Estrogen is not a singular hormone; rather, the term “estrogen” actually encompasses a close-knit group of three hormones: estriol, estradiol, and estrone. Since different hormones interact, the low or high level of estrogen hormone in the body can start to cause problems with other hormones, namely progesterone. Often, early perimenopause symptoms are characteristic of progesterone deficiency rather than low estrogen. This interruption of hormone balance is one of the main causes of the menopause symptoms that women experience. Estrogen and progesterone counteract and balance one another out, and any kind of deficiency or excess of either hormone may cause unpleasant results.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Menopause refers to the time in a woman’s life when she goes a full year since her last menstrual cycle and is characterized by widely fluctuating estrogen levels. Women who are in the grips of postmenopause feel a lot of the same symptoms that menopausal women experience. While there is a bit of a gray area in determining when you go from being menopausal to postmenopausal, the time in a woman’s life known as postmenopause isn’t typically associated with widely fluctuating hormone levels. Instead, hormone levels tend to remain low during postmenopause. If you find yourself in the grips of any menopausal phase, you’ll likely feel some combination of the following symptoms:
- Vasomotor symptoms - These are more commonly referred to as hot flashes , hot flushes, and night sweats . These are often considered to be the most common symptoms of hormonal imbalance, namely inadequate estrogen levels.
- Sleep loss - This condition is also quite common and is often the result of vasomotor symptoms.
- Weak and brittle bones- Normally, estrogen repairs aging, declining bones with new bone growth. However, with declining estrogen levels, there is less bone growth and an increased chance of osteoporosis.
- Dry and wrinkled skin- Reduced estrogen causes a reduction in collagen (which is responsible for building skin and connective tissue) and that can lead to thinner, dryer, and wrinkled skin. Some form of bio-identical progesterone and estrogen replacement therapy is often the prescribed solution for this condition.
- Mood swings - These can be the result of hormonal imbalance involving a number of different hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol.
- Sexual dysfunction- This is a wide-ranging condition that covers a number of symptoms that include vaginal dryness, difficulty achieving orgasm, and decreased intensity of orgasms. This group of symptoms often leads to reduced libido and can be caused by imbalances between estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
- Cognitive decline- As estrogen levels drop and cortisol levels increase, women will often experience cognitive decline in the form of foggy brain or memory loss.
- Fatigue - Describing a state of lethargy, fatigue is often associated with low estrogen levels.
- Weight Gain - This condition is often the result of high estrogen or estrogen dominance , which happens as progesterone and testosterone levels drop.
Like many other aspects of aging, these symptoms are considered inevitable when, in fact, they can often be managed or relieved through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). The aging process, in a way, is characterized by a combination of hormonal symptoms.
Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms with Hormone Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is widely recognized as the most effective way to mitigate the negative effects and impacts of the aging process. Furthermore, over the last 20 years or so, HRT that uses bioidentical hormones has picked up a lot of momentum due to the fact that it effectively manages the symptoms of hormonal imbalance without the potential side effects of synthetic hormone therapy (such as increased breast cancer risk). Instead of being made synthetically, bioidentical hormones have been meticulously designed to have the same composition as the natural hormones found in the human body, and that process begins with using natural origins like yams and soy. Synthetic hormones are often mass-produced in pre-determined strengths before they hit the market in an effort to maximize profits. Bioidentical hormones, on the other hand, are engineered for each individual person at an FDA-monitored compounding pharmacy based on a trained professional’s assessment of that individual’s hormone level testing. Why accept impersonal products in the form of synthetic hormones when you can instead augment your body with bioidentical hormones that have been carefully engineered to be indistinguishable from the hormones that are already in your body?
How are Estrogen and Progesterone given to treat the Symptoms of Menopause?
In terms of hormone replacement therapy, there is a wide range of treatment options and delivery methods. Bioidentical hormones can come in the form of the following options:
- Transdermal patches
- Serum injections
So how are we supposed to know which method will work the best? Like many other aspects of treating hormonal imbalance, the answer to that question will vary for everybody. This just further underscores the importance of undergoing HRT under the supervision of a medical professional who has been trained extensively in the fields of integrative medicine and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
Estrogen and Progesterone are no different in this regard; they both come in many forms. Progesterone is most often prescribed in the form of a pill, cream, or capsule. Oral estrogen does exist, but the different strains of estrogen are most commonly prescribed in the form of a cream or a gel. Since estrogen and progesterone are so closely related and directly affect one other, they exist in a very delicate balance that must be accounted for when you try to add either hormone to your body. Adding estrogen just by itself also has been shown to increase the risk of certain types of cancer. That is why some HRT professionals will often add progesterone to an estrogen replacement therapy regimen, but not just any form of progesterone.
Combining any blanket strain of progesterone to estrogen carries some increased risk of cancer, especially for women who still have their uterus intact. Fortunately, many observational studies have found that the progesterone strain known as progestin does not carry this heightened risk of endometrial cancer. However, while the combination of synthetic estrogen and progestin does not carry a risk of endometrial cancer, it has been found to increase the risk of breast cancer. This is why so many functional medicine practitioners have turned to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy; bioidentical hormones have not been determined to carry this additional risk, making BHRT a safer way for menopausal women to address their symptoms.
What to do before taking Hormones of any Kind
It goes without saying that deciding whether or not to begin hormone replacement therapy is a decision that should not be taken lightly. We strive to provide you with all of the data necessary to make an informed decision, but we also understand that you may still have lingering questions. Even if you decide to consult with one of our BodyLogicMD’s affiliated BHRT practitioners, we encourage you to ask any pertinent questions at your appointment that may help you feel better about your decision to mitigate the negative effects of the aging process through menopausal hormone therapy. Here are just some therapy-related questions for your doctor that you can bring in with you for further clarity:
- What stage of menopause am I going through? This is something that your BHRT practitioner should be able to answer early in the process, based on your medical profile and hormone level testing. This in-depth evaluation of your hormone levels will then allow your BHRT practitioner to lead you through menopausal transition, no matter which phase you find yourself in. As you see your practitioner throughout this process, they will be able to use continued hormone level testing to figure out which phase you are in.
- How can bioidentical hormone replacement therapy help me? It’s one thing to read about the benefits of BHRT; wouldn’t it be even better to hear about the benefits from a medical professional who specializes in integrative medicine that involves bioidentical hormones? The fact is, if you are looking into the different options for BHRT, then you are most likely experiencing some of the detrimental symptoms of menopause. Whether you are struggling with hot flashes (aka hot flushes), night sweats, bone loss, or any other of the many common symptoms, your BHRT practitioner will be able to tell you how they can improve your health and well-being after evaluating your hormone levels.
- Which type of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy should I use? As previously mentioned, there will be a lot of options when it comes to decide whether to deliver replacement hormones into your body through a pill, capsule, cream, or injection, to name a few. Many times, a person will pick a method based on their level of comfort. Some people have a hard time taking pills, while other people may have a negative skin reaction to creams. Your BHRT specialist can listen to your concerns before selecting the appropriate delivery method for you. As for which hormones to take, that will depend on your medical history and hormone levels. For example, while estrogen-only therapy carries an increased risk of endometrial cancer, this does not apply to women who have had their uterus removed. Whatever your situation is, these are the kinds of factors your BHRT practitioner will consider before curating a treatment plan for you.
- What are the risks associated with hormone therapy? As with anything else related to menopausal transition, the potential risks can vary for each individual. For example, older women are more likely to have negative reactions to HRT. Women who smoke while using HRT are also at an increased risk of blood clots and cardiovascular disease. While many of the risks could potentially be mitigated with the use of bioidentical hormones, we still encourage you to speak with your practitioner about any possible risks associated with HRT.
- How long will I have to remain on a hormone therapy regimen? Again, this will vary for each individual. A highly trained HRT practitioner will be able to determine which phase of menopausal transition you happen to be in. As you enter postmenopause, your practitioner can begin to figure out when you can wind down your treatment. After all, these kinds of treatments are not intended to go on forever. While some women will eventually stop their treatment cold turkey, many other women find it helpful to gradually wean themselves off hormone therapy. Your practitioner will be able to help you make this determination at the appropriate time.
Where can you Find Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
BodyLogicMD bioidentical hormone therapy starts by measuring the various hormone levels in your body using a comprehensive blood, urine, or serum test. By determining the baseline levels, our BodyLogicMD’s highly trained practitioners will customize a natural hormone therapy replacement plan specifically for each woman based on her individual needs. If your body lacks normal levels of estrogen, your BodyLogicMD-affiliated bioidentical hormone practitioner will start you on bioidentical estrogen replacement therapy. In an optimal situation, your body’s hormones work together in concert; a change in one hormone inevitably changes others. By determining your exact hormone levels and using bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, in combination with a fitness and nutrition program, you can join the thousands who have improved their quality of life with BodyLogicMD. Contact your local BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioner today!