What Is Hormone Therapy?
At its most basic level, this treatment is designed to address hormone imbalances. Many medicines are prescribed to mask the symptoms of concerns like weight gain, anxiety, and dry skin. Hormone therapy, however, treats the underlying cause to not only improve symptoms but keep additional concerns from developing.
We take a highly personalized approach to developing a treatment plan for you. This means testing and then considering the ways in which we can provide you with the hormones you need. Both men and women may need estrogen, testosterone, or progesterone. Efficacy, therefore, depends on re-evaluating your condition after treatment starts to ensure it is working as expected.
How You’ll Feel
Many patients aren’t aware of all the functions hormones have within the body. Generally speaking, we are taught the symptoms that crop up as we age need to be accepted as the pitfalls of time. But in most cases, the hormones are simply imbalanced and, once restored to optimal levels, can re-energize you in surprising ways.
Some people begin to experience symptoms as early as age 30. Problems like low energy, decreased sex drive, and even mood swings are all symptoms of hormone imbalance. But after starting therapy, patients report a renewed zest for life because they feel younger and healthier.
Signs of Hormone Imbalance
Our goal is to remain at your side until you are returned to a state of balance. Treatment plans vary on an individual basis and reflect such factors as age, symptoms, and testing results. Additionally, because men and women experience imbalances separately, we want to point out some of the most common symptoms to help you recognize if therapy might be right for you.
Common Symptoms in Women
We’ll start with mood swings, which commonly afflict women because of estrogen. This hormone helps regulate serotonin and beta-endorphins, both of which are associated with mood. When levels are high, a woman tends to feel happier and more relaxed. When levels are low, however, a woman may feel cranky, irritable, and anxious.
Keeping a symptom diary can help you identify those days when you feel your best or worst. We can then connect these days to natural fluctuations in your estrogen – such as happens during ovulation and menstruation – and determine how hormone therapy might be able to help.
Painful, Heavy, or Erratic Periods
An imbalance between progesterone and estrogen is a leading cause of painful periods. Specifically, during menstruation, estrogen tells the uterus to contract. Progesterone, on the other hand, tells the uterus to relax. Because these hormones have a yin yang relationship to each other, when estrogen levels are too high, progesterone is too low.
These hormones also thicken the endometrium, which is shed and causes bleeding during your period. Imbalances can cause this lining to grow thicker, just as they can cause irregular periods so that you don’t know when or if you will bleed each month.
Low Sex Drive
We often label testosterone as the male hormone, but women also possess this chemical. When it is out of sync with estrogen and progesterone, a woman feels little interest in sex. This can happen at any age, not just menopause, and is a leading sign of hormone imbalance.
It’s interesting to note that other symptoms of an imbalance, such as mood swings and anxiety, can also trigger low libido. Women can therefore find themselves in a tailspin in which one or two symptoms eventually give way to others. The impact on relationships can also take an emotional and physical toll.
Poor Sleep Quality
One of the earliest signs of menopause is insomnia. How is sleep related to hormones? The answer is estrogen, a hormone you’ll find to be culpable in many symptoms. It not only helps you drift easily to dreamland but also keeps you asleep, leading to fewer disruptions throughout the night so you feel better when you wake.
Falling estrogen levels correlate to poor sleep. You may find yourself staying up later than usual, waking throughout the night, and feeling a general sense of fatigue throughout the day.
When you gain weight inexplicably, especially when it’s around the middle, it may be because of a hormone imbalance. Estrogen is directly linked to metabolism; when it’s low, the body doesn’t burn as much fat so that women, particularly as they age, develop stereotypical “apple” and “pear” shapes. Thanks to a slower metabolism, it also becomes increasingly more difficult to burn this fat.
Acne and Dry Skin
You may have thought you were finished with breakouts in your adolescence, but the truth is that adult acne is a true sign of a hormone imbalance. Low estrogen and progesterone levels can cause androgen hormones to rise. These can lead to inflammation and higher sebum levels, both of which contribute to harsh at the most unpredictable of times.
A drop in estrogen also reduces skin integrity. You may therefore experience dry, itchy skin on the face and elsewhere that doesn’t respond well to topical ointments.
After age 35, a woman’s ability to become pregnant naturally drops. Low estrogen causes low levels of luteinizing hormone. This chemical prompts ovulation, during which time an egg is released to be fertilized. Waning estrogen may also create high levels of follicle-stimulating hormone, which further interferes with fertility.
