Reclaiming Our Desire, Part III: The Hormone Dance

“New research suggests that, for more than half the population, sexual desire doesn’t just happen. Desire may not precede arousal. Most women have to be physically stimulated to feel desire. So women who think they need to be in the mood to have sex, might in fact need to have sex to be in the mood!” Diana Wiley, PhD, as quoted in “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex, ” by Joan Price.

As I mentioned in Part I, female sexual desire is a complex entity all its own, affected by many factors. To the consternation of pharmaceutical companies, female desire has even proven resistant to “treatment” through a female Viagra—it really is a lot more about what’s going on between our ears than between our legs. That said, I am a huge advocate of bioidentical hormone replacement as a means for women to stoke their libidos by using hormones that exactly match our body’s hormones.

About eight years ago, a very dear friend and I were chatting about our commitment to healthy living through exercise, eating right and taking certain supplements. I was pretty convinced that I knew everything I needed to know to prepare myself for a healthy mid-life and beyond. Then she brought up a subject that caught my attention: menopause. My friend suggested that at my age, then 45, I might want to begin reading about menopause so I could be better prepared to deal with the changes that accompany menopause. More importantly, she talked about something I had never heard of before: bioidentical hormones.

My friend explained that bioidentical hormones are hormones that are an exact chemical match to human hormones, meaning that they function in our bodies just like our hormones do. For women who are experiencing unpleasant symptoms in menopause, bioidentical hormones can, among other things:

·      Reduce hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and thinning

·      Enhance libido (desire/sex drive)

·      Improve mood, sleep, concentration and memory

·      Reduce the risk of depression

This all sounded great to me! My friend recommended two books to help me understand this arena: “Stay Young & Sexy with Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement: The Science Explained,” by Jonathan Wright, MD and Lane Lenard, PhD; and the less technical but highly accessible, “The Sexy Years,” by Suzanne Sommers. Two years later, I decided it was time to get educated and I immersed myself in learning about bioidentical hormones.

My main motivation at the time was simple: I was just getting to a place where—for the first time in my life—I could enjoy sex with my husband Ed with guilt-free abandon. I was not about to yield my libido easily to hormone decline, damn it! And I’m still not. With a fierce determination, I began to learn about bioidentical hormones and how these could keep my libido alive, my sexual functioning healthy and improve other health indicators. I am so grateful for this knowledge and hope you benefit from it as well!

Before I continue, I want to be sure you understand something. Bioidentical hormones are natural, unadulterated and are not made by pharmaceutical companies; because these compounds exist in nature, pharmaceutical companies cannot patent them, and thus, cannot profit from them. Most of the time, your allopathic physician will not prescribe them: you will get bioidentical hormones made for you at a compounding pharmacy, usually prescribed by a naturopathic physician or specialized nurse practitioner. Your naturopath will prescribe the type and dosing of bioidentical hormones based on your individual needs as determined by blood, saliva and urine tests—your bioidentical hormones will be different from every other person’s!

This area is ripe for confusion, so please read on: the kind of “hormone” replacement therapy that studies revealed to be so harmful to women—the kind that allopathic physicians will still prescribe despite all the known health risks—involves patented chemicals manufactured by large pharmaceutical companies that do not match our bodies hormones at all! Specifically, the “estrogen replacement” Premarin, is synthesized from the urine of pregnant mares! Last time I checked, I’m not a horse, and neither are you—and horse estrogen does not chemically match human estrogen—but it does wreck havoc on the human female taking Premarin. Similarly, the “progesterone replacement” Provera, does not match human progesterone and does not do what progesterone does. The side effects from these pseudo “Franken-hormones” are frightening, yet this is how allopathic medicine treats menopause.For me, the answer is clear: when the time comes, I will work with my naturopath to use bioidentical hormones to achieve optimal health, sexual functioning and retain a healthy libido. If you are someone who is pre or peri-menopausal, I recommend you read about bioidentical hormones so you are fully knowledgeable and able to make informed decisions for yourself; few allopathic physicians will be helpful or encouraging in this area so be ready for push-back if you speak to your gynecologist about bioidentical hormones. If you are post-menopausal and bewildered by the decline of your previously healthy libido, do your research, then find a naturopath in your area who can help you get started on bioidentical hormones.

Like several of my friends who are in their 60’s and 70’s, I suspect you’ll be reaping the benefits within weeks of starting on bioidentical hormones, including a healthy rebound to your sexual desire!