Hormone levels naturally fluctuate throughout life. How and why your hormone levels fluctuate will vary depending on a whole range of different factors. Some of those reasons are totally normal and healthy, and some of them less so. Fortunately for those who need a bit of hormone help, bioidentical hormone therapy offers a solution.
What They Are
Bioidentical hormones are pretty much exactly what they sound like. They are hormones that are chemically/molecularly identical to the natural hormones your body produces. The idea is that, by creating hormones that chemically match those the body already produces, the body won’t be able to tell a difference between these added hormones and those already being produced. If the body can’t tell a difference, it means the body is more likely to be receptive to the hormones coming from an external source. You may frequently hear bioidentical hormones referred to as “natural hormone therapy” because they match what happens naturally in your body — and also because they are generally made from naturally-derived sources.
Bioidentical hormones can come in multiple different forms, depending on the hormone or hormones being replicated. The more prevalent form of bioidentical hormone delivery is by pill but there are also patches, topical creams, vaginal creams, injections, transdermal gels, and even a vaginal ring option. The form of delivery will depend largely on the hormones your body needs. Your bioidentical hormone replacement therapy will be custom-made based on your hormone levels, so discuss delivery methods and other questions with your doctor.
How Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy Works
As we mentioned above, the basic idea is to provide your body with a chemically-identical version of the hormones your body is not getting enough of. Your doctor will request laboratory testing to identify whether or not you have a hormone imbalance, and to determine how much of each hormone your body needs. From there, a custom compound will be made to help level your hormones. By matching your body’s needs, the goal is to relieve the symptoms associated with your hormone imbalance.
Some of the signs of a hormone imbalance include:
- Fatigue, difficulty sleeping
- Hot flashes
- Diminished sex drive
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Brain fog
- Anxiety, depression, mood swings
- Muscle loss
Of course, the symptoms will vary depending on which hormones your body isn’t producing sufficient quantities of, and how off your levels are. If you are concerned that something isn’t right with your hormone levels, or you experience some/all of the above symptoms, start by discussing everything with your doctor. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may start with tests to see whether your hormone levels are where they ought to be.
Who Can They Help?
The short answer to this question is: anyone with a hormone imbalance. Commonly, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is used to treat symptoms of menopause in women, though there is increased use of testosterone replacement for men going through andropause (the male term for hormone levels decreasing with age, comparable to menopause). However, menopause and andropause are not the only causes of hormone imbalance. There are a range of other health issues that can lead to hormonal imbalances. Issues with the adrenal glands, thyroid, leptin, and insulin can impact your body’s hormone levels just as much as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone production.
What may surprise many is that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can be used to treat certain health issues that don’t seem immediately related. Issues like osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, insulin resistance, and others can stem from hormone imbalance that occurs during menopause. Treating the hormone imbalance can actually help the body with those seemingly-unrelated issues as well. However, it’s important to note that individuals with a history of certain health issues — particularly breast, ovarian, uterine, or cervical cancer — should be sure to discuss with a doctor whether bioidentical hormones are the right choice.
If you feel you could benefit from bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, the first step is to meet with a doctor to discuss your health concerns and test your hormone levels. Learn more about BHRT and schedule your initial consultation in Peoria; contact the Functional Medicine team at Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa today.