Mary*, a mother of 3 adolescent children, shared her story on menopause. At the peak of menopause in her late 40s, she experienced hot flushes, fatigue, brain fog and was just not feeling like herself. After seeing her doctor, she was told it was due to her highly stressed lifestyle and being overtired. Mary declined going on traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as she felt that there was more to her problem than what was suggested.
Mary’s life changed after watching an Oprah Winfrey episode on menopause and bio-identical hormones addressing similar symptoms to what she was experiencing. Mary researched bio-identical hormones and came across Dr Marion Gluck, known as an international pioneer of bio-identical hormones who is now based in London.
Following this discovery, Mary booked an appointment with Dr Gluck who went on to taking her blood tests. The results indicated that her hormones were imbalanced resulting in a prescription of oestrogen and progesterone as a cream. Mary felt better nearly instantly after starting bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). Over a few days, she felt that not only did her mood improve but she had more energy. After a couple of weeks her night sweats stopped and then her hot flushes gradually reduced.
In addition to hormone imbalance, Mary’s blood test also showed high calcium blood levels which is associated with a parathyroid tumour. Upon returning home to Ireland, Mary’s diagnosis was confirmed and a surgery was booked. Dr Gluck did not only help with her menopausal symptoms but the discovery of a tumour.
Mary, now at 50 years old, continues to have telephone consultations with Dr Gluck and travels to London twice a year to see her.
Dr Gluck was previously an emergency room doctor and choose to switch routes after being shocked at how hospital patients were treated. Around 100 Irish patients wanting bio-identical hormones see Dr Marion Gluck at her clinic in London per year. She is now considering setting up a workshop and followup mobile clinic in Ireland.
What is BHRT? BHRT uses hormones derived from plants that have a molecular structure similar to those produced naturally in the human body. BHRT can be in the form of a cream, suppository, orally taken or intravenously.
Certain bio-identical hormones manufactured by pharmaceutical drug companies and approved by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are often prescribed at standard doses. However, compounding pharmacies prepare the bio-identical hormones on an individual basis as per each patient, though this is not FDA approved.
When prescribing bio-identical hormones, Dr Gluck explains that many GPs are not well versed about bio-identical hormones thus the treatment is often not available from a GP. Dr Gluck uses bio-identical hormones to treat a range of conditions beyond menopause, including headaches, depression and bone density issues.
The crucial aspect of bio-identical hormones is that they cater to each individual as everyone is unique. The conventional one-size-fits-all treatment is n0t what BHRT is about. Similar to how not everyone with diabetes needs the same amount of insulin, hormones need to be tailored to each individual seperately. The vital function of hormones in our body facilitates most processes further suggesting that every individual requires a different dose.
Due to the natural derivative and molecular structure of bio-identical hormones, they are associated with less side effects resulting in patients sticking to the treatment plan. Dr Gluck explains that more often that not patients stop medications because of the unwanted side effects, however the minimal side effects of bio-identical hormones result in patients continuing their treatments. On the other hand, traditional HRT has side effects including weight gain and breast tenderness which increases reluctancy in continuing treatment.
Bio-identical hormones, when prescribed at the correct dose, results in minimal risks. The hormones are also often prescribed as a cream form which prevents the liver processing it and halting any liver damage. In addition, a check-up every 3 months is required to ensure the correct dosage is being administered based on an individual needs. The maintenance of hormone balance is beyond helpful to any individuals health.
Bio-identical hormone treatment helps improve energy, mood and memory while also prevents osteoporosis. The diet an individual is on also impacts symptoms as well. Dr Gluck in association with nutritionist Vicki Edgson has published a book, It Must Be My Hormones, further outlining hormones and health and well-being.
The importance of finding the right dosage is vital. Dr Gluck therefore recommends that figuring out the dose and obtaining the medicine yourself over the internet is not advised as the quality certification of the hormones must be disclosed. Doctors should only be prescribing the hormones as they are very powerful and require an expert’s knowledge. From prior experience, Dr Gluck knows people who purchased thyroid medication online, of which when used wrongly can result in an over-active thyroid that could lead to heart failure.
* This is not the real name of the patient
It Must Be My Hormones by Dr Marion Gluck and Vicki Edgson, published by Penguin