It is often assumed that since the words natural and bioidentical are attached to this type of HRT, that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is somehow more efficacious and safer, with fewer side effects than other forms of HRT or synthetic HRT.
Additionally celebrity endorsements from individuals such as Oprah Winfrey and Suzanne Somers have caused much curiosity about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy among women.
In the event there are some frequently asked questions about this therapy that we attempt to answer here –
What is bioidentical hormone replacement therapy?
This therapy uses substances extracted from wild yam and soybeans which are then chemically and molecularly altered to resemble the hormones that the body produces.
Blood and saliva testing is conducted to get samples of the individual woman’s hormones so that bioidentical hormones can be created.
They are not mass produced; rather they are matched to individual women’s needs. Since the hormones in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy are extracted from plants, they are more easily absorbed by the body than synthetic hormones.
How does bioidentical hormone replacement therapy work?
These hormones are administered in the form of creams, injections, suppositories, and oral dosages. Dosage could be static or it could be rhythmic or cyclical; to mimic the woman’s monthly cycle. As per the individual woman’s symptoms, doctors would prescribe appropriate doses of estradiol and progesterone.
Is bioidentical hormone replacement therapy safer and more effective than traditional HRT?
Though many argue that this therapy is safe, effective and causes few side effects than traditional HRT, the mainstream medical community view is that this is not the case.
This Mayo clinic article about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and its safety / efficacy, makes several important clarifications about this therapy-
- Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy hormones are chemically identical to those that our bodies produce, but then so is the case with traditional or synthetic hormones as well.
- Though these hormones are called ‘natural’ and ‘bioidentical’, this is only partly accurate. They may be sourced from plants, but they are then subject to processing and chemical alteration to render them ‘bioidentical’. It is also to be noted that many traditional HRT hormones are also derived from plant sources.
- Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy dosages can sometimes be obtained without prescription and many are not FDA approved. They are to be obtained through compounding pharmacies, since they are to be customized as per the individual. Products from compounding pharmacies pose obvious problems such as quality assurance standards which may not be as rigorous as others.
- Saliva tests are conducted to customize the dosages in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. However the problem here is that saliva does not accurately reflect hormone levels or accurately reflect menopause symptoms.
- Some women do benefit from this therapy, and from the non standard or so called customized doses, however there is nothing to suggest that the efficacy of this is superior to mainstream HRT.
So to assume that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is somehow superior to traditional HRT or that it is safer with fewer side effects is inaccurate.