After the studies that showed hormone replacement therapy can increase risk of certain diseases and conditions, its popularity has declined rapidly. Then a supposedly safer, more natural alternative called bioidentical hormone therapy was presented, but women were not told about bioidentical hormones side effects.
For a while women thought that they had found a safer alternative to HRT because bioidentical hormone therapy was supposed to be derived from plants and not chemicals. The claim was that bioidentical hormones had a molecular structure that was closer to hormones naturally produced in a woman’s body and that the body cannot distinguish between the two so presumably the bioidentical hormones side effects were far fewer.
Marketers of bioidentical hormones also said that this therapy would be a perfect fit for each individual woman because the dosage and hormone mix that she was given would be tailored to her own individual requirement and physiology.
However it soon became clear that the side effects produced by bioidentical hormones could be about the same as HRT. In fact the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has categorically stated that bioidentical hormones are no safer than synthetic hormones.
The Endocline Society has also issued a similar statement that the same risks and benefits are present with bioidentical as well as synthetic hormones. However some experts say that there is inadequate proof to opine one way or the other, since there hasn’t been enough time to assess long-term risks.
Why there could be bioidentical hormones side effects
Synthetic hormones produced by pharmaceutical companies are FDA approved and they carry a warning about the risks that they carry. However when hormones are obtained from pharmacies that advertise bioidentical hormones and who mix the medications themselves, there is no such requirement and a woman may not fully understand exactly what she is letting herself in for.
In fact there is evidence to show that the oral dosages of bioidentical hormone formulations may be as much as 10 times that of HRT. The side effects have not been studied at length or deeply enough so the bioidentical hormones side effects are not yet fully understood, because the two regimens have never been directly studied in parallel.
However based on evidence currently available, it would seem that the same cardiovascular risks associated with HRT could also apply in the case of the bioidentical hormones particularly when administered in its most common form – that is oral estriol.
The supposed benefits of compounding pharmacies that claim to ‘customize’ bioidentical hormone dosages and constituents to each individual woman by testing her saliva and blood are not clear either. There is no evidence to show that such blood and saliva testing make the bioidentical hormone therapy any more effective than HRT. In fact the ACOG has stated that there is no need to ‘customize’ hormone therapy.
So it can be concluded that there are no proven benefits of bioidentical hormone therapy, and in fact there are serious questions about its safety. And since the bioidentical hormones side effects are probably about the same as their synthetic counterparts, it makes sense to go with a better-regulated regimen if hormones must in fact be used.