Joint Pain and Headaches
The body contains many hormones that all work in synergy together. Estrogen helps keep inflammation at bay so joints function properly. An imbalance of this hormone can lead to stiff, painful joints with or without an arthritis diagnosis. While low estrogen can cause joint pain throughout the body, the knees and hips are especially prone to such discomfort.
Migraines are among the most difficult symptoms of imbalanced hormones to live with. They can cause dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light or sound, and pain so extreme that you struggle to function. Again, the common culprit is waning estrogen, as it helps control the sensation of pain; waning levels help increase that sensation so pain, such as in the head, is felt more acutely.
This is the one symptom that perhaps gets the least attention. It is, however, extremely common for women in perimenopause and menopause to experience vaginal dryness that causes itching, discomfort, and even pain. This can make it difficult to have intercourse and may even lead to bleeding.
The cause can again be traced to reduced estrogen levels. Estrogen helps give vaginal muscles their strength and elasticity. It also prompts natural lubrication in this area; without sufficient levels, vaginal tissues can become lax, brittle, and dry.
Common Symptoms in Men
Although rarely discussed, men are just as susceptible to hormonal imbalances as women. The difference is that because many of these symptoms overlap with other conditions, it can take time to identify the real problem. For example, a strong indicator in men is breast enlargement, but many attribute this to natural weight gain caused by poor diet or lack of activity.
When breasts are disproportionately bigger than the rest of your body, it’s likely because of hormone imbalances. Specifically, testosterone and estrogen may be out of sync. An effective way to address this is with hormone therapy, which can restore balance to the body’s chemicals so they are again in a proper ratio.
Just as women can experience a dip in sex drive, so can men. The cause is also the same: a drop in testosterone that can inadvertently cause higher than normal levels of estrogen. In men, this can also interfere with sexual performance and place undue strain on relationships.
That brings us to our next point, which is erectile dysfunction (ED). When hormones are imbalanced, ED generally accompanies a lack of desire so that sexual function becomes severely impaired.
Rather than try to mask symptoms with pills that pose unwanted side effects, we suggest you come into our office for a consultation. After carefully listening to your symptoms and completing an array of tests, we can determine the course of therapy that meets your needs. This allows us to get to the root of the problem so you feel more invigorated.
Loss of Muscle Tone
This is another symptom that traditionally gets overlooked as a cause of unhealthy lifestyle habits. But if you’re losing muscle while simultaneously gaining fat, the more likely explanation is a hormone imbalance.
Testosterone helps muscles form and stay strong. When this hormone drops, muscles readily atrophy and lose definition. Additionally, muscles help burn calories, and without them, you’ll use fewer calories. This means that if you continue eating as you always have, you’ll gain weight without even realizing your body has changed until you see lost density and increased fat.
Society often mocks women for being “moody,” but men can suffer from this same condition. You owe this to testosterone, which has a direct impact on mood. Low levels can lead to:
- Loss of motivation
- Short temper
Additionally, low testosterone and high cortisol – a chemical released during times of stress – can further cause anger and hostility. Restoring hormones to proper balance can alleviate these symptoms and even go so far as to improve sleep quality and concentration.
What Are Hormones?
Now might be a good time to explain what hormones are so you understand the profound effects they have on the body. We commonly refer to these as chemical messengers. They move through the blood to reach their intended destinations so they can assist with:
- Growth and development
- Sexual function
- Cognition and mood
- Regulation of body temperature
They are secreted from different glands located in a variety of spots. This allows them to seamlessly travel without hindrance. Some of the glands that release hormones include the thyroid, testes, and ovaries. Knowing this allows us to understand why people – especially women – commonly experience hormonal imbalances later in life.
The Ovaries and Testes
Specifically, the ovaries shrink with age and stop releasing estrogen. Testicular muscles similarly lose mass and gradually reduce the amount of testosterone they release. But, it’s important to remember that at almost any age, a patient may need hormone therapy. Treating this earlier helps you feel better and also reduces the effects symptoms can have on your quality of life.
An Innovative and Exciting Therapy
It is estimated that around 80 percent of all adults grapple with hormone imbalances. But no longer do you need to suffer in silence. Therapy is customized to treat your condition. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, meaning it works. Don’t wait – call us at Renew Health in Tempe, AZ today to schedule your consultation.