Bioidentical hormone therapy is often offered as a more ‘natural’ or ‘safer’ alternative to synthetic hormones that are used in hormone replacement therapies. It is claimed that these are closer in nature to a woman’s own naturally occurring hormones, that they can be customized to a woman’s own biological features and as such have fewer risks or side effects associated with them.

What is bioidentical hormone therapy?

Manufacturers of bioidentical hormones claim that their products are derived from plants such as soy and yam, rather than synthetic chemicals. These can be non-standardized in terms of the dosage and the formulations that a woman would typically use.

bioidentical-hormone-therapyThey come from a compounding agency rather than filling out a prescription at the pharmacy. The pharmacy would typically customize the dosage and medications to a woman’s particular needs by testing her saliva and looking at other parameters by testing blood urine and so on.

The claim is that bioidentical hormones will help women overcome menopause symptoms as well as HRT and also help to fine tune the process by looking at each individual woman’s own hormone levels, her family history, and her own unique requirements.

Is bioidentical hormone therapy better?

There is no evidence to suggest that so-called bioidentical hormones are any different from other synthetic hormones. Even the bioidentical formulations will still have to undergo processing before they are made available to women to consume.

If bioidentical hormones are derived from plants, so are a lot of pharmaceutical hormones that FDA approved.

Medical bodies such as The International Menopause Society, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, The Endocrine Society, the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American Cancer Society and others have released statements declaring that the benefits and risks of non-bioidentical and bioidentical hormones are about the same and that women ought not to be misled by claims of safety and naturalness made by manufacturers and physicians.

Why bioidentical hormone therapy may be riskier

Not only is there nothing to choose between synthetic and so-called natural hormones, the so-called bioidentical formulations may actually be more dangerous since they are not subject to the same rigorous controls and testing protocols that FDA approved drugs are required to follow.

Bioidentical therapy is not regulated, and often the medications do not contain package inserts as FDA approved drugs are required to. In fact the potential for dangerous side effects and even life-threatening problems could occur due to this lack of regulation.

In fact the dosages that may be prescribed under bioidentical hormone therapy could be as much as 10 times higher than the dosages that would be considered normal with mainstream HRT. So the risks of complications such as stroke and heart disease risk could rise significantly.

Some experts also warn that if the estrogen and progesterone dosages are not properly balanced – as could be in the case of bioidentical hormone therapy because the formulations are hand mixed by the pharmacist – the risk of uterine cancer may rise.