BIOIDENTICAL HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
General functions of the body are controlled and regulated by two major systems – the nervous system and the hormonal system. The nervous system regulates the body’s functions through nervous signals while the hormonals system works with hormones. The hormones facilitate communication between cells in the body. They regulate most body functions including growth, immune function, libido, appetite, and even digestion. Hence, if the hormones are not balanced, then it may impact negatively on your health and general well-being.
In many cases, when the hormones become unbalanced, people resort to hormone replacement therapies – the aim being to ease the symptoms. An example of such therapy that has garnered attention recently is the bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). The goal of this therapy is to solve hormonal issues naturally. But actually, what does bioidentical hormone therapy entail? What is it all about? Read on to find out.
Photo Credit: The Menopause Center
What is bioidentical hormone replacement therapy?
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy as the name implies is a form of therapy administered for the purpose of maintaining optimal hormone levels.
The level of hormone in our bodies decline as we get older. Because of this, some drastic changes occur in the body including weight gain, fatigue and low energy levels, insomnia and other sleeping disorders, and low sex drive. These symptoms are alleviated by BHRT resulting in a reduced risk of diseases associated with old age.
What’s more? Hormone replacement therapy helps in reducing chronic ailments such as osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, cancer and senility. Of course these diseases are usually associated with old age.
Also worthy of mention is the fact that bioidentical hormones are synthesized from plant estrogen. This compound has a similar chemical composition to that produced by the human body. Testosterone, estrogen and progesterone are among the hormones that are usually synthesized and used in the therapy. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can be done via the following forms:
What are the components of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy?
Production of most bioidentical hormones are done by pharmaceutical firms. Also, compounded bioidentical hormones are made on demand according to the physician’s orders. The process by which the compound is made is referred to as compounding. Ingredients used in compounding are usually altered or combined to suit an individual’s needs.
Certain bioidentical hormones have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Among these are progesterone and estriol. Estriol is a less potent form of estrogen. That said, no custom-made bioidentical hormone has been approved by the FDA.
Some unethical pharmaceutical firms have made it a practice to produce bioidentical hormones without taking some important factors such as purity, quality or safety controls into consideration. This is why some medical organizations are against the marketing and use of bioidentical hormones not approved by regulatory agencies.
Custom-made bioidentical hormones are said to be safe and more effective than the synthesized ones. However, the FDA and some physicians are totally against this, claiming that these have not been verified by scientific studies, and could prove dangerous to the user.
Comparing traditional and bioidentical hormones
Bioidentical hormones are not the same as those used in traditional hormone replacement therapy. The reason for this is that they have a similar chemical structure to the hormones produced naturally by the body. They are also produced from plant estrogens. Conversely, traditional hormones are produced from synthetic hormones and urine of pregnant horses.
Proponents of bioidentical hormones believe in the safety and efficacy of their products because, according to them, they are natural and have a close identity to the naturally-produced hormones. Experts are of the opinion that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and HRT share similar risks. The risks posed by compounded bioidentical hormones may be greater. However, there’s not much research to show that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy has a greater efficacy than HRT.
What do users stand to benefit from bioidentical hormone replacement therapy?
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is mostly used in people who are aged or have a low hormone level. Women approaching menopause or who are already in menopause benefit greatly from this. It boost the levels of hormone that is below normal. It also improves moderate or severe symptoms of menopause including:
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Loss of memory
- Sleep disorders
- Low sex drive or pain during sexual intercourse.
Alongside alleviating the symptoms, hormone replacement therapy also minimizes the risk of cataracts, tooth loss and diabetes. Studies have shown that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy may assist with and help improve elasticity, hydration, thickness, and wrinkles.
For people whose estrogen level has been affected by cancer treatments, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy helps to improve their quality of life and general well-being. A study has shown that cancer patients who had a bioidentical hormone replacement therapy experienced a relief from symptoms such as incontinence, insomnia, low sex drive and migraines. These symptoms were related to cancer treatment. It was also discovered that the rate of breast cancer recurrence was below average.
Is it associated with any risks or side effects?
The FDA has approved a few bioidentical preparations of progesterone and estradiol. However, no compounded bioidentical hormone has been approved. It is said that bioidentical hormones have a higher safety level and effectiveness than the conventional HRT because their chemical structure is identical to that produced in the body. However, this has not been verified by reputable clinical studies. Hence, caution should be the watchword while using these products.
Studies have shown that the risks of some ailments may be increased by hormone replacement therapy. These ailments include:
- Blood clots
- Breast cancer
- Heart disease and
- Gallbladder disease
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy may also have certain side effects especially at the initial stage of usage. These include:
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Facial hair in ladies
Some people are allergic to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy or hormonal replacement of any form. Risks and side effects vary depending on the medical history of the individual involved. Individuals who intend to use this must consult their physician. He or she will then outline the pros and cons of usage before you adopt any form of it.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy treatment plan
- The first step taken is to visit the healthcare professional. There, the patient discusses his or her medical history with the physician. The benefits of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy will be evaluated.
- The next step will be testing of hormone levels in the serum
- Thereafter, a follow-up consultation is done to discuss the test results and of course draw a plan of treatment.
- The doctor then writes the hormone prescriptions while emphasizing on the importance of compliance.
- Therapy starts
- Serum testing is done at intervals to ensure that hormones are at their optimal levels
- Regular checkup is done to ensure that results are at par with what was expected. If there is need for any changes, this will also be done.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy may be used by individuals who have symptoms linked to unbalanced or low hormonal levels. We have discussed the side effects and risk associated with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Users are advised to be wary of this and discuss with their physician. Women in particular are advised to use this only on recommendation. If it must be used, then only the lowest dose should be used.
- Bioidentical hormones. (2014).
- Bioidentical hormones: Help or hype? (2011).
- Bio-identicals: Sorting myths from facts. (2017).
- Laughlin-Tommaso SK. (2014). Menopause hormone therapy: Who shouldn’t take it?
- Sattari R. (n.d.). Conditions treated by bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
- Wiley TS. (2015). Bio-identical hormones replacement therapy and the quality of life for breast cancer patients. DOI:
- Woolston C. (2010). Are bioidentical hormones safe?