Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Overview – Is it Right for You?
Bioidentical hormone therapy is an innovative approach to healthy aging when combined with a healthy lifestyle. There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding the use of bioidentical hormone replacement. Here we take a closer look at some myths associated with hormone replacement. We also explore its role in the health and wellness of all of us in the modern age.
History of Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy was first reportedly used in the Sumerian city of Lagash in the 21st century BC.[i] This type of hormone therapy was called castration. Although a crude form of therapy, castration was generally performed without consent of younger males prior to puberty. It was done so the male could take on a unique role as a servant or slave.
It is known that Aristotle new about the effects of castration on males. Aristotle’s hypothesis on fertilization is one of the first scientific encounters in reproductive biology.[ii] Castration was used primarily as a form of punishment or an effort to create docile and unassertive slaves out of young men. More recently is was used to create a “castrato” singing voice. Young males were castrated prior to sexual maturity to prevent a boy’s larynx from physiological changes due to puberty, resulting in a distinct singing tone.
Unlike medieval hormone therapies, modern hormone therapy came of age around the 1930’s, with the goal of replacing deficiencies to more optimal healthy (youthful) levels. That was the period when the hormone progesterone was first identified as well as testosterone. Testosterone was promoted as early as the 1930’s as the “Elixir of Life.” Many forms of advertising still promote testosterone therapy and supplements to this day as an “elixir,” which often leads to controversies and debate among those in medicine and regulatory bodies.
Without going into medical or regulatory controversies, it is important for all of us to understand that hormones are an important signaling mechanism for orthomolecular regulatory function within our bodies. Hormones can influence growth, mood, quality of life (QoL), body composition, and overall health – especially as we grow older and weaker.
When we are young and healthy, hormone function is considered to be at optimal levels. Unfortunately, in the modern era, although we are generally living much longer lifespans, we are not living healthier lifespans. Our unhealthy modern lifestyle leads to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, which in turn negatively influences our hormone levels.
Historically, hormone declines were considered a normal part of the aging process. However, new evidence is suggesting hormone decline and disruptions is more related to lifestyle and exposure to certain types of environmental toxins known as endocrine disruptors. Lifestyle-environmental influenced hormone disruption is one of the most significant factors for determining if hormone replacement is right for you, so it’s important to understand what influences the body’s hormones in our modern world.
Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy
There are two types of hormone replacement therapy. Non-bioidentical and bioidentical. There are large differences between the two related to health and research. Here we take a quick look at some of the differences.
Old Way: Non-bioidentical – Risky Cancer Relationships
Beginning in the 1960’s, advances in chemical engineering enabled scientists to synthesize hormones. Doctors began prescribing hormone replacement for postmenopausal women. It was common knowledge at the time that hormone replacement helped women feel better, potentially reduced their heart attack risk, and influenced healthier aging.
The synthetic hormones developed in the 1960’s, were non-bioidentical. They weren’t 100% molecularly equivalent to the natural hormone molecules circulating in the human body. These hormone products were patented synthetic hormones obtained from chemicals taken from animals and synthetically manipulated, so they could be taken orally. That way, when capsules or tablets were taken orally, they could pass through the digestive system and liver, and still produce a hormonal effect. The hormone released still appeared close enough to the body’s natural hormones, but the minor molecular differences would lead to negative side-effects. Large research studies that followed women using these hormones began identifying adverse side-effects to long, prolonged, use of these hormones.
One of the largest hormone replacement trials was published in 2002 from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The study reported the following:
- The risk of dying from breast cancer doubled for women taking synthetic HRT over a placebo.
- 25% increase in the risk of breast cancer for those on synthetic HRT over those on a placebo.
It was shorty after this study that synthetic Hormone Replacement Therapy began to be discouraged by many in the health industry. Rightly so, as cancers are the second leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in approximately 590,000 deaths per year. See chart.
The percentage increase as a major risk factor for disease and death is impossible to ignore.
Bioidentical Hormones are 100% Identical to Natural Hormones
Bioidentical hormones offer the improved quality of life (QoL) of hormone replacement, but without the same risks as identified with synthetic hormone therapy. Bioidentical hormone replacement uses 100% bioidentical hormones. This means they are the exact molecular structure currently circulating within the human body.
With respect to women and their risk for breast cancer, stroke and heart attack, there is strong evidence that bioidentical hormone replacement is the preferred choice. Hormone replacement offers many benefits relating to mood, libido, bone density, body composition, all important quality of life and risk factors for common age related diseases.
