Perimenopause & Bio-Identical Hormones
As young women, we grow up hearing horror stories about “going through the change” when hormone fluctuations create often unbearable symptoms like hot flashes, crazy brain, and mood swings. And we know that when this time comes, we will have to make choices for ourselves.
In my early thirties, I learned about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and that the primary drug used is Premarin. I also learned that Premarin stands for PREgnant MAre uRINe when I met Bella, a beautiful Friesian mare who was rescued from a Premarin manufacturing plant. As a lifetime equestrian, I came to dread and fear my choices as I knew them: deal with being a crazed, middle-aged woman or support this practice.
At 40, I sensed an early shift and began searching for natural options like diet and exercise. It was upon my move to the Desert that I discovered two life-changing revelations: perimenopause (the ‘early’ change) and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), a plant-based option.
For those scratching their heads at these new terms, and those interested in truly understanding the hormonal changes your body goes through as it ages, I strongly recommend Suzanne Somers’ new book,
I’m Too Young For This!
Targeting women 35-50, the book describes in great detail why we may experience unexplained symptoms like weight gain, irritability, insomnia, and decreased sex drive at this age, and provides natural options for hormonal balance through diet, supplementation, healthy practices like getting adequate sleep and exercise, and BHRT.
Somers jocosely refers to the most common symptoms as the “Seven Dwarfs of Menopause”: Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful, and All-Dried-Up. But the news for many is that these symptoms may begin as early as the thirties and is referred to as perimenopause.
She explains that perimenopause is the most dangerous phase for women because of the significant fluctuation of their hormones. “You go through puberty and the blissful days of your 20s, and then things start to change. The mood in the house starts to change, and one day you wake up and you and your husband don’t recognize the person you’ve become.” She adds that the symptoms you experience are your body screaming, “All is not well!”
Somers struggled through three years with very bad symptoms including uncontrollable weeping, flying off the handle for no reason, bloating, and weight gain. “One day my husband came to me and said, ‘Suzanne, a marriage can only take so much’ and I just died inside. I hadn’t realized how bad it was and that I was taking it out on him.” She went from doctor to doctor and was offered a variety of drugs aimed at treating her symptoms including anti-depressants, anti-anxieties, diuretics, and sleep medication, to name a few. “And then I heard about this endocrinologist who introduced me to bio-identical hormones and I never looked back.”
In an effort to help other women through this phase, Somers dedicated herself to thousands of hours of research, interviews and case studies to compile information for her many books. “When I starting writing about menopause for women my age, I realized that women under 50 weren’t interested. They would tell me, ‘I’m having trouble sleeping’ and I would say, ‘It may be your hormones’ and they would say, ‘No. I’m too young for this.’”
And thus, the idea for her latest book,
I’m Too Young For This! which helps us understand what is happening with our bodies,so we can make informed choices. Somers delivers a significant amount of medical information in easily understood terms. Most importantly, she explains which hormone declines are related to which symptoms and what you can do about it.
For this column, we asked Somers what she considers to be the biggest choice women have when it comes to this phase in life. “If women are over 35 and have not embraced bio-identical hormones, then they are not living their lives to the fullest. BHRT is the juice of youth.” Her husband of 36 years, Alan Hamel, and she have been taking BHRT for 16 years. “I am 67 and he is 77 and neither of us takes even one pharmaceutical drug. I am not against pharmaceuticals, but if you can do it naturally, why mess with drugs?”
The subject tends to be controversial and not all doctors agree that BHRT is the best option. “All doctors usually agree that women in perimenopause and menopause need hormones,” she tells us. “The disagreement is that doctors who practice a conventional standard of care standardly prescribe synthetic hormones made from a pregnant horse’s urine, whereas integrative doctors standardly prescribe BHRT, hormones “biologically identical” to the human hormones our bodies make.” She adds that when she started writing about BHRT “many books ago,” few had any idea what bio-identicals were. “Today, hundreds of thousands of informed women and men are practitioners of age management medicine, and are reaping the rewards of aging rather than suffering unnecessarily.”
What exactly is involved with BHRT? Upon visiting a qualified practitioner, a patient’s hormones are measured via a saliva test, and deficiencies are identified. The doctor prescribes a mix of hormones to correct any deficiencies and bring the hormones into balance. The prescription is filled at a compounding pharmacy using hormones derived from “natural” sources, usually soy or Mexican yams. The prescription(s) may include a variety of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). The patient’s hormone levels are retested periodically and prescriptions are adjusted as necessary.
If you wish to pursue BHRT, Somers emphasizes doing your homework and finding a qualified doctor who is educated on and thoroughly understands BHRT. “With all due respect, they standardly only teach four hours of hormone replacement therapy in medical school, so finding a doctor who specializes in natural hormone therapy is important.”
Somers and Hamel are both successful models for age management through healthy lifestyle and hormone balancing with BHRT. “Our biological ages (have been tested to be) somewhere in the 40s, and we feel it! We work eight to ten hours a day most days and love our work. We have three married kids with six grandkids and spend loads of time with them,” she says enthusiastically. “What I am saying is that we have an endless supply of energy and you will never hear that expression ‘senior moment’ coming from either of us.”
With 24 books, numerous health products, and her many years in entertainment, we asked Somers what she considers to be her greatest contribution to this world. “I have had a 40-year career of hit TV shows and as a Vegas headliner, and have created a wonderful business that features only organics…skin care, hair care, color makeup, and beauty tools. But my greatest contribution is bringing up our three children to be contributors to the world rather than a drain; and they in turn have brought up their six children the same way. Great parenting is the most important thing we can do to make this a better world for all. I consider my wonderful family to be my greatest contribution.”
Coachella Valley Doctors Who Prescribe Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Jeralyn Brossfield, MD & Toni Long, MD
Eisenhower Argyros Health Center
John Carr, MD
Aging and Hormonal Health, Inc.
John A. DeMersseman, MD
Eduardo G. Garza, MD
Lisa M. Bodon, MD
Las Palmas OBGYN
Palm Springs & Rancho Mirage
Mark S. Foster, MD
Sonja Fung, ND
Brian Myers, ND
Live Well Clinic
Enrique Jacome, MD
Fleur Women’s Health
Daniel Johnson, MD
Desert Longevity Institute
Peter Kadile, DO
Desert House Calls
Elliot B. Lander, MD
Elisa Lindley, MD
Cari Sudmeier, NP
Eisenhower Medical Center
Carol Renke, MD
Preventive Medicine Clinic
Shannon Sinsheimer, ND
Jessica Needle, ND
Optimal Health Center
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