Similar to synthetic hormone replacement therapy, bioidentical hormones are prescribed to help stabilize or increase a woman's hormone levels. Usually, this is done during perimenopause, when hormone levels become erratic or just before menopause, when hormones such as estrogen drop dramatically. Although there has been little research done on the effects or safety of bioidentical hormones, they are becoming increasingly popular. Read on to learn more about bioidentical hormones.
What Are Bioidentical Hormones?
Made in a laboratory, bioidentical hormones are artificial compounds made from plant extracts, such as soy bean or wild yam. Bioidentical hormone therapy is often erroneously called “natural therapy”, because of the hormones plant origin, as well as their ability to simulate natural hormones when introduced into the body.
Compounded preparations of these hormones normally include estriol, estrone, estradiol, testosterone, progesterone, and on occasion dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on their own, or in various combinations. There are currently no studies to support the safety of these hormones.
Where Can I Find Bioidentical Hormones?
Bioidentical hormones can be found in a variety of forms, either via prescription or bought over the counter. FDA approved bioidentical estrogens and microionized progesterone is available with a prescription at the drugstore. Most forms are commercially available, such as bioidentical estradiol, which is found in several forms, including pills, patches, creams, and vaginal preparations. They can also be compounded, or tailor-made to fit an individual's hormonal needs.
Producing Bioidentical Hormones
The following is a list of the various types of hormones, and ways they can be taken:
The hormone estriol, which is produced during pregnancy, is commonly used in bioidentical form in the U.S. It is not available as a pharmaceutical prescription in Canada or the U.S., but it is available as a cream or vaginal suppository in the U.K. Estradiol is available in brand-name form in both oral and transdermal varieties.
Approved for use by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada, progesterone is used both orally and transdermally. Microionized progesterone is available either in capsule form or as a vaginal gel and is approved by the FDA to treat endometrial hyperplasia if used in opposition to estrogen. It is often prescribed in menopause to treat sleep disorders.
Used to improve libido in postmenopausal women, testosterone is also used to reduce excess high density lipoprotein. Commercial sources are limited; however, a patch has been approved for use in the U.K.
Always consult your doctor or a qualified healthcare professional if you are considering or taking bioidentical hormones during menopause. Other treatments, such as natural supplements and lifestyle changes, are available for women whose menopausal symptoms are less severe, or who want to find a truly natural hormonal imbalance treatment.