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Hormone Replacement Therapy


What are Bioidentiical Hormones?

Sometimes called natural hormones, bioidentical hormones are chemically, structurally, and functionally the same as hormones naturally found in the human body. Take progesterone as an example. Here you can see the chemical structure of human progesterone compared with that of bioidentical progesterone and Provera/MPA, which is a synthetic, nonidentical progestin. As you would expect, the structures of human and bioidentical progesterone are identical, and they both would give the same signal to cells to elicit the same response. Provera, however, has a slightly different structure and may give similar but possibly undesirable messages to cells.

How are Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) Treatments Created?

If bioidentical hormones are purchased at a compounding pharmacy, a cocktail of hormones is created, uniquely tailored for each individual patient. If they're purchased at a conventional pharmacy, these hormones are available in a range of set doses. In both instances, the prescriptions are based on a series of tests administered by a doctor. Many of the bioidentical hormones used are made from soybeans and wild yams, which contain unique compounds that are processed chemically and made into identical replicas of hormones the body produces. They are used for their cost-effectiveness as well as their ability to readily extract compounds and turn them into exact replicas of human hormones.

What's Wrong With Synthetic Hormones?

Hormones are chemicals produced in your body and give signals to your cells for a variety of functions that help to maintain your health. By working together, hormones may stimulate or inhibit growth, activate or inhibit your immune system, regulate your metabolism, or control the reproductive cycle, depending on the particular hormones.

Physiologically, hormones act through somewhat of a "lock and key" mechanism with cells. Hormones in our body bind to specific receptors on our cells; the receptor is like a lock and the hormone is like a key. When a hormone binds to its own, unique receptor, the cell generates a response to that particular signal. The chemical structure of the hormone is analogous to ridges on a key. If a hormone has a slight variation in the chemical structure, it may very weakly bind or not bind at all to its receptor and therefore will not give the appropriate signal to the cell, just as an inexact copy of a key may fit into its lock but may not turn the lock.

This point is particularly significant when discussing the function of synthetic hormones, which are not exact copies of hormones found in your body. Synthetic hormones may give undesirable messages to cells, which may lead to increased risks of breast cancer and coronary heart disease as we saw before with synthetic progesterone. The WHI study, as well as almost all hormone replacement treatments in the 20th century, used synthetic hormones. Additional studies that found increased health risks focused on the synthetic hormones, too. Many of the increased health risks may be due to the inappropriate signals given by these inexact hormone replicas.

The bottom line is that giving the same signals as naturally-found, human hormones to produce the same cellular response requires using exact replicas of our hormones.

Why Should I Use Bioidentical Hormones?

In general, hormones in the body maintain your health. Hormone levels generally decline as we age, and health maintenance concerns arise. When hormone-producing glands do not function properly, hormones become imbalanced or deficient, and severe consequences develop. If hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, DHEA, cortisol, growth hormone, thyroid hormone, or insulin are imbalanced or at improper levels (too high or too low), some of the symptoms that may occur include:

  • Abnormal metabolism and/or poor organ function
  • Sexual dysfunction / vaginal atrophy / urinary incontinence
  • Sleep disturbance and/or decreased well-being
  • Energy / staminia decline
  • Depression / mood swings
  • Disease vulnerability to colon cancer, heart disease, stroke, osteoprosis, tooth loss, Alzheimers, mascular degeneration and cognitive decline
  • Accelerated aging
  • Weight gain despite proper diet and exercise
  • Hot flashed
  • Skin Atrophy

Are There Health Risks With Bioidentical Hormones?

As discussed before with the WHI study, researchers suggested that the culprit of the increased health risks was in fact the synthetic progesterone. Many studies have compared the effects of synthetic progesterone and bioidentical progesterone, and the tables on the left show the general results.

Bioidentical progesterone decreases not only the risk of breast cancer but also the risk for cardiovascular disease, whereas synthetic progesterone increases the risk for both. These results bolster the idea that bioidentical hormones are better, more beneficial, more physiological, and safer than their synthetic cousins.

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