Bioidentical Hormone Therapy is the process of restoring and maintaining hormone balance with hormones that are biologically identical to hormones produced by the human body.
Bioidentical hormones have been available and used in hormone treatments for decades. They can be custom compounded to match each patient’s unique needs and body chemistry, instead of the “one size fits all” approach used with off-the-shelf hormones.
Prior to using hormone therapy, your healthcare practitioner may perform appropriate testing and/or examination and discuss your symptoms with you. We can help you find a practitioner who has experience with bioidentical hormone therapies for hormone imbalances.
PMS affects close to 70% of all women in their reproductive years. It is characterized by symptoms that usually occur during the two weeks before menses, some of the most common being:
- Water retention
- Breast tenderness
- Emotional instability
While controversy continues on what causes PMS, theories include poor nutrition, low levels of progesterone and/or estrogen hormones, and thyroid disease. A health practitioner is likely to take a complete medical history and perform a physical examination to rule out other conditions such as endometriosis or ovarian cysts. A menstrual diary that correlates symptoms with the menstrual cycle also helps to differentiate PMS from other medical conditions.
Treatments for PMS may include a combination of solutions, including bioidentical hormone therapy, changes in diet, and other lifestyle modifications.
For additional information, see PMS – From Puberty to Menopause
Infertility is the inability to conceive a child and could be due to many different factors. One cause of infertility is luteal phase defect. Luteal phase defect is when inadequate levels of progesterone are produced during the luteal phase of the cycle. Progesterone prepares the lining of the uterus for the implantation of a fertilized egg and supports the egg throughout a full-term pregnancy. Research indicates that “bioidentical” progesterone can raise the body’s progesterone level and help women to carry a full-term pregnancy. When progesterone is low, there may be inadequate support for the fertilized egg which can result in a miscarriage.
After the birth of a child, postpartum depression (PPD) can occur. PPD is characterized by frequent teariness or more extreme feelings of being unable to cope, rage, or the mother’s fear that she may hurt herself or her baby. These feelings can occur anytime within the first year following childbirth. PPD has different levels of severity ranging from the “baby blues” to psychosis. Having the “baby blues” is characterized as a short period of anxiety and weepiness due to the shift in hormones immediately after birth. In the most severe case of PPD psychosis, mothers can experience extreme rage, severe depression, and delusions.
Following a complete assessment of the individual’s needs, possibly including specific lab evaluations and psychiatric assessment, treatment may combine education, therapy, support, and medications, including bioidentical hormones, as needed.
Menopause is a natural life transition from the reproductive years to the post-reproductive years. Some women pass through this stage with few symptoms, while others may be debilitated by them. Symptoms may begin during perimenopause, the time prior to or around menopause, which is officially diagnosed only after the final menstrual period. Menopause can also be artificially induced if one or both ovaries is impaired or removed (oophorectomy), or as a result of chemotherapy or radiation to the pelvic area. The most common symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Loss of libido
- Vaginal dryness and thinning
- Dry skin
- Mental fogginess
- Mood changes
As women age, the ovaries begin to decrease production of estrogens and progesterone and the menstrual cycles become more irregular. Eventually, ovulation and menstruation cease and production of estrogens and progesterone declines dramatically. This process may take months or years.
During this transition, treatment may vary greatly, depending on the severity and duration of symptoms. Options may include combinations of herbal and non-herbal remedies, dietary changes, exercise, yoga, meditation, and hormone therapy (bioidentical or conventional hormone supplements).
For additional information, see Menopause – A Natural Life Transition
At some point in their lives, many women experience a loss of interest or pleasure in sexual activity. Female sexual dysfunction is identified if these symptoms recur or persist to the extent that they cause distress.
Symptoms may include:
- Little or no desire for sex
- Inability to become or remain aroused
- Failure to achieve orgasm despite significant arousal
- Painful sex
There are many causes of sexual dysfunction and most are readily treatable. A thorough pelvic exam will reveal if there are physical changes that may be affecting sexual pleasure. Hormonal shifts, like those occurring after pregnancy and during menopause, can also lead to sexual dysfunction. Examples include, imbalances in thyroid hormone, progesterone, estrogens, and testosterone.
Other causes include health conditions such as sleep apnea, diabetes, and depression. Also, many common medications dampen sexual response, including antidepressants and blood pressure drugs.
Treatments typically target the known or suspected cause of the sexual dysfunction, and include bioidentical hormone therapy, medication changes, lifestyle modifications, sexual therapy, relaxation techniques and pelvic exercises.
