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Bioidentical hormones/HRT and peri/menopause symptoms

SuburbanbushbabeSuburbanbushbabe Posts: 15,402Registered Users
Anyone read Suzanne Somers book, take bioidentical hormones, or know anything about it? If you are on them, how has it been for you and what positive/negative changes have you seen? I've been researching this on the web. It's new to me and I want to learn more about this and possibly find a knowledgeable MD in the metro Boston/Metrowest area.

I'm 4-5 years into perimenopause. I no longer have night sweats, haven't had a migraine in almost a year, have the occasional hot flash when I drink something hot. But my hair is noticeably thinning in volume. I have weight that just won't come off, and my libido has definitely decreased. I would rather have night sweats every night of the week than have all this scary stuff happening.

I'm not interested in synthetic hormones. But if you are doing bio-identical hormones or phyto-estrogens and have seen positive changes, I would love to hear from you.
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  • ShrekLoverShrekLover Posts: 2,551Registered Users
    I don't know much about it, but I have seen her interviewed and then they talked to a couple of doctors who say this is not safe and her research is flawed. Sorry, I don't remember the details.
  • SystemSystem Posts: 39,059 Administrator
    I have read the same thing. She's not a scientist.

    One thing I have more faith in, though, is the use of HRT delivered through a skin patch instead of orally. It's not metabolized through the liver and it doesn't appear to have the same negative effects.
  • journotravelerjournotraveler Posts: 2,816Registered Users
    my half-sister is 10 years older than me--she's 55--and went on bio-identical hormones 2 years ago after having a hysterectomy.

    she really likes them, and says it makes a big difference in managing all those symptoms, particularly her mood swings. (she started peri at around age 53.)

    but she says they need to be adjusted. she's lately putting on weight & is usually really slender, so the doctor is doing a bunch of tests to see what's going on and then will adjust the hormones accordingly.
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  • SuburbanbushbabeSuburbanbushbabe Posts: 15,402Registered Users
    Heard the skin patch is better. I made an appt. with my PCP for a consult, but I think she would be more into the synthetic hormone stuff. I haven't read Sommers book but I think I'll reserve it. There is a lot of info on the web. I already got a referral to a practitioner in Boston and spoke to an MD in NH. I want to proceed with caution because I am not sure this stuff is covered by my health insurance, I would have to put it on my flex spending plan.
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  • journotravelerjournotraveler Posts: 2,816Registered Users
    my sister said it is not cheap.... keep me posted on what you discover. she lives in LA. i think she went to a naturopath. i can find out if you want.
    3B corkscrews with scatterings of 3A & 3C.
  • alim1216alim1216 Posts: 240Registered Users
    I have been on bio-identical hormone replacement therapy for about 7 years. I am currently 51. I started them to help me with the multiple symptoms I was suffering from peri-menopause. I was diagnosed with peri- just before age 40 and had actually been suffering symptoms since age 36. The MD I had at the time put me on synthetic HRT which within a year caused a bilateral pulmonary embolis. I was rushed to the hospital and given a 15% chance of surviving the night. I had just turned 40. After a week in intensive care, followed by 6 months of blood thinners to try to dissolve the clots in my lungs, I was released from treatment and told I was not to use HRT again.
    It took me almost 4 years to find an MD who worked with natural hormones. He did an extensive blood work-up and put me on transdermal cream which helped with most, if not all of my symptoms. After that, I found a naturopath who also put me on intravaginal estrogen cream for the thinning and drying issues associated with menopause. The doses I use are very, very low. And it's been 7 years and I have not had ANY adverse affects AT ALL.
    Your best bet is to find a naturopath or MD that works with bio-identicals and have him run the salivary tests on the gamut of hormones involved with premenopause/menopause. The salivary test is the most accurate. And yes, you should have them adjusted periodically, though I have done fine all these years with the same dosages. No, they are not cheap, particularly because there is a probability that insurance won't cover it, but when you break down the cost, it's not really that much more than you'd have to pay if you did standard HRT and had to pay out of pocket for it.
    My personal opinion is that most MD's (read the AMA) are claiming bio-identicals are unsafe, because many - not all, but many - MD's probably get credits and kick-backs from pharmaceutical companies for promoting and prescribing their pharmaceuticals. They, not being trained naturopaths, haven't a clue about bio-identicals and are threatened by anything they don't know or understand.
    And BTW, most naturopaths have to go to naturopathic school just as long as MD's go to medical school. The difference is that most do not do specialties, i.e. surgery, orthopedics, etc. but they do general practice, gynecology, etc. and some minor surgery. At least the one I went to did.
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  • SuburbanbushbabeSuburbanbushbabe Posts: 15,402Registered Users
    My primary care MD finally, finally recommended an MD who does bio-identicals in my area. I had a list of MD's from a web resource, and this doctor is on it, but I really wanted my primary to be in on this. Also it may be partially covered by my insurance since they asked what I have. I'm getting screened on 8/14 by an NP, then will see the MD later in the month. I am hopeful. I have never been so vague, forgetful, late, foggy as I have been for the last 3+ months. I know it's not depression because I was treated for that and know what it feels like. This is different and also includes low sex drive, resistant weight gain, changing sleep patters, etc. I still get my periods -- sometimes every 31 days other times every 45 days, occasionally just spotting. So hormones are definitely fluctuating.
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  • alim1216alim1216 Posts: 240Registered Users
    My primary care MD finally, finally recommended an MD who does bio-identicals in my area. I had a list of MD's from a web resource, and this doctor is on it, but I really wanted my primary to be in on this. Also it may be partially covered by my insurance since they asked what I have. I'm getting screened on 8/14 by an NP, then will see the MD later in the month. I am hopeful. I have never been so vague, forgetful, late, foggy as I have been for the last 3+ months. I know it's not depression because I was treated for that and know what it feels like. This is different and also includes low sex drive, resistant weight gain, changing sleep patters, etc. I still get my periods -- sometimes every 31 days other times every 45 days, occasionally just spotting. So hormones are definitely fluctuating.

