Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are appropriately called sex hormones because of their effects on the reproductive organs giving rise to new life as sperm and egg unite. In order for this phenomenon to happen the sex dance is performed, a combination of desire, intimacy and intercourse, all made possible by the action and influence of the sex hormones.
While increasing sexual desire and performance is enough of a reason to replace waning hormone levels as we age, what we may not know is that HRT (specifically, bioidentical hormones) have a profound and necessary influence on the biochemical functioning of nearly every cell in our bodies. Estrogen is well known to have protective effects on the brain and CNS, providing protection against memory loss and Alzheimer disease; testosterone is well established to have effects on bone growth, protecting against osteopenia/osteoporosis, as well as increasing muscle mass, protecting against frailty, falls, and fractures, and both estrogen and testosterone are heart protective. Testosterone for women is also demonstrating a protective effect against breast cancer. Progesterone counteracts/balances the effects estrogen has on the uterine lining, protecting against “estrogen dominance,” which is believed to be causal to endometrial cancer. When given as an oral pill before retiring each evening, progesterone exerts a relaxing effect, improving sleep.
With heart disease the leading cause of mortality world-wide, and understanding the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis/bone fractures, the “sex hormones” are emerging as viable treatment options for not only enhancing overall wellness, stamina, and sexual activity in men and women, but also playing a most beneficial role decreasing morbidity and mortality.
Bioidentical hormones show clear safety benefits over synthetic hormones. Premarin is derived from pregnant horses and while these equine estrogens exhibit some favorable effects on women their safety profile leave much to be desired (increased risk of strokes, heart disease and endometrial cancer). Medroxyprogesterone, a synthetic progestin (progesterone is a progestin) has an even more unfavorable side effect profile. Oral estrogen (which we do not recommend) increases pro-inflammatory markers, increasing women’s risk of plaque rupture and embolic events (heart attacks, strokes).
For both men and women, increased incidence of both atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease is associated with low testosterone. For every woman who dies of breast cancer there are 20 women who die of heart disease. Ideally women should be started on HRT within ten years of menopause, for primary protection against osteoporosis, reduced risk of heart disease, and overall mortality.
Bryan McConnell, ND, DO, co-owner with his wife Teresa McConnell of Nature Cure Clinic at 3280 S Camino Del Sol (Suite 124) specializes in BHRT (bioidentical hormone replacement therapy). The workup consists of obtaining labs checking not only the sex hormones but just as importantly thyroid hormone levels. Once labs and history are obtained, discussion is given to the mode of replacement best for the patient, whether creams, pills, injections, or pellets that are placed under the skin.