BALANCING THE BODY’S CONTROL MECHANISM
BY MICHELLE MOORE
Picture your golden years. Are you sexy, vibrant, fit, energetic, active, chock full of mojo? Statistically, make it to 60 today, and you’ll likely hang around into your late eighties and beyond. I’m guessing you want your body and brain to cooperate for your entire lifespan. With this thought in mind, I ask, ‘How are your hormones?’
Bet you haven’t thought about hormones since high school, when your parents complained that yours were raging. If you’re over 30, here’s a tip: raging hormones are actually beneficial. Well, maybe not raging, but optimal levels of balanced hormones are absolutely crucial to a healthy body.
If you’ve been hearing hormone talk lately, you may be wondering if you need to think about yours. But, you may be leery, thinking hormone replacement leads to an increased risk of breast cancer. Hormone replacement is controversial and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But, if it is a road you are considering running down, you should know that the studies (mainly the Women’s Health Initiative Study) linking hormone replacement to increased breast cancer risk (and a host of other problems) ONLY tested synthetic hormones, not bio-identical. The books I have read on the subject state there are no studies linking bio-identical hormone replacement to an increased risk of cancer. The WHI study looked at synthetic estrogen replacement. The source of the estrogen was an FDA-approved pharmaceutical, Premarin, derived from the urine of pregnant mares. While that may be “natural” for horses, it is not natural for humans. Pregnant mares have hormones that humans do not have and it seems they cause problems for our systems.
I would never recommend synthetic hormones. That’s not what this article is about. I’m talking about bio-identical hormones – hormones that are biologically identical to the ones already running through your body. If the hormones flowing freely in your body were dangerous to you, it would seem that in your teen years, when your hormone levels were naturally high, you would have developed cancer. However, the opposite was true. You were healthy, vibrant, passionate and full of energy and life. So, if you are interested in bio-identical hormone replacement, read on.
While menopause and andropause are natural times for hormone replacement, these changes begin earlier than you think. Some health practitioners posit that our overly stressed lifestyles and toxic environment deplete hormones faster today than ever before, requiring we pay attention to them in our thirties and forties.
For the ladies, Dr. Bruce Worrell says hormone imbalance can take the form of moodiness, depression, anxiety, sleep loss, fatigue, bloating, gaining or having a hard time losing weight, high cholesterol, migraines, foggy thinking, memory loss, hot flashes, joint pain and muscle or bone loss. And, of course, if you’ve lost your sex drive, a hormonal imbalance may be to blame (unless you hate your partner).
Dr. William Van Valin adds that as soon as the early thirties, a woman may notice subtle changes in her cycle or have mood issues she didn’t have before. Her skin and hair may become drier – with possible hair loss, snoring, acne or insomnia.
Men, you too lose your hormones. A leading bio-identical hormone physician, Dr. C. W. Randolph, notes you may be facing the onset of andropause in your early forties. You may notice feeling burned out or having a low libido, “performance” problems, depression, anxiety, abdominal weight gain, fatigue, loss of muscle tone or a declining mental edge.
That doesn’t sound sexy, vibrant, fit, energetic, active and chock full of mojo, does it? It sounds more like the road to fat, sexless and senile – sitting in front of the TV with the remote control as your only friend.
The good news bio-identical hormone replacement brings? An end to symptoms traditional medicine so quickly masks with a myriad of expensive pharmaceuticals.
Bio-identical hormones are complex. The human body makes many hormones including estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, thyroid, cortisol, adrenaline, insulin, human growth hormone, melatonin, testosterone, pregnenolone and more. And, while you can’t know where your deficiencies lie, a doctor who specializes in bio-identical hormone replacement therapy
To find out what you may be lacking, a practitioner will order a blood serum test, a 24-hour urine test or even a saliva test. Controversy abounds over which one best determines hormone levels. Dr. Jonathan V. Wright, in his book Stay Young and Sexy with Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement: The Science Explained, compares the differences between testing methods and results like this: Many practitioners feel that once a person is already undergoing bio-identical hormone replacement, blood serum panels are no longer as useful because blood tests provide an overall snapshot of what’s going on in the blood stream the moment the blood is drawn. However, hormone levels pulse, so depending on what time the blood is drawn, the results, which determine which hormones you need and at what levels, vary. Then, there’s saliva testing. While some in the medical community swear by saliva testing, others think it is useless because certain hormones levels show up as “sky high” bearing no relevance to their physiologic levels. Everyone does seem to agree, though, that urine testing is an accurate way to determine hormone levels at the outset of treatment, as well as during. In the end, Dr. Deborah Matthew, a board certified anti-aging doctor, says the bottom line is to find a physician specializing in hormone replacement therapy you can trust. The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (www.worldhealth.net) and the American College for the Advancement of Medicine (www.ACAM.org) list knowledgeable practitioners.
