Discover The 4 Benefits of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is now a widely available treatment option that is growing in popularity among women over the age of 35, specifically those who feel listless, prone to gaining weight (sometimes for the first time in their lives), and out of other options when it comes to managing menopausal symptoms.
This includes options like bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) to balance hormones and improve certain conditions.
The use of hormones to help control symptoms such as fatigue, bloating, low sex drive, and thinning hair is highly controversial.
Some women swear by its beneficial effects, while others remain fearful of the possible side effects.
When it comes to the effectiveness and safety of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, studies also show mixed results.
The FDA states that it is “concerned that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy claims mislead women and healthcare professionals into a false sense of security about the use of potentially dangerous hormone products … ‘BHRT’ it is a marketing term not recognized by the FDA, and the FDA is taking action against pharmacies that make false and misleading claims about BHRT drugs. “
Here’s my take: Although hormone therapy might be better than some other standard medical options, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is not the ideal treatment approach either.
My advice is that in most cases bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is not completely necessary.
Lifestyle changes like exercising, using herbal supplements, and improving your diet can help you reap most (if not all) of the same benefits.
That said, when other approaches to overcoming menopause or age-related symptoms have been exhausted and failed to provide relief, hormone replacement might be beneficial for some women.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is the use of hormones to help resolve symptoms related to hormonal imbalance or decreased hormone production related to aging.
Some hormonal treatments are called “bioidentical” or sometimes “natural” because the types of hormones used are chemically identical (according to molecular studies) to those produced by the human body.
Specific hormones that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy seeks to increase or balance include those related to reproduction and youth, such as estrogen (in the form of estrogen or estradiol), progesterone, and sometimes testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and adrenal hormones.
During the years leading up to menopause, and then through this transition, a woman’s body produces less of these hormones (especially estrogen), which can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, hot flashes/night sweats, vaginal dryness, and thinning of the bones.
Various hormone therapy products are used to overcome these symptoms, some of which have been approved by the FDA and are available by prescription through health care providers, but many of which are not.
BHRT treatments include creams, lotions, injections, gels, sprats, or tablets that are intended to raise hormone levels to a more youthful state.
Examples of the popular bioidentical hormone replacement therapy products currently on the market are Estrace, Premphase, Prempro, Activara, and Vivelle-Dot, to name a few (there are dozens and even more that are not “bioidentical”).
Wondering if this approach to managing symptoms associated with aging works and if it is necessary or even safe?
Hormone production increases during puberty and peaks in healthy adults between the ages of 20 and 30. Like it or not, hormone levels start to decline in our mid-30s and early 40s and continue to stay at lower levels for the rest of our lives.
This drop-in hormone is natural and unavoidable in many ways, but we can still help control how quickly or smoothly this change is and how we adjust to its effects.
BHRT may help some adults to transition through these changes more easily, but this does not mean that hormonal treatments are always necessary or the best and only solution.
Before we get into the pros and cons of BHRT, let’s talk about who uses these treatments most often.
What are some of the signs that your hormones are changing and therefore that you could be a candidate for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy? These include:
•Menstrual cycles that end gradually (irregular periods can continue for several years)
•Thinning of hair, both on the head and the body (this occurs in most men and women, although usually more noticeable in men)
•Decreased sex drive and signs such as vaginal dryness
•Often weight gain, especially around the stomach/abdomen
•Exhaustion and having less energy, for some even chronic fatigue along with muscle weakness
For many, changes in body temperature and other common perimenopausal symptoms, including hot flashes or night sweats.
Sometimes trouble sleeping or symptoms of mood swings / emotional instability such as irritability and anxiety
Cognitive changes such as brain fog, reduced concentration, and trouble remembering
Part of the problem is that symptoms that are often attributed to aging or menopause, such as weight gain and fatigue, can start in women before menopause occurs because they are caused by other factors such as eating.
For example, it is not common for women, even in their 20s and 30s, to already report having trouble sleeping, digestive problems, or a lack of energy.
