Tag: menopausal care

Bioidentical Hormones: What They Are and Their Best Uses

Bioidentical Hormones: What They Are and Their Best Uses

For many people, the body starts to show the wear and tear of the years that have passed around middle age. As you age, your natural production of hormones may become impaired. Your body may start to produce higher levels of some hormones and lower levels of others. When hormone levels are lower than they normally are – and bear in mind that “normal” is different for every single person – your body may develop uncomfortable symptoms and unhealthy conditions.  Bioidentical hormone therapy can help you feel better. 

Bioidentical hormones are man-made hormones that operate in a very similar way to the hormones produced by the human body. They are often used in men and women whose hormone production is low or out of balance. 

What are bioidentical hormones?

Hormones are chemicals that the glands in the body naturally produce. They are the messengers that tell other parts of the body how and when to work and control most of the tasks in the body from sex and brain function to the breakdown of food. When hormones are out of balance, the body doesn’t work as it should and symptoms can result.

Bioidentical hormones are produced to be very similar to the hormones that run the human body. Common hormones that are matched include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone which are then used as a treatment for people whose hormones are low or imbalanced. 

Some prescription forms of bioidentical hormones are pre-made by drug companies while other forms are custom-made by a pharmacist based on a doctor’s orders in a process called compounding. The compounded forms have not been tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Both the FDA-approved and compounded hormones come in a variety of dosages and means of delivery whether pills, creams, gels, sprays, or vaginal inserts. 

Why use bioidentical hormones?

As stated before, as men and women age, the levels of hormones in the body may go down. These include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone which can lead to certain symptoms including but not limited to the following:

  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Night sweats
  • Pain during sex
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Loss of energy
  • Fatigue
  • Issues sleeping
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Mood swings
  • Memory loss
  • Weight gain

Bioidentical hormone treatment is used to replace the hormones that have been lost. This increase in hormone levels can improve symptoms.

How your doctor will determine your dosage

People on bioidentical hormone treatment are monitored very closely by their doctors.  Dosages are adjusted to a patient’s symptoms, needs, and objectives with the goal of keeping the dosage to the minimum required to achieve your goals. Depending on your doctor, you may have to have routine saliva, urine, or blood tests to check your hormone levels. Your doctor may adjust your dosage based on your changing hormonal needs. 

Are bioidentical hormones safe?

The bioidentical hormones that have been approved by the FDA have been tested for safety of consumption. They are past the FDA’s strict standards and are safe for people to use. The compounded hormones, however, have not been tested by the FDA; in fact, little research has been done on them to prove them to be safe or unsafe. Many major medical groups do not support their use because not enough is known about their safety and long-term effects.

What are the risks of bioidentical hormones? 

Research has shown that there are potential risks for women who take hormones as they can increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, and gallbladder disease. In women who are older and use hormone therapy for an extended period of time, the risk of heart disease and breast cancer may also increase. 

What are common side effects of bioidentical hormones?

When the FDA approves the drug, the drug company must provide information about side effects and include this in the paperwork when picked up at the pharmacy. Pharmacies that compound hormones that are not tested by the FDA do not have to report side effects or provide such paperwork. Because of this, many believe that compound hormones are safer, when in fact, doctors are unaware of all the associated side effects of these hormones.

Side effects can commonly occur when a dosage is first given because the body is not used to the level of hormones. The dose may need to be changed. Some common side effects include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Acne
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness 
  • Cramping
  • Spotting
  • Bloating
  • Increased facial hair
  • Mood swings
  • Indigestion
  • You may experience itching or redness around the area where you get a shot or where you apply your hormones if you use a patch, cream, or gel.


If you experience any of these symptoms, you should notify your doctor at once.


What is Menopause and How Can I Manage the Symptoms?

Menopause, which quite literally means the pause of menses (your period), is likely something you’ve heard of before: maybe from your mom or an older sister or friend. While some women can manage to skate right through this time with little to no symptoms, others experience all the classics: hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, and trouble sleeping. But, although people are quick to talk about a few of the symptoms they’re experiencing, you will notice that far fewer people talk about the whole picture. That’s exactly why we’re here to give you the bigger picture of what life after menopause looks like. Knowing what you can expect can help to alleviate your worries, help you effectively treat your symptoms, and lower the risks of certain conditions and diseases that can come as a result. 

What is happening to my body during menopause?

The transition to menopause formally called perimenopause, takes place over the course of several years. You’ll know you are officially in menopause when you have not gotten your period for 12 months straight. The ovaries gradually stop producing estrogen resulting in hormonal fluctuations as the body adjusts to what can be characterized as the shut-down of the ovaries. By the 12-month mark, your ovaries have significantly reduced the production of both hormones estrogen and progesterone. 

This can result in some metabolic and physiological changes that over time affect your body’s composition. 

Managing your menopause symptoms

Women often will try to manage their menopause symptoms on their own for fear of embarrassment in reporting the issues they’re experiencing to their provider. But there’s no need to be embarrassed and we encourage you to speak openly about your symptoms and work with your healthcare provider to find an effective treatment. That may come in the form of hormonal replacement therapy, non-medical methods like exercise and a modified diet, or other treatments tailored to your needs. 

Many of the changes that occur during menopause – anxiety, mood swings, and depression to name a few – are not physical changes but are the result of hormone changes. When coupled with physical changes, these emotional changes can wreak havoc on your life and sleep schedule. That’s why it’s so important to speak to your provider who can assist you in developing a treatment plan that’s right for you. 

What does life after menopause look like?

Life after menopause doesn’t have to look that different from life before, especially if you maintain an open line of communication with your doctor. 

There are some ways you can minimize your menopausal symptoms (we’ll talk a little more about that later) that can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. But you should also make sure you are getting regular health screenings and staying up to date on vaccines in order to prevent health concerns from becoming a bigger deal later. 

What can I do to minimize my symptoms?

Increase exercise

Exercise, no matter the intensity, is highly beneficial for women who are post-menopausal. As we’ve mentioned, menopause can result in weight gain, so in order to counteract that change in body composition, physical activity is necessary. Want to know something pretty great? This is one area where being post-menopausal gives you a leg up: physical activity has a greater impact on your body after menopause than before. So even if you engage in light physical activity, you will likely see the positive effects. Small lifestyle changes like gardening and walking can make a big difference. 

Watch what you eat

The best way to maintain your target body composition may require a permanent change in your lifestyle and routine rather than the dieting approaches you may have taken in the past. Instead of taking a restrictive dieting approach, focus on just watching what you eat and drink; choose nutritious foods while limiting processed foods, alcohol, and sweets. 

Get plenty of sleep

A well-known result of menopause is a lack of sleep which can then affect hormones that control other aspects of your body. Practicing good sleep habits means trying to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night and implementing practices that promote quality sleep: regular exercise, decreased caffeine, avoiding long naps, establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.


That wraps up our guide on what there is to know about menopause.  For more information or to set up an appointment in the Hampton Roads area, contact us today.

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