As much as hormones are part of our everyday language, their importance in our lives and safety are shrouded in mystery.

Physicians receive almost no training in the role of hormones in health maintenance and disease prevention, even if they are endocrinologists.

There is no training program in medical school on the use of hormones anywhere in the United States.

The public gets all its information from the media and word of mouth – not always reliable. We tend to believe that what a doctor or celebrity on TV or radio says is always correct – not necessarily the case.

It takes experience, arduous research and truly caring about your patients to provide them with what they really need. After spending the past 16 years treating more than 20,000 men and women with bioidentical hormones – which are not synthetic but rather identical to what the body produces – having written four books on hormones and countless articles in both medical and lay periodicals, I believe it’s time to shed some much needed light on the subject.

We are all the result of our hormone balance. When we are young and full of hormones, we are flush with energy, devoid of wrinkles, fertile and interested in sex.  We are also healthy, and the incidence and risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases is low. As we age, we lose our hormones and the risk of illness increases. Common sense and extensive medical research tell us that we need hormones to stay healthy and prevent disease.

To make the importance of hormones even clearer, all we have to do is look into their history to see that we are not the first generation to explore their use.

Indeed, the history of hormone research goes back a lot further than the invention of the horrific term “menopause” and the debate between Premarin (equine estrogen) and bioidentical hormones (specifically estradiol).

As far back as 1889, the Merck manual – the physician’s bible – listed Ovariin, an oral powder derived from dried cow’s ovaries, as a treatment for “climacterica,” the name for menopause then.  Then around 1930, Bert Collip, a scientist who discovered insulin, created the drug Emmenim, extracted from the urine of pregnant Canadian women. The product had amazing results in menopausal women. The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was among those treated with Emmenim to counter depression and “climacterica symptoms.”

In time, the use of estrogen from the urine of pregnant women became impractical due to high cost and limited availability. Thus researchers looked at stallions as sources of estrogen to counter the challenges of menopause.

While the stallions’ urine was useful, the horses kicked the buckets (literally), frustrating the collectors, so the scientists turned to the more accepting mares, whose urine in the third to 10th month of pregnancy contains more than 200 molecules of high-potency estrogens. In 1939, Adolph Butenandt received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for extracting estrogen from the urine of pregnant mares. The drug made from the pregnant mare’s urine, the now-infamous Premarin , was brought to market by Ayerst Labs in 1942.

Books followed extolling the virtues of Premarin, which to this day is used by millions of women. The problem is that although better than no hormones, Premarin still is too close to horse estrogens, causing more problems than it solves.

In 2002, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study showed that Premarin, when combined with progestin, resulted in an increase risk of stroke, blood clots, heart attack and breast cancer. With Premarin failing us, bioidentical hormones, specifically estradiol, must become the estrogen of choice for most physicians and their patients. Made from soy and yam oils, estradiol is safe and effective with excellent scientific support.

There is no reason to accept the ravages of aging as a way of life. Getting the right bioidentical preparation of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and thyroid hormones will help keep women – and men — vital.

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