Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy

Today millions of men and women concerned about aging and maintaining a quality of life are undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Hormone-related problems- such as mood swings, PMS, infertility, endometriosis, fibrocystic breasts, weight gain, low sex drive, vaginal dryness, frequent bladder infection, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis– can be alleviated by achieving a proper hormone balance. In considering the benefit-risk ratio, it is important to take into account alternatives to conventional therapy.

Why natural hormone replacement therapy?

Alternatives to traditional HRT include using natural plant-derived bio-identical hormones which have the same chemical makeup as those made by the human body. Synthetic hormones and hormones from animal sources do not allow the body to make the full range of other hormones which are required to function at full potential, and thus are more likely to cause side effects.

If you haven’t heard much about natural hormone replacement, you’re not alone. Because natural hormones can not be patented for the same reason you can not patent natural air, water, or vitamins, there’s little or no incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to invest millions of dollars to produce, test, and submit to the FDA for approval, and market these hormones.

What hormones are we referring to?

Natural hormone replacement isn’t just estrogens and progesterone. Natural estrogens and progesterone are just part of a complicated and closely interlinked hormone system that includes many other hormones such as testosterone, DHEA, pregnenolone, and melatonin, to name just a few. A lot of these hormones have been found to decrease with age. Restoring them to normal levels with natural replacement versions can have an incredibly revitalizing result on our hearts and immune systems our moods, energy, and sex drive.

Natural Estrogens

Estrogen is not one hormone, but a group of similar hormones with varying levels of activity. The three most vital estrogens are estrone, estradiol, and estriol. Estradiol is the primary estrogen made by the ovary, and estrone is created by the conversion of estradiol. The most popular kind of estrogen replacement continues to be conjugated estrogens (including many estrogens that are natural to horses, but few that are natural to humans). In the intestinal tract, these are converted mainly to estrone. Synthetic Ethinyl estradiol is also commonly used in estrogen supplements. Estrone and estradiol are the estrogens predominantly linked to breast and endometrial cancer.

New regimens have been established that use natural estriol in the greatest concentration together with other naturally occurring estrogens in an appropriately balanced ratio. Estriol produces very little endometrial proliferation and seldom causes postmenopausal vaginal bleeding. Estriol might also be effective at lowering the risk of blood clots in the veins or lungs. Estriol is made in very large amounts during pregnancy and is thought to be protective against breast cancer. High levels of estriol are found in vegetarians and Asian women, who have a much lower risk of breast cancer.

Natural Progesterone

The hormone progesterone participates in almost every physiological process, in both men and women. The stabilizing action of progesterone is particularly visible in muscle tissue, such as the uterus, blood vessel walls, the heart, the intestine, the bladder, and bone cells. Less visibly, progesterone supports and normalizes nervous, secretory, immune and growth processes.

Natural progesterone comes from yams and soybean. It matches precisely the chemical composition of the body’s progesterone. Synthetic progesterone, or progestins, are chemically developed from progesterone and react differently in the body resulting in unwanted side effects such as salt build-up, fluid retention, low blood sugar, breast tenderness, weight gain, and depression. The role of natural progesterone in protecting against and treating osteoporosis, helping to clear endometriosis and fibrocystic breast, and treating vaginal dryness, infertility, and menstruation irregularities is receiving considerable attention in the medical and lay communities. In men, over 55 natural progesterone is being used to enhance sex drive, as well to treat osteoporosis.

Natural Androgens

In some cases, it is necessary to take into consideration the inclusion of the androgens, testosterone or synthetic methyltestosterone, to a woman’s hormone replacement regimen. Commonly thought of as a male hormone, testosterone is also made by the female ovaries and also is necessary to normal sexual development. Testosterone plays an essential role in maintaining sexual desire, along with the strength and integrity of skin, muscle and bone, lowering cholesterol levels, and improving cardiovascular circulation in both men and women.

As a woman enters the changes of menopause, circulating androgens begin to decline as a result of age-related reductions in adrenal and ovarian secretion. After menopause, a woman’s overall androgen production decreases by as much as 50%. It is possible to supplement a woman’s testosterone deficiency with the same natural testosterone she has produced most of her life. Synthetic hormones with even the slightest changes can produce side effects not found with the natural hormone.

DHEA, Pregnenolone, and Melatonin

Not just estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, but many other hormones, including growth hormone, melatonin, DHEA, and pregnenolone, reach peak levels before or during the third decade of life and then begin a steady decline of about 2% each year. Research clearly indicates that replacing insufficient levels of these vital hormones can, among other positive effects, help protect the heart, improve mental alertness, make bones stronger, and rejuvenate a lagging sex life. We are just beginning to know the health benefits that can be attained by restoring levels of these vital hormones to their youthful peak.

Hormone Testing

Since steroid hormones play such a vital role in the maintenance of health, knowledge of an imbalance in any one or more hormones can help clarify the source of health problems and supply a rational basis for repairing the imbalance through diet, exercise, or hormone supplementation.

Steroid hormone levels can be measured with blood and saliva testing. When the different glands make the steroids they are released into the bloodstream bound to carrier proteins. Just a small portion (1-5%) of a given amount of steroid hormone breaks loose from the carrier protein in the bloodstream and is free to enter target tissues. Blood testing measures both the bound and unbound steroid hormones. Studies show that there is a strong correlation between the levels of steroid hormones in the saliva and the bioavailable (unbound) levels of steroids in the bloodstream.

Levels of all steroid hormones can be measured one by one by both blood and saliva testing. Blood testing requires a prescription from your physician. Saliva testing kits can be obtained through compounding pharmacies involved with natural hormone replacement.

Customize, Don’t Compromise

As many as two-thirds of women that start HRT stop within two years. One major reason they stop is because of side effects, particularly the irregular bleeding that can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.

So how do you receive the benefits of HRT and avoid the side effects? Customize. HRT has to be carefully started by your doctor after a personal history, family history, and current medical situation are assessed. Everyone is different and will respond to therapy in their own way: that is why the selection of hormone(s), dose and dosage form should be specific to each person. Close monitoring is important to ensure correct dosage changes and prevent unnecessary side effects. Compounding pharmacists can make natural hormones in a variety of doses, regimens, and preparations designed to make you more comfortable with your therapy while gaining long-term benefits.

For further information about Dr. Stengler’s practice and his clinic in San Diego, California, please visit our website at MarkStengler.com or give us a call at (760) 274-2377