Bioidentical hormones versus adulterated synthetic hormones
Hormone imbalance can cause all manner of problems in the body, from acne to tender breasts, heavy menstrual bleeding, and yeast infections. There are various ways to correct it but the most common is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). In this guide, we will discuss the benefits and risks of hormone replacement, and the best ways to accomplish it.
What are bioidentical hormones?
Bioidentical hormones are FDA-approved and have been available for more than 40 years, although many women are not aware that they exist or are readily available. Their chemical makeup closely resembles steroid sex hormones such as estrogen, estradiol, estriol, testosterone, progesterone and cortisol that are naturally produced by the body.
Derived from yam and soil oils, the molecules are concentrated and purified to mimic the structure of human hormones. This helps them bind to our hormone receptors, resulting in improved health and wellness with few side-effects. Bioidentical hormone preparations are proven to be effective in addressing menopausal symptoms and other hormonal imbalances.
You can tell if a hormone is bioidentical if it simply says the name of the hormone (for example, ‘estradiol’ or ‘progesterone’) rather than ‘Premarin’ (conjugated equine estrogens) or ‘Provera’ (medroxyprogesterone). Bioidentical hormone products such as the estrogen patch, estradiol tablet, and progesterone capsules, are commercially available. It’s important not only to get a bioidentical product when replacing hormones but also to ensure that the delivery system is right.
What are adulterated synthetic hormones?
Adulterated synthetic hormones are often used to treat hormone imbalance, but are not as similar to the body’s naturally produced hormones. The term “synthetic hormones” is often used alone to distinguish between these and bioidentical hormones, both of which are synthesized. However, while both are man-made, bioidentical hormones are made to more closely match naturally produced hormones, while adulterated synthetic hormones are designed to be slightly different chemically so pharmaceutical companies can patent the product, which can be seen in the branding on patches.
The most common hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women contains Premarin, an estrogen replacement derived from the urine of pregnant horses. It primarily contains estrone and estrogens, which bind tightly to our estrogen receptors, making them highly stimulating and potentially carcinogenic. Provera, which is similar to progesterone, is often combined with Premarin, and the blend is called PrePro.
However, this combination can cause a number of side-effects such as bloating and nausea, unusual vaginal bleeding, blurred vision, and headaches. In more serious cases, adulterated synthetic hormone treatments can promote blot clot formation, insulin resistance, cholesterol production and increased cardiovascular risk.
A study carried out by the Women’s Health Initiative more than ten years ago through the whole concept of HRT into a tailspin. The original aim had been to highlight the benefits of HRT. Participants were women in menopause, many of them aged over 70, and the treatment was combined Premarin and Provera. While those of us practicing integrative medicine was well aware of the risks and knew that these strong hormone analogs were not for everyone, this was not commonly recognized in the general medical community. Concerns over the risks were proven to be genuine, and all of the issues discussed above were identified.
Those running the study had hoped to see a decreased risk of heart disease but actually saw an increased risk, along with a greater risk of breast cancer. Women were suddenly told to stop taking their hormones, even if they were responding well to them. The study was gradually analyzed and some important conclusions were drawn. Over the years, it has been discovered that topical estrogens were much safer, but that progesterone (not Provera) could be given orally.
How are synthetic and bioidentical hormones used?
Both bioidentical and adulterated synthetic hormones can be used as forms of hormone replacement therapy to reduce or eradicate menopause and peri-menopause symptoms, such as:
• Mood swings and irritability
• Hot flashes and night sweats
• Anxiety and depression
• Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
• Insomnia and fatigue
• Foggy thinking
• Loss of libido
Bioidentical hormones versus synthetic hormones
Studies show that there are few to no side-effects with bioidentical hormones, and most women report improved quality of life when changing from adulterated synthetic hormones. Better still, these natural forms of progesterone and estrogen help to decrease the risk of stroke, breast cancer and heart attacks (when used with topical estrogens). Conversely, adulterated synthetic hormones are believed to increase these risks.
Dr. Lignieres from the Necker Hospital Department of Endocrinology and Reproductive Medicine in Paris, France said: “All comparative studies to date conclude that the side effects of synthetic progestins can be minimized or eliminated through the use of natural progesterone.”
Choosing the right hormone replacement therapy
Based on this information, choosing a bioidentical hormone replacement therapy seems like a no-brainer. Bioidentical hormones can be tailored to your specific needs and symptoms to ensure that your specific hormone imbalance is addressed and corrected.
Whether you are already taking a synthetic hormone replacement therapy or are yet to start treatment, it’s important that you speak to a qualified doctor; preferably an integrative medical practitioner who can hopefully assess whether you are a suitable candidate for HRT. Whatever you do, don’t suddenly stop taking your current medication. Instead, make an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible and discuss switching to a bioidentical hormone treatment as a safer alternative to Premarin and Provera. For further information on hormone imbalance see 10 Signs That You Might Be Suffering From A Hormone Imbalance and Implementing An Effective Estrogen Detox.