Bioidentical hormones are a useful and beneficial tool for alleviating and treating mood, brain and neurological symptoms associated with declining hormone levels as we age. These include depression and anxiety and a variety of others affected by these changes. 1
Symptoms of brain/mood changes as we age with declining levels of hormone production:
- Verbal learning
- Memory tasks
- Attention/ focus
- Motor skills
- Cognitive changes
- Sleep disturbances
- Progressive neurological/brain disorders including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and others
Are there possible side-effects to using bioidentical hormones?
It is important to find a knowledgeable practitioner to guide you through use of bioidentical hormones, monitor symptoms to ensure you are receiving correct and type of treatment beneficial for your individual needs.
When new bioidentical treatment is started or new dosage is determined, side effects can occur for a period of time while the body adjusts. If side-effects do not abate within an expected amount of time, talk with your practitioner about how to alleviate symptoms, should they occur: 4
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Breast pain
- Bloating or other digestive disturbance
- Increase in growth of facial hair
- Changes in vision
What are bioidentical hormones?
Unlike synthetic hormones produced by the pharmaceutical industry such as Premarin, Prempro, and Provera, bioidentical hormones have identical molecular structure to hormones the body naturally produces, and are created using natural ingredients (plant, animal or mineral source). These hormone treatments are available through compounded prescription format that adhere to strict regulations about production. Because bioidentical hormones mimic the exact structure of our bodies' own natural hormones, they are typically more effective in treating symptoms associated with declining hormone production. 5
Dr. Christiane Northrup, M.D. explains that this is what distinguishes bioidentical hormones from others, which makes them the 'perfect “keys”' to unlock the body's receptor sites. She asserts that the shape of the molecule, not the source, is what allows absorption of the hormone in the body.
Dosage, types and combinations are tailored to meet each person's unique health profile and needs.
To be assured that a product you are interested is in bioidentical, check the product label. If you see “esterified estrogens,” “progestins,” or “progestogens,” the product is not bioidentical. 6
Hormone production changes can lead to mood alteration, memory loss and dementia. As age progresses, there is a corresponding decline in progesterone, testosterone and estrogen levels. 7
Entering menopause at a later age may be linked with boosting memory in later years, revealed in a study published in Neurobiology, medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
From author Diana Kuh, PhD, FFPH, FMedSci or the University College London: "This study suggests that lifelong hormonal processes, not just short-term fluctuations during menopause, may be associated with memory skills," said study author Diana Kuh, Ph.D., FFPH, FMedSci, of the University College London in the United Kingdom.
"The difference in verbal memory scores for a 10-year difference in the start of menopause was small - recalling only one additional word, but it's possible that this benefit could translate to a reduced risk of dementia years later," stated Kuh. "More research and follow-up are needed to determine whether that is the case." 8 9 10
Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone
Production of these hormones directly affects brain nerve cells, protecting cells from damage from free radicals and neurotoxins, can interfere with blood flow in the brain and enables neuro-transmission (release of neurotransmitters in the brain). Neurotransmitters are chemicals released on the nerve fiber ending when signaled by a nerve impulse. When neurotransmitters move across the junction between two nerve cells. This activity creates transfer of impulses to another fiber of some type including a muscle or nerve.
These hormones protect against cognition dysfunction and memory loss and dementia. The body needs testosterone for mental clarity and sharpness. Progesterone stimulates GABA receptors in the brain. GABA production in the body relieves anxiety, promotes calmness, reduces symptoms of PMS, ADHD and reduces brain swelling and improvement of mental clarity after brain injury. 11 12 13 14 15
The presence of estrogen has a direct impact on dopamine and serotonin production in the brain. Our bodies produce dopamine for happiness and serotonin levels affect our positive mood. Lack of balance in production of these important neurotransmitters can lead to depression and psychosis. Clinical studies using animals reveal how administration of estrogen creates positive outcomes in mental illness including schizophrenia. 16 17 18
Secreted by the adrenal glands, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a precursor to estrogen and testosterone. Higher production levels of this hormone will these other hormones in the body. Increases in these hormones can improve or boost mood, memory and brain function. 19 20
NIMH research (National Institute of Mental Health) also indicates that administration of the hormone DHEA can relieve symptoms of depression for those in middle-age years (40-65). 21