As we age, certain hormone levels decline, creating hormone imbalances that increase our risk for many degenerative diseases. These hormone imbalances and deficiencies will accelerate the aging process. Supplementing with bioidentical hormones can restore hormones to youthful levels and restore energy and vitality, greatly enhancing your quality of life.

To appreciate the potential of bioidentical hormone replacement, it is necessary to review what hormones do in the body and understand the diverse role they play in your health and well-being. Hormones are chemical messengers that control all the body’s functions. They control our metabolism, our energy production, and our mood and memory and contribute greatly to our libido and sexual performance. Hormones direct cells throughout the human body by giving cells chemical messages, or instructions, to carry out cellular function. Every cell in the body requires interactions with hormones for optimal cell function and health. If hormone levels are deficient, cell function and, subsequently, organ function will suffer. To maintain our health, we must maintain youthful hormone levels with bioidentical hormone replacement.

Understanding the wellness benefits of bioidentical hormones requires differentiating bioidentical hormones from traditional synthetic hormone replacement. Bioidentical means that the hormones used are exact replicas of hormones produced naturally in our bodies: same shape, same structure, same effects. Traditional synthetic hormones are not the same as our own hormones; rather, they are chemical substitutes for our hormones: different shape, different structure, different effects. Hormones interact with cells throughout the body by binding onto cell receptors. Cell receptors recognize different hormones based on their shapes and structures. If we want a specific hormone effect in the body, we must use a hormone that is biologically identical to that hormone, not a synthetic mismatch. By supplementing deficient hormones with the exact hormone, we allow the body to utilize the hormone naturally and without side effects.

Let us move on to the specifics of bioidentical hormone replacement. As women age, they produce less estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone hormones. Estrogen is a broad term for three main hormones called estriol, estradiol, and estrone. As men age, they produce less testosterone and gradually produce more estrogen. In addition, both men and women release less human growth hormone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). It is crucial to acknowledge that insufficient levels of some or all of these hormones result in hormone deficiency states that will adversely influence health and aging. Low hormone levels will mean suboptimal metabolism, leading to higher body fat, less muscle, and less bone density. Remember that these hormones interact with every cell in the body. Suboptimal cell function leads to accelerated skin aging, increased risk of heart disease, dementia, stroke, and osteoporosis. Our immune system is adversely affected, so we are less resistant to bacterial and viral illness and cancer. To add insult to injury, mood and libido will suffer from low hormone levels. As hormone levels drop, night sweats, hot flashes, fatigue, depression, dry skin, and insomnia can develop. The end result of a hormone deficiency is decreased quality of life.

A key word in bioidentical hormone replacement is balance. Balance means that we correct all deficient hormone levels, instead of focusing only on estrogen supplementation in women or testosterone replacement in men. Unfortunately, isolated hormone replacement with synthetic hormones has been the norm with traditional hormone replacement. All the hormones work together for optimal effect and safety in the body. If we only focus on a few deficient hormones, then we will never restore hormonal balance, and we will never reach optimal health.

Heart disease is a leading cause of death. Bioidentical hormone replacement plays a tremendous role in decreasing many cardiac risk factors. For example, both estrogen and testosterone improve cholesterol panels, improve blood flow to the heart, improve blood pressure, improve blood sugar and insulin levels, and decrease the risk of blood clotting. Most of the benefits of bioidentical hormones on heart function also apply to brain function, with improved memory, mood, and decreased risk of dementia and stroke. With traditional hormone replacement we tend to focus only on symptom reduction, that is, night sweats, hot flashes, and so on, while ignoring the huge impact of hormones on heart and brain health. Bioidentical hormones are also natural anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, and these attributes decrease the risk of every degenerative disease. Because of the crucial role bioidentical hormones play throughout the body, it is essential to understand that there is no physiologic benefit to maintaining deficient or low hormone levels. For optimal health we must measure our hormone levels and correct deficiencies as they develop.

We identify hormone deficiencies by a combination of reviewing symptoms and hormone blood levels. We correct hormone deficiencies by working with compounding pharmacies. Compounding pharmacies allow us tremendous flexibility in dosing as well as routes of hormone administration. Depending on the hormones that are deficient, we can offer hormone replacement as topical creams, oral capsules, troches (wafers that dissolve under the tongue), or injections. Flexible dosing options allow us to meet individual patient requirements. The multiple dosing and route options make bioidentical hormone replacement a unique, individualized program for each patient. This allows improved patient compliance and results. We monitor each patient with serial reviews of hormone deficiency symptoms as well as with serial measurements of blood hormone levels to ensure patient safety and success.

Keys to bioidentical hormone replacement include the following.

1. Obtain blood tests for specific hormone levels both at onset of therapy and with serial follow-up. A hormone panel for men includes total and free testosterone, DHEA, IGF-1 (measure of growth hormone), and estradiol (main estrogen). A hormone panel for women includes testosterone, estradiol, progesterone, IGF-1, and DHEA. Both men and women should check a thyroid panel (TSH, free T4, and free T3).
2. Work with a physician trained in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
3. Supplement deficient hormones with bioidentical hormones (no synthetic substitutes). Remember balance.
4. Optimize results by combining symptom reduction with hormone blood levels to gauge dose adjustments.
5. Custom dosing and routes with compounding pharmacies.
6. Eat a whole-food diet rich in healthy protein (lean meats, fish, eggs), healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, raw nuts, seeds, fish oil), and healthy carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables).
7. Avoid or minimize processed foods, chemical food additives, and artificial sweeteners.
8. Participate in a moderate, consistent exercise program.1

Bioidentical hormone replacement offers a modality that slows the aging process, improves health, and decreases the risk of many degenerative diseases. It will add quality years to your life.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health”, visit http://selfgrowth.com/healthbook3.html

Author's Bio: 

Frank Comstock, MD, FACEP, FAAAM, is board certified in antiaging medicine and emergency medicine. He is now into his twentieth year of emergency medicine and his seventh year of antiaging medicine. At Lifestyle Spectrum in Tucson, Arizona, he offers private consultations for programs including healthy diet, exercise, bioidentical hormones, and supplementation. Contact www.skinspectrum.com or LifeStyle Spectrum, 6127 North La Cholla, Tucson, AZ 85741.