Over the years serious side effects and even life threatening problems have come to be associated with hormone replacement therapy or (HRT) and it is perhaps in reaction to this that Natural Hormone Therapy has recently gained popularity.
So what is natural hormone therapy and how is it any different from HRT?
For many of us, this term (also referred to as Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy or BHRT)may sound more attractive because of the very inclusion of the word ‘natural’ in the term.
The implication of this term is that these hormones are somehow naturally occurring, and not made with any chemical process.
The term natural also implies safe from contamination, and free from risk of side effects. So in this sense is natural hormone therapy really ‘natural’?
In a word, No. During menopause, the female body produces less of reproductive hormones such as estrogen, estrone, estradiol, estoil, progesterone, testosterone etc, thereby creating the discomforts and symptoms of menopause, causing women to seek therapy for managing these symptoms.
Even the so called Natural Hormone therapy is not really ‘natural’ because these female hormones do not occur naturally anywhere. Though sourced from soy or yam, they still undergo chemical processes to render them akin to actual female hormones.
Natural hormone therapy involves creating hormones with the same chemical structures as human hormones by using a process from micronization. Now while these may be better absorbed by the body than other synthetic hormones, this therapy is also associated with a slightly raised risk of breast cancer, in the same way as synthetic hormones.
In fact many organizations such as American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, the Endocrine Society, the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), as well as the FDA have issued statements to the effect that Natural hormone therapy is much the same as synthetic or non-bioidentical hormones.
In fact the risk related to the so called natural hormone therapy could be somewhat higher, because less research into its impact has been done so far. Also the fact that there is no requirement for including package inserts in spite of potentially adverse side effects could be harmful.
It is important to be fully aware that natural hormone therapy does in fact have much of the same risks and side effects of HRT and one should be careful not to be misled into thinking otherwise.