Even though the amount of testosterone in a woman’s body is only a minute fraction of that of a man’s, testosterone is vital for both sexes. Aside from its obvious roles in sexuality, testosterone is also essential for maintaining strong muscles and bones, and is important to cardiovascular health.
As we age, testosterone levels may diminish, which can be particularly problematic for women because it is far less abundant to begin with. Common signs of a potential testosterone deficiency include:
- Decreased libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Lack of energy, vitality and motivation
- Loss of muscle tone, coordination and balance
- Leaky bladder
- Weight gain
- Depression or anxiety
Women typically begin to experience these symptoms after menopause, as their hormone levels decline. However, pre-menopausal women can also be deficient in testosterone due to childbirth, endometriosis, or substance abuse. Even some medications, such as birth control pills, chemotherapy, and antidepressants, can interfere with the body’s ability to make use of testosterone.
Bioidentical testosterone supplements are available as custom-compounded therapies in capsules, tablets, lozenges, injections, creams, gels and other forms.
For additional information, see Testosterone: It’s not just for men anymore!
Osteoporosis is a progressive disease of the skeletal system in which bone density decreases and bone structure deteriorates. Eventually, bones become so brittle and porous that they can fracture from even mild stress. There are no tests to measure bone quality, so osteoporosis is diagnosed by measuring bone mineral density, usually through x-rays of the hip or spine.
While some illnesses and medications, like corticosteroids, can cause bone loss, for most people who develop osteoporosis, it is a result of the aging process. In women, bone loss accelerates with menopause due to decreased production of estrogens and other hormones that contribute to bone health.
In early stages of osteoporosis, there are no symptoms. As bones become weaker, symptoms may begin to appear, including:
- Gradual loss of height, accompanied by a stooped posture
- Arthritis-like pain in the bones and joints
- Fractures, especially of the wrists, hips and spine
- Back pain, which can be severe if it results from fractured or collapsed vertebrae
Treatments that may slow down or even reverse bone loss include weight-bearing exercise, supplements, bioidentical hormone therapy and medications that inhibit bone breakdown.
For additional information, see Osteoporosis: Can You Feel It In Your Bones?
As its name implies, chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition characterized by persistent, debilitating fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest, and may worsen with physical or mental exertion. Women are two to four times more likely to develop this condition.
Symptoms may start after an infection, viral illness, or stressful event. However, the syndrome can begin gradually without any obvious trigger.
Diagnosis is made only after all other causes of severe fatigue are ruled out, and if four or more of the following symptoms persist or recur for at least six months in a row:
- Sore throat
- Painful, mildly enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
- Unexplained muscle soreness
- Pain that moves from one joint to another without any swelling
- Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
- Memory loss or trouble concentrating
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Extreme exhaustion lasting 24 hours after normal exercise
Although there is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, treatment to relieve symptoms may include exercise, massage, diet and lifestyle changes, counseling to address depression, antidepressants, pain relievers and bioidentical hormone therapies.
For additional information, see Beyond Fatigue: Exploring the Roots of Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia & Other Syndromes
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by intermittent “head-to-toe” pain, tenderness and fatigue. Fibromyalgia is more common in women, and the risk of developing it rises with age.
Symptoms vary in both number and intensity, and often co-exist with other illnesses, which makes diagnosis difficult. Symptoms may start after a physical or emotional trauma or infection, but may also come on over time without a single triggering event. Symptoms may include:
- Pain in muscles, tendons and ligaments throughout the body;
however, patients may experience episodes of intense pain
in the same “tender points.”
- Muscle stiffness, usually worse upon awakening
- Impaired memory and concentration
- Fatigue and sleep disturbances
Although its cause is unknown, fibromyalgia seems to run in families and is often associated with other health problems, such as autoimmune disorders, chronic infections, and hormone imbalances.
Treatment options may include massage, exercise, dietary changes, pain relievers, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, and bioidentical hormone therapies.
For additional information, see Beyond Fatigue: Exploring the Roots of Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia & Other Syndromes
Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrial tissue normally found inside the uterus is found outside the uterus. These cells implant themselves onto other organs in the pelvic area, where they grow and cause pain, infertility, and other problems. There are various treatments for endometriosis. Depending on the severity of the condition, where the endometriosis is located, and the age of the individual, treatment may include surgery, medications and bioidentical hormones.
For additional information, see Endometriosis: No, Severe Pain Is NOT “Normal”
Andropause, sometimes referred to as “Male Menopause,” is the gradual, age-related decline of hormonal function in men. The most dominant of the male hormones (or androgens) is testosterone, which plays a key role in many aspects of overall health. Androgens also include dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), androstenedione, and other hormones.
