Hormones: Should you take them?
The headlines linking hormone therapy and breast cancer continue to haunt women, leaving them confused. What hormones, if any, should they take to be healthy, safe and feeling great?
Here are some facts that might put your mind at ease:
- The 2002 Women’s Health Initiative Study (WHI), which keeps rearing its ugly head, revealed that estrogen used alone slightly decreases the risk of breast cancer. This study pointed its accusatory finger at progestin, a synthetic form of the body’s natural progesterone, for increasing a woman’s risk for heart disease and breast cancer. However, natural progesterone, has proved to be protective of the breasts and heart.
- Bioidentical Hormone therapy available today (and not used in the WHI study) is the same molecular structure as what the body produces. Ample evidence suggests these hormones are safe and effective at relieving menopausal symptoms. In fact, natural progesterone is often the most intelligent option for women with nasty menopausal symptoms.
- Studies continue to be released show that hormone therapy can protect you from the No. 1 killer of women—heart disease.
- The hormones used in the WHI study that started in 1991 were combined in a pharmaceutical product called Prempro, a mix of equine estrogens (from pregnant mares) and synthetic progestin, which we now know disrupts estrogen’s heart and breast benefits. While this combo is still prescribed, there are far better options that have not been implicated to carry the same risk.
- The newer, safer forms of bio-identical estrogen (estradiol) and micronized progesterone, which has been found to be heart protective and doesn’t block estrogen’s artery-pampering effects (like progestins do), can be pharmaceutically compounded to match a woman’s individual hormone needs, or be prescribed as drugs such as Estrace and Prometrium.
- The use of antidepressants and sleeping pills hardly seems a good alternative to balancing hormones and providing protection against colon cancer, heart disease, dementia, osteoporosis, depression and the myriad disrupting side effects of hormone deficiency such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, loss of sex drive, fatigue, blood sugar/glucose imbalance, insomnia, etc.
- One of the biggest flaws (that most experts agree on) of the WHI research is that the subject women were an average age of 63 and had never used hormones. By 63, without the prior hormone use, the women already had diminished estrogen levels that had caused arterial damage. They didn’t have available to them the protective benefits of what today’s hormones can provide, especially if they’re started at the onset of menopause.
- Hormonal balance continues to be the obvious option for optimal results. Never in a woman’s past was only one hormone (estrogen) adequate to keep her balanced and healthy. We should not expect women (especially women who have had a hysterectomy) to feel healthy and protected when taking only estrogen. The use of the bio-identical hormones progesterone and testosterone offer tremendous benefits to women and have been studied extensively.
Here are some guidelines that all women and men should consider to stay healthy throughout life, but especially during menopause and andropause (loss of hormones in men).
- Stay active every day. Aim for 30 minutes or more of activity that makes your heart pump and creates a sweat. The benefits of physical exercise are too numerous to mention. Weight resistance training should be performed twice weekly. You lose muscles with age, creating a slower metabolism, weaker body, sagging skin and less energy. Pump it up!
- If you choose to use hormones, start them at a younger age in order to achieve the full protective benefit that has been demonstrated in thousands of studies over the years, and continues to be shown in current studies for heart and brain protection.
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Don’t buy synthetic foods. Eat three colorful whole foods at each meal. If it’s sugary or white, avoid it. Read labels, including those on sugary and diet drinks, too. You don’t need the inflammation in your body that these “foods” create, and you certainly don’t need the extra fat around your mid-section. It’s dangerous and unattractive.
- Take the necessary supplements to boost your immune system, brain function and energy. See my Web site, www.ventanawellness.com, for information.
- Men and women should consider hormone testing if symptoms of hormone deficiencies are interrupting their quality of life. These symptoms may include: weight gain, hot flashes, fatigue, body pain, fuzzy thinking, depression, night sweats, vaginal dryness, irritability, muscle loss, hair loss and many more.
There’s a better way than “more prescriptions” or “just living with it.” I’ve been training physicians and practitioners in hormone testing and balancing for years, and fortunately we now have more hormone-knowledgeable practitioners than ever before. The training includes balancing the sex hormones as well as adrenal and thyroid hormones. Harmonizing these intricate and powerful natural substances can have dramatic positive effects. I know that hormonal balance restores well-being, wards off disease and gives people their lives back.
Best health and balance to you—always!