    Wow, sounds a lot like me about 15 years ago. Except you could add radical mood swings to that list. My forgetfulness comes and goes now, as does my period. I've pretty much given up on the weight. :( I'll NEVER be a size 8 again, and imagining how wrinkled my skin would look if I tried keeps my at my current weight! LOL Sleeping patterns have been shot to hell for a loooong time now. We won't even go into the rest.
    I recently got wind of a compounding pharmacy that is local (I usually do Rxs out of Washington state!), and found an internist who does the full hormonal screening - like 19 hormones - through salivary tests! Very excited about it. But it involves a regimen you have to follow and a LOT of spitting. :( I think I'll do it over the weekend. That way I don't have to interfere with my weekday work routine.
    Good luck to you! :)
    Hair 3a/3b.
  • SuburbanbushbabeSuburbanbushbabe Posts: 15,402Registered Users
    alim1216 wrote:
    My primary care MD finally, finally recommended an MD who does bio-identicals in my area. I had a list of MD's from a web resource, and this doctor is on it, but I really wanted my primary to be in on this. Also it may be partially covered by my insurance since they asked what I have. I'm getting screened on 8/14 by an NP, then will see the MD later in the month. I am hopeful. I have never been so vague, forgetful, late, foggy as I have been for the last 3+ months. I know it's not depression because I was treated for that and know what it feels like. This is different and also includes low sex drive, resistant weight gain, changing sleep patters, etc. I still get my periods -- sometimes every 31 days other times every 45 days, occasionally just spotting. So hormones are definitely fluctuating.

    Wow, sounds a lot like me about 15 years ago. Except you could add radical mood swings to that list. My forgetfulness comes and goes now, as does my period. I've pretty much given up on the weight. :( I'll NEVER be a size 8 again, and imagining how wrinkled my skin would look if I tried keeps my at my current weight! LOL Sleeping patterns have been shot to hell for a loooong time now. We won't even go into the rest.
    I recently got wind of a compounding pharmacy that is local (I usually do Rxs out of Washington state!), and found an internist who does the full hormonal screening - like 19 hormones - through salivary tests! Very excited about it. But it involves a regimen you have to follow and a LOT of spitting. :( I think I'll do it over the weekend. That way I don't have to interfere with my weekday work routine.
    Good luck to you! :)

    And you too!
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  • SystemSystem Posts: 39,059 Administrator
    I'm taking Bioidentical hormones (progesterone cream, testerone & estrogen tablets) because I had a total hyst 10 mths ago at the age of 31. I haven't noticed any difference in my hair yet except it grows a bit slower but it isn't thinner.

