If you are considering hormone therapy, you need to know: Are bio-identical hormones safe? Hormone therapy manages the symptoms of menopause or other hormonal imbalances. Being well-informed and understanding safety considerations is vital before making any decisions. In this article, we will explore the topic of bio-identical hormone therapy (BHRT) and delve into what you need to know about its safety.

Some medical professionals debate the safety of bio-identical hormones. Some studies suggest they carry the same risks as traditional HRT, such as an increased risk of certain cancers and blood clots. Others argue that bio-identical hormones have a lower risk profile due to their more natural composition.

In this article, we will examine the existing research on bio-identical hormone safety, discuss potential risks and benefits, and provide you with the information you need to decide whether bio-identical hormones are the right choice.

What are Bio-identical Hormones?

Plant-based Bio-identical hormones (BHRT) have a chemical structure identical to the hormones naturally produced in the human body. BHRT is an alternative to traditional synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) because it is believed to be more natural and better tolerated by the body.

Bio-identical hormones are typically custom-made in compounding pharmacies based on an individual’s specific hormone needs. This personalized approach restores hormonal balance and relieves symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and decreased libido.

What’s the Difference Between Bio-identical and Synthetic Hormones

One common question about bio-identical hormones is how they differ from synthetic hormones. Synthetic hormones have a chemical structure different from those naturally produced in the body.

On the other hand, the chemical structure of bio-identical hormones is identical to the hormones found in the human body. This similarity contributes to their potential for better tolerance and fewer side effects, as they can more seamlessly integrate with the body’s existing hormone receptors.

Are Bio-identical Hormones Safe?

Some medical professionals debate the safety of bio-identical hormones. Some studies suggest they carry the same risks as traditional HRT, such as an increased risk of certain cancers and blood clots. Others argue that bio-identical hormones have a lower risk profile due to their more natural composition.

It’s important to note that limited research compares the safety of bio-identical hormones to traditional HRT. The existing studies often have small sample sizes or rely on anecdotal evidence, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions.

Common Misconceptions About Bio-identical Hormones Safety

Several misconceptions surrounding the safety of bio-identical hormones need to be addressed. One common misconception is that bio-identical hormones are entirely risk-free because they are natural. While bio-identical hormones may have a more natural composition, they can still have potential risks and side effects.

Benefits of Bio-identical Hormones

Despite the safety concerns, many individuals find relief from their symptoms and experience benefits from using bio-identical hormones. Some potential benefits include:

1. Fewer symptoms of menopause: Bio-identical hormones can help reduce hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and other symptoms associated with menopause.

2. Improved quality of life: Bio-identical hormones may restore hormonal balance, improving overall well-being and enhancing quality of life.

3. Individualized treatment: Bio-identical hormones are often custom-made based on an individual’s specific hormone needs, allowing for a personalized treatment approach.

4. Fewer side effects: Because of their identical chemical structure, bio-identical hormones may have a lower risk of side effects than synthetic hormones.

Things to Consider Before Starting Hormone Therapy

Before starting bio-identical hormone therapy, there are several factors to consider. It’s important to thoroughly discuss this with a qualified healthcare provider specializing in hormone therapy. Some key factors to keep in mind include:

1. Individual health history: Your healthcare provider will assess your medical history and determine whether bio-identical hormone therapy is appropriate.

2. Potential risks and benefits: Understanding bio-identical hormone therapy’s potential risks and benefits is crucial in making an informed decision.

3. Monitoring and follow-up: Regular monitoring and follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider are essential to ensure the therapy is effective and safe.

4. Find a qualified healthcare provider: It is crucial to find a provider specializing in bio-identical hormone therapy to ensure your safety and receive the best possible care. 

Choose the Right Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Provider

1. Credentials and experience: Look for a healthcare provider with the necessary credentials and experience in hormone therapy.

2. Patient testimonials and reviews: Read reviews and testimonials from other patients to gauge their satisfaction and experience with the provider.

3. Communication and rapport: A healthcare provider who listens to your concerns and communicates effectively is crucial for a successful treatment journey.

Monitoring and Adjusting Bio-identical Hormone Therapy

Once you start bio-identical hormone therapy, regular monitoring and adjustments may be necessary to optimize your treatment. Your healthcare provider will assess your hormone levels and symptoms and make any required adjustments to ensure you receive the appropriate dosage.

