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December 27, 2010 @ 7:23 am

What exactly are bio-identical hormones?


Natural Health Practitioner specializing in natural anti-aging and sexual issues James Occhiogrosso joins the show. He discusses bio-identical hormones, progesterone as being protective against cancer and strokes...

Note: Refer to audio player below to listen to this episode.


James Occhiogrosso is a Natural Health Practitioner specializing in natural anti-aging and other male and female health issues and author of the book "Your Prostate, Your Libido, Your Life." He maintains an active practice helping both men and women overcome hormonal and sexual issues associated with aging, including erectile dysfunction, lack of libido, PMS and menopausal problems, and often acts as an advisor for men with prostate cancer whose doctors recommend a "watchful waiting" or “active surveillance” approach. Salivary home hormone test kits as well as bio-identical hormone creams are available at his website, via phone at 239-498-1547, or via email to You can also sign up for his free “Health Naturally” newsletter on his website.


Transcript of Interview with Dr. Jim Occhiogrosso

Eric Michaels: In the recent past, appearances by Suzanne Somers and other celebrities have sparked a lot of interest in bio-identical hormone replacement for anti-aging, but conventional medical practitioners dispute its safety. What exactly are bio-identical hormones? And, are they safe?

Dr. Occhiogrosso: The term “bio-identical” refers to substances that are identical to those produced by the human body.  Prescription hormone replacement therapy is produced either synthetically or from animals and is not bio-identical.  The human body has difficulty recognizing non bio-identical substances hence they create problems.  This is one of the reasons pharmaceutical drugs have more side effects than natural substances.  For example: red yeast rice can lower cholesterol levels nearly as effectively as prescription cholesterol lowering drugs.  But, red yeast rice has mild side effects when compared to the prescription drugs.

Prescription hormone replacement therapy (HRT) consists of synthetic estrogens and synthetic progesterone, otherwise known as progestin.  These artificial estrogens have been implicated in the development of breast and other cancers, and synthetic progestin has been linked to an increased risk of a  stroke.  The Women’s Health Initiative study—which was supposed to prove the benefits of prescription hormone replacement therapy for women—was terminated early due to the increased risk of breast cancer and stroke in the study participants.

Bio-identical hormones, on the other hand, have not been linked to any of these problems. In fact, according to Dr. John R. Lee, M.D., bio-identical progesterone is somewhat protective against both stroke and cancer.

Eric Michaels: You mentioned progesterone as being protective against cancer and stroke, what about estrogen?

Dr. Occhiogrosso: When we talk about estrogen, you must realize that there are several different types of estrogenic hormones.  The three most prominent are Estradiol, Estrone, and Estriol.  Estradiol is the strongest and most active and the one that is most likely to cause problems, and estriol is the weakest and least likely to cause problems.  Estradiol is the most prominent estrogen in prescription HRT and appears to be the most dangerous.

When women are experiencing symptoms of menopause like hot flashes, night sweats, and/or PMS, it is usually not needed to replace estrogen.  The exceptions are women who have had their ovaries removed and menopausal women experiencing severe vaginal dryness.  Most other symptoms can be relieved with a little bio-identical progesterone cream applied daily.

When bio-identical progesterone does not do the job, a small amount of estriol cream, which is very safe, is quite effective.  Generally, most women (and men) have too much estrogen in their body because of poor diets and synthetic estrogens that find their way into our bodies through the environment.  Men, particularly older men, usually have estrogen levels that are too high, so they should not use estrogen in any form.

Eric Michaels: Can men use bio-identical hormone replacement too?

Dr. Occhiogrosso: Certainly!  Normal aging in both men and women causes certain hormone levels to drop, particularly testosterone in men and estrogen in women.  Also, aging causes both sexes to have lower levels of progesterone and DHEA.  These reduced levels cause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats and low libido in both men and women, and are associated with sexual dysfunction in both sexes.  Restoring more youthful hormone levels can often eliminate these problems.  In addition, both progesterone and testosterone can help offset the negative effects of estrogen.

Eric Michaels: Men always worry about testosterone, but I have heard that raising testosterone levels can cause men to develop prostate cancer or women to develop muscles or grow facial hair.  Is this really true?

Dr. Occhiogrosso: According to the latest research, a healthy man that is free of prostate cancer does not increase his risk of developing it by enhancing his testosterone level—as long as he keeps it within the normal biological range. When testosterone levels drop due to aging, a man can experience depression, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, and in extreme cases, osteoporosis or muscle wasting.  Restoring a man’s testosterone level to its biological norm can have a major impact on his quality of life.  As far as women, they also need correct testosterone levels to feel well and maintain good health.  As long as a women keeps her testosterone level within normal limits, there is little risk of any side effects — except, of course — increased libido.

Eric Michaels: So how does one know which hormones to take, and how much of them to use?

Dr. Occhiogrosso: Well, the best way is to use a simple home saliva test (like the ones on my website) prior to starting any hormone replacement therapy to measure your levels.  Then, based on a professional evaluation of the results, you can balance your levels as needed.  After about two to three months or so, you can re-measure to insure that you are on the right path.  The important thing with hormones for both men and women is to achieve normal balance — more is not better!  In fact, using more than is needed can be detrimental.

Many bio-identical hormones like DHEA, estriol and progesterone are available over-the-counter without a prescription, but bio-identical testosterone can only be obtained by prescription from a compounding pharmacy.  This is because testosterone has a history of abuse by the “muscle building” crowd.  And overusing testosterone can cause serious health problems.  However, herbal testosterone creams designed specifically for men and women provide the raw ingredients to help your body produce more testosterone.   I use several of them in my practice.  They are very safe and I have found them to be very effective.  Both men and women with low libido — and men with erectile dysfunction can use them to improve their sexual functioning.

Conclusion Tip: The first is to get your hormones tested and evaluated by a professional before starting any therapy. This is imperative!  Without testing, you won’t know which hormones or how much of them to use and a professional can help evaluate your results.  Second, don’t try to raise your hormone levels beyond the biological normal values.  This can be very counterproductive!

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