health

Tulsi assists in maintaining equilibrium by modulating several biochemicals associated with stress responses, including cortisol, serotonin, epinephrine, norepinehprhine, dopamine, and inflammatory mediators.

Sacred in the Hindu religion, Holy Basil, or Tulsi, (sometimes spelled Tulasi) can be found growing profusely around temples. As a principal herb of Ayurveda, the ancient traditional holistic health system of India, Holy Basil’s medicinal properties are: anabolic, hypoglycemic, smooth muscle relaxant, cardiac depressant, antifertility, adaptogenic, immunomodulator, antioxidant, hepatoprotective (liver protecting) and gastrointestinal protective.

Certain herbs have the ability to improve the body’s resistance to stress, a process referred to as a State of Non-specific Increased Resistance (SNIR). SNIR was proposed by N.V. Lazarev in 1958, and the herbs and tonics that evoked SNIR were named “Adaptogens” or “Athenktotropics.” Adaptogens help the body adapt to stressors or cause adaptive reactions by increasing the defensive power of an organism. Adaptogens support the body’s systemic response to stress and can increase stamina.

Holy Basil Dosing and Safety

(Flickr, photo credit)

Holy Basil can be ingested as a supplement, herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf, or mixed with ghee, a Southeast Asian clarified butter.

The appropriate dose depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. According to WebMd.com there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for holy basil. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Click here for PMS and PMDD products

Click here for holy basil products.

Click here for products to lower cortisol, support adrenal health

While the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome are complex and often tied to a variety of interrelated physical, emotional and social conditions, the ancient and revered herb Tulsi, or Holy Basil, may be effective to lower cortisol levels, the stress hormone known to exacerbate PMS symptoms in some women.

Sources

  • Cahill, CA., “Differences in cortisol, a stress hormone, in women with turmoil-type premenstrual symptoms.” Nursing Research, 1998 Sep-Oct;47(5):278-84.
  • Khanna, N. “Antinociceptive action of Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi) in mice: possible mechanisms involved.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. October 2003.
  • Lazarev, N. V., Farmacology Toxicology. (1958): 21, 81. Quoted from Ref. No.4.
  • Mondal S, Mirdha BR, Mahapatra SC. “The science behind sacredness of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn.). “ Indian Journal of Physiology Pharmacology. Oct-Dec 2009.
  • Prakash P, Gupta N. “Therapeutic uses of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) with a note on eugenol and its pharmacological actions: a short review.” Indian Journal of Physiology Pharmacology. April 2005.
  • Singh, N., Nath, R., Mishra, N. and Kohli, R.P. “An Experimental Evaluation of Anti-stress Effects of Geriforte (An Ayurvedic Drug).” Quarterly Journal of Crude Drug Research. 1978.
  • Singh, N., Hoette, Y., and Miller, Ralph, “Tulsi: The Mother Medicine of Nature.” International Institute of Herbal Medicine (Lucknow, India). 2002.
  • Shinrigaku, Kenkyu “Influences of premenstrual syndrome on daily psychological states and salivary cortisol level.” 2005 Dec;76(5):426-35.
  • Vaughan Tremmel, Pat. “Day-to-day experience-cortisol dynamics.” Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University. November 15, 2010. Web.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
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Hormone Fears Cloud Benefits of Bioidentical Hormone Therapy over Conventional

Photo - Sally Howard
    (Photo credit: Sally Howard)
For women who need hormone replacement, bioidentical hormones can offer a safe alternative to synthetic estrogen and progesterone.

Traditional hormone replacement therapy has become the standard protocol for women as they approach menopause or for women who have a total hysterectomy. Yet not every peri or full menopausal woman has low estrogen, progesterone or suffers from hormone deficiency symptoms. Prescribing hormones to women who don’t need them may elevate their levels and produce unwanted side effects.

Click here for a few of my favorite natural hormone balancing products  

Yet for women who do experience the symptoms of estrogen deficiency or estrogen dominance (due to low progesterone) bioidentical hormone or natural hormone replacement is a safer alternative to synthetic.

The Controversy Over Hormone Replacement

Hormone replacement therapy became controversial after a report suggested there was a link between breast cancer and estrogen. In July 2003 The Women’s Health Initiative, the largest government study on synthetic hormones, was halted when early results showed that women using conventional hormone replacement (specifically PremPro), had a much higher risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Women began to weigh the risks of using HRT against learning to live with the unpleasant symptoms of menopause

Yet critics of that study point out that the WHI study was NOT representative of women in their 40’s and 50’s, women who were likely in the early years of peri or full menopause. In fact the average age of the women involved in the study was 63 with an average time into menopause of 12 years.

