Hormones and the Aging Process
By Dr. Fred Bloem
January 31, 2021
Dr. Fred Bloem is a holistic and integrative medical practitioner. After several years as a traditional allopathic physician, it became clear to him that Western medicine, as it is being taught and practised by most physicians today, has its limitations. One of his main concerns, was that many of the conventional Western medical treatments, do not address the underlying causes of a patient’s illness. He recognized that many common diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and others were linked to obesity.
After undertaking a Postgraduate training in bariatric medicine, bio-identical hormone therapies, nutritional medicine, and bio-oxidative therapies, Dr Bloem was able to help patients more effectively, quickly and with safer treatment methods.
We touched base with Dr Bloem, to talk about the how hormones affect the aging process, for both men and women.
As people age, their hormone levels decline, starting in their twenties and thirties. In addition, toxins, other environmental factors, and food supply are believed to contribute to the development of hormonal imbalances.
Hormones are some of the specific messenger chemicals our bodies make, that play a very important role in the functioning of our cells, tissues, and organs. They are produced in glands, such as the thyroid, the adrenals, the ovaries, the testicles, the pituitary gland, and the pineal gland. To varying degrees, all cells have receptors for these hormones. Depending on local laws and dosage form, some of these hormones are available without a prescription. These include hormones like progesterone, DHEA, and melatonin. Many hormones, however, do require a prescription. Some of these are available at retail pharmacies, while others are only available at compounding pharmacies, which can create custom formulations based on a physician’s prescription.
While children may suffer from hormone deficiencies such as hypothyroidism, most of the patients that I see for hormone imbalances are older. During adolescence, our hormones change dramatically. They are responsible for the many physical changes that we see, including the development of secondary sexual characteristics that we develop as men and women. Even then, some adolescents may experience symptoms of hormone imbalances, such as excessive menstrual bleeding, severe cramps, irregular or complete absence of menses, mood swings, and so forth.
Older women may continue to have the same complaints, in addition to issues like loss of libido, insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, and brain fog. Older men often present with complaints of fatigue, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, loss of stamina, depression and osteoporosis.
Why is it that so many people suffer from hormone imbalances? In many cases, the cause is unclear, but besides menopause and andropause [male menopause], we suspect that there are other factors, such as poor diet, stress, environmental influences, and exposure to toxins. Ideally, we would determine the root cause and address it. However, that is not always possible.
As a holistic physician, I do recommend a comprehensive treatment approach, which includes improving a patient’s diet and lifestyle, exercise, stress reduction, and implementation of detox protocols.
Besides that, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can be very helpful. The term, bioidentical, refers to the fact that the hormones a physician prescribes, are identical to the hormones that the human body produces. This is very important, because these hormones will act exactly like real hormones as they bind to the body’s hormone receptors. Generally, I don’t recommend non-bioidentical “hormones”, such as the ones found in oral contraceptives, certain IUDs, and other implanted contraceptive devices. These are more properly described as hormone disrupting chemicals. While they do have certain desired “hormonal effects”, they all have known side effects. When properly dosed and monitored, replacement with bioidentical hormones is very safe and free of any side effects.
Bioidentical hormones are identical to those that the body makes on its own. Some are available through regular retail pharmacies. Others are only available through compounding pharmacies. The main advantages of bioidentical hormones are that they are very well tolerated, and that they have no side effects when they are properly dosed and integrated into a holistic treatment plan.
Examples of bioidentical hormones that I prescribe in my practice are thyroid hormones, adrenal hormones, estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, pregnenolone, and human growth hormone. Some of these are natural, such as the so-called desiccated thyroid, which is derived from pig thyroid glands. Pig thyroid hormones happens to be identical to human thyroid hormones, which is why they are bioidentical. Most bioidentical hormones that I prescribe are actually synthetic. Is that a bad thing? No, it is not. Many of them are synthesized from plant-derived hormones (phytohormones). These are similar enough that they can be transformed into human hormones.
Most of the commercially available bioidentical hormones, such as desiccated thyroid, are produced as tablets. Compounded hormones can be dispensed as creams, lozenges, suspensions, pellets, and capsules, and a great advantage of these, is that dosing protocols can be customized to a patient’s needs. Especially, in the case of dosing estradiol and progesterone. My preference is to dose these hormones rhythmically, so that we can both restore the hormone levels to optimal levels, and mimic the physiological rhythmic changes of the menstrual cycle. This is most easily accomplished when we use hormone creams.
Bioidentical hormones have a wide range of benefits for both men and women. The primary reason that individuals seek out hormone replacement therapy (HRT), is because they want symptom relief. It has been very rewarding to see how symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, memory and concentration problems, constipation, dry skin, sexual dysfunction and hair loss improve or resolve completely. All hormone deficiencies, especially thyroid, estrogen, and testosterone, may impact the vitality of skin cells and tissue. Ideally, we would combine a bioidentical hormone replacement protocol, with a high-quality skin care.
Equally important are the preventative or anti-aging benefits of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. When started early enough, and dosed correctly, we have seen improvements in both bone density and cardiovascular function.
Bioidentical hormones can be used for extended periods of time. Some of my patients are in their seventies, and attribute much of their vitality to the consistent use of these hormones over the years. There are really no downsides. A person may choose to stop using them at any time, and the worst thing that could happen is a reversal of benefits, consistent with a hormone-deficient state.
Dr Fred Bloem MD