Don’t let the term bioidentical hormone replacement therapy intimidate you. It may sound imposing, but the concept and administration of BHRT are quite straightforward. In this article, we’ll break BHRT down into manageable pieces so you have a solid understanding of the whole topic.
Let’s dive in!
The Basis for BHRT: Hormones and Hormonal Imbalance
Hormones play an essential role in your body’s messenger system. They send signals to almost every part of your body and control metabolism, growth, reproduction, and sexual function. They affect things like your mood, libido, and even body hair.
If your hormone levels are too high or too low, then you have a hormone imbalance. But your body struggles to function properly when your hormones are out of balance. A hormone imbalance can also cause symptoms that affect your daily life. However, hormone imbalances can be treated with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT)
What is BHRT?
BHRT is short for Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. Much like traditional hormone therapy, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can treat both men and women struggling with drops or imbalances in their hormone levels.
The most popular use of bioidentical hormone therapy is to address the symptoms of menopause in women, but it can be used for a host of other conditions.
The most effective way to increase hormone levels is to deliver bioidentical hormones directly to your bloodstream via pellets. But bioidentical hormone therapy can also be delivered in many other ways, including:
What Are Bioidentical Hormones?
Bioidentical hormones are man-made hormones that have been custom designed so your body can use them in the same way it does your hormones. They’re called bioidentical hormones because they’re chemically identical to your body’s hormones. Many bioidentical hormones are natural hormones that have been derived from equally natural sources like yams and soybeans.
Compounded Bioidentical Hormones
Just as each person has a unique personality, we also have unique bodies. Every body has different needs. Compounded bioidentical hormones address these differences.
For example, standardized pills contain the same amounts of hormones. A compounded hormone, on the other hand, is a customized blend of hormones that healthcare professionals can mix for your body’s needs. Although compounded bioidentical hormones can be created and adjusted to address shifting hormone levels, they’re not usually FDA-approved because they’re not standardized and cannot be tested for safety.
Conventional vs. Bioidentical Hormones
You may be wondering if bioidentical hormones are the same as conventional hormones. They’re not. There are two critical differences between bioidentical hormones and conventional hormones:
- What they’re made of
- How they interact with your body.
The hormones used in traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are synthetic. Bioidentical hormones, however, come from natural sources like plant estrogens.
Unlike bioidentical hormones, synthetic hormones are not an exact match to the natural hormones in your body. This is important because of how hormones deliver their messages.
In order to deliver a message, a hormone must hop onto a receptor. Think of it like a plug and an outlet. If a plug doesn’t fit the outlet, the electricity won’t flow. Synthetic hormones are like a plug that doesn’t quite fit. They can deliver some of the message but not all of it.
Bioidentical hormones, on the other hand, are a perfect match for their receptors. This makes bioidentical hormone therapy much more effective than HRT.
Impact of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy On Your Health
Before we move on to the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy, let’s address the elephant in the room.
In 2002, the media grabbed onto the initial results of a Women’s Health Initiative study that looked at HRT in women. The negative press caught like a wildfire, and HRT became a cancer-and-heart-attack-causing boogeyman overnight. It remained that way for years.
Unfortunately, the media have not spent as much time on the follow-up analysis of the WHI study, which has since shown that risks are minimal when HRT is initiated in women younger than 60 years old or fewer than 10 years since menopause. Many experts now consider HRT and BHRT safe and effective ways to treat a hormone imbalance in the right candidates.
Benefits of BHRT
Like all medical interventions, BHRT comes with benefits and risks. If you’re considering hormone replacement therapy as your choice of treatment, then it’s important to weigh the pros and cons.
Pros of Hormone Replacement Therapy BHRT
If you’re suffering from the symptoms of hormone imbalance, then you may be thrilled to learn that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy has many benefits! Professionals have proven that BHRT is an effective way to increase quality of life and can help with the following hormone imbalance symptoms:
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Night sweats
- Low energy levels
- Memory loss
- Difficulty sleeping
- Decreased interest in sex
Hormone replacement therapy may also help to reduce your risk for tooth loss, diabetes, and cataracts and improve your skin’s thickness, hydration, and elasticity.
A study also found that people with cancer who underwent bioidentical hormone replacement therapy found relief from treatment-related symptoms such as incontinence, migraines, low libido, and insomnia. This study also found the recurrence rate of breast cancer in the test subjects was no higher than average.
Another positive aspect of BHRT is that it’s convenient and easy to use. You have many options in how to deliver it to your body.
- You take pills once or twice a day.
- Apply creams and gels to your skin.
- Pop on an occasional patch.
- Come in for a hormone injection.
- Or have a small hormone pellet inserted under your skin that will release custom doses of hormones for up to six months.
But why does hormone therapy relieve symptoms of hormone imbalance?
Restoring balance is the simple answer. It’s completely normal for hormone levels to drop as you age. That’s what menopause and andropause are all about, a natural decline in hormone levels. The problem with decreasing hormone levels is that they cause a hormone imbalance throughout the endocrine system.
For instance, if one hormone isn’t doing its job properly, then communications between hormones and systems go haywire, and the next thing you know, you’ve got a “game of telephone gone wrong.”
