We believe that bioidentical hormones, together with nutritional and lifestyle therapies, can help our patients improve their quality of life, prevent chronic illness, and obtain optimal health.
Hormones, as we all discover in our teens, rule. And body hormones continue to rule!. Whether it is insulin controlling your blood sugar levels, cortisol from the adrenals helping the body deal with stress including infections, or ovaries and testes driving our libido and fantasy life, hormones set up the playing field in the body. Many forces can throw hormones off balance, including infections, stress, diet, toxic environmental substances, environmental substances that mimic hormones, and a variety of other issues. Balancing the hormones often requires only attention to diet, supplements, and activity level including physical movement and mental relaxation. There are conditions and times, though, where bio-identical hormone replacement is necessary to optimize health and well-being. Research in many endocrine fields provides information about the safety and risks of that hormone replacement. Understanding what we know can help you make the best choices to achieve optimal health.
About Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
Bioidentical hormone therapy is a mouthful. Essentially it means that if a hormone is given, it is chemically and biologically exactly like what you make in your body. In order to obtain a bioidentical hormone, there has to be a biological backbone source of that hormone. Alternatively we could set up bacterial systems to manufacture the hormone from the human gene, like Genentech does for human growth hormone and insulin, but we haven’t yet.
Fortunately there are biologic sources for hormones. Yam and soy have precursers to estrogen, progesterone, and DHEA. Yeasts make a bit of cortisol (adrenal hormone). Insulin is made by Genentech like bacterial manufacturers. Thyroid is not bioidentical – but pig thyroid is pretty close to human. Some other hormones that you maybe don’t hear too much about like calcitonin or antidiuretic hormone (ADH or vasopressin) are harder to come by biologically and we tend to get them from fish as a close mimic of the human.
The reason it is important to have bioidentical hormones, especially steroid hormones, is that we metabolize all of our hormones: metabolism means that we turn them into other things to use or recycle them.
If we give the body something it has never seen before that is close enough to effect some of the same changes that our hormone will, it can be broken down into products that are not good for the body and that the body has no way to eliminate.
A good example is progesterone. Bioidentical progesterone is a smooth muscle relaxant, mentally calming, a bit of a diuretic and generally very well tolerated. In almost all studies on progesterone, what is being studied is progesterone like molecules called progestins. These variably act like progesterone, sometimes acting more like testosterone, DHEA or estrogen. Most cause dysphoria , which is a cross between feeling irritable and feeling depressed. The progestins increase risk of blood clotting, whereas natural progesterone does not. The progestins greatly increase risk of breast cancer when given with estrogen, whereas there is no evidence that progesterone does. In fact there is evidence that progesterone may reduce risk of breast cancer as well as the risk of cardiac event.
People need additional hormones for many reasons. They may not be able to make enough hormone. They may be compromised by stress so that they cannot keep up with the demands for adrenal or other hormone. They
may develop antibodies to hormone producing glands such as thyroid or ovarian antibodies.
Dr. William Jeffries was one of the co-discoverers of the structure of our cortisol hormone. Dr. Jeffries spent his entire medical career giving bio-identical physiologic cortisol replacement to patients who he proved had insufficient adrenal hormone (low adrenal or weak adrenal). These patients did very well, living normal lifespans, having healthy pregnancies and deliveries and having good health and activity. Unlike patients given non-bioidentical high dose cortisone and cortisone like substances they did not show the bleeding problems, adrenal failure or skin loss that the high dose patients did.
A nice aspect of hormone glands is that they can almost always repair and regenerate themselves. The exception is ovarian retirement, which we call menopause. But other than this hormone gland, given the proper nourishment and rest can usually recover so bioidentical replacement is temporary. There are exceptions of course, there is Addison’s disease, which is adrenal gland failure. Sometimes thyroid glands become too scarred or must be removed due to cancer or illness. But for the most part hormone balancing is a combination of temporary support and nutritional therapies.