Celebrities like Oprah, Suzanne Somers, and Angelina Jolie rave about bioidentical hormone therapy. And it’s understandable when you consider all the benefits that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can provide. But is it a good option for everyone? At ShineMD Medspa & Liposuction Center, we strive to provide the highest quality wellness treatments throughout the Houston, TX area, and that includes helping clients find the best treatment options for their unique needs.
What Is Bioidentical Hormone Therapy Used for?
As men and women age, their bodies often produce fewer hormones. These hormones, the chemical messengers of the body, are meant to keep the body running at peak shape. So when there are fewer of these little messengers traveling through the body, we start to see many of the symptoms that we associate with aging. We have less energy. Our skin becomes dry, papery, and loose. We might develop acne or skin spots. Our libidos might even plummet.
In the past, our parents and grandparents might have shrugged this off and blamed it on growing older. But advances in medical science and hormone therapy have proven that these “facts of life” are hardly facts at all. They are merely symptoms of a hormonal system that has lost its balance. Knowing our hormones are out of balance is half the battle towards fixing it. Finding the right treatment to restore our bodies’ hormones to their peak levels is the other half. And that’s where bioidentical hormone therapy comes in.
Hormone Therapy’s Controversial Past
In the 20th century, doctors and women became increasingly aware of the link between symptoms of menopause and hormonal imbalances in the body. Pharmaceutical companies responded by producing and patenting synthetic hormones like conjugated equine estrogens, which were created in laboratories using natural sources as their base: sources like yams and horse urine.
By 1975, however, women were avoiding these hormone replacements. Study after study showed that synthetic hormones were tied to a rise in endometrial cancer. But a decade later when other studies showed that hormone replacement could help prevent and treat osteoporosis, rates of synthetic hormone use rose again.
Through the 1990s, hormone replacement therapy grew in popularity until 2002 when the Women’s Health Initiative released a report on its risks and benefits after conducting a wide-scale study. The verdict on synthetic hormones took another turn for the worse. The Women’s Health Initiative reported that, for most patients, these synthetic hormones posed greater harm than the benefits they offered.
Risks of Synthetic Hormones
These synthetic hormones were linked to the increased risk of developing endometrial cancer, breast cancer, heart attacks, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and dementia. But that left many women in a difficult situation. How could they balance their body’s hormonal system without putting themselves at even greater risk of developing other, more deadly, health concerns?
Scientists tried to understand why these synthetic hormones would cause so many severe health consequences. One aspect they began paying closer attention to was the chemical make-up of the synthetic hormones.
In order to patent their treatments, pharmaceutical companies added chemical “side-chains” onto the hormones. These were artificial add-ons to the hormone molecules that made them inherently different on a chemical level from the hormones our bodies produce naturally. It is now believed that these chemical “add-ons” make it difficult for the body to process the synthetic hormones effectively and cause many of the adverse effects related to those treatments.
Bioidentical Hormones: Restoring Hormones, Restoring Health
Since then, laboratories began testing ways to use plant extracts and alter them so their chemical structures (their molecules) would be identical to the human hormones they would replenish. These new hormones are made to be biologically identical, or bioidentical, to the hormones in our bodies. We can now go one step further in creating hormonal compounds that are indistinguishable from each client’s hormones.
Bioidentical hormones provide all the benefits of restoring your body’s natural hormonal balance while minimizing the adverse effects and long-term risks that come with more traditional hormone replacement therapies using synthetic hormones.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Bioidentical Hormone Therapy?
Most men and women experiencing symptoms of a hormonal imbalance in the body would benefit from bioidentical hormone therapy. At ShineMD Medspa & Liposuction Center, we work with clients to identify the root cause of their symptoms and help them come up with a treatment plan to reclaim their lives.
Signs & Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance
- Difficulty falling and staying asleep
- Loss of energy
- Unexplained weight gain
- Loss of libido
- Erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Acne or skin spots
- Weak or brittle bones
- Dry, thinning hair
- Dry skin or developing unexplained rashes
- Unexplained mood swings
- Blurry vision
- Swollen face or neck
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you may be a good candidate for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).
Determining Hormone Levels
As common as these symptoms are to a hormonal imbalance in the body, they are not the sole means for determining if someone is a good candidate for hormone therapy. That’s why it’s important to schedule a consultation. We will need to determine exactly what your hormone levels are.
First, we’ll meet with you to conduct a physical exam and gather information on your health. This helps our team identify which specific hormones might be out of balance. After that comes testing. Unfortunately, there is no single test to cover all the possible hormones that might be affecting your health. Once we identify which hormones are the most likely culprits, we’ll run tests to determine whether those hormone levels are too low, too high, or right where they need to be.
If we find that your hormone levels are right where they need to be, it usually means that another health concern is behind your symptoms, and we can work with you to try to identify those and get you back into shape.
Conditions Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) Helps Treat
Your body and adrenal glands come under incredible strain when you experience stress over long periods of time. It can cause depression, lower muscle tone, and weight gain. If these sound familiar, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
BHRT helps treat adrenal fatigue by restoring the hormonal imbalances your body is experiencing and relieving many of the symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue.
When the complete thyroid or even a part of it has been removed, your body is unable to produce the same level of hormones it needs to help the body operate effectively. BHRT might be a good option for restoring those hormone levels. However, some thyroid issues are not as compatible with BHRT.
