How Is Natural/ Bioidentical Therapy Helpful?
To understand why options like bioidentical hormone therapy might be valuable for you, a brief introduction to hormones might be helpful. While hormones are powerful and somewhat mysterious substances, they are basically just tools in the communication network of your body. Just as your home might have several communication pathways, including cell phone, TV, and Internet, so too does each individual have communication pathways that allow him or her to deal with their internal and external environments. There are two major ones in the human body: the nervous system and the hormonal system (also called the endocrine system).
Hormones are chemical messengers, secreted into the blood by specialized cells or glands, that control various processes such as growth, reproduction, and development. These messengers have names like estrogen, testosterone, melatonin, progesterone, insulin, and oxytocin.
Most of the major hormones of the body are controlled by two parts of the brain known as the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. In fact, the hypothalamus is the major connection between the nervous system and the endocrine system. Once released, most hormones travel in the blood to their designated target, where they exert a certain effect by binding to receptors.
What causes hormone imbalances? As with any communication system, problems can arise. These can be do to internal issues (nutritional deficiencies, organ pathology, stress, toxins, etc.), external challenges (environmental toxicities, etc.), or lifestyle problems (poor sleep, poor light exposure, poor diet, etc.) to name a few sources.
Given the complexity of the endocrine system, which communicates with every other system in the body, it takes a highly trained expert to figure out the source of the problem. Sometimes supplementation with natural or bioidentical hormones can help optimize your communication network.
Natural/ Bioidentical Hormone Expertise and Treatment
Dr. Jacqueline Thomas is an integrative physician and an expert in natural and bioidentical hormone therapy, with over 20 years of experience in treating hormonal problems. For more information on Dr. Thomas, please visit here.
Specific Hormonal Treatment Areas
Below are some examples of the hormonal issues we treat. Click the “+” button for more information on each area.
Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone therapy has been around for some time. As Wikipedia notes, “The practice of treating an organ with the same one derived from another creature, known as similiasimilibus, was familiar to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Modern hormone replacement has its origins in the late 1890s, with a dramatic announcement by physician Charles Brown-Sequard that injections of an extracts from bull testes had rejuvenated his sexual prowess. International pandemonium resulted, with physicians on both sides of the Atlantic engaging in the practice, which became known as organotherapy.
Fortunately, medicine has evolved a great deal since that time and treatment for hormonal deficiencies have become far more sophisticated. While conventional replacement therapy has its place in medicine, many are now taking a natural approach to addressing hormonal issues with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).
Bio-identical hormones are derived from naturally occurring sources and are designed to replicate the same chemical structure as the hormones that are produced naturally by our bodies. Based on your needs, unique physiology, and test results, a specialized protocol can be developed for you, individually tailored with a bioidentical hormone regimen specifically designed for you.
There is a large body of medical research that supports the safety and effectiveness of BHRT. However, it is important to remember that no drug, supplement, or herb is always 100% safe or effective. That is why it is important to consult with an experienced medical expert like Dr. Thomas, who can assist you in navigating BHRT successfully.
We would like to acknowledge that menopause, despite how it is often depicted in the popular press is not a disease. Rather, it is a stage in a woman’s life, like adolescence or pregnancy.
Challenges of Menopause
While menopause is not a disease, women do face health challenges when navigating through menopause. These can include hot flashes, insomnia, cognitive deficits, and mood changes. Even if you have no obvious symptoms, it is important to educate yourself about the effects of menopause on your overall health. Loss of estrogen, for example, can cause changes in your bone density. Fluctuations in hormone levels can increase cholesterol levels that contribute to coronary artery disease, cause emotional changes, vaginal changes, and urinary tract changes. Preventive care during these menopause years offers a huge opportunity to improve your quality of life as you age.
Dr. Thomas is an expert in the area of menopause management. In addition to integrative management of any endocrine or reproductive problems, she can assist you with staying on top of the preventative screenings and checkups, as well as offer the latest guidance on lifestyle habits based on current research.
Many factors impact fertility in women and men. These can include genetic issues, lifestyle choices, use of recreational agents, ovarian disorders, decreased sperm production, age, physiology, stress, and endocrine problems. Currently, infertility affects more than 1 million, or close to 1 in 6, couples in the United States. About 30% of the time an issue is discovered with the female partner, and about 30% of the time it is a problem with the male partner. Sometimes, a combination of female and male factors are the issue. Approximately 20% of the time, the cause of a couple’s infertility is unexplained.
Generally speaking, it is recommended that a woman under 35 who has been trying to get pregnant for a year, or a woman over 35 who has been trying for six months, consult with a fertility specialist. It is also recommended that women who have had more than three miscarriages meet with a specialist. Many women who have had miscarriages go on to have healthy pregnancies, but the miscarriages may indicate a fertility problem.
Our goal at the Alpine Valley Wellness Center is to get to the root of your fertility issue, so that we can assist you in making your dream of creating your family a reality.
Male Hormone Depletion
While hormone balancing is discussed intently in women’s health care, hormone depletion occurs in men as well. The main hormone that is addressed medically in men is testosterone. It is the hormone that contributes to increased muscle mass, the deepening of the voice, strength improvement, and healthy sexual function in men. Which is not to say that men do not have other hormones, such as estrogen – they do. But problems with testosterone, especially in older males, is a significant area of concern.
As part of aging, testosterone production in men decline with age. These changes are usually gradual but can be dramatic. It is estimated that such that 50% of men over sixty have low levels of testosterone, a condition that is sometimes called male hypogonadism or partial androgen deficiency in the aging male (PADAM). The general rule of thumb is that testosterone levels decrease about one percent yearly after age 50
At the Alpine Valley Wellness Center, our approach potential male hormone imbalance goes beyond simplistic and controversial notions like andropause. Rather, it begins where all good medicine starts, with a comprehensive history and physical. We will also perform appropriate testing not just of testosterone levels but other areas of dysfunction as well. For example, we will often assess your thyroid and adrenal gland function as often the function of these glands will affect your health and hormone levels as well.
Based on this, your physician will build an individualized, comprehensive treatment plan to address each of the identified issues for you. This includes not only supplementation/medication but optimization of other areas shown in medical research to support healthy hormone function in men, including a healthy diet, optimum sleep, and appropriate movement/exercise.
Testosterone therapy is a significant medical intervention that should not be started without a discussion with a medical professional. For example, while controversial, there continues to be some concerns about cardiovascular risks that should be addressed before starting therapy.
The ideal testosterone therapy maintains normal concentrations of the hormone without having significant side effects. Several kinds of hormone replacement are currently available through our clinic.
The key to having a healthy baby is taking good care of your own health. The healthier you are, the stronger you and your baby are likely to be. This is critically important, since your child’s future health (mental, physical, and emotional) starts in utero. Dr. Thomas can assist you with optimizing pregnancy outcomes for you and your baby.
The adrenal glands are the critically important endocrine organs that sit on top of each kidney. Each adrenal gland is comprised of an outer shell called the cortex and an inner core called the medulla. The adrenal cortex produces hormones such as aldosterone (which helps maintains blood pressure), cortisol (which regulates immune, cardiovascular, nervous system and food processing functions ), and androgens (which help to regulate normal levels of testosterone and estrogen). The adrenal medulla produces hormones such as catecholamines or “stress hormones” (adrenaline and noradrenaline) that prepare the body for the “fight or flight” response.
Adrenal gland dysfunction occurs when the glands either produce too much or too little of any of their hormones. This is often more subtle and more difficult to diagnose that actual adrenal gland diseases such as Addison’s disease, cancer, or Cushing’s syndrome. Often times adrenal gland dysfunction is connected to other problems such as high stress, sleep disorders, food intolerances, or other hormonal issues.
For these reasons, addressing adrenal dysfunction is not a quick fix. It requires a skilled physician with many years of experience who can look deeply into their patient’s life and make sense of the complex network of issues that often underwrite this issue.
Symptoms of adrenal gland dysfunction include:
- Easily overwhelmed, exaggerated startle response
- Waking tired and unrefreshed
- Diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, indigestion
- Poor memory and concentration
- Recurrent infections
- Dizziness with standing
- Weight gain
- Sleep disturbances
- Slow healing
- Restlessness, irritable, absent-minded
As with other hormonal issues, Dr. Thomas uses a comprehensive approach to diagnosing adrenal disorders. This begins with a complete history and physical examination. After reviewing your comprehensive history and physical examination results, Dr. Thomas may add additional laboratory tests to assist in arriving at a correct diagnosis. This could include:
- Gastrointestinal testing
- Thyroid hormone testing
- Allergy testing for food allergies or intolerances
- Salivary testing for hormonal imbalance
- Comprehensive blood testing and/or urine testing
Treatment can include adrenal gland hormonal support (e.g. DHEA, etc.) specific dietary and nutritional interventions, immune support, appropriate botanical medicine and supplementation recommendations, gastrointestinal repair, lifestyle optimization, stress management, and various hormonal interventions.
Thyroid hormones are secreted into the blood stream and carried to each of the 100 trillion cells throughout your body. It is in the cells, not in the bloodstream, that the thyroid hormones accomplish their purpose of controlling your metabolism, regulating your body temperature and weight, and modulating your energy level.
When in the bloodstream, thyroid hormones are bound to protein, primarily thyroid binding globulin (TBG). Over 99% of the thyroid hormones produced by your thyroid gland are bound to TBG when in the blood stream. In this form, thyroid hormones are inactive and cannot be utilized by the cells of the body. Only about 5 parts in 10,000 of the thyroid hormones remain unbound, which is known as free thyroid (T4). Only the T4 fraction can be assimilated into the cells of your body and converted into the active thyroid form T3.
Dr. Thomas uses a comprehensive approach to diagnosing thyroid disorders. This begins with a complete history and physical examination. Subtle physical examination findings can be suggestive of thyroid problems, and include thinning of the outer 1/3 of your eyebrows or low basal body temperature.
After reviewing your comprehensive history and physical examination results, Dr. Thomas may add additional laboratory tests to assist in arriving at a correct diagnosis. Unlike some approaches that center mainly on a test called a TSH, Dr. Thomas is able to orchestrate a number of different tests, such as a free T4 level, total T3 level, thyroid antibody determination and a reverse T3 level, to arrive at a very accurate understanding of how your thyroid gland is functioning.
Treatment can range from conventional thyroid medication to a variety of natural thyroid enhancing strategies. Also addressed in your protocol are the consequences of thyroid dysregulation, two of the more important being unwanted weight gain and fatigue.