Is "natural" always the best alternative? There is a lot of debate between synthetic hormone physicians and bioidentical hormone doctors, but who is right? This debate is especially common amongst those treating menopausal women because symptoms of menopause result from decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone. Studies have been published on this topic, the most prominent being the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), but the war still wages on. So who is right?
In today’s world information is literally at our fingertips, which has allowed us the opportunity to take our health into our own hands. However, what people don’t always know is who is actually supplying the information. Unfortunately the powers of giant drug corporations can persuade us that the answers lie in what they are promoting; although some of what they are saying may be true and beneficial, there may also be some drawbacks.
Menopause can be an extremely difficult and trying time both emotionally and physically for an enormous population of women. Symptoms associated with menopause include; hot flashes, irritability, insomnia, loss of sex drive, vaginal dryness, dry skin, sagging breast, depression, and decreased memory. They can range in duration and severity, but regardless they can have an adverse effect on a woman’s life. For many women hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can play a key role in restoring her sense of self and well being. With that being said; what HRT is the most beneficial?
This is where patients rely heavily on their doctor’s knowledge and trust they are getting the best treatment; however, not all physicians agree on this topic. Bioidentical hormone doctors do believe natural hormones are the best way to go and here’s why: Estrogen and progesterone are hormones produced by a woman’s ovaries. As she ages production of these hormones decrease. Lower levels of estrogen are what cause menopausal symptoms. Therefore, estrogen replacement therapy can be taken to relieve menopausal symptoms. However, unless a woman has had her uterus removed then estrogen replacement should be combined with progesterone to lower the chance of unwanted thickening of the lining of the uterus and reduce the risk of cancer.
Estrogen replacement has been shown not only to improve symptoms directly associated with menopause, but it also decreases the risk of stroke, heart attack, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, osteoarthritis, periodontal disease and tooth loss, colon cancer and it also reduces wrinkles and signs of aging.
Provera is a synthetic steroidal progestin (form of progesterone). When taken with estrogen it negates many of the beneficial effects of estrogen and significantly increases the risk of breast cancer, stroke, and heart attack. In fact the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) had to halt studies using Provera prematurely due to the risk presented. Premarin is estrogen derived from pregnant horses and contains mostly estrone and a number of equine estrogens which are not natural to humans. Theses foreign estrogens bind very tightly to the human estrogen receptors, making them highly stimulating and carcinogenic. The bottom line is that hormones that are synthetically produced and not natural to humans are not a positive alternative in replacing estrogen and progesterone.
American culture today strives to live organic. The word “natural” carries a lot of weight. It is clean, made in nature and free of toxins. Just as we look for natural alternatives in our diet so should we side with the bioidentical hormone doctors giving our body the natural hormones it needs. Bioidentical progesterone protects against breast and uterine cancer, improves blood flow to the heart, augments estrogen’s positive effects on mood, and helps form new bone. Bioidentical estrogen is one that contains natural estradiol and estriol, and combined with bioidentical progesterone provides maximum protective support against cancer while minimizing menopausal symptoms.
In order to achieve optimal benefits from the therapy seek out trained bioidentical hormone doctors who will include a combination of natural progesterone and estrogen, preferably transdermally (through the skin via patch). Estriol should also be combined with estradiol for the highest estrogen support because estriol alone is a weak estrogen and would have to be given in very large doses, which can lead to side effects. In addition, supplementation of testosterone should also be included. Women’s testosterone levels also decline with menopause and will cause depression, fatigue, weight gain, low sex drive, and promote osteoporosis.
The key to a positive beneficial HRT experience is, in fact, not just HRT, but BHRT.
For even more information on HRT vs. BHRT, watch this interview with Dr. Holtorf.