Hormones - Mind-Body Health & Anti-Aging
By Ginger Marin
The mind-body connection posits that a well mind provides for a well body and vice versa. So
when it comes to aging and brain health, one must also take into consideration the state of one's
What are Hormones?
Hormones are the body's messengers that transport important information from the brain to the
glands and from the glands onto the cells and from the cells back to the brain. They serve to
rejuvenate, regenerate and restore our bodies. Hormones are considered optimum from the age
of 25 - 30 years. This is the same period, generally, in which our bodies are at their strongest and
What Causes Aging?
Hormone levels progressively decrease during our lifetimes causing the changes in our bodies
and minds that we call aging. The human body was never designed to live as long as we're living
today. Thanks to advances in medical care and sanitation, we have drastically increased life
spans. However, the glands that produce our hormones do not regenerate and continue to
decline, producing fewer hormones with each passing year.
Associated with this process is the onset of overt diseases, changes in mood, dysfunctional
memory, decreased ability to learn, decrease in hair growth and graying, decreased quality of
facial skin, decreased lean body mass with an increase in percent body fat, infections, cancer,
decreased wound healing, diminished sex drive and many other aspects that represent our
quality of life and youthfulness.
The Need for Hormone Replacement
It has become increasingly important for both men and women to keep their hormones balanced
to protect against these age-related ravages and to enjoy an overall sense of well being. Diet and
exercise alone will not be as effective unless a person's hormones are balanced correctly. For
optimal safety, only hormones that are low should be replaced and retesting of hormone levels
should be done regularly.
Bio-identical hormones are manufactured in the lab to have the same molecular structure as the
hormones made by your own body. They could also be called human-identical hormones.
Bio-Identical vs Synthetic
Bio-identical (also called bio-equivalent) hormones get their start in nature and are found in soy
beans, wild yams, red clover and black cohash. The human body can recognize these bioidentical
hormones and can use them just as it would as if produced by the ovaries, testes, or
adrenal glands. Most side-effects experienced with bio-identical hormones are associated with
either an incorrect dosing or an imbalance in the selection of the hormones.
By contrast, synthetic hormones are intentionally different. Drug companies cannot patent a bioidentical
structure, so instead, they invent synthetic hormones that are patentable (such as
Premarin, Prempro and Provera, the most widely used examples). Synthetic hormones are not
easily recognized by the body even though they may produce similar effects. Because they are
hundreds of times more potent than the hormones that our body makes, they are often
associated with significant side effects.
Though bio-identical hormones have been around for years, many practitioners are unfamiliar
with them. There are several branded versions now available for use in the kind of hormone
replacement therapy ("HRT") typical of synthetic hormones. This is generally a one-size-fits-all
The greatest success, however, is with an individualized approach. Laboratory tests of hormone
levels should be done (a "hormone panel") to determine the state of a patient's levels. If and
when warranted, a precise dosage is prescribed of bioidentical estrogen, progesterone,
testosterone or DHEA that is made up at a compounding pharmacy. Each patient is then
monitored carefully through regular follow-up hormone panels to ensure symptom relief at the
lowest possible dosage.
In the initial stages, a hormone panel might be taken every three months. That way, the doctor
has the opportunity to fine tune the final prescription to address any personal goals. Whether this
might mean an increase in mental acuity, improvement in depression and moods, increase in
sexual drive, or improved physical ability; slight variations in the dosage, or dosage form, can
often provide the sought after results. Once balance is restored, a panel may be taken only once
HRT: Pills vs Topical Creams
It would seem reasonable that the easiest way to take hormones is by swallowing a pill.
Unfortunately, once the hormones are absorbed by the blood they go directly to the liver where
some of the hormones are inactivated.
Topically applied hormones are absorbed directly from the skin right into the blood where they
immediately start working. Eventually, all chemicals end up in the liver being inactivated and/or
converted to other substances. Another benefit of using topical creams is that dosage can be
easily adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of applications per day.
An important aspect to Compounded Bio-Identical Hormones is whether-or-not they have been
tested for bio-availability. That is, once applied to the skin, the component hormones are easily
absorbed from the cream, through the skin, and into the blood. Each component hormone and
blended preparation of hormones have been tested extensively during the Federal Application
and Patent application process. Each customized preparation is designed based upon laboratory
testing and the personal goals of the patient.
Bio-identical hormones are better and safer than synthetic hormones. Our body can metabolize
bio-identical hormones as it was designed to do, thereby minimizing side effects. Compounded
bio-identical hormones can be matched individually to each woman's (or man's) needs,
something that's not possible with mass-produced products. Synthetic hormones, on the other
hand, are quite strong and often produce intolerable side effects. And many European medical
studies suggest that bio-identical hormones are indeed safer than synthetic versions.
It should be noted that the original studies on the effectiveness and health risks associated with
HRT were based solely on synthetic/equine-based hormones.