BHRT, or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, is similar to traditional hormone replacement therapy with a twist. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy offers people a way to balance their hormones and maintain a high quality of life.
There are many facets to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy including what it is, the safety profile, the uniqueness factor, why you would take them, where you would get them, and how the dose is known. In addition to these basic facts this article will also discover some of the most common hormones that are bioidentically replaced and their risks and benefits.
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT)
Bioidentical hormones replacement therapy is the process of creating man made hormones that are biologically identical to human hormones. This allows the body to more easily recognize the hormones and use it in the same way that a natural hormone would be used. These bioidentical hormones can be made to match the person taking them to try and balance the hormones out as much as possible.
Taking these hormones can help to increase hormone levels in those with low or imbalance levels. This can help to reduce unwanted symptoms and boost vitality in those that have low levels from aging.
Are BHRT Hormones Safer Than Other Hormones?
The safety of bioidentical hormone replacement depends on a few factors.
The first is FDA approval. Only a few bioidenticals have been approved by the FDA, or Food and Drug Administration, which include a version of estradiol and also progesterone. In order to be FDA approved these must go through rigorous testing to ensure they are both safe and effective. If you are choosing an FDA approved bioidentical hormone you can be sure that the hormone is safe, but not necessarily any safer than other non-bioidentical hormones.
On the other hand there are many bioidentical hormones that are created by small independent pharmaceutical companies and are not FDA approved. These can not be confirmed as safe or unsafe since they are not required to undergo the standardized testing process that the FDA requires. Therefore, if you choose a non regulated bioidentical hormone you are not guaranteed adequate safety of the hormone.
What is Unique About BHRT?
A regular hormone medication is created in large batches and are all exactly the same. The idea behind bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is that it is created custom for you. Each person has different hormone levels and a unique genetic sequence, by utilizing bioidentical therapies you can make the hormone as identical to your own as possible.
Therefore by utilizing your hormones you can create something that your body will recognize and utilize easily. They are also made in much smaller batches as opposed to a generic hormone. They are carefully crafted just for you, leaving you with an artisan touch.
Why Would You Take Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormones are chemical substances in the body that need to constantly be in balance. Too much hormone and you could have a problem. Too little hormone and your body is not able to function properly either. When someone is unable to produce enough hormone to keep up with demand they may consider taking bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
The bioidentical hormones can help to reduce the negative symptoms that the person is experiencing from having too little of the hormone. They would only start taking bioidentical hormones after a test is taken to confirm that there is a deficiency in a certain hormone.
It should also be mentioned that if you already have an adequate amount of a hormone, then taking more will not increase the benefits from the therapy, but could actually cause even more problems if the dose exceeds the healthy balance of hormones.
How Do You Take Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
When you are trying to imagine taking bioidentical hormones you probably want to know what that would look like. Bioidentical hormones come in a large variety of forms including injections, pills, patches, and other topical products such as gels or creams.
The form of hormone that you get will depend on your specific symptoms, the hormone you need, personal preference, and how well each form works.
For example, a topical application will target one specific area of the body, whereas an injection or pill will provide a systemic effect reaching all parts of your body. You will work with your healthcare provider to determine which route is the best option for you while keeping lifestyle, preference, availability, and efficacy in mind.
Where Do You Get Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Bioidentical hormones require a process of working with a healthcare provider to get them. There are a number of care providers that can assist you in getting bioidentical hormones but an OB/GYN, reproductive endocrinologist, primary care provider, and endocrinologist are all capable of providing this therapy.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is a relatively new field that requires some additional training outside of the regular medical school education. For this reason you will need to find someone that has gotten this extra training so that they can help you to the best of their ability.
Depending on which hormones you think you may need will depend on which provider you should go to.
For women, they could go to any of these options, but an OB/GYN or reproductive endocrinologist would have the most expertise in estrogen and progesterone bioidentical hormone treatments.
As for men, a primary care provider or endocrinologist would be the best option.
Keep in mind that a reproductive endocrinologist and endocrinologist are both specialized in hormones of the body, so they would likely have more expertise in the area of bioidentical hormones.
How Do You Know Your Dose?
Your healthcare provider will be the one to provide you with the correct dose for you. Keep in mind this might change over time as your body ages and changes.
Your hormone levels and identity can be discovered through a variety of different tests. Blood, saliva, and urine can all provide information about your hormones. Different hormones may be more potent in various bodily secretions, so based on what hormone you are looking for will depend on the test you will have to take. Usually blood tests are used to get the most information about accurate levels of hormones in the body.
You will have these tests done before getting a prescription and also throughout your treatment to ensure your hormone dosage is still the best for you.
Estrogen Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Estrogen hormone therapy is most commonly used in women who are in menopause. Menopause is a result of a reduced level of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Estrogen plays a huge role in bone health, mood stabilization, vaginal lubrication, and more. So when estrogen levels drop in menopause there are symptoms like vaginal dryness, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, and an increased risk for osteoporosis. Taking estrogen hormones can help to reduce these symptoms and make menopause more tolerable.
There are some risks associated with estrogen hormone therapy that you should be aware of. Some of the risks include an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer, which are increased if you’re a smoker. To determine if estrogen is safe for you, talk with your doctor.
Testosterone Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Just as estrogen levels decrease in women with age, testosterone decreases in men as they age. Testosterone is the main male sex hormone responsible for libido, sexual functioning, muscle mass, strength, bone health, mood, and more. When low testosterone levels hit there can be many unwanted symptoms including hair loss, low sperm count, mood swings, erectile dysfunction, low libido, decreased energy levels, and reduced muscle mass. Testosterone hormone therapy can help to restore the hormone balance and reduce some of these symptoms while making life more enjoyable.
Some risks of testosterone hormone replacement therapy include increased risk of blood clots, reduced sperm production, testicle atrophy, enlarged breast tissue, skin issues, and worsening sleep apnea.
Almost every therapy has some risk to it, so considering if the benefits outweigh the risks for you are important.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is an option when it comes to leveling out hormone levels. These bioidentical hormones are created to be very similar to naturally occurring hormones, however they have not been shown to be any more safe or effective than other hormone replacement therapies.
If you and your doctor have decided that hormone replacement therapy is beneficial for you, bioidentical hormones may be an option to consider. However, always consider if the product is FDA approved so that you have the most credible information on the safety of your product.
Ultimately, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is up and coming and even more research needs to be done so we can know more about it.