Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Suzanne Somers have brought bioidentical HRT onto center stage. Some women may not have heard about this option for menopause symptoms and many are asking, “Is bHRT right for me?” There are several forms of bioidentical HRT, and because each woman’s physiology is unique, customized treatment often provides the best results.
It’s also important to remember that while bHRT works well for some women, others need more support — or different kinds of support — to get the same relief.
Just what are “bioidentical hormones”?
Bioidentical hormones are manufactured in a lab to have the same molecular structure as the hormones made by your own body. This makes them unlike synthetic hormones which are intentionally made to be different from natural hormones. That’s because drug companies can’t patent a bioidentical structure to make it exclusively theirs, so they have to invent synthetic hormones that are patentable (Premarin, Prempro, and Provera being the most widely used examples). That’s how they make money.
Though bioidentical hormones have been around for years, many practitioners aren’t familiar with them. There are several branded versions now available for use, though their one-size-fits-all dosage regimen is very similar to that of synthetic hormones. We recommend getting a hormone panel so that you and your doctor can get a more precise picture of specific hormones and dosages for your body. Then a formulation can be prepared just for you at a registered compounding pharmacy. It’s also important to have regular follow-up hormone panels to be sure your dosage is still right.
Are bioidentical hormones “better” and safer than synthetic hormones?
We concluded long ago that the answer to these questions is yes. Synthetic hormones are quite strong and often produce intolerable side effects but bioidentical hormones are natural, and our bodies can metabolize them, which minimizes side effects. Compounded bioidentical hormones can also be matched to each woman’s needs — which is just impossible with mass-produced products.
European medical studies suggest that bioidentical hormones are safer than synthetic versions. But because they have not been well studied, especially for long-term use, we recommend that women never assume that bHRT — or any drug — is completely safe.
If you are considering bHRT or HRT of any kind, your risks increase if you:
- are over the age of 60.
- are more than ten years past menopause.
- have a personal or family history of breast, endometrial, or ovarian cancer or liver disease.
Can bioidentical hormones be used for breast cancer patients?
Very few practitioners will prescribe any type of HRT — synthetic or bioidentical — for women who have had breast cancer or even a family history of breast cancer. In fact, many are given anti-estrogen drugs.
There are some former breast cancer patients who, like Suzanne Somers, use low-dose bioidentical hormones by choice. These women typically have researched the issues and discussed them with their healthcare providers in order to make well-informed decisions for themselves. It’s always important to advocate for your own health, especially if you have done your homework and feel strongly about what’s best for you.
Is bHRT the only way to achieve hormonal balance?
Our Hormonal Health Program includes:
- Herbal Equilibrium with plant-based support to rebalance estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.
- A high-quality multivitamin/mineral complex and omega-3’s.
- e-Guide with everything you need to enhance your diet and lifestyle to balance your hormones.
Our products always come with phone support from women right here in Maine, who can help you personalize your approach to menopause symptom relief. Learn more.
Bioidentical hormones can work wonders, but they aren’t necessarily the first place to turn when hormonal imbalance is a problem. In our experience, the great majority of women can rebalance their hormones without the use of drugs or HRT — in any form. About 85% of our customers find relief through a natural approach that combines our multibotanical Herbal Equilibrium, a high-quality multivitamin, and dietary and lifestyle changes. This three-pronged approach will support a woman’s hormonal pathways “upstream” of where problems arise. This can head off full-blown symptoms down the line, ones that could require the stronger and more invasive hormonal replacement therapy.
A minority of women may need to temporarily add hormone support for complete relief, at least through a transition period. For this, we recommend bioidentical hormones but we don’t suggest that any hormones be used long-term unless essential for symptom relief and quality of life, and then only with a complete risk assessment. We also don’t support the idea that bioidentical hormone therapy should be used indefinitely as some kind of “fountain of youth.”
Are bioidentical hormones right for you?
Ideally, your hormonal balance is dynamic, shifting from day to day, week to week, and through the years. When you give your body the support it needs, it can effectively reset itself toward balance and wellness.
We recommend beginning with the gentlest form of support possible to relieve your most distressing symptoms, and then adjusting as you go. Our Hormonal Health Program is a great way to start. The good news is that you can feel wonderful throughout your midlife transition.