Controversy exists over bioidentical hormones (BH).

But because I worked with a natural hormone mood balancing doctor who understood BH, my Ob & Gyn writes the prescriptions, adjusting my dosing after we consult about my symptoms, and I get my prescription through a reputable compounding pharmacy I have zero concern about BH, but grave concerns about synthetic BH. 

I’ve been using BH for several years.

Suzanne Somers has been the bioidentical hormone poster child, and while she may or may not use levels higher than some, her message is still the same: do what works for you.

The key is to get tested, track your symptoms, and re-test. IMO, and Dr. Lee’s, replace only to levels that alleviate or eliminate your symptoms, no higher. As you age, your requirements change. But don’t accept feeling crappy as “the way it is when you age” or “what menopause feels like.”

Don’t be afraid of hormones, be afraid of not doing your hormone homework  and of accepting that feeling crappy is part of aging.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for a few of my favorite natural hormone balancing products

I’ve greatly benefited by getting off 20 years of synthetic HRT (I had to be on HRT since age 19 due to my pituitary disorder, empty sella syndrome). Those prescriptions had levels of estrogen far higher than my body required, not to mention that bioidentical and synthetic hormones in most regards, act quite differently in your body.

Natural Hormone Replacement vs. Conventional

Although traditional hormone replacement has been shown to be safe in women entering peri or full menopause, synthetic hormones are radically different than bioidentical or natural hormones in how the body synthesizes them.

So what is bioidentical? Hormones are deemed  bioidentical if they are exact duplicates of what your body makes.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for a few of my favorite natural hormone balancing products

Advantages of Bioidentical HormonesFirst, bioidentical hormones such as estrogens, progesterone and testosterone are administered transdermally, via a patch or cream and in much lower doses than oral estrogens. Transdermal delivery methods avoid the “first pass metabolism” by the liver that occurs with oral dosing.

Second, bioidenticals mimic what your own body naturally produces.

Dr. John Lee, a pioneer in women’s health and author of “Hormone Balance Made Simple” is an advocate of bioidenticals for hormone replacement therapy, explains, “Hormones do very complex and specific jobs in the body by fitting into part of your cells called receptors, much the same way that a key fits into a lock. Once the hormone is in the receptor, it gives the cell instructions. If the molecular structure is different, even by ONE atom, the instructions given to the cell are different.”

So, comparing synthetic hormones to bioidenticals is like comparing processed white bread to all natural unprocessed multi-grain. Both share similar properties but once consumed their by-products and how the body uses them can be very different.

Flaws With Conventional Hormone Replacement Therapy

1. Doctor’s often don’t measure hormone levels prior to starting conventional hormone replacement therapy.

2. Synthetic hormones, because they are not duplicates of what the body makes on it’s own, often produce unwanted side effects.

3. The dosing level of synthetic hormones isn’t physiologic, the level your body would naturally produce on it’s own. Instead, the synthetic dose is usually much higher than what is necessary for the body to produce a desirable effect.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for a few of my favorite natural hormone balancing products

Dr. Lee’s “3 Rules For Hormone Replacement”1. Use hormones only if you need them (e.g. if they are measurably low and/or you have clear symptoms)

2. Use bioidentical hormones rather than synthetic hormones

3. Use the least amount required to reduce or eliminate symptoms.

Work with Open-Minded Expert in Hormone Replacement Therapy

It’s best to consult with your Ob/Gyn or a specialist in hormone balancing with a background in endocrinology and/or gynecology. Be sure to find a physician who listens to your symptoms, is open-minded and is knowledgeable in both synthetic and natural / bio-identical hormone replacement.

They should be well-informed regarding the latest research findings. Unfortunately, hormone replacement therapy has become a profitable industry for doctors practicing in fields completely unrelated to female endocrinology. Buyer beware.

Hormone replacement has become quite common place but in reality it is a complex and specialized field. In the hands of a trained professional who understands the intricacies of a woman’s endocrine system (and more notably, the benefits of bioidentical hormones), hormone replacement therapy is safe and effective for many women.

Most doctors prescribe bioidentical hormones via transdermal delivery systems such as patches, creams, gels and sublingual (under the tongue). Some physicians however, offer hormone pellet therapy, a process of inserting concentrated pellets under the skin to provide continuous delivery of bioidentical estrogen or testosterone. Although pellets offer patients some advantages, once inserted they cannot be easily removed unlike transdermal methods.

