As our bodies age, we undergo many changes that can affect our functional systems. For both men and women, hormonal imbalances are a common challenge that can create frustrating symptoms. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can restore balance in the body and ease the effects of changing hormones. Dr. Patel and his talented team at ALC Med Spa in Gurnee, IL are committed to offering the best treatment plans for hormone replacement.
How Long does it Take for Bioidentical Hormones to Absorb?
Everyone experiences treatment differently, with some patients reporting an improvement in symptoms within days, and others reporting relief after two to three weeks. On average, however, the full effect of treatment is expected by the eighth week. At this point, patients report significantly less fatigue, depression, anxiety, and other uncomfortable symptoms of hormone imbalance.
Research suggests that with this reduction of symptoms, many people also find more energy and motivation to return to hobbies or work they may have abandoned when their hormone imbalance began. Within days, many are inspired to introduce healthier habits and more physical activity to their lifestyle. Sleep improves, as does mental health, leading many patients to improved quality of life in a matter of weeks.
How Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy Works
The goal of BHRT is to assess hormone levels in the body and then to determine if these levels are above or below their optimal threshold. If there is an imbalance, hormone therapy either supplements under-produced hormones or replaces them altogether. A simple blood test will reveal whether hormone function is out of balance and what steps Dr. Patel should take to develop a treatment plan.
What Are Bioidentical Hormones?
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy uses hormones that are molecularly identical to those produced by the body. Traditional hormone replacement therapy has a history of using animal-derived or synthetic hormones, but BHRT uses only plant-derived hormones. Intermittent testing over the course of your therapy will signal what adjustments, if any, should be made.
The Role of Hormones
Hormones regulate many important functions and guide the organs of your endocrine system by instructing them when to activate, for how long, and by using how much energy. If we didn’t have hormones, we wouldn’t know when to sleep or eat (or when to stop). For this reason, hormones are an important agent of communication between functional systems. This communication regulates primary and necessary functions like metabolism, growth, and reproduction.
Hormones Specific To Women
It might not surprise you that menopause is the number one reason women seek treatment. The special hormones necessary for regulating reproductive functions in women are progesterone and estrogen. These hormones begin to decline as a woman nears menopause and the ovaries’ activity slows down. This is what causes the infamously associated hot flashes, fatigue, and insomnia.
Hormones Specific To Men
Like women, men can experience a decline in the reproductive hormone testosterone. While people colloquially refer to this as “male menopause,” this is not exactly an appropriate description. This condition is called andropause, and it doesn’t affect all men – only some. This decline can result in depression, anxiety, fatigue, and low libido.
What Causes Hormone Imbalances?
Hormone changes can occur for several reasons. Environmental toxins, heath conditions, endocrine disorders, and the aging process can all contribute to the decline in hormone levels. For example, diabetes (the most common endocrine disorder) affects the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin. In addition, circulatory problems can exacerbate the problem, as hormones need a strong blood supply to deliver them to their intended destinations.
We naturally experience a decrease in hormone production as we age, subsequently catalyzing a decline in endocrine function. As endocrine function declines, the receptors that bind hormones become less sensitive, attracting fewer and fewer hormones to be used by the body. This creates a hormonal imbalance, which then acts as a negative feedback loop, causing a further decline in endocrine function. From here the domino effect continues.
Most of us experience irritability and frustration from time to time, leading us to quickly dismiss these emotions as normal responses to our busy schedules or mentally taxing work. However, severe anxiety, frequent emotional volatility, or lengthy depressive episodes are medically concerning, and hormone therapy may be one way to ease these symptoms.
Hormone imbalances often manifest as physical symptoms such as unintentional weight loss or weight gain, unexplained changes in bladder or bowel habits, and low libido. In addition, hormone changes can put us at increased risk of bone loss, so protecting the vertebrae and discs of the spine becomes increasingly important. Fall risks increase, leading to a higher risk of fractures as bone density decreases.
We all have periods of low energy and fatigue, especially if we’ve had a stressful week or interrupted sleep. Having a short period of mental exhaustion is one thing, but if you find yourself consistently fighting to stay awake before the evening hours, a hormone imbalance may be the cause. Being unusually exhausted for a prolonged period of time is not only disruptive to your health but can have serious medical consequences.
If you have tried alternative treatments and continue to experience unrelenting insomnia, fatigue, night sweats, and other physical symptoms, BHRT may be an effective solution. On average, most patients find that they get relief within two weeks of starting therapy. In addition, this treatment has been shown to improve well-being in many areas, especially in restoring the functions of the endocrine system.
