A bioidentical hormone is one that is biologically identical in chemical structure, shape and size to the human hormone. Small changes in chemical structure can confer huge physiologic differences. Because they mimic the hormones our bodies make, they are recognized by specific receptors, leading to precise utilization and predictable intracellular activity! This eliminates many of the unwanted and undesirable side effects of HRT and allows bioidenticals to work more effectively.
In the world of hormone therapy, ‘natural’ hormone replacement is often used interchangeably with bioidentical hormone therapy leading to a lot of confusion. “Natural” is an unregulated term that can be misleading. For example, the commonly used drug Premarin is made from pregnant horses’ urine and can therefore technically be described as natural, even though the hormones are not the same as those produced by the human body. This was the estrogen that used in Women’s health Initiative (WHI) trial which was halted early due to the increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease, strokes and clots. Over-the-counter yam-based progesterone creams and soy-based supplements are also “natural”, but are not well regulated and are often incorrectly dosed and poorly absorbed.
The women’s health Initiative (WHI), was the first to demonstrate a greater risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and strokes among women using Premarin (equine estrogens) plus Provera (a synthetic progestin). Another study done in the UK, called “The Million Women” study demonstrated an increased risk of death from breast cancer for HRT users compared with women who have never used HRT. The common denominator in both of these studies is the use of synthetic hormone, which does not resemble human hormone and therefore leads a a host of undesirable side effects.
In 2013, a prospective, cohort, closed-label study looked at women receiving compound bioidentical hormones creams. The study reported that ‘cardiovascular biomarkers, inflammatory factors, immune signaling factors and health outcomes were favorably impacted, despite very high life stress and home and work strain in study subjects’.
Another review of current medical literature on hormones concluded that bioidentical hormones are associated with lower risks of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease and are more efficacious than synthetic HRT. This and other research suggest that bioidenticals are superior to conventional hormones and are safe and effective when used appropriately.
There are many natural non-hormonal therapies available to you for treating symptoms associated with menopausal changes. If you choose to pursue these and they are effective in managing your symptoms, you will not need bioidentical hormones. However, if you are looking for hormone replacement and would prefer natural treatment or if your symptoms do not respond to other therapies, BHRT may be the right choice for you.
Hormone responses are as unique to each person as their own fingerprints. In general women experience menopausal symptoms anywhere from 35-55 and therefore spend up to one half of their lives without a menstrual cycle. However, menopause is not the only indication of BHRT, hormonal imbalances can occur at any age and optimization can greatly improve one’s quality of life. Below is a list of symptoms you may experience if your sex hormones are out of balance:
- Hot flashes/Night sweats
- Lack of sexual desire/libido
- Vaginal dryness/itching
- Increased urinary tract infections
- Urinary leakage
- Painful intercourse
- Insomnia/ sleep complaints
- Mood swings/Irritability
- Brain fog / Memory lapses
- Panic attacks
- Migraine headaches
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
Most experts recommend BHRT as the treatment of choice for trans women and men who want to take hormones. We offer masculinizing or feminizing therapy with bioidentical hormones at our office.
Many men, as they get older, can also experience changes such as altered body composition, mood disturbance, lowered sexual desire and erectile dysfunction due to decreasing hormone levels. This is sometimes called andropause. Bioidentical hormones can be very helpful. We test levels of hormones and prescribe bioidentical hormones for men, including testosterone and HCG.
At Paracelsus our doctors are trained to optimize bioidentical hormones and customize treatment programs to meet each patient’s unique needs. We offer lab testing and compounded/individualized prescriptions. Speak to your doctor today about which hormone and delivery system is best for you.
- Stephenson K, Neuenschwander PF, Kurdowska AK. The effects of compounded bioidentical transdermal hormone therapy on hemostatic, inflammatory, immune factors; cardiovascular biomarkers; quality-of-life measures; and health outcomes in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Int J Pharm Compd. 2013;17(1):74–85.
- Holtorf K. The bioidentical hormone debate: Are bioidentical hormones (estradiol, estriol, and progesterone) safer or more efficacious than commonly used synthetic versions in hormone replacement therapy? Postgrad Med. 2009;121(1):73–85. doi: 10.3810/pgm.2009.01.1949.
- Breast cancer and hormone-replacement therapy in the Million Women Study The Lancet , Volume 362 , Issue 9382 , 419 – 427
- Northrup, Christiane. ”Do you need Bioidentical Hormones? “ https://www.drnorthrup.com/bioidentical-hormones/
- “What are bioidentical hormones.” Harvard Women’s Heath Watch. August 2006. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/what-are-bioidentical-hormones
Naturopathic medicine allows people to maximize health, minimize reliance on prescription drugs, and take active steps toward longer, healthier lives.