What are Bioidentical Hormones?
Bioidentical hormones are manufactured in the lab to have the same molecular structure as the hormones made by your own body. By contrast, synthetic hormones are intentionally different. Drug companies can’t patent a bioidentical structure, so they invent synthetic hormones that are patentable (Premarin, Prempro and Provera being the most widely used examples).
Though bioidentical hormones have been around for years, most practitioners are not that familiar with them. There are several branded versions now available for use in the kind of hormone replacement therapy (“HRT”) typical of synthetic hormones. This is generally a one-size-fits-all dosage regime.
In our practice, we have had the greatest success with an individualized approach. We begin with laboratory tests of hormone levels (a so-called “hormone panel”). When warranted, we then prescribe a precise dosage of bioidentical estrogen, testosterone or DHEA that is made up at a compounding pharmacy. Each patient is then monitored carefully through regular follow-up hormone panels to ensure we get symptom relief at the lowest possible dosage. In the initial stages, we will do a hormone panel every three months. Once balance is restored, we’ll do one panel a year at the time of the annual exam.
Bioidentical hormones, are they better than synthetic hormones?
We long ago concluded that the answer to this question is yes. But that doesn’t mean bioidentical hormones are perfect.
The great appeal of bioidentical hormones is that they are natural, and our bodies can metabolize them as it was designed to do, minimizing side effects. Synthetic hormones are quite strong and often produce intolerable side effects. Moreover, the compounded bioidentical hormones can be matched individually to each woman’s needs — something that’s just impossible with mass-produced products.
Bioidentical hormones are they safer than synthetics?
European medical studies suggest that yes, bioidentical hormones are safer than synthetic versions. This makes perfect sense. But we must be cautious here, because they have not been well-studied, especially for long-term use. And in any case, we never recommend that a woman think of any drug as completely safe.
The great majority of women can rebalance their hormones without the use of drugs. We have found that about 85% can find relief through an approach that combines medical-grade nutritional supplements, gentle endocrine support, and dietary and lifestyle changes. We recommend that every woman start with this combination approach as a foundation of health.
We don’t recommend that any hormones be used long-term unless essential for symptom relief, and then only with a complete risk assessment. We also don’t support the idea that bioidentical hormone therapy should be used indefinitely as some kind of fountain of youth.
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