Recently during a patient’s visit, we were reviewing her most recent OB/GYN appointment. Her physician asked why she was taking hormones. Unable to offer a technical explanation, she simply stated that she felt much better than she did before she began her treatment program.
While the basic question of WHY is a good question by her physician, we actually need to answer three questions.
- What are my individual hormone levels?
- Are my hormones in appropriate balance?
- Is my body metabolizing those hormones in the right way?
The answers to these three questions will answer the one question: “Why should a patient take hormones?”
What are my individual hormone levels?
Contrary to what most think, hormones are not just about individual numbers. Instead, hormones work collectively as a means of communication within the body. I am amazed at the answers I get when I ask postmenopausal women, “Does your body still have or need hormones?”
The answer is a resounding YES, but most people seem to think otherwise. The body must have hormones to survive. For example, those who suffer from Addison’s Disease have a life-threatening deficiency of cortisol (one of the body’s many hormones).
Far too often I hear the comment, “I’ve had a hysterectomy, so I don’t need progesterone.” The truth is having a hysterectomy does not eliminate your body’s use or need for hormones. It just means you are missing your uterus. Hysterectomy or not, millions of cells throughout the body have progesterone receptors and those cells could care less if you’ve had a hysterectomy or what your OB/GYN thinks about progesterone. [Insert laugh here!] These organ systems throughout the body have receptors for progesterone because they need progesterone.
The aforementioned patient’s hormone therapy included progesterone cream and DHEA capsules. Testing results showed her to be deficient in both progesterone and DHEA (read about how we test hormones at Seasons), and thus replacement was needed. In addition to test results, the patient’s clinical symptom history warranted the replacement of these hormones.
So why was DHEA included in her treatment program? Two reasons. The first is that her DHEA levels were low in her testing results. The second reason? This patient had Type II Diabetes and, after some additional testing, was found to have chronic inflammation throughout her body. DHEA has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve insulin function, and reduce obesity, all of which are associated with diabetes. DHEA does this through a complex interaction with the hormones adiponectin and insulin. As insulin levels rise with insulin resistance, adiponectin falls. This hormone imbalance will result in Diabetes for many people.
Additionally, Type II Diabetes has been shown to be the result of chronic inflammation. What does that mean, you ask? Chronic, dysregulated inflammation causes insulin resistance. What is the source of this inflammation, you ask? Fat cells! The obesity epidemic is the root cause of our current healthcare crisis.
Let’s go back to the patient’s hormone therapy. Her test results showed her deficient in progesterone. Becauseprogesterone is a natural anti-inflammatory, it is currently being used in traumatic brain injuries (TBI) to reduce inflammation and improve outcomes. In addition, women with low progesterone tend to have significantly more menstrual cramps, the result of inflammatory signals called prostaglandins. Progesterone therapy has been shown to reduce those prostaglandins and thus reduce menstrual cramps.
Are my hormones in appropriate balance?
Hormones don’t exist in a vacuum, as many seem to think. Hormones exist in a delicate balance. The most well publicized imbalance is that of the estrogens and progesterone. Imbalance of estrogen and progesterone have been linked to many health problems: fatigue, weight gain, headaches, and increased risk of breast cancer to name a few.
I often tell patients that with every cause there is an effect. You can’t give one hormone without affecting many others. The addition of progesterone to the body when it has been chronically low will not only restore progesterone to an appropriate physiologic level, but will also allow estrogen signals to work better. The balance of hormones allows each hormone to work as it was intended. Mind you, we are NOT talking about using synthetic hormones which are simply not what the body is looking for and contain harmful additives. We only treat with bioidentical hormones (bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, also known as BHRT).
Is my body metabolizing my hormones in the right way?
The final key point is looking at how the body processes hormones (metabolism). Hormone metabolism is just as important as the individual hormone levels and the hormone balance.
Let’s use estrogen metabolism, for example. Estrogens (there are actually three different types of estrogen) can be metabolized three ways: 2-hydroxy estrone, 4-hyroxy estrone, and 16-alpha-hydroxy estrone. Some of the risks associated with estrogen come from the body metabolizing estrogen utilizing the 4-hydoxy estrone pathway. This pathway results in many dangerous metabolites (break down products). Think of it as turning down the wrong road as you’re driving somewhere, and you end up in a briar patch!
Think about it. Many women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer don’t take bioidentical estrogen nor do they take synthetic estrogen. Their problem, as it relates to hormones, comes from endogenous hormone production (the body’s own hormone overproduction or underproduction), hormone metabolization, and the often undiscussed environmental xenoestrogens (from environmental toxin exposure). In lay terms, the body is metabolizing estrogen using the 4-hydoxy estrone pathway resulting in higher risk of cancer.
It has only been in the last 50 to 60 years that major hormonal imbalances in industrialized countries seem to have come to our attention. Before that, people and their hormones seemed to do just fine for thousands of years. We can attribute much of that to diminishing nutritional value in our foods and continually increasing exposure to toxins. Nutrition and toxins both have profound effects on the body, hormones included.
In conclusion, why should a patient take hormones (BHRT)?
The answer is a summary of the three points we’ve looked at here. By determining current hormone levels, restoring balance, and evaluating the body’s metabolic processes, the body can once again function as God intended it. Should a patient be on hormones? Well, only if you need them. But the truth is few of us have perfectly balanced hormones due to nutrition, toxin exposure, and prescription medication side effects.
At Seasons Wellness Clinic, we use state-of-the-art testing that reveals your body’s biochemistry. With our years of advanced training, we can carefully customize a treatment plan to restore your body, offsetting the damage of poor nutrition, toxins, and prescription drugs. Our goal is to eliminate any need for prescription medication! We want you to be HEALTHY!
WELLNESS IS POSSIBLE! You don’t have to settle for a body that is not working as it should. You can make a conscientious choice towards good health and a longer, happier life.