Hormones, especially bio-identical hormones, have received a lot of press coverage lately. Many people are confused or often skeptical of the benefits of hormone therapy.
The mainstream medical community has not yet fully embraced the positive health benefits of hormone therapy, nor do they fully understand it, unless they have been properly trained. Indeed, it is absolutely true that bio-identical hormone therapy is essential for both men and women to help maintain vitality, youth, and vigor.
One of the most confusing aspects of hormone therapy when a patient contemplates starting it is, “What is the difference between synthetic hormones and bio-identical hormones?”
In short, synthetic hormones are not the exact chemical structures that are made in your body. It is chemically altered. Bio-identical hormones are comprised of the exact same chemical structure as made within your body. Hence the word “Bio”, meaning life, and “identical” meaning, “the same”. That is not to say, that bio-identical hormones are somehow extracted from another human, but rather, they are made by a FDA regulation compliant compounding pharmacy with the same chemical composition as what is made in your body.
There are different forms of bio-identical hormone replacement therapies. They can be delivered through creams, pills, troches, injections, patches, or pellets.
None of these delivery forms can achieve peak stable and efficient serum levels of hormones, except pellets.
Bio-identical hormone pellets are inserted just under the skin, and are absorbed into the blood stream in a controlled and stable way beginning immediately. This ensures that compliance (i.e. forgetting to apply or take something) is not an issue, but, more importantly, it is the most efficient way to achieve peak hormone levels.
The procedure to insert bio-identical hormone pellets is a quick and simple office procedure. It is relatively painless, and most patients will say, “That’s it?” after it is done. A small local anesthetic is injected near the hips/buttocks, and a small incision is made to introduce the pellets. Most patients have little to no discomfort the day after pellet insertion.
For women, hormone-related symptoms related to menstrual or menopausal symptoms can be wide- ranging. Symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, cold or night sweats, hot flashes, irregular weight gain, belly fat, fatigue, loss of libido or sex drive, mental fogginess, inability to concentrate, cholesterol problems, high blood pressure, irregular menses, and more have a focal relationship to hormones.
The patient may have even approached the subject of hormones with their primary care provider, only to be told that they are “normal”. Or worse, the patient may have been given more synthetic estrogen.
A normal value on the laboratory reference range may be true; however, that does not mean you are optimal. Only a trained age-management physician or provider can correctly evaluate the laboratory values.
For men, hormone-related symptoms are usually related to aging and the natural process of aging. This process is called andropause, or male menopause. After the age of 30, men begin to decline in their Testosterone production by 5% each year. By their late 30’s and early 40’s, men may have declined in their Testosterone production by over 70%!
The symptoms most commonly seen by men who may be experiencing andropause or hypogonadism (inability of your testes to produce Testosterone in adequate amounts) are: fatigue, loss of muscle mass, increased belly fat, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, irritability, insomnia, mental fogginess, and more. Again, a provider not trained as an age management specialist will not be able to interpret laboratory findings and usually will tell the patient that those findings are “normal”.
Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy constitutes a part of the overall integrated health optimization efforts. This includes concerted efforts by the patient and provider to institute a sensible exercise program, micro-nutrition and supplements, nutritional guidance, as well as addressing possible metabolic syndrome or syndrome X. Additionally, a comprehensive main stream health initiatives and preventive medical program should be custom tailored to each patient’s needs.
Becoming a part of an integrated wellness and family medicine program provides the best opportunity to achieve vitality, youth, and health optimization. A practice that provides holistic, integrated, mainstream medicine that looks at the whole person is the ideal practice in which to achieve health optimization.