    Speckla
  • SuburbanbushbabeSuburbanbushbabe Posts: 15,402Registered Users
    My first appointment is this Tuesday. I am now getting hot flashes again (after more than a year without). My forgetfulness is getting worse: I left my wallet at a fast food place across town; I put heavy stuff at the back door to pick up and forget it's there so it stays there overnight. I have left my keys in the lock. My sleep patterns suck-- I wake up every couple of hours then go back to sleep and wake up in the am exhausted. I need some fixing, bad!
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    Hear that crash? It's me falling off the CG wagon.
  • SuburbanbushbabeSuburbanbushbabe Posts: 15,402Registered Users
    UPDATE:

    I just got prescribed after being screened and I am so happy and hopeful and relieved-- and I haven't even started taking the hormones yet! Spent about an hour with the doctor and she explained a lot, including an interesting one about hot flashes, how they are the body trying to spike estrogen production. Anyone in the Needham, MA area I recommend this office. It's called Womanwell and specializes in this stuff. One of the doctors used to be my OBGYN and did my myomectomy back in 1995. She quit her OBGYN practice and now does this. There's a compounding pharmacy (not related) right upstairs so I was able to drop off my prescription and they will overnight it to me.
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    Hear that crash? It's me falling off the CG wagon.
  • SuburbanbushbabeSuburbanbushbabe Posts: 15,402Registered Users
    I was searching for resources to answer someone's questions about bioidentical HRT, came across this old thread and thought it would be helpful to update since I'm now a year and a half into HRT.

    I began taking bio-identical hormones (via prescription cream on my thigh) in Sept. of 2007. The major symptoms I was experiencing were reversed pretty quickly: I could sleep through the night, had more mental focus, reduction in fogginess/forgefulness, and sexual energy is back. No more balding spots. No more migraines. I kept on getting hot flashes for awhile but they decreased and finally stopped. I am in full menopause and no longer get any periods. My doctor has "tweaked" the prescriptions a couple of times and increased my dosage because of my reduced estrogen levels. She also has me on B12 (mental clarity), vitamin D and calcium (bone support). And they recommend thyroid supplements if called for (my thyroid's fine).

    I had one side effect about 6 months into the medication, and that was a very large lump in my breast that was a result of an infection (I was biopsied and all was well). No other side effects. It went away with treatment. Other than that, occasional spotting. That's it!

    The treatment is covered by my health insurance with a pretty high co-pay ($50) for the cream which lasts around 5 weeks. It's well worth it.

    Here are 2 good sites for resources and information:

    Project Aware

    Power Surge
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    Hear that crash? It's me falling off the CG wagon.
  • meadowlark2meadowlark2 Posts: 135Registered Users
    Thanks for posting this. I'm about to turn 49 and have just started noticing a host of symptoms. Some are benign, such as the desire to wear looser clothing and stop coloring my hair.The lowered libido is a mild concern. The forgetfulness and lack of mental clarity is very troubling. I've had periods of forgetfulness before and they have passed. I'm trying to re-enter the work force as a professional and find myself feeling less than sharp. Long story short, I think its hormonal,even though I have regular periods.

    I'm a little concerned about the breast lump you mention, since I do have cystic breasts. New lumps are always a little disturbing.
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  • SuburbanbushbabeSuburbanbushbabe Posts: 15,402Registered Users
    I'm a little concerned about the breast lump you mention, since I do have cystic breasts

    I have microcalcifications and very dense breasts and this was my second biopsy. First was back in the '90's. My breasts are fine; I get mammograms every year, with ultrasound if necessary.
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    Hear that crash? It's me falling off the CG wagon.
  • FrizzBgoneFrizzBgone Posts: 2,678Registered Users
    Did anyone see the shows Oprah did on this topic? It was quite good. There were two shows - one had Robin McGraw and Dr. Christine Northrup. She had a second one with Suzanne Sommers on it. The one with Robin McGraw and Dr. Northrup was really informative. Both of them are pro bio-identicals.

    I'm really interested in them as well and was thrilled to see this thread. Although my periods are still very regular, my PMS symptoms are terrible. There are some months that people honestly don't realize how unsafe it is for them to be around me !!! It is all I can do to not rip someone's head off some days. Evening Primrose Oil has helped a lot, but I suspect I have a hormone imbalance. I never had it like this years ago.

    Fortunately, I haven't suffered many of the other menopause symptoms, but it would be wonderful to be well informed before having to deal with the others. Having help for the mood swings would be SUCH a bonus. I hate being like this. Some months I don't know myself.
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  • rouquinnerouquinne Posts: 13,498Registered Users Curl Dabbler
    i went to see my endocrinologist this morning about my sleeping problems and forgetfulness - the first thing she suggested were bio-identical hormones.

    now, i just have to find out if my insurance will cover them. we have a pretty good plan, so i hope they do. otherwise she gave me a huge bottle of Estrogel to start with.
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  • rouquinnerouquinne Posts: 13,498Registered Users Curl Dabbler
    so... not only will my drug plan not cover the bio-identicals, it turns out that i'm not even CLOSE to having hormone levels indicating approaching menopause. no peri-menopause... nada!

