Hormones act as the internal communication link between the cells in your body. This means they play a pivotal role in ensuring that all the bodily functions work smoothly. They achieve this by coordinating different aspects, including immune function, libido, mood, and appetite.
But as you age, your body might start to experience some hormonal imbalance. This could lead to you suffering from symptoms such as irritable bowels, reduced libido, hair loss, insomnia, and dry skin. If you’re going through such changes due to hormonal imbalance, a great solution would be bioidentical hormone replacement.
What Are Bioidentical Hormones?
Before we take you through what bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) entails, it’s essential to understand bioidentical hormones. Bioidentical hormones are laboratory created or synthetic hormones sourced from plants with an identical chemical structure to that of the hormones naturally produced by the body. It means that these hormones, despite being lab-created, are treated the same by your body regarding how they’re processed and excreted.
With bioidentical hormones, you don’t need to worry about the buildup of hormones in your system. This was the primary concern with traditional hormone therapy since natural and synthetic hormones exhibited chemical differences, making it challenging for the body to excrete these hormones. The increased accumulation of these hormones led to severe side effects. However, as your body considers bioidentical hormones as the same as natural hormones, they’re normally removed from your body, safeguarding you from any adverse side effects.
Most bioidentical hormones are designed to address the hormonal imbalance of testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen. The prescribed forms of bioidentical hormones are made by drug companies, while other formulas are customized according to the doctor’s instructions by a pharmacist, which is referred to as compounding. These compounded hormones are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are available in various dosages and delivery methods.
Examples of bioidentical hormones include:
- Estradiol acetate such as Femring
- 17 beta-estradiols, including drugs like Estring, Estradil, and Estrace
- Micronized progesterone USP, including Prochieve and Prometrium
- Estradiol hemihydrate such as Vagifem
What Is Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
BHRT entails synthetic hormones being in the place of natural hormones like progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen. This treatment aims to address either the overproduction or underproduction of hormones. This hormonal imbalance leads to undesirable symptoms. Hence, it’s necessary to restore normal hormone levels.
But before a patient is enrolled for this treatment, they have to undertake an exhaustive review to assess their present health needs, history, and hormone levels. If the doctor detects any hormonal imbalance, they’ll recommend a personalized treatment plan. The treatment includes the use of lotions, gels, tablets, creams, and injections.
The duration of this treatment usually depends on how you generally feel and your specific requirements. For example, some individuals might need to undertake a BHRT only for a short period until the hormonal balance is restored, whereas others might need to take this treatment for life.
To establish your body’s hormone levels and your unique bioidentical hormone requirements, doctors use hi-tech diagnostic equipment. This process usually entails:
- A detailed review of your symptoms as well as personal, family, and medical history
- Fitness routines
- Continuing assessments
- Testing of the blood, saliva, and urine for lab analysis
- Stress reduction programs
- Nutrition planning
- Quality compounded pharmacy
- Use of high-quality supplements
Be prepared to spend about $250 to $500 each month when undergoing this treatment.
When Should You Consider Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
As mentioned, both men and women experience hormonal imbalance symptoms when they get older, which are best addressed with the help of BHRT. Some of the most common symptoms that necessitate this treatment include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
- Loss of muscle mass
- Memory loss
- Reduced sex drive
- Foggy thinking
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Loss of energy
- Pain during sex
If you experience any of these symptoms, BHRT might be needed. This will help you restore hormone levels to normal and lower the severity of your symptoms. You should also consider this treatment for conditions caused by hormonal imbalance, such as:
- Thyroid disease
- Adrenal fatigue
- Sexual dysfunction
- Metabolic syndrome
Your doctor will prescribe a dosage depending on the severity of your symptoms and your needs. This dose will vary depending on how your hormone needs to change. However, the FDA doesn’t recommend the use of hormones as a guide when treating women during bioidentical hormone therapy since they differ from one patient to another, and their levels change daily. This is more so the case for salivary hormones, which are usually not linked to menopausal symptoms.
Benefits Of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Here’s an overview of the benefits you can expect by undergoing BHRT:
- Manage Night Sweats And Hot Flashes
The organ that regulates the body’s internal temperature is called the hypothalamus. If your hormonal levels are imbalanced, the hypothalamus reacts excessively, even to minor temperature changes. This leads to you experiencing night sweats or rushes of heat while you sleep. BHRT can help you deal with this condition by stabilizing the hormonal levels in your body and reducing the overreaction of the hypothalamus. Women going into menopause also typically experience night sweats and hot flashes.
- Natural Interaction
As mentioned, bioidentical hormones are similar in structure to that of natural hormones. This means that the former can naturally interact within the body, unlike traditional hormone replacement therapies. Therefore, BHRT ensures that you feel better with fewer side effects.
- Healthier Skin And Hair
Hormone level imbalances can result in the skin looking wrinkly and making you look older. Undergoing BHRT helps you deal with this issue by restoring your body’s hormone levels, making your skin look younger again. This is achieved through the body’s now increased elastin and collagen production, giving your skin flexibility and support. As a result, your skin looks tighter, healthier, smoother, less saggy, and with fewer wrinkles.
- Improved Sexual Drive
The moisture levels in the vagina fall due to decreased estrogen levels, and this leads to less lubrication. This causes common menopause symptoms, such as an itchy and dry vagina that results in painful sex.
