If you’re considering bioidentical hormone therapy (also referred to as bioidentical hormone restoration/replacement therapy, or BHRT), you probably have questions about how long your treatment might take. At 20 Something Anti Aging Center, we like to keep the treatment process as transparent as possible for all of our clients in the Orlando, Florida area. Whether you’re wondering how long it will take to feel the benefits from BHRT or how long you’ll need to continue treatments, we’re here to answer all your questions.
What Is Bioidentical Hormone Therapy?
Bioidentical hormone restoration therapy (BHRT) is a treatment that helps restore your body’s hormones to their optimal levels. Bioidentical hormones are chemically structured to match precisely with the hormones your body produces naturally.
Bioidentical hormones are most commonly made from plant materials and synthesized in a lab. This process ensures they are biologically identical to your body’s hormones. BHRT is a holistic therapy that takes into account your body’s specific makeup, your symptoms, and your nutritional needs.
Why It’s Needed
As we get older, our bodies produce less and less of the hormones that keep us feeling energetic, healthy, and young. They do this by carrying chemical messages to various parts of the body, providing instructions to keep the body in peak condition.
These hormones are usually related to the endocrine system and include estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, and the hormones produced in the thyroid glands. Many of these hormones are linked and will metabolize and convert from one hormone to another in the body.
As we age, our endocrine glands aren’t able to produce these hormones as effectively as they did in our teens and twenties. When that happens, we begin to feel the negative effects of aging and disease, ranging from sleep difficulties to weight gain, mood swings, and a declining libido. If these hormonal imbalances are left untreated, the risk of developing cancer, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular diseases increases.
How It Helps
Bioidentical hormone restoration therapy helps keep the body in balance by restoring hormone levels. Keeping up your body’s optimum hormone levels helps ensure that your body is functioning as it should be.
BHRT is not intended to reverse the effects of aging, but it will help minimize a range of symptoms that we often associate with aging. BHRT can help increase your energy levels, increase your libido, and improve how well you sleep at night.
Differences Between Bioidentical and “Natural Synthetic” Hormones
Other types of hormones claim to be natural because they are derived from plant and animal sources, such as yams, soy, and horse urine. A few even include substances like steroids. But these hormones do not match the hormones in the human body and cannot use the term “bioidentical.”
Their molecular, or chemical, structure differs significantly from those found in the human body. Why? These hormone treatments frequently add artificial chemical “side chains” to their treatments in order to place patents on them.
When the body encounters these synthetic hormones, it does not “read” them as being the exact same hormone that the body produces. This reduces the body’s ability to use synthetic hormones effectively. It also increases the risks of side effects and some cancers. Because bioidentical hormones match the exact chemical structure of the body’s naturally produced hormones, many patients find BHRT to be a far more effective treatment.
The Bioidentical Hormone Restoration Therapy (BHRT) Process
Bioidentical hormone therapy uses a holistic approach that puts the patient first. Hormones undergo a complex series of interactions and conversions in the body. Because of this, we must take many aspects of the patient’s health, lifestyle, and history into account for the treatment to be successful.
During your initial consultation, we begin collecting information on your health and any symptoms you may be experiencing. These initial assessments often include taking your vitals and measurements, checking for goiter, and checking the health of your scalp, eyes, ears, and gums.
We usually ask questions about your medical history, such as any cysts, masses, or fibroids your primary care physician has found in the past. We’ll also determine how hormones may have affected your mood and concentration levels. It’s also important to list any problems related to skin, hair, and nails that may be because of hormonal changes. Sometimes things like acne, brittle nails, or changes/spots in skin coloring indicate underlying hormonal imbalances.
We will also ask about lifestyle factors that often play a role. During your initial assessments, we’ll ask about your diet and nutrition, the quality of sleep you get each night, what kind of regular exercise you get, and what kinds of stress you are experiencing. These assessments give our team an idea of which hormone levels to test for.
Testing of Hormone Levels
Unfortunately, there is no single test that can determine which hormones might be imbalanced. Each hormone that might be affected must be tested individually. Our team determines the best tests for each client based on the information gathered from the physical exam and initial assessment.
The type of test used will depend on which hormones need to be tested
as well as the type of treatment that will be used. Our team may use saliva tests, serum tests, blood spot tests, urine tests, or a combination of these to determine your hormone levels.
Prescribed, Personalized Treatment Plan
Once our team has collected your data and we are able to see which hormones are low, you can begin treatment. Each patient and each treatment plan are unique. Your specific plan will depend on which hormones are out of balance, how those hormones interact with each other, and how out of balance they may be.
After initiating treatment, our team meets with clients periodically to determine how their bodies are responding to treatment. When adjustments are needed, we do so in small increments to reach the client’s optimum hormone levels.
These small adjustments are important and help us make sure that hormone levels don’t overshoot their targets. It’s important to maintain the lowest dose of each hormone that is needed, and we strive to do just that for each and every patient. These meetings may be more frequent at the beginning of your treatment, but once hormone levels are back in balance, many clients only visit our office one to three times a year for check-ups.
How Soon Will I Feel the Effects of Bioidentical Hormone Therapy?
Each patient is unique, and how each individual’s treatment progresses will vary from person to person. A few lucky individuals begin to feel some slight improvements after the first day. However, most of our clients take a little longer to begin feeling the benefits of bioidentical hormone therapy. In most cases, you will begin feeling the effects of your treatment within the first two weeks.