If you’re experiencing cyclical or on-going symptoms of menopause or a hormone imbalance, ask your doctor about getting a saliva test which for some hormones is more accurate than blood. Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Armed with accurate information and a doctor knowledgeable in bioidentical hormones, hormone replacement therapy can alleviate a number of hormone imbalance symptoms, safely and with minimal or no side-effects.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for a few of my favorite natural hormone balancing products

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Hormone Testing – Saliva or Blood? Depends.

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Saliva test more accurate to measure certain hormone levels

Photo credit: Ambro

Head to your doctor because you’ve been feeling off, forgetful, sweaty, waking up in the middle of the night, increasingly stressed, unfocused, irritable and she might tell you you’re in peri or in full menopause. Or perhaps you’ve had a complete hysterectomy and your doctor wants you on hormone replacement therapy.

Or, maybe your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are way off the charts, a condition that is all too common today, that and adrenal fatigue.  Cortisol in small doses as the fight or flight reactive hormone alerts you to take action. And, like all hormones it’s just doing its proper job. But, at chronically high levels, as in the case of chronic stress, cortisol can harm your sleep and your health.

Whatever is going on your doctor (or you) may want to test your hormones along with a number of other factors.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer

How? Likely via a blood test. Yet, while not invalid, conventional blood serum tests are not as accurate as saliva to measure certain hormones.

Saliva testing

According to ZRT labs:

When the various glands manufacture the steroids they are released into the bloodstream bound to carrier proteins. Only a small fraction (1-5%) of a given amount of steroid hormone breaks loose from the carrier protein in the bloodstream and is free to enter target tissues.

This free or unbound hormone is what we want to measure, since it is active or bioavailable to the target tissues such as the breast, uterus, brain, and skin. Many studies in the scientific literature have shown that there is a strong correlation between the levels of steroid hormones in saliva and the bioavailable (free) levels of steroids in the bloodstream.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer

ZRT labs also offers at home blood spot testing which is convenient and at times less costly than the blood serum tests your doctor orders.

Blood spot testing

The development and application of blood spot testing allows monitoring of hormone levels, cardiometabolic markers and Vitamin D.  The convenient collection of blood from a tiny nick of the finger, allows for flexibility of testing at the right time of day, month or following hormone therapy.  Blood Spot testing provides results on par with those from serum tests but without the cost and inconvenience of conventional blood draws, making it beneficial for both patient and practitioner.

ZRT labs offers saliva, blood spot and combo tests. This ZRT labs chart compares which tests are done in saliva and/or blood spot.

Hormone or Analyte Saliva Blood Spot
Estradiol (E2) Checkmark Checkmark
Progesterone (Pg) Checkmark Checkmark
Testosterone, free Checkmark
Testosterone, total Checkmark
DHEA-S (DS) Checkmark Checkmark
Cortisol, AM (C1) Checkmark Checkmark
Cortisol, Diurnal (C1, C2, C3, C4) Checkmark
Estriol (E3) Checkmark
Estrone (E1) Checkmark
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) Checkmark
Luteinizing Hormone (LH) Checkmark
Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1) Checkmark
Insulin, fasting Checkmark
Triglycerides (TG) Checkmark
Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) Checkmark
High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) Checkmark
Total Cholesterol (CH) Checkmark
LDL Cholesterol Checkmark
HDL Cholesterol Checkmark
VLDL Cholesterol Checkmark
Prostate specific antigen (PSA) Checkmark
Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) Checkmark
Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO) Checkmark
Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) Checkmark
Triiodothyronine (T3), free Checkmark
Thyroxine (T4), free Checkmark
25-hydroxy vitamin D2 Checkmark
25-hydroxy vitamin D3 Checkmark

So, you have choices depending on what you want to measure:

  1. Go to your doctor. Doc orders standard blood to test hormones, etc, (ideal for measuring cholesterol, vitamin D etc, but not all hormones as you can see from above).
  2. Depending on what you want to test, you can order your own saliva and/or blood spot test from ZRT labs either directly or through a provider (depends on what is cheaper, if your insurance covers the labs if ordered by a doctor or you buy the kit directly and bring the results to your doctor).

But, if you want saliva and/or blood spot testing and your doctor won’t order them for you, take all this into your own hands.

Order your own from ZRT, bring the results to her, or ideally to a physician who understands saliva testing and will discuss options to re-balance your hormones, cholesterol and/or vitamin D levels.

 

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The Truth About Progesterone For HRT – Bioidentical Progesterone Isn’t The Same As Synthetic Progestin.

