Note that this page is for women. Also, remember that I'm not a doctor - check out your needs and deeds with a good physician - one who understands about hormones. Also, remember that doctors don't all know the same things. Keep trying - he or she is out there, he's just hard to find. I looked up "endocrinologist" in my phone book, and found a great OB/GYN who was familiar with bio-identical hormones.
As a woman gets to mid-life - some time around age 35 to 40, she will gradually or suddenly stop ovulating. Menstrual periods will still come regularly, but there's something missing. In a young woman's menstrual cycle, with ovulation, the burst egg sac, called the Corpus Luteum, produces progesterone for about two weeks. Then, when it stops (if you're not pregnant) your body goes over to testosterone dominance, you shed the lining of the uterus as menstrual fluid, and start over. About the time menstruation ceases, your body begins producing lots of estrogen to build up the lining of your uterus again. Then at ovulation, a tiny spike of testosterone, then progesterone again from the burst egg sac. Although you produce all three hormones all of the time, one hormone dominates in each part of the cycle.
Estrogen is a fat-building hormone. Progesterone and testosterone encourage fat loss. Without ovulation, you're missing the progesterone which balances your estrogen, and you'll naturally gain weight. Some women, even young women, seldom or never ovulate. According to What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About(TM): Premenopause, treatment with bio-identical progesterone can often jump-start ovulation in these women.
Most women reading this web site will be producing more than enough estrogen, in a condition known as "estrogen dominance". Fat cells (in both men and women) produce estrogen, so it's seldom necessary to supplement it. But most of you will not be producing enough progesterone. This can easily and cheaply be remedied by rubbing bio-identical progesterone cream into your skin from about day 12 to day 26 of your cycle. Take a look at how long your cycles usually are, count back two weeks from the first day of menstruation, and start about there. I rub in creams both morning and night, to keep my levels even, but lots of women do it only once a day. If you're no longer menstruating, you still want your body to think you are. So continue the cycle as if you were.
Check your hormone levels
I say again, "Check your hormone levels". If you've been overweight for a while, it's almost certain that your hormones are out of whack. Fat cells in your body actually produce estrogen (both men and women) which tends to keep you overweight. Your doctor (or even you, without a doctor, though flying solo here is a bad idea) can order saliva tests (not blood tests - they aren't nearly as good) for estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA. Men don't need the progesterone test, but women of any age do. It costs about $170.00 and should be done about once a year to fine-tune your program. I get it done at ZRT Labs, and they report to my doctor.
The hormone tests will come with age-adjusted "normal ranges" for each hormone. What you really want are the normal ranges for young women, even if you're older. After all, most older women are not ovulating, and are too fat! Why would you want to be like that? I can't give you those ranges because they vary depending on the exact procedures your lab uses. Sorry.
Side effects of proper hormone balance
I got my waistline back. After I lost the 30+ pounds at age 41 and before I started bioidentical hormone supplementation, I was slim but had no waistline. A couple of years after I began progesterone supplementation at age 50, it gradually came back.
No more incontinence. Again, gradually the pertinent muscles became stronger and the problem went away.
PMS came back (lightly).
For more information on bio-identical hormone replacement, there are several very readable books which will make a believer of you.
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause (TM): The Breakthrough Book on Natural Hormone Balance
by John R. Lee, Virginia Hopkins
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About(TM): Premenopause: Balance Your Hormones and Your Life from Thirty to Fifty
by John R. Lee, Jesse Hanley, Virginia Hopkins
Textbook of Bio-Identical Hormones by Edward M. Lichten. This one also covers Vitamin D, Thyroid, and men's hormones.
There are also some recent books by Suzanne Sommers which are easy to read and well-researched.