Bioidentical Hormones: What They Are and Their Best Uses
For many people, the body starts to show the wear and tear of the years that have passed around middle age. As you age, your natural production of hormones may become impaired. Your body may start to produce higher levels of some hormones and lower levels of others. When hormone levels are lower than they normally are – and bear in mind that “normal” is different for every single person – your body may develop uncomfortable symptoms and unhealthy conditions. Bioidentical hormone therapy can help you feel better.
Bioidentical hormones are man-made hormones that operate in a very similar way to the hormones produced by the human body. They are often used in men and women whose hormone production is low or out of balance.
What are bioidentical hormones?
Hormones are chemicals that the glands in the body naturally produce. They are the messengers that tell other parts of the body how and when to work and control most of the tasks in the body from sex and brain function to the breakdown of food. When hormones are out of balance, the body doesn’t work as it should and symptoms can result.
Bioidentical hormones are produced to be very similar to the hormones that run the human body. Common hormones that are matched include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone which are then used as a treatment for people whose hormones are low or imbalanced.
Some prescription forms of bioidentical hormones are pre-made by drug companies while other forms are custom-made by a pharmacist based on a doctor’s orders in a process called compounding. The compounded forms have not been tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Both the FDA-approved and compounded hormones come in a variety of dosages and means of delivery whether pills, creams, gels, sprays, or vaginal inserts.
Why use bioidentical hormones?
As stated before, as men and women age, the levels of hormones in the body may go down. These include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone which can lead to certain symptoms including but not limited to the following:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Night sweats
- Pain during sex
- Loss of interest in sex
- Loss of energy
- Issues sleeping
- Loss of muscle mass
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
- Weight gain
Bioidentical hormone treatment is used to replace the hormones that have been lost. This increase in hormone levels can improve symptoms.
How your doctor will determine your dosage
People on bioidentical hormone treatment are monitored very closely by their doctors. Dosages are adjusted to a patient’s symptoms, needs, and objectives with the goal of keeping the dosage to the minimum required to achieve your goals. Depending on your doctor, you may have to have routine saliva, urine, or blood tests to check your hormone levels. Your doctor may adjust your dosage based on your changing hormonal needs.
Are bioidentical hormones safe?
The bioidentical hormones that have been approved by the FDA have been tested for safety of consumption. They are past the FDA’s strict standards and are safe for people to use. The compounded hormones, however, have not been tested by the FDA; in fact, little research has been done on them to prove them to be safe or unsafe. Many major medical groups do not support their use because not enough is known about their safety and long-term effects.
What are the risks of bioidentical hormones?
Research has shown that there are potential risks for women who take hormones as they can increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, and gallbladder disease. In women who are older and use hormone therapy for an extended period of time, the risk of heart disease and breast cancer may also increase.
What are common side effects of bioidentical hormones?
When the FDA approves the drug, the drug company must provide information about side effects and include this in the paperwork when picked up at the pharmacy. Pharmacies that compound hormones that are not tested by the FDA do not have to report side effects or provide such paperwork. Because of this, many believe that compound hormones are safer, when in fact, doctors are unaware of all the associated side effects of these hormones.
Side effects can commonly occur when a dosage is first given because the body is not used to the level of hormones. The dose may need to be changed. Some common side effects include:
- Blurred vision
- Weight gain
- Breast tenderness
- Increased facial hair
- Mood swings
- You may experience itching or redness around the area where you get a shot or where you apply your hormones if you use a patch, cream, or gel.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should notify your doctor at once.