• Bio-Identical Hormones: Are They Right For You?

    by Dr. Clark H. Hansen
    on Jun 1st, 2016

If you are 40+ and suffering from moodiness, hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, depression, apathy, fatigue, or abdominal weight gain you’re not alone. You’re probably asking yourself, “Am I losing it, just getting old, or is it my hormones?” The good news is, it's most likely just your hormones.

In the U.S. approximately 2 million women go into Menopause every year. New research has shown that many women are now experiencing Menopause 2-10 years earlier than usual due to excessive environmental exposure to accumulating levels of chemicals found in Cosmetics, hair spray, and plastics (BPA and PETE), as well as Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) found in non-stick cooking surfaces and environmental exposure to lead. All of these Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), as well as estrogens fed to dairy and beef cows, activate estrogen receptors and cause multiple hormone imbalances that lead to excessive proliferation of the uterine lining and breast tissue, which can cause cancer.

It is estimated that 75% of all women going through menopause in the U.S. suffer moderate to severe menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, cold chills, sleeplessness, fatigue, lethargy, decreased sex drive, roller-coaster mood swings, anxiety, irritability, depression, tearfulness, apathy, mental fogginess, difficulty concentrating, confusion, memory loss, vaginal dryness, incontinence, weight gain, thinning skin, osteoporosis, and more.

 

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Hormone Deficiencies and Imbalances Cause Serious Health Risks

You need to know that these symptoms are not merely trivial or vain or fleeting or that you will just have to learn to live with them. They are signs of hormonal imbalances that can lead to serious disease, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer if left untreated. Women do not need to suffer with the symptoms of menopause or resort to taking harmful synthetic drugs to avoid them. You need to know that you have a choice. You can take natural, Bio-Identical Hormones, which are safe and effective alternatives to the synthetic Estrogens and Progestins that are known to increase your risk of cancer, strokes and heart disease. The correct balance of Bio-Identical Hormones can stop the maddening symptoms of menopause and help you recover your healthy mind and body and feel great again.

What Are BioIdentical Hormones?

Bio-Identical Hormones are hormones compounded by pharmacists from natural plant extracts. They are virtually identical to the naturally occurring hormones made by the body, including the three estrogens: estrone, estradiol and estriol, as well as progesterone, pregnenolone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol. Because they are identical to what the body makes they are not associated with the severe list of side-effects associated with synthetic hormones. Because Bio-Identical Hormones come from plants they cannot be patented. In essence, God holds the patent to these plant based hormones. That is the only reason drug companies don’t make them. Without a patent, there is no market exclusivity and hence no financial incentive to bring the product to market.

 

 

Testing Your Hormone Balance

To know which hormones are out of balance, you need to test your blood levels. First and foremost, you want to make sure that you don’t have too much Estrone (E1) or Estradiol (E2). These hormones stimulate cellular proliferation of the uterus and breasts, which is associated with an increased risk of cancer. They also cause an increased risk of clots and strokes when too high. Estriol (E3), on the other hand, is the safe, protective estrogen that provides the healthful estrogen benefits as well as specific anti-cancer activity.

To balance your hormones you should test the following hormones every year: Pregnenolone (the memory hormone), DHEA-S (the adrenal anti-aging hormone), Testosterone (for muscle, bone, mood, energy and optimal sex drive), Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), Estriol (E3), Progesterone (the bone building, anti-anxiety, anti-irritability, cancer suppressing hormone), Cortisol (the blood sugar regulating, anti-inflammatory hormone) and Growth Hormone (the hormone that builds healthy collagen, elastin and bone).  If any of these hormones are out of balance, proper supplementation can restore optimal levels so that you can feel great again and reduce your risks of osteoporosis, heart disease, strokes, dementia, and cancer.

Don’t Take Hormone Pellets, Pills or Creams!

