Many women find perimenopause and menopause symptoms take them by surprise. Some don’t go to the doctor until they are in the throes of fatigue, mood swings, low sex drive and hot flashes to name a few. They are remiss to seek treatment because they’ve heard that solutions such as hormone replacement therapy may be hazardous to their health. So they white-knuckle it in silence. We had the opportunity of interviewing an expert, Dr. Gino Tutera, who spent many years investigating ways to help women during menopause feel normal during this tough time in life. Dr. Tutera found hormone replacement methods were the best way to help women during their menopausal years before creating his unique pellet therapy approach. He is SottoPelle® Founder and Medical Director of SottoPelle Hormone Replacement Therapy. Following are his answers to the questions we asked him, to inform our readers. He explained that all hormone replacement therapies are not the same.
Viva Fifty.- How and when should women consult a doctor about their peri-menopausal or menopausal symptoms?
Dr. Gino Tutera.- Women should not wait until symptoms strike before checking their hormone levels. As we age, our hormone levels decline. Recent studies show that women are experiencing peri-menopause and menopause at much earlier ages than expected. By age 40, most women are totally depleted of normal levels of estrogen and have lost nearly all their progesterone and more than half of their testosterone. These fluctuating levels can lead to more serious health issues since many diseases are correlated with hormonal imbalances. Estrogen impacts cognitive function and testosterone affects the heart, breast and bones. In order to protect their health, women need to check their hormonal balance regularly starting at age 40.
Viva Fifty.- What are bio-identical hormones in layperson language and how can women benefit from them?
Dr. Tutera.- Bio-identical hormones (BHRT) are natural, plant-derived compounds that have the same molecular structure as those made by the human body – as opposed to other traditional forms of hormone therapy (HRT), which are synthetic, or pharmaceutical. The molecular structure of bio-identical hormones is identical to the hormones produced naturally by the human body, hence the name. Therefore they are better assimilated without the dangerous side effects associated with synthetic hormones.
Viva Fifty.- How many years can women take these hormones and how costly are they?Dr. Tutera.- Hormonal imbalances can strike a woman at any age and are not reserved just for older women in menopause. The need for hormones all depends each individual woman’s levels and a simple blood test is used to measure that. Since bio-identical hormones are natural without the harmful side effects of pharmaceutical hormones, there is no limit to the time frame in which a woman can take them if she needs them. Since our food, water and environment are loaded with toxic chemicals, this disrupts the body’s delicate endocrine system which leads to hormonal balance. Women can protect their health by maintaining proper hormonal balance at any age.
The cost for bio-identical hormone therapy is around $300 with the pellet method and lasts an average of 3-4 months. So the monthly cost is $75. The blood test costs vary depending on what lab is used but generally run less than $100 and is usually covered by most health insurance.
Viva Fifty.- Beyond HRT or BHRT, what else can women do to improve their self-image and self-esteem during perimenopause, menopause and beyond?
Dr. Tutera.- Women can learn to love themselves at any age. The best way for women to improve their self-image and self-esteem is to start with inner health and happiness … the beauty that radiates from the inside out.
Body type and self-image for women are undergoing a rapid shift with the dramatic rise in America’s aging population. Today there are 78 million Americans over age 55 and over half of them are women. And one in every three people is over 50. This means vast numbers of women are facing aging issues and experiencing menopause. So the demand for more reasonable body images and role models is changing to serve the needs of this aging female demographic. There has been a louder voice for acceptance for those who do not meet the weight and image standards we see on TV, magazines, social media and basically everywhere.
Dr. Ivanka Prichard, a behavioral psychologist, is one advocate leading a research team to determine if the new “fit-spirational” trends do women’s body image and psychological health more harm than good. “Healthy is the new skinny!” she declares.
Viva Fifty.- What about women´s fear of cancer due to HRT?
Dr. Tutera.- It’s a misguided perception based on synthetic HRT, not natural BHRT. Some misunderstanding persists around hormones because many people and even doctors don’t realize that there are two different kinds – synthetic and bio-identical.
When the Women’s Health Initiative released a report in 2002 citing the dangerous side effects of synthetic hormones, it gave all hormones a bad reputation. To this day most news reports fail to make this critical distinction between the two different types of hormones and thus all forms of hormones are falsely considered dangerous. BHRT began in Europe in the 1930’s and is backed by over 75 years of research.
Extensive research shows that cancer is associated with synthetic or pharmaceutical HRT. Numerous studies point to the health benefits of BHRT in helping to protect women against breast cancer. Here are four as an example:
Tutera, D. Gambrell, Marked reduction of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer in users of bio-identical estradiol and testosterone subcutaneous pellets, Maturitas, 2013: “Subcutaneous estradiol and testosterone pellets do not increase the risk of development of any of these cancers and, in fact, may be protective.”
Natrajan and Gabrell, American Journal of OB-GYN, 2002: “Bio-identical estrogen does not increase either recurrence of breast cancer or mortality rates.”
Roger Smith and John Studd, British Journal of Hospital Medicine,1993: “Hormone pellet therapy does not increase the risk of breast cancer incidence.”
Davelarr Study, 1991: “No increase in the incidence of breast cancer during the use of subcutaneous estradiol in women from 1972-mid-1990s… less cancers overall than the control group on no estrogen therapy.”
Viva Fifty.- What is the key to effective hormone therapy?
Dr. Tutera.- Sex hormones play a much larger role in our health beyond a reproductive purpose. They are the “control panel” of the human body and impact all organs, tissues and neurotransmitters. In fact, they affect every aspect of our physical and mental well-being and can also help prevent illness, disease and premature aging.
The key to effective hormone therapy lies in the delivery method. Pills, patches, creams, gels, troches and other methods often result in roller coaster surges of hormones. Studies demonstrate that hormone pellets, which are about the size of a grain of rice and slipped under the skin, provide the most effective delivery system because they are monitored naturally by the body’s own heart rate for 24-7 distribution exactly when the body needs it most.
Most synthetic hormones and even some bio-identical hormone pellets offer one-size-fits-all generic doses that are not designed to meet each woman’s unique hormone needs. Every woman doesn’t wear the same size shoe; so why would they all choose the same hormone dose? SottoPelle® Therapy is the only method that uses a proprietary web-based BioCalc® system with precision dosing for each patient’s specific requirements and carefully monitored to manage her hormone balance properly.
Hormone therapy is not just about menopause or for women only! Men lose most of their testosterone by age 50 and need hormonal balance when andropause sets in. Like women, they should have their levels checked before symptoms arrive to protect their health.