Bioidentical Hormone Mega-dosing Causes Harm

Dear Reader,

I'm sharing this letter (below) with you in order to once again emphasize that while natural or bioidentical hormones can literally be lifesavers for many women, when properly and prudently prescribed, there are approaches to hormone replacement that, bioidentical or not, can have devastating effects on a woman's health. Bottom line, mega-dosing of hormones does not work and often causes harm. While I'm sure that most of the doctors who prescribe hormones in this fashion have good intentions, they are nevertheless misguided and ill-informed. The details of why mega-doses of hormones can be so harmful are detailed in the Open Letter to Oprah referenced below.

Every week I receive letters from women who are suffering the effects of excessively high doses of bioidentical hormones. In true American medical fashion, the typical response to a woman reporting side effects from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is to raise the dose. Usually this is the exact opposite of what is needed.

Often, women have side effects from bioidentical hormone therapy because they (and their doctors) haven't addressed the underlying conditions that caused the hormone imbalance in the first place, such as an unhealthy lifestyle, or adrenal fatigue.

You can learn more about the underlying causes of hormone imbalance, and safe doses of hormones, in all of the books that I co-authored with John R. Lee, M.D.

megadosehormones.jpgDear Virginia,

While searching online for information about bioidentical hormones I came across your Open letter to Oprah about Bioidentical Hormones. It was thorough and informative and for me, like finding water in the desert. I watched the Oprah Show you refer to in your letter and when it was over I picked up the phone and called Dr. Prudence Hall to set up an appointment. Because she was featured so prominently and endorsed by Robin McGraw and it seemed Dr. Oz and Oprah, I was foolishly seduced into believing that she was the doctor for me.

The Nightmare Begins

Well, unfortunately that was not the case. My experience was an absolute nightmare. I had just started to experience hot flashes when I decided to make that fateful call. I was simply trying to be pro-active with my health. Other than hot flashes, however, I had no other problems. I am a runner (about 25-30 miles per week), very thin (114-pounds), very active, married to a wonderful man and have a great sex life.

Bad Reaction

During my appointment with Dr. Hall, I noticed that she told me exactly what she had told the women on Oprah's show, that my hormones were almost non-existent, that she was surprised that I wasn't overweight. She prescribed the high doses of BHRT [bioidentical hormone therapy] and back to Chicago I flew. I began her protocol once home and after three days had a terrible allergic reaction. I felt all along that her dosing was too high, especially for someone like myself who is a runner. Many thin female runners have low circulating estrogen levels, so it would have made more sense to me had she started me on a very low dose. But she told me I would not get any of the necessary health benefits using low dosing.

Bad Advice

Following the allergic reaction which she said was extremely rare, she told me to cut the dose in half and slowly increase it. I very reluctantly followed her protocol and in one month I lost half of my beautiful, long, thick hair and now have a noticeable bald spot on the back of my head. I gained 8 pounds, even though my diet and exercise remained the same (healthy diet and running). I was told that my hair loss and weight gain were probably the result of not getting enough estradiol and that I needed to up my dose.

Needless to say, I regret my decision to ever try BHRT. As a journalist myself, I knew better. It has always been my job to get the facts. This time round I failed and in the process did myself a tremendous disservice. I'm hoping that sharing my story with other women serves as a cautionary tale about prescribing mega-doses of BHRT.

Thank you again for your enlightening letter.