Monitoring may involve blood tests or other diagnostic tests to evaluate hormone levels and overall health. Attending all follow-up appointments and communicating any changes or concerns you may have is essential.

Potential Side Effects of Bio-identical Hormone Therapy

BHRT is well-tolerated by the majority of patients. Some side effects can occur depending on factors like hormone dosage, duration of treatment, and overall health.

Some potential side effects of bio-identical hormone therapy include breast tenderness, bloating, mood changes, headaches, and spotting. It’s important to discuss any side effects with your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action.

What Are the Dangers of Synthetic Hormones?

Many patients face the decision between bio-identical or synthetic hormone replacement therapy. Bio-identical hormones are identical to the hormones we naturally make. The differences between synthetic and natural hormones can create serious side effects, including links to a higher risk of certain cancers. 

Synthetic hormones are marketed and advertised to patients in spite of known risks. Pharmaceutical companies patent the formulas of synthetic hormone medications. The expense of developing, testing, and manufacturing a drug can be truly astronomical. Because of this, pharmaceutical companies must recoup that money by selling their drug. Bio-identical hormones cannot be patented because they are “identical” to naturally occurring hormones in our bodies.

Where Do Synthetic Hormones Come From?

An example of a heavily marketed hormone medication is Premarin®. A “Fun Fact” about Premarin is that it uses estrogen from pregnant mares’ urine (horses). It’s even named PREgnant MARes’ urINe. Similar synthetic medications include Duvaee®, Provera®, and Prempro®. Synthetic hormones are aggressively marketed to older women approaching, experiencing, or have finished going through menopause.

Premarin tablets were first marketed to women for menopause in 1942. Premarin was eventually certified for use by the FDA in 1972. It eventually gained widespread popularity in the 1990s. However, in 2002, the widely publicized research findings of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) found significantly increased health risks for women taking synthetic hormones. The serious risks included breast cancer, blood clots, stroke, and dementia.

Some of the more severe side effects connected to Premarin included mood swings, depression, memory loss, and breast masses. Because of the risks that these medications present, advertisements must disclose that synthetic “estrogens may increase your chance of getting cancer of the uterus, strokes, blood clots, or dementia.”

Even though more than 20 years have passed since the 2002 WHI study, new research continues to find risks in using synthetic hormones. In fact, a February 2010 study showed that using the combination of synthetic progestin and estrogen caused increased short-term heart disease risks for postmenopausal women. A 2008 study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment stated that women using estrogen combined with synthetic progestins increased their risk of breast cancer by 69%. The International Journal of Cancer published research in 2005 pointing to a 40% increased risk of breast cancer when combining synthetic progestins with estrogen.

premarin horses

Horses Used for Premarin Production are Poorly Treated

Premarin® and PremPro® rely heavily on pregnant mare urine (PMU) as one of their key ingredients. Fortunately, the demand for PMU drugs decreased after the findings from the WHI were published. Unfortunately, there are still mares on PMU farms who are living heartbreaking lives.

Life of a Premarin Horse

  • The mares are repeatedly impregnated
  • They live in pens, typically no bigger than 3½’ wide by 8’ long
  • Rubber collection bags are permanently placed between their legs, resulting in painful lesions and repeated infections
  • Mares are kept dehydrated so their urine is more concentrated (and more valuable)
  • Mares are sent to slaughter when they can no longer become pregnant

What Happens to the Foals after Birth?

Female foals are typically kept on PMU farms to replace the mothers after they can no longer be used for PMU production. Male foals are somewhat more fortunate as they cannot be used for PMU production and are sold. Some horses go to good homes but most are sent to slaughterhouses.

Are Bio-identical Hormones Safe?

In conclusion, bio-identical hormones are a potential option for managing hormonal imbalances and menopausal symptoms. While some physicians debate their safety, they offer benefits such as personalized treatment and potentially fewer side effects than synthetic hormones.

Before starting bio-identical hormone therapy, it’s essential to thoroughly discuss with a qualified healthcare provider, consider individual factors, and understand the potential risks and benefits. Regular monitoring and adjustments and open communication with your healthcare provider are essential for a successful treatment journey.

Remember, every individual’s hormone needs and medical history are unique, so it’s crucial to make an informed decision based on personalized guidance from a healthcare professional.

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