Hormone pellets implanted under the skin are designed to last 3-4 month. This sounds very convenient, but that convenience comes with a price, in that it often leads to build up of hormones including the harmful Estrogen, Estradiol, which is known to cause cancer. I often see women as patients who have been on Hormone Pellets and find that their Estradiol levels are 10 times too high, and those high levels stay high for as much as a year after the last implant. This puts them at increased risk of Breast, Uterine and Ovarian Cancer, especially if they are not taking Estriol and Progresterone in the proper balancing levels. Additionally, the Pellets are required by the FDA to be sterilized either by radiation or Ethylene oxide, a potential neurotoxin. Hormone pellet implants are frankly dangerous and should be avoided.

Oral pills lose are only about 20% absorbed, while 80% of the hormones will be taken up by the liver and be eliminated by the body before getting a chance to  accomplish their tasks.

Creams are messy, poorly absorbed and eventually the skin stops absorbing them almost entirely, because the skin is designed to be a barrier and to keep chemicals out of the body.

What is the Best Way to Take Hormones?

The best way to take Bio-Identical Hormones is to dissolve them under your tongue (sublingual) so that they get absorbed directly into the bloodstream across the mucous membranes of the mouth. This area of the mouth is rich in capillary blood vessels that can readily absorb Bio-Identical Hormones. This method allows the natural hormones to go right to work to perform their function to heal and rejuvenate the body before being broken down and eliminated by the liver.

The safest way to take Bio-Identical Hormones, is the Sublingual, or under-the-tongue delivery method. I have spent many years developing just the right combination of Bio-Identical Hormones in just the right ratios and combinations that dissolve quickly under the tongue and are free of extraneous, harmful, or unnecessary ingredients. This means that you can take your hormones every night just before bedtime and they will pass completely through your entire body’s circulation to reach all the intended tissue and perform all the necessary rejuvenating functions before being removed by the liver just in time for you to take your next day’s dose 24 hrs later.

 

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What are Synthetic Hormones?

Synthetic hormones are man-made, altered copies of the body’s naturally occurring hormones. They include Activella, Alora, Angeliq, Estrace, Estraderm, Estratest, Evamist, Femtrace, Minivelle, Premarin, Prempro, Vagifem, Vivelle-dot, and others. They must be altered in order to qualify for a patent. The chemical structure of these drugs must be altered slightly in order to create a unique chemical not found anywhere else on earth so that it can qualify for a patent. This altered uniqueness is the distinguishing factor that qualifies them for a patent. The unique chemical structure is similar enough to the original hormone to allow some similar actions but unfortunately, it is dissimilar enough that it can also cause harmful side-effects.

Synthetic Hormone Risks

In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative found that a combination of two synthetic estrogens (estrone and estradiol) plus synthetic progesterone, made by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, increased a women’s risk of breast cancer by 26%, her risk of a heart attack by 29%, her risk of stroke by 41% and her risk of blood clots by 113%. (Source: JAMA. 2002;288:321-333). In February 2009, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that women who take synthetic estrogen-progestin combination hormone therapy for more than five years suffer a doubling of their risk of getting breast cancer and the risk doubles again every additional twelve months they continue to take the drugs. (N Engl J Med. 2009 Feb 5;360(6):573-87)

Is Natural Always Better?

The quantity and balance of the natural hormones prescribed determines whether or not the therapy is safe. Many women get cancer of the breast, ovaries, or uterus from an imbalanced or excessive production of their own natural Estrone and Estradiol production. Likewise, the prescription of natural hormones can cause harm if not balanced. Natural, Bio-Identical Estradiol should never be given without also giving natural, Bio-Identical Estriol and Progesterone in order to maintain a woman’s healthy balance. Just because a hormone is natural, or bio-identical to the body’s own hormones, does not necessarily mean it is safe. Wyeth claims that Premarin is natural. It is extracted from pregnant horse’s urine. It is natural for a horse, but not a woman.

