I’ve told you about how, in my mid-30s, I suffered a personal health crisis. My own successful recovery using supplemental bio-identical hormones and nutrition launched me on a path of learning what the “new game of medicine” is.
… And what is it? Well first, let’s talk about the old game. In the old game of medicine, we wait for the body or mind to degenerate, then either address the problem—be it blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, anxiety, bone loss, diabetes, etc.—with drugs, or ignore it. Though most of these treatments work pretty well, most have side effects and don’t work for everyone. And for some things, like Alzheimer’s disease, there aren’t effective drugs. In this game, we hope and pray we stay healthy. We may exercise and eat well most of the time or some of the time. In general, however, we accept our genetics as we accept the risks of dementia, bone fractures, heart attacks, cancer, and arthritis.
“Restorative medicine” and “health optimization” are both terms for playing the new game of medicine, which puts the focus on the root causes of illness, rather than just addressing the symptoms. In the new game of medicine, we know about epigenetics—the ability to override our genes by the addition of a tiny chemical “tag,” which can be switched on and off with choices that an individual makes. What we eat, what we drink, what we smoke, and what we think can change the expression of our genes permanently, and for successive generations.
Our hormones are one of the most powerful epigenetic tags we have—they can turn off degeneration and disease. And we have the ability to supplement bio-identical hormones that are designed to fit like a lock and key mechanism with your body, turning on youthful restorative effects that can repair, rejuvenate, protect, and prevent. In my last post, I covered the key players in the family of bioidentical hormones, including thyroid hormone, melatonin, DHEA, and others. Now, as promised, here the sex stars, which really deserve their own time in the spotlight. Both men and women have all three of these sex hormones (progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone) just in different proportions.
THE SEX HORMONE STARS: What they are and what they do
Progesterone: Mainly a female hormone, it typically declines in our 30s, causing depression, thinning hair, bone loss, and fertility issues. Progesterone is “pro-gestational,” meaning it supports fertility and pregnancy. It works in harmony (or disharmony) with estrogen to balance our moods, protect from cardiovascular disease and cancer, help maintain strong bones, and keep us healthy throughout our adult life. According to my friend and mentor, Dr. Sangeeta Pati, “A decline in progesterone levels is the most common reason for a Prozac prescription.” The majority of the women I see for hair loss have low progesterone levels (and low thyroid levels), and some of these women also have had fertility problems. The good news? Progesterone can be supplemented to an ideal level and is a safe and effective treatment.
Estrogen: This hormone comes in three flavors: E1, E2, and E3. For the vast majority of benefits, E2 (or Estradiol) is the key player. It protects in much the same way as progesterone goes against decline and degeneration in all organs. E3 (Estriol) has the best effect on skin and vaginal tissues, making the epidermis firm and juicy, but it delivers less total-body benefits and protection. E1 (Estrone) tends to dominate after menopause, and can actually be detrimental to health when supplemented in excess. Usually Estradiol is what we are talking about in bioidentical hormone replacement. For optimum safety, it should be used topically (applied directly to a part of the body). Estrogen has a protective effect on cardiovascular health in both women and men, but, culturally-speaking, we don’t like man-boobs, so estradiol is not a popular supplement for men.
Testosteone: A male and female hormone of metabolism, libido, sexual response and orgasm, muscle strength, body composition, stamina, mood, mental clarity, memory, and energy. Clearly, testosterone is powerful! It is illegal for professional athletes to use as a supplement because of its potential enhancement on athletic performance. But for the rest of us, it is fair game. When used under a doctor’s supervision it is safe and effective in health optimization—cream and injectable forms are most popular in my practice. Testosterone can be a great help to a man entering andropause (more on this next time) or a woman with a withering libido.
There you have them: your very own ménage a trois!