Our hormones control our day-to-day health and even our behavior, so keeping these hormones in check can be incredibly important. When someone’s hormones drop or become unbalanced, hormone replacement therapies can help ease symptoms. One of the most popular types of hormone replacement therapies is bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). This article will establish what BHRT is and how it differs from other hormone replacement therapies.
Why It’s Important to Make Sure Your Hormones are Balanced
When we hear about hormones, most people think about pregnancy or puberty. However, our hormones work around the clock to help keep our body functioning at a high level. They play a pivotal role in establishing a communication system between cells throughout the body.
Hormones help coordinate everything from digestion and growth to your appetite, immune function, mood, and libido. Hormonal imbalance can lead to health issues such as weight gain, fatigue, sweating, constipation, blurred vision, infertility, and dry skin. It’s important to note that these symptoms are nonspecific and can be caused by a wide range of medical issues, not just a hormonal imbalance.
What is BHRT?
As mentioned at the top of the article, BHRT is a popular hormone replacement therapy used to treat hormonal imbalance for both men and women. It’s most commonly used to help ease the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause – which can cause hormone levels to drop off significantly. It is also used to improve cancer treatment symptoms or treat other conditions such as insulin resistance, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia.
The hormones used in BHRT are human-made and created from plant estrogens that are chemically identical to those the human body produces – hence the name. There are several different ways to insert these hormones into the body. These methods include pills, patches, creams, gels, and injections.
How is BHRT Made?
BHRT is created by a process known as compounding. This process involves ingredients being combined or altered to meet the needs of an individual. Since BHRT should be tailored to fit a patient’s specific needs, it’s usually custom-made by a pharmacy according to a doctor’s orders. Some of these hormones are made by drug companies, but pharmacists make most.
Unfortunately, many of these products are sold without controls for safety, quality, or purity. While activist groups are working hard to change this, the FDA hasn’t approved any custom-compounded bioidentical hormones. This means the burden is on you to ensure any product you purchase is safe and actually provides the benefits they claim to.
Difference Between Traditional Therapy and BHRT
Hormones used in BHRT treatments differ from the ones used in traditional hormone therapy (HRT). As we mentioned earlier, hormones used in BHRT treatments are made from plant estrogens and are chemically identical to those in our bodies. Meanwhile, hormones used in traditional HRT are made from pregnant horses’ urine and other synthetic hormones.
Some believe that bioidentical hormones are safer because they are natural and are identical in makeup to the hormones in our body. However, most experts believe the risks and benefits of HRT and BHRT are similar. Beyond that, there is no concrete evidence that BHRT is more effective than HRT.
Benefits of BHRT
Now that we have a better understanding of what BHRT is and how it works, what about the benefits? After all, everything else is irrelevant if it doesn’t work. It is believed that BHRT can help ease the symptoms of menopause and cancer treatments including:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood changes
- Memory loss
- Weight gain
- Sleep issues
- Decreased sex drive
Beyond easing symptoms, hormone replacement therapy can reduce your risk of developing diabetes, tooth loss, and cataracts. Some experts even believe it can improve your skin health by improving thickness, hydration, and elasticity.
How Do You Take BHRT?
Thinking about hormone transfers can be scary. It’s hard not to think of complicated sci-fi medical treatments. However, taking BHRT can be just as easy as taking other forms of medication. Here are some of the ways you can take BHRT:
- Implanted pellets
When talking with your doctor, they will determine the best way for you to take the product. More often than not, it comes down to personal preference. One thing your doctor will point out is that you will need to be monitored regularly once you begin BHRT to evaluate your body’s response. Doctors will also recommend against monitoring your hormone levels via blood and saliva tests as these can be widely inaccurate.
The Side Effects and Risks of BHRT
Just like every other medical treatment, BHRT does not come without its risks. Understanding these risks is incredibly important. Remember, the FDA hasn’t approved any compounded bioidentical hormones. Experts believe that hormone transfer therapy may increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, gallbladder disease, heart disease, and breast cancer. Here are some of the side effects and risks that accompany BHRT specifically:
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Increased facial hair in women
Unfortunately, many people can’t take BHRT or any other form of hormone replacement because of the risks. Please discuss the pros and cons with your doctor before using any hormone replacement therapy.
Schedule an Appointment Today
Dr. Leo at Today’s Integrative Health is ready to help if you’re looking into bioidentical hormone therapy. We can do a complete health assessment to see if BHRT is right for you. Call our office today to schedule your first appointment. We can’t wait to work with you!