Menopause: Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) and Natural Therapies for Women
Jan. 15, 2009– Oprah Winfrey says menopause caught her “off guard” and that she’s taking bioidentical hormones that
have made a big improvement in how she feels.
Bioidentical hormones are one form of therapy for menopausal symptoms. Winfrey, who turns 55 this month, writes in February’s edition of O, The Oprah Magazine that she felt “out of kilter” and had “issues” for two years that she suspected were hormonal. Upon a friend’s recommendation, Winfrey went to a doctor who specializes in bio-identical hormones.
Winfrey writes that the hormone specialist told her that her “hormonal tank was empty” and gave her a prescription for BHRT (bioidentical hormone replacement therapy).
“After one day on BHRT, I felt the veil lift,” Winfrey writes. “After three days, the sky was bluer, my brain was no longer fuzzy, my memory was sharper. I was literally singing and had a skip in my step .” lifting the fatigue.
What is BHRT?
It is generally the agreement of almost all integrative physicians that plant based, bio-identical supplements for hormone related transitions can be extremely beneficial for alleviation of difficult symptoms as well as the promotion of optimal health. Using these treatment modalities in a low dose, safe manner creates essentially no health risk of previously utilized high dose synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Perimenopause and menopause are natural life changes and not classified as illnesses. The average age of menopause in the United States is between the ages of 50 and 52 years, but can vary from 35 to 55 years of age and generally begins in early to late 40′s for most women. Surgical menopause, a hysterectomy where both ovaries have been removed induces sudden and total menopause. Furthermore, hormone levels can begin to fluctuate many years before women stop menstruating. The years leading up to menopause, when the hormones begin to change and some symptoms emerge, is called perimenopause. A woman may notice irregularity in her period which is no longer exactly every 28 days she has been used to for decades.
This transitional perimenopausal period can be challenging with debilitating symptoms of fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, migraines, and rapid heartbeats; joint and muscle pain, insomnia, poor memory, mood changes with depression, anxiety and irritability, breast tenderness, vaginal atrophy with dryness, itching, bleeding, painful intercourse and decreased libido; and urinary frequency, urgency and incontinence with increased susceptibility to infection such as UTI’s. Bioidentical hormone treatment can be a safe and effective way to treat these debilitating symptoms short term for 1-2 years and manage long term if diagnosed with osteoporosis. Other therapies are incorporated for long term heart disease.
Once a woman has gone a full 12 months without a period, she is considered postmenopausal. It is important to note that any vaginal spotting or bleeding after that time is considered abnormal and should be evaluated by myself or another licensed healthcare provider, as this could be a symptom of endometrial cancer.
In a normal menstrual cycle the ovaries produce estradiol, testosterone and progesterone in a cyclical pattern under the control of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone) produced by the pituitary gland. During perimenopause, ovarian hormone production becomes irregular often with wide and unpredictable fluctuations accompanied with symptoms which many women can find very debilitating. I can test your hormone levels at this time and prescribe bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). With regular follow up visits, we can evaluate your improvement and continue monitoring your hormone levels.
It is the chemical structure, not its source; that determines if a hormone is considered bio-identical or the same as our own body’s natural hormones. HR manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry is generally derived from estrogen in the urine of pregnant mares which is 7 times stronger than human. Bio-identical hormones that can be obtained with a prescription from me are made from soybean or Mexican wild yams at a compounding pharmacy. These estrogens are more like our body’s own estrogens than the synthetic forms with all the extra fillers that may have unwanted effects or issues.
BHRT are custom made formulations specific for each individual patient and can include DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and/or testosterone. BHRT can provide symptom relief, protective benefits, and decrease risk of osteoporosis as well as enhance long term quality of life. Within 3-6 weeks vitality, sleep, mental clarity, and balanced mood can be restored. Other natural therapies such as phytoestrogens, diet, and exercise can be used in addition to or in place of BHRT.