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Hormones, And Why We Need To Replace Them

Hormones, And Why We Need To Replace Them

Hormones are often blamed (usually correctly!) for many of the “bad” stages we go through in life – notably puberty in teenagers, which can make them moody, withdrawn and ultimately quite difficult to live with, and menopause in women, which can cause volatile mood swings and general bad temper.

Hormones, however, do far more than make us grumpy at certain stages of our lives! They are actually amazing chemical messengers, created in the endocrine glands, that control most of our major bodily functions, including sex drive and reproduction, hunger and digestion, sleep, emotions and mood.

Even a very slight increase or decrease in the amount of hormones produced can cause serious changes - or even disease - in our bodies, and the quality of our lives can deteriorate very quickly.

Endocrine glands are ductless, meaning hormones are secreted directly into our bloodstream. The major glands are: Pituitary – this is the "master control gland," controlling all other glands and producing the hormones that trigger growth. Hypothalamus – regulates body temperature, moods, hunger, thirst, sex drive and sleep. Thymus – produces T-cells and plays an important role in our adaptive immune system. Thyroid – produces hormones connected with heart rate and calorie burning. Adrenal – produces the “stress hormone” cortisol, as well as hormones that control our sex drive. Testes – occurring only in men, these glands secrete the male hormone testosterone, and produce sperm. Ovaries – occurring only in women, ovaries produce the female sex hormones oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone.

Women experience far greater hormonal changes than men throughout their lives, the most notable of which occur during menopause. For most of a woman’s life, oestrogen keeps her womb, vagina, breasts and bladder healthy, as well as helping to protect her heart and bones. Menopause sees a marked decrease in the production of oestrogen, which can have significant detrimental effects on a woman’s health (such as an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis) and can also cause unpleasant symptoms such as night sweats, hot flushes, sexual discomfort due to vaginal dryness, frequent urinary infections, and incontinence.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to having to experience this worrying array of symptoms – Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). HRT is usually divided into two areas – for women experiencing menopause as a result of surgery (such as a hysterectomy) and those experiencing it as a natural part of the aging process. Oestrogen-only therapy is usually prescribed in the first instance, while a combination of oestrogen and progesterone is the usual treatment for the latter group.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable rise in popularity of bioidentical hormones (as opposed to synthetic hormones). Bioidentical hormones are, as their name suggests, completely identical in molecular structure to the hormones women produce naturally in their own bodies. In fact, our bodies cannot technically distinguish between these hormones and the ones our bodies make. This means they act on the body’s receptors in the same manner as our natural hormones, keeping our body’s systems functioning properly, and causing minimal, if any, side effects.

If your menopausal symptoms are bothering you enough for you to be considering HRT, please talk to a specialist, who will help you understand and evaluate your options. Dr Alain Sanua is a qualified medical doctor and homeopath with a particular interest in menstrual disorders and menopause. He’ll be happy to chat to you about managing your particular symptoms in a safe and comfortable way. Read more here, or contact him to make an appointment.

 

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