Hormones are important for our body because they regulate our organs’ function. For example, the hormone gastrin tells the stomach to secret stomach acids and digest food. Sex hormones, estrogen, and testosterone regulate our libido and sexual function. Endorphine, thyroid hormones, and growth hormones take part in regulating the immune system.
Hormones are many, and our body needs enough of them to function well. That’s why when the level of hormones drops, we notice alarming symptoms such as increased fatigue, mood swings, and more. When the hormone imbalance happens, people take special therapies such as bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).
BHRT is considered a natural way to treat hormone imbalances. Moreover, the media and influencers popularize it. Let’s see what bioidentical hormones are and what are their advantages and disadvantages.
What are bioidentical hormones?
Bioidentical hormones are key components of BHRT. Earlier, physicians used traditional synthetic hormones to treat hormonal issues. In 2002 Women’s Health initiative raised concern about using traditional therapy as it increases the risks of breast cancer. Since the safety of traditional synthetic hormones has been compromised, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy began its impetuous development.
How are bioidentical hormones produced?
Bioidentical hormones are produced in a lab. They’re called bioidentical because their chemical structure is identical to hormones produced in the human body. Plants are the source of most bioidentical hormones. Scientists derive diosgenin and phytoestrogen from soybeans, wheat, yams, and other plants and chemically modify them to estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and DHEA. Unlike conventional synthetic hormones, bioidentical hormones are pure and don’t have any additives.
Pharmacies take bioidentical hormones from laboratories to produce medications based on these hormones. Some manufacturers produce FDA-approved medications that contain bioidentical hormones (Estrace, Vagifem, etc.). However, there are compounding pharmacies that create custom-compounded products that don’t usually fall under FDA regulation.
Custom-compounded mixtures provide a personalized approach to creating medications and may be convenient for people with allergies, but there’s no scientific evidence that compound bioidentical hormones are safer or/and more effective than FDA-approved medications.
Conventional vs bioidentical hormones
Traditional medicine uses synthetic hormones that are effective due to their overactive reaction. For example, Premarin consists of conjugated estrogens received from the urine of pregnant horses. It triggers estrogen receptors and increases their reaction. Continuous use of overactive hormones in replacement therapy increases the risk of cancer. Moreover, Premarin also contains additional sodium salts that cause several complications.
On the other hand, bioidentical hormones have the same chemical and molecule structure as hormones our body generates. When receiving bioidentical hormones, the body shouldn’t recognize the difference between bioidentical and body-produced hormones.
Bioidentical Hormone replacement therapy pros and cons
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy has the potential to effectively treat hormone drops developed because of aging and thyroid dysfunction. BHRT is widely used for reducing menopause symptoms as follows:
- night sweats and hot flashes,
- increased fatigue,
- psychological issues (depression, mood swings, anxiety, etc.),
- abdominal fat gain,
- sleep deprivation,
- vaginal dryness,
- dry skin,
- low libido.
BHRT is a good option for men who experience testosterone imbalance. Bioidentical testosterone helps to restore erectile function, increase energy and improve lean body mass.
BHRT can be used in preventive medicine to decrease the development of osteoporosis, heart disease, dementia, and diabetes. By restoring estrogen and testosterone levels, BHRT prevents bones from losing minerals and preserves their density. The other advantage of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is flexibility.
Based on your individual needs, professional therapists can provide you with personalized BHRT that takes into account your medical history and vitals. Besides reducing hormone deficiency symptoms, BHRT improves overall well-being. People who have tried bioidentical hormones reported increased motivation, energy, improved memory, and concentration during the day.
When choosing any treatment, it’s crucial to assess the risks that the medication can pose to your health and quality of life. Depending on the dosage and the type of hormones, BHRT has several side effects including:
- skin problems,
- breast tenderness and increased facial hair for women.
Most side effects are slight and appear due to inappropriate doses or as a reaction to the therapy at the beginning. It means that your practitioner can change the dosage at any stage of the treatment if needed.
The Food and Drug Administration approved several medications that include bioidentical estradiol. It means the medication had been tested and passed quality control. Although, manufacturers who have failed or avoided FDA approval still can market their products. The consequences of using unapproved medications are unpredictable because manufacturers can use additives and unwanted ingredients.
Nowadays, there’s a lack of long-term studies to confirm the safety and effectiveness of bioidentical hormones. Using BHRT for a long time may promote the following health problems:
- blood clots,
- breast cancer,
- cardiovascular disease.
How to use bioidentical hormones?
Bioidentical hormones are available in the form of pills, creams, gels, lotions, pellets, and injections. Taking BHRT without a prescription may cause unpleasant consequences. If you experience hormone imbalance symptoms, turn to a professional. Experienced practitioners will examine your medical history and take blood or saliva samples to check your hormone levels. Then you’ll receive a personalized treatment plan with instructions on how to take your bioidentical hormones.
Properly chosen bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can address health issues of aging and improve your quality of life. You can always ask any question about BHRT to our experts through a contact form and receive a comprehensive consultation.
Many therapists started to pay more attention to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy because conventional therapy has shown its inconsistency. Bioidentical hormones are similar to the body’s natural hormones and might be accepted better by our bodies. BHRT effectively relieves menopause and andropause symptoms and has moderate side effects. Although BHRT safety isn’t fully investigated, the medical community is highly interested in bioidentical hormones, and more research is in development.
Dr. Mill has over thirty years of experience working as a thyroid specialist and hormone expert in a US clinic. He is passionate about developing his knowledge and confirming his practice.