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Bioidentical Hormones: Uses, Safety, and Effectiveness

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The term bioidentical hormones refer to synthetic hormones that resemble those hormones made by the human body. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sugandh Garg

Published At March 15, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 15, 2023

Introduction

Most of the fundamental bodily processes are regulated by hormones. They act as a means of intracellular communication between all of the body's cells. They control everything, including digestion, growth, appetite, immune system, mood, and libido. Therefore, even a small hormone imbalance can have a significant impact on health and well-being.

People frequently use hormone replacement therapies to treat symptoms when their hormone levels drop or become out of balance. Certain forms of gender-affirming care also employ hormone replacement therapy. In recent years, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) has attracted a lot of interest. It promises a "natural" hormone therapy method.

What Are Bioidentical Hormones?

Bioidentical hormones are processed hormones that are intended to resemble the hormones produced by the glands in the body. People who experience low or unbalanced hormone symptoms may find relief by taking bioidentical hormones. People who are going through the menopausal or perimenopausal stages frequently experience this.

The endocrine glands produce chemicals called hormones. They act as messengers, informing other body parts when and how to function. Numerous bodily systems and processes are impacted by hormones. The slightest imbalance can result in symptoms that disrupt the day. As a remedy for these symptoms, doctors may advise hormone replacement therapy.

Hormones from plants that have been processed are used in bioidentical hormone therapy (BHRT). The three bioidentical hormones that are most frequently used are testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen. Pharmaceutical companies premake some bioidentical hormone prescription dosage forms. Some kinds of bioidentical hormones have received FDA approval in the United States. A pharmacist will create other kinds of bioidentical hormones according to a doctor's prescription. These hormones are bioidentical compounds (or mixtures).

The FDA has not evaluated and approved the compounded forms. Although it is frequently stated that products made from plants are natural options, once they have undergone processing, they have undergone laboratory alteration and are no longer natural.

Here are some examples of bioidentical hormones:

  • 17 beta-estradiols, including medications like Estrace, Estradil, and Estring.

  • Estradiol acetate, including Femring.

  • Estradiol hemihydrate, including Vagifem.

  • Prometrium and Prochieve are two examples of micronized progesterone USP (unique selling proposition).

What Are the Uses of Bioidentical Hormones?

The body produces fewer hormones as one ages. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are some of these hormones. Low hormones frequently have the following effects:

  • Hot flashes.

  • Night sweats.

  • Vaginal dryness.

  • Loss of interest in sex or pain during intercourse.

  • Sleep difficulties.

  • Energy loss or fatigue.

  • Weight gain.

  • Mood swings.

  • Confusion or a loss of memory.

Bioidentical or traditional hormone therapy aims to replace these lost or low hormone levels. Most people experience an improvement in their symptoms once hormone levels are raised. Depending on the specific symptoms they are intended to treat, bioidentical hormones come in various forms. A person who is being treated for hormone replacement will frequently have their saliva or blood sample checked for their hormone levels.

Hormone replacement therapy may also lessen the risk of diabetes, tooth loss, and cataracts, in addition to helping with symptoms. According to anecdotal evidence, some people think it can help with wrinkle reduction and even skin thickness, hydration, and elasticity. However, there is little proof that bioidentical hormones are as effective as traditional hormone therapy. Based on the symptoms and medical history, the healthcare provider can help decide the hormone replacement options.

Who Requires Bioidentical Hormones?

Most perimenopausal women may search for treatment options over the safety of bioidentical hormones. However, not all women respond favorably to conventional therapies. Women may think about bioidentical hormones as potential alternatives in these situations. Before beginning bioidentical hormone therapy, women who have tried other medications might want to consider changing their lifestyles. Some additional steps to take could be:

  • Taking vitamin supplements.

  • Eating a healthier diet.

  • Increasing exercise.

  • Trying to reduce anxiety and stress.

How Safe Are Bioidentical Hormones?

The FDA-approved bioidentical hormones have undergone safety testing. They have met the exacting requirements of the FDA and are secure for use by people. There are risks with this hormone therapy, just like with any other. Even the FDA-approved bioidentical hormones should be discussed with the healthcare provider to determine their benefits and drawbacks.

The drug company is required to disclose any side effects they learn about when the FDA approves a drug. The paperwork when picking up the prescription at the pharmacy includes a list of these side effects. Hormone compounding pharmacies are exempt from filing paperwork with the FDA or reporting adverse drug reactions. The fact that healthcare professionals are unaware of all the potential side effects of these hormones contributes to the misconception that compounded hormones are safer.

There may be side effects, particularly after the first dose. The body is not accustomed to the new hormone level. As the body gets adjusted to the new hormone level, many side effects improve. The dose may need to be adjusted in some circumstances. The following are some common side effects of bioidentical hormones:

  • Weight gain.

  • Blurred vision.

  • Headaches.

  • Breast tenderness.

  • Tiredness.

  • Acne.

  • Increased facial hair.

  • Spotting.

  • Cramping.

  • Bloating.

  • Mood swings.

Research studies have demonstrated that taking hormones carries risks. It can increase the chance of gallbladder disease, stroke, and blood clots. If one uses hormonal therapy for an extended period of time or is older, the risk of heart disease and breast cancer may also rise. Bioidentical hormones are allegedly safer than conventional hormone therapy, according to many medical professionals who use them. However, there are no sizable research studies on bioidentical hormones to support this.

Conclusion

Some people with symptoms linked to low or otherwise unbalanced hormone levels may benefit from bioidentical hormones. However, not all bioidentical hormones have FDA approval. Hormone replacement therapies, in general, including BHRT, have risks and side effects in addition to potential benefits. It is crucial to talk about these with the doctor. Additionally, certain medical conditions can make one more susceptible to severe side effects from hormone replacement therapy. A doctor must be consulted about the advantages and disadvantages of hormone replacement. Most importantly, we must understand that one does not have to put up with the uncomfortable side effects of low hormones, as it can be safely managed.

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Dr. Sugandh Garg
Dr. Sugandh Garg

Internal Medicine

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