The simplest definition of HRT is therapy using hormone supplements to balance your levels to what they were when you were in your prime. This aids in not only feeling at the top of your game, but also in preventing and/or managing chronic diseases.
One of the hallmarks of getting older is a decline in hormone levels. Production of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid, DHEA, melatonin, human growth hormone, and other hormones tapers off after we reach our 20s and 30s.
Age-related decline of hormones contributes to the signs and symptoms of aging, so every adult over 40 needs to learn how to balance hormones naturally.
BHRT is Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy: natural, plant-based, professionally compounded hormones that are molecularly identical to the hormones your body produces. This makes them a safer alternative to synthetic hormones, which often come with negative side effects and serious health risks.
That’s why bioidentical hormones — which are NOT manufactured and branded by a pharmaceutical company — are a cornerstone therapy at the DaSilva Institute.
Are they FDA approved?
Bioidentical hormones that have been approved by the US Federal Drug Administration are limited in dosage and delivery systems. For example, estradiol is available in a vaginal cream called Estrace. The problem is that estriol — not estradiol — is the preferred estrogen for vaginal dryness because the vaginal tissue (and skin) have many more receptors for estriol over estradiol.
Estradiol is also available as an oral pill, but oral estrogen can be passed through the liver and produce two harmful estrogens (4-hydroxy estrone and 16-hydroxy estrone) that can cause cancer, so oral estrogen is not recommended.
Estradiol is also available in very small doses in a transdermal patch called Vivelle-Dot. The dose is usually not enough not to stop symptoms like hot flashes, let alone other physiological effects.
Progesterone is also bioidentical in a pill called Prometrium, which has a peanut base and is available in only two doses: 100mg and 200mg. It is short-acting, unfortunately, because it is not available in a sustained release formula. Obviously Prometrium is not for patients who are allergic to peanuts or those requiring more or less than the 100 or 200mg dose.
Compounding, on the other hand, can lead to limitless possibilities. And let’s not forget that all of the powders used in compounded or pharmaceutical companies come from the same FDA-approved plants that produce the raw materials for the medications. Pharmaceutical companies don’t make their own drug. They buy them from the same place that compounding pharmacies buy them. They are more regulated because the assembly-line nature of large-scale production can accommodate only a few standard dose sizes. In this as in other areas, however, one size does not fit all or even most!
Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy
The conditions that benefit from balancing hormones naturally are many:
- Cancer prevention
- Dry skin and hair
- Erectile dysfunction
- Heart disease
- Heart failure
- Loss of muscle mass
- Low libido
- Menopausal symptoms
- Migraine headaches
Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Safe?
Yes, as long as the hormones are not synthetic. Only bioidentical HRT is considered so safe that some of these hormone supplements are available in health-food stores and regular pharmacies.
In fact, natural bioidentical progesterone decreases the risk of breast cancer. In one study, 80,000 postmenopausal women using both natural and synthetic HRT were followed for more than eight years.
Women who used estrogen in combination with synthetic Progestin had a 69% increased risk of breast cancer, compared to women who had never used HRT. However, for women who used natural progesterone in combination with estrogen, the increased risk of breast cancer was completely eliminated with a significant reduction in breast cancer risk compared with synthetic Progestin use.
Fournier A, Berrino F, Clavel-Chapelon F. 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.
Keep in mind that some bioidentical hormones must be specifically tailored for each individual and therefore have to be ordered by a physician able to accurately interpret the results of testing and then prescribe the perfect dose for optimal balance through a compounding pharmacy.
Traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy Side Effects & Risks
Synthetic hormones have very little resemblance to anything found in nature. These chemicals were never seen by your body and are therefore considered foreign to your body.
Therefore, these “new to nature” compounds are unique to the pharmaceutical company which has designed them and thus can be patented.
The dissimilar nature of their chemistry is what contributes to the multitude of side effects we often hear about with HRT drugs.
The negative effects of synthetic HRT (Premarin, Provera, PremPro, and other adulterated drugs) have proven to be poor substitutes for natural hormones.
Bioidentical hormones are found in your body, while the synthetic versions are not. They cannot be patented because they are found in nature, in your body.
Furthermore, bioidentical progesterone and estrogen are better tolerated than conventional drugs. Plus, they give patients peace of mind that they’re using therapies that are safe and natural.
One of the biggest problems people face as consumers is that most doctors and the media call synthetic medications “hormones.” They are drugs. Only natural hormones can replace your lost hormones.
Complete hormone balancing is typically undertaken by different medical specialists. Female issues are typically treated by OB/Gyns, male issues by urologists, thyroid & diabetes by general endocrinologists, and adrenal issues by endocrine super-specialists.
This fractured approach leads to a lack of continuity of care as well as even more imbalances from the types of drugs that are being passed off as hormones, but in reality are patented, synthetic compounds.
Which Natural Hormones Do I Need?
The Bioidentical HRT treatment we customize for you will likely include some or all of the following:
Estrogen and Progesterone
Natural estrogen and progesterone are a godsend for women going through menopause. In addition to helping prevent hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, bone loss, and other common menopausal concerns, bioidentical estrogen and progesterone protect against heart disease.
Although estrogen and progesterone have been prescribed to women for years, testosterone supplementation has lagged — and women as well as older men have suffered as a result.
Supplemental bioidentical testosterone helps both genders build stronger bones and muscles. It improves libido, erectile function, mood, and your overall sense of well-being.
Testosterone also protects against diabetes and strengthens failing hearts.
We prescribe very low doses of testosterone for our female patients to perk up libido and sexual function as well as improve cognitive function, heart strength, and much more.
Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, affects about 1 in 8 younger women, 1 in 5 women over 65, and fewer, though significant, numbers of men.
Yet many people do not realize that their fatigue, weight gain, constipation, depression, and other symptoms may be caused by low thyroid — and made more bearable by thyroid replacement.
Although the best-selling brand of thyroid replacement is Synthroid, we rarely prescribe this synthetic hormone to our patients with low thyroid function. We’ve found a much better solution: natural thyroid replacement, which contains all the active elements of the thyroid gland.
We test the blood levels of all of our patients for the thyroid hormone, but if symptoms warrant — even if they appear to be in the normal range — we will offer a therapeutic trial of natural thyroid.
Patients with supposedly “normal” thyroid lab numbers often respond exceptionally well to natural thyroid replacement therapy.
It’s unfortunate that conventional medicine too often goes by the numbers — to the detriment of their patients.
By the time you’re in your 60s or 70s, you produce only 15-20 percent of your peak levels of growth hormone.
Daniel Rudman, MD, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that when older men were treated with human growth hormone, they had improvements in lean muscle, body fat, skin thickness, and other markers that were comparable to turning back the clock 20 years!
hGH certainly isn’t for everyone, but it is a huge help for some, especially older people suffering with osteoporosis, age-related muscle wasting (sarcopenia), heart failure, and other conditions.
Other Important Hormones
- melatonin, to facilitate sleep and protect against cancer
- DHEA, which helps with abdominal obesity, bone strength, libido, memory, mood, and lupus, and
- cortisol, for adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
No need to travel. The tests can be performed anywhere in the United States through our national laboratory partner, followed by a phone consultation with our physician.
Gender-specific information about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT):