Hormones are responsible for regulating our metabolism, immune system, and even our mood and behavior. Hormone levels naturally start to decline around age 35 to 40. This can lead to symptoms of menopause and andropause, such as difficulty concentrating, irritability, mood swings, fatigue, weight gain, sleep problems, and decreased libido. Bioidentical hormone therapy can be an effective way to restore your balance, so you feel more like yourself again. If you are considering an HRT program, the following frequently asked questions will help you determine if bioidentical hormone therapy is right for you.
Q: What is the difference between bioidentical hormones and traditional hormone replacement therapy?
A: Traditional hormones are synthesized in a lab from various chemicals. They are not a molecular match for your own naturally occurring hormones and can be more difficult for the body to utilize. Traditional hormone therapy also takes a “one-size-fits-all” approach with predetermined dosages and formulations. On the other hand, bioidentical hormones are sourced from soy, yams, and other plants. The naturally occurring hormones are an exact match for your body’s own hormones. This allows them to be absorbed and utilized more effectively, so you receive the maximum benefit. Bioidentical hormones are also dosed and formulated to your specific needs and hormonal deficiencies.
Q: How do I know if I need BHRT?
A: If you are a man or woman experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, you may be a candidate for BHRT. A qualified bioidentical hormone doctor will perform a simple blood test to determine if your hormones are imbalanced. If so, the doctor will advise you regarding your various BHRT options.
Q: Do bioidentical hormones come in different forms?
A: Bioidentical hormones are prepared in special compounding pharmacies and come in a variety of delivery methods, including patches, creams, gels, pills, vaginal rings, and pellets that can be inserted just beneath the skin.
Q: Do women only need hormone replacement after menopause?
A: The most common hormonal imbalance in women is the decline in estrogen after menopause, which can lead to night sweats, hot flashes, low libido, mood swings, and even bone loss. Hormone imbalances can actually occur at any point during a woman’s life due to lifestyle and environmental factors, pregnancy, and perimenopause. A combination of lifestyle changes and BHRT can reduce or eliminate the discomfort associated with these changes.
Q: Why do men need hormone replacement?
A: Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone. A man’s testosterone level starts to drop after about age 40. Low testosterone levels can cause symptoms such as a lack of energy, a loss of mental focus, a loss of muscle mass, an increase in fat levels, and decreased libido. This is essentially the male equivalent of menopause, known as andropause. Many men start to feel more vital and energetic when on testosterone treatment.
Q: How long does it take to experience results from bioidentical hormone therapy?
A: Results typically evolve over time. Some patients start to notice an improvement in their sleep patterns and energy within a few weeks; however, full results may take several months.
Q: Will I have to continue my HRT program forever?
A: Treatment method and length are tailored to the needs of each individual. Some people are able to eventually wean themselves off the therapy by following their treatment regimen and incorporating healthy lifestyle choices. Other patients continue the treatment indefinitely. In the end, it depends on your needs.
Q: Why do I need to go to a bioidentical hormone doctor?
A: Traditional doctors are trained to rely upon synthetic hormone replacement therapy and rarely have the time or resources to become experts in BHRT. A doctor specifically trained in BHRT has undergone extensive training in hormone therapy and anti-aging medicine.
Q: Does BHRT have any side effects?
A: There are a few potential side effects that you may experience as your dose is being adjusted. Most side effects resolve as hormone levels become balanced. Possible side effects include:
- An increase in aggressiveness and acne during the early stages of testosterone therapy.
- Breast tenderness, spotting, bloating, or cramping in the initial phases of estrogen therapy.
- Minor itching or redness at an insertion or injection site.