How are hormones tested?
Hormones can be tested in saliva, urine and blood. The most accurate way to test most hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol, is through a saliva test. Other hormones such as thyroid, can only be tested in the blood. Urine is often used to test the breakdown products of all hormones and is most useful when someone has been taking hormone replacement. Urine tests can help determine how the body is processing hormones and if it is doing it safely and correctly.
My doctor said he/she tested my hormones and that they were "normal", does that mean my hormones are balanced?
It depends on how the tests were performed. If they were blood tests most likely they were not accurate. Blood hormone tests are very difficult to interpret because hormones only travel through the blood stream for brief periods of time as they make their way from the gland that produced them, to the organ they need to act upon. This is why saliva testing is much more accurate because it measures the amount of hormone present in a tissue that has accumulated over time. In addition, “normal” ranges are determined by taking samples from a healthy “average” population. But since all individuals are chemically and genetically different, what’s normal for one person, may not be normal for another, even if they both fall within the “normal range.”
What is the difference between bioidentical and synthetic hormones?
Synthetic hormones are structurally different than the hormones the human body makes, and therefore the body sees them as toxic substances that must be broken down into other chemicals that can cause harmful side effects. Many synthetic hormones are given orally and thus the liver is the first place they go, to be detoxified, rather than to the tissue that needs them the most. Synthetic hormones also do not have the same effect on the target receptors in various organs that natural hormones do. Bioidentical hormones are typically made from plants such as yams and soy. They are structurally identical to the human hormones and therefore the body can recognize them and use them appropriately without creating harmful substances or side effects.
Are bioidentical hormones safe to take?
Yes! The Women’s Health Initiative Trial proved to us that synthetic hormones, such as premarin (horse estrogen) and progestin (synthetic progesterone) are unsafe. These are the chemical components that make up birth control pills and Prempro. When the trial was published the medical community was advised to take all post-menopausal women off of hormone replacement because of the side effects and bad outcomes observed in the trial. However, there have been many follow up studies to the WHI trial that have used bioidentical hormones and none of them have shown any such side effects. In fact, these studies have shown that bioidentical hormones, in doses physiologically produced by the human body, can restore health and balance without any long term side effects. In addition, it’s interesting to note that the same recommendations for taking post-menopausal women off synthetic hormones has not carried over to birth control pills, implants, or IUD’s, all of which have been shown to increase risk of blood clots and cause many other similar side effects. In fact, it is well known that birth control, or any type of hormone use, is associated with B vitamin depletion, which can create many other health problems such as unexplained skin rashes, anxiety/depression, memory loss, heart and neurological disorders. If you are currently taking any type of hormones, whether natural or synthetic, you should also be taking a vitamin B complex on a daily basis.
What can synthetic hormones do to my body?
Synthetic hormones have been linked to breast, uterine and ovarian cancer, heart disease, blood clots, strokes, and migraines. While bioidentical hormones have been shown to help prevent or improve these conditions.
I‘ve already gone through menopause and don’t have hot flashes anymore... do I still need hormones?
Yes! A healthy hormone balance will protect your body from developing many health problems such as weight gain, sagging, loose or thin skin, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, strokes, osteoporosis, cancer, and dementia. Even if you feel good, you may not have the proper hormone balance to maintain this state forever and could eventually develop symptoms or diseases.
Do men need hormones replacement?
Yes! Men also go through menopause…but we call this andropause! After the age of 50 men start to have significant decreases in testosterone production, and this can be worsened by medications such as statin drugs (Lipitor/atorvastatin, Crestor/rosuvastatin, Zocor/simvastatin) commonly used to treat cholesterol. Low testosterone levels can cause loss of muscle mass/strength, poor concentration, depression/anxiety, erectile dysfunction, insulin resistance leading to diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, prostate problems, and bone loss. Men also have estrogen and progesterone. Some men even convert their testosterone into estrogen which causes weight gain, gynecomastia (breast tissue), decreased sex drive, increase risk of prostate cancer and many other common symptoms. Therefore, men need hormone balancing just as much as women!