Originally posted on https://www.fhmedcenter.com/hormone-therapy/the-pros-and-cons-of-bioidentical-hormone-replacement-therapy/

 

Hormones control many of the basic functions of our bodies. They are an internal communication network between the body’s cells. Some of the roles that hormones coordinate include digestion, mood, appetite, immune function, and libido.

Thus, when there is an imbalance in your hormones, it can affect health and entire well-being. When people experience a hormone drop or imbalance, they use hormone replacement therapies. Examples of the therapies are bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).

The popularity of BHRT has gone up in recent years, as it promises a natural remedy to hormonal issues. But what is BHRT, and what makes it different from other therapies for hormone replacement?

What is Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?

The therapy helps to treat people whose hormone levels decline or become unbalanced. Its main purpose is to ease menopause and perimenopause symptoms. It can also help to improve cancer treatment symptoms or treat various conditions, including:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Osteoporosis
  • Adrenal and thyroid disorders
  • Fibromyalgia

Bioidentical hormones are usually manmade. They come from plant estrogens which have a chemical identity similar to those found in the human body. Estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone are some of the hormones that undergo replication to help in treatment.

Bioidentical hormones are available in the following forms:

  • Patches
  • Pills
  • Gels
  • Creams
  • Injections

Discuss with the doctor on what form can suit you and your lifestyle. Once you start bioidentical hormone replacement, the doctor may need to track you often to see how your body responds.

But the FDA cautions against using blood and saliva tests to track hormone levels. Such tests only state the levels of hormones at a specific time and may vary during the rest of the day.

Why People Use Bioidentical Hormones

As people age, their bodies experience a decline in the levels of various hormones. These hormones are estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. The drop in the level of these hormones can cause certain symptoms.

Some are common among women who are in their post-menopause phase. Common effects of reduced hormones are:

  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Hot flashes
  • Pain during sex
  • Fatigue
  • Low sex drive
  • Weight gain
  • Problems sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Memory loss
  • Floggy thinking
  • Loss of muscle mass

Hormone therapy is the treatment for these conditions as it replaces the hormones. After using hormone therapy, hormone levels rise, and symptoms improve as well.

Recommendations from national societies and medical experts state that people should consider the benefits and risks of both bioidentical and conventional hormones. Your physician can share with you the available options and guide you on what to use depending on what you prefer.

BHRT’s Components

Drug companies make some of the bioidentical hormones. But, pharmacies under the physician’s orders, can make compounded bioidentical hormones. Compounding is the name of this process, and it involves combining ingredients to meet an individual’s needs.

The United States Foods and Drug Administration (FDA) has endorsed some bioidentical hormones such as progesterone and bioidentical estriol. But, the FDA is yet to approve compounded bioidentical hormones.

Companies manufacture and sell most bioidentical hormones without any controls for quality, safety, and purity. Most medical organizations don’t support the marketing and use of unauthorized bioidentical hormones.

Those marketing compounded bioidentical hormones usually claim that they are more effective and safer compared to synthetic hormones. But most doctors, along with the FDA, caution that these claims don’t have a strong research backup. They also caution on the possible danger of these hormones in certain cases.

Conventional vs. Bioidentical Hormones

There is a difference between bioidentical hormones and those used in conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Bioidentical hormones are chemically identical to those our bodies secrete naturally. They come from plant estrogens.

But, the hormones for traditional HRT come from pregnant horses’ urine and other synthetic hormones. Those who support bioidentical hormones claim that the products are safe. This is because the composition of these hormones is identical to the natural hormones that the body produces.

But most experts believe that HRT and BHRT have similar risks. The risk may even be higher in compounded bioidentical hormones. There is still no proper evidence to prove that BHRT has more efficacy than HRT.

BHRT Pros

BHRT is useful among women who age and experience a drop in hormone levels. It helps to increase the lower levels of hormones. Bioidentical hormone replacement improves both severe and moderate menopause symptoms such as:

  • Night sweats
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain
  • Hot flashes
  • Sleep problems
  • Pain during sex
  • Loss of interest in sex

Besides, hormone replacement can reduce the risk of tooth loss, diabetes, and cataracts. Studies also show that it can improve the skin’s hydration, thickness, and elasticity. It can reduce wrinkles, as well.

For cancer patients who have undergone treatment that impacts the level of estrogen, BHRT can improve their quality of life and general well-being. One study showed that BHRT provided relief to people with cancer treatment symptoms like low libido, migraines, insomnia, and incontinence. Furthermore, the study established that the breast cancer recurrence rate was not higher than average.

BHRT Cons

The FDA approved the preparations of progesterone and bioidentical estradiol. But, it’s yet to approve compounded bioidentical hormones. Research shows that hormone replacement therapy increases the risk for the following conditions:

  • Stroke
  • Blood clots
  • Heart disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Breast cancer

Besides, BHRT may have certain side effects, especially in the beginning, as the body adjusts to the new hormones. BHRT’s common side effects are:

    • Bloating
    • Fatigue
    • Mood changes
    • Acne
    • Weight gain
  • Increased facial hair among women

Most people can’t go for BHRT or other forms of hormone replacement. The hormones’ risks and possible side effects may vary in women based on their health history. Thus be sure to discuss the benefits and downsides with the doctor before opting for any hormone replacement therapy.

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy may help people with unbalanced or low hormone levels. But, the therapy has some risks and side effects that you should talk through with the doctor. If you opt for BHRT, use the lowest amount that can prove effective within the shortest time.

Contact us for more information.