Hormones control many bodily functions from everything from sleep regulation to metabolism. But what if you have an imbalance? Signs of hormonal imbalances include sudden weight gain, thinning hair, low energy, sex drive, and more. When imbalances occur, people may turn to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy for relief. In the past few years, traditional replacement therapy has been controversial, but now hormone replacement using bioidenticals is a widely accepted form of treatment for women’s health concerns like menopause.
This article will examine the benefits of bioidentical hormones, types, uses, and risks.
According to the Mayo Clinic, bioidentical hormones mimic the exact chemical structure and compound of the hormones in your body. Natural hormone therapy for estrogen and progesterone deficiency is the most common. Even though bioidentical hormones are made in a laboratory, your body cannot tell the difference between ones naturally produced or bioidentical ones. All the ingredients in bioidentical hormones come from plants and animals.
Research suggests that bioidentical hormones can help with a myriad of health concerns for women’s or men’s health.
Menopause typically affects women over the age of 55; although, early menopause isn’t wholly uncommon. The North American Menopause Society states the most common symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and weight gain. While living with menopause might seem like the safest option, for others controlling symptoms with bioidentical hormones helps them live a normal life.
Aging is a normal part of life and something no one can avoid. However, slowing down the aging process or relieving some age-related symptoms is possible with bioidentical hormones. The anti-aging benefits are improved memory, softer skin, weight loss, increased sex drive, and more.
Another age-related concern is Alzheimer's Disease. Some evidence suggests that bioidentical hormone therapy helps combat memory loss associated with this disease.
Most people at any age want improved sleep. Causes of disruptive sleep range from everything from lifestyle changes to low levels of hormones. Hormone optimization, such as the use of melatonin helps improve insomnia because your body isn’t having to counter-balance high or low estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone. It’s important to keep in mind that stress, diet, exercise, and other factors affect sleep as well.
Osteoporosis is a sign of aging, but even younger people can experience low bone density. Women, in particular, have this concern. Vitamin D supplementation for women is an integral part of a bone treatment that’s recommended by most doctors, but another possibility is bioidentical hormones. Increasing bone density and muscle mass is possible with supplementation.
Having a healthy relationship usually means a healthy sex life. When you don’t desire or want sex either from a lack of interest or from painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness or other health concerns, your relationship could be affected. But more than that, improved sexual health could make you feel more alive and younger, something good for everyone.
There’s nothing worse than experiencing lethargy daily. All tasks, whether mundane or adventurous, are hard to manage or enjoy when motivation is lacking. People combat low energy with higher consumption of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol when it might be a hormonal imbalance.
Since balanced hormones are critical for many essential bodily functions, there are many signs and symptoms to indicate a hormonal imbalance.
One of the common search word phrases for bioidenticals is “hormones help or hype.” People are naturally concerned about the benefits and risks of bioidentical hormone therapy. What makes matters worse is that different studies say different things. Regardless, with any kind of hormone therapy comes a chance of adverse effects.
Some of these risks may include high blood pressure, heart disease, blood clots, and cancers such as prostate and colorectal cancer. The landmark clinical trial by the Women’s Health Initiative showed various benefits and risks, still being debated in the healthcare community. Talking with your doctor about any concerns is essential.
While bioidenticals are an exact match for the hormones in your body, synthetic ones are not. Synthetic hormones don’t have the same molecular structure as your body’s natural hormones, and patients undergoing replacement therapy may experience stronger side effects. One example is estrogen replacement using the urine from horses. It binds to estrogen receptors and could cause an adverse reaction. Over time this may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Traditional synthetic hormone replacement uses a combination of bioidenticals and synthetic hormones for treatment and is FDA-approved. But the mixture will not match your body’s exact needs as bioidentical ones do.
Bioidentical hormones are produced in compounded pharmacies. Compounded bioidenticals are commonly referred to as custom hormone therapy. Some consider this approach as more natural and possibly safer for treating hormonal imbalances. Patients work with doctors and pharmacists to craft a custom mix of bioidentical hormones, instead of using a premix meant for the general population. Users rely on blood tests to monitor hormones.
As of yet, compounded bioidenticals are not an FDA-approved hormone treatment, but strong evidence suggests bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a better method for those with hormonal imbalances. Compounded bioidentical hormones are legal in all 50 states.
Most bioidentical hormones come in different applications and doses. You can purchase bioidentical hormones in tablets (pills), topical creams, vaginal depositories, and gels. Dosages and quality vary with brand and prescription. Depending on the application, the amount of time the hormones take to distribute in the body thoroughly differs as well. Pay close attention to packaging instructions.
Regardless of hormone application choice, bioidentical hormone therapy helps balance hormones for most people, especially for pre and postmenopausal women. When considering BHRT, weighing the risks and benefits will help you make an informed decision.
What are bioidentical hormones? (2006, August). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/what-are-bioidentical-hormones
What is custom-compounded therapy? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.menopause.org/publications/clinical-practice-materials/bioidentical-hormone-therapy/what-is-custom-compounded-therapy-
Files, J. A., Ko, M. G., & Pruthi, S. (2011, July). Bioidentical hormone therapy. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 86(7), 673–680. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3127562/