The South African Stem Cell Institute also offers Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) as we recognize the importance of these molecules in normal physiological processes which contribute to the quality of life.
Introduction to HRT
Hormones are essential to health and vitality. All vital organs have receptors for all the different hormones, of which the brain possesses the most. These molecules are the key to health, longevity and a better quality of life. HRT is essentially restoration and deterioration prevention. Both men and women will at some stage experience the effects of hormonal changes and this can impact their quality of life in various ways. Addressing these hormonal imbalances by means of bio-identical hormones will transform the lives of both men and women returning to living life to the full.
Hormones for women
Most women associate HRT with menopause. However, pre-menopausal women might need hormones too. Over 20% of pre-menopausal women have a hormonal disorder termed Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a genetic endocrine disorder due to insulin resistance. Treating the insulin resistance is key. Common signs of PCOS include:
- Irregular, heavy periods
- Difficulty conceiving
- Weight gain & difficulty to lose weight
- Hirsutism (unwanted hair growth)
- Sugar cravings and
- Severe PMS (pre-menstrual symptoms)
It is of utmost importance to diagnose and treat PCOS as it can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer and early mortality, all of which can be prevented.
Insulin resistance, the cause of PCOS, results in alterations of the pituitary hormones FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinizing Hormone), as well as less binding of testosterone with a resultant increase in free testosterone. Although testosterone is extremely important in women too, increased levels can lead to adverse affects.
A successful treatment plan for the symptoms associated with PCOS will involve a holistic approach, including diet, exercise and medicines that combat skin sensitivity. Lowering the levels of the adrenal hormone known as Aldosterone is also beneficial to eliminate the potential risk of diabetes, heart disease and systemic inflammation of blood vessels. Furthermore, prescribing natural progesterone is imperative to lower risk of miscarriages, breast and uterine cancer as well as for the treatment of PMS and heavy bleeding. Finally, most women with PCOS are thyroid hormone resistant. Therefore, supplementation with natural thyroid hormone will improve metabolism and fatigue associated with PCOS.
Hormones for Men
Menopause in women is a widely discussed, well-studied phenomenon, yet its equivalent in men – Andropause – is often ignored. This process typically occurs in men from age 40 onwards and is attributed to the reduction in hormone levels, specifically testosterone. It can be accompanied by fatigue, depression, irritability, aches and pains, reduced sexual interest, enjoyment and/or performance, general signs of aging and it also increases the risk of chronic degenerative diseases. Testosterone replacement in men, done with bio-identical testosterone at physiologically comparable doses, is not only safe, but also protective. This is well supported by literature. Testosterone has been shown to:
- Increase muscle strength and lean body mass
- Improve sexual response
- Prevent osteoporosis
- Protect against cardiovascular disease
- Increase energy
- Fight impotence and
- Improve mood & sense of well-being
Even though multiple medical studies have shown that testosterone does not lead to the development of prostate cancer, the PSA level need to be monitored closely when supplementing with testosterone as testosterone could accelerate the growth of existing tumours. It is therefore imperative that supplementation be discussed with a doctor qualified in the use of bio-identical hormones.
Summary of the Function of various Hormones found throughout the body
1. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
DHEA is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. This hormone is a precursor to other sex hormones such as testosterone and oestrogen. In addition to having its own hormonal effect, it results in a shift to an anabolic or protein building state. It reduces cardiovascular risk by increasing lipolysis or fat breakdown. It also stimulates the immune system, restores sexual vitality, improves mood and decreases cholesterol and body fat. Recent studies point to DHEA as an anti-stress hormone, reversing the effects of stress on the immune system.
2. Thyroid Hormone
Thyroxin (T4) is a metabolic hormone secreted by the thyroid gland that regulates temperature, metabolism and cerebral function. It increases fat breakdown, resulting in weight loss as well as lowered cholesterol. It protects against cardiovascular disease and improves cerebral metabolism and helps to prevent cognitive and memory impairment. Thyroid hormone is one of the safest and most beneficial cholesterol-lowering agents, yet it is infrequently used for this.
Pregnenolone aids in the cellular repair of the central nervous system (CNS) and is the most potent memory enhancer of all the hormones.
Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland. It is a circadian rhythm hormone thereby affecting the pattern of sleep. It is during the deeper stages of sleep that the body produces Natural Killer cells or CD4 cells, which are innate immune cells. Melatonin increases both stage IV sleep and the deep stage of sleep, thereby increasing and enhancing immunity which attributes to its tremendous anti-carcinogenic effects. Melatonin also has powerful antioxidant effects which account for disease prevention qualities and, in addition, the improved sleep patterns attributed to melatonin serve to energize the body and improve mood. Melatonin deficiency results in irritability, hypersensitivity and premature aging.
Progesterone is secreted by the ovaries which cease production of this hormone at menopause. Progesterone protects against uterine and breast cancers, osteoporosis, fibrocystic disease and ovarian cysts. It dramatically decreases pre- and post-menopausal symptoms. Progesterone is also very beneficial in treating premenstrual symptoms (PMS) such as mood swings and migraine headaches. We recommend natural bio-identical progesterone in HRT as synthetic progestins (often prescribed in HRT) can cause side effects such as bloating, headaches, fatigue, weight gain and may even be associated with increased risk of certain cancers.
Testosterone is a hormone found in both men and women. It is secreted by the adrenal glands, testes and ovaries and contributes to muscle mass, strength and endurance, decreased fat, increased exercise tolerance, enhancement of well being and psychological status. Testosterone protects against cardiovascular disease, hypertension, body fat and arthritis. It leads to improved lean muscle mass, increased bone density, decrease in cholesterol, improved skin tone, improved healing capacity, and increased libido and sexual performance. Testosterone also increases collagen and elastin in the skin. It prolongs the quality of life by decreasing the diseases associated with aging, as does oestrogen in the female. As mentioned, testosterone is also present and extremely important in females, making supplementation an absolute recommendation for both men and women.
Oestrogen is secreted by the ovaries, of which the production ceases at menopause. Oestrogen deficiency results in urogenital atrophy, incontinence, sagging skin in breasts, increased skin wrinkles of the face, fatigue, depression, mood swings and decreased libido. Oestrogen especially protects against heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders as well as vaginal atrophy, urinary incontinence and prevents the symptoms of menopause. It is of extreme importance that the oestrogen prescribed is a natural oestrogen and not a synthetic compound as synthetic oestrogens could be harmful to the body. For optimal protection, natural oestrogen supplementation should be balanced with a natural progesterone supplement.