Photo - Sally Howard

Photo - Sally Howard

 

The term progesterone has been used to describe the synthetic progestins found in birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, progesterone is not the same as progestin.

Your body knows the answer.

Conventional hormones are synthetic forms of hormones, they’re molecularly altered and as a result they don’t react in the body like your own hormones or their near identical twin,  bioidentical hormones.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

What Is Natural Progesterone?

True progesterone is a steroid hormone made by your ovaries when you ovulate in the middle of your menstrual cycle. A small amount is also made by your adrenal glands and nerve cells. Progesterone is manufactured in the body from a steroid hormone called pregnenolone and it is a pre-cursor to most other steroid hormones.

While estrogen seems to get all the glory and most of the controversy, progesterone deserves some attention.

Progesterone’s most important role is to balance or oppose the effects of estrogen. Most doctors no longer prescribe an estrogen-only oral contraception or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) due to the dangers of estrogen dominance in the body. Progesterone also stimulates bone building and helps protect against osteoporosis (while estrogen helps maintain bone density).

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Differences Between Natural Progesterone and Synthetic

In order for a hormone to be considered true progesterone it must either:

  • Naturally occur in the body
  • Be bioidentical

Bioidentical simply means the hormone is created in a laboratory to be an exact duplicate of what your body makes. The progesterone used for natural hormone replacement therapy (natural HRT is not the same as bioidentical HRT although bioidentical is often lumped under the term natural HRT) is often derived from plant fats and oils, usually a substance called diosgenin extracted from a wild yam that grows in Mexico, or from soybeans.The other human steroid hormones including estrogen, testosterone, and the cortisones, nearly always come from synthesized diosgenin.

The combination birth control pill or conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have progestin, which is not progesterone. Provera is one of the most commonly used progestins for HRT.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Two Reasons to Consider Natural Progesterone for HRT

  1. Safety. Consider this: In the 3rd trimester of pregnancy the placenta produces huge amounts, 300-400 mg, of progesterone daily without any risk to the developing baby. Yet even a fraction of that amount of progestin could cause birth defects. The list of side effects and warnings from progestin or “medroxyprogesterone acetate” is eye-opening.
  2. Cost. Synthetic hormones like progestin, or Provera, are not naturally occurring in your body. Drug companies purposely make these medications different so they can patent them. This allows the drug company to sell the medications exclusively for years (until the patent runs out) and therefore charge more money because they have no competition. While natural substances like bioidentical progesterone, cannot be patented so they are less expensive to you.

If you’re considering starting HRT and are concerned about the effectiveness and safety of conventional vs natural or bioidentical hormones,Dr. John Lee, a pioneer in natural women’s health and author of Hormone Balance Made Simple suggests women consider this point first, “Synthetic hormones are not necessarily made, sold, and prescribed because they work better than natural hormones, but because natural hormones can’t be patented.”

Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer

Risks of Progesterone

The key to effective HRT is to use just the amount you need to alleviate or eliminate symptoms, no more, no less. This fine balancing can take time and require you track your symptoms, adjusting levels as necessary (with the help of a physician who understands natural and bioidentical HRT).

Natural progesterone has few risks or side effects. Initially as your body adjusts or if you use progesterone in excess, the following side effects may occur:

  • Sleepiness/lethargy
  • Edema (water retention)
  • Candida (yeast)
  • Bloating
  • Lowered libido
  • Mild depression
  • Exacerbates symptoms of estrogen deficiency

Most health care professionals prescribe between 10-40mg daily, once or twice a day for 15-25 days of the month. The number of days and dose depends on if you are ovulating, had your ovaries removed or are in peri or full menopause.

In some cases, patients have been prescribed as much as 100 mg per day which is in gross excess. In addition, some doctors prescribe a transdermal patch (on the skin) that includes other bioidentical hormones (estrogen or testosterone). Transdermal patches should include only individual hormones to allow you to regulate the dose and accurately monitor symptoms.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Be Sure to Get the Real Deal

Ideally you’ll want to buy your progesterone from a compounding pharmacist who will ensure you receive the proper quality and concentration of the hormone through a measured pump container or transdermal patch.

If you do buy progesterone cream at a health or drug store, check to see the amount listed on the label. Be wary of brands that claim to have wild yam but don’t, or have very small amounts of progesterone. If the label doesn’t list the exact amount of progesterone you have no way of knowing what you’re getting unless you call the company. Verify the amount (and the company’s credibility) before you use any progesterone cream.

