What is BHRT?
BHRT stands for Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy, a method that restores hormones with ones that have the same structure as those naturally occurring in the body. BHRT is accessible through various delivery systems, including injections, topical creams, gels, patches, pellets, and more.
How does BHRT differ from earlier hormone replacement methods?
Previous forms of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) used
hormones sourced from animals, which were similar in structure and function to
human hormones but not an exact match.
In contrast, bioidentical hormones have a molecular
structure identical to those found in the human body, often resulting in fewer
side effects compared to hormones derived from animals.
Is BHRT effective?
BHRT can optimize hormone levels and alleviate symptoms of hormone imbalance. Given individual differences, tailoring a BHRT regimen based on comprehensive lab results, symptoms, and treatment objectives is crucial.
BHRT typically involves ongoing treatment, necessitating continued hormone supplementation to maintain optimized levels. Currently, there is no proven treatment that can fully restore the body’s natural hormone production, hence the need for ongoing replacement.
What Causes Imbalances in Women’s Hormones?
The primary cause of hormonal imbalance in women typically arises during perimenopause—a transition phase leading to menopause—and menopause itself.
Menopause marks the cessation of a woman’s body producing the primary female hormones, Progesterone and Estrogen, accompanied by the discontinuation of menstruation. This phase typically begins in a woman’s 40s to 50s, though perimenopause can start years earlier, manifesting similar symptoms.
A clear indicator of menopause is the absence of menstruation for a continuous twelve-month period. Perimenopause is less easily identified and is usually diagnosed based on symptoms that closely resemble those of menopause.
Perimenopause can persist for years, significantly impacting one’s quality of life even before reaching menopause. If you’re experiencing perimenopause-like symptoms, proactive steps can be taken to alleviate them and regain enthusiasm for life.
What Are the Signs of Menopause?
The signs of menopause and perimenopause encompass:
- Night sweats and hot flashes
- Absence of menstruation (menopause) or irregular periods (perimenopause)
- Sleep difficulties or reduced depth of sleep compared to previous patterns.
- Fluctuating mood, anxiety, depression, or challenges in emotion regulation
- Cognitive fog and memory lapses
- Vaginal dryness and/or discomfort during intercourse
- Reduced sexual desire (libido)
- Weight gain, particularly in challenging areas like the abdomen
- Alterations in body composition, such as a higher percentage of body fat
- Dry skin and thinning hair
- Aching or painful joints
- Increased difficulty achieving or maintaining physical fitness.
These symptoms may manifest individually or collectively. Furthermore, these symptoms can arise even if menopause hasn’t been reached. Perimenopause can extend for years and detrimentally affect one’s quality of life akin to menopause.
Other Triggers of Hormonal Imbalance in Women
While perimenopause and menopause are the most prevalent causes of hormonal imbalances in women, they’re not the sole triggers. Women of all ages can grapple with hormonal imbalances, resulting in disruptive symptoms.
Additional causes encompass:
- Specific medications, including birth control
- Chronic health conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), and specific genetic conditions
- Medical interventions like hysterectomy (uterus removal) and/or oophorectomy (removal of one or both ovaries)
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Premature menopause
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and various ovarian conditions
- Chemotherapy and cancer
Given that hormonal imbalances are often associated with menopause, many women may not realize they are experiencing a deficiency, leaving these symptoms untreated. These symptoms typically align with those seen in menopause, particularly concerning issues related to sexual desire and intimacy. Even if you’re not within the typical age range for menopause, you could still be contending with hormonal imbalances, for which BHRT may help.
What Hormones are Found in Women?
Estrogen: Originating mainly from the ovaries, with minor production from the adrenal glands and adipose tissue. Estrogen exists in three distinct forms: Estradiol, Estrone, and Estriol. In Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT), Estradiol is frequently used to replace Estrogen due to its prevalent usage within the body. BHRT may also employ Estriol individually or a combination of Estradiol and Estriol known as Bi-Estrogen.
Progesterone: Produced by the ovaries, this hormone oversees ovulation and the menstrual cycle. Progesterone prepares the uterine lining for potential pregnancy (leading to menstruation if conception doesn’t occur) and serves other important functions.
Testosterone: Emanates from the ovaries and adrenal glands, albeit in lesser amounts compared to males. Testosterone plays a vital role in female reproductive health and influences sexual desire.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone): An androgen pivotal in the synthesis of Estrogen and Testosterone.
Pregnenolone: Functions as the precursor hormone for various other hormones, including Testosterone, Estrogen, Progesterone, and Cortisol.
Typically, BHRT involves a blend of these hormones, and their interplay profoundly influences one another. Additionally, BHRT might encompass other hormones unrelated to sex hormones. For instance, individuals experiencing an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) might incorporate T3 or T4 thyroid hormones as part of their BHRT regimen.