Bioidentical Hormones are Hormones that are Identical in every way to the Hormones our own body creates and secretes into our bloodstream to keep bodily functions running smoothly. As we age, our body’s ability to produce our own supply of hormones declines, resulting in more rapid aging and changes in our body that occur due to the lack of adequate hormones.
Bioidentical Hormones are used to help us restore and replace our own body’s lack of Hormone production.
Ok then. What Exactly Is a Hormone? And why is it so important to have Bioidentical Hormones instead of the Synthetic Non-Bioidentical Hormones?
Let’s start with WHAT a Hormone really IS. And then talk about what "Bioidentical" actually means and why it is so critical for your body to have the Natural Bioidentical Form of Hormones instead of the Chemical Substitute “Look-a-like” which are manufactured and produced as Prescription drugs.
Hormones are simply chemical messengers!
There are actually over 50 different known hormones in humans and probably many more yet to be discovered. Hormones are made inside of different organs, called glands, in the body. For instance, the thyroid gland makes thyroid hormones, the adrenal glands make different adrenal hormones, and the ovaries, (or testicles in men), make sex hormones, like Estrogen, Testosterone and Progesterone.
When you put all these different glandular organs together in one group, they make up an entire system in the body called the Endocrine System. The Endocrine System is just like any other system in the body, relying on all the different parts of the system to work in unison.
For instance, the Nervous System includes the brain, spinal cord, and over 100 billion nerves that exit the spinal cord and go to every organ, muscle, tissue and square millimeter of your skin. The Gastrointestinal System starts with your mouth, through your esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine and out the other end through the anus. The pancreas, liver and gallbladder organs are also part of the Gastrointestinal System. The Cardiovascular System includes the heart, and over 60,000 miles of arteries and veins which carry the blood throughout your body. It’s through the blood that all of your nutrients and life sustaining oxygen travel to nourish everything from the tip of your head to the tip of your toes! In fact, everything travels through your blood – including immune cells that fight infection and cancer, and your valuable Hormones which bring instructional messages to every cell of your body.
So just like all of these other systems in the body relying on one another, the Endocrine glands make the hormones which are secreted into the bloodstream where they travel through the vessels to all the other organs, muscles, bone, brain and skin, where they interact and deliver the messages that each Hormone was designed to deliver.
Hormones are simply chemical messengers which travel throughout the body to deliver messages that help the organs and cells perform their function.
While all of this is going on in each organ and cell, the organs are also talking to each other through these Hormone chemical messengers, and keeping each other “up to date” on their individual needs. The scientific name for this is Homeostasis – which simply means Balance.
How do the Organs in the Endocrine System Know How Much Hormone to Make and When to Release Hormones into the Bloodstream?
It all starts in the Brain. I tell patients, we can get a heart transplant, a lung transplant, a liver transplant, a kidney transplant. We can live without our legs or arms. We can even live without a bowel now. It’s not easy, and it takes a lot of medical care… but we can actually now live without our bowel.
But guess what. We can’t get a brain transplant or live without our brain. The brain is truly the Commander in Chief.
Even when we are sleeping, the brain is always monitoring everything going on in the body… including the levels of hormones in the blood stream, tissues, and organs. Based on what the brain discovers going on, it makes a determination of whether more or less Hormones are needed to carry out all the functions that Hormones are responsible for. As the brain makes these determinations, it sends out the proper signals with its OWN chemical messengers. Some of these brain chemicals are Hormones in and of themselves! In fact, the Commander in Chief has one of the most important Endocrine organs glands in the entire body – the Pituitary Gland.
Did you know that the Pituitary Gland makes 10 different hormones? Each one of these Pituitary Gland hormones communicate to all the other Endocrine glands and “tell” the other glands what to do. For example, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) are hormones that the Pituitary gland secretes to tell the Ovaries to make more or less Estrogen, Testosterone and Progesterone. There is a constant state of communication going on between the brain and the Endocrine organs that keep our Endocrine glands informed on how much of their particular hormone to make and when to release it out into the blood stream.
For instance, if the brain senses that you need more Estrogen to help grow hair, skin and nails, or needs Estrogen to help stimulate the thyroid hormone, or build up the uterine wall in preparation for ovulation, or heal a dry vagina, or stimulate digestive juices to digest food, or even need more Estrogen to think more quickly and creatively… the brain will send a signal to the ovaries to make more Estrogen for all these potential needs the brain senses going on.
Though there are certain levels of hormones in the blood stream that are considered within a normal range, it is the brain who is actually keeping these levels stable. The brain does this by sensing the body’s needs. That means that it wasn’t the researchers in Medicine who determine normal reference ranges, it’s the BRAIN that determines them. And since all of the organs work together, if there is a problem with one Endocrine gland, the rest of the body is going to be effected and the brain will come in and try hard to maintain homeostasis. That is the brain’s job and focus – to Maintain Balance as much as it can.. It’s truly a Brain’s World!
Just like the brain will make your heart pump faster and make you breath faster if it needs more Oxygen, the brain will also stimulate your Endocrine organs to make more hormones if it senses you are getting low on a hormone you need to perform healthy functions. The brain will also send out a signal to make LESS Hormone if it senses that you need LESS. In Science, this is called a Feedback loop system.