Be sure to get your hormone levels checked begin any HRT program. A saliva test is ideal for to measure some hormones. If you’re considering bioidentical HRT be sure to consult with a reputable doctor who has vast experience in both conventional and natural hormone replacement therapy.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

 

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How Safe Is Hormone Replacement Therapy? Bioidentical or Conventional?

Photo - Sally Howard

Photo: Sally Howard

After a large hormone study scared women, many now unnecessarily avoid hormone replacement and suffer from menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and poor sleep.

Flip through any newspaper and you might read another alarming article about the dangers of hormone replacement therapy. Dig a little deeper however, to reveal fact vs. fiction.

The uproar began in July 2003 when the The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) during the largest government study on synthetic hormones ever conducted, halted their research after early results indicated that women using conventional hormone replacement therapy (specifically PremPro), had a much higher risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Click here for hormone testing kits
Click here for progesterone testing kit
Click here for testosterone testing kit
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer
Click here for DHEA products.

Largest Hormone Replacement Study Criticized

Critics of the study point out that the WHI study wasn’t representative of women in their 40’s and 50’s, women who were likely in the early years of peri or full menopause. In fact the average age of the women involved in the study was 63 with an average time into menopause of 12 years, and therefore more likely to have other risks related to breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Estrogen plays an important role in your body. It’s responsible for puberty changes in girls such as menstruation, and the development of breasts and hips. In adult women estrogen contributes to the softness of the skin and to vaginal lubrication, it helps maintain bone density, and plays a crucial role in brain function. In men, estrogen serves to assist the function of testosterone and can also influence bone density and cognitive functioning.

Estrogen however, is a double-edged sword hormone. Too much of it without the balancing effects of its bedfellow progesterone, or the wrong kind of estrogen, and it can indeed, be harmful.

When Estrogen Can Be Dangerous

Dr. John Lee, pioneer in natural women’s health and author of “Hormone Balance Made Simple,” coined the phrase “estrogen dominance” to describe what happens when the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is changed by excess estrogen or inadequate progesterone .

Ten to fifteen years before menopause, a woman may actually produce enough estrogen, but not make enough progesterone, which puts her into estrogen dominance. Over a long period of time too much estrogen may put her health in danger.

Estrogen dominance is known to cause and/or contribute to:

  • Cancer of the breast, ovary, endometrium and prostate (men).
  • PMS, mood changes, anxiety, irritability
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings
  • Tender breasts
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibrocystic breasts.

**Dr. Lee advises women to use bioidentical hormones. Synthetic estrogen and progesterone hormones hormones like PremPro (combines Premarin and Provera) do not act the same in your body as bioidentical and can cause unwanted side effects or risks.

Click here for hormone testing kits
Click here for progesterone testing kit
Click here for testosterone testing kit
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer
Click here for DHEA products.

Substances that Mimic Estrogen

In addition to estrogen dominance, there is a growing concern regarding Xenoestrogens, substances that have estrogen-like and potentially detrimental affects in the body. These are found in most pesticides, plastics, acetones (e.g. nail polish remover) and in industrial pollutants such as PCBs. They can be very potent and toxic, and unlike natural hormones they don’t efficiently clear from the body.  As a result, xenoestrogens tend to accumulate in the tissue over time. Even coffee can increase estrogen in the body.

Deciding If Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Right For You

Your decision regarding hormone replacement therapy should be based on clear and accurate research information, your age, health history, lifestyle, menopausal symptoms, and your individual concerns.

  • Read Between the Research Lines. Don’t let the WHI study scare you away from considering HRT if you’re suffering from peri or menopausal symptoms. Discuss the implications of the WHI results with your doctor.
  • Get Hormone Levels Checked. If you do decide to try hormone replacement therapy,measure your hormone levels first (saliva tests are more accurate than blood).Click here for hormone testing kits.
  • Only Consult with Experts. Only consult with a physician who is extensively trained in natural and conventional hormone replacement therapy (preferably an Ob & Gyn or endocrinologist), and who is up to date on all the research.
  • Consider bioidentical instead of synthetic HRT.  While bioidentical hormones (BH) are not FDA regulated, a reputable, licensed compounding pharmacist can formulate bioidentical HRT creams to provide regulated, dose-accurate HRT. Dose-regulated transdermal (on the skin) bioidentical estrogen patches are also available.

What Do the Experts Say?

Bioidenticals are not safer or more effective, according Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D, Mayo Clinic gynecologist and obstetrician:

“According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and several medical specialty groups, bioidentical hormones may be riskier than standard hormone therapy, and there’s no evidence they’re any more effective.

