What are Bioidentical Hormones?
Bioidentical hormones are structurally and functionally identical to our own naturally produced hormones. They are derived from plant and food sources, and synthesized in a lab to be identical in structure to the natural form of the hormone.
It is important to distinguish between bioidentical hormones and synthetic hormones. Synthetic hormones are found in the birth control pill, IUD’s and most conventional hormone replacement therapy creams and pills. They are structurally different than our bodies naturally occurring hormones. For hormones to exert an effect on a body, they must bind to a receptor. Synthetic hormones are not identical to our own hormones therefore do not fit perfectly into the receptor site. They may exert some of the desired effect because of partial binding, but they will never function exactly like a natural hormone in the body. This leads to side effects and increased health risks, which was found in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study in 1991. The WHI study looked at the long-term effects of hormone therapy in 16,000 women over 15 years. It was ended pre-maturely after preliminary evidence indicated the harm associated with the use of synthetic hormones exceeded the benefits. The most significant findings were an increase in breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots.
Bioidentical hormones are safer and more effective than the synthetic forms. A French cohort study in 2005 looked at the use of bioidentical hormones in 3,175 women over 10 years and were unable to detect any increase in risk of breast cancer, stroke or heart attacks. Substantial scientific evidence has demonstrated that bioidentical hormones are safer and more effective than synthetic HRT. More randomized control trials of substantial size and length are needed to further outline these differences.
Is BHRT right for you?
BHRT can be used for a variety of concerns surrounding hormone imbalances. These imbalances are determined by specialized laboratory testing including blood, urine and/or saliva. Signs and symptoms of an imbalance may include:
Women may experience fluctuations in their hormone levels any time throughout their lifespan, but they most commonly occur in menopausal and post-menopausal women. Bioidentical hormone therapy can play a vital part in helping women successfully navigate the menopause transition.
Hormone imbalances or deficiencies can occur naturally with age and become more severe due to prolonged stress, poor diet, chronic infection, insomnia, drug or alcohol use. Naturopathic Doctor's will use BHRT in combination with other naturopathic modalities including dietary and lifestyle modifications, herbs, supplements and stress management to ensure long-term resolution of symptoms. If you are interested in learning more about bioidentical hormone therapy or hormone testing contact Dr. Gaucher at Kamloops Naturopathic Clinic 250.377.3077.
Dr. Marissa Gaucher, ND
Climacteric. 2002 Dec;5(4):332-40. Combined hormone replacement therapy and risk of breast cancer in a French cohort study of 3175 women.de Lignières B et al. French Cohort Study. Http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12626212
The Bioidentical Hormone Debate: are Bioidentical Hormones (estradiol, estriol, and Progesterone) safer or More efficacious than Commonly used synthetic Versions in Hormone replacement therapy Holtorf K. Postgrad Med. 2009 Jan;121(1):73-85. doi: 10.3810/pgm.2009.01.1949.
A Comprehensive Review of the Safety and Efficacy of Bioidentical Hormones for the Management of Menopause and Related Health Risks Deborah Moskowitz, ND. Altern Med Rev 2006;11(3):208-223)
The Safety of Bioidentical Hormones :the Data vs. the Hype by Jacob Teitelbaum, MD From the Townsend Letter June 2007
Rossouw JE, Manson JE, Kaunitz AM, Anderson GL. Lessons Learned From the Women’s Health Initiative Trials of Menopausal Hormone Therapy. Obstetrics and gynecology. 2013;121(1):172-176.
Beral et al. “The use of HRT and the subsequent risk of cancer”. J Epidemiol Biostat. 1999. Vol 4 (3).