With the decline in testosterone and other androgens, men typically begin to notice changes around the age of 40, including but not limited to:
- Decline in sexual function
- Decrease in muscle strength and stamina
- Increase in body fat, especially abdominal fat
- Loss of hair on arms and legs
- Lack of initiative or drive
- Increased moodiness or inability to concentrate
Treatment of andropausal symptoms may include combinations of herbal and non-herbal remedies, exercise, dietary changes, and bioidentical hormone therapy.
For additional information, see Male Hormones: The Yin-Yang of Estrogen and Testosterone
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid is under active. There are various symptoms of low thyroid function with the most common being:
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Cold hands and feet
- Low basal temperature
Treatment may include bioidentical hormone therapy, nutritional supplementation, and changes in diet and lifestyle.
For additional information see, Hypothyroidism: Is 98.6 Really Normal?
Hypoadrenalism is a condition where the adrenal glands are underactive. The steroidal hormones primarily produced by the adrenal glands are cortisol (hydrocortisone) and DHEA. Some causes of hypoadrenalism may be immune system damage to the adrenal glands or insufficient stimulation of the adrenal glands by pituitary hormones. There are many symptoms associated with hypoadrenalism with the common ones being:
- Nervousness and irritability
- Salt and sweet cravings
- Inability to concentrate
A health practitioner may perform a complete history, physical examination, and lab tests to rule out other medical conditions. Treatment for hypoadrenalism may include, lifestyle changes, diet, nutritional supplements, herbal supplements, and bioidentical hormone therapy.
For additional information, see “Oh, It’s Just Stress” What You Should Really Know About Hypoadrenalism
- Estrogen refers to a group of similar hormones produced in the body.
- The main three are estrone, estradiol, and estriol.
- Estradiol is produced mainly by the ovaries and, of the three; it is most stimulating to the breast tissue.
- Estrone is most prevalent after menopause, and is produced by conversion of adrenal DHEA in fat cells. It is also formed in the conversion from estradiol.
- Estriol is produced in large quantities in pregnancy and is also the main circulating estrogen in young women according to research by Dr. Jonathan Wright.
- Estriol is made from estrone and estradiol and may be less stimulating.
- Estrogens may be helpful in relieving hot flashes as well as possibly helping the urinary tract, breasts, skin, blood vessels, and keeping the uterus toned and flexible.
- Estrogens may slow the development of osteoporosis by slowing down the rate of bone loss.
- Progesterone is primarily produced by the corpus luteum in the ovary during and after ovulation.
- Progesterone is also produced in large quantities by the placenta during pregnancy, and is produced continuously in smaller amounts by the adrenal glands.
- Progesterone may enhance estrogen activity while also moderating symptoms of estrogen excess such as water retention, fat accumulation, uterine bleeding, and mood swings.
- Progesterone helps support thyroid activity, and may also stimulate cells (osteoblasts) necessary for bone building.
- Testosterone in men is mainly produced by the testicles, and in smaller quantities by the adrenal glands.
- In women, testosterone is produced in both the ovaries and the adrenal glands.
- In both men and women, testosterone may be helpful for increasing sex drive, energy, and muscle strength.
- DHEA is made by the adrenal glands. Once DHEA enters the cells, it may be converted to testosterone, and estrogens.
- DHEA may enhance the immune system to help protect against infection, injury, and illness.
- DHEA may also be helpful in enhancing energy and muscle strength.
- DHEA may be beneficial in treating autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s, lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Pregnenolone is produced in the adrenal glands.
- Pregnenolone is also produced in the brain, liver, ovaries, testicles, and myelin sheath.
- Other hormones such as DHEA, cortisol, progesterone, testosterone, and estrogens can be made from pregnenolone.
- Pregnenolone may enhance mood, energy, and memory
- Pregnenolone may be helpful for individuals dealing with autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue, and depression.
- Thyroid refers to a group of hormones produced in the body.
- The two main thyroid hormones are thyroxine or T4, and triiodothyronine or T3.
- T4 is produced by the thyroid gland. It is the inactive thyroid hormone in the body.
- T3 is produced by the thyroid gland and in the brain and liver via the conversion of T4. It is the active thyroid hormone in the body.
- Thyroid hormones are involved in regulating the body’s metabolism, increasing energy, and regulating the menstrual cycle.
- Hydrocortisone is produced by the adrenal glands.
- Hydrocortisone helps boost the immune system to assist in recovery from infections, illness, or stress.
- Hydrocortisone may be beneficial in treating autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s, multiple sclerosis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The following is a list of laboratories that might assist in identifying possible hormone deficiencies or excesses. This list does not imply an endorsement by Women’s International Pharmacy but is offered as a service. We assume no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of the information provided by these independent companies.