Men often begin looking into testosterone treatment due to the quality of life concerns they have about their low testosterone levels: difficulty concentrating, fatigue, lower sex drive, and erectile dysfunction. Over time, Low-T can also lead to loss of bone and muscle mass, which increases the risk of injury.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is an effective option that looks holistically at balancing men’s hormone levels. This balancing act helps protect patients from the negative effects that sometimes come with more common avenues of hormone therapy.
Our team works with each client to make sure that other hormones are not negatively affected, such as estradiol. When estradiol goes out of balance during testosterone treatment and isn’t corrected, men are put at increased risk of heart attack and prostate cancer. BHRT considers the holistic effect of these treatments to balance the entire hormonal system and protect clients from unnecessary risk.
Studies have shown that BHRT is highly effective at preventing bone mass loss and reducing the risk of breaks from osteoporosis. If you suffer from or are at risk of developing osteoporosis, you might be a good candidate for BHRT.
Ovarian and Endometrial Cancer
Two studies published in the Journal of Gynecological Endocrinology indicate that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can help protect the health of patients who have ovarian or endometrial cancer. Bioidentical hormones use estriol as a protective agent when administering low doses of progesterone. This helps protect women from osteoporosis and heart problems while minimizing the side effects of their cancer treatments.
Some women using birth control to manage their PCOS symptoms experience negative side effects that make their treatment regimen a daily struggle. With BHRT, women can manage their symptoms with an effective, individualized dose that minimizes the negative side effects they experience.
Like with PCOS, severe PMS symptoms are often treated with the use of birth control, which sometimes causes inconvenient side effects for the women taking it. With BHRT, however, the dose can be administered through a variety of means, including creams and suppositories, and can be used during only a few days of a woman’s cycle.
Perimenopause and Menopause
One of the most popular uses of BHRT among women is to treat symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Unfortunately, more women are experiencing perimenopause symptoms earlier than they ever have before. Women as young as 40, and some unlucky few in their 30s, begin experiencing these frustrating and, at times, overwhelming symptoms related to menopause.
Bioidentical hormone therapy is highly effective at reducing moderate and severe menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms, making it an excellent treatment option. It helps reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes and can help increase libido and resolve vaginal dryness.
Who Might Not Be a Good Candidate for Bioidentical Hormone Therapy?
Bioidentical hormone therapy is a safe and effective treatment option. However, some treatments are not suitable for everyone. Some individuals have a history of illnesses or diseases that disrupt how the body responds to certain endocrine-related hormones. For people with these health concerns, increasing the levels of those specific hormones in their body, whether through nutrition or treatment, can have a severe effect.
Our team will work with you to make sure that you are a good candidate for treatment while also making sure your treatment plan is a good fit for you. However, we’ve provided a list below of individuals who might not be a good candidate for bioidentical hormone therapy.
Patients Who Have Had Breast Cancer
Individuals who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past may not be a good candidate for some BHRT treatments, depending on the hormones involved. Increasing estrogen or androgen levels puts breast cancer survivors at risk of relapse.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicates that rates of relapse with low-dosage use of BHRT are similar to those found in the general population. However, each individual is unique. It’s always best to discuss your specific situation before making any health changes.
Patients Who Experience Unexplained Vaginal Bleeding
Hyperplasia, the unchecked growth of the uterine lining, is usually caused by an overabundance of estrogen in the body. Over time, the build-up of tissue can cause uterine cancer.
If you experience spotting or vaginal bleeding that is not related to your regular period, you may not be a good candidate for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy as this could be a sign of a more serious underlying health risk. Some light bleeding can be common while using BHRT, however, if it is heavy or continues past three months, our team will discuss your options with you.
Patients With Blood Clotting Issues
Some individuals who have a history of having blood clots in the past may not be a suitable candidate for BHRT. Particularly, oral administration of some estrogens and progestins put patients at an increased risk of developing a blood clot in a large vein. However, these risks are not necessarily present for other hormones and other administration methods.
Patients With Certain Thyroid Dysfunctions
Those who have had issues with their thyroid may not be a good candidate for BHRT. While it might seem like a good idea to use BHRT to restore the levels, the underlying issues behind thyroid dysfunction vary widely. If the underlying cause is an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s, for instance, managing the imbalanced thyroid hormone levels would be like putting a band-aid on a much larger problem. Depending on your situation, we may recommend holding off on bioidentical hormone treatment until the underlying condition is taken care of.
Am I an Ideal Candidate for BHRT?
Most men and women experiencing the effects of an imbalanced hormonal system are ideal candidates for treatment. However, the only way to know for sure whether you are a good candidate for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is by scheduling an initial consultation and screening.
Each hormone functions in a slightly different—but always complex—way in the body. But many of the symptoms for each hormone overlap with the others. It’s difficult to know which hormone might be the culprit of your current symptoms without testing.
When you meet with our team, we will extensively review your health history and do testing to discover precisely why you are feeling the way you do. Once we identify the hormones involved, and the treatments needed to restore those specific hormones back to their optimum levels, we will have a far better idea of what kind of treatments would be most helpful and whether those treatments are a good fit for you.
Get Started Today
Contact the Houston, TX of ShineMD Medspa & Liposuction Center today to set up a consultation and find out if bioidentical hormone therapy is right for you.