This is a familiar question and one that is particularly common among menopausal women as they try to rebalance their hormone levels.
When a woman's “normal” hormone levels become imbalanced, and their production disrupted, it can cause numerous problems in the body.
There are medical products available that allow hormones to be rebalanced, to prevent or reduce any unpleasant side effects. However, first it is important to learn the difference between natural and synthetic hormones. Read on to learn what the main differences are and why these must be considered.
What Are Natural Hormones?
“Natural hormones” refers to the hormones that are produced in the endocrine glands within the body: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. All three are produced in the ovaries, and small amounts are secreted by the adrenal glands. Estrogen is also produced in small part by the breasts, liver, and within the fat cells. They regulate and influence our physical and emotional state and are have a huge impact on our daily lives.
Sometimes the term “natural hormones” is wrongly used to describe hormones that are produced in a laboratory, but which are made from natural, plant products. These are actually called “bioidentical” hormones, and are chemically identical to the ones that the body produces. Read on to discover more about bioidentical hormones.
What Are Bioidentical Hormones?
Bioidentical estrogen is a plant-based hormone (phyto-hormone) and its contents are extracted from yams and soy plants. Plants do not actually produce human hormones, but their compounds mimic these hormones and have a similar effect on the body. Bioidentical estrogen can be taken via creams, lotions, pills, patches, or vaginal rings.
Bioidentical progesterone and testosterone are made in the same way, and are most commonly found in cream form, but can be purchased as a gel, spray, or injection, too.
What Are Synthetic Hormones?
With regards to hormone replacement therapy, the term “synthetic hormones” refers to chemically produced hormones that are not identical to the hormones the body produces. The products will contain compounds that are never found in the human body and therefore it is not a natural hormone substance. Most commonly, synthetic hormones are made from the urine of a mare, but can also be made up from other plant or animal materials.
These types of hormones are usually used in the method known as HRT, but this treatment for hormone imbalance has recently been linked to risk of cancer, heart disease, and other serious conditions. The hormones act as toxins in the body and their chemical make-up can't always be metabolized properly. However, bioidentical hormones are also synthetic to some degree because they are also created in a laboratory.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is often said to be “natural” because their compounds are extracted from plants or natural products. However, despite potentially being safer than chemically produced hormones, they are unregulated by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA); therefore they can present their own risks.
Also, all hormone treatments, natural or synthetic, can cause side effects so you should always see your doctor if you are considering any form of HRT. Wherever possible, it is advised that women consider lifestyle changes, complemented by herbal medicine, as a first choice.