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Beyond The Fear: Hormones That Are Safe

Beyond The Fear: Hormones That Are Safe by Lisa Everett, Pharmacist, RPh, CCN

(Published in Kansas City Wellness)

News reports warning women of the dangers of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have
created widespread fear and confusion.  The response to these news reports by patients and their physicians is alarming. Women are discontinuing their hormones and replacing them with inappropriate and harmful prescription drugs.  Here is one woman’s story:

Rebecca was worn out, puffy, and frustrated.  She had not looked or felt this way in years. A year ago, worry over the potential dangers of HRT had pushed Rebecca to discontinue her natural bio-identical hormone
replacement therapy (NHRT).  Bio-identical hormones are natural to the human being because they are identical to the hormone molecules produced by our bodies.

Rebecca made this decision in spite of the fact that she had demonstrated improved health and well-being while taking her NHRT.

After stopping NHRT, Rebecca’s peri-menopausal symptoms returned, including elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, weight gain, mood swings, anxiety
attacks, hot flashes, and most debilitating of all, insomnia. For these symptoms, her physician prescribed a popular antidepressant for the hot flashes (not depression), a drug to lower cholesterol, another to lower blood pressure, a sleeping pill, and medication to protect her bone density. These medications made her more tired and apathetic, in addition to causing headaches and abdominal pain. With horror she realized her addiction to the sleeping pills and antidepressants. Her blood work-up also revealed elevated liver enzymes, indicating stress or damage to the liver from the barrage of pharmaceuticals.

This increasingly common scenario is reminiscent of the cocktails of stimulants, tranquilizers, antidepressants, and pain pills that were prescribed in the1960s to help women with the symptoms of PMS, menopause, and other hormonal imbalances.  Sadly, we have taken an unnecessary step back in time.

The Perils of Incomplete Reporting
Reports using the blanket terms, “estrogen” and “progesterone” have led many people, even physicians, to think all estrogens and all progesterones are the same.  The truth is:

Important Principles of Safe NHRT

Hormone replacement therapy can be safe and effective without the risks associated with synthetic hormones. Four simple practices help guide a safe approach to natural hormone replacement therapy.  These practices ensure a hormone supplementation that mimics the way our healthy bodies produce, secrete, and utilize hormones. 

Bio-identical hormones enhance lives by improving brain functioning, reducing fatigue, sparking libido, preventing cancer, and more.
Synthetics usually are not as effective and can have the opposite effect from the bio-identical hormones.  Side effects of synthetics often include high cholesterol, facial hair, acne, hair loss, migraine headaches, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Synthetic hormones like birth control pills, Premarin and Provera, can lead to stress-related diseases such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, stomach disorders and cardiovascular disease. In other words, synthetics interfere with the  immune system, whereas bio-identical hormones support it.

The lozenge-like troche is the dosage form most like nature. When placed between the gum and cheek, the troche mimics our bodies by delivering hormones into the general circulation without first passing through the liver. This eliminates many side effects and provides the most consistent hormonal blood levels.

Hormones swallowed in the form of tablets or capsules are problematic because they pass through the walls of the gut and the liver.  Studies have shown that swallowing estrogens, for instance, raises blood pressure, increases triglycerides (an independent cardiovascular risk factor), significantly increases the chance of developing gallstones, increases the formation of clotting factors in the liver (creating dangerous blood clots), and depletes the body of nutrients.

Further, passing hormones through the liver causes weight gain and interferes with growth hormone metabolism, leading to insulin resistance and Type II diabetes.  Liver metabolism and the use of synthetics is also a major cause of hormonally-related migraine headaches. In addition, C-reactive protein increases, which causes inflammation that gives way to cardio-vascular disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases.  Also, swallowing hormones day after day creates DNA-toxic, carcinogenic hormones in the liver that increase the risk for breast and other forms of cancer. In other words, if someone offers you any kind of hormone replacement, even natural, in a form you need to swallow, run.

Within each of us there exists a delicate balance of hormones. Estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and others normally exist together in our bodies to exert their synergistic, yet opposing effects. There are receptor sites on every cell of the body for every single hormone. If only one hormone is offered to the system, say estradiol, every receptor site tends to pick it up because the chemical structures of hormones are similar and because that hormone is in the highest concentration. Tissues then become too proliferative, often leading to tumor growth. Therefore, all women, even those who have had a hysterectomy, still need progesterone and other hormones to balance their estrogens in order to protect the rest of their bodies. A balanced approach also allows for smaller dosing of individual hormones, a significant contribution to the safety of NHRT.

Each woman is different in her need, production, and metabolism of hormones. Health care practitioners must understand the patient’s medical and social history, risk factors, and needs in order to individualize the dosage. Then they need to monitor symptoms and hormone levels and make adjustments accordingly.

Natural Bio-Identical Hormones Support Health Naturally
Rebecca was lucky. Fed up with the way she felt on pharmaceuticals, she resumed her NHRT and weaned off the medications. Within a few months, she once again enjoyed good health.
Natural hormone replacement can help optimize functioning and prevent disease as we age. In addition, it diminishes our need for other drugs, saving us money and protecting us from harsh side effects. If we follow these principles of NHRT, we can avoid health risks and enjoy physical and emotional well-being, the ultimate benefits of balanced and healthy hormones.  

Copyright 2003, Lisa Everett