Hormones play a crucial role in our overall health and well-being, from regulating our metabolism to stabilizing our moods. When hormones become imbalanced, it can lead to a range of health issues that can negatively impact your quality of life. Bio-identical hormones have gained popularity as a more natural and potentially safer option for hormone replacement therapy. But what are bioidentical hormones? Are they truly a better option? Let’s take a closer look at where these hormones come from, how they work, and what symptoms they can alleviate.
Bioidentical hormones are compounds that have the very same molecular structure as the hormones naturally produced by the human body (e.g. progesterone, estrogen, and estradiol). They are derived from plant sources, such as yams and soy. Because they are plant based and molecularly identical, bioidentical hormone therapy is often called “natural hormone” therapy.
Synthetic hormones, on the other hand, have a different molecular structure and are synthesized from man-made compounds. The body converts these synthetic hormones to a usable form upon ingestion or absorption.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) has gained a certain notoriety in the last several years. A quick Google search will tell you that claims regarding efficacy and reduced side effects are “unproven” and a “marketing ploy.”
What is true is that studies concerning women’s health in general are egregiously lacking. Nevertheless, there are plenty of compelling studies that have confirmed the benefits of utilizing bioidentical hormones in place or synthetic ones. A 2015 study found that patients were more satisfied with the use of bioidentical hormones; what’s more, these naturally derived hormones were associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer compared to synthetic hormone therapy.
Additional research also suggests that bioidentical hormones carry less risk of blot clots than synthetic counterparts.
Much of the controversy surrounding BHRT has to do with compounding. Compounding is a legitimate pharmaceutical practice whereby medicine is custom-made. Active ingredients are added in amounts deemed appropriate for a specific patient.
The issue is that compounding is not regulated by the FDA. People may question the quality or consistency of a drug that is not subject to government scrutiny. However, the FDA also does not regulate medical services in general. Your doctor is presumably qualified to prescribe a medication, just as a compounding pharmacist is qualified to prepare it.
From our perspective, compounding can be highly beneficial. For starters, the laundry list of side effects of mass-produced drugs can be mitigated by adjusting the drug for different sensitivities. Hormones are notoriously fickle, and working with each patient to find the proper balance can only have better outcomes.
Due to the fact that they share our natural hormones’ molecular structure, it makes sense that bioidentical hormones would be better tolerated than synthetic ones. And in fact, studies support this claim, too.
Common side effects reported in one study by women taking bioidentical hormones were breast tenderness, weight gain, and bloating. These same side effects were also reported with synthetic hormones, but at a significantly higher rate. For example, 37.2% of women surveyed reported weight gain with BHRT, compared to 56.2% in those using commercial products. Furthermore, the women using synthetic hormones had a high incidence of mood swings. This was not the case with patients taking bioidentical hormones.
Hormone imbalances can affect both men and women at different stages of life. The symptoms can vary depending on which hormones are affected and whether there is an excess or deficiency of these hormones. Some common symptoms of hormone imbalance include:
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Your healthcare provider will review any symptoms you may be experiencing and help you determine if they may be due to a hormonal imbalance.
Bioidentical hormones are a fantastic option for individuals seeking hormone replacement therapy with potentially fewer side effects and health risks than synthetic options. However, it is essential to work closely with a qualified healthcare provider who specializes in hormone therapy to determine the most appropriate treatment plan. Addressing hormone imbalances can significantly improve the quality of life for those experiencing the disruptive symptoms associated with hormonal changes.
At Balanced Body Health & Wellness, we are passionate about our holistic approach when it comes to your care. You are unique, and your treatment plan should be, too. We utilize a combined strategy of prevention, lifestyle changes, hormone therapy, and more to help restore your body’s natural balance. Call our office or go online today to schedule your consultation and start feeling better.