A feedback loop system is nothing more than a thermostat. When you set your air-conditioner or heater to 70 degrees, the thermostat will send a message to the compressor to turn on and off to maintain 70 degrees in your house. (And yes, there is a such thing as having a problem with this “Thermostat”, resulting in the inability of the brain to communicate properly to the rest of the body. But that is another blog for another day.)
Fast Forward – Aging Happens
I have no complaints that we are living longer these days, and I would guess you don’t either. Today we are expected to live 30 or more years longer than we lived in 1900. WOW! 30 years is a long time, being that these years are all AFTER menopause! That’s right. In the year 1900, we basically went through menopause and then died. So, all this Hormone stuff didn’t really matter in the early 1900’s and before. There was no need to understand Bioidentical Hormones until we started “out-living” our own Hormones! NOW it IS important!
If you take into consideration that between the ages of 20 and 50, we’ve lived 30 years as an adult… between the ages of 50 and 80 we are living another 30 years as an adult – but without our sex hormones!
The Brain is the Commander in Chief all right… until … we get older, and our organs decide to start ignoring our brain’s chemical messenger signals, which tell our Endocrine organ to produce hormones! If we live past 50 or so, all of our hormones start to “pooter-out” (That’s Southern Slang for “get old and stop working”!) Ovaries simply weren’t created to work for more than about 50 years.
You can’t get blood out of a turnip. That’s what we call Menopause. No matter how hard the brain tries to communicate with the ovaries… the ovaries just don’t respond. The ovaries have just pooped out!
At this point, BIOIDENTICAL Hormones are the next best thing to the REAL thing.
What does “Bioidentical” Actually Mean and Why Does it Matter?
Let’s dissect this term further by talking about a specific hormone, like Estrogen. You can use this example to understand EVERY hormone in the body!
For instance, Estradiol is one of three different Estrogens your body makes. A single Estradiol molecule is made up of 18 Carbons, 24 Hydrogens and 2 Oxygens. And these 18 Carbons, 24 Hydrogens and 2 Oxygens are connected together with chemical bonds in a very specific three-dimensional shape. You can't see this 3-D shape with your naked eye... but it is very much there in 3-D!
Bioidentical Hormones mean that they have this exact Chemical Composition, Structure, and 3-D shape, just like the one you make in your body. If you put a Bioidentical Hormone side by side with the same hormone your body made - you would not be able to tell the difference between the two. They are identical.
Pharmaceutical “look-a-like” hormones are created with add-on additional "side chains" to the original hormone. They may also have altered chemical bonds. And pharmaceutical “look-a-like” hormones sometimes even have different numbers of Carbons, Hydrogens or Oxygens, changing essentially everything about the chemical structure and function of the original hormone.
These alterations are created by Pharmaceutical companies on purpose in order to create a “look-a-like” hormone that is stronger than the body’s own hormone. And thus, this stronger synthetic “look-a-like” will send abnormal messages to the organs and cells of the body such as preventing ovulation, (and thus pregnancy), terminating a pregnancy, inducing endometrial shedding, and even increasing a child’s size and growth. And… these abnormal changes of the hormone’s chemical structure and function, results in unwanted side effects. Our body simply doesn't know what to do with the altered hormone structure.
Pharmaceutical companies market these synthetic altered hormones as hormones which act a lot like the body’s own Bioidentical Hormones. But the side effects that occur with these synthetic altered hormone “look-a-likes” can cause horrendously dangerous side effects. For instance, ProgesTINS, such as Medroxyprogesterone, Levonorgestrel, and Norethindrone are the “look-a-like” imitations for Bioidentical ProgesterONE. ALL Hormone Replacement therapies that have more than just Estrogen in them, and ALL birth control pills, are made with ProgesTINS.
The side effects of these Bioidentical Progesterone “look-a-likes” include increasing the risk of breast cancer, stroke, heart disease and blood clots.
On the other hand, Bioidentical ProgesterONE, causes NONE of these side effects, and in fact are believed to decrease the risk of breast cancer, and lower blood pressure which helps protect against high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and many other serious medical conditions.
BIOIDENTICAL Hormones! They are VASTLY different from Pharmaceutical synthetic hormone “look-a-likes.”
With the advent of the Internet, opening up the opportunity to reach Women, (and the wise men who love us), one day my dream will come true! ALL women will understand the Truth and the difference between Bioidentical Hormones and the Synthetic Hormone “look-a-likes” which threaten our health, and the health of our daughters.
One day, women will never even consider anything BUT Bioidentical Hormones when it comes their turn to defy the rapid signs of aging as their hormones naturally decline.
There will be no question in women’s minds about the use of Bioidentical Hormones to slow aging and live energetically and joyfully long after menopause.
About Dr. Karen Leggett
Dr. Karen Leggett attributes much of her interest in Integrative Medicine, especially Women’s Health, to her mother, who was a true “Hormone Maverick”, who insisted on the use of Bioidentical Hormones over 35 years ago. Her mother and father are now in their 80’s and 90’s, and still enjoying a healthy and fully independent life.
"I practice what I teach! I know that we women control the aura of our environment! How we act is dependent upon how we feel, so you have to feel great to really achieve your goals! I had to learn this the hard way, but I am so thankful now for the suffering that I went through because it led me to my passion today - to help YOU." Dr. Karen Leggett
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