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A custom approach: Hormone replacement can include bioidenticals

She entered her late 50s, and suddenly Roxanne Eyler‘s cholesterol and triglyceride levels started to creep up. A trainer at Ultimate Goal in Marcellus, she ate well and was physically fit but found she was gaining weight and awakening in the middle of the night.

Eyler‘s doctor wanted to prescribe a pill to lower her cholesterol. She wanted to understand why it was rising and what else was going on.

Roxanne Eyler trains at Ultimate Goal in Marcellus. PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN

Roxanne Eyler trains at Ultimate Goal in Marcellus. PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN

She attended a lecture on hormone replacement therapy at the Marcellus Free Library. At the end, she decided to make an appointment with the speaker, certified nurse midwife Heather Shannon, who has an office at Upstate's Community campus.

“She doesn‘t rush me out of her office. She takes her time,” Eyler said of Shannon.

Shannon talked to Eyler about her lifestyle, nutrition, her energy level, mood, sleep habits and the symptoms she was having. Then she had saliva and blood samples analyzed.

Based on the results, she told Eyler to take a series of B vitamins, one pill at each meal.

“Within a week, I could not believe the difference that I saw,” Eyler said. The vitamins helped her gastrointestinal tract better absorb the nutrients from her food.

In addition, Shannon designed a bioidentical hormone preparation that Eyler would apply to her skin in the morning and evening. Such preparations are a combination of the estrogens, estriol and estradiol. The exact dose of each is customized to the patient.

“It‘s a wonderful option, as long as you are a candidate,” Shannon said of the customized plant-based preparation that is available at pharmacies that compound medications. “If you are estrogen-dominant, we‘re not going to give you extra estrogen. We‘re going to give you a little more progesterone, and possibly some testosterone to help balance your hormones.”

Shannon said women taking bioidentical hormones have to be as concerned about the risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease as women taking traditional hormone replacement. Also, patients are followed closely so that adjustments to the preparations can be made if necessary.

In Eyler‘s case, she has been taking the vitamins and bioidenticals for a couple of years. Her cholesterol and triglyceride levels are in check, and she believes she is in better shape now than she was in her 30s and 40s.

Women make three principal types of estrogen:

Estrone is the strongest of the estrogens and is linked to breast and uterine cancer if levels are too high.

Estradiol, the second-strongest estrogen, is produced by the ovaries and requires certain nutrients at specific levels to be metabolized properly.

Estriol levels increase with pregnancy and create few side effects.

Hear an interview with Shannon about hormone replacement therapy.

Reach Heather Shannon at her office on Upstate's Community campus or by calling 315-464-8668 or 492-5875.

This article appears in the spring 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.