Hormone imbalance then causes all kinds of symptoms. The type and severity of symptoms will depend on both the hormones that are out of balance and the cause of the hormone imbalance.
But taking all this into account, it’s pretty obvious that restoring balance with hormone treatment will relieve symptoms!
Cons of Hormone Replacement Therapy BHRT
If FDA approval is essential to you, then this may be a con: Unfortunately, the FDA has only approved some preparations of bioidentical estradiol and progesterone. It hasn’t yet approved any compounded bioidentical hormones.
Hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk for specific conditions and diseases, including:
Hormone therapy can also cause some side effects, particularly right after you start on it. Treatment that includes hormone replacement therapy can therefore introduce:
- weight gain
- mood swings
- increased facial hair in women
- breast tenderness
Why People Use Bioidentical Hormones
Bioidentical hormone therapy can improve the lives of people who experience symptoms of low or unbalanced hormones. It’s worth remembering too that hormone therapy isn’t just for women. Men can reap the benefits of hormone replacement too. Although testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone are the most commonly used hormones in hormone therapy, some treatments include cortisol, insulin, and human growth hormone.
Conditions that can be treated with hormone replacement therapy include:
- Adrenal Fatigue
- Testosterone deficiency
- Thyroid conditions
Studies are even underway to see how effective hormone therapy is for treating or preventing Alzheimer’s Disease.
Why Women Need to Include BHRT in Their Hormone Imbalance Treatment Plan
BHRT for women can be used to increase deficient hormone levels, whether they’re caused by aging or a disease that affects hormone levels like diabetes or cataracts.
Hormone therapy can improve symptoms of hormonal imbalance like:
- Memory loss
- Sleep issues
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Low libido or pain during sex
Hormone replacement can even help improve the appearance of the skin and reduce wrinkles.
BHRT for Men and Their Hormone Imbalance Treatment plan
BHRT for men is a safe, effective option to increase hormone levels that have decreased due to aging, chronic stress, or disease. BHRT for men is most commonly used to treat the symptoms of andropause (testosterone deficiency). You’ve probably realized that andropause is similar to menopause in women – but the decrease in hormones and onset of symptoms is slower and more subtle.
Rebalancing hormone levels with hormone therapy, especially testosterone, can help men regain younger, fitter bodies. Hormone replacement therapy can also improve hormonal imbalance symptoms in men like:
- Weight gain
- Muscle loss
- Sleep problems
- Low libido or erectile dysfunction
- Brain fog
How Do You Know If BHRT is Right For You?
Although BHRT is safe and effective for most people, some people cannot take any form of hormone replacement. The risks and the potential for side effects may vary depending on your health history, so the best way to find out if BHRT is right for you is to consult with a BHRT specialist.
Is BHRT Different From Other Hormone Replacement Therapies?
Yes. Since bioidentical hormones are different from those used in traditional hormone replacement therapy, BHRT is different from other hormone replacement therapies. The hormones used in BHRT are closer to your own natural hormones, so they may be a safer and more effective option.
A report produced for the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health stated that patients reported greater satisfaction with bioidentical hormone therapy than with a hormone therapy that uses a synthetic hormone.
It also stated: “Bioidentical hormones have some distinctly different, potentially opposite, physiological effects compared with their synthetic counterparts, which have different chemical structures.”
Physiological and clinical data have also suggested that bioidentical hormones are associated with a diminished risk for breast cancer compared with the increased risk associated with synthetic hormones.
What to Expect When Starting BHRT
Before starting BHRT, a physician or bioidentical hormone therapy doctors will
- consult with you,
- give you a physical exam, and
- perform extensive lab tests to measure your hormone levels.
If your provider determines that you suffer from a deficiency or imbalance and BHRT would be an effective treatment for you, then they’ll prescribe the correct dosage of BHRT for your situation.
At the beginning of your hormone replacement therapy, you can expect your symptoms to diminish and your overall wellbeing to improve within a few weeks. You may have an improvement in sleep, mood, sexual function, energy levels, and function. However, it usually takes three to six months to realize the full results of hormone replacement therapy BHRT.
You may also experience some side effects soon after starting BHRT. Headaches, bloating, cramps, acne, and breast tenderness are common in women.
Importance of the Right Medical Guidance
As we mentioned earlier, there are some risks to taking hormones, so it’s best to seek out medical guidance when considering hormone replacement therapy of any kind. A BHRT professional can test your hormone levels, administer the proper hormone replacement dosage, monitor your blood levels, and give you ongoing support.
How to Treat Hormonal Imbalance? Nava Can Help!
At Nava, we address the symptoms of hormonal imbalance by restoring hormone levels that have become depleted or imbalanced due to menopause, andropause, or an underlying health condition. Addressing the problem from the root cause means you’ll find real relief, not just a temporary fix for your hormone imbalance. Nava’s bioidentical hormone therapy doctors will prescribe the delivery method that’s best suited to your specific needs. In order to achieve optimal results with your treatment, we often pair Nava’s BHRT program with our exclusive hormone supplements.
Recapture the balance and energy of youth! Contact us for a consultation today!