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Bio-Identical Hormones: What Every Woman Needs To Know!

By: Dr. Marianne Beck, DC

In July 2002, conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) made front page news. The longest and largest US study off HRT came to an abrupt end. The Women's Health Initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ended because it was found that synthetic hormone replacement therapy (Provera, Premarin and others) caused a 26% increase in breast cancer, a 41% increase in strokes, a 22% increase in cardiovascular disease and a 100% increase in blood clots. This was a shocking wake-up call to the 6 million U.S. women taking synthetic hormones.

Now, let's fast forward to 2008. On January 9, 2008 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) sent letters warning pharmacies about the claims they were making regarding the safety and effectiveness of their so-called "bio-identical hormone replacement therapy" (BHRT). The FDA stated that bio-identical hormone claims are unsupported by the medical evidence and claims of safety, effectiveness and superiority are misleading to patients as well as doctors and other health care professionals.

Bio-identical hormones are advertised to imply that they are natural or identical to the hormones made in the body. However, they are not identical at all. So-called bio-identical hormones are extracted from plants such as soybeans and wild yam and then synthesized in the laboratory. They may resemble human hormones, but they are not human hormones. This therapy is often called "natural" but in reality it is not natural since bio-identicals are synthesized in the laboratories of compounding pharmacies. Yes, they are made from "natural" substances but wild yams and soybeans are not native to the human body just as the urine from pregnant mares (Premarin) is not native to the human body!

Bio- identical hormones are available in gels, creams, oral tablets, sublingual thoches, suppositories and injectables. But, they are not food or herbs. They are hormone drugs. And, these hormone drugs have not been tested for safety and efficacy. An FDA analysis found that 34% of compounded hormones flunked standard quality tests and 90% failed potency tests. No hormone therapy can be considered completely safe-there is always some risk. In fact, saliva hormone testing has proven that bio-identical hormones can cause extreme body toxicity and women can be exposed to "hormone overload". When this occurs, the liver is unable to process and get rid of this extra hormone load. Excess toxic load can compromise the liver's ability to perform the function of hormone detoxification, raising the question of whether estrogen is really a cause of cancer or if an over-stressed liver is the real problem because it can't breakdown and rid the body of the excess estrogen. Suzanne Somers, in her book The Sexy Years, promotes high doses of estradiol (about 4 times the normal amount found in the body). This high of an amount could stress the liver as well as alter the proper estrogen/progesterone balance.

So, what is a menopausal woman to do? Well first of all, we must realize that whether bio-identical or synthetic, any hormone replacement shuts down your body's production of its own hormones causing hormone dependency. All hormone replacement therapy is based on the incorrect assumption that the body becomes incapable of producing hormones simply because we reach a certain age! As we age, our body does alter its hormone production, but hormone problems are a function of how healthy you are, not how old you are! Before resorting to hormone drugs, the best ways to reduce the symptoms of menopause are to improve your overall health and make the appropriate lifestyle changes. Begin with taking a pharmaceutical grade multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, stop smoking, get better sleep and more sleep each night, start regular exercise, use deep breathing and meditation for increasing relaxation and decrease the use of sugar, sodas and all processed foods in your diet. You can heal the body and help the body make normal amounts of hormones, including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone by using nutritional supplements, herbals, homeopathy, diet and lifestyle changes.

Special attention needs to be given to our adrenal glands which produce our sex hormones as our ovaries slow down their production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone when we get closer to menopause. If the adrenal glands are stressed and functioning poorly (producing too much or too little cortisol and DHEA) before and during menopause, they will not produce adequate sex hormones for your body to utilize. You can start by taking plenty of vitamin C, B vitamins (especially B5 and B6), potassium, zinc, magnesium and other nutrients necessary for adrenal gland health. One of the most potent stressors on your adrenal glands is the intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates such as cookies, cakes, candy and white flour products etc. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is caused by excess sugar intake and causes a variety of symptoms including fatigue, irritability, inability to stay asleep, anxiety, shaking and sweating, which many women mistake for menopause symptoms! So again, for the sake of your adrenal glands, avoid refined sugars, refined flour, fried foods, trans-fats etc. Your diet should contain whole, natural (organic if possible) nutrient dense foods.

Basically, all women need to take matters into their own hands through education and self-empowerment. Only then will we make wise choices. Using any hormones on your body or taking them into your body will certainly create symptoms, cause your body to become more toxic and therefore increase your biological age as your entire endocrine system slows down and stops producing your own natural hormones.

If you are finally tired of being "sick and tired", contact Dr. Marianne Beck at Women's BestHealth today. Call 954-782-4855 to to set up an appointment.

Women's BestHealth is a functional medicine and nutritional health center specializing in women's health issues and wellness. Dr. Marianne Beck, founder and director, provides natural treatment for menopause, perimenopause, adrenal fatigue/stress, thyroid problems, Hashimoto's, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal problems and autoimmune disease. We offer our services locally in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

Serving: South Florida (South Fl), Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Sunrise, Oakland park, Pompano Beach, Deerfield, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Miramar, Coral Springs, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coconut Creek, Weston, Hollywood, Plantation, Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

Marianne Beck, D.C., Functional Medicine Practitioner and Director, Women's BestHealth