Things like nutrient deficiencies, lack of sleep, and high amounts of emotional stress can disrupt hormonal balance and increase inflammation long before menopause occurs.
Therefore, I believe that if the root problems that cause hormonal imbalances are properly addressed (poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, anxiety, etc.), then the unwanted symptoms should also be dissolved, without the use of hormone therapy…
How can you tell if your symptoms are related to hormonal changes or due to another health condition that needs to be treated first?
Experts recommend considering how your health and your reaction to lifestyle habits have changed over time as you age.
For example, if you exercised and slept a certain amount in your 20s to 30s and felt fine, but in your 40s you suddenly started feeling different without changing your routine, then there is a good chance that your symptoms are related to symptoms. fluctuations in hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
Although they still need to be processed in some way to make them effective for human use, the “natural” hormones used in BHRT are derived from products such as plant and animal sources, rather than being created synthetically in a laboratory-like some products.
Some healthcare providers who prescribe BHRT products perform saliva or blood tests on their patients first to assess their unique hormonal needs and then prescribe personalized treatment solutions. This is called “custom-compounded” (custom mixed) hormone therapy.
However, not all BHRT is personalized. There are also FDA-approved hormone therapy products that are commercially available that are not specialized for each patient, and those that are not produced “naturally.”
The FDA has reported that, based on clinical studies, hormones that are marketed as bioidentical or natural do not appear to be any more effective or safe compared to hormones used in traditional hormone therapy products.
Some research also shows that the hormones that are marked as bioidentical may not be very different from those in traditional hormone replacement therapy and may even be riskier in some cases.
One of the biggest concerns associated with BHRT is regarding custom mixed BHRT treatments, as not all blends meet FDA guidelines.
With custom compounded blends, when a physician formulates a single hormonal treatment for a patient, the FDA does not have the opportunity to confirm that the active ingredients are used together effectively or that they will be absorbed appropriately.
Hormone therapy drugs approved by the FDA go through a lengthy process to meet federal approval standards, but custom-compounded BHRT drugs generally do not meet these standards.
Some BHRT blends may contain other inactive ingredients that help bind pills, creams, or lotions, which may cause side effects or allergies in some patients.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there are also problems with test accuracy when it comes to measuring hormone levels in patients with saliva or blood tests.
There is no strong scientific evidence that these tests are accurate given the fact that a woman’s hormones can vary throughout the day or vary substantially throughout a given month depending on things like stress, sleep, activity, diet, etc. This makes it difficult to prescribe and prepare a custom BHRT solution that works effectively.
Many studies have found that estrogen and testosterone have benefits in preventing bone loss, so some research suggests that BHRT may help defend against problems such as osteoporosis or hip fractures.
The Women’s Health Initiative study demonstrated a reduction in hip fracture risk when estrogen and progesterone levels were restored; however, BHRT has not been shown to prevent bone loss or rebuild lost bones.
Because decreased levels of hormones such as progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone could be linked to your low energy levels, you may experience more mental clarity, motivation, better sleep, and alertness when using BHRT.
However, this probably won’t translate into faster metabolism or easier weight loss.
According to a statement from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, ‘There is no evidence of an effect of estrogen or estrogen combined with progestogen on body weight and the increase in BMI normally experienced in the moment of menopause ».
Certain clinical studies have found that the oral use of HRT is highly effective in relieving hot flashes and night sweats, two of the most common symptoms associated with menopause and sleep disorders.
A 2001 study that tested the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) vs. a placebo in the frequency and severity of hot flash symptoms found that HRT resulted in an average 77 percent reduction in the frequency of symptoms, while the placebo produced a 50 percent reduction.
HRT also reduced the severity of symptoms and caused no more side effects or withdrawal than placebo.
Up to 45 percent of menopausal or postmenopausal women could be affected by vaginal atrophy, which causes symptoms such as vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse, itching, irritation, burning, and discharge.
