Estrogen is the general term for a group of ovarian hormones with similar characteristics. Specifically, estrogen refers to the primary group of female sex hormones which promote the development of female sexual characteristics and are involved in menstruation. When women encounter a decrease in their estrogen levels, they are forced to look for options to relieve the condition. One of the options is bioidentical estrogen.
The following section describes what bioidentical estrogen is, its potential benefits, the types of estrogen therapy, side effects, and forms in which it can be administered.
What Is Bioidentical Estrogen
Bioidentical estrogen is a plant-derived hormone that functions identically to estrogen produced by the body. Its molecular structure precisely matches that of the body's estrogen.
Potential benefits of bioidentical estrogen
Bioidentical estrogen is typically administered in the event of a hormonal deficiency or imbalance. Below is a list of conditions that could be improved with bioidentical estrogen:
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- Postpartum Depression
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Types of bioidentical estrogen
There are three core types of bioidentical estrogen: estradiol, estrone, and estriol. The role of each is outlined below. Read on:
Estradiol. Typically produced by the ovaries and making up the majority of the body's estrogen, estradiol helps relieve menopausal symptoms and promotes osteal, cardiovascular, and neural health. It also enhances mental acuity, memory, and serotonin levels.
Estrone. Estrone is the weakest form of estrogen, but it can provide benefits during postmenopause.
Estriol. Estriol plays a crucial role in pregnancy and urogenital health. Bioidentical estriol helps oppose and moderate the strength of estradiol's effects.
What Is Bioidentical Estrogen Replacement Therapy?
Bioidentical estrogen replacement therapy (BERT) refers to the use of hormones that are molecularly identical to those used in traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT). BERT is also the collective efforts made to reach a targeted level of hormones (in this case, estrogen) in the body. Specific hormones used in BERT include estrone, estradiol and estriol, all of which are available both in FDA-approved products and as pharmacy-compounded products.
Side Effects of Bioidentical Estrogen Replacement Therapy
More research is needed to provide a definitive list of the side effects associated with bioidentical estrogen use. However, the list below includes the most common complaints to date:
- Weight gain
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Increased risk of breast cancer
- Increased risk of gallbladder disease
- Decreased sex drive
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Thyroid imbalance
- Irregular menstrual flow
- Increased blood pressure
- Decreased bone density
For a thorough explanation of the consequences mentioned above, click on side effects of bioidentical estrogen replacement therapy.
Bioidentical Estrogen Products
Bioidentical estrogen is available in various forms:
Creams and ointments. As a cream or ointment, bioidentical estrogen can be combined with a variety of different hormones to maximize effectiveness. Texture and rate of absorption can be manipulated according to each individual's needs. Vaginal creams are useful for localized therapy.
Percutaneous gels. The dermal administration of bioidentical estrogen with percutaneous gels has been common practice in Europe for several years. The skin's natural matrix delivers an uninterrupted flow of hormones into the body.
Suppositories. A variety of bioidentical hormones, including estradiol and estriol, are available in suppository form.
Capsules. Oil-filled capsules can supplement the use of individual hormones or hormone combinations.
Sublingual tablets. Sublingual tablets are consumed by placing them under the tongue.
Nasal sprays. For individuals with certain medical conditions, bioidenticals are available as a nasal spray.
Alternatives to Bioidentical Estrogen
Before taking the fairly drastic step of proceeding with any form of hormone therapy, it is strongly recommended to consider safer and more natural approaches, such as changes in lifestyle and herbal remedies (alternative medicine).
In addition to maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen, techniques that facilitate stress reduction, like yoga and meditation, can provide considerable assistance in stabilizing hormone levels and improving overall wellbeing.
Alternative medicine addresses hormonal imbalance at the source by stimulating natural hormone production in the body's endocrine system. Herbal supplements, acupuncture, and biofeedback can often help to treat hormone imbalance in a natural way. Click here to learn more about alternatives to bioidentical estrogen replacement therapy.