Recently as I was talking with a new patient at her first visit, we started discussing the pros and cons of the use of bio- identical hormones for her. She proceeded to share with me that despite all the bad press hormones get these days, she couldn’t see why something that was needed to balance our body’s health in the first half of our lives could just turn and allegedly be so bad for us in the second half. “Don’t they still play a role in providing balance for the body?” she asked.
Absolutely they do!!! Great ideas and questions from this sincere woman seeking to understand hormones and bio-identical therapy to make the best choices for herself to give her peace of mind and optimal health. These are questions we all should consider.
Usually, I recommend that we first look at the diseases that are in your family background.
Even though you are not necessarily destined to develop these diseases, they can represent areas of your health with genetic weaknesses that need your attention to prevent them. Fortunately, there are almost always different life style practices you can adopt to prevent them.
Take cancer for instance. Multiple studies show that we can reduce our chances of developing cancer by doing daily exercise, eating healthfully, limiting alcohol consumption, taking supportive vitamins and minerals (especially vitamin D), managing stress more effectively, avoiding chemicals that are endocrine disruptors, etc… You can choose which lifestyle factors you are willing to put in place, and then rest in the confidence that you are actually doing something to prevent cancer.
This week, I read in the headlines “Estrogen After Menopause Lowers Breast Cancer Risk for Some Women” along with other similar titles. These articles were reporting on a follow-up analysis of the landmark Women’s Health Initiative begun in 1993 and partially stopped in 2002 and 2004.
This new study, published in the journal Lancet Oncology, provides the strongest evidence yet that estrogen alone not only lowers breast cancer risk over a sustained period for some women, but also curbs the chances of dying from the disease if you are at average risk for the disease.
Women who took estrogen therapy for 5 years had a 23% reduced risk of breast cancer compared with those who took a placebo.
In those who had a high risk profile for breast cancer, however, it did not reduce risks.
Of course, they are looking at the use of synthetic estrogens taken orally which we know increase the risks of blood clot formation as well as other risks. This is believed to be due to the fact that the liver changes the estrogen molecule when it is processed through digestion, creating a different molecule that is more likely to cause these side effects.
When we look at creating balance in the body by using physiologic levels of bio-identical hormones in a way that is similar to how they are released by the ovaries (not oral routes for estrogen and testosterone), we see that they offer benefit and potential to optimize health and well-being. With studies showing the decreased risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, dementia and Alzheimer’s by the use of bio-identical hormones in physiologic ranges, I and many of my patients see hormones as our friends! I hope you do too.
Yes, we have to be responsible in our use of hormones, but they can give us a health benefit that nothing else can provide directly.
Here’s to you in creating optimal health and well-being!
Jane Kennedy, CFNP, MN, MPH