Drug Companies Make Copies of the Wrong Estrogens

The drug companies that made the first estrogen drugs copied the wrong estrogens. They copied the two most concentrated estrogens: Estrone and Estradiol. This made sense from a production standpoint but not from a safety standpoint. Estrone and Estradiol are 1000 times more potent than Estriol. For this reason Estriol was initially thought of as a weak estrogen. However, nature puts all three estrogens together for a good reason. Estriol protects the body from developing cancer. If your body has enough Estriol it will prevent the other two more potent estrogens from stimulating the breast and uterus where they tend to cause cancer. Estriol selectively binds to estrogen receptor-beta (ER-beta), which inhibits breast cell proliferation and prevents breast cancer development. (Source: Postgraduate medicine, Vol 121, Issue 1, January 2009; Endocrinology. 2006 Sep;147(9):4132-50. Epub 2006 May 25.) The pharmaceutical scientists made a mistake by underestimating the wisdom of nature’s hormone balance and synergy and ignored Estriol because they considered it a weak estrogen.

According to an unpublished study by Lemon, Foley, and Kessinger, “2.5 to 5 mg and occasionally 15 mg of estriol, equivalent to a little more than 0.625 to 1.25 mg of conjugated estrogens and estradiol) was used, with the informed consent of patients, in postmenopausal women with breast carcinoma and metastases. Thirty-seven percent receiving this small dosage had remission or arrest of metastatic lesions.” Estriol does not induce excessive build-up of the endometrial lining of the uterus. Hence it does not cause a risk of uterine cancer or withdrawal bleedings. In addition to treatment of hot flashes, mood swings, and other common symptoms of menopause, Estriol is particularly effective in the treatment of vaginal and urinary symptoms. In cases of atrophy of the vaginal tissue, Estriol induces the normalization of the urogenital epithelium and helps to restore the normal microflora and the physiological pH in the vagina. As a result, it increases the resistance of the urogenital epithelial cells to infection and inflammation reducing vaginal complaints such as painful intercourse, dryness, itching, vaginal and urinary infections, pain on urination and mild urinary incontinence.

Are Bio-Identical Hormones Proven Safe?

There are several good studies on the safety and efficacy of bio-identical hormones, including one large-scale study of 54,548 postmenopausal women that compared the risks associated with synthetic and bio-identical hormones. For this reason, I recommend testing before and after dosing to make sure your levels are optimal. Bio-identical hormones have been used in Europe for almost fifty years. Since bio-identical hormones are available in relatively inexpensive generic forms that can be applied using non-patentable formulations by a compounding pharmacist, American drug companies have no interest in sponsoring studies on the safety and efficacy of bio-identical hormones.

BioIdentical Hormone Research

In 2005 the Fournier E3N- European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort study published in the International Journal of Cancer followed 54,548 postmenopausal women who had not been on any kind of HRT for at least a year before entering the study. The average age was 53, and the study lasted for almost 6 years. Compared to women who had never used HRT, taking Bio-Identical Estriol alone produced a 30% reduced risk of breast cancer; using Bio-Identical Estradiol plus natural progesterone lead to a 10% decreased risk of breast cancer; while using estradiol alone had a 10% increased risk of breast cancer and worst of all, taking estradiol plus synthetic progestins caused a 40% increased risk of breast cancer. (Source: Fournier et al, “Breast cancer risk in relation to different types of hormone replacement therapy in the E3N-EPIC cohort,” Int J Cancer 2005 Apr 10;114(3):448-54.) In January 2008, with eight years of follow-up, data was released from E3N showing that women using synthetic HRT had a 60% higher risk of cancer, while women using Bio-Identical Hormones still had the same risk as women using no HRT of any kind. (Source: Fournier et al, “Unequal risks for breast cancer associated with different hormone replacement therapies: results from the E3N cohort study,” Breast Cancer Res Treat 2008 Jan;107(1):103-11.) Estriol selectively binds to estrogen receptor-beta (ER-beta), which inhibits breast cell proliferation and prevents breast cancer development. (Source: Postgraduate medicine, Vol 121, Issue 1, January 2009; Endocrinology. 2006 Sep;147(9):4132-50. Epub 2006 May 25.)

