SAFE HORMONE THERAPY FOR WOMEN
Article by Cheryl Burdette
Cheryl Burdette, a Naturopathic Doctor, completed her residency at Cancer Treatment Centers of America and the Family Health and Wellness Center. Dr. Burdette is an international lecturer, and, prior to joining Progressive Medical Centers, she worked at Atlanta’s Metametrix, a laboratory specializing in nutritional and metabolic testing.Her published article on Hormones and How to Use Them Safely answers some very important questions for women considering hormone therapy. Our endocrine system is devised of glands, which produce and send hormones to all areas of our bodies to regulate essential functions such as temperature, reproduction, growth, immunity and aging. Their importance in vitality, longevity, and well-being are of concern for each of us. Christian Living Magazine posed vital questions that were answered by Burdette’s research.CLM: What was the result of the Women’s Health Initiative study of hormones?BURDETTE: After the large-scale study of hormones conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative ended early because of potential health concerns, women have been left with more confusion over the use of hormones than ever. While there are safety considerations of using any hormone, there are a number of factors that can be folded into the decision of hormone use that can help to minimize risk and optimize benefits. Through careful history, understanding of the individual, and the use of more tailored hormones, women can use hormones that are specific for them helping to reduce risks associated with them.CLM: What type of health concerns halted the research?BURDETTE: The study looked at women using hormones, and was stopped early because of an increase incidence of breast cancer in the women who were currently taking hormones. The women in the trial were taking a synthetic hormone known as Premarin, an estrogen that comes from the urine of pregnant mares or horses. Premarin contains 14 different types of estrogen, whereas women only make three types of estrogen. These foreign estrogens that our bodies don’t recognize appear to be the culprit that may be linked to the increase in cancer. More risk is associated with hormones when foreign types are used that do not match our own bodies. CLM: Your article mentions that bioidentical hormones can be used that match the molecules our bodies make internally and are therefore recognized by our system as such. We understand that they are processed to have the same molecular structure as that of a human hormone. Why is that important?BURDETTE: Hormones may increase the risk of cancer by how they are eliminated from the body. All hormones have to be metabolized by the liver, so to safely take them, the body must be able to effectively clear them. Certain metabolites from hormones reduce a woman’s risk of cancer, while other metabolites made by the liver increase a woman’s risk of cancer. When using hormones women should measure the metabolites they are making to make sure they are eliminating their hormones in a healthy manner. A simple urine test is one of the best predictions as to how safely hormones are being handled. The Journal of Epidemiology followed 10,000 women for 5.5 years. The study showed that the single risk factor that was most correlated with a cancer risk was how the hormones are metabolized. From a urine test one can accurately measure how you are metabolizing hormones. When using hormones knowing how the body is eliminating them from the body dramatically increases the safety. CLM: What else is learned from testing?BURDETTE: Testing not only allows for understanding of how hormones are eliminated but also helps to ensure that each woman is getting a level that is appropriate for her body. Another problem with conventional hormones is that they are not tailored to fit the individual. The three estrogens, estriol, estrone and estradiol should all be balanced with progesterone and testosterone. Conventionally these are not always given together and they are rarely based on a woman’s individual levels. A baseline test allows for using the most minimal amount of hormone necessary, which also reduces risk. When conventional hormones are used, they are not routinely based on the person, but rather populations of people. CLM: How essential is individual testing in hormone treatment? BURDETTE: Most important to the decision to use hormones depends on each person’s own uniqueness. Certain factors make the use of hormones less desirable such as a history of breast cancer or even significant family history of breast cancer. Other factors that make a woman a good candidate for hormone replacement are personal history or family history of osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s or menopausal symptoms that disrupt quality of life. There are many other ways to address hormonal concerns, but each woman’s hormones should be as unique as she is so her individual biochemistry can and should be considered. However, when hormones do not seem to be an appropriate fit, other considerations are available such as botanicals and nutrients.CLM: Assuming that replacement therapy is the preferred treatment, how can it be done safely?BURDETTE: Consideration of the following will dramatically increase the safety of hormone therapy:? Testing of levels to determine what is appropriate for the individual.? An understanding of how hormones are eliminated from the body so levels don’t get too high, and so metabolites that contribute to cancer risk are controlled, i.e. healthy detoxification.? An understanding of each woman’s personal as well as family history to assess risk factors that either increase or decrease the desirability to use hormones.CLM: How would you sum up hormone therapy for our readers?BURDETTE: Hormone therapy is a useful tool that can enhance quality of life and even help to reduce risk of some conditions like Alzheimer’s and heart disease. However, it should be used carefully and should be designed to fit each individual. Careful history taken alongside selection of appropriate testing is mandatory to healthy uses of hormones.
Dr. Cheryl K. Burdette, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor. After graduating from Bastyr in 2001, she completed her residency at Cancer Treatment Centers of America and the Family Health and Wellness Center, one of three hospital based residencies available for N.D.s in the country.
She then moved back to the South, where she is from, to continue practicing cutting-edge integrative medicine. While practicing in Atlanta, she worked at Metametrix, a laboratory that specializes in nutritional and metabolic testing. There, she guided doctors through test results to aid their understanding, and worked to develop treatment for their patients that would address their unique biochemistry. She has lectured internationally, and believes that education is a critical component of empowering others on their journey to wellness.
Dr. Burdette spearheaded one of the only accredited Naturopathic residencies that is run off-site from a school. She is a contributing author to “Laboratory Methods In Molecular Medicine,” and is considered a expert in functional nutritional testing. She is invited to speak at grand rounds at all Naturopathic medical schools in the US and Canada to share her expertise with graduating Naturopathic students.
Naturopathic medicine combines evidenced-based natural treatments that recognize each person’s unique presentation, works to find the root cause of disease, and treats the person as a whole. Dr. Burdette?s practice is focused on the treatment of chronic conditions, and the use of hormones as a part of wellness. At Progressive Medical Centers she works as part of a team based approach, combining her perspective with that of M.D.s, D.O.s, and dieticians to provide a synergistic treatment plan that addresses the individual in a complete and holistic manner.
Dr. Burdette spearheaded one of the only accredited Naturopathic residencies that is run off-sight from a school. She is a contributing author to “Laboratory Methods In Molecular Medicine,” and is considered a expert in functional or nutritional testing. She is invited to speak at grand rounds at all Naturopathic medical schools in the US and Canada to share her expertise with graduating Naturopathic students.
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