Once you have undergone testing to determine your hormone level, your practitioner will develop a treatment plan. Unlike traditional treatments, because your hormone needs are not one size fits all, but rather tailored to you, you will be working with a compounding pharmacy to fill your prescriptions. Many of the hormones come in cream and gels custom mixed for you. While bio-identicals are traditionally not FDA territory (because substances naturally occurring are not patentable) this is changing. BioSante Pharmaceuticals (www.biosantepharma.com) has already received FDA approval for an estrogen replacement drug called Elestra, to treat hot flashes, and now has a testosterone gel in the third phase of clinical trials. It’s called LibiGel and it is for the restoration of libido.
When it comes to treatment, use a reputable compounding pharmacy. We have one in Worthington called Central Ohio Compounding. Just like with traditional pharmacies that can be down the street or five states away, you can find compounding pharmacies nearby or utilize one via mail order. A good compounding pharmacy is key to a reliable and consistent product and results, says Jeffrey Bray of MedQuest Solutions. MedQuest is PCAB accredited – one of the highest standards for compounding pharmacies. Currently, MedQuest has two skin creams available through www.dermascriptives.com called Eclipse Day and Night. Eclipse Night is antioxidant heavy and includes Melatonin. I tried both Day and Night. My skin looked and felt amazing.
I was beginning to think I was destined to feel dead until a friend gave me Suzanne Somers’ Ageless that led me to BHRT. I’m an advocate, having felt sexy, vibrant, fit, energetic, active and chock full of mojo for the past four years with balanced hormones but, in researching this article, I found varying opinions. Not all physicians are jumping on board. Dr. Randolph gives the best advice: “Do your homework. Don’t take any one professional’s opinion as gospel. Today, with the groundbreaking field of BHRT coming into its own, the most profound revelation may be how hormone replacement can decelerate cellular aging. It’s not inevitable as you age you’re going to be increasingly fat, sexless and senile. You have healthy, safe options for restoring optimum hormone balance.”
Where to start?
It’s crucial to start with education. I recommend reading as much as you can, before ever making an appointment with a practitioner. You will need to be your own best advocate and, in the process, you will learn things about how to take care of your body that will lead to better health. Since we are all time crunched these days, here are the three MUST-read books I recommend and in the order I recommend them:
“Ageless” by Suzanne Somers. This book takes a complex topic and makes it understandable, so it’s a good start. It explains the how and the way of hormones. It is, however, important to remember that Suzanne Somers is not a doctor. She is an actress. And while millions of women, myself included, are grateful to her for bringing attention to this area of medicine, it is important to remember that her books are a primer to hormone replacement and not as in-depth or medically-based as books authored by a licensed doctor.
“Breakthrough: Eight Steps to Wellness” By Suzanne Somers. This book picks up where Ageless leaves off and has updated information. It gives the advances that have occurred since Ageless. Definitely read this before you start down your path to treatment.
“Stay Young and Sexy with Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement.” By Jonathan V. Wright, MD and Lane Lenard, PhD. You will be able to understand this book AFTER you have digested a few of Suzanne Somers’ books. It has a lot of medical science, but it is important to understand.
Who does this in Columbus?
The best place to find a practitioner is through word of mouth. That can be difficult with this area of medicine because it is just starting to gain acceptance from the mainstream medical community. Start by asking your OB-GYN for recommendations. I personally use and recommend Monarch Health (www.monarch-health.com) in Upper Arlington. At Monarch, practitioner Joyce Casey is well informed and takes the time to counsel on effectiveness. There’s also a nationwide chain of clinics specializing in bio-identical hormone replacement, Body Logic, with a location in Columbus on Polaris Parkway. To locate other practitioners, try the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (www.worldhealth.net) and the American College for the Advancement of Medicine (www.ACAM.org) as they list knowledgeable practitioners.