If you're one of the millions of men and women taking bioidentical hormones, you might be wondering how long you can use them. The answer is, it depends. Each person's treatment plan and health condition is different. What may be right for you may not be right for someone else, even with the same health problem. To help you answer this question, we've looked at the common reasons why men and women take supplements and offer guidelines to how long you can keep taking bioidentical hormones.
Menopause commences a period in a woman's life when she makes the transition from fertile to infertile. At this time, her ovaries stop producing as much estrogen or progesterone. Both sex hormones are critical for regulating menstruation and fertility. (1) Hormones do naturally taper off as a woman grows older, but in the case of menopause, estrogen and progesterone plummet, causing a severe hormonal imbalance.
Women begin to experience perimenopause at different times in midlife, but the most common time is in the late 40s to early 50s. A woman has begun menopause when she hasn't had a period for a year or more. As the body learns to function with varying amounts of estrogen and progesterone, painful menopausal symptoms occur, including:
Living with painful menopause symptoms lowers the quality of your life. You can help alleviate symptoms by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, but treating menopause with bioidentical hormones is effective, according to Hormone Health Network. (2) A study by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) and other studies show that hormone therapy relieves menopausal symptoms, too. (3)
In the world of hormonal treatment, you have traditional hormone therapy (HRT) and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). HRT uses synthetical compounds derived mostly from the urine of horses, and BHRT comes from plant-based estrogens. While both can be effective, some experts argue that BHRT is safer and more natural because the compounds mimic the hormones produced in your body. BHRT comes in pills, gels, and creams.
Estrogen and progesterone cream are the ones most commonly used. Or estradiol and progesterone together in the same treatment.
Speak to your doctor before starting bioidentical hormones. Once you begin taking bioidentical hormones, the recommended length is the shortest amount of time necessary. As suggested, start with the lowest dose possible and increase as needed. The specific risks depend on the woman's health history, but mild (bloating, weight gain) to severe (cancer and stroke) side effects are possible.
Testosterone is a male steroid produced primarily in the testes. While men produce large amounts, women produce some testosterone, too. After age 30, men lose about 1% of testosterone per year. An abnormal loss of testosterone can create what's called hypogonadism. When this happens, the symptoms of low-T can become severe. The symptoms of low-T include the following:
Treating low-T with testosterone hormone therapy (THT) has been shown to help alleviate symptoms. THT comes in gels, topical creams, and injections.
Supplementing with testosterone is controversial and may come with some side effects. The Urology Care Foundation recommends that you monitor your testosterone levels every few months to determine how effective the treatment is for your body. (4)
The exact length of treatment varies by person and dose. Men can take testosterone for six months to a year but consult with your doctor to determine the precise treatment length. In a nutshell, when your testosterone levels normalize, it's time to end treatment.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is an important hormone produced primarily in the adrenal gland. While its role in critical bodily processes, such as cognitive and mood function, still need more research, scientists agree that it is a precursor for testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. A precursor means that DHEA converts into these hormones when needed.
If you have a low DHEA, symptoms include the following:
Treatments for low DHEA include taking bioidentical hormones. Transdermal DHEA creams help balance hormones naturally through the daily application.
How long can you keep taking DHEA?
As with other hormones, the amount of time depends on your health condition, DHEA deficiency amount, and doctor’s recommendation. DHEA treatment may take as short as 3-4 months or as long as a year. You can safely take 50 mg every day of DHEA cream for one year without serious side effects. (5)
Magnesium is a crucial mineral that takes part in hormone regulation. It's thought that 75% of men and women in the United States are not receiving their daily recommended amount of magnesium. (6) Magnesium helps generate estrogen and progesterone. It's also nicknamed the "anti-stress" mineral because of its ability to regulate cortisol (stress hormone) and help relax the body. People regularly take magnesium to encourage relaxation and sleep.
How long can you keep taking magnesium?
Using a high-quality magnesium cream may help balance your hormones. The amount to take depends on your primary magnesium deficiency and gender. Recommended daily amounts for women are 310 to 320 milligrams (mg) and 400 to 420 mg for men. (7) Magnesium may be healthy to take for long periods, but if taken in too large of a dose daily may cause diarrhea.
Bioidentical hormones help men and women with hormonal imbalances find relief. The question of how you can keep taking bioidentical hormones depends on your particular health situation. Unless you have an underlying condition or pose certain risk factors, hormone therapy to treat menopausal symptoms, low testosterone or magnesium, may be the answer you're looking for to reach the balance you deserve.