Fluctuating hormones can turn your life upside down. If you’re going through menopause or andropause, you’ve probably experienced hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, or other symptoms that can leave you feeling unstable. And change of life isn’t the only condition caused by fluctuating hormones; conditions such as adrenal fatigue and thyroid imbalances can also have a disruptive impact on your physical and emotional well-being. Regardless of the cause, these changes can be uncomfortable and alarming.
If hormone fluctuations have you feeling unsettled, you’re not alone. Everyone goes through hormonal changes and many people experience disruptive hormonal symptoms at some point in their lives. But you don’t have to resign yourself to these effects; both traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can significantly reduce distress and restore well-being. But what’s the difference between them and how can you evaluate which treatment is best for you? By exploring bioidentical hormones vs. HRT, you can gain a better understanding of your options and take control of your health.
Bioidentical Hormones vs HRT: What’s the Difference?
Your body produces its own hormone supply throughout life in order to support a plethora of essential physiological and neurological functions. However, this natural hormone production naturally decreases with age and may be disrupted by a variety of health and lifestyle conditions. Hormone replacement therapy can compensate for these decreases by replenishing the supply of critical hormones. However, not all forms of hormone therapy are alike.
Your natural hormones cannot be replaced with human-derived hormones. As such, traditional HRT has used synthetic and animal-derived hormones that closely mimic their human counterparts and can therefore be used by the body in much the same way. In contrast, the bioidentical hormones used in BHRT are derived from naturally-occurring plant molecules, such as yams and soy, and are chemically identical to human hormones. Because they are an exact match, your body reacts to them as it would your own hormones.
Choosing the Right Treatment
The decision of which type of hormone therapy to use is a very personal choice, and one that you should thoughtfully consider prior to initiating treatment. Currently, most patients take traditional HRT, which is widely available and has been proven to effectively address a broad range of hormonal symptoms by mimicking natural hormone effects. However, traditional HRT does not provide complete symptom relief for all patients and may have unwanted side effects, including bloating, breast tenderness, nausea, stomach cramps, and headaches.
In contrast, evidence suggests that bioidentical hormones may be less likely to cause side effects than their traditional counterparts while providing similar or superior symptom relief. For example, Bruno de Lignières, an endocrinologist at Hôpital Necker’s, writes, “All comparative studies to date conclude that the side effects of synthetic progestins can be minimized or eliminated through the use of natural progesterone.” The reasons for this potential reduction in side effects are not fully understood, but it may be due to improved biocompatibility owing to the exact chemical match between bioidentical hormones and the body’s natural hormones.
Additionally, traditional hormones are typically available only in a limited range of standardized doses. Unfortunately, this may compromise both efficacy and tolerability. For example, a patient may find themselves having to choose between a dose that is too low to provide symptom relief and a dose that addresses symptoms but produces significant side effects. BHRT, on the other hand, can be customized to the needs of each patient based on their unique biomarkers. As such, BHRT is able to provide exactly the amount of hormone each person needs, which may lead to better symptom relief without excess side effects or health risks.
However, while studies on BHRT are compelling, the body of literature is not as extensive or voluminous as that which exists on traditional HRT. Many practitioners in the United States are also not as familiar with BHRT as they are with traditional HRT; although bioidentical hormones have been successfully used in Europe for decades, commercial BHRT was not introduced to the U.S. until 1998. This means that patients must take care to seek out practitioners with the knowledge necessary to create customized BHRT treatment plans based on in-depth understanding of current evidence.
For some, the choice between traditional and bioidentical hormones is also driven by ethical objections to animal-derived hormones. Of particular concern is conjugated equine oestrogen (CEE), like estradiol, which is extracted from horse urine. Those who object to such production methods may prefer bioidenticals in part due to their plant-based origin.
Working With the Right Practitioner
If you want to know more about bioidentical hormones vs. HRT or want to initiate treatment, it’s important to connect with the right practitioner. A highly-trained specialist with in-depth knowledge of both traditional HRT and BHRT will be able to answer any questions you may have and give you insights into your options based on the latest research in the field. The practitioners within the BodyLogicMD network are specially trained in hormone therapies and will help you examine your hormonal symptoms, overall health, and lifestyle to determine a course of action that is right for you. By taking a holistic view of your well-being, these practitioners can help you reduce distress and improve your sense of wellness.
Hormonal changes are inevitable with time, but today you have more options than ever before to address unwanted symptoms. With the right hormone replacement therapy, a thoughtful self-care strategy, and the support of a caring practitioner, you can recapture your quality of life.
BodyLogicMD can help you take control of your health with expert care from a highly-trained practitioner who specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and integrative medicine. The practitioners within the BodyLogicMD network are among the top medical professionals in the nation and specially certified to help you address hormonal changes. By taking a comprehensive approach to treatment, practitioners within the BodyLogicMD network will work with you to achieve your health goals and give you the resources you need to thrive. Get started on a customized treatment plan designed to fit your lifestyle and allow you to reach optimal wellness. To begin your journey, contact a local practitioner in the BodyLogicMD network to schedule your first appointment, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz today.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.