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Welcome to the first of many columns about hormones and sexual health. This biweekly column will cover topics of interest to both men and women. These topics will include menopause, perimenopause, andropause, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and other topics that people lack information about in terms of physical aging. Hormones are necessary for healthy function, when we don’t have enough of them, we feel sick and tired.

Let’s start with the basics, HORMONES. Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through the bloodstream to your cells. Hormones attach to cells and provide messages to the cells about how to act. For example, estrogen in women sends messages to cells about fertility, menstruation, bone building, breast development, and brain development to name a few. Our cells depend on these messages to direct their actions. There are over 200 hormones or hormone-like substances in the human body. Testosterone, progesterone, cortisol, and thyroid are other examples of hormones.

If hormone levels are too low or absent, we experience negative effects. For women during menopause, these effects can include mood changes; hot flashes; brain fog; insomnia; and bone loss to name a few. For men during andropause, these effects can include low sex drive; lack of erection; tiredness; and lack of motivation. When we replace these hormones, most people feel better.

For the first 20 years of my practice, I prescribed anti-depressants; anti-anxiety; and sleeping pills when people came to me for complaints of feeling tired; depressed; anxious; and unable to sleep. I have since learned that hormones are often the reason and prescribing them provides a more natural solution to these problems for both women and men as they age.

Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) involves prescribing hormones that are like the ones we have in our bodies. Our bodies recognize these hormones as our own and use them appropriately to make us feel better. BHRT has become common place in many countries, including the United States; United Kingdom; and more recently it is becoming popular in Canada. BHRT can be prescribed as pills, creams, and/or injections.

Hormone levels are easy to check; they are measured through a simple blood test. In the early days of hormone replacement therapy, there was some question as to whether hormones caused cancer. These questions have since been better answered, and we have found that some hormones provide more benefit than negative effects.

If you are feeling unwell but have been told by your doctor that your blood work is “normal”, it might be your hormones. Doctors typically don’t measure hormone levels and when they do, they often don’t understand how to explain or respond to changes in these levels. Prescribing hormones is a specialty practice!

Stay tuned for the next column: Menopause Matters!

Tammy O’Rourke is a Nurse Practitioner with a Ph.D. in Nursing. She spent the first 20 years of her career in primary care. About seven years ago she started having symptoms of several hormonal imbalances, for which her doctor prescribed medications to address anxiety, depression, and sleep issues. These medications left her feeling numb, more tired, and angry at a system that wasn’t addressing the root cause. Tammy was in perimenopause, that 8–10-year period before menopause that leaves women feeling tired, out of control, moody, lacking in self-confidence, and unwell.

She made the move to invest in her health and discovered bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, which helped significantly with her symptoms. So much so that she decided to learn more about hormones. She became certified in the United States through World Link Medical and she has been helping men and women with their hormone problems for more than four years. Tammy is passionate about her hormone practice and continues to help women and men across the country.

She recently relocated to Cape Breton Island with her husband, who grew up in The Pier.

Representational Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

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