What You Should Know About Bio-Identical Hormone Treatment
If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalance, your doctor may have mentioned bio-identical hormones. Without being familiar with certain medical terms, you may be wondering what bio-identical means. I’ve collected some information on what they are, how they are used to treat hormonal imbalances, and why you may want/need to undergo treatment. Keep reading to find out more.
What Is Bio-Identical Hormone Treatment? Bio-Identical hormones are man-made hormones that are very similar to naturally produced hormones and are then used to treat men and women with low or out-of-balance hormones. Hormones are extremely important chemicals in the body that tell it how to function – when they don’t work like they’re supposed to, symptoms can occur and health issues may arise.
To help you understand more about their importance and role in the body, let’s explore what hormones are and what you may experience if they become imbalanced.
Hormones and Bio-Identical Hormones
Hormones are natural chemicals made by glands all over your body. They can be compared to messengers that tell other parts of your body what to do and when to do it. Sex and brain function, growth, and food breakdown are common aspects that are controlled by hormones.
Bioidentical hormones are a man-made version of our natural hormones. The most common hormones that are matched are testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen. When men and women experience imbalanced hormones, their doctor may recommend undergoing bioidentical hormone treatment.
Treatment for bioidentical hormones will follow different prescriptions assigned by your doctor. They can be pre-made by a drug company or made specially by your pharmacist. The prescription itself can come in a variety of different forms: pills, sprays, gels, creams, etc.
Why Are Bio-Identical Hormones Needed?
Though there are many different kinds of bioidentical hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are the most common types that will be needed. As our bodies age, key hormone levels begin to drop off and lead to certain symptoms. For women, this may include symptoms of menopause: hot flashes, night sweats, lack of sex drive, fatigue, etc. For men, this may include low sex drive, loss of muscle mass, loss of energy, etc.
Bioidentical hormone treatment will be used to replace the hormones that have been lost, increasing the levels. Your doctor will discuss with you the benefits and risks that are involved in bioidentical hormone treatment – which are largely regarded as equal.
How Is the Treatment Implemented?
As was mentioned earlier, there are many different forms of bioidentical hormones: pills, creams, gels, patches, shots, implanted pellets, etc.
When you talk with your doctor, you can decide together what your preferences are, how your medical history can impact the treatment, and what the right dosage is.
Oftentimes, when people begin their bioidentical hormone treatment, dosages will need to be adjusted. People who undergo this treatment are monitored closely because issues can arrive quickly if your body reacts unusually.
When determining the right dosage, you will likely have routine blood draws, as well as urine and saliva tests to check your hormone levels. Bioidentical hormone treatment is more commonly associated with women, particularly those who are going through menopause.
Are Bio-Identical Hormones Safe?
Pre-made bioidentical hormones have been tested and approved by the FDA and are considered safe. Compounded hormones have not undergone this testing, have not been approved by the FDA, and little research has been done to determine their level of safety. Your doctor should be able to determine which kind of hormones will be better for you.
Just like any medical treatment, there are certain risks. We don’t always know how our bodies will react to different medications, which is why you and your doctor can work together to decide on the right treatment for your body.
What Are the Risks of Using Bio-Identical Hormones?
Some of the potential risks of taking bioidentical hormones can include blood clots, stroke, gallbladder disease, heart disease, and an increased risk for certain types of cancer. Though there have not been in-depth studies of the risks of bioidentical hormones, many doctors believe they are safer than regular hormone therapy treatments.
What Are the Side Effects of Bio-Identical Hormones?
Side effects from medication can occur at any time, but most often, they will present themselves early. This will help give your doctor a sense of how to adjust your dosage. Doing so will ensure that it’s most effective and safe for your body. Sometimes, side effects can get better as your body adjusts to the treatment, which is why your doctor will monitor you closely.
Many different side effects can arise from bioidentical hormones. The most common ones may include mood swings, weight gain, headaches, fatigue, indigestion, blurred vision, bloating, acne, and increased facial hair in women.
Are Bio-Identical Hormones Natural?
When you read or hear about bio-identical hormones, “natural” can often be associated with them. In this case, “natural” means that the hormones come from different plant or animal sources. They are not synthesized in a lab. Something to note is that these hormones may be naturally occurring to start. However, they may undergo many changes in a lab before they are presented in a treatment.
What Are the Signs of Hormonal Imbalance?
Because hormones are so widely used throughout your body, many different signs can point to an imbalance. Both men and women may experience the following signs: weight gain, fatigue, muscle weakness, sweating, frequent urination, decreased sex drive, depression, thinning of hair, irritability, and more.
These signs are common with people who are experiencing hormone imbalance. However, they are also nonspecific and can point to many different things. Just because you have one of these symptoms, doesn’t necessarily mean you have a hormonal imbalance.
Hormonal Imbalance and Age
For adults, men and women may start to experience hormonal imbalance around the same time: 45-55 years old. This is the time when most women are going through menopause and middle-age has set in. For children, they also may experience hormonal imbalance during puberty.
Puberty is different for every single person. Many children can have delayed puberty while their peers are developing much faster. In some cases, though, a condition called hypogonadism can signal a hormonal imbalance.
Boys with this condition may experience a voice that doesn’t deepen, lack of body hair, lack of development of muscle mass, etc. For girls with this condition, they may experience: menstruation doesn’t begin, breast tissue isn’t developing, and their growth rate doesn’t increase.
What Are the Causes of Hormonal Imbalance?
Depending on which hormones and glands are affected, there are many different causes for the imbalance. Some of the more common causes of hormonal imbalance include medications, stress, eating disorders, injury, and tumors.
Some conditions are initially caused by hormonal imbalances which can also lead to further hormonal imbalances. These can include diabetes, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), high levels of cortisol, and others.
Testing for Hormonal Imbalance
Diagnosing hormonal issues can, at times, be difficult. If you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms common with hormonal imbalances, start tracking your symptoms and maintaining a list of medications.
Make an appointment with your doctor for a physical exam. Be prepared to answer questions similar to:
- Are you more stressed than usual?
- How often are you experiencing symptoms?
- Have you lost or gained weight recently?
- Does anything help to relieve your symptoms?
Depending on your answers to some of these questions, your doctor may set up some different tests: blood tests, pelvic exams, ultrasound, thyroid scan, MRI, x-ray, sperm count test, biopsy, etc.
If you do have a hormonal imbalance, one of these tests should tell your doctor what’s going on. Following your testing, you can discuss a treatment option.
Non-Medicinal Remedies for Hormonal Imbalance
Our bodies are funny things, sometimes they can go out-of-whack for no reason at all. And sometimes, there are very big reasons why our bodies go out-of-whack. As a result, we may either need major medical intervention, or we can implement some natural remedies.
When it comes to hormonal imbalance, some natural remedies you can try to get your body back in sync can include: losing weight, eating better, drinking water, avoiding things that may trigger a symptom, taking supplements such as a daily vitamin, and much more.
How Much Does Bio-Identical Hormone Treatment Cost?
Depending on the type of treatment you choose, pills, shots, implanted pellets, creams, etc. – your bioidentical hormone treatment can cost anywhere from $30 to $90 a month. Because health insurance is complicated, you may or may not have coverage for bioidentical hormone treatment. Talking with your doctor and your local professional insurance provider can help you find the right treatment option for your health, as well as your budget.