Hormone replacement medications used for about a year or less are often prescribed to relieve these symptoms.
The North American Menopause Society states that “first-line treatment for vaginal atrophy should include non-hormonal vaginal lubricants and moisturizers, as well as continuous sexual activity.”
But there are also benefits of using HRT (such as vaginal creams, rings, or tablets) for vaginal atrophy, which may include sustained relief of symptoms as well as physiological improvements due to increases in estrogen (such as decreased vaginal pH and increased blood pressure). blood flow, epithelial thickness, secretions).
The North American Menopause Society reports that about 1.4 million women now use BHRT treatments, which is about 40 percent of all hormone therapy prescriptions in women who are menopausal or postmenopausal.
To date, no large long-term studies have been conducted to determine the adverse effects of bioidentical hormones, so safety concerns remain a serious problem.
The Women’s Health Initiative, a large long-term study that tested the effects of FDA-approved hormone replacement drugs, found that side effects are possible in some patients and that these drugs have not been shown to prevent any disease.
That said, millions of women (and a much lower percentage of men, too) have reported improvements from the use of hormone replacement drugs.
As described above, one concern with using BHRT is using a custom mixed solution that has not been tested by the FDA.
According to the FDA, other concerns may include disguising or leaving untreated symptoms that are caused by another disease (such as an autoimmune disorder or food intolerance) or potential side effects such as the increased risk of blood clots, stroke, gallbladder disease, bile duct, vision changes, skin changes, mood changes, and possibly heart disease or breast cancer.
So far, the FDA has also not approved any medications that contain estriol, so keep in mind that the benefits associated with products that contain this hormone remain especially unknown.
BHRT products are not safe or unsafe. Because not enough is known about their long-term efficacy or safety, they are still considered controversial.
Be aware of possible side effects and know that claims that HRT protects against cancer or heart disease in women have not been validated.
If you decide to use them, use them using the lowest dose that helps and for the shortest period necessary to help reduce the chance of side effects.
Before considering BHRT, I recommend that you make truly natural lifestyle changes to see how you feel. Your weight, sleep, mood, and energy will most likely greatly improve if you try some of the following hormone-balancing solutions:
Cut back on inflammatory foods and empty calories, such as added sugar, refined grains, processed oils, fried foods, and packaged goods.
Consider focusing on eating more fiber, getting more antioxidants from fresh fruits and vegetables, and limiting refined carbohydrates from too many grains if your goal is to lose weight.
Evidence supports the use of natural medicinal herbs, such as vitex, black cohosh, and evening primrose, to help manage the symptoms of menopause or aging.
These have been used safely in practices like Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurvedic Medicine for centuries, so they tend to have much less risk of side effects compared to prescriptions.
Emotional stress can have a great impact on the body, lowering immunity and disturbing hormonal balance.
Try natural stress relievers like exercise, essential oils, meditation, and spending more time outdoors.
Helpful in reducing anxiety or stress, it helps decrease pain and has other benefits as well.
Exercise reduces inflammation, helps improve sleep, and can help you maintain a healthy weight more easily into adulthood.
Final thoughts on bioidentical hormone replacement therapy
It is the use of hormones to help resolve symptoms related to aging or menopause.
Bioidentical hormones are considered more natural compared to standard HRT because the hormones are chemically identical to those produced by the human body.
People who use BHRT use this treatment to reduce symptoms such as hot flashes/night sweats, fatigue or weakness, trouble sleeping, vaginal dryness, and decreased sex drive.
BHRT has not been shown to help prevent weight gain associated with aging and has not been shown to reduce the risks associated with many chronic diseases.
BHRT has potential risks, including short-term side effects like indigestion or mood swings, along with a possible increased risk for conditions like cancer or stroke.
Before trying hormone replacement therapy, I recommend a natural approach to balancing hormones, including improving your diet, exercising, using natural herbs, reducing allergies or deficiencies, and reducing stress.
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