Bioidentical hormones have become popular in recent years, partly because of celebrity endorsements and partly in reaction to reports of increased health risks with standard hormone therapy. The term “bioidentical” means the hormones in the product are chemically identical to those your body produces. In fact, they are — but so are the hormones used in many FDA-approved hormone replacement products.”

But, I put my money on Dr. John Lee, author of  numerous books on natural hormone replacement and the primary hormone expert I follow,  and on Dr. B., a former Ob/Gyn I consulted with for three years. Dr. B left her traditional practice so she could work with women and men to naturally balance their hormones and manage their mood issues, tired of trying to treat her patients with synthetic hormones only to see their symptoms remain or get worse, Dr. B moved into natural hormone balancing.

In conversations with her and after reading Dr. Lee’s book, reviewing the research and tracking my symptoms, I gave up synthetic HRT, a regime I’d been on for 20 years (due to a pituitary disorder I have called Empty Sella Syndrome). The first thing Dr. B said to me when she saw I was on Ortho Novum for hormone replacement is “Why in the world do they (decades of doctors) have you on THIS for HRT, a birth control pill and a much too high dosage of estrogen?”

My answer back then, “I don’t know, they just did.”

That was then, this is now. Today I don’t default to doctor’s orders (nor do I ignore them if they make sense to me).

Ultimately you have to decide what makes sense for you. You have to consult with a doctor who is schooled in conventional and natural hormone balancing.

Writes Dr. Lee on his website:

“The message of steroid hormones to target tissue cells requires bonding of the hormone with specific unique receptors in the cells. The bonding of a hormone to its receptor is determined by its molecular configuration, like a key is for a lock. Synthetic hormone molecules and molecules from different species (e.g. Premarin, which is from horses) differ in molecular configuration from endogenous (made in the body) hormones. From studies of petrochemical xenohormones, we learn that substitute synthetic hormones differ in their activity at the receptor level.

In some cases, they will activate the receptor in a manner similar to the natural hormone, but in other cases the synthetic hormone will have no effect or will block the receptor completely. Thus, hormones that are not bioidentical do not provide the same total physiologic activity as the hormones they are intended to replace, and all will provoke undesirable side effects not found with the human hormone. Human insulin, for example, is preferable to pig insulin. Sex hormones identical to human (bioidentical) hormones have been available for over 50 years.

Pharmaceutical companies, however, prefer synthetic hormones. Synthetic hormones (not found in nature) can be patented, whereas real (natural, bioidentical) hormones can not. Patented drugs are more profitable than non-patented drugs. Sex hormone prescription sales have made billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies Thus is women’s health sacrificed for commercial profit.”

So what if you want to get your hormones tested? For several hormones, saliva is ideal, but for other tests, it depends. Read more: Blood or Saliva Testing for Hormones?

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for progesterone testing kit
Click here for testosterone testing kit
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer
Click here for DHEA products.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

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Testosterone HRT for Women to Improve Sex Drive, Energy Levels, Memory and Bone Strength.

testosterone, testosterone for women, testosterone to increase sex drive
(Flickr, Photo credit)

Testosterone, an androgen hormone, can provide numerous health benefits including improving libido in menopausal women and women with diminished testosterone.

Testosterone isn’t just for men. In fact, this androgen hormone is produced in small amounts in women’s ovaries and adrenal glands.

As women approach age 40 their levels of estrogen, progesterone and androgens (testosterone) begin to decline. Once in menopause or if they’ve had their ovaries removed, testosterone levels drop even further and androgen-deficiency symptoms such as low sex drive and diminished energy may appear.

This once maligned hormone was thought to be one of the culprits behind acts of violence and rage.

Yet in controlled doses testosterone can be highly beneficial to menopausal women considering hormone replacement therapy, particularly if they’re experiencing low sex drive unrelated to physical or emotional factors.

Estrogen and Progesterone Hormone Replacement Isn’t Always Enough

Although most doctors prescribe estrogen and progesterone replacement therapy to protect women against osteoporosis, bone loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and to alleviate mood changes, hot flashes and vaginal dryness, these hormones might not improve their libido or energy levels. Dr. William Regelson, MD, and author of The Superhormone Promise, suggests that testosterone is the missing piece of the puzzle for hormone replacement therapy.

“For many women who feel they are not quite themselves, the ingredient missing from the blueprint is testosterone.” Dr. Regelson found that including testosterone in the hormone replacement mix, even for brief periods of time, can mimic our “normal hormonal state” and help women better tolerate estrogen and progesterone.