Progesterone Prevents Cancer

Progesterone increases the Tumor Suppressor Protein known as p53, which activates DNA repair and initiates programmed cell death (apoptosis) when DNA damage is irreparable. Additionally, it decreases the cancer activating protein known as bcl-2. Estradiol, on the other hand, does the opposite of progesterone. It causes a decrease in p53 and activates bcl-2, which promotes cancer cell growth. (Source: Ann Clin Lab Sci. 1998 Nov-Dec;28(6):360-9; Int J Cancer. 2003 Jul 10;105(5):607-12)

BioIdentical Hormones are Safe and Effective

European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Studies have been ignored in the United States. These studies reveal that Synthetic Hormone Therapy causes cancer, while the Bio-Identical Hormones Estriol and Progesterone have been shown to reduce Breast Cancer risk. These studies appear to be ignored in the U.S. because Bio-Identical Hormones cannot be patented and therefore are of no interest to pharmaceutical drug companies. Bio-Identical Estriol and Progesterone provide postmenopausal women with safe and effective natural alternatives to synthetic Hormone Therapy. The addition of Testosterone adds even more synergistic benefits.  

Estriol is the Key Estrogen

I recommend that you take Estriol, the safe, protective Estrogen. It is a mild estrogen that has been used in Europe for 30 years. Its safety and effectiveness are well established. Here’s what the medical literature states about Ovestin, a natural, Bio-Identical Estriol prescribed in Europe: “Ovestin contains the natural hormone Estriol, which is a weak estrogen. Unlike other estrogens, estriol is short-acting since it has only a short retention time in the nuclei of endometrial cells. Estriol prevents hot flashes, bone loss, thinning of the skin and vaginal membranes yet it is 1000 times less stimulating to the breast tissue than is Estradiol. Not only does it NOT promote breast cancer, but considerable evidence indicates that it may protect against and reverse breast cancer. According to an unpublished study by Lemon, Foley, and Kessinger, “2.5 to 5 mg and occasionally 15 mg of estriol, equivalent to a little more than 0.625 to 1.25 mg of conjugated estrogens and estradiol) was used, with the informed consent of patients, in postmenopausal women with breast carcinoma and metastases. Thirty-seven percent receiving this small dosage had remission or arrest of metastatic lesions.” Estriol does not induce excessive build-up of the endometrial lining of the uterus. Hence it does not cause a risk of uterine cancer or withdrawal bleedings. In addition to treatment of hot flashes, mood swings, and other common symptoms of menopause, Estriol is particularly effective in the treatment of vaginal and urinary symptoms. In cases of atrophy of the vaginal tissue, Estriol induces the normalization of the urogenital epithelium and helps to restore the normal microflora and the physiological pH in the vagina. As a result, it increases the resistance of the urogenital epithelial cells to infection and inflammation reducing vaginal complaints such as painful intercourse, dryness, itching, vaginal and urinary infections, pain on urination and mild urinary incontinence.

What Does Dr. Hansen Prescribe to His Patients?

The first thing that I do for my patients with symptoms of menopause is to test their individual hormone levels. Balance is the key to optimal health and vitality. We need to know the starting level of all of the key hormones including Estrone, Estradiol, and Estriol, as well as Progesterone, Pregnenolone, Testosterone, Free Testosterone, SHBG, DHEA, Cortisol, Growth Hormone and Thyroid. Once your levels are determined the correct dose can be chosen for your individual case. It typically takes 1-3 weeks to get the hormone levels back to more optimal levels and get you feeling like yourself again. Or, better yet, some patients say Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy makes them feel better than they have ever felt before. They feel happier, healthier, stronger, clearer, sharper and more alive than they have ever felt before.

Author Dr. Clark H. Hansen Dr. Clark H. Hansen is a licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctor (N.M.D.) who has been in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona, since 1986. He is the President and Medical Director of the Hansen Clinic of Natural Medicine, Aesthetics and Mesotherapy. Dr. Hansen is one of the most well respected Naturopathic Physicians in the country and a Diplomat of the World Society of Anti-Aging Medicine.

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