In the modern world, we have a new level of "normal" hormone levels in our bodies due to alterations in the environment including toxicity and pollution and dietary support for our bodies. Because of the increasing toxic load in our environments and reduction in nutrient-density of our diets, neither provide adequate support as compared to what our parents or even our grandparents experienced in their lifetimes.
What are bioidentical hormones?
Bioidentical hormones are produced from various plant and/or animal products and include the following:
Estradiol hemihydrate, including Vagifem
Estradiol acetate, including Femring
17 beta-estradiols, including the drugs Estradil, Estrace and Estring
Micronized progesterone USP, such as Prochieve and Prometrium
Some larger pharmaceutical corporations produce specific bioidentical hormones; these are FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulated. Bioidentical hormones are manufactured by compounding pharmacies which formulate their own bioidentical hormones, and only some are regulated by the FDA. Here is a list of some that are FDA regulated:
Estrace, Glynodiol, Innofem
How do hormones function?
In women and men alike, levels of hormones in our bodies are in charge of various organ systems including our cardiovascular and nervous systems and the immune system. These systems can be adversely affected by too-low hormone levels that can lead to conditions and diseases to which our bodies become vulnerable. Hormones protect our bodies on a cellular level, and in particular, provide strength to our cells and support us for more optimal efficiency of those organ systems.
What benefits can bioidentical hormone replacement provide?
Improved energy levels
Support for normal sex drive
Emotional wellness - counteract depression and brain fog
Improved memory, focus and alertness
Support to avoid heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer's, cancer, dementia and other conditions typical in aging
What causes aging?
According to Dr. Karlis Ullis who has performed extensive research on Olympic-grade athletes. He believes there is a threshold over which peak training can be exceeded, and which will catapult the body into a state similar to rapid aging. Overtraining can put an athlete into a state of rapid aging where the body breaks down faster than it repairs. It is important to supply the body with proper nutrients to support regeneration of tissue post exercise.
Nutrient-deficiencies play a critical role in aging, as well as the shortening of DNA at the end of each chromosome, known as a telomere. When cell division occurs, telomeres become shorter, placing a limit on the amount of times cells divide before death. Researchers are discovering methods to cease the shortening of telomeres, which slows down the aging process. Scientists are also using stem cell and regenerative medical intervention. Reducing degeneration of the nervous system, according to Dr. David Williams, can impede the aging process in noticeable ways.
What happens to the body during the aging process?
Lowered cognition abilities
Increased fat levels
Wrinkling of skin
Loss of elasticity in eye lens leading to increased far-sightedness
Lowered levels of smell and taste
Decreased bone density
Decreased kidney and bladder function
Lower lung capacity
Reduced muscle tone, strength, and grip
Reduced sexual drive and libido
How can we counteract the aging process?
In an aging body, it becomes increasingly more challenging to obtain proper levels of critical nutrients from our diets. This is particularly true due to the efficiency of how our digestive tracts function, which decreases with age. As a result, nutrient absorption becomes compromised.
The following are important to supplement as a measure against the effects of aging:
Antioxidants - reduces damage from oxidative stress in the body and damage by free-radicals, which typically increases with age
Probiotics - boosts digestive tract / immune system function and keep the body's vulnerability to illness and chronic disease at a minimum
Omega 3 essential fatty acid - especially to counteract effects on cognitive function such as memory loss, dementia and neurological disease
Researchers have discovered that the production of hormone FGF21 (responsible for aging) can be reduced with exercise. A sedentary lifestyle leads to increase in FGF21 levels, deterioration of mitochondria in muscles and aging of skin, liver, intestines and loss of neurons.
Other benefits include:
Retain and regain muscle mass
Fuel the mitochondria with oxygen
Stress reduction (lower cortisol)
Support a healthy cardiovascular system
Promote tissue and lymphatic detoxification
Build stronger bones (if weight-bearing exercise)
Stimulate human growth hormone (HGH) production, naturally
Improve the quality of sleep
Assist blood sugar regulation
Optimizing your hormones
Age-related decline in hormone production is well-known and understood by health practitioners and scientists. Specific hormone therapy protocols and monitoring are intended to address hormone deficiency which can lead to chronic health issues and premature aging. The following hormone imbalances are typically monitored and considered to return health to optimal levels:
Cortisol - known as the "fight or flight hormone" which enables the body to deal with stress, this hormone is also responsible for controlling blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. When this hormone is out-of balance it can cause the markers of Metabolic Syndrome including weight gain, blood sugar instability, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.
Insulin (produced by the pancreas) supports healthy cellular function by driving the energy source of the cell, glucose, through the cell wall to be converted to energy in the mitochondria.
DHEA - deficiencies are associated with chronic inflammation, depression, immune dysfunction, excess body fat, increased percentage of cancer, cognitive decline, osteoporosis, some complications of Type II diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. As DHEA can decline as much as 95% in those who reach age 85, addressing this hormone deficiency with bioidentical hormone replacement is warranted.
Estrogen - the safest form of estrogen is Estriol, a weak estrogen that is a fully detoxified estrogen which requires higher dosage levels. It provides a protective effect and can guard against maternal breast cancer in pregnant women and relieving of menopausal symptoms. An optimum level of estrogen can support healthy brain function, prevent osteoporosis and benefit the heart.
Progesterone - typically the first hormone to decline in women. Primarily manufactured in the adrenal glands and ovaries, it is an essential hormone for gestation to happen. Symptoms of deficiency include night sweats, hot flashes, depression and loss of well-being.
Testosterone - essential for men and women alike. Produced at one-tenth the level in a man's body in the adrenal glands and ovaries in women, and is critical to maintenance of sexual drive, bone health and muscle strength. The lack of this hormone can promote development of breast cancer or even heart disease in those who have had hysterectomies.
Thyroid - this hormone regulates metabolism, and breaks down energy from iodine and the amino acid tyrosine found in food consumed. Before administering hormone therapy, seeking the cause to what is impeding the body from a lack of ability to convert the T4 to T3 hormone is critical.
The first step in this case would be to address the causes of the conversion problem (i.e. inflammation), in the hopes that you may not need replacement hormone. If that doesn’t work, though, what you’d need in this situation is either a so-called bio-identical hormone that has a combination of T4 and T3, or a synthetic T3 hormone (like Cytomel). These will deliver the T3 you need directly, bypassing the conversion problem.
Dr. Jonathan Wright, M.D., and advocate and creator of biological alternatives to conventional drugs has more experience in hormone replacement therapy and pioneered use of bioidentical estrogens and DHEA in the 1980s. He and Ed Thorpe, a compounding pharmacist, were the first who offered women viable options to synthetic, conventional pharmaceuticals used so pervasively in our culture.
“You need to use natural means to restore the body’s hormone balance. Bioidentical hormones are superior to patentable drugs because they are exact copies of what the body produces. They work better than the deformed, inexact copies that are required to get a patent. By replacing the hormones that decline as time goes by, you can sustain your health and promote longevity,” asserts Dr. Wright, member of the Life Extension Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board.
“It’s never too late, either. I have had patients in their eighties who saw their health improve. For example, in cell cultures, gender-specific bioidentical estrogen or testosterone supplementation slows the accumulation of tau protein, neurofibrillary tangle, and amyloid in human neurons, reducing the potential for Alzheimer’s disease. The bioidentical versions of these two hormones reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis as well. By returning to the physiological hormone levels you had earlier in your life, you can slow down the aging process and maximize your quality of life.”
Working with a healthcare practitioner to correct hormone imbalances is a crucial step toward successful aging.
Schedule a hormone consult