Forms of Hormone Replacement Therapy
These used to be the standard method of treatment, but newer technologies are making their way into doctor’s offices and becoming increasingly popular. Nonetheless, this tried-and-true treatment can be adjusted to the body’s needs and typically only requires taking one pill a day. It is a reliable method with proper use and is the most studied of all delivery methods.
This is arguably the most convenient of all treatment methods. It is a revolutionary new treatment that requires only a few minutes in a doctor’s office and has little to no downtime. Pellet implants (about the size of a grain of rice) are inserted just under the skin. The process is quick and painless with the use of a local anesthetic. The pellets release hormones in a consistent dose, making them a worry-free and reliable treatment method.
While not as convenient as pellets, patches are also an apply-it-and-forget-it treatment method. Hormone patches are placed onto the skin (typically on the stomach) where they stay in place and deliver hormones for several days. Since they are absorbed topically, these are a good option for people who have trouble taking oral medications or have stomach problems.
Gels and Creams
Another topical treatment, these options are safer for people with liver problems or cholesterol issues. These treatments are delivered through the skin and into the bloodstream and are effective with correct use. Since they operate through skin absorption, please store with caution away from children and pets.
What Are the Benefits of Bioidentical Hormone Therapy?
Since bio-identical hormones are not animal-derived or synthetic, they are generally well-tolerated. This treatment is a more “natural” type of hormone treatment because the hormones used are molecularly identical to the ones naturally occurring in the body. There are numerous benefits to this type of treatment.
Two of the most important benefits, however, are that research shows there may be fewer side effects with BHRT and more flexibility in adapting and changing doses than with traditional HRT. This allows for a quicker reduction in symptoms and a smoother return to improved quality of life.
Hormone loss brings a number of uncomfortable side effects. Research suggests those who seek treatment experience more manageable symptoms soon after their therapy begins. By establishing a better hormone balance, patients report less anxiety, depression, fatigue, and other related symptoms of hormone imbalance.
More “Natural” Treatment
Because bioidentical hormones are chemically identical to the ones naturally produced by the body, this treatment is considered a more “natural” approach than traditional hormone replacement therapy. In addition, synthetic hormones aren’t tolerated as well and are typically manufactured in a limited range of standardized doses. By contrast, BHRT allows for more adaptable dosing. There is some evidence to suggest that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy results in fewer side effects than traditional hormone therapy.
Stronger Skin, Hair, and Bones
When the body’s hormones are brought into balance, it creates better conditions for your skin, hair, and bones as well. Balanced hormones restore hydration in the skin, normalize bone building and resorption, and stimulate follicles to grow new hair. The body begins to produce more collagen and elastin, which gives you an overall healthier, more youthful appearance.
Improved Quality of Life
Most patients feel that they are given a new lease on life with hormone replacement therapy. Their energy and motivation improve as symptoms fade, leading many to revisit hobbies and pastimes they once enjoyed but abandoned when their symptoms appeared. Sleep habits and general well-being improve, leading to healthier lifestyle choices.
Supporting a Healthy Hormone Balance
Our surroundings are constantly waging chemical warfare on our bodies, and it is imperative that we give our body’s functional systems the best chance they have at winning the battle. Chemicals known as endocrine disruptors are found in everyday objects such as toys and plastics, so they are difficult to avoid. Nonetheless, there are many ways we can support our hormones both before and after replacement therapy.
Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system is a holistic approach to stress reduction. By introducing calming, restorative practices into your lifestyle, you will reduce the levels of cortisol (a damaging stress hormone) in your body. Bringing stress into balance ultimately helps bring your hormones into balance.
Physical activity releases hormones called endorphins that are responsible for pain management and mounting an effective stress response. Therefore, exercise (in any form) can help support positive emotions and feelings of well-being. Consequently, this staves off feelings of depression and stress.
Everyone knows that making healthy food choices is key to having a healthy body. But what everyone may not know is that eating the wrong kinds of foods can suppress the ghrelin hormone – the hormone that signals to your body that you have eaten enough. If this hormone does not activate, the body’s response may be to eat too much or to eat at inappropriate times. By avoiding inflammatory foods and choosing healthy meals, you will give your body its best chance to maintain a healthy hormone balance.
Learn More and Get Started
Often, all it takes is a simple blood test and a consultation to determine whether bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is right for you. Don’t wait to get relief. Call Dr. Patel and his team of qualified professionals at ALC Med Spa in Gurnee, IL to schedule your consultation today.