Bioidentical hormones have been the subject of much debate, with celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Suzanne Somers on the record as saying they’ve changed their lives.
But just what are they and how are they different to ‘regular’ HRT?
As a healthy-living expert, I’m a big fan of natural hormone replacement, and I think it’s important women are given more information about Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) as an alternative to the traditional HRT methods.
Our ever-changing hormones
Many people think we’re only affected by hormonal changes when we hit peri-menopause. This is the time when many of us will start to notice our hormone levels declining and we start getting our first menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, difficulties with sleeping, losing our sex drive and, often, anxiety.
But in reality, our hormone levels start to slowly decline from the age of 30. Menopause is the time when we haven’t had a period for a year. Hormone levels then start declining often at a much more rapid rate, hence the more dramatic symptoms! At this time we become more prone to age-related diseases, such as heart and blood pressure problems, osteoporosis and loss of memory.
This is when we may start considering hormone replacement therapy.
BHRT hormones are made from natural products such as Mexican wild yam or soya beans (bioidentical means that their molecular structure is similar to that of our own hormones). Because of this similarity, we can easily adapt them into our hormonal system. They can also be tailored to individual needs, whereas, in my view, HRT is a one-size-fits-all approach which clearly will not suit everyone. Some clinical trials have even suggested that there is a reduced risk of breast cancer using BHRT.
The difference between HRT and BHRT is that pharmaceutical drugs are synthetic – they are manufactured which means they can be patented. Bioidentical hormones are naturally produced so can’t be patented quite so easily.
Unfortunately, we will all experience some age-related health issues. This is a case of don’t panic, but do get educated, do your research, talk to experts and discover what’s right for you.
So many of us just rush around fire fighting instead of looking at prevention. I’d like to encourage women to take action before serious health issues set in, living a healthy life and managing their diet and weight.
Getting the right balance
Everyone reacts differently to the menopause. As different hormones bring different benefits, it’s important to get the balance right.
- Oestrogen is the main female hormone, responsible for at least 400 bodily functions so maintaining good levels of oestrogen is vitally important to support memory, strengthen skin and bones, protect our hair, boost energy levels and keep us feeling and looking younger.
- Progesterone is the calming hormone which supports sleep and reduces anxiety, alleviates depression, increases metabolism and promotes weight loss.
- Testosterone supports self confidence, helps you think clearly, maintains your desire for sex and helps build bone and muscle strength.
- Thyroid hormones also support our metabolism and sleep patterns and are important for our moods. There is now strong evidence connecting levels of thyroid hormones and depression (unfortunately this is often missed by many in the medical profession).
- DHEA – often overlooked – is the most plentiful hormone in the body. Often considered an anti-ageing hormone, DHEA is good for the brain and immune system, enhances feelings of wellbeing, raises growth hormone levels, decreases body fat and maintains youthful appearance.
Making the change
If you’re already on HRT it’s pretty easy to change over to BHRT. I intend to stay on mine for the rest of my life.
In my personal experience I started seeing results in three or four weeks. I’ve spoken to many other ladies during my research and time frames do vary, depending on hormone levels and symptoms when they started BHRT.
Hot flushes, itching and mood swings could start to disappear in two or three weeks. Other symptoms may be linked to issues such as stress or adrenal function, so a more holistic approach could work together with hormone replacement. A desire for sex could also improve quite quickly providing other factors are also in play, such as being a loving relationship and the ability to relax.
BHRT can only be prescribed by a specialist Doctor, they are not available from your GP. And you can expect to pay about £460 per year on average.
Julie’s other top tips for tip-top health
A healthy lifestyle is good for us in all kinds of ways, so I’d always recommend:
- Aerobic interval training (low and high intensity)
- Resistance training to support bone density and muscle strength
- Stretching and deep breathing
- Eating more organic foods and reducing processed food and pesticides
- Between seven and eight hours’ sleep every night
- Keeping hydrated by drinking water and eating water-based foods
- Mastering stress levels through relaxation, meditation and visualisation
- Developing a positive outlook and attitude
- Enjoying life and being social!