BHRT helps address this problem as it provides estrogen, which revitalizes the urogenital and vulvar area. Also, you suffer from fewer urinary symptoms, for instance, leaking after you laugh or cough.
BHRT helps address the problems of low libido and erectile dysfunction in men due to low testosterone levels. This leads to increased energy levels and also sexual drive.
- Reduced Fatigue
A common symptom of having low hormonal levels in your body is constantly feeling tired, lethargic, and losing interest in activities. BHRT helps you address this problem by making you feel re-energized. This happens as BHRT can restore the depleting hormones in the body. These hormones can include HGH, Melatonin, IGF-1 or Somatomedin C, estrogen, and testosterone.
- Ensures Your Bones Remain Healthy And Strong
Osteoporosis means having porous bones in the body, and this is a common problem that many older women encounter due to low levels of estrogen. Men also experience this problem as their bodies convert testosterone into estrogen to help preserve the bones. Help preserve the bones.
Genetic disposition is also a cause of osteoporosis, and if your family suffers from this condition, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll develop it later on. Opting for BHRT helps prevent this by replacing lost estrogen and testosterone. This means your bones get to remain healthy and strong.
- Reduced Menopausal Symptoms
Menopause is characterized by many undesirable symptoms such as mood changes, vaginal dryness, weight gain, and night sweats. These symptoms generally make women feel uncomfortable. BHRT helps lower the severity of these symptoms, making older women feel a lot more comfortable while going through menopause.
- Improves Mood And Sleep
Hormonal balance is essential for the optimum performance of bodily functions, including getting enough sleep and having an improved mood. When dealing with imbalanced hormone levels, you’ll have to live with mood changes and insomnia.
This is due to low levels of hormones, some of which may include:
- Progesterone calms the mind and reduces anxiety.
- Estrogen and testosterone help maintain energy levels.
- Melatonin is known as the sleep hormone as it regulates other sleep hormones.
- DHEA, which helps build bone and muscle. Low levels can cause weakness, lack of sleep, and pain.
However, BHRT helps address these issues as well by replenishing the hormone levels.
Possible Side Effects Of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
While the use of bioidentical hormones has many benefits, it may also have possible side effects on your body after prolonged use.
Bioidentical hormones that have been approved by the FDA undergo exhaustive testing and quality control. In contrast, those who don’t have the FDA’s approval haven’t been assessed or failed the FDA testing. Despite this, however, products that haven’t been approved by the FDA are still available for purchase. This means that the market has both untested and tested bioidentical hormones and unknown risks.
As there are no long-term tests or studies on whether bioidentical hormones have any adverse side effects, there still isn’t concrete data regarding their negative side effects.
With that said, several side effects may occur after using the first dosage since your body still isn’t used to the new hormonal levels. Some of these side effects can also be tied to a specific hormone. However, these side effects diminish as your body gets used to the new hormone levels.
The most common side effects of bioidentical hormones to look out for include:
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain
- Increased facial hair in women
- Blurred vision
- Breast cancer
- Gall bladder infection
- Higher risk of blood clots
- Skin changes
- Heart disease
Noting these side effects, it’s advisable to first discuss with your doctor whether this hormone replacement therapy is suitable for you. This is crucial since the seriousness of these side effects can vary and also depend on your medical history.
How Should You Take Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Bioidentical hormones are available in different forms, and the ideal choice depends on what symptoms you’re looking to address. The types available include:
Which form of BHRT to use will depend on your lifestyle. After you’ve started the medication, you’ll need to closely monitor and assess how your body is responding to this treatment. The FDA advises doctors against determining hormonal levels by carrying out saliva and blood tests. Such tests only establish hormone levels at one point in time, and these levels usually differ greatly across the day.
Regular checkups are essential for the doctor to assess your progress. But at the start, you’ll be administered small dosages, and this will be increased gradually until the desired outcome is seen.
Traditional Hormone Replacement Versus BHRT
Hormones used during traditional therapy are produced from horse urine, while bioidentical hormones are synthesized from plant estrogens. Bioidentical hormones are also chemically similar to the hormones your body produces naturally, unlike the hormones in traditional therapy. Because bioidentical hormones are sourced from plants, they’re natural and much safer than those obtained from animals.
Is It Safe To Use BHRT?
Many people have concerns about experiencing adverse side effects due to the prolonged use of bioidentical hormones. This concern is caused by the adverse effects brought about by traditional hormone therapy, such as blood clots, heart disease, breast cancer, and stroke.
However, BHRT is safer since it uses bioidentical hormones instead of synthetic hormones to address health issues specifically. Despite being lab-created, bioidentical hormones have the same chemical structure as the natural hormones produced by your body. This differentiates it from the hormones produced by traditional hormone therapy, which produces hormones that attach directly to your body’s receptors, thereby making them more reactive.
If you’re suffering from a condition caused by hormonal imbalance, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is a great solution. If you had your concerns about this treatment, reading this article might have provided you with useful information that ensures you’ll make an informed decision. But before you do it, make sure to consult your doctor for the appropriate dose to avoid any severe side effects.
If you eventually decide to go with this treatment, make sure to start with the least dosage as this is effective and guaranteed to offer you recovery within a short duration. You’ll then become more productive and also experience a general improvement in your well-being.