Hormones are the messaging backbone of a human’s body system. They are responsible for many functions like monitoring metabolism, growth, the sleep and wake cycle, and blood sugar levels. Therefore, a slight hormonal imbalance could be catastrophic and, in some cases, leads to lifelong diseases like diabetes. The term bioidentical illustrates that two chemical compounds elicit the same biological effect when administered in a living system at the exact dosage. Hormone replacement therapy is being embraced in current medicine to help patients who suffer from inadequate production of one or more hormones. An example of hormone replacement therapy is the use of estrogen in menopausal women to minimize or alleviate menopausal symptoms. Additionally, hormone replacement therapy is used in gender-affirming treatment.
Defining Bioidentical Hormones
Bioidentical hormones are chemically synthesized hormones made in the lab from plants. They are made to mimic endogenous body hormones and are used in therapy for patients with low hormone levels or those diagnosed with hormonal imbalances. The FDA-approved bioidentical hormones are progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone synthetics. It is essential to note that although bioidentical hormones are made from plants and others from animals, they are not ‘natural’ as often advertised. This is because the plant or animal extract has to be commercially modified in a laboratory to ensure that it is safe, efficacious, and of excellent quality.
Since bioidentical hormones are new in the market, only some products exist. They are available as pills, patches, injections, creams, or gels. Some bioidentical hormones are made at a compounding pharmacy based on the doctor’s instructions. Thus, a pharmacist must compound the bioidentical hormone for most formulations to suit your needs.
The advantage of using bioidentical hormone
Compounded bioidentical hormones are tailored to suit a patient’s needs in terms of the dose and frequency of use. A combination of St John’s wart, black cohosh, and ginseng has been shown to relieve hot flushes associated with menopause.
Traditional HRT Vs. Bioidentical HRT
The difference between traditional and bioidentical HRT is that bioidentical HRT is manufactured to be chemically identical to endogenous hormones. Additionally, bioidentical HRT is made from plants with a bit of modification, and traditional HRT is chemically synthesized from scratch or modified from the urine of pregnant horses.
Claims have been made that bioidentical hormones are safer and more effective than traditional hormones. Supporters claim that since bioidentical hormones are made from plants, they are more ‘natural.’ However, there are insufficient scientific studies and evidence to support this statement. Health practitioners do not recommend the use of bioidentical hormones because:
- The practice is not regulated
- Dosages are not standardized. There are no set limits on the maximum tolerable dose and the minimum dose that is effective
- There is no data on the efficacy of bioidentical hormones in the management of menopausal symptoms
- There is an increased risk of fatal drug-to-drug interactions, especially if the patient is taking other medications
As a result, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine advise that bioidentical hormones should only be used in cases where the patient is allergic to traditional hormonal replacement therapy.
Indications of Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is recommended for women in their perimenopausal and menopausal periods. It helps relieve symptoms associated with menopause, such as:
- Hot flushes
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Weight gain
- Painful sex due to vaginal dryness
- Skin dryness and loss of skin elsasticity
However, some common side effects are associated with hormone replacement therapy. These include:
- Formation of blood clots
- Acne and increased facial hair
- Increases the risk of gall bladder disease and stroke
- Blurred eyesight
- An itch on the area of topical application
- Bioidentical hormones may cause proliferation of the breast tissue and thus may predispose the patient to breast cancer
Does Bioidentical Hormones Work?
Yes, there have been reported cases where bioidentical hormones completely alleviated menopausal symptoms. However, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy’s success depends on the patient’s history and the severity of the symptoms. Therefore, it is crucial to visit a physician before taking bioidentical hormones. The physician will assess if bioidentical hormone therapy is ideal for you. They will also identify which hormone will best suit your medical needs. For more information on bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, contact us at 205-352-9141.