    :(

    the doctor wants me to continue using the Estrogel until i see her next month, but i'm not comfortable using HRT if i don't need it....

    maybe i'm just depressed....??? and the pain from the neuropathy (which is now constant and not relieved by anything including codeine) isn't helping. i don't know...
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  • mpgirlmpgirl Posts: 1,163Registered Users
    I have been in perimenopause for several years now and started my quest for relief about 4 years ago. I am a professional and was suffering from hot flashes, night sweats, couldn't sleep, severe mood swings and a brain that seemed to be on the path to Alzheimer's disease.

    I found Bio-identical hormones and they saved my life. I thought I was loosing my mind but I wasn't. Here is a good website to find doctors who can help: ACAM.org

    I became so much better and so interested in alternative health care that I now work for a doctor's clinic that specializes in alternative treatments like BHRT, supplementation, and many others.

    The right hormones can make a huge difference along with the right nutrition and supplementation. They can help without, but life can be better with all three. My only caution is testing. Make sure you get your levels checked at least every 6 months. Without testing, you may be dosing needlessly, which can bring back old symptoms. When you change your diet, hormones can improve so make sure your doctor keeps checking.

    If anyone wants more info or has any questions, feel free to PM me. I'd be happy to help. It's also nice to have the medical resources I have access to. :occasion7:

    I'm glad BHRT has helped so many.
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  • rudeechickrudeechick Posts: 6,726Registered Users
    I am currently researching the BIO Hormones. I ran across some data that implied that one problem MIGHT be that the body then converts some part of them into the problematic hormone/chemical that increases cancer risks....

    Honestly, I'm still researching. My current understanding is that, started early and with short term use they might be safe. Really the risk that scares me the most is the increased risk of blood clots....
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  • mpgirlmpgirl Posts: 1,163Registered Users
    The real risk to BHRT is self dosing. Buying hormones from a website is a bad idea. Any hormone, whether natural or your own is problematic at higher/lower levels than normal in the body. That's why testing is so important.

    In my experience (and I work in a clinic that does this) we have never experienced severe adverse affects on our patients. They can be symptomatic for a while as we "tweek" their formulas, but to a woman (and man) they end up happier and healthier.

    With the right supplementation plan, I have actually come off of my hormones entirely at the moment. I may be adding some again after my next saliva test. I have no problem falling asleep now, but staying asleep is becoming problematic for me.

    Going through menapause (or andropause for men), doesn't have to be a horrible time for anybody. I'm a big proponent because it worked for me and I see hundreds of women that it works for as well.
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  • SuburbanbushbabeSuburbanbushbabe Posts: 15,402Registered Users
    My only caution is testing. Make sure you get your levels checked at least every 6 months. Without testing, you may be dosing needlessly, which can bring back old symptoms. When you change your diet, hormones can improve so make sure your doctor keeps checking.

    This is key. I get tested every 3-4 months and my prescription has been "tweeked" several times.
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    Hear that crash? It's me falling off the CG wagon.
  • SystemSystem Posts: 39,059 Administrator
    rouquinne wrote: »
    so... not only will my drug plan not cover the bio-identicals, it turns out that i'm not even CLOSE to having hormone levels indicating approaching menopause. no peri-menopause... nada!

    :(

    the doctor wants me to continue using the Estrogel until i see her next month, but i'm not comfortable using HRT if i don't need it....

    maybe i'm just depressed....??? and the pain from the neuropathy (which is now constant and not relieved by anything including codeine) isn't helping. i don't know...

    Did they do blood or saliva testing? One can come out "normal" but not really be.

    I went back to the doctor this past Thursday and he upped my estrogen a bit and gave me a cream to insert vaginally. Dryness, itchy, and a little bit of bleeding after intercourse was due to thinning tissue. Ah, the joys of surgical menopause. Actually, it hasn't been bad at all and this is really the first issue I've had since surgery 2.5 years ago.
  • mpgirlmpgirl Posts: 1,163Registered Users
    My doctor relies on saliva testing. Saliva is drawn 4 times in a 24hour period. Most reliable.
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  • rouquinnerouquinne Posts: 13,498Registered Users Curl Dabbler
    blood tests only. i'll ask for the salivia test when i go back, but will it show anything after taking estrogen for a month???
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  • meadowlark2meadowlark2 Posts: 135Registered Users
    mpgirl wrote: »
    My doctor relies on saliva testing. Saliva is drawn 4 times in a 24hour period. Most reliable.


