Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) Works
By the time most men and women reach the age of 40, they are starting andropause (men’s testosterone levels decrease) and menopause (women’s estrogen, progesterone and testosterone decrease). This causes a hormonal imbalance that manifests as physical, psychological and cognitive problems that disrupt overall health and well-being.
There are two forms of hormones: synthetic and bioidentical. Bioidentical hormones are made from natural plant extracts, and are biologically compatible with the body’s chemistry. Typically made from soy or yam, bioidentical hormones are 100 percent structural replicas of hormones produced by the endocrine system. Synthetic hormones are made in a lab and are not structurally identical.
Bioidentical hormones readily bind to hormone receptors in the cells, just like natural hormones. Synthetic hormones must be reconstituted within cells before they can be fully accepted by the body, which increases the risk of side effects for people taking synthetic hormone replacement. Serious side effects of synthetic hormone replacement may include stroke, certain cancers, heart attack, blood clots, weight gain and fluid retention.
Through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), women usually see the improvement of symptoms of lack of sex drive, depression, anxiety, daytime fatigue, insomnia, weight gain and memory/concentration difficulties. Men usually see BHRT benefiting their decreased energy, low libido, loss of muscle tone, moodiness and memory problems.
Hormones can not only help women feel better, but they can also improve their health. Maintaining hormonal balance with BHRT may reduce the risk of developing colon cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke and dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. This requires a fine balance of estrogen and progesterone—too little progesterone can lead to estrogen dominance, a condition causing fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, fibroids, breast cancer and endometriosis. Progesterone also helps to lower blood pressure, acts as a natural antidepressant, improves sleep patterns, increases metabolism and stimulates new bone production.
In men, with increased age comes decreased testosterone. Men often notice, around the ages of 40 to 50, a loss of muscle mass and increased visceral (inside abdomen) fat, as well as increased subcutaneous (under the skin) fat. Research shows that restoring testosterone levels to within the normal range by using BHRT can improve mood, lean body mass, muscle strength, bone mineral density and cognition, and offers some benefits for cardiovascular risk factors.
Men choosing BHRT to restore hormonal balance may also experience more energy, stronger sex drive, enhanced mood and a greater sense of well-being. In addition, testosterone plays a strong role in brain functioning and cognition. Just like women, men going through andropause may find themselves forgetting things or having brain fog. Poor concentration and a general lack of mental clarity are classic signs of a testosterone deficiency in men over 40. In fact, areas of the brain such as the hypothalamus are especially dependent on testosterone for normal functioning.
Melanie Binshtok, NP, ANCP-BC, of RVA Health & Wellness, Inc., can be reached at 804-493-4060. For more information, visit RichmondBHRT.com.