Benefits of Testosterone Hormone Replacement for Women:

  • Increases sexual drive
  • Maintains and builds lean mass and reduces body fat
  • Strengthens bone
  • Promotes a sense of well-being, boosts mood
  • Supports cognitive function (ability to focus on a task)

Testosterone has also been shown to reduce vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, and urinary tract issues, although this might be due to the fact that much of testosterone is converted to estrogen, the hormone responsible for alleviating several urogenital symptoms.

Although few studies exist regarding the risks and benefits of testosterone hormone replacement in women, one research study conducted showed that testosterone improved overall well-being, some measures of bone density, sexual drive, mood, energy and even sleep quality.¹

Types of Testosterone Hormone Replacement Therapy

Most doctors won’t prescribe testosterone pills due to the risk of liver toxicity and because this form can lower levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol in your body. Bioidentical testosterone (bioidentical means it is similar to what your body naturally produces on its own) is available in transdermal forms such as gels, creams and patches or in sublingual drops and tablets.

Deciding if Testosterone Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Right For You

The key to bioidentical estrogen, progesterone and testosterone hormone replacement therapy is to supplement if your levels are measurably low, using the lowest dose necessary to alleviate the greatest number of symptoms. If you are considering testosterone hormone replacement therapy:

  • Test levels.  Ask your doctor to test your androgen, DHEA, estrogen and progesterone levels. Progesterone may also improve libido. Saliva testing is more accurate for some hormones because it measures “free” hormone levels (the active hormones) rather than only overall totals.  ZRT labs offers home kits, saliva and blood spotting. You can then take the results to your doctor to consult.
  • Consider DHEA. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) a precursor to testosterone, is milder and in low doses can provide some of the same therapeutical effects for women. Dr. Christine Northrop, a pioneer in women’s health, recommends that if your testosterone and DHEA is depleted to take DHEA, although you need to wait about four months to feel the effect. If after four months you don’t notice any improvement, consider testosterone hormone replacement.Click here for DHEA products.
  • Avoid if you’re in childbearing years. Most younger women produce ample amounts of testosterone.

Although testosterone shouldn’t be prescribed across the board for all menopausal woman, it can benefit women who despite estrogen and progesterone hormone replacement therapy and DHEA supplementation, still experience low energy levels, diminished sex drive and reduced sensitivity to sexual arousal.

Footnotes:

Painter, Lisa. “Testosterone: A Major Breakthrough for Menopausal Women,” Discovery Health. July 15, 2008. http://health.discovery.com/centers/womens/testosterone/testosterone.html

K. K. Miller, B. M. K. Biller, C. Beauregard, J. G. Lipman, J. Jones, D. Schoenfeld, J. C. Sherman, B. Swearingen, J. Loeffler and A. Klibanski. Effects of Testosterone Replacement in Androgen-Deficient Women with Hypopituitarism: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 91, No. 5 1683-1690.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
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DHEA For Bone and Skin Health During Menopause – Controversial Steroid Hormone Offers Benefits for Some Women

(Flickr, photo credit)

Despite some bad press about anabolic steroids, DHEA, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, may improve aging skin and improve spinal bone density in menopausal women.

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

Click here for DHEA products

After Orlando Magic All-Star forward Rashard Lewis tested positive for DHEA, this much touted anti-aging steroid hormone, was once again thrust into a negative spotlight.

Yet some studies suggest that DHEA hormone therapy when monitored carefully in users, provides anti-aging benefits such as improving skin collagen in post-menopausal women and increasing spinal bone density.

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

DHEA Hormone Therapy: Not Just For Men

DHEA or dehydroepiandrosterone, is the most abundant steroid in humans. It is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands (located above the kidneys) and acts as a precursor to male hormones (androgens) and some female sex hormones (estrogens). A small amount of DHEA is also produced in the brain by neurons.

Click here for DHEA testing kit

After age 30, DHEA levels begin to decrease and are lower in some people with anorexia, end-stage kidney disease, type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes), AIDS, adrenal insufficiency or people who are critically ill. DHEA levels may also be depleted by a number of drugs, including insulin, corticosteroids, opiates, and danazol. There is sufficient evidence supporting the use of DHEA in the treatment of adrenal insufficiency, depression, induction of labor, and systemic lupus erythematosus. (National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health and PubMed).

