19 May Hormone Balance For Women
For those of you who are either exploring the various options or already using Bio-identical hormones, one of the things brought up frequently is about the balancing of hormones. What does this exactly mean and how do we achieve it? In this discussion it is important to remember exactly what a hormone is anyway. A hormone is simply a messenger molecule which is secreted by one endocrine to control the actions of another gland or an organ.
In simple terms, Hormone Balance means that all of the various categories of hormones are present in reasonable amounts. None are either too high or too low. There are very intricate inter-relationships between the various hormones and if one is present in too high or too low an amount, it can cause problems. If low, it makes sense that there would be issues related to its deficiency, but we also have to dig deeper because of those inter-relationships. We have to look at what the deficiency of one hormone allows other hormones to do. Sometimes this will let the other hormone “run wild” and cause symptoms that would indicate an excess of the second hormone even if the level is completely normal. There is no other hormone acting to suppress its action. A classic example of this occurs during peri-menopause, when a woman stops ovulating before the true end of cycling. In this case, we have a good level of the estrogens, but low levels of progesterone, (an imbalance), cause a condition known as “estrogen dominance”. This can lead to many symptoms including fluid retention, breast tenderness, moodiness irregular menses, and hot flashes. Many women call this “PMS”. This condition also occurs during conventional hormone replacement therapy when we are dosing more estrogen than the corresponding amount of progesterone.
Going back to the concept of balance, what happens if the opposite situation occurs? When progesterone is high and estrogen is normal or low in the body, symptoms of estrogen deficiency like hot flashes and night sweats can occur, since the progesterone is suppressing the effect of the estrogen.
Progesterone also completes some processes that estrogen begins. An example of this is that estrogen can cause new breast cells to be formed, while progesterone makes those new cells “differentiate” or change into the normal type of functioning cells, which is a step away from breast cancer. So if we are giving only estrogen, which happens very often in conventional hormone replacement for women who have undergone a hysterectomy, the estrogen will produce more breast cells as usual, but if the progesterone is missing, those cells don’t “differentiate”. It is suspected that this is a factor in breast cancer risk. There are multiple effects that can occur along with this or any other hormone imbalance.
Because of these issues, it is clear that a good program of hormone replacement will have to be balanced to get maximum benefit. If you think your hormones are not balanced, get with one of our pharmacists or your doctor to figure out the next step.