One of the first benefits that our patients notice when beginning treatment is that they have far more energy than they did before. This is a great sign that your hormone levels are starting to balance. Some of the other initial effects you notice may include:
- Better sleep at night
- Fewer muscle aches and pains
- Fewer hot flashes
It will take a little longer for the treatment to rebalance your hormone levels and bring them up to their optimum levels. Usually, this happens somewhere between three and six months after beginning treatment.
It’s important to build up your body’s depleted hormones over time rather than shocking your system with too much at once. This way our team is able to make sure we are providing you with the lowest dose necessary while keeping you in the best health possible.
How Often Will I Need to Schedule Office Visits for BHRT?
The frequency of your visits with us will be determined by your unique treatment plan. Generally, you can expect to have more frequent visits toward the beginning of your treatment while we work together to determine the best treatment and dosage for you.
We may need to see you every few weeks or every three months in the beginning while your body is adjusting and your hormone levels are rebalancing. After your hormone levels balance out, you may only need to meet with us once a year to check that your treatment is still working effectively. However, certain treatments may require up to three or four visits a year to check that your treatment is working for you.
How Long Does Bioidentical Hormone Therapy Take?
Like with everything else, the length of your treatment plan will be unique to you and your needs. Some patients wean off of their bioidentical hormones after restoring their hormonal balance. Others might have to wait longer to allow symptoms of menopause or andropause to disappear.
Treatment and Menopause
Many of our clients use BHRT to treat symptoms of menopause. For these clients, they’ll sometimes find that weaning off the hormone therapy causes their symptoms to return. In those cases, it’s often best to wait until after menopause passes before weaning off their treatments.
Lifestyle and Treatment
Lifestyle factors play a major role in how your body responds to treatment. Some patients are able to help manage their hormones by making healthier lifestyle changes which allow them to wean off of the bioidentical hormone therapy faster than they might have otherwise.
If you are able to maintain a healthy diet, sleep, and exercise routines while minimizing stress levels, your body will become better able to produce the hormone levels it needs to function at peak condition. However, there are other factors to consider when determining how long you should continue BHRT.
Longer Treatment to Reduce Risk of Disease
Some studies indicate that BHRT reduces the risk of stroke or cardiovascular issues in women when treatment is continued for longer than five years. The hormone treatments appear to protect younger women (under the age of 60) from developing cardiovascular problems later on.
The study found that women who stopped hormone therapy after receiving treatment for less than five years had a 52% greater risk of developing a heart attack than those who continued the treatment for longer. Depending on the hormone therapy you need, it may be important to remain on the treatments for at least five years to effectively lower your risk of stroke and heart attack.
Treatment for Osteoporosis
Often, doctors will prescribe bisphosphonate to prevent and reverse symptoms of osteoporosis. But this treatment isn’t ideal for all patients. Some patients experience significant side-effects that severely impact their health in other ways, such as a deteriorating jaw bone or ulcers in the esophagus.
Bioidentical hormone restoration therapy is an effective alternative. BHRT helps protect men and women from suffering fractures related to osteoporosis. Significantly, for men, this protection comes with little to no increased risk of developing prostate cancer. If osteoporosis is a risk for you, a longer BHRT treatment plan might be the best option to preserve your health.
What Can I Do to See Results More Quickly?
We encourage all our clients at the 20 Something Anti Aging Center to take charge of their treatment. When you are actively involved in and committed to your treatment plan, you help ensure your own success.
Treatment should never be a passive activity. Whether your plan includes a pill, lotion, pellet, or a different treatment option, there are things you can do to feel better quicker and reclaim your life.
Stick to Your Treatment Plan
One of the most important ways to ensure your own success is committing to treatment and following through. If you have pills and supplements to take, make sure you take them every day and on time. If you miss a dose, don’t double up on your next dose unless someone from our team instructs you to do so. It’s usually best to continue your normal schedule after missing a dose.
Don’t miss or put off scheduled follow-ups. These meetings are important for tracking your progress and identifying any treatment issues before they lead to bigger problems. Delaying appointments can delay your success in rebalancing your body’s hormones. The most successful patients prioritize their treatment plans and commit to their hormone therapy.
Communicate With Us
Don’t be timid in communicating with our team. We are here for you. Whatever you’re feeling or experiencing, we want to hear it. If you’re struggling to keep appointments or stick to your treatment plan, let us know. We will work together to figure out a plan that will be effective for you, your lifestyle, and your unique needs.
It can help to keep track of how much energy and other symptoms you experience each day, especially in the early weeks of treatment. Try to keep a journal of how you’re feeling or consider using a health app. This will help you better communicate with our team during your follow-up visits. It’s easier to tailor your treatment when we know how you are feeling on a daily basis.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Exercise and nutrition have a significant impact on how well your body functions. That includes your hormones. You put yourself in the best position for success when you include eating nutritious foods and getting routine exercise as a part of your personal treatment plan.
Be patient with your treatment journey. Results rarely happen overnight. You will achieve results faster if you give yourself space and patience to let your body’s hormones balance out over time.
If you stress over your treatment, expecting to see results sooner than your body is prepared for, you risk raising your cortisol levels and contributing to your body’s hormonal imbalance.
Contact our Orlando, Florida office today to speak with our 20 Something Anti Aging Center team about how bioidentical hormone therapy can work for you.