Hormone Harmony for Wise Women
Are you a woman over 40 who has hot flashes and or night sweats? Is your sleep is disrupted? Do you lose your keys and feel like your brain is in a fog? Do you feel overwhelmed by tasks while at the same time lacking energy to accomplish these tasks?
If you experience some of the above symptoms, your hormones may be out of balance. You are not alone. Over 70% of women who enter menopause seek medical help for their symptoms.
This time of life can be a huge challenge for women. Not only are the physical, mental and emotional challenges difficult, but relationships seem more daunting as well.
The great news is that when you get your hormones back into balance, you can experience better sleep, more mental clarity, more energy and joy than ever before!
Paradoxically, conflicting information abounds. Many doctors are still afraid to prescribe bioidentical hormones. (For more about the fear of hormones, check out this video:
If at all!Ever watch a pharmaceutical commercial?It's usually 30 seconds of ad followed by a minute of dire warnings! Why would we ever take anything? Usually (when we're guided correctly) it's because the risk-reward ratio is in our favor: what we stand to gain outweighs the risks. So what's the truth with hormones? Do the benefits exceed the consequences? Why yes they do!Today we talk about why there's fear of these beautiful gifts and why they are beautiful gifts!
Posted by Menopause Method on Thursday, July 5, 2018
The good news is that more and more evidence shows the benefits of supplemental, bioidentical hormones. Doctors who have looked at the most recent, peer reviewed, clinical data are now prescribing bioidentical hormones. And their patients are finding relief.
Bioidentical hormones offer both short term and long term benefits. After years of confusion, the science is finally clear:on average, women with balanced hormones live longer. Women with balanced hormones enjoy better sleep, greater energy, stronger bones, better physical and mental health with fewer risks.
On this page, I offer my story of going from exhaustion, mental fog and misery to joy and gratitude with bioidentical hormones. I then offer some brief tips for how to use bioidentical hormones to feel your best. I strongly recommend reading good books and/or finding someone to guide you through the process of balancing your hormones. For more information, I have provided links to useful web pages, books, videos and primary literature.
As a young woman, I was energetic and fit. When I turned 54 a few years ago, my life slowed down. Night sweats began to wake me up in the middle of the night and a racing mind prevented me from falling back to sleep. I felt exhausted and moody. I was forgetful. My brain felt as if in a fog. My vagina was dry. My bone density was on the cusp of osteopenia. (Both my grandmothers suffered from osteoporosis. My Mom battles this brittle bone disease with drugs and exercise.) So this was menopause. How did women cope?
Estrogen had helped my mom with menopause symptoms, Estrogen also prevented her osteoporosis. In 2002, after publication of the WHI study, her doctor took her off estrogen. Like most doctors, my Mom’s doctor was afraid of estrogen because of the scare with the Women’s Health Initiative.
Feeling miserable in menopause, I went to my doctor for help. My doctor warned of the dangers of hormones. She then reluctantly prescribed Premarin. Being curious, I read up on Premarin before taking it. I learned that Premarin contained estrogens from horses. I then learned that horse estrogens are not the estrogens found in women. I wondered why my doctor would give me estrogen from a horse when hormones identical to women’s were available. I also wondered why she was so reluctant to prescribe hormones in the first place. I was confused.
To relieve my confusion, I began to looked at peer reviewed scientific literature. Since I have a PhD in microbiology, I was not deterred by the technical language.
I began with the infamous Women Health Initiative study. When I looked at the data (not the summary) it was clear that medroxyprogesterone was the culprit causing heart attacks, increased cancer and stroke. After months of wading through data, the evidence convinced me that bioidentical hormones, (specifically 17 ß estradiol and progesterone), were both safe and effective. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that women who took bioidentical hormones not only felt better, they lived longer and healthier lives! This shocked me! Women who were on bioidentical hormones have less cancer, fewer heart attacks, and fewer strokes! Also, they experience less dementia as they age! (See below for references.)
Even More Clarity!
I found another doctor who was happy to prescribe bioidentical hormones. After a few weeks on estradiol and progesterone, I began to feel so much better. Now, I am extremely pleased to report that all the symptoms of menopause have disappeared! I feel better than I have felt in years! My bone density has gone up and I have no need for surgery. I’ve returned to dancing and bike-riding with no discomfort!
As a result of my improved health, I experience joy and moments of grace so much more easily and more often. Instead of feeling exhausted and overwhelmed with commitments that I’m too tired to keep, I feel more energy. I have more time to appreciate the beauty of life. My mind is clear and I can see the blessings of life so much more clearly. Best of all, I have the energy and mental clarity to contribute to family and friends.
In addition to feeling great right now, I also look forward to better health as I age. More and more long term studies show the benefits of hormone replacement. Thanks to this research, I have less anxiety about the future. I know that my chances of broken bones, heart attack and stroke are way less than they would have been without these hormones. I feel more hopeful that I will not experience the bone disintegration of one grandmother or the strokes of my other grandmother. The more I read, the more reassured I become about the long term benefits of supplemental hormones.
Excited about my great experience with hormones, I wanted to share this good news with others. I also wanted to learn more. So, in 2017, I attended a conference with the world’s leading doctors and researchers on bioidentical hormone therapy. A4M organized workshops and lectures by doctors at the forefront of hormone therapy, functional medicine, and personalized medicine. I attended an outstanding workshop on hormone health with Europe’s leading endocrinologist, Dr. Theirry Hertoghe. His main lesson is this: aging is caused by loss of balanced hormones. At this workshop, I met Dr. Daved Rosensweet, a gynecologist who specializes in hormone replacement therapy for women. Warm and knowledgeable, Dr. Rosensweet has been healing women since 1971. Dr. Rosensweet had just published the book “Happy Healthy Hormones.” This clear and helpful book corroborates everything I had learned and gave me useful new insights. I have since shared this excellent book with friends and my doctor. I also attended a lecture by Dr. Jennifer Landa from BodyLogic. Dr. Landa presented the latest literature on cancer and hormones. The good news: estrogen, when used properly, does not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Below is a brief summary of the benefits of estradiol and progesterone.
