We all have hormones. We all need hormones. When our hormones are in balance with each other at the proper levels for our age, we much better than when they are out of balance or too low.
A woman’s hormones may be out of balance or low at many points in her life: during her teens, dealing with onset of her period; during child bearing years, when dealing with general life stressors, pregnancy, and parenting, job stress, relationship stress; during our years before, during and after menopause. Our hormones often suffer, often causing issues with anxiety, depression, concentration, motivation, libido, weight gain, hot flashes, insomnia, and mood swings, abnormal vaginal bleeding. It can also cause decreased bone density (osteopenia and osteoporosis) and loss of muscle mass. While it is normal for certain hormones to decrease as we age, there are multiple factors that can cause hormones to become too low, and make us feel unpleasant symptoms. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you know they can be extremely bothersome, and even interfere with your work and personal lives.
We often take the “this too shall pass,” attitude, assuming that once the stressful period of our life is over, then everything will come back to normal. “Once my exams are over,” or “once my kids start sleeping through the night,” or “once work slows down a little” I’ll be fine. We are quick to blame a lack of sleep, or a poor diet, and just tell ourselves that this must just be normal for this time of life. And while diet and sleep absolutely play a part in the regulation of our hormones (the topic of another blog post, perhaps), we do have the option to replace hormones using bio-identical hormones instead of synthetic prescription hormones.
When your hormones are low, and improvements in lifestyle haven’t been effective, or effective enough, we have the option of giving hormones. My preference is always to give bio-identical versions of hormones, as I feel they are safer and can be effective at lower doses. The doses have nearly unlimited customizability, unlike typical prescription hormones, which come in set doses. This allows us to work together, determine how you feel, and adjust the hormones and ratios appropriately. Most of the time, patients start to feel better within a month or two. When combined with a Functional Medicine approach, which looks at different modifiable diet and lifestyle factors, wisely prescribed bio-identical hormone replacement is safe, effective, and life-changing.
Men – I haven’t forgotten about you! You may be experiencing some of the same symptoms as women. Low testosterone isn’t just about libido and sexual performance – though those are important pieces. For men, it’s about memory, concentration, motivation, depression, anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, and bone and muscle loss as well. Men have three good options for testosterone replacement: weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly injections of testosterone. While this is the least expensive option, it requires injections, and can result in significant swings in blood levels of hormones, and therefore symptoms.
Topical pharmaceuticals: while I like the topical administration of testosterone, these formulas are rarely covered well by insurance, and can be quite expensive. They also lack the ability to individually tailor a patient’s dose or add ingredients such as anastrozole (see #3).
Compounded testosterone: this is my most favorite way to replace testosterone in most men who need a boost. The cream is compounded with the exact milligram amount that your body needs and tolerates. I will often add anastrozole, an aromatase inhibitor, in order to prevent testosterone from converting (aromatizing) to estrogen. I also have the ability to add DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), a precursor to many of our hormones, which also has many beneficial health effects. This option is both convenient and relatively cost effective.
Of course, follow up with your prescriber is important when you are taking hormones of any kind, even bio-identicals, to make sure that you are tolerating them well, that you are receiving the appropriate dose (needs can change over time), and that lab work is within normal limits.
Book an appointment today, to see if you are a candidate for bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.