Hormones are an important part of your body’s messenger system. These chemicals send signals to almost every part of your body, controlling your mood, growth, and even body hair.
Bioidentical hormones are lab-made substances designed to be used by your body like your own hormones. Bioidentical hormones are intended for people suffering from hormonal imbalances or those who do not naturally produce enough hormones.
What Are Bioidentical Hormones and How Do They Work?
Hormones are molecules produced by the endocrine glands in your body. The glands release the hormones into the bloodstream to be delivered to the correct body parts. Hormones regulate a variety of bodily activities, including
- Sexual activity
A hormonal imbalance can lead to weight gain, mood swings, and adverse effects on your daily life. Hormone replacement therapy can help people whose bodies are not producing enough of certain hormones or whose hormone levels are out of balance.
Artificial hormones come in many forms, including bioidentical hormones. Bioidentical hormones are the closest thing to the actual substance of all man-made hormones available. These hormones are easily absorbed because they are chemically similar to what’s produced by the body.
Bioidentical hormones are made from plant or animal sources and are often referred to as “natural” hormones. They’re derived from plants like yams and soybeans. However, don’t be deceived by the name. Natural hormones must undergo extensive processing before being approved and distributed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
These bioidentical hormones are available in various forms, including pills, balms, injections, and creams.
Traditional Vs. Bioidentical Hormones
Unlike those used in traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT), bioidentical hormones are chemically identical to those naturally produced by your body and are made from phytoestrogens. The hormones used in his traditional HRT are made from pregnant horse urine and other synthetic substances.
Proponents of bioidentical hormones claim that their products are “natural,” identical to the hormones that the body naturally produces, and therefore safer. However, most experts believe that the risks of BHRT and HRT are similar.
Composite bioidentical hormones can pose even more risks. Furthermore, there is no reliable evidence that BHRT is more effective than HRT.
How Common Is Bioidentical Hormone Replacement?
In the United States, menopausal women often use multiple types of hormones because they can be customized to meet their specific needs. According to the North American Menopausal Society (NAMS), approximately 1.4 million women receive this type of treatment. Hormone therapy prescriptions for menopausal women account for 40% of all prescriptions, according to NAMS. The number of men receiving this treatment is unknown.
Components of BHRT Explained
Some bioidentical hormones are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. With a doctor’s prescription, compounded bioidentical hormones can be manufactured individually in pharmacies. This process is called compounding, and it’s the process of combining or altering ingredients to meet a person’s needs.
The FDA has approved several manufactured bioidentical hormones, including bioidentical estriol (a weak estrogen) and progesterone. However, the FDA has not approved specially-formulated bioidentical hormones.
Most bioidentical hormones are manufactured and sold without controls for safety, quality, or purity. Many medical organizations have opposed the marketing and use of unlicensed bioidentical hormones.
Composite bioidentical hormones are often considered safer and more effective than synthetic hormones. However, the FDA and most doctors say these claims have not been proven in reliable studies, and in some cases, these hormones may even be potentially dangerous.
Compounding Bioidentical Hormones
Everyone’s body is different and has its requirements. As a result, some healthcare providers prescribe compounded or mixed bioidentical hormones.
A compounding pharmacy is where a pharmacist can create a custom-made drug, in this case, a hormonal mixture, for a patient. Certain compounds may have FDA approval, but the final blend may not. Further research is needed on the safety of combined bioidentical hormones.
The advantage of compounded hormones is that they are a combination of hormones tailored to each person’s needs. Once the hormones are mixed, a saliva sample is taken from the patient to determine their current hormone levels and the optimal combination of hormones they require. However, there are several reasons why this method is risky.
Saliva is not always a reliable indicator of hormone levels in the blood, and the FDA does not consistently review unique combinations of hormones. They may contain hormone and non-hormonal chemicals that haven’t been thoroughly evaluated for safety.
The Health Benefits and Side Effects of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement
Hormone replacement therapy may be required for several reasons. A hormonal imbalance can make your body feel uncomfortable in so many ways, but you can improve your overall health and well-being by taking hormones that your body cannot produce.
Doctor-prescribed bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life by replacing hormones that your body no longer makes. BHRT is commonly used for aging and declining hormone levels, especially in perimenopausal or menopausal women. It’s used to increase low hormone levels and improve moderate to severe menopausal symptoms such as:
In addition to relieving symptoms, hormone replacement therapy can also reduce the risk of diabetes, tooth decay, and cataracts. There is also evidence that it can improve skin elasticity and hydration and even reduce wrinkles.
BHRT is effective in improving the overall health and quality of life in cancer patients undergoing treatments that affect estrogen levels. In one study, cancer patients who received BHRT experience relief from treatment-related symptoms such as migraines, incontinence, decreased libido, and insomnia. The study also found that breast cancer recurrence rates were not higher than average.
Although hormone therapy has many benefits, it also has some drawbacks. People taking hormone therapy, including BHRT, are at risk for blood clots and gallbladder disease. They are also more likely to have a stroke or develop breast cancer.
When you start taking various hormone therapy drugs, an adjustment period occurs. Unwanted symptoms appear within the first few weeks and fade away as the body adjusts to the new hormonal fluctuations. Starting BHRT can have the following side effects:
- Weight gain
- Facial hair growth
- Acne or skin changes
- Breast tenderness
How To Take BHRT
BHRT comes in a variety of forms, including
- Pellet implants
Talk to your doctor about the best form for you and your lifestyle. Once you start BHRT, you’ll need regular monitoring to assess how your body responds. However, the FDA warns against monitoring hormone levels with blood and saliva tests. These indicate your current hormone levels, which can vary significantly throughout the day.
The FDA recommends using the lowest effective dose when choosing hormone therapy. The FDA also says it should be used for the shortest possible time.
The Bottom Line
BHRT may be an option to help people with symptoms related to low or imbalanced hormone levels. However, some side effects and risks associated with BHRT can be severe and should be discussed with your doctor beforehand. Many women should avoid using hormone replacement therapy during pregnancy. If you decide to take BHRT, you should use the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time possible.
Do you need more information on how you can benefit from our compounded medicines in cases of BHRT?
King’s Pharmacy and Compounding Center has a combined 30+ years of pharmaceutical experience. We are NABP® Accredited and specialize in customized pharmaceutical compounding for humans and animals. Our highly-trained pharmacists are here for you if you have unique medical needs that commercially manufactured medications can’t address. Our compounding service allows you to access alternative dosage forms, discontinued medications, and allergy-friendly options. To learn more, visit https://kingspharma.com/