From the man with symptoms associated with a deficit of testosterone to the woman entering menopause to the young person struggling with issues stemming from hormone imbalance, Hormone Replacement Therapy has been a gift to many people. It has been a large part of bringing back sex drive, tempering mood swings, improving energy, and alleviating exhaustion among many other things. Here we will explore what Replacement Therapy is, its benefits, and how to navigate the differences between synthetic and bioidentical hormones to help you make the most informed, and best, decisions for your own life.
What is Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) is a method that uses specially designed hormone supplements to replace specific hormones that become either depleted or imbalanced for a variety of reasons. This procedure is most often used to alleviate struggle of hormone depletion or imbalance linked to aging or menopause.(6)
According to nationally recognized physician Elizabeth Vliet of Tuscon, Arizona: “A compound that meets these requirements is called “bioidentical.” The bioidentical hormone replacement process is sort of like getting a spare key from the locksmith. The manufacturer (the ovary) stops making your own hormone at menopause, so a “locksmith” (the laboratory) makes an exact duplicate hormone molecule for you to use if you choose to.(2)
Bioidentical Hormones come from organic sources, including soy, and are created in order to duplicate the chemical makeup equivalent to the original hormones that are created within the body. Using your hormone levels as a reference point, pharmacists can expertly adapt a regimen that is ideal for your body’s needs.(4)
The most commonly simulated hormones are estrogen, testosterone, adrenal hormones, and progesterone. Simulations for these hormones can be delivered through injections, topical ointments, gels, tablets, and capsules with the aim of helping to return hormone levels back to active state.(6)
Who may benefit from Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Studies suggest the following benefits of BHRT:
- Helping to strengthen bones and decrease the likelihood of osteoporosis
- Improving libido and decreasing vaginal dryness
- Improving energy levels, heightened mental clarity, sleep, and alertness
- Aiding in a decrease of hot flashes and night sweats for more restful sleep
As we grow, our hormone levels grow right along with us, increasing during puberty, peaking in our late 20s, plateauing in our 30s and naturally waning into our 40s. BHRT can address this decline through helping a person adjust to the changes more gradually.
The advantages of BHRT extend to a wide range of issues:
- Energy depletion, exhaustion, fatigue with muscle weakness
- Significant skin dryness
- Reduced libido in both men and women
- Testosterone deficiencies in men
- Thinning hair in both men and women
- Weight increase around the abdomen in both men and women
- Cognition delays, forgetting easily
- Sleep issues
- Anxiety or irritability
- Vaginal dryness, hot flashes or night sweats associated with perimenopause or menopause(6)
BHRT is not a “miracle cure” and, if you select it as your best option, it should be used in conjunction with a holistic regimen of hormonal healing, such as healthy diet, exercise, restful sleep, and stress-reducing activities. Each of these elements plays a significant role in our hormonal health. Inadequate nutrition, an inactive lifestyle, disturbed sleep and uncontrolled stress can all disrupt hormonal harmony.(6)
BHRT can help women experiencing symptoms of menopause and the decrease in bone density following menopause. Although some women are concerned about weight gain due to BHRT, there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that this process affects weight gain or loss.(1) Studies have shown that there was a significant decrease in the frequency of hot flashes and night sweats when oral Hormone Replacement Therapy was utilized.(2)
Bioidentical Hormones vs Synthetic Hormones
Many people choose Bioidentical Hormones over Synthetic Hormones in their Hormone Replacement Therapy for a variety of reasons, namely because the term “natural” has grown to mean “better for you,” which is not necessarily the case in all circumstances. When making this choice, there are a few differences to be aware of.
Bioidentical Hormones are derived from plant and animal sources and are identical to the hormones your body naturally produces. They have fewer side effects than Synthetic due to their ability to be metabolized in the same way as natural hormones. Another benefit of Bioidentical Hormones is that they can be specially crafted according to each person’s hormonal makeup, based on the physician’s professional opinion, in order to use the smallest effective amount possible.(5) The physician tests your natural hormone levels through taking a serum, urine, or saliva sample, No testing option always provides a completely accurate gauge of the hormone levels in the rest of the body. This is because people, particularly women during menopause, have fluctuating hormone levels throughout their bodies, and these can change from day to day or even hour to hour.(6)
Some studies support the claim that Bioidentical Hormones are safer and more effective than their Synthetic counterparts while others do not.(4) The FDA has announced that they do not consider Bioidentical to be any safer or effective than other types. A major concern among some individuals is that Bioidentical Hormones are selectively combined and do not necessarily meet FDA requirements for safety. This is because the mixture is specially concocted by the physician for an individual patient and does not allow the time to be tested for proper absorption or process.(6)
Synthetic Hormones are created through a process held in laboratories. The term “synthetic” means “produced by synthesis.” They go through FDA tests to become commercially available. (2) The Synthetic Hormones commercially available and marketed to patients have undergone FDA safety and effectiveness testing.(6)
There is no flawless evidence to suggest that one choice is better than another. When it comes to choosing which path to take, the most important factor is to be informed.
Are Bioidentical Hormones right for you?
It can be a difficult choice when deciding what to put into your body. While you want to live your life to the fullest, you still want to be mindful of how you support your body in doing so. (4)
Nearly everyone over the age of 40, and oftentimes even 30, begin to see signs of hormonal changes. From environmental to dietary contaminators, our bodies are bombarded by elements that sap our healthy hormone functioning on a daily basis.(5)
Hormone disharmony can result from a wide array of health concerns that can be addressed with BHRT:
- Thyroid disorder
- Adrenal fatigue
- Sexual dysfunction
- Metabolic disorders(5)
By virtue of having any of these conditions, you may also encounter the following symptoms that are oftentimes discounted as “normal aging”:
- Dry hair and skin
- Chronic low-grade depressive symptoms
- Heart problems
- A reduction in muscle mass
- Sleep disruptions
- Weight gain
- Fragile nails
- Not feeling cognitively alert or able to quickly process stimuli
- Lowered sex drive
These symptoms often either go ignored or explained away as unavoidable parts of growing older. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The key is to remember that exercise, diet, and sleep routines greatly impact hormonal harmony in the body, resting the primary power of health in your hands. A regimen of medicinal herbs or other natural supplements can be very helpful to an overall sense of wellbeing, too.
Request a Consultation
If you experience any of the health issues, and you are becoming increasingly concerned about their impact on your daily life, you can speak with a physician about what type of treatment options would work best for your circumstances. Dr. Jorge Peláez of the Florida Health and Wellness Institute, with his passion for healing and heart for his patients, will be happy to speak with about your options. It can be helpful to write out any questions or concerns you have and bring them into an office visit. Your health matters. Treat it with care.