Provider’s Corner – A Message from Dr. Schrenker:

Hormone Replacement Therapy

So here I am splitting wood with my 17 year old son, something we do several times a year as I have done it with my two older daughters over the last 30 yrs.  As we get to a particularly large piece of red oak that needs to be transported up a slight incline and to the splitter, my son yells out “stop Dad I’ll get that.  Don’t hurt yourself.”  In that moment, so proud my son is actually taking initiative to work, I am also crushed by the realization that my 17-year-old son is now stronger than me!  How did that happen?

As we age our levels of hormones can change.  They can drop in both men and women.  In women when they drop we call it menopause, in men, andropause; for both it can be symptomatic emotionally and physically.  That’s where hormone replacement therapy comes in.

What are the hormones we replace?  They are actually the same for men and women, just different levels.  Estrogen, testosterone, progesterone and DHEA are the four main sex hormones we focus on.  Estrogen, for women, gives them energy, better brain function and a return toward their sexuality.  For men it usually gets too high which can rob us of energy, muscle and make Hallmark commercials very embarrassing.  Testosterone builds muscle and bone in both sexes, can increase sex drive, energy and brain function.  It can cause aggression if too high, but even at therapeutic levels can give you an opinion on everything!  Progesterone for women is the hidden gem.  It enhances joy, peace and sleep, it balances the estrogen and testosterone, for men I add it to any topical testosterone as it can help us refrain from giving our opinion on everything.  DHEA balances the other hormones and provides additional energy.  So both men and women can benefit from all four hormones, just in different doses.

Are they dangerous?  Short answer is NO.  In 1993 the women’s health initiative started 2 studies looking at synthetic hormones, namely Premarin and Provera.  The short term study was stopped early because it appeared that the synthetic hormones caused more deaths.  That changed the use of hormones forever as doctors got scared and just stopped using them, the fear propagated to the news and that’s where people got the wrong idea hormones were dangerous.  After they reviewed the data in more detail they have since recanted their remarks and determined other factors were responsible for the deaths.  But the other study went on.  It was a 20year trial, in the end they found decreases in cardiovascular issues, dementia, osteoporosis and cerebrovascular issues.  There was an increase in blood clots, that has not been seen while using natural hormone replacement, which is what we use.

But what about cancer and hormones?  If we keep it simple, there are 2 types of breast cancer, hormone driven and non-hormonal.  Hormone driven cancers can have estrogen and or progesterone receptors or no hormone receptors, the triple negative breast cancers.  Hormone receptor positive cancers are regarded as easier to treat and more likely to be controlled long term.  Natural or synthetic hormones can feed a hormone responsive cancer, but they do not cause it to start.  As for testosterone and prostate cancer, the same principle applies, testosterone can feed the cancer but did not make it start.

Why do we need to replace our hormones?  Short answer is, you don’t.  You are not going to die from a lack of estrogen, progesterone, DHEA or testosterone, you die from the long term effects of not having enough of them, there is a difference.  Just because your estrogen is low is not deadly.  But, for women, as your estrogen levels remain low every cell in your body is adversely effected.  If you ask someone on NHRT(natural hormone replacement) how they feel, usually they respond “better”  Because everything is a bit better, not just one thing.  But the key to wellbeing is balancing your hormones at any level, low, medium or high.  So as your cells see increasing levels of sex hormones they begin to repair themselves quicker, they become stronger and more efficient.  Your thyroid gets better and your brain works better.  These improvements allow your whole being to function better.  But there are always people, for reasons that remain unclear, do not do well with higher levels of hormones, that’s where good communication with us is imperative.  What is better and what is worse, and we can usually change the formula to improve things.

But we are not here to put everyone on hormones.  They can be a great addition to a balanced and healthy life for those who choose to try them.  More importantly an organic whole food diet, mindfulness and exercise are free ways to better wellbeing.

 

You are loved,  

Dr. Schrenker

 

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By James H. Schrenker, M.D., ABIHM with Brandy P. Schrenker, MS, RD, CDE