Hormone therapy has benefitted millions of people. And, over the last few decades, serious progress has been made in the understanding of:
- improve sleep
- alleviate hot flashes
- increase energy levels
- reduce or eliminate night sweats
- increase your sex drive (libido)
- end urinary problems
- make sex less painful
- protect your bones
- increase your good cholesterol
- maintain a healthy weight
- reduce risk of colon cancer
- alleviate depression
- reduce anxiety
The days of rampant fear around the risks of using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have passed, but the residual effects of a poorly conceived media blitz still linger.
Most People Don’t Know What to Believe
The facts remain that although there are some risks with HRT, they depend largely on your age and any underlying medical conditions you have, such as:
- personal or family history of breast cancer
- history of blood clots
The delivery system can also make a difference as to how safe HRT is. A recent study by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) found that about 40% of all prescriptions for menopausal hormone therapy are for BHRT. That’s about 1.4 million women! The numbers say it all!
Although BHRT has been around for over a century and is widely used in other countries, the shift from synthetic HRT to BHRT here in America has taken decades. You are probably here because you’ve heard that BHRT is safer than HRT or vice versa. The truth is that research is still on the fence about which one is safer. Research has consistently shown that BHRT isn’t any less safe, and it works more effectively.
How is Bio-Identical Different from Non-Bio-Identical?
Bio-identical hormones are man-made hormones that are similar to the hormones produced by your body. These could be sourced, manufactured, and delivered in a variety of ways. They can include non–FDA-approved custom-compounded products as well as FDA-approved formulations. They are often sourced from plant or animal sources.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several preparations of bio-identical estradiol and progesterone. These are molecularly identical to the structure of the hormones generated by your body. In addition, these preparations have been thoroughly tested for safety and purity to ensure that each dose has the same amount of hormones.
Because the molecular structure of BHRT is identical to those created by the body, they are more efficient than synthetic hormones. The structure of synthetic hormones is not identical to naturally occurring hormones which means that they are slightly off. When they try to plug into the receptors, they don’t quite fit, so not all of the information that needs to be transferred gets transferred. Think of this as plugging in your cell phone – it won’t charge if you don’t have the correct plug.
Are Bio-Identical Hormones Safer Than Synthetic Hormones?
This is a highly confusing topic that requires more research to answer. Some people say yes, others say no. Still, others say they are both bad. And others say they are both good. So here are some facts to help you decide where you stand.
Transdermal estradiol is safer than oral estrogen because it doesn’t have to be digested and passes through your liver. This reduces the risk of blood clots and gallbladder disease.
Studies have not shown an advantage of one type of estrogen over another. Some studies of Premarin (synthetic estrogen) show no breast cancer increase, while others offer a slight increase. The same is true for bio-identical estradiol (estrogen). Studies suggest that there could be an increased risk when any estrogen replacement is combined with synthetic progestin.
It also looks like when women take combined HRT (estrogen and progesterone) that synthetic progestins, not estrogen, may be the component that is most linked to breast cancer. There has been no study linking bio-identical progesterone with an increase in breast cancer.
Data suggests that bio-identical progesterone is safer than synthetic progestin because the synthetic progestin opposes estrogen’s benefits on heart health. However, bio-identical progesterone does not interfere with estrogen’s cardiovascular benefit.
Now Let’s Knock Out the Big Bad Scary
Earlier, we mentioned the study that scared the wits out of doctors and patients alike. Almost 20 years ago, an extensive study of hormone therapy by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) found an increased risk of serious harm to those taking hormones.
The bottom line was that hormone therapy caused breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and blood clots. No wonder people freaked out. Since then, the data has been reviewed and clarified. For example, the women recruited to complete the study averaged 63 years old. That is 12 years past the average age of menopause, which is 51.
There are two reasons that this is important:
- Very few of these patients were experiencing the symptoms that HRT would be prescribed for in the first place. Oddly enough, the researchers excluded patients who had moderate to severe hot flashes.
- Due to the age of these women, many had multiple health issues associated with advancing age.
Not to mention that nearly 50% of them reported a history of smoking which contributes significantly to blood clots and various types of cancer. Another interesting point that comes from this study – and relates to our topic – is that all of the women in these studies were taking synthetic estrogen and synthetic progesterone, also known as conjugated equine estrogen (CEE) (Premarin) and medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA).
Bio-identical hormones were not used in the study. This may be why so many women have chosen BHRT over synthetic. There has been no worrisome evidence that BHRT brings with it increased risk factors.
BHRT Is Our Preferred Choice of Hormone Therapy
Would you like to learn more about BHRT and how it might increase your quality of life? Our Test Don’t Guess philosophy evaluates how your body metabolizes and eliminates your hormones, which helps us determine how your hormones get used and detoxified.
This additional step provides information that ensures that BHRT is a good fit long-term and which delivery method is better suited for your system. Have you decided that your health and happiness are worth it? Contact us for a consultation today!