Factors that Cause Hormone Deficiencies
For years medical researchers have claimed hormone deficiencies are a natural part of aging. They state that the levels of the cell receptors progressively decline with age, putting the body into various states of endocrine decline. However, this claim is oversimplified, and new evidence relating to diet and lifestyle proves it is incomplete.
Hormone Replacement Misconception – It’s the Natural Part of Aging
For years consensus medicine has been telling patients’ hormone disruption and deficiencies are a normal part of aging. New and increasing evidence suggests otherwise. One is a study on the population-level decline in serum testosterone levels in American men. It found significant declines in comparable aged men from the 1980’s, 1990’s, and early 2000’s.[i]
Look at hormone disruption in African clawed frog, tongue-in-cheek video:<Click here>
Lifestyle factors may be the most important factors to your health and longevity. We now understand better than in past generations, that most of our leading causes of death, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s, are actually lifestyle diseases.
For instance, it was recently reported and confirmed that the following chronic diseases were preventable by the following percentages. Type II diabetes is reportedly 90% preventable. Coronary heart disease is 80%, with stoke and colon cancer rates preventable by up to 70%, solely determined by one’s lifestyle.[ii]
Review research paper <Click here>
There is a huge library of easily accessible scientific research that supports lifestyle modification factors which optimize nutrition, exercise and metal health, significantly correlates with increased life-span and aging, including the lengthening of telomeres, an accurate indicator of longevity. [i]
Few dispute that the United States and other parts of western civilization has an obesity epidemic. With nearly 67% of the US population overweight or obese, the health consequences are staggering. But should the obesity epidemic be called something else? Perhaps, a malnutrition epidemic? The standard American diet is often referred to as an acronym: “SAD.”
The US population is eating far too many calories in the form of meat, dairy, processed foods, processed oils, and too few nutrient dense whole foods, like fruits and vegetables. Therein lie important keys to lifestyle factors and the influence on overall health and hormone function.
In addition to Lifestyle factors impacting hormone levels, we also have to look at our environment, and potentially toxic substances we come in contact with every day without even thinking about it. Over the last 100 years, we introduced approximately 200 million tons of new molecular structures into the world know to be toxic. The Center for Disease Control reports it has identified 148 toxic chemicals in Americans of all ages. Toxic chemicals we come in contact with through food, water, clothing, furniture, air, etc., get absorbed into our bodies daily. Many of these chemicals are recognized as endocrine disruptors.
There are twelve commonly found endocrine disruptors which are the most prevalent in the environment. They are:
- Fire Retardants
- Perfluorinated Chemicals
- Organophosphate pesticides
Some of these you may be familiar with. Each plays a role in endocrine disruption. Some impact our bodies more than others do. Atrazine, for example, is a herbicide used heavily on corn crops. It is one of the more commonly used pesticides in the world. It is a potent endocrine disruptor. Male frogs exposed to this chemical became feminized. In fact, 10% of genetic male frogs exposed to atrazine actually developed into functioning females that copulated with other males, producing viable eggs. [i]
They also found a 10-fold decrease in testosterone levels in male frogs exposed to atrazine. It’s believed that atrazine promotes conversion of testosterone to estrogen in exposed male frogs. The studies used realistic exposures at 25 parts per billion of atrazine to achieve these effects.
Hormone Therapy can be an important Healthy Lifestyle Choice when combined with proper nutrition program.
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[i] Maekawa, Kazuya (1980). Animal and human castration in Sumer, Part II: Human castration in the Ur III period. Zinbun [Journal of the Research Institute for Humanistic Studies, Kyoto University], pp. 1–56. / Maekawa, Kazuya (1980). Female Weavers and Their Children in Lagash – Presargonic and Ur III. Acta Sumerologica 2:81–125.[ii] Center for Reproductive Medicine and Andrology, University Hospital of Munster, Munster, Germany, and the Center of Excellence in Genomic Medicine Research, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Center of Reproductive Medicine and Andrology, University Hospital of Münster, Münster, Germany2Center of Excellence in Genomic Medicine Research, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Center [iii] A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men. Thomas Travison, A. Araujo, the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. [iv] Lifestyle and nutrition, caloric restriction, mitochondrial health and hormones: Scientific interventions for anti-aging – Luis Vitetta and Bill Anton, Unit of Health Integration, School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Australia [v] Dean Ornish, Jue Lin, June M Chan, E. Blackburn (2013-September) The Lancet [vi] T.B. Hayes, V. Khoury, March 9, 2010, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.