Menopause and DHEA Cream for Skin Anti-Aging

In a 2008 study, sixty postmenopausal women participated in a study designed to test the affects of topical DHEA on the gene profile of human skin. Women subjects randomly received a topical application of DHEA cream with either 0% (placebo), 0.3%, 1% or 2% strength.

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

Results strongly indicated that DHEA may have an anti-aging effect on the skin by stimulating collagen biosynthesis through improved structural organization of the dermis while modulating keratinocyte metabolism.

DHEA For Bone Health in Older Women

Low levels of DHEA have been associated with low bone density. Researchers at Saint Louis University conducted a two year bone density study in 2009 among men and women ages 65 to 75 years old. Previous studies on DHEA and bone density showed little promise. Yet researchers believe because calcium and vitamin D deficiencies, (present in half of older adults), were not addressed during that earlier study it prevented DHEA from improving bone density. The current research included supplementation with both calcium and vitamin D.

Results differed for men and women. Women test subjects who took DHEA the first year experienced a 2 percent increase in spinal bone density compared to control subjects who took a placebo. After the second year, placebo subjects started DHEA and the test subjects continued DHEA use. Both test groups of women had a 2 percent increase in spinal bone density (a total of 4 percent in the original test group).

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

Click here for DHEA products

In the male test groups however, both DHEA and placebo groups experienced a 1 to 2 percent increase in spinal bone density, suggesting the calcium and vitamin D supplements included in the protocol, contributed, not the DHEA.

Researchers found positive results in spinal bone density but not in hip bone density. Edward Weiss, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University’s Doisy College of Health Sciences and lead author of the stud, suggests hips may respond more slowly to bone-enhancing therapies and require additional time to see positive effects with DHEA supplementation.

DHEA’s Additional Health Benefits

Although Weiss suggests consulting with a doctor before taking DHEA he notes, “In addition to its beneficial effects on bone, DHEA replacement may have other benefits including improvements in risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, improvements in immune function, and improvements in psychological health.”

In a 2005 review of DHEA replacement and supplementation studies, J. Bruckel found that with adrenal cortex insufficiency, where there is a definite DHEA deficiency, such as with women suffering from Addisons’s disease or pituitary insufficiency, “substitution makes good pathophysiological sense, and treatment can be useful.”

Risks of DHEA

Dr. Weiss cautions that because few studies have been conducted on the long term effects of DHEA, users should be monitored carefully. DHEA may cause higher than normal levels of androgens and estrogen and increase the risk of prostate, breast, ovarian, and other hormone-sensitive cancers.

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

Click here for DHEA products

“Therefore, DHEA supplementation should be avoided in men and women who have had cancer or who have a strong family history of cancer until further research can establish whether or not it is safe for these individuals,” said Weiss.

Results have been inconsistent on the anti-aging benefits of DHEA supplementation. In a 2009 review, “Dehydroepiandrosterone,(DHEA), review of its efficiency in improving libido and other symptoms of aging,” researchers found positive results with the metabolism of the carbohydrates increasing the efficiency of insulin, but not enough research indicating that DHEA reduces the symptoms associated with aging.

Despite the inconsistent research and negative attention DHEA has received and risks associated with any hormone replacement therapy, some individuals may highly benefit from taking monitored doses of DHEA, such as menopausal women and those suffering from adrenal insufficiency.

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

Click here for DHEA products

If you’re considering taking DHEA, women in particular, I recommend first testing your hormone levels. My hormone balancing doctor prescribed 10mg per day, normally she prescribes 3-5mg for women, but my DHEA was so low she increased the dose.
When it comes to hormones, don’t self-dose, test and consult with a specialist in natural hormone/mood balancing. Saliva testing is more accurate for some hormones, although ZRT labs also offers the convenience of blood spot testing.

Footnotes:

Calvo E et al, “Pangenomic changes induced by DHEA in the skin of postmenopausal women,”Journal of Steroid Biochemical Molecular Biology. 2008 Dec;112(4-5):186-93. Epub 2008 Nov 1.

Saint Louis University (2009, May 17). “A Stronger Backbone: DHEA Hormone Replacement Increases Bone Density In Older Women.” ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 11, 2009.

Bruckel, J., “Replacement and supplementation of DHEA. Is it a wellness hormone?” MMW Fortschr Med. 2005 Feb 17;147(7):30-2. Review. German.

Mendivil Dacal JM, Borges VM, “Dehydroepiandrosterone,(DHEA), review of its efficiency ini the managing of the libido decrease and other symptoms of aging,” Actas Urol Esp. 2009 Apr;33(4):390-401.

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