21 September Outsmarting ageing with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement
The unfortunate truth with ageing is that the decline in our hormone levels is probably what ages us the most; as oestrogen levels plummet, the skin thins, dries out and wrinkles, with the dewy, plump appearance of skin seemingly disappearing overnight and energy levels lowering where anxiety and depression often set in. Sounding familiar? Read on.
Our patients are growing increasingly conscious of not only looking after their appearance, but also their state of wellness. Many people are looking to treat the hormone-related symptoms of ageing but are unable to get help on the NHS. There has been increased media coverage of bioidentical hormones recently too, with a host of high-profile individuals speaking publicly about the improved quality of life they bring.
According to research, about 80% of women suffer from some kind of hormonal imbalance, often resulting in poor physical and psychological health. And it’s not just females at risk; men with hormone deficiencies (low-level testosterone or high-level oestrogen) can find their bodies and quality of life are also negatively impacted with poor sleep, lack of libido and weight gain. We know that hormone depletion can seriously diminish quality of life and accelerate the ageing process, even leading to serious illness as people age. But the good news is there is a natural alternative and it’s a game changer.
Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) has the potential to safely and effectively help unpleasant symptoms and actually slow down the ageing process!
But what exactly is it, is it really safe and how does it affect ageing?
We age because of our DNA, lifestyle and decline in our hormone levels; from our teenage years to the 80’s and beyond, we experience the effects of ageing, but most are unaware that the natural hormone balance can be out of kilter and causing a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms and many are surprisingly unaware ofthe latest thinking and available treatments in relation to hormone balance.
Hormones are chemical messengers that circulate in the bloodstream, affecting the function of every organ in our body. There are constant fluctuations in levels in response to various triggers placed on the body, and a progressive drop as we age. As the levels decline, we lose our energy, strength and vitality.
Bioidenticals are derived from natural plant substances in soybeans and yams (diadzein and genistein) and are formulated to be biologically identical in structure and function to hormones produced in the body.
How is BHRT different from conventional HRT?
A well-known form of conventional HRT called Premarin is the commercial name of a hormone replacement medicine that has been marketed since 1942. It is derived from pregnant mares’ urine and, although its molecular structure may bear some similarity to that of human hormones, it has been altered. Today, conventional HRT (hormone replacement therapy) may include some bioidentical hormones but most branded and patented HRT consists of synthetic hormones that have a different molecular profile to those produced in the human body.
Bioidentical hormones replace the natural hormones produced in the body. The foreign molecules in conventional HRT are drugs and have been shown to cause a number of serious side effects. They increase the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots in certain age and lifestyle groups. By contrast, because the human body processes bioidentical hormones as if they were its own, they are better tolerated and have fewer side effects when taken in the correct dose.
In short, BHRT is safer and has a more positive risk-benefit profile.
Why might you need BHRT?
General health reasons
Hormones are essential for the normal functioning of your body. If the amount produced drops or the balance between the various hormones alters, the body does not function well. Cells also contain specific receptors that are stimulated by each hormone and every cell functions best when the hormonal environment is balanced.
The hormones include:
- Thyroid – the thermostat for regulating cell energy
- Sex hormones – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone for the optimum functioning of many body cells including the uterus, vagina and breasts.
- Adrenal hormones – DHEA provides energy and is also converted to sex hormones; cortisol is essential for responding to stress and is also called the ‘foundation of youth hormone’.
In general, bioidentical hormones are mainly used to balance oestrogen and progesterone in your body before the menopause (aged 35 to 50 years). It is commonly believed that there is no real need for hormone therapy post-menopause (usually 50 years onwards), when the symptoms have subsided, but the reverse is true. After the menopause, BHRT is mainly used to replace oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone as the ovaries progressively produce fewer and fewer hormones. Many women have zero or low levels of these three hormones by the age of 60. These hormones are essential to slow down deterioration in bone, muscle and skin health, as well as protecting the body and promoting vitality. These hormones may also improve the function of the heart and blood vessels and the brain.
BHRT also helps age-related conditions such as:
- hot flushes
- dry or wrinkled skin
- low energy
- muscle weakness
- low libido
- anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, mood swings or depression
- headaches and migraine
- muscle and joint pain
- urinary and vaginal discomfort and infection
- discomfort with sex
Because the ingredients of BioID are naturally derived, it is impossible for a manufacturer to obtain a patent on these substances. Without a patent, it is financially nonviable for the big pharma companies to mass produce. Consequently, these bioidentical hormones must be prepared on a bespoke basis for the patient by a pharmacist at a compounding pharmacy – an apothecary with a pharmacist trained in formulating prescriptions and who prepares them from pure ingredients on the instructions of a doctor.
Why should you not consider HRT?
There is widespread confusion and uncertainty amongst doctors, health professionals and users about conventional HRT. This resulted from a very large study of HRT users in the USA (Women’s Health Initiative), the published results of which in 2002 raised concerns about the risk of breast cancer, heart disease and blood clots. This study received a great deal of publicity and, as a result, the number of women in the UK taking HRT fell by 66%, meaning a generation of women have been denied the positive benefits of hormones in their menopausal years.
More recently, there has been an about turn and a retraction of part of the study’s conclusions, though this has received little publicity and the previous concerns often overrule.
BHRT on the other hand has a wider application across the age range and is much safer than conventional HRT in relation to the ‘big scare’ diseases:
- BHRT does not have the same dangers of heart attack/stroke and thrombosis as conventional HRT. In many instances, the hormones increase the good cholesterol, dilate the blood vessels, and do not increase blood clotting, thereby possibly even reducing cardiovascular risk.
- Breast cancer risk is mainly related to the use of progestin (altered progesterone in conventional HRT). The risk of breast cancer is not increased using BHRT creams or lozenges. Biest, a commonly used bioidentical oestrogen is a combination of oestradiol and oestriol and oestriol, is thought to reduce the risks of breast cancer.
In conclusion, the serious health risks associated with HRT do not apply to BHRT.
Are there adverse effects of BHRT?
These are uncommon when the BHRT treatment is introduced in very low doses and gradually increased over weeks or months. The adverse effects usually diminish with time as the dose of hormones is adjusted for each person and often decreased. Most women find that the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
How is BHRT used?
Doses and monitoring
A full medical history provides the background to assess whether hormone treatment is needed, and what balance is optimal for each person. With hormone treatment the accent is on your symptoms, backed up by a physical examination and blood or saliva tests. Symptoms and blood levels help to fine tune the optimal hormone doses for each person.
The BHRT philosophy is to use the lowest dose of hormones for the desired effect on symptoms; in theory the lower the level in the blood the fewer the side effects:
Starting and continuing treatment
Everyone is unique and BHRT supplementation is formulated and adjusted to each person’s individual needs.
An initial consultation and a follow-up appointment, usually after a blood test, assess the need for BHRT.
A nutrition programme of foods, supplements and exercise will be part of the regime.
Check-ups will be required every two or three months in the first year to monitor symptoms. Blood tests, after taking the cream or lozenges for some time, are useful to ensure that the levels of hormones in the blood are optimal and stable. It often takes months to discover the optimal hormone doses. After that checks are less frequent unless symptoms change.
At River Aesthetics, our overarching aim has always been to improve long-term quality of life and we strive to treat our patients holistically. This therapeutic modality allows us to help them achieve tangible results. Hormone replacement, coupled with exercise and a healthy diet, can help patients look and feel fabulous at any age – both inside and out. If you would like to talk to us about the possibilities of BHRT and how it could help you, book a consultation today.