Vail Daily column: Options exist for hormone treatment
There are many reasons that hormone levels in men and women may become imbalanced. Unfortunately, such changes are not isolated to old people. Changes in hormonal levels are seen in people as early as their 30s and occasionally earlier.
For women, the 40s are often when changes in hormones occur. As women age, the ovaries produce less of the hormones progesterone and estrogen. This decrease in hormone production often leads to unpredictable menstrual periods, irritability, anxiety, changes in mood, tension and feeling overwhelmed.
Other hormonal changes that may occur could be related to the thyroid. As your thyroid ages, it can begin to function less effectively and either produce too little or too much of the thyroid hormones. According to Dr. Daniel Einhorn,an endocrinologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, California:
“Thyroid disease, generally, comes in two flavors: over- (hyperthyroidism) and under-active (hypothyroidism). The symptoms of hyperthyroidism — including weight loss, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, irritability, heat intolerance and a constantly ‘wired’ feeling — generally catch women’s attention sooner than those of hypothyroidism. A common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid.
“An under-active thyroid, called hypothyroidism, however, is a whole different story.
“The symptoms are usually mild and non-specific, so it’s easy to attribute them to many other things … like menopause, for instance,” Einhorn wrote.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, an under-active thyroid can lead to fatigue, brain fog, irregular menstrual periods, weight gain, depression, constantly feeling cold and even hair loss.
A bioidentical approach
Bioidentical hormone replacement can be used, specifically for women, to help mitigate the symptoms of general hormonal imbalance in addition to menopause and perimenopause symptoms.
Dr. Charla Blacker, a reproductive endocrinologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit explains, “Unlike conventional hormone therapy that uses synthetic hormones or animal-based hormones that are slightly different from a woman’s own hormones, bioidentical hormones are biochemically the same as those made by the ovaries during a woman’s reproductive years.”
Hormone replacement therapies are medications containing female hormones to replace the ones that a woman’s body no longer makes. Typically, hormone replacement therapies consist of a combination of estrogen plus progestin and are made from synthetic hormones or animal-based hormones that are slightly different from a woman’s own hormones. They are commonly available in tablets, transdermally (through the skin); subcutaneously (a long-lasting implant) and vaginally.
Until recently, the combination of estrogen and progestin made up most hormone replacement therapies and was considered to be an effective treatment for menopause. However, side effects of hormone replacement therapy have led many people to seek other options.
Known side effects of hormone replacement therapy include breast cancer, blood clots, stroke and heart disease. The risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy need to be weighed individually and in conjunction with your doctor.
Women’s Health Initiative
In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative study brought to light concerns about hormone replacement therapy. It was a randomized, controlled clinical trial of hormone replacement therapy and is one of the most definitive, far-reaching clinical trials of post-menopausal women’s health ever undertaken in the U.S.
While the Women’s Health Initiative study has shown that hormone replacement therapy has had life-threatening risks, research is still being conducted on some of the potential benefits. The beneficial effects on colorectal cancer risk and large colon adenomas are still of interest to researchers and the medical community.
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement is thought to be effective in helping to regulate hormones without the side effects of the therapies using synthetic ingredients. Unlike conventional hormone therapy, bioidentical hormones are thought to be biochemically the same and have the same molecular structure as those made by the ovaries.
Bioidentical hormone therapy has been supported with sufficient trial data that warrants a look. If you are interested, you can research the web and try speaking to your local pharmacist who may be educated in preparing bioidenticals.
Locally, Vail Valley Pharmacy in Edwards provides bioidentical hormones for both women and men.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visiting angels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.