    Is the saliva test a standard test or is this one that is normally done only by more holistic practitioners? I have had a salivary adrenal stress panel done a few times in the past. I had it done through a np who was wholistic. My insurance didn't cover it. Just wondering if I should request this from my new np who is very good, but not particularly holistic. Does your doctor also check adrenal function?
    cg Dec 08
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  • mpgirlmpgirl Posts: 1,163Registered Users
    My doctor tests for adrenals, hormones and neurotransmitter levels with a testing kit from ZRT Labs. A urine sample is collected for the neuros and saliva is collected 4x through a 24 hour period.

    Unfortunately, most insurance companies don't cover it. I saved all of my receipts that I spent at the Dr.'s office and submitted them as medical expenses on my taxes along with my dental work that wasn't entirely covered by my insurance. Worked out nicely.

    It is difficult, I know, to put the money out up front for most of us. This, however, has been a priority for me so I have sacrificed other things to be able to pay for it.
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  • JusLookingJusLooking Posts: 35Registered Users
    rouquinne wrote: »
    maybe i'm just depressed....??? and the pain from the neuropathy (which is now constant and not relieved by anything including codeine) isn't helping. i don't know...

    Even if it is secondary to diabetes, there are supplements that can gradually reduce neuropathy. Off the top of my head I remember RALA is supposed to be good, and fish oil, magnesium, benfotiamine (an oily form of vit B1), Acetyl-L-carnitine, vit D, pyridoxamine (an oily form of vit B6), and carnosine. There may be more. These are all prescribed in Germany for the condition with good results according to their studies. Natural supplements and herbs are only available by prescription there so German doctors give them a fair shot. More info is available on the Life Extension Foundation website (www.lef.org), but I order my supplements from Lucky Vitamin because they have discounted prices and excellent service. The good thing about going the supplement route to heal something is that the supplements are good for your general health (just don't go crazy thinking the higher dosage the better, because there is such a thing as taking too much of something and knocking your body out of whack, so follow suggested amounts), and it's not unusual to find that other things get fixed at the same time. For instance, the Acetyl-L-carnitine helps mental sharpness as well as neuropathy, and most of the things I mentioned also help energy levels.

    Please don't think you've tried everything and nothing can be done. Six weeks on the supplements can make a night and day change for many people.

    On edit: I searched under neuropathy on the LEF website, and they recommend two other supplements in addition to the ones above: the complete Vit E "family" including gamma-tocopherol and tocotrienols, and methylcobalamin (form of vit B12) lozenges. That seems to be everything they say will help. The fastest, most dramatic results came from the benfotiamine (reduced in 3 weeks), but the best outcome is always to use all the things known to help a condition because together they work on all the different imbalances that contribute to the symptoms.

    Also it is really desirable to be under the care of an NP who knows about this stuff, especially if you are a type 2 diabetic. One or two of the supplements can actually help a type 2 diabetic to utilize sugar better, so it might be necessary to reduce medication. Reduced blood sugar is not the reason they help the neuropathy, though, so using more drugs instead of the supplements won't have the same effect.

    If you can't find or afford an NP, and you are a type 2 diabetic (type 1 diabetics are missing blood sugar control for a different reason which is not affected by supplements), you have to make a judgement call. Without saying what path you should take, if it were me, I'd add one thing at a time, waiting a couple of weeks before adding the next, and monitor my blood sugar closely. If it began to drop more than I wanted, I'd tell my regular doctor about the drop and the supplement and have him/her adjust the medication dose according to my new blood levels. But that's just me.

    I apologize if you don't have type 2 diabetes and all these warnings were unnecessary.
  • mpgirlmpgirl Posts: 1,163Registered Users
    Thanks JustLooking for your post. I agree wholeheartedly and wish that our medical system was open enough to non-pharms as much as Europe is.

    Supplements can be used for healing but you must be patient. They don't work as quickly sometimes as pharms but they don't have the same risks of side effects either.

    Go to a good homeopath or complimentary care physician for some testing and don't give up. There are many natural routes you can take with some good guidance.
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  • rouquinnerouquinne Posts: 13,498Registered Users Curl Dabbler
    i don't have diabetes or even close to a blood sugar problem.

    thanks for the info JL, i can't take any fish oil supplements because i'm very allergic to fish, but i do take a full range of B vitamins and E every day in order to get some measure of omega 3s.

    i'll take a peek at the health food store this weekend.
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