What is bioidentical hormone therapy?

Hormones serve as internal messengers between the cells and control a wide variety of functions in your body. They are responsible for the adjustment and coordination of every process in the body, from growth and digestion to mood, immune response, and libido.

As an inevitable part of aging, the production and expression of hormones in the body diminish year by year, resulting in hormone imbalance. In case of hormone imbalance, all parts of your body act inefficiently and under pressure, resulting in weight gain, bloating, fatigue, joint stiffness, and muscle loss.

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is an approach that can alleviate the symptoms induced by hormone drop or imbalance. In this therapeutic approach that has gained lots of attention lately, the levels of depleted hormones in your body will be replenished using bioidentical hormones that have a similar structure to the hormones that your body naturally produces.

In the first place, what are bioidentical hormones?

As mentioned, bioidentical hormones have the same chemical structure as hormones made by the human body. The term "bioidentical" mainly refers to the structure of the hormone rather than the source of the hormone. For a supplemented hormone to replicate the function of the endogenous hormone naturally produced and regulated in the body, the chemical structure should precisely match the original. Bioidentical hormones have the exact structure of the endogenous hormones and produce the same response in the body. Bio-identical hormones include estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), progesterone, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and pregnenolone.

What is the difference between bioidentical and non-bioidentical hormones?

There are significant differences between the preparation of natural hormones (bioidentical) and non-bioidentical hormones, mainly extracted from pregnant horses' urine. For instance, side chains can be added to a natural hormone to create a synthetic one, which a manufacturer can patent. A patented drug is profitable to mass-produce, and therefore a drug company can afford to fund research as to the medication's use and effectiveness. On the other hand, bioidentical hormones can not be patented, and their mass production is not profitable for big pharma companies. Thus, the scientific studies on their efficacy are minimal since these types of research are mainly funded by pharmaceutical companies. These structural differences between the bioidentical and non-bioidentical hormones are plausibly responsible for the side effects experienced while administering the non-bioidentical hormones. Read more here about different types of bioidentical hormones.  

What are the benefits of BHRT?

As mentioned, bioidentical hormones are usually used in individuals experiencing hormone levels drop and imbalance. Hormone imbalance is mainly observed in women at perimenopause or menopause, and this approach is used to return the hormone levels to a tolerable level for their bodies and alleviate low to moderate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, weight gain, sleep disturbances, and memory loss. In addition, hormone therapy may also reduce bone mass loss, fractures, tooth decay, and diabetes. It also has been shown that hrt can restore skin vitality and reduce wrinkles (skin and hormone therapy).

BHRT can also effectively improve their well-being and quality of life for the patients who suffer from cancer and are under chemotherapy drug treatments. In these patients, bioidentical hormone therapy can alleviate and decrease the symptoms such as insomnia, low libido, headaches, and incontinence, which usually occurs after chemo-drugs administration (read more here about BHRT and quality of life improvement in breast cancer patients).

What are the side effects of bioidentical hormone therapy?

Like every other medical intervention, bioidentical hormone therapy also has side effects. Some of these side effects appear because the body needs some time to get used to the higher levels of a hormone in the body. Thus, these side effects such as fatigue, acne, breast tenderness, and bloating will decrease and fade. However, there are side effects caused by a specific hormone in the formulation. In this case, the pharmacist needs to change the formulation and make it tolerable for the patient.

Hormone replacement therapy should be initiated carefully after a woman's medical and family history has been reviewed. Every woman is unique and will respond to treatment in her own way. Close monitoring and medication adjustments are essential.