Benefits of 17 beta Estradiol + Progesterone Replacement
- Adds years to life and life to years
- Prevents hot flashes
- Improves sleep
- Protects against osteoporosis and bone fractures
- Protects against memory disorders including Alzheimers
- Protects against vaginal dryness, incontinence and atrophy
- Protects against urinary incontinence
- Protects against heart disease
- Protects against breast cancer
- Protects against diabetes
- Protects against fatigue
- Increases energy
- Protects skin
- Prevents depression and mood swings
- Increases libido
- Find a doctor that you can talk to. Ideally, this doctor will specializes in hormone replacement therapy. Otherwise, find a doctor that is open to learning about the most up-to-date, peer-reviewed literature (see below.)
- Do NOT use medroxyprogesterone! Be sure the progesterone is human bioidentical progesterone and NOT a progestin, like medroxyprogesterone, which is strongly linked to breast cancer. Much of the confusion in the literature is due to problems associated with medroxyprogesterone.
- Use bioidentical hormones. Be sure the estrogen is 17 beta estradiol, the kind that women produce. (The most commonly prescribed estrogen Premarin, is from horses, which is not recommended, since horse hormones are different than a woman’s hormones. We are not nags.)
- You can purchase estrogen and progesterone creams on Amazon. Look for a cream with USP certification. Life-Flo BiEstro-Care is a good choice. The USP certification means the estrogen and progesterone are as good as that found in prescription grade creams or patches.
- “Start low, go slow.” Start with a low dose and gradually increase until you find the benefit. If you take too much, your body will let you know (ie headaches or painful breasts. Just back off the amount.
- Apply bioidentical estrogen through the skin, either through patch or cream. Estrogen is easy to apply with a patch, which slowly releases estrogen over time.
- Do not take estrogen orally. Taking it orally can change the molecular structure of estrogen, which causes problems. When you swallow estrogen, digestive acids and enzymes change its structure. As soon as its absorbed in the blood, estrogen goes to the liver, where some is converted to other compounds. Estrogen absorbed through the skin remains unchanged.
- Timing is important. If 10 years have passed since menopause AND if you have not been replacing your hormones, then it is even more critical to apply estrogen through the skin. (Estrogen in pill form is changed by the gut and liver to molecules that cause problems.)
- Use progesterone with estradiol, even if you’ve had a hysterectomy. In the past, doctors only prescribed progesterone if you had a hysterectomy. Now, studies have shown that progesterone with estrogen reduces the incidence of breast cancer. Also, progesterone has many benefits, including help with sleep and mental well being. Apply progesterone cream just before going to bed, since it makes you relaxed and sleepy.
- You can buy progesterone cream over the counter at grocery stores and pharmacies. I’ve had good experiences with Pro-Gest by Emerita and Source Naturals.
- I personally use the Climara Patch, since it is covered by my health insurance. It works well. Although I get it for a reasonable copay, it’s expensive. I hope my insurance provider is not paying full cost.
You may experience pushback from your doctors. Many doctors are afraid of prescribing hormones because they have not yet learned of up to date information. Scientific research is moving so fast that it’s a challenge for everyone, including doctors, to keep up. Many doctors are swamped with responsibilities and patients. We are all learning. Many doctors appreciate it if you pass along peer reviewed research papers (see below). My doctors are always grateful for the books and peer-reviewed literature that I pass along.
Links to More information and Primary Literature
Happy Healthy Hormones by Daved Rosensweet – Fabulous book! This book has everything you need to know about balancing your hormones to thrive gracefully after menopause. Dr. Rosensweet teaches doctors and patients about the latest research on bioidentical hormone therapy.
iWonderDoctor – Dr. Rosensweet’s web pages contain helpful videos about hormone replacement.
BodyLogic – These physicians are trained in natural bioidentical hormone therapy . They integrate hormone therapy with nutrition and fitness plans for those suffering from hormone imbalance.
Yale study reevaluates the Women’s Health Initiative: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780684/
Results: “Over a 10-year span, starting in 2002, a minimum of 18,601 and as many as 91,610 postmenopausal women died prematurely because of the avoidance of estrogen therapy.”
Estrogen replacement prevents heart attacks. A March 8, 2017 study of 4200 women reports that those taking estrogen replacement were “Thirty percent less likely to die than those not on hormone.” https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/About-Us/News/News-Releases-2017/Study-Hormone-Replacement-Therapy-May-Help-Improve-Womens-Heart-Health-Overall-Survival.aspx
Estrogen Prevents Heart Attacks and Stroke: Here’s a link to a Finnish study that found large benefits for estradiol: “In conclusion, based on the reductions in the relative death risks, Vaginal estrogen use for up to 10 years is related to a maximum of 24 fewer deaths for Coronary Heart Disease and 18 fewer deaths for stroke in 1000 post-menopausal women.” https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/humrep/dew014
Estrogen Reduces Risk of Death: Here’s a link to a Danish Study showing the benefits of 17 Beta estradiol: “After 16 years, 27 on HRT died versus 40 in control died.” http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e6409.
HRT started early in postmenopausal women significantly reduces the risk of the combined endpoint of mortality, myocardial infarction, or heart failure.
Here’s data on the benefits of applying hormones to skin versus swallowing: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22011208
Here is a review of estradiol replacement with links to important major peer-reviewed studies: