Bio-identical Hormones: What Are They?
Called natural hormone therapy, bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) employs hormones that are identical, molecularly and chemically, to those our bodies produce. They come from plants, like soybeans and wild yams. They behave in our own bodies exactly the same as our natural hormones behave.
Bio-identical vs. Synthetic Hormones
Physicians for years have been treated menopausal symptoms with conventional (lab-manufactured) hormones. Some of the more common synthetic hormones are Provera (chemical progesterone), Premarin (estrogen made from pregnant horse urine) and a combination of those chemical compounds called Prempro.
These chemical compounds don’t act the same way in our bodies our natural hormones do and their failures have frequently made the news headlines.
Notably the Women’s Health Initiative, a major HRT study, showed that these synthetic replacement hormones were raising risks for many life-threatening diseases including stroke, heart disease, blood clots and breast cancer. The 2002 study was stopped midstream the results were so concerning. The result was that millions of women and many physicians gave up on HRT as a safe solution to menopausal distress.
A better alternative was found in the form of “bio-identical hormones” — those with molecular structures identical to those our bodies make, and therefore acting in the body just like the estrogen and progesterone, and other hormones, all women naturally have. Since they’re already in your body, it’s easier for your physician to measure your natural levels, amend them with customized dosages, and monitor their effectiveness on your menopausal and aging symptoms.
The sad truth is that only synthetic hormones can be patented. As a result, drug manufacturers have created synthetic hormones that attempt to mimic natural hormone functions; these hormones are so structurally different from those our bodies create that they are patented. These synthetic hormones had some of the desired results, but the undesirable effects and risk of future disease often outweighed the positives: bloating, headaches, fatigue, weight gain and, more seriously, cancer, heart attack, stroke and blood clots.
Bio-Identical hormones, by contrast, are substances that are structurally identical to those our bodies naturally create, some of them occurring in our bodies since our conception. Because natural hormones possess the identical structure and function as substances created by our bodies, they have the ability to produce all the desirable effects without any of the undesirable or negative side effects associated with synthetic hormones.
BHRT for Healthy Aging
It’s not always easy to differentiate between symptoms of aging and symptoms of menopause, but fortunately BHRT can address many of them in tandem. Research continues to confirm that BHRT is effective for the following:
- Improve libido and vaginal moisture and thinning
- Minimize night sweats and hot flashes
- Stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Reduce breast and uterine cancer risk
- Minimize bone loss and related disease, such as osteoporosis
- Gaining strength and keeping muscle mass
- Strengthen coronary health and protect from heart attack and stroke
- Improve blood cholesterol levels
- Lessen depression risk
- More restful, restorative sleep
- Enhance memory, mood and concentration
Bio-identicals are also proving helpful in lessening the effects of the aging process. According to Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., author of “Stay Young & Sexy with Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement: The Science Explained,” BHRT can noticeably lessen aging’s effects on a female’s appearance if administered correctly. “Nearly any woman who’s used BHRT for five to ten years notices herself and hears from others that she ‘doesn’t look her age.’” This is potentially the result of estrogen, often heralded as a fountain of youth for women.
And BHRT isn’t for women only, according to Dr. Wright. At Metro MediSpa, Dr. Connie Odom also treats men with bio-identicals; for instance, prescribing bio-identical testosterone to help a man retain virility and improved health later in life.
How Do I Find Bio-identical Hormones?
What you don’t want to do is to attempt self-medication should you come across advertised OTC, homeopathic or self-administered formulations. Although there are FDA-approved formulations, you’ll only really know that your getting what your body needs, and more importantly, not exacerbating health issues, by going through physician guided-testing medical testing and results monitoring. Your physician may prescribe them in pill, patch or cream form, or in a customized personally-tailored compound prescription which a local compounding pharmacy can provide.
Is BHRT Right for Me?
Only your physician knows for sure. Based on your medical history, a physical exam, a test of your current hormone levels and a review of your current symptoms, an experienced hormone-replacement physician can tell you if you may benefit from Bio-identical Hormone Therapy. She’ll do a hormone panel that shows levels of testosterone, DHEA, progesterone, estrogen and a few other tests to confirm your current reproductive life cycle: menopausal, peri-menopausal or post-menopause.
Consulting with a physician who specializes in hormone replacement therapy is the best way to ensure correct dosing and safe-guard yourself against potential side effects.
Contact our Wilmington NC Med Spa
Make an educated decision and bring Dr. Connie Odom all your questions about bio-identical hormone replacement therapy and how it might improve how you feel and look.