Dr. Margit Lister with Wasatch OBGYN helps decipher the information and misinformation.
WHAT IS A HORMONE?
A hormone is a chemical substance created in one area of the body that travels to another area of the body (usually thru blood) to regulate an effect on another organ. It is essentially a chemical messenger that transports a signal from one cell to another.
WHAT IS A HORMONE IMBALANCE?
This is not a medical term. This is a term that people use to describe a feeling that is unpleasant. For example, if someone has a hot flash as she approaches menopause, she is ‘told’ she has a ‘hormone imbalance’ and needs estrogen to replace this ‘imbalance’. Menopause ( a decrease in estrogen production) is a natural part of aging. It is a change from a child bearing age to non childbearing age. It is not necessarily an imbalance but a change in the production of hormones as the body ages.
Now let’s talk about the women who live in that body! Menopause can be a very disruptive, scary, intimating change from your ‘normal’. Each women feels and copes with menopause changes differently and no two women experience menopause exactly the same way. So how you cope with the ‘hormonal change’ is up to you.
IS THIS REALLY A PROBLEM?
So you have a hormone imbalance. Is this really a problem? That depends on you. If you feel that your hot flashes are disruptive to your daily activities and you are not functioning well, then it is a problem and deserves treatment. Treatment may include several different modalities and not necessarily a pill, cream, or injection. Life would be great if there was a pill, cream, lotion for every hormone ‘imbalance’ or change that you feel. But that is not always how it works.
WHAT CAN I DO?
This is the tricky part. There is SO MUCH information and misinformation out there that it is easy to get confused. If you are experiencing a change in your hormones, this may be related to several aspects of your life. It could be a change in diet, sleep habits, stress at home or at work, new medications or even a natural change in your body ( menses, lactation, weight gain). There may be several options BESIDE a medication that can help you. Lets go back to our previous example of hot flashes as you near menopause.
You are having hot flashes, they are becoming increasingly bothersome and affecting your daily activities. Options that you have; First you need to identify triggers. Food ( hot beverages, alcohol, or spicy foods), changing environments (cold to hot), and times of the day may help you to identify when they are coming. You can prevent them by drinking cold water or running cold water over your wrists. Dress in layers and remove layers as you near a trigger or feel a flush approaching. Increase your exercise or learn to relax. These are all examples of ways to deal with your changing hormones.
Then you have the option of medication. Hormonal therapy comes in many forms. Most people get confused because terms like ‘bioidentical’ and ‘synthetic’ are used. Bioidentical hormones are plant-derived and mimic or are identical to the hormone produced by the body. There are FDA approved bioidentical hormones and there are non-FDA approved bioidentical hormones that are compounded at a pharmacy. Both are used to treat hormonal changes associated with menopause. All hormonal therapy must be considered to have the same risks whether bioidentical or synthetic. Make sure you understand the risks of any medication that you are prescribed. ALL medications have some risk associated with them.
So what is a woman to do? Your body is yours, know it, love it, live it. Changes are part of life and you may not need a pill, cream or lotion to fix your hormonal change. Changing your diet, your attitude, your life or your activity can be a powerful fix that is frequently overlooked. If you have looked for things you can change, and are still needing extra help, see your physician. They may be able to help you further with your therapy.
Dr. Margit Lister is an OBGYN with Intermountain Health Care. If you